Jump to content

It's An Uphill Slog, But Does It Really Matter?


SairB
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello, all

 

It's been a while since anything has really tripped my rant switch, but today it happened - and I have to say it feels good to have a forum in which there are likely to be some appreciative readers!

 

The creation vs evolution and - consequently - the theism vs atheism debates have recently been given an airing in the letters pages of our local newspaper (I live in Perth, Western Australia). Of course there's been nothing new here - all the usual suspects in the highly-suspect anti-evolution and pro-theism batteries have come up: how can 'evolutionism' account for the eye; evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics; atheism is a dogmatic religion as much as any other; without (the Judeo-Christian) God there can be no morality - we've seen, refuted and rejected all these 'arguments' before.

 

The one that raised its ugly head today, though, really got my back up, as it always does, just because it's such a blatant display of irrationality and wilful ignorance. It went something like: "Atheism's bad, mmmkay, 'cause Hitler and Stalin were atheists and look how evil they were..." The letter was a little more verbose, of course, but that was it in essence. It's almost enough to make me feel physically ill. First of all, whether the dictators were atheists or not (and to the best of my knowledge, Hitler at least was raised as a Catholic), that had no material connection to the fact that they craved absolute power and resorted to amoral means to achieve it; secondly, I would be more inclined to suppose that such totalitarian regimes owed their foundations at least in part to a theistic mindset - being as they were bastardised forms of religion, with the place of the deity supplied by the relevant political leader.

 

In any case, I guess the real question I wanted to raise is whether we should be worried about the seemingly increasing numbers of people who are wedded to a theistic and often largely irrational worldview - and is there really any point in arguing with them, or speaking out for science, reason or indeed atheism? Surely if ideas are fundamentally irrational, they will ultimately be rejected as such. Or will they...?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stalin essentially carried out Lenin's legacy derived from Marx. Atheism wasn't the driving force but rather ideology was. In this case the ideological lynchpin was the idea that to achieve equality you must first remove those who are not equal; those who show intellectual prowess, who think for themselves, who find themselves more successful, etc...

 

Atheism isn't a meme and has no ideological driving force unlike Marxism, Christianity, Islam, etc... so not only is this argument spurious but it fails to recognize that the true source of the evil it criticizes is inherent within it’s own system.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You'll find that the proclaimed void is often filled by nationalism.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Problem is, they like to bring up Stalin, Hitler, and similar, but there are plenty of so called religious (and especially christian) leaders throughout history who have been just as horrible - of course they pretend that didn't happen and since the religion was the leader in all respects during much of that time the actual history of what happened is painted in a very different light from reality.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello, all

 

In any case, I guess the real question I wanted to raise is whether we should be worried about the seemingly increasing numbers of people who are wedded to a theistic and often largely irrational worldview - and is there really any point in arguing with them, or speaking out for science, reason or indeed atheism? Surely if ideas are fundamentally irrational, they will ultimately be rejected as such. Or will they...?

Very important question.

 

Is it worthwhile fighting these battles? What is gained, what is lost? Is there ever any real progress?

 

Believe it or not, I think that many people appreciate reasoned responses to the accusations and fallacies. They read their papers in private, but they are thinking to themselves. If there is no response, then many assume that there is no way to argue against the logic presented, and hence the diatribes are true at some level.

 

No matter what you write, many will object. They see themselves as defending God, the faith, the church, etc. You won't convert anyone. There are more skeptics than you can imagine however, and they thirst for someone to stand up for them (since they are living lives of quiet desperation in a society that may discourage skepticism).

 

Be wary of fighting on their turf. It gets messy and you will be stained with the shit they throw around. Keep to the high ground. A little sarcasm can also be useful, but it's like kicking a beehive.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have never personally engaged in an evolution/ creation debate. At times I point out logical fallacies used by the creationists, but I have little desire to break down their entire arguments because they really don't care. I think its really good when people do step up and fight it and I hope I can start doing my part eventually. It takes a strong person and knowledgeable position to fight it well and its not worth fighting if you aren't strong enough. I greatly enjoy Thunderf00t's video series about why do people think creationists are stupid. He has guides to help people debunk creationist claims if they need to.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You ask if there's any point to speaking out.

 

I live in America, and am of the opinion that the Religious Right has had a very negative impact on this nation over the past 50 years. To remain silent would be to let them keep on with their activities unchallenged. So while I have no illusions that my single small voice could take down religion, neither do I plan to shut up anytime soon.

 

But that's just me. One's mileage may vary.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When they bring up Stalin counter with the very Christian Ivan Grozny the inventor of Russian style secret police and Stalin's hero.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It went something like: "Atheism's bad, mmmkay, 'cause Hitler and Stalin were atheists and look how evil they were..." The letter was a little more verbose, of course, but that was it in essence.

 

Hitler and Stalin also believed in gravity, so does that make belief in gravity "evil"?

 

I can understand where these people are coming from, though, since I used to think along the same lines. What they fail (and I failed) to realize is that countries with higher percentages of atheists actually tend to have lower crime rates, and I think that groups as a whole make better representations than a few hand-picked "evil" people.

 

Problem is, they like to bring up Stalin, Hitler, and similar, but there are plenty of so called religious (and especially christian) leaders throughout history who have been just as horrible - of course they pretend that didn't happen....

 

Actually, I don't recall ever hearing a Christian claim that those things didn't happen. The typical response (and what I used to believe) is that the people who did those things weren't "true Christians," they were motivated politically. But if they want to play that game, then we can use their same logic on them and say that Hitler and Stalin weren't "true atheists."

 

I greatly enjoy Thunderf00t's video series about why do people think creationists are stupid. He has guides to help people debunk creationist claims if they need to.

 

Also, in case you're not familiar with it, Talk Origins is a good site that debunks a bunch of creationist nonsense.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess my post didn't respond to the actual point of the thread. Shame on me. ;)

 

Is the uphill slog really worth it? Well, though it often may not seem like it, if you're up to the challenge and can articulate well, then I have to think that it actually is.

 

When I was a Christian, I think I was a fairly reasonable person. I was brainwashed with misinformation, but I firmly believed that something that is true has nothing to fear from being challenged. As such, if I had ever had anyone strongly challenge my beliefs and present very rational arguments against God and the Bible, I would have to think that I would have deconverted sooner than I did.

 

Unfortunately, the only "freethinkers" I recall ever claiming to me that the Bible was false were one guy who had such weird beliefs (like there being no such thing as physical matter, so you could walk through a wall if you put your mind to it) that he couldn't be taken seriously, and two others who just made a few vague statements and didn't try to debate. Therefore, I was left with the impression that they were wrong and that what I had been taught was right.

 

I now consider myself agnostic (hence my user name being "agnostic" spelled backwards), but I'm definitely atheist with regard to the gods of religions. I find myself being much like the couple guys I mentioned above, in that I don't try to debate with theists. I guess I'm just not normally a confrontational type of person.

 

As a nonbeliever, the only theist I have ever debated with in person was a coworker who just didn't know when to shut up, so after repeatedly telling him I wasn't interested in discussing religion, I finally had to tear into him a couple times and put him in his place. On both occasions, he was left with no response. The funny thing is that this guy has been a Christian for longer than I have been alive, and yet it's apparent from our conversations that I know more about the Bible than he does.

 

Other than that guy, I've only debated with theists online, and even that I haven't done much of lately. Perhaps I should do more, since there are so many out there shackled with religion. Religion ruined areas of my life (and I couldn't even see it at the time), so it's undoubtedly ruining others' lives too, so maybe I should be more proactive.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I was a Christian, I think I was a fairly reasonable person. I was brainwashed with misinformation, but I firmly believed that something that is true has nothing to fear from being challenged. As such, if I had ever had anyone strongly challenge my beliefs and present very rational arguments against God and the Bible, I would have to think that I would have deconverted sooner than I did.

 

That was me in a nutshell. For whatever reason most people are more apt to cling to their beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. This was never me. I was confident that my beliefs were on a solid foundation and trying them with a fire of critical thinking was not a problem for me. That they eroded when tested was a huge surprise but I certainly wasn't going to puff up with pride and refuse to acknowledge the obvious just because it was uncomfortable to do so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You ask if there's any point to speaking out.

 

I live in America, and am of the opinion that the Religious Right has had a very negative impact on this nation over the past 50 years. To remain silent would be to let them keep on with their activities unchallenged. So while I have no illusions that my single small voice could take down religion, neither do I plan to shut up anytime soon.

 

But that's just me. One's mileage may vary.

 

I don't think creationism and the Religious Right have quite such a firm hold in Australia - yet. The recent run of letters in the paper does seem to reflect the growing willingness of bible-believers and young-earth creationists to speak out, though.

 

Until about five years ago, when I read Telling Lies for God by Ian Plimer (now, sadly, making headlines as a climate-change denier) I had no idea that anyone seriously believed the Genesis creation story in a literal sense. As the years roll on, there seem to be more and more who do, or at least more and more who are willing to go public with their beliefs. I agree they should be contradicted - especially in print - wherever possible, but I can't see an appeal to rationality ever having much effect on these people! To be honest, I guess the best we can hope for is that they don't succeed in converting more gullible folks to their views.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also, in case you're not familiar with it, Talk Origins is a good site that debunks a bunch of creationist nonsense.

 

Having a great time reading this site - thanks for the link!

 

Particularly loved the mention of the list of the 500 scientists named Steve who accept evolution...priceless :yelrotflmao:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess the real question I wanted to raise is whether we should be worried about the seemingly increasing numbers of people who are wedded to a theistic and often largely irrational worldview - and is there really any point in arguing with them, or speaking out for science, reason or indeed atheism? Surely if ideas are fundamentally irrational, they will ultimately be rejected as such. Or will they...?

 

Two points:

 

First, those "seemingly increasing numbers" can be deceiving. I believe that all the evidence shows that the number of fundamentalists is actually decreasing, not increasing. The reason it seems that they are increasing is that the remaining hardcore believers are panicking. They see themselves losing the fight, and they are getting louder and more strident as their pathetic little absolutist boat sinks in a sea of relativism.

 

Here's a hopeful report from Trinity College: In America, 15% of the population self-identify as having "no religion."

 

Secondly, there is a good chance that some percentage of people will always cling to irrational beliefs. I linked to a good article about belief in the face of evidence here. It's worth a read.

 

But just because people are reluctant to change our beliefs, that doesn't mean we can't or won't. This site is proof.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.