20 May, 2008

Robert T. Bakker Just Got Right Up My Nose

That's right. That Robert T. Bakker. The dinosaur guy. The one who gave me all sorts of delicious ideas when I was using dinosaurs as the springboard to building a better dragon.

He got so far up my nose tonight he made my brain recoil.

Brian Switek at Laelaps interviewed Dr. Bakker several weeks ago. I didn't read the interview. I was saving it for later, like an expensive bottle of wine: I was busy with the IDiot schlock at the time, Expelled was getting ready to come out, this blog was just a wee thing that needed constant feeding, and, well, I wanted to read it when I could actually savor it.

And then I dropped by Pharyngula today, and discovered that Robert T. Bakker's been hating on atheists.

Even Dr. Bob.

Dr. Bob said this about us:

We dino-scientists have a great responsibility: our subject matter attracts kids better than any other, except rocket-science. What's the greatest enemy of science education in the U.S.?

Militant Creationism?

No way. It's the loud, strident, elitist anti-creationists. The likes of Richard Dawkins and his colleagues.

Dr. Bob, don't take this the wrong way, because I love and respect you for your palentology and all of those awesome books on dinosaurs without which I couldn't have built a better dragon, but... fuck you, okay?

Fuck you and your Pentecostal bullshit.

Not only have you jumped on the "atheists are anathema" bandwagon, but you've got to throw your lot in with anti-elitism, too? You, a learned man? You want to use "elitist" as an epithet?

You disappoint me, sir.

First off, I'm sick to death of the "atheists are the enemy" schtick. Creationists are the enemy. We atheists are allies, no matter how much you may dislike our views and our expression of said views, and, yes, our "elitism." After all, no atheist is going to come in and shut your museum down because it doesn't pander to our dogma. No atheist would kick your science out of schools, put you out of a job, and ridicule you because your knowledge of science doesn't match a fairy story told by belligerant goatherders three thousand years ago.

You know who's your enemy, Bob? Militant creationists.

Those fuckers were attacking science long before we loud, strident, anti-creationist atheists jumped into the fray. And you'd better be gods-damned glad we're drawing their fire, because you know who'd be taking the bullets if we weren't?

That's right. You.

It's bad enough we have to take rancid bullshit from the IDiot set, but then people like you, religious scientists, turn around and fire away. We take shit from every religious bastard in the universe. Forgive us for getting tetchy. Excuse us for biting at the hands raised against us rather than slinking off with our tails between our legs.

What's wrong, Bob? Because I'm sure at some level, you know it's absolute bullshit to think that if the atheists went away, the creationists would withdraw from the field, too. Do we gleeful unbelievers threaten your faith? Is that what led to this:

Dawkins performs clip-art scholarship with the History of Science and Religion, a field that over the last several decades has matured into a rigorous discipline with fine PhD programs, endowed professorships, well-funded conferences, edited volumes luxuriously printed by Oxford, Harvard, and The Johns Hopkins Press. With footnotes.

PZ already took you apart on this one, so I won't do it. I'm just saying that your whole response to the critics from your original wrong-headed comment came across as the rantings of a terrified theist. And it's pathetic.

You spend nearly the entire response frothing about "The Brights." Are you fucking kidding me? I've been pretty deeply immersed in atheist circles for a while now, and I had no idea what the fuck Brights were until John Pieret put them down in a comment on this blog. Apparently, enough pathetic souls are hanging on to the silly notion to keep you in material, but I have news for you: the vast majority of atheists aren't "Brights." So spending nearly a full article ranting about how Darwin wouldn't have been a Bright is just a joke.

And it's not like anybody gives two tugs on a dead dog's dick what Darwin was, aside from the IDiots who have a huge stake in him being an atheist. He could have been a rabid fundie, for all we care. It's his science that's important, not his religious beliefs. What, we're supposed to be ashamed to be atheists because Darwin wasn't? That kind of shit may be important to Christians, who seem to have a pathological need for arguments from authority, but we atheists don't care, aside from the chortle it gives us when religious buggers' arguments from authority go horribly awry (Einstein, anybody?).

Then there's all of the whining about how we just haven't read the science wuuuvs religion, and look, it's got footnotes! literature. You go on and on about Dawkins not having enough footnotes in The God Delusion. You veritably sneer at the fact. You go on and on with the Harvard, the PhDs, the "luxuriously printed volumes...." Who's being an elitist snob now, Dr. Bob?

I could spend a long time writing up a series of treatises for you, richly footnoted, even, explaining just how and why it is that threatened Christians look like such raving 'fraidy-cats when confronted with an atheist who's not silent about their views. I could, and if necessary will, demonstrate that creationists didn't need strident, loud atheists to try to destroy science. But you already know all of that. You just don't want to admit it. And I'm not going to take precious time away from my writing right now to whip up a scholarly treatise for a man who should know better.

Although if you come here and bitch to me, I'll do it. Don't make me pull out the Super-Deluxe Paddle with Footnotes and march you out to the woodshed, my boy.

Because, you see, in the end, this is just an annoyance and a disappointment. I expected better of you. I expect better of all Christians who have a brain that they employ for tasks other than apologetics. But I've learned that my expectations often won't be met - something about atheists seems to turn you into raving lunatics - and so I can forgive you.

I'll continue reading your books and articles and even interviews, although now I'll be wincing in anticipation, wondering when you're going to get sidetracked by that "atheists are the enemy" bullshit, and that's just sad, because you're a brilliant man and your paleontology is first-class. I mean, for fuck's sake, you were largely responsible for one of the most incredible shifts in understanding ever. I know. I was there. I got raised on the dinosaurs-are-cold-blooded gospel, and then along came a heretic, and what do you know? They weren't so cold after all.

See, Dr. Bob? See what heretics can do? We apostates and unbelievers, we shake things up, we change things, we can drive things in a whole other, entirely wonderful direction.

And I think you'll be surprised when the loud, proud atheists force Christianity to a new level. Between the fundies who want to keep the faith static, and the atheists who don't actually threaten to do away with it entirely but sure as fuck demonstrate that a happy, complete life can be lived God-free, you Christians are going to have to achieve a whole new level of faith. But you're not going to get there knocking over straw men like Brights and snivelling about how Darwin wouldn't have been one, oh, no.

You are a brilliant man. I know you are. That interview you did with Brian, aside from the silly comment about atheists being the real enemy, that was stellar stuff. That was a tour-de-force. So turn some of that savage intellect away from the whining and crying and engage us, for fuck's sake. We're not going to talk you out of God, and you're not going to talk us in, so how do we reach both the faithful and the faithless? How do we defend this wonderful science of ours from the shitheads who want to do away with it no matter how many Christians say science and religion are bosom buddies? (And you do realize that's useless, right, because in the militant creationists' eyes, you're no more a Christian than I am.)

The floor is open, Dr. Bob. Let's get a dialogue going. Let's stop sniping at each other and turn the fire on the fuckers who want to take science down.

Atheists are standing by to take your call.


Mike at The Big Stick said...

Between the fundies who want to keep the faith static, and the atheists who don't actually threaten to do away with it entirely but sure as fuck demonstrate that a happy, complete life can be lived God-free, you Christians are going to have to achieve a whole new level of faith.

While I agree that fundamentalists pose challenges to Christianity and it may force some inner-dialogue, I think you grossly mis-state the impact atheism will ever have on organized religion. Atheist will never, ever, ever force Christians to, "achieve a whole new level of faith."

While I realize that atheism has become extremely popular on the Left, as evidenced by the explosion of folks on blogs and chatboards who proudly profess to a near-militant atheism, it is not a movement. Those atheist who do ban together and pat each other on the back for their perceived brilliance at figuring things out are creating a sub-culture based on nothingness. A sub-culture based on non-belief.

The only way atheists can exist as a group is not in their lack of belief, but instead they are a group because of their belief that Christians are wrong. That is all. While your atheism may have been the catalyst, your cohesion is based instead on anti-Christianity. So why not be a bit more truthful and state that proudly? i'd have much more respect for atheists if that was the case.

It won't be atheists that sort this ID thing out in my opinion. It will be level-headed Christians who finally get their fellow believers in line. You guys are welcome to agitate and point us towards the battles that need to be fought, but it the responsibility of us Christians who hold science in high esteeem who have to 'clean up our own backyard.'

Woozle said...

I (respectfully? can't decide) disagree with progressive conservative. I'm not sure it's respectful, because pc simply makes a bunch of assertions with nothing much to back them up -- kind of like, you know, religion.

For the record, from here it looks like a movement -- and I don't even personally know any activist atheists.

What's happening is that the internet is letting all these isolated dogma-free zones find each other, and we're all kind of saying to ourselves "oh, so you thought it was BS too? Hey, maybe it really is BS!"

And then we start collecting the arguments together, pro and con, and (again with the help of the 'net) helping each other to fill in the gaps in our arguments and rebuttals (It's almost obvious that God must hate amputees, but who knew about this shrimp thing?) and, lo and behold, the sacred works stand revealed unto us as more of a load of tripe than we had ever suspected. (Nice language, though, and a few pretty images here and there. Please ignore the blood.)

But that's not what I came here to talk about tonight.

I wanted to add my support to the idea that atheists should feel free to tear into religious BS wherever it is found, as we do with any form of BS. We owe it to civilization. There shouldn't be anything special about religion; what makes it different is that it has a power base which formerly could be used to retaliate against us for saying this.

To keep things civil, though, do try to avoid personal attacks unless it is clearly warranted by actions of the individual in question. When I feel the urge to go into a personal attack, I like to turn it into a question: "Why are you defending this crap?? How can you possibly see this lunacy as good for anyone?" or other lines of inquiry as appropriate.

At this point in history, religion -- well, religious control, religion as a way of controlling people -- is regaining so much ground so quickly that it worries me, and removal of the kid-gloves seems completely warranted if we're not to end up in some kind of silicon-gilded technofeudalism, chained to our cars and desks in the name of Christ and Allah. Civilization needs to move on and put mythology firmly back in the mythology section of our cultural library so we can resume making sense of the universe.

Towards this end, I would like to propose the following: It seems to me that understanding idealism is the key to unraveling religion's clutch.

By "idealism", I mean the idea of doing good, of contributing to humanity in some lasting way, of being part of something that is bigger than the individual.

Hypothesis: People who are genuinely drawn to religion for its own sake (rather than as a means of controlling people or for personal gain) are drawn to it because of this. Further, they typically seem not to realize that one can be idealistic (and more effective in carrying out one's ideals, for that matter) without religion. "Atheism" is, to them, synonymous with "cynicism", "lack of ideals", "selfishness" -- this explains the frequent claim that "you can't have morals without God", and their disdain for "skepticism" and "critical thinking" -- all of these things are antithetical to having ideals, in their oversimplified worldview.

Okay, I've already gone on too long. (I'm sure you didn't expect a spammish exposition.) Shutting up, sir, aye.

Mike at The Big Stick said...

I don't know which is funnier...atheists who think they will lead believers away from faith or evangelicals who believe they will stamp out atheism some day. Both sides are dillusional at best.

There is no more proof for the lack of God than there is for the existance of God. We will all find out when we croak. Until then, those of us in the middle of this insane debate just sit back and chuckle.

NP said...

Atheist, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Wiccan...what does it matter as long we all take care of each other and the earth?

I hate to sound like a pacifist and/or cliche, but it's really how I feel. I don't care what you believe or why. Just don't eff with me or my planet and we're cool.

Mike at The Big Stick said...

Great attitude nicole! I couldn't agree more.

Woozle said...

A clarification for all the religion-affiliates out there: You can belong to whatever group you want, and you can have whatever rituals you want, and you can hang out in a church or synagogue or whatever you want to call your building, and you can study whatever mythical or real beings you want to study, and you can try to emulate their example or be worthy in what you estimate their opinion would be (or the opposite, as appropriate). That's totally fine.

Just don't go fervently believing stuff when all the evidence says it would be a really bad idea.

Like, for instance, believing that this semi-mythical Christ guy will rise from the dead and destroy all the sinners, and that if things seem too peaceful we should probably encourage it one way or another.

Like believing that homosexuality is somehow evil, and the world was created less than 10,000 years ago -- believing the sole "evidence" of a self-contradictory book of dubious origin that has been translated, retranslated, hand-copied and "corrected" to fit shifting doctrine over the centuries, in preference to believing mountains of actual physical evidence and the ruthless criticism of thousands of humanity's keenest minds.

We can't take care of the earth if half of us believe stuff about it that is simply wrong and crazy. Surely a Christian would agree that truth remains constant regardless of what you believe, yes? We simply have two different methods of establishing truth -- atheists like to look at the actual world and see how it works, and religionoids prefer to consult their Ancient Book of Truth.

So, going on the idea that the Religious Way is actually a truer path to understanding reality than, say, actually looking at reality, why don't Christians and Jews and Muslims and all other species and subspecies of religiosity get together and work out, once and for all, which parts of each religion are true and which are wrong, and come up with a single religion they can all agree on?

Can't happen.

The problem is that the religious way of determining truth doesn't allow for negotiation. It's "my sacred book versus your sacred book" and "you have to believe all of it or none of it" -- which is no way to run a civilization.

"There is no more proof of the lack of God than of the existence of God"... oh lord, deliver us from the faithful, for they know not how tired we become of answering the same damn arguments over and over again. (1) Russell's teapot and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Go look it up -- use those critical thinking and analysis skills which you claim haven't been stomped out by your religion. (2) Who said anything about disbelieving God? If you're talking about a God for which there is no counter-evidence, then you're surely not talking about the one in the Bible -- and I'm quite willing to concede that such an entity might exist. It's when you start saying things like "God wants this" or "God hates that" that you lose your argument.

Ok, enough for this round.

Mike at The Big Stick said...

I am still amazed at the energy atheists are willing to devote to trying to persuade people of faith that they are wrong. I wish we could harness it and heat our homes with it.

Dana Hunter said...

That's rich, coming from a Christian, PC. I've never had an atheist try to convert me, even when I was a religious little git - but Christians seem to take it as a personal affront when someone doesn't believe in their stories.

You seem to be mistaking a defense for an offense, there. You don't want atheists picking Christianity apart, don't come here inviting it.

Woozle said...

So, pc, you mean to say that you're only interested in defending the truth if you think it'll be an easy win?

And you agree with everything I said?

You seem to imply that atheists devote more energy to their cause than do religionists. Is that what you meant to say? (Think very carefully.)

You also seem to imply that this whole discussion is a waste of time.

Let me put it to you this way: I have personally been involved with helping at least 4 people to question their faith; all of them eventually left the church. I believe that there is nothing wrong per se with homosexuality, gay marriage, transsexualism, prostitution, gambling, eating shrimp and figs, apostasy, blasphemy, taking "God" back out of the Pledge of Allegiance and off our coinage, and any number of other things the religious right apparently sees as Really Bad -- and I am doing my best to spread these supposedly-wicked ideas wherever I go.

If you believe any significant part of of what the religious right spews forth daily, you should be seeing me as more or less the devil incarnate at this point. Don't you think it's worth a little time and energy to try convincing me of the error of my ways?

And then try (this may be the hard part) to imagine how I feel about the religious right. Their ideas threaten my family. Don't you think I feel it's worth a little effort to try convincing them of the error of their ways? As lost a cause as it may be, I have to at least make the effort.

Don't expect any more easy victories. I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally will no longer quietly tolerate the spread of senseless dogma into areas where sanity is essential.

You had the dark ages; now it's our turn, dammit. No more.

Mike at The Big Stick said...


You are welcome to pick Christianity apart all you want. It doesn't bother me. I spent years doing it myself. But just for the record, liberals no longer adhere to simply a passive atheism. As Woozle's comments seem to indicate, they have gone on the offense.


I'm not an evangelical. I don't attend an evangelical church. I don't go around 'spreading the word'. My faith is for me and me alone. So for you to suggest I should spend any time trying to defend Christianity, I would say don't waste your breath. You will have much more fun arguing with fundamentalists across the internet.

I applaud your atheistic wisdom. I'm no apologist for organized religion and I certainly understand how people could have a beef with it. I don't mind you taking a stand against evangelicalism, because I personally think faith is much stronger when someone finds it, rather than it being sold to them.

But if you want to tell yourself that evangelical atheism is somehow justifiable, then I question your rationality as much as I do the rationality of anyone 'crusading for Christ, Buddha or Mohammed'. In both cases, you are wasting your time.

Woozle said...

"Evangelical atheism" implies I'm trying to spread something. I'm trying to stop something from spreading, and turn it back. I am fighting for the default condition of not forcing belief on anyone -- for the freedom to act sanely. A culture based on not requiring belief, to paraphrase you just slightly.

The furor over Obama's religion (for example) shows quite clearly that it is no longer possible to run for president without expressing a fervent belief in the supernatural, and those who most convincingly express exactly the right set of beliefs have a clear advantage.

I'm sure you'd agree this is utterly wrong, in a country founded on the ideas that people should be able to believe what they want and that government and religion should stay out of each other's beds.

I'm delighted to hear that you're not an evangelical or a fundie -- but when you take casual pot-shots against atheism, you're doing their work for them.

When you decline to answer the counterpoints raised against your casual snipes, and simply change the subject, you show that you're not really any more interested in rational dialogue than are the fundies and evangelicals. You'd rather undermine my credibility than honestly answer my arguments.

This is too bad, because if you answered them instead of fearfully evading them, we might be able to work out some common ground we could agree on, and that would make us both stronger in the larger battle of truth over powermongery.

Yes, I'm on the offensive, and it looks like a lot of others who loosely aggregate under the banner of "atheism" are as well. Do you disagree that we have good reason for this?

So there's the movement you were originally saying doesn't exist, and that would seem to be more or less what we stand for -- though not being a religion, of course, there's no official dogma, so I can't pretend to speak for everyone.

Mike at The Big Stick said...

I'm not taking pot-shots at atheism, per se. I have no problem at all with atheism. What I'm taking potshots at is a more militant, proactive atheism, i.e. atheist that are trying to destroy people's belief in a higher power or convince people that their chosen faith is bogus, just because they disagree. I have no respect for that effort at all.

I will be happy to support anyone who stands up to evangelicals. But I will never condone attacking those who practice their faith without trying to push it on others. The problem is that i don't think a lot of atheist know the difference.

In order to fight evangelicals, atheist make a poor choice of tactics. Instead of just debating the evangelical movement and its goals, they choose to go deeper and attack the roots of faith itself. In doing so you waste so much energy. There is absolutely nothing productive about debating the existance of God. It's a chicken and egg debate.

So, again, if your goal is to simply fight evangelicalism, then choose better tactics. Fight evangelicalism, not the belief in God. If your goal is to spread atheism, then I'm sorry, but I don't see that as any better than what evangelicals are trying to do.

Woozle said...

Progress! Thank you, pc.

You said: "...atheists that are trying to destroy people's belief in a higher power or convince people that their chosen faith is bogus..." This is at least part of what I was talking about when I said religion is an expression of idealism.

I'll admit to not fully grokking why it's important for there to be a higher power -- but when I do try to understand it, it comes through like this:

"We are not here just for ourselves, but for a greater cause."

This is an idea I can agree with, and support. The disagreement would seem to arise over the nature of that greater cause. (Unfortunately, getting it right is kind of important; choosing the wrong "higher" cause can lead to the Holocaust or the Spanish Inquisition.)

I'm not particularly excited by trying to determine whether or not there is a God. It's truly a meaningless proposition, very much like Russell's teapot or the invisible pink unicorn.

The problem isn't when someone says "God is real", it's when they go on to assign specific attributes or acts to God: God thinks life begins at birth, or God thinks homosexuality is wrong, or God said something in the Bible so that makes it true.

Claiming attributes takes the question out of the Teapot realm and into the area of testable assertions. The divine origin of the Bible, for example, gets more gaping holes in it with every year. You can blame science for that, if you think it's a bad thing (I don't).

I think what is appealing about the idea of God, though, is not the specific details of what God supposedly says about what's right and wrong, but the idea that we as humans do have what might reasonably be described as a "higher purpose" (although that phrase does make me cringe just a bit).

You don't need to believe in God to believe in a higher purpose.

In fact, I don't understand why the idea of God needs to be in the conversation. If you can explain that to me, we might actually start getting somewhere.

And I think that's why atheists sometimes get a bit snappish about the subject: if the existence or nonexistence of God is really unprovable and irrelevant, then why are fundie religionists always citing the existence of God as justification for stupid shit?

And why do religious moderates always leap to defend God's unprovable existence when atheists call the fundies out on their aforementioned shit?

If you insist on using God to shield bad people from the consequences of their actions, God is going to take some hits. You might want to get Him out of the way.

"Jesus Christ is not a weapon." -- Carmen Reyes

Mike at The Big Stick said...

If you insist on using God to shield bad people from the consequences of their actions, God is going to take some hits. You might want to get Him out of the way.

I'm not sure if that's directly to me or a generalization. Assuming the former, I will say that I don't use God to shield anyone, including myself. As for knowing God's will, I've never professed to that either. As a person of faith, I believe God has shown me his will for me at times, but I don't pretend I understand his will for the world.

At least for me, the appeal of there being a God is not a sense of 'higher purpose'. For me, it is more a sense that my life is a gift and I should make the most of it. My favorite quote is a line from Shakespere, "Lord that lends me life, Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness." I don't know if I have a 'higher purpose' but I like the feeling I get from being grateful for the blessings I receive.

I certainly believe that people can lead good, moral lives without God, but for me it is the sense of humbleness before my God that I think makes me a better person.

Woozle said...

Let me put it in more general terms.

If the existence of God has no testable consequences, then why does it matter to you whether or not he exists in any way other than as a convenient metaphor?

When he "shows you his will" and you make a decision based on this, it might be your own sense of morality and rightness speaking, or it might somehow be the creator of the universe speaking directly to you. Does it matter?

If you defend your decisions by merely saying "God told me", then God becomes the target. It may be perfectly true as far as you know, but it's not justification, and it sounds like an excuse. To me, it's equivalent to saying "the voices in my head said so", since I don't have direct access to God the way you do, so I can't ask him why he said this to you. (Or, at any rate, not the same God, otherwise I'd be getting the same answers and wouldn't have to ask. Unless He's just a hypocritical bastard -- for which there is some evidence, I suppose.)

If, conversely, someone criticizes one of the things God has told you (I'll assume for the sake of argument that this is actually what is happening), then the next step is not to say "God told me, end of story" but rather to ask God for further explanation. If you were to do this, while saying out loud that you "need to think it over for awhile" or some such, I would think that this would be completely satisfactory even for the most hardline atheist, and it avoids the appearance of dodging the question.

I realize that this may be a bit of a show-stopper in realtime conversation, as it could take awhile for God to answer -- but really, ya know, I think it would be really great if the culture would change a bit to allow for deeper thought and fewer snappy comebacks.

It sometimes takes me days (or longer) to think of why something "feels wrong" or "feels right", and I can only think that this process is analogous to your process of "asking God". Heck, I may be communicating with God and not even know it (except that if this is true, God is telling me substantially different things from what he is telling you -- but hey, maybe your God is fake, and mine is real...) --

-- which just underscores the point that there's simply no reason to invoke God as justification, if God's existence is unprovable and irrelevant.

So why does God keep coming up? Why does it matter?

P.S. If my life is a gift, can I have the receipt? I'd like to make an exchange...

Mike at The Big Stick said...

It seems you're very interested in having a debate over the necessity of God or how I interact with him. Sorry, but i don't care to play. I told you, debating my faith or anyone else's with atheists holds no interest for me at all. I'm not that kind of Christian. I neither feel the need to explain myself nor do I feel the need to help you see my way of thinking. It's a waste of both our time.

Woozle said...

And that, folks, is the key difference between science and religion. Science explains itself completely, so that anyone can potentially understand it (to whatever depth they care to study it). It isn't science if it doesn't come with volumes of evidence-based explanation attached.

Religion is conveniently muddy, vague, "personal", and secretive -- where any system purporting to hold profound truths of universal significance should be transparent, consistent, and clear.

Your unwillingness to address this issue kind of puts the kibosh on your argument against "evangelical atheism".

The fundies go and spread this mud all over situations which demand clear-headed sanity. You agree that they go too far, and yet you fight us when we try to clear it out by attacking the core of its BSitude: this insistence on belief in something nobody can prove one way or the other. We're supposed to just stand back and "respect" it. My original point -- atheists should feel free to tear into religious BS wherever it is found, as we do with any form of BS -- apparently stands, despite the progress we made, because you haven't demonstrated how it isn't BS.

Mike at The Big Stick said...

Your unwillingness to address this issue kind of puts the kibosh on your argument against "evangelical atheism".

I really wish I knew how to put those little emocons into comments. I would be inserting the one with the face lauging hysterically.

The fundies go and spread this mud all over situations which demand clear-headed sanity. You agree that they go too far, and yet you fight us when we try to clear it out by attacking the core of its BSitude: this insistence on belief in something nobody can prove one way or the other.

I attack it because it is a waste of time. For the vast majority of America that is neither evangelical Chrisitans, nor evangelical atheists, we're just tired of watching you all bang your heads into brick walls.

Despite what some liberals want to believe, most folks who are religious keep their faith to themselves and aren't trying to convert anyone. Likewise, despite what some conservatives want to believe, most atheists aren't actively trying to convert either.

Evangelicals tick off a lot of folks, even those of faith, because they feel people are broken and just need to be shown the light. Likewise, you have a similar attitude that those of faith are dillusional and you need to help them see through the myst. In both cases, you all annoy far more people than you help.

You are the yin to the Chrisitian evangelical's yang. Your tactics, motivation and results are extremely similar. For the rest of us, we're just bored with the whole battle between two sides that will NEVER acheive majority or win the war.

We're supposed to just stand back and "respect" it. My original point -- atheists should feel free to tear into religious BS wherever it is found, as we do with any form of BS -- apparently stands, despite the progress we made, because you haven't demonstrated how it isn't BS.

You assume that because i don't support your evangelical atheism approach, I am therefore in cahoots with Christian evangelicals. But there's no evangelicals involved in this discussion. You bring one into the mix and I'll give them equal criticism. Until then, don't keep trying to badger me to defend their faith when I believe faith is an extremely personal thing.

Woozle said...

I think I've already addressed all the points you're resurrecting here, and you aren't introducing any new counterarguments -- just denials, argument by ridicule, and (what is probably best described as) argument from boredom. (Ho hum, your ideas bore me, so that makes your whole argument pointless.)

I'll just reiterate that "evangelical atheism" (something of a misnomer, but unfortunately memorable) will be necessary as long as religious moderates won't take it upon themselves to clean up the shit caused by abuse of the religious ideas they hold so dear.

You want to keep religion alive and well? Keep your house in order, or deal with the consequences. If you don't like the idea of religion being eradicated, then find some other way to keep it away from the levers of power. It's your shit, not ours -- but we'll defend our culture and our civilization if we have to.

And lately, it seems pretty damn clear that we should have started earlier.

Mike at The Big Stick said...

And now you finally sound level-headed. If your goal is to clean up those aspects of religion which are causing problems (ID efforts for example)then your fight is just. But you also calimed before that you happily converteda few people, and that sounds like evangelicalism. You tell me, which one best fits you?

You're right, other Christians are best-suited to 'clean up our own back yard'. Why? because we don't begin the debate by attacking the core beliefs of evangelicals. We instead can question their tactics. On the other hand, as i have already stated, atheists seem more interested in a pointless debate over the existance of God than in just dealing with the tactics.

Woozle said...

Point taken (your first point, anyway) -- and it occurred to me, after posting but before seeing your reply, that I should have clarified where my boundaries are as far as "evangelizing". (And I think I prefer the terms "vigilant atheism", "active atheism", or "strong atheism" over "atheist evangelism". I might accept "militant atheism", but I'd have to think about it.)

First of all, I won't attack an individual's religion unless they are using it as justification for something.

The problem comes when religion is used to justify really stupid stuff -- and someone makes the point that this is a really bad justification -- and then someone else says to back off because this is a matter of Faith, which is Sacred, and something we all have to Respect.

And then you start hearing phrases like "a personal matter" and "God's Divine Plan" and "separate magesteria" and "teach the controversy".

And at this point, the bullshit detector -- which has already been going off repeatedly -- starts smoking and sputtering, and little melty bits start getting all over everything...

So let me try to draw some boundaries.

1. I maintain my right to attack ideas which I think are bad, and not to regard any area of human thought as "sacred" or beyond accountability. Anything written or spoken is fair game (and I don't mean that in the Scientology sense), especially if it is advocating a course of action. There is no such thing as blasphemy, except for someone addicted to a dogma.

2. If someone is a dogmaholic, only they can decide when they are ready to be cured. If their dogmaddiction isn't hurting anyone but themselves, then it only becomes my business if we are friends -- and I risk the friendship if I force the issue.

3. If it is hurting someone else, then I don't have any easy guidelines except this: If they're a political figure, their publicly expressed beliefs are fair game.

3a. This is also true for the views of any organization, whether those views are expressed publicly or in private writings which are unintentionally exposed.

I would not go so far, however, as to agree with your second point, that "other Christians are best-suited to 'clean up our own back yard'." Why? Because you're not doing it. Religion is more out of control than ever, and what are Christians doing about it? Where are the Christian authority figures pointedly and heatedly denouncing the religious-right monstrosities and idiocies which have been around for longer than I have? Where are the attempts to draw up a set of reasonable beliefs which atheists and moderate theists can all agree on? Where are the mass Christian protests against far-right fundamentalism? Where is the firm Christian support for gay/genderqueer rights and gender equity, the support for science over Medieval superstition, the support for rationality over dogma?

I don't see how it can happen; respect for dogma over rationality is built in to the Protestant view of the world: "Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God." and "Whosoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason." and "Reason should be destroyed in all Christians." – all from Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism. Catholicism is hardly any better (but I'll have to dig up specifics if you need proof [irony]), so that kind of scratches out Christianity as the source of any relief in the war on sanity.

Mike at The Big Stick said...

Well then you will be happy to know that i have never used my faith to justify my actions. I can't speak for the rest of the religious world, nor do I care to.

Woozle said...

I need to add a fourth tenet to my working rules/boundaries for Active Atheism:

4. We now have much better tools than religion for making decisions. Wherever possible, religion's sway needs to be lessened and discouraged, and the use of these other tools needs to be promoted and encouraged.

This should never go so far as to threaten freedoms of speech, expression, belief, or congregation; but at the very least, we can stop the general policy of encouraging religion e.g. by automatically granting tax-exemption to churches as long as they appear to stay out of politics (and unfortunately even this caveat isn't always being enforced), or by allowing (as is the law here in North Carolina) parents to skip mandatory vaccinations for religious reasons (which they do not have to sspecify) but not for rational ones (e.g. evidence that the vaccine may be harmful).

I think this is probably the main thrust of Active Atheism: changing policy towards religion.