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I'm an atheist, BUT . . .

 

 

by Richard Dawkins

Written for this website, 18th November 2006.

 

Of all the questions I fielded during the course of my recent book tour, the only ones that really depressed me were those that began "I'm an atheist, BUT . . ." What follows such an opening is nearly always unhelpful, nihilistic or – worse – suffused with a sort of exultant negativity. Notice, by the way, the distinction from another favourite genre: "I used to be an atheist, but . . ." That is one of the oldest tricks in the book, practised by, among many others, C S Lewis, Alister McGrath and Francis Collins. It is designed to gain street cred before the writer starts on about Jesus, and it is amazing how often it works. Look out for it, and be forewarned.

 

I've noticed five variants of I'm-an-atheist-buttery, and I'll list them in turn, in the hope that others will recognize them, be armed against them, and perhaps extend the list by contributing examples from their own experience.

 

1. I'm an atheist, but religion is here to stay. You think you can get rid of religion? Good luck to you! You want to get rid of religion? What planet are you living on? Religion is a fixture. Get over it!

 

I could bear any of these downers, if they were uttered in something approaching a tone of regret or concern. On the contrary. The tone of voice is almost always gleeful, and accompanied by a self-satisfied smirk. Anybody who opens with "I'm an atheist, BUT . . ." can be more or less guaranteed to be one of those religious fellow-travellers who, in Dan Dennett's wickedly perceptive phrase, believes in belief. They may not be religious themselves, but they love the idea that other people are religious. This brings me to my second category of naysayers.

 

2. I'm an atheist, but people need religion. What are you going to put in its place? How are you going to comfort the bereaved? How are you going to fill the need?

 

I dealt with this in the last chapter of The God Delusion, 'A Much Needed Gap' and also, at more length, in Unweaving the Rainbow. Here I'll make one additional point. Did you notice the patronizing condescension in the quotations I just listed? You and I, of course, are much too intelligent and well educated to need religion. But ordinary people, hoi polloi, the Orwellian proles, the Huxleian Deltas and Epsilon semi-morons, need religion. Well, I want to cultivate more respect for people than that. I suspect that the only reason many cling to religion is that they have been let down by our educational system and don't understand the options on offer. This is certainly true of most people who think they are creationists. They have simply not been taught the alternative. Probably the same is true of the belittling myth that people 'need' religion. On the contrary, I am tempted to say "I believe in people . . ." And this leads me to the next example.

 

3. I'm an atheist, but religion is one of the glories of human culture.

 

At a conference in San Diego which I attended at the end of my book tour, Sam Harris and I were attacked by two "I'm an atheist, but . . ." merchants. One of these quoted Golda Meir when she was asked whether she believed in God: "I believe in the Jewish people, and the Jewish people believe in God." Our smirking critic substituted his own version: "I believe in people, and people believe in God."

 

Religion, he presumably thought, is like a great work of art. Many works of art, rather, because different religions are so varied. I was reminded of Nicholas Humphrey's devastating indictment of an extreme version of this kind of thing, quoted in Chapter 9 of The God Delusion. Humphrey was discussing the discovery in the mountains of Peru of the frozen remains of a young Inca girl who was, according to the archaeologist who found her, the victim of a religious sacrifice. Humphrey described a television documentary in which viewers were invited . . .

 

" . . . to marvel at the spiritual commitment of the Inca priests and to share with the girl on her last journey her pride and excitement at having been selected for the signal honour of being sacrificed. The message of the television programme was in effect that the practice of human sacrifice was in its own way a glorious cultural invention – another jewel in the crown of multiculturalism . . ."

 

I share the outrage that Humphrey eloquently expressed: -

 

"Yet, how dare anyone even suggest this? How dare they invite us – in our sitting rooms, watching television – to feel uplifted by contemplating an act of ritual murder: the murder of a dependent child by a group of stupid, puffed up, superstitious, ignorant old men? How dare they invite us to find good for ourselves in contemplating an immoral action against someone else?"

 

It would be unfair to accuse our critic in San Diego of complicity in such an odious attitude towards the Inca 'ice maiden'. But I hope at least he will think twice before repeating that bon mot (as he obviously thought of it): "I believe in people, and people believe in God." I could have overlooked the patronizing condescension of his remark, if only he hadn't sounded so smugly satisfied by this lamentable state of affairs.

 

4. I'm an atheist, but you are only preaching to the choir. What's the point?

 

There are various points. One is that the choir is a lot bigger than many people think it is, especially in America. But, again especially in America, it is largely a closet choir, and it desperately needs encouragement to come out. Judging by the thanks I received all over North America, the encouragement that people like Sam Harris, Dan Dennett and I are able to give is greatly appreciated. So is this website, as I heard again and again. My thanks, yet again, to Josh.

 

A more subtle reason for preaching to the choir is the need to raise consciousness. When the feminists raised our consciousness about sexist pronouns, they would have been preaching to the choir where the more substantive issues of the rights of women and the evils of discrimination against them were concerned. But that decent, liberal choir still needed its consciousness raising with respect to everyday language. However right-on we may have been on the political issues of rights and discrimination, we nevertheless still unconsciously bought into linguistic conventions that made half the human race feel excluded.

 

There are other linguistic conventions that still need to go the same way as sexist pronouns, and the atheist choir is not exempt. We all need our consciousness raised. Atheists as well as theists unconsciously buy into our society's convention that religion has uniquely privileged status. I've already mentioned the convention that we must be especially polite and respectful to a person's faith. And I never tire of drawing attention to society's tacit acceptance that it is right to label small children with the religious opinions of their parents.

 

That's consciousness-raising, and atheists need it just as much as anybody else because atheists, too, have been lulled into overlooking the anomaly: religious opinion is the one kind of parental opinion that – by almost universal consent – can be battened upon children who are, in truth, too young to know what their opinion really is.

 

5. I'm an atheist, but I wish to dissociate myself from your intemperately strong language.

 

Sam Harris and I have both received criticism of this kind, and Nick Humphrey probably has too, for the quotation given above. Yet if you look at the language we employ, it is no more strong or intemperate than anybody would use if criticizing a political or economic point of view: no stronger or more intemperate than any theatre critic, art critic or book critic when writing a negative review. Our language sounds strong and intemperate only because of the same weird convention I have already mentioned, that religious faith is uniquely privileged: above and beyond criticism. On pages 20-21 of The God Delusion I gave a wonderful quote from Douglas Adams on the subject.

 

Book critics or theatre critics can be derisively negative and earn delighted praise for the trenchant wit of their review. A politician may attack an opponent scathingly across the floor of the House and earn plaudits for his robust pugnacity. But let a critic of religion employ a fraction of the same direct forthrightness, and polite society will purse its lips and shake its head: even secular polite society, and especially that part of secular society that loves to announce, "I'm an atheist, BUT . . ."

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Damned good article, and such food for thought is gobbled up by my mind, which is re-questioning what I believe in.

 

I am an Atheist, but I'm an Agnostic Pagan, too. That's my choice :)

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I question some of Dawkins ideas on the subject of getting rid of religion through education. There are many educated people that still cling to religion. I like to think that I was educated when I was religious.

 

I don't think that people very often make decisions based wholly on facts -- including those of us who value thinking and logic. The very idea of value is tied up in emotion, motivation, and feeling.

 

I haven't read the God Delusion yet, and I'm wondering if Dawkins places religious feeling anywhere in the evolutionary scheme of things. Since religion is so ubiquitous among humans, it seems that it must an artifact of evolution in some manner. Perhaps it is a side effect of moral behavior and stuff coming from the unconscious that seems to come out of the blue, or heavens.

 

When I listen to the tone of Dawkins rather than to the words I don't hear much difference between him and a religious person that wants certain other evils to be expunged from culture.

 

I'm highly suspicious of the formula: If only X then everything will be nice.

 

Given that, I nevertheless would be thrilled if religion disappeared from culture. However, I recognize that possible pleasure is based more in my gut then in reason.

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I am an Atheist. No Ifs, Buts or WTFs.

 

I think that the world would be better if religion just never existed in the first place BUT it does.

 

Chef I think I see where you are going with the X formula BUT people just need to get real and face reality. If someone does not care, do something or at least speak against religion then nothing will be done about all the wrong religion has caused and will cause in the future. That is real and that is reason, it may be a gut feeling BUT it is right. No guts no glory.

 

By the way Chef Thanks for the thread.

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If belief is compulsory, yet we can abandon our belief systems with logic, and education, I tend to think that it has a bit to do with intelligence, and emotion, as well as reasoning capacity. If a person believes something, and is presented with damning evidence, the investment in that belief can force them to do what is necessary to continue believing. One can't just reject the evidence without doing something to reinforce their faith: reading the bible, talking to a holy person, reading the rebuttal writings on that subject without reading the rebuttals to those rebuttals, etc.

 

It's obvious that most people have beliefs which they invest in emotionally and intellectually such that it requires a bit more than just the facts to step away from: I'll beat this cancer that's metastasized, I won't ask my wife if she cheated because I know she didn't despite what my best friend told me, etc. Its about how much is invested, what type of investment, and what level of cognitve disonance one can engage in before realizing that they are being less than honest with themselves. At that point, one can determine if their belief has any veracity, and if they can really divorce themselves if not.

 

If they don't feel strong enough, and if they are capable, I think people will separate themselves from whatever can compromise their ability to continue believing, or lash out against affront to that belief. "So what if my belief is ridiculous? It brings me comfort, and it teaches valuable lessons!" I've heard more than a couple Mormons say that very thing. At the time, I didn't have a counter to it, but now I would respond by saying that there are plenty of things people think they need till they don't have them anymore.

 

My suggestion, is that we have to force people to get to the point where they can determine whether or not they hold their beliefs because they seem genuinely genuine to them, or because they are afraid to not have them. Like crackheads, there may be those who won't change except under the most drastic of circomstances, but it's clear that the reason people fight so hard for their beliefs is because they know deep down that they can't maintain them if the circumstances don't allow it. Belief is not a choice.

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I am an Atheist. No Ifs, Buts or WTFs.

 

I think that the world would be better if religion just never existed in the first place BUT it does.

 

Chef I think I see where you are going with the X formula BUT people just need to get real and face reality. If someone does not care, do something or at least speak against religion then nothing will be done about all the wrong religion has caused and will cause in the future. That is real and that is reason, it may be a gut feeling BUT it is right. No guts no glory.

 

By the way Chef Thanks for the thread.

 

Richard really sent this letter to our website?

 

One of my favorite hobbies is reality facing. I think that it is sort of like mental bungie jumping, thrilling with the possibility of getting screwed up. Just like some people (me) won't consider jumping off a bridge with rubber bands secured to their ankles, some people won't consider leaping into reality with nothing but logic secured to their mind. I have a Christian friend that I can back into a logical dead end every time he brings something up. He usually says, "I see your point, but I just got to believe." I think he does just have to believe. At least at this point in his tragic life, he would be mentally screwed with out it.

 

Here's one thing about reality: it includes irrational belief in humans. That really seems to be a part of what humans are. This so common in humans that I wonder if Atheists have a bit of brain damage, or genetic change that allows them to bypass religious tendencies. Apparently idiot savants get their staggering ability to memorize via brain damage that bypasses a normal human information filtering system that keeps most information out. Maybe the ability to understand no god is something like that?

 

PS The demise of a religion has often happened, but I've never heard of a religion dying into non-belief. They seem to just pass into another belief. Doesn't that say something about the reality of the human mind?

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I am an atheist. I'm very proud of Dawkins. He makes education and intelligence look cool. In these days when it's more a badge of honour to have an ASBO1 that's important.

 

If atheism was a religion, Dawkins Randi and Shermer would be the holy trinity!

 

I find my atheism dangerous because I often find myself feeling superior to others because of it. Which is real crap and I work on trying to spot it and correct it. It is a hang over from my Christian days when I felt superior to people who believed in New Age stuff - crystals and chakras and energy.

 

Dawkins has the potential to make this worse with concepts like "brights". He walks a fine line between being a promoter of hs ideas and a crusader. People don't like crusaders or evangelists. Sometimes he crosses that line, and people, being people write off his ideas because they don't like him.

 

 

1 ASBO - Anti-Social Behaviour Order. In the United Kingdom an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO, pronounced az-bo) is a civil order made against a person who has been shown to have engaged in conduct which caused or was likely to cause alarm, harassment, or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as him or herself and where an ASBO is necessary to protect relevant persons from further anti-social acts by the Defendant.

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I just picked up the God Delusion a few days ago, haven't had the opportunity to dig in yet. But the article in the latest Wired magazine spent a LOT Of time criticizing this 'new' atheism, the bold one that Dawkins promotes. The author basically came across as someone who would rather that Atheism remain an elite minority lest someone's toes get stepped on.

 

I much prefer Dawkin's vision. After I read some of his thoughts I feel hope.

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If they don't feel strong enough, and if they are capable, I think people will separate themselves from whatever can compromise their ability to continue believing, or lash out against affront to that belief. "So what if my belief is ridiculous? It brings me comfort, and it teaches valuable lessons!" I've heard more than a couple Mormons say that very thing. At the time, I didn't have a counter to it, but now I would respond by saying that there are plenty of things people think they need till they don't have them anymore.

 

My suggestion, is that we have to force people to get to the point where they can determine whether or not they hold their beliefs because they seem genuinely genuine to them, or because they are afraid to not have them. Like crackheads, there may be those who won't change except under the most drastic of circomstances, but it's clear that the reason people fight so hard for their beliefs is because they know deep down that they can't maintain them if the circumstances don't allow it. Belief is not a choice.

One other consideration is that it’s not that people need these beliefs to survive, that they can’t cope with reality and need religion as some sort of a crack fix, but that they find religion useful to them, and they have no driving desire to abandon something that they find meaning in. I think I hear that in what the Mormon said, but he lacks the vocabulary to adequately express what motivates him.

 

There is a much simpler, more core issue behind all this, than religion or atheism, right or wrong, enlightened or deceived.

 

I find myself continuing to come back to how everything in our experience as humans centers on language. Language is the only and true "God" of everyone. Language is how we perceive the world, how we talk about it to others, how we relate to others. What the Mormon is saying, and what the vast majority of those in mainstream religions are doing in reality, is not so much believing these stories of incredible events and superheroes are real, but they offer them a way of perceiving the world and themselves through a language system of signs and symbols.

 

To ask people to abandon religion is to ask them to forfeit their language system. How hard is that to persuade someone to do? Wouldn’t they need some compelling reason to learn another language? Those who leave religious groups are really doing so because that groups language system doesn’t work for them. They will usually fall back on their native tongue when they can’t express themselves adequately with the new adopted tongue. Typically, that native tongue is the language they grew up with at home.

 

Those who don’t leave religion are getting their needs met by that language system. If their personality is content with the limits of that language, they have little reason to leave it. Even though they might be able to acknowledge they know that Jesus never really walked on water, the symbol of this in their language system gives them something of value for them to see the world they live in and to relate to others with that same language.

 

What I see as the core issue is this: Multiculturalism. Where I disagree with Dawkins is that I don’t see getting rid of religion as being the fix. Something needs to change, yes, but telling immigrants to quit speaking their native tongue and abandon their cultural identities in favor of a favored language and culture to supplant all other languages, is both unrealistic, doomed for failure, and borders on arrogance. The exact same thing applies any religion wanting the world of science and academia, or other religions to abandon their languages in favor of their myth symbols.

 

To be frankly honest about it, when any human language dies, many things become lost forever into the abyss that could never be truly understood or appreciated outside that language system itself. I see that as a loss to humanity. Our identity as a race is diminished when we loose something like this.

 

My suggestion would be to continue to educate people, and if they find compelling enough reasons to adopt new ways of looking at things, they will. At the same time, each culture needs to respect and appreciate the value of other cultures and language systems, honoring the dignity of the people that are part of them. Whatever language evolves in an open and free society is the one that will ultimately address the needs of the people who adopt it. To consciously and deliberately drive any language system out of existence is contrary to the natural evolution of society and an offense to humanity.

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I'm an atheist, but I don't feel it necessary that everyone should be also.

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Antlerman: As a writer and avid reader of fantasy, I agree wholeheartedly that religious imagery is of immense value to society. As to your referring to it as a language system, I would go one further and posit that it is part of a language system, one which becomes increasingly superfluous, and perhaps confusing to those that speak a different language, and I'm not talking about the non-religious here. And even if you are right, that doesn't mean that people can't become less dependent upon that language, or as I've suggested that part of the language; Its not as much part of the requirement of self-expression as some would believe. And, we can work to make ist such that successive generations can operate independently of it. That's not to say that we abolish the language, absolutely not, but if it's becoming obsolete, I don't see why it needs to be regarded as being as vital as I'll admit it once was.

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Im an atheist. Religion, as with all things, has a begining and an end. I like being an atheist, I like thinking and not having a book do it for me.

 

I'm an atheist, but I don't feel it necessary that everyone should be also.

I agree. I believe that to think so would be arogant and foolish.

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I am an athiest and i like baseball.

 

So what, I think Dawkins makes too much of defining how people should be an athiest. I left religion because I wanted to do what I thought was right.

 

The only person I answer to for my beliefs is myself!!

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Antlerman: As a writer and avid reader of fantasy, I agree wholeheartedly that religious imagery is of immense value to society. As to your referring to it as a language system, I would go one further and posit that it is part of a language system, one which becomes increasingly superfluous, and perhaps confusing to those that speak a different language, and I'm not talking about the non-religious here. And even if you are right, that doesn't mean that people can't become less dependent upon that language, or as I've suggested that part of the language; Its not as much part of the requirement of self-expression as some would believe. And, we can work to make ist such that successive generations can operate independently of it. That's not to say that we abolish the language, absolutely not, but if it's becoming obsolete, I don't see why it needs to be regarded as being as vital as I'll admit it once was.

Thanks for the response. I've really wanted to have a fuller discussion of this and have been thinking about starting a topic devoted to it. I don't want to side track this discussion with this, but for now I'll just respond to your post saying I agree largely with what you're saying, that the language of religious mythology within the greater language system is rapidly becoming more superfluous and will eventually be replaced naturally. Fundamentalism is the fight against that happening in our language by trying to challenge its mythological views being replaced by scientific and philosophical language. At the same time, I don't see it vanishing into nothing all together, but rather evolving to incorporate modern knowledge. Our language has been and always will be been ripe with myths of all types, it's the nature of language, but what will become of gods in that language? What sorts of mythologies will replace them? Do god myths serve any valid pupose that no other myth does quite the same?

 

I think I'll plan to start that topic. Would you be game to contribute?

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I was part of the "I'm an Atheist but religion is here to stay." camp.

 

I would not raise this as an objection to Dawkins or Harris because I support and appreciate their activity.

 

I do not argue that what they do is pointless (he suggests some Atheists do) or disruptive.

 

I argue that we as Atheists can shape the religious discussion by demanding a respect for rational thought and science. I believe we can be a force for reducing the harm that religion causes. I beleive we might even be able to make harmful religion receede.

 

But I do however, consider it naive to think that we can educate people out of believeing in ghosts, goblins and god.

 

My discussions with Deists have convinced me that religion is here to stay. And once you believe that there is a sentient other world being... any further concoction of devine explanation is not only possible but inevitable.

 

Rational and intellegent people have a hard time disengaging from the idea of god's existance. Explain that and I'll side with Dawkins.

 

Mongo

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I'm an atheist butt.
There ya go, Asimov. I fixed that for you. :scratch:

 

 

:HaHa:

Fanfuckingtastic! :lmao:

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One of my favorite hobbies is reality facing. I think that it is sort of like mental bungie jumping, thrilling with the possibility of getting screwed up. Just like some people (me) won't consider jumping off a bridge with rubber bands secured to their ankles, some people won't consider leaping into reality with nothing but logic secured to their mind. I have a Christian friend that I can back into a logical dead end every time he brings something up. He usually says, "I see your point, but I just got to believe." I think he does just have to believe. At least at this point in his tragic life, he would be mentally screwed with out it.

 

Here's one thing about reality: it includes irrational belief in humans. That really seems to be a part of what humans are. This so common in humans that I wonder if Atheists have a bit of brain damage, or genetic change that allows them to bypass religious tendencies. Apparently idiot savants get their staggering ability to memorize via brain damage that bypasses a normal human information filtering system that keeps most information out. Maybe the ability to understand no god is something like that?

 

PS The demise of a religion has often happened, but I've never heard of a religion dying into non-belief. They seem to just pass into another belief. Doesn't that say something about the reality of the human mind?

I'm not sure if this has to do with what you are talking about(I think it does)but if atheists were not around(like many here on ExC) to point out there was no god then who would be there to say and question what is really real? Maybe we are some kind of genetic retards who are evolving without knowing. Wow now I feel like a guinea pig for evolution.

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I'm not sure if this has to do with what you are talking about(I think it does)but if atheists were not around(like many here on ExC) to point out there was no god then who would be there to say and question what is really real? Maybe we are some kind of genetic retards who are evolving without knowing. Wow now I feel like a guinea pig for evolution.

 

 

It has to do with my vote that religion will always be here. I don't know that knowing real reality is all that necessary. Quite a bit of the real knowledge has been used in ways that cause a lot of trouble for humans and for life in general. Perhaps there should be a science of wisdom that must be satisfied before any discovery in the physical sciences is allowed to be use.

 

To go along with what Antlerman had to say, I suggest that story would be closer to the thing you are trying to get at. Meanings in life are not found in charts and grafts of the minutia of measurements. We tend to want a story to fit our personal narrative into to make sense of our individual lives. We want that meta-story to one of power and success so that we can share in its magic. And we want that meta-story to be well known, "Tell me the old old story," All the children I've helped raise had one or 2 stories that they wanted read over and over and over, until the ink wore off just from looking. My grandson (5) has made up his own story about construx

world. Each little bit of information he gets via his 10,000 questions/day gets fitted into construx world here and there until it fits some where and becomes itself a part of the story often in the form of a new construction with the toy.

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I find Dawkins arrogant ... not because of his views or theories but because of how he expresses them and his scant regard for anyone who holds any sembalance of a belief at all . He is a religious fundamentalist without the religion - and both I find both worrying. He is proof of his own argument - that in general people don't want to think too much but to be told. He is speaking in straight fundamentalist black and white langauge and is making it work for him just as the religious fundamentalists do for their cause. Neither is right

 

In his post he often mentions how people who use the 'I am an aethists BUT..' are just religious zealots . He seems to have a problem with anyone who tries to understand the deeper meaning of why people choose to believe or cannot NOT believe

Look at his description of people you have even vaguely challenged him

 

'The tone of voice is almost always gleeful, and accompanied by a self-satisfied smirk.'

 

'Did you notice the patronizing condescension in the quotations I just listed? You and I, of course, are much too intelligent ...'

 

'Our smirking critic substituted his own version'

 

'I could have overlooked the patronizing condescension of his remark, if only he hadn't sounded so smugly satisfied by this lamentable state of affairs.'

 

 

Seems like he has a problem ..

 

He completely dismisses any pondering of WHY people choose to believe. I agree with his points about religious enforcement, parental control and lack of education - But is that his whole argument ? I think there is something deeper than that.

 

 

 

Antlerman - you put into words what I struggle to get straight in my mind! :thanks:

You should be in Dawkins boots and get a book written.

Belief (as opposed to religion) has at its roots a way of viewing the world - and this view needs to be put into something tangible so it can be communicated and understood - a story using language etc wonderful post

 

Did you open a new thread on this AM - I did not see it

 

 

BTW - I Wonder if Mr Dawkins will be back to respond?

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Antlerman - you put into words what I struggle to get straight in my mind! :thanks:

You should be in Dawkins boots and get a book written.

Belief (as opposed to religion) has at its roots a way of viewing the world - and this view needs to be put into something tangible so it can be communicated and understood - a story using language etc wonderful post

 

Did you open a new thread on this AM - I did not see it

Thanks. I wouldn’t know where to begin to write a book, and don’t know if I even could. It would be interesting to organize thoughts in a better fashion than just a little of this here, and little of that there. I should probably just try writing some articles or something first. I’ve never viewed myself as a writer, but it might be interesting to try something like that?

 

I don’t entirely disagree with everything that Dawkins brings up, but I wouldn’t take nearly such an “activist” type approach as him, seeing things in quite such black and white ways. People like Dawkins are valuable by their creating a discussion of issues in society. Equally valuable (and annoying) are the extreme fundamentalists who fight to put God back in society.

 

I always talk about the bell curve of society (statistical normal distribution), that has the slopes on the far left and far right with less than 10 percent on either extreme, and the big bulge in the center with 80 percent of the people. The edges push and pull in different directions and are more volatile. But what they do is create a conversation about these issues the edges raise in the middle where the mainstream lives.

 

Dawkins approach is indeed a bit too extreme for the mainstream to adopt in its totality, but it definitely creates a dialog about the encroachment of religion and the need for secularism in the world. Dobson, Bush, and company are also not what the majority would accept, but those people continue to exist for a reason. The middle feeds them and allows them to exist because they are likewise useful to the middle to discuss issues of religion and spirituality in an increasingly secular world. The fact that these extremes exist says something about the merit of what each extreme has to say to society, like it or not.

 

Voices of moderation are usually less visible in trying to bring some balance to the volatility of the edges. The edges are more spectacular and draw the focus to themselves. Moderates move, but usually it takes a threat of true crisis created by the extremists to get them to rise up. For the most they try to listen and respect the value of what each group is “trying” to say, what the underlying issues are, and try to see the merits in it. I don’t see the answer for where the bulk of society is going lies in the solutions proposed by Dawkins or Dobson, but somewhere in the middle.

 

Personally, I see understanding the nature of language as the key component to people moving beyond black and white thinking, and more into a world that frankly doesn’t take itself too seriously, while at the same time exploring the greater potentials of their humanity without having to violate rationality and advances in human understanding of the world and themselves. Perhaps it may be something in the vein of something I posted in another thread yesterday? The last 2 paragraphs of this was an interesting thought that came to me as I was posting: http://www.ex-christian.net/index.php?s=&a...st&p=235022

 

The middle is changing, but moves far slower because of its sheer mass. It changes over generations, while the edges shift in terms of years or decades. Society created Dawkins to serve as a focus of dialog on where to go next.

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Howdy ya’ll,

 

Dawkins does come off as very arrogant. But I think many strong atheists do without really trying. I agree with Antlerman on his societal bell curve. People like him are needed just to counteract some of the fundamentalists screaming from the pulpits and out on the TV. They are out there putting big questions and the changes in society out there for dinner table talk for the rest of us. We need more voices in the media and main stream. As more come into view, more moderate and sociable will also show up. Bill Marr and Penn Jellette come to mind, both comedians.

 

But how many atheists shove their philosophy on those around them in day to day life. Debate/discussion with trusted friends and relatives, yes, but at work and in other social activities? Do many really make the outright effort to convert others to their view? He has a place in the public eye to make a larger issue of this than many of us are willing to do regularly. For this purpose, his overly simplified and arrogant rhetoric is useful and needed.

 

Here is the example I would give from my life. I debate religion and belief in the supernatural all the time within my group of friends, they know how skeptical I am but still go for it if they think they have a good argument. Most people I work with know my basic thoughts, if just to keep them from attempting to add me to their flocks. At my last job I got a new supervisor who was LDS. All of my other co-workers knew I was/am an atheist, and told her just to leave me out of any proselytizing she might choose to do at work. She made an effort to confront me at work three times. 1st time I walked away, 2nd I said she did not want or need to hear my views, and the 3rd I brought up the legal implications further attempts could lead to. I could have sat down and hit her with the best arguments I have gathered over the last 30 years, but to me, there was a possible threat to my livelihood and work environment.

 

Someone like Dawkins gives our point of view airtime without placing a threat on our individual work and social situations. With more voices like this, maybe more of us, including myself, would feel more comfortable just saying out loud to anyone and everyone we come across what our true thoughts are.

 

As for the poll: Atheist, but nothing.

 

I hope religion will slowly fall off like a rotting vegetable or fruit…. :woohoo:

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  • 1 month later...

Dawkins does come across as condescending, and rightly so. Religion is a parasite on the human psyche, an unfortunate byproduct of the way our minds work for evolutionary reasons.

 

If someone were to profess that they believe the earth is flat (and there are people who do) they would rightly be ridiculed and mocked. Anyone who engages in a discussion about the flatness of the earth with them would rightly take a condescending tone as they explained about the reasons why we know the earth is in fact round. If the person persisted in believing in a flat earth despite the weight of evidence to the contrary, the tone would become increasingly condescending until eventually, if the person refused to be reasonable, they would be dismissed as someone psychologically or biologically impaired.

 

Why should belief in god(s) be looked upon any differently? Dawkins is right to talk about consciousness-raising. If atheists refused to cowtow to the sensitivities of theists, and instead regarded them with the open mockery they deserve for their outmoded superstitions, they would be only receiving what they deserve.

 

Religion is something to be ashamed of, and shame only comes when other members of society heap it upon you. We should laugh openly in the faces of those who believe in invisible men in the sky who talk to them (and need their money), or perhaps ask if they've sought psychological treatment for their delusion. What we should not do is give these beliefs tacit respect.

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