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Thread: Atheists becoming more vocal and outspoken

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    The problem of 9/11 wasn't religion. Osama bin Laden's motivations for the attack were extremely secular.
    Even if you are correct that it was “extremely secular” then at least *part* of it has religious roots to it. I do not know the secular history, only know (or am pretty damn sure) that Allah is not real and the Koran is not divinely inspired. If I can help at all in reducing the influence of mythology in promoting acts of violence, injustice, and destruction, then I will do so.

    The story American's tell themselves is that USA is a symbol of freedom in the world (it's not. It's today the symbol of the exact opposite) and that 9/11 was an attack on those values (it was not, Bin Laden explained why they attacked). When George Bush said that Bin Laden attacked USA because of American freedoms the rest of the world laughed at him and wondered how the hell anybody can be so damn deluded.
    Well it is politically useful rhetoric, it works unfortunately. It is common for many Americans to associate their nationalistic views with their religious views, and think that God hand-picked the U.S.A. as being his favorite country above all others, we hold a special spot in his heart. I obviously do not hold such views, but it is still very common for people to believe so.

    If you think 9/11 was the result of religious brainwashing, then perhaps you are the one who has been brainwashed?
    There are multiple factors that contributed to the event, some being political, some religious. I never claimed it was entirely religious belief that provoked it, only that it was a contributing factor. Again, I do not know how to resolve the political tensions behind it, I only know that people justifying their acts of terror by sourcing their religious mythologies is not something that we should accept, and I can and will do something about that.

    The resistance to gay marriage is a price they feel they need to pay to get God. They see it as a package deal. They will only abandon God if they are given an alternative method to reach the same spiritual calm and grounding. Unless your focus is on that, you will fail.
    Why not do both? Both openly criticize the religious underpinnings of their resistance and also offer an alternative? You say to “focus” on one aspect, as if we should just not concern ourselves with the others. We can do both.

    While American resistance to gay marriage sounds like a great evil. Don't forget that the same society created gay liberation and gay pride. For better or for worse, Americans feel empowered. No matter what they believe, or how stupid they are. This has nothing to do with religion.
    DrZoidBerg, when people cite Bible verses as rationalizations for the political views, and views on what rights LGBTQ should and should not have, it is plain-as-day erroneous to then say their resistance has “nothing to do with religion.” Each side will cherry-pick around their religious text and religious views to support their support of, or opposition to, gay rights. What I have been arguing is that we should not accept those religious materials to be the arbiters and authorities in the first place. It should be entirely irrelevant.


    ________________________________________________

    Religion is a cause of, and a symptom of, other problems. The human mind does not process information in a linear fashion, instead it is an interconnected network of various influences. There is no *one* single root problem that we should focus all our attention on because that is the one-and-only cause of all the other problems, instead we need to address all of them to varying extents because they all reinforce each other.

    That paragraph is important, please re-read and do not mistakenly think there is a single “core belief” they hold that fuels all other beliefs. Instead, they have many “core beliefs” that all solidify each other. If we only focus on one and ignore the others, then we will not be as effective in resolving the numerous problems they generate.

    ________________________________________________





    Solution, start secular organisations that do the same thing.
    That is part of the solution, not the entirety of it. Atheists should also be more proactive in openly criticizing of bad beliefs. I think it was Sam Harris who coined the term “conversational intolerance” to describe this aspect. When we are having conversations with people who are espousing bad beliefs and bad justifications for those beliefs, we should openly challenge them. They may have never critically thought about those beliefs, because they were never put on the spot to do so. That may lead to them thinking in more depth about a wide variety of beliefs they hold but never had any reason to question.

    This is how religion was destroyed in Scandinavia. When socialism was first introduced into these parts, ca 1860, socialist agitators and socialist clubs would exactly mirror each religious institution and function. Step by step replacing religion and eventually making religion obsolete. 1940 100% of Swedes went to church each Sunday. By 1960 less than 10% of Swedes went to church and most importantly nobody talked about God or religion. By 1980 nobody who used to go to church when they were young remembered why they once went to church. By 2000 nearly all the once religious people were dead and nobody was around to answer why anybody ever went to church or believed in God.
    Great. Let’s also try to do it faster though. Given the climate crises, we may not have all those decades to spare. Inaction on climate change is driven *in part by* (not entirely by) religious beliefs that God would never let the Earth come to such harm.

    Also in the meantime, if we were to wait around for decades for religious beliefs to passively phase itself out, people and other organisms will suffer because of it. We could have done more and done it more rapidly, but we instead decided that it is okay for everyone to suffer a bit, to be legally discriminated against, to experience trauma from religious indoctrination, to feel emotional isolation and suffering from doubting their religious beliefs, etc. All of that is a small price to pay, as long as we do not criticize religious beliefs openly. I hope you would be better than that.

    Just pointing out that God isn't real and just a figment of their imagination is going to fail.
    It has never been my position that “just pointing out…” is what I am advocating. This is a flagrant strawman. What I have repeatedly been saying is that that is one necessary component, among other necessary components. We need to be openly critical of religious beliefs and expose the flaws in them, ***while also*** promoting other worldviews that do not suffer from those same flaws and are superior, more useful to our world, and more fulfilling.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian63 View Post
    …is there any hypothetical injustice or disaster fueled in large part by religion---no matter how outlandish it seems---that would get you to reconsider and even wish you had been more active, when you had the chance, to stop that injustice or disaster? Anything that would make you think it was worth having a few uncomfortable conversations with friends, if it resulted in saving and improving the lives of others? Or would the "As long as they are not imposing on me then I don't care" attitude always remain prevalent, no matter what?
    At no point did I say, live and let live, or encourage passivity. What I did was suggest a strategy that might actually work, as opposed to a strategy that I'm sure won't.
    Those questions above were not addressed to you specifically, it was for anyone who adopted the “as long as they are not enforcing their religion on me, I do not care about their religion” view. Others on this forum do hold that attitude.

    The strategy that you are “sure” wouldn’t work, I agree would not work. It never was my position that just being critical of religious beliefs would be enough to get our crises resolved. It is one very important piece of the puzzle though. You are right that we need to offer alternative views that will be more appealing to people, and that satisfy them in similar ways psychologically that religious beliefs do. Where you keep saying that we need to “focus” on the latter, I am saying we need to focus on *both.* Not just one or the other, but *both.*
    Last edited by Brian63; 03-28-2019 at 01:46 PM.

  2. Top | #32
    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    If you only focus on the belief in God,…
    Who ever advocated (I certainly never did) that we should “only focus on the belief in God?” Please provide the exact quote and exact reference. If you cannot find it, please at least retract this strawman you are arguing against, repeatedly.

    What I have actually been saying is that it is one area, among many others, that we should focus more efforts on than we presently are.

    God is only an afterthought in Christianity.
    One belief does not simply lead to the other in a linear fashion, instead they complement and enhance and reinforce each other in a positive-feedback loop.

    But that cannot be the reason. That makes no sense to me.
    That position makes no sense to me either, which is why I never argued for it. You keep rebutting it though, so it is a strawman position you are arguing against, not the real position.

    You can create all this without needing to resort to a god. That's how you'll beat religion. Or, I'll reformulate it. If you try to kill religion any other way, you will fail.
    Another strawman.

    Religion is not something that will ever be entirely “beaten” or “killed.” That was not at all my position, that it can be. Various psychological motivations in our minds will always be present which lead to religious beliefs enhancing themselves, it is a product of our evolutionary history which we cannot undue. We will always have some degrees of religious beliefs, religious influences in our world. Please re-read that sentence:

    We will always have some degrees of religious beliefs, religious influences in our world.

    While we almost certainly cannot outright kill or eliminate religious beliefs entirely, we can still lessen its impact and harm. That is why I favor atheists becoming more proactive in *both* publicly criticizing religious beliefs that otherwise go unchallenged, *and also* offering up alternative methods of satisfying the needs that religions (superficially) fulfill.

    Not focusing on just one or just the other, but *both.*
    Last edited by Brian63; 03-28-2019 at 02:30 PM.

  3. Top | #33
    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    From earlier---

    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    It's not a question of that. It's a question of changing what you can change, and not trying to change that which you can't. You can only change yourself.
    You can also help others to become more motivated to change themselves. The work that other people engage in (on various charitable causes) helps inspire me to contribute also.

    Also, you keep confusing religious faith with politics. I'm not discussing the politics.
    Then you are overlooking a significant part of the problem. Religious beliefs and politics are heavily intertwined. They are different aspects of a person’s worldview, but they reinforce each other as well. We need to address both, not just one or the other.

    Until secularists start secular programmes and groups for spiritual training and spiritual work, the Christians win on walkover.
    Great, let’s start secular programs. We can do that *in addition to* openly challenging bad beliefs. We do not have to do one and not the other. Let’s do both.

  4. Top | #34
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    Believe me when I tell you that atheists have been trying for many decades to start secular groups. Atlanta Freethought Society has been around for at least thirty or more years, but it's still a rather small group of people that get together to listen to a lecture once a month and then share lunch. At times they tried to do some charity work, but there was never much participation. We have a small group in my small city that gets together once a month for dinner. People come and go and never tell us why they don't come back. Only a small number of us have been members since 2009 when the group started. Atheists really are like cats when it comes to trying to herd them. We just don't do the organized group thing very well, although we do like to get together and talk for hours.

    I was a member of a Humanist group in Atlanta for many years. Over the years, the group became smaller as people died off, left the area or lost interest, so we finally disbanded and donated what we had left to the Atlanta Freethought Society. I was a member of that group for years too. I was treasurer of the Humanist group for three years and it was close to impossible to get enough money to pay our meager expenses. How do you think we can change this, when atheists have so little in common, other than enjoying talking a lot and discussing almost anything under the sun? I'm serious. It's been tried so many times with such little success, plus most of the groups I've joined are primarily made up of nerdy white people, with one or two token minority members. Then there is a group of black nonbelievers in Atlanta. They say they welcome white people but my guess is they have few if any white members. I've met the leader and she's a good speaker, but again, my impression is the group primarily enjoys socializing. And, just like the mostly white group, the black nonbelievers seem to be very educated, thoughtful people. That's a good thing but it won't change the rest of the world.

    Where is the diversity in the atheist community? What do we have to offer the poor? What about people who aren't educated or who don't have the intelligence to understand complex things? What if their religion is the only thing that gives them joy? Religion gives them hope, often charity. We agree that it's false hope but to them it seems real and it gives their lives meaning and an emotional outlet. They are so organized because they have some common mythologies, which allows them to find their own in-group. I see no reason to expect this to change. I'm not even sure it's desirable. The fundamentalist groups are slowly dying out. That's a good thing, but I see no harm in the more liberal, tolerant branches of religion.

    I like my atheist friends and I like my Christian friends. I see no benefit to try and force any of them to change. I'm not trying to be difficult. It's just what I see based on my years of experience.

    While I realize you are trying to promote positive change, I don't agree with your method or feel it would be effective. As usual the cats can't be herded.

  5. Top | #35
    Veteran Member skepticalbip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by southernhybrid View Post
    Believe me when I tell you that atheists have been trying for many decades to start secular groups. Atlanta Freethought Society has been around for at least thirty or more years, but it's still a rather small group of people that get together to listen to a lecture once a month and then share lunch. At times they tried to do some charity work, but there was never much participation. We have a small group in my small city that gets together once a month for dinner. People come and go and never tell us why they don't come back. Only a small number of us have been members since 2009 when the group started. Atheists really are like cats when it comes to trying to herd them. We just don't do the organized group thing very well, although we do like to get together and talk for hours.

    ... snip ...
    That is quite understandable. Groups form over common interests. The more passionately held the interests are, the more easily formed and coherent the group will be. Atheists, at least the atheists I know, never even think of their atheism unless the subject of god or religion is brought up by someone else. So atheism would be a piss poor and weak focus for a group to be formed around. Church groups are easy to form because many religious people think about (or even build their lives around) their religion throughout their day. Religion is very important to the religious but, for atheists, their atheism isn't something that they dwell on.

    If you want to form a group to help the poor then let that be the focus. It will attract those who care deeply about helping the poor whether they are religious, atheists, or whatever. OTOH, if the focus is religious opinions (either positive or negative) with a side activity being helping the poor then the number of people that will be attracted will be drastically diminished.

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by southernhybrid View Post
    Believe me when I tell you that atheists have been trying for many decades to start secular groups…
    Many of them have been successful too. In recent months I have been watching more episodes of the Atheist Experience podcasts and they have been growing in popularity as well, and also meet with increasing numbers of people after each show at local restaurants. This past March 23rd was deemed Atheist Day for individuals to come out as such. There are atheist matches and protests (referenced on that last episode of the Atheist Experience) where roughly 100 atheists joined together.

    The particular atheist organization that you have the most personal involvement and history with may not have succeeded, but many others still are. If you want to know better what makes them work, that is a good question to ask them. Send them an email, for instance. Write a letter and inquire about it. If you do not personally understand the mechanics of how such a movement can work, that is not at all grounds for declaring that it cannot work. Especially when there are clear examples where they do.

    What if their religion is the only thing that gives them joy?
    Then help them find other things that also give them joy, and which do not carry the harm that religions do.

    The fundamentalist groups are slowly dying out. That's a good thing, but I see no harm in the more liberal, tolerant branches of religion.
    The moderately-bad religious beliefs still grant social and cultural and political permissions to the very-bad religious beliefs. They both largely hold some foundational views in common, to varying extents---that God exists, that we must obey God, that religious views should steer political decisions in different ways (like having "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance).

    The moderate and the fundamentalist religious believers will not challenge each other on those foundational views---because they hold them in common. If they do get challenged, it will be coming from people who disagree with them.

    Keep in mind also that religious beliefs can change over time too, or even quickly in some cases---so at one point a moderate believer may convert into a more fundamentalist believer. Or a fundamentalist can change to a moderate. It depends on what other life circumstances are present around them. It is a mistake to look at moderates and think they will remain so all their lives. Many of them will convert to more fundamentalist (and harmful) views, because they already held the presuppositions above about religions---that God exists, we must obey God, etc. They are susceptible to adopting an even more harmful worldview than they already hold, because they never challenged the foundations of either worldview. If we atheists do challenge those foundations, they will see there is a reasonable alternative available as well.

    I see no benefit to try and force any of them to change.
    Nobody here was advocating to “force” anyone to change. It is instead to encourage them to want to change on their own volition.

    Suppose a friend of yours is a drug addict, but the drugs bring an immediate and existential relief to them, even if just momentarily. At the same time, you know it is harming them and poses a threat to themselves and others (if they drive while stoned, for instance), while they are oblivious to that fact and just go on, because they find joy in it. Would you be okay with that as long as they did not try to enforce their addiction on you through politics? Would that be your attitude? What is the relevant difference between an addiction to harmful physical substances and an addiction to harmful worldviews, so that we should be proactive in the former and passive in the latter?
    Last edited by Brian63; 03-29-2019 at 05:05 AM.

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    Atheists, at least the atheists I know, never even think of their atheism unless the subject of god or religion is brought up by someone else. So atheism would be a piss poor and weak focus for a group to be formed around.
    How about people who are afraid of doubting their religious beliefs, who feel alone and isolated and scared, are currently in the closet about their beliefs, are losing their family and friends because of their change in religious beliefs, who struggle currently with anxieties about death and hell and meaning of life issues, who were indoctrinated into holding views that they feel bitterness about even decades later? I am personally a member of such a group on FB where people have told such tales, and how joining with others who held similar backgrounds and views has helped them mentally and emotionally and intellectually, and they regained confidence and are learning how to manage their lives more appropriately. Do you really think these groups have a "piss poor and weak focus" to exist?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian63 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    Atheists, at least the atheists I know, never even think of their atheism unless the subject of god or religion is brought up by someone else. So atheism would be a piss poor and weak focus for a group to be formed around.
    How about people who are afraid of doubting their religious beliefs, who feel alone and isolated and scared, are currently in the closet about their beliefs, are losing their family and friends because of their change in religious beliefs, who were indoctrinated into holding views that they feel bitterness about even decades later? I am personally a member of such a group on FB where people have told such tales, and how joining with others who held similar backgrounds and views has helped them mentally and emotionally and intellectually, and they regained confidence and are learning how to manage their lives more appropriately. Do you really think these groups are "piss poor and weak focus" to exist?
    That sounds like a support group - a group formed to help deal with common personal problems. A social group like southernhybred (and I) was describing is a quite different animal. Such social groups are people who come together as a celebration of their common interests.

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Yes, atheists gathering together do serve as a support group for each other. That is one purpose they serve among others. That is part of the point of why they should exist, why it is good that they do. We can also be more proactive and vocal about our views as well, which will encourage others to understand our views better and to relate to them more. It causes many shifts, simultaneously. Others who had secretly held such views will be more willing to express publicly the same views now. Others who had misunderstandings and disagreements (based on their misunderstandings) will sympathize with our views more and not feel so justified to impose their own views onto us. The more outspoken and active, the better the chance of success.

  10. Top | #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by southernhybrid View Post
    Believe me when I tell you that atheists have been trying for many decades to start secular groups. Atlanta Freethought Society has been around for at least thirty or more years, but it's still a rather small group of people that get together to listen to a lecture once a month and then share lunch. At times they tried to do some charity work, but there was never much participation. We have a small group in my small city that gets together once a month for dinner. People come and go and never tell us why they don't come back. Only a small number of us have been members since 2009 when the group started. Atheists really are like cats when it comes to trying to herd them. We just don't do the organized group thing very well, although we do like to get together and talk for hours.

    ... snip ...
    That is quite understandable. Groups form over common interests. The more passionately held the interests are, the more easily formed and coherent the group will be. Atheists, at least the atheists I know, never even think of their atheism unless the subject of god or religion is brought up by someone else. So atheism would be a piss poor and weak focus for a group to be formed around. Church groups are easy to form because many religious people think about (or even build their lives around) their religion throughout their day. Religion is very important to the religious but, for atheists, their atheism isn't something that they dwell on.

    If you want to form a group to help the poor then let that be the focus. It will attract those who care deeply about helping the poor whether they are religious, atheists, or whatever. OTOH, if the focus is religious opinions (either positive or negative) with a side activity being helping the poor then the number of people that will be attracted will be drastically diminished.
    If the focus of the group is that no one likes to collect stamps it won't go far.

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