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Links With Your Coffee - Thursday

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There is some real scientific evidence that dispels some of these myths about atheists. The Non-Religious Identification survey has just been completed and is the most comprehensive survey to date that studies the beliefs, demographics and personality traits of those who self report to be non-religious. The results haven't been published yet, but you can get a sneak peak from this lecture given by the studie's author to freethinker group in Michigan. There is also a link to a pdf of graphs and charts that go along with the lecture. http://doubtreligion.blogspot.com/2009/02/episode-32-profiles-of-godless.html

Note this survey has corrected some of the flaws in earlier gallop polls and other studies (explained in the lecture). It interesting to see how the data sometimes points to different conclusions as a result.

In response to: "10 Myths and Truths About Atheists - Number 8) Atheists are responsible for the worst crimes in history: Stalin, Mao, etc."

I think atheists have to take some responsibility here for hypocrisy.

If leaders of the "New Atheist" movement feel it is reasonable to link the brutal deeds of a particular religious movement to religion in general (see: "imagine no religion" 9-11 posters), then linking the brutal deeds of an atheist movement to atheism in general should be reasonable too.

Of course, neither of these generalizations is particularly reasonable. Sam Harris' astute observation that atheism by itself can not motivate people to a cause, you need to add something else to it, applies equally well to theism. By itself, a belief in a god or the supernatural does not motivate people to a cause, you need to add something else to religion in order to get that. Of course the requisite material spurring people to a cause, is common added in the case of theism (in modern times at least). But does it get added in the case of atheism? Yes. It certainly happened in Stalinist Russia.

In the case of Stalinist Russia, the atheist movement identified as: "The Soviet League of the Militant Godless" rallied under the banner of atheism to declare that the world would be a better place without religion in it. Whether true or not, that was the ideology that got added to atheism and led to massive oppression of religious people in Soviet Bolshevik Russia. Today it has been Christopher Hitchens, under the banner of atheism, who has added something to atheism by declaring: "religion poisons everything". That part of the New Atheists movement that accepts Hitchens' premise, that religion poisons everything, have added something to atheism, specifically, they have introduced a dogma into the movement not at all dissimilar to the dogma of the Bolsheviks.

For the record, I think the common thread to be found in both the 9/11 bombings and the crimes of the Soviet League of the Militant Godless, is dogma, not religion or a belief in the supernatural.

(note: I don't believe that dogma is a necessary component of religion, for example, in the sense that the Unitarian church does not have dogma)

Riley, I think you conflate religion and belief in god a bit in your reasoning. Religion does rely on dogma. The bible strikes me as a very dogma driven book.

My father, as an Atheist, belonged to a UU church for a while. They welcomed all including those of no faith. UU isn't exactly a "religion" by any classic definition as they share values rather then specific religious beliefs.

In the end I think my judgement falls somewhere between yours and Greta's on Stalin. We should take some blame for his actions, but I don't think there is a real argument that Stalin was motivated or empowered to kill by a belief there is no god. Instead my read on Russian and Chinese leaders is that they were desperate to crush religion because it was a tool of oppression in their countries that had eventually been kept in the dark ages for an extra couple hundred years by religious governments.

Now there is also a real argument that the majority of religious violence is the result of oppression by another religion/group and not motivated by the belief itself. N Ireland, Middle east, etc. And the real motivation is the result of the abuse of power of non-democratic institutions. And religions are essentially defined as non-democratic.

So I guess if you can come up with a way that a religious organization can vote regularly on its beliefs and stances and still be a religion, then I guess I would have to say it is no more negative then any secular institution.

redseven, nice job on the rebuttal to riley's view. but i still think riley's view is more truthful, more factual, more internally consistant and- dare i say it- less dogmatic than your own.

i dont' think he succeeded in devaluing athiesm itself, and i don't think he was trying to. i think you may have thought he was trying to and replied with a piece of polemic (not a bad one) when his points were not polemical at all, but about as purely rational and logical and cognizant of historical facts as any i've seen.

i think atheism has enough evidence based mojo :) that it doesn't have to be afraid of the simple facts of humanitarian atrocities on a grand scale being justified specifically by certain interpretations of atheist "dogma". go ahead, try to pretend it doesn't exist. really, take your best shot.

Atheist dogma, oh and where is it written and who defines it but apologists for religious dogma, builders of straw men. Atheism is an absence of belief, there is no atheist dogma (a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true)

Go big red.

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"Atheist movement" seems the best to use when describing the Bolshevik's Soviet League of the Militant Godless.

To deny the application of the "Atheist" label to that group, sounds dangerously like the "But that's not MY religion!" defense of theists.

Not at all, the definition of atheism is quite clear. Once again you seem to want to combine anti-theists and atheists as being the same and they are not.

I think you are probably right that among those who identify themselves as anti-theists there are the equivalent of that's not my anti-theism. And just like a Unitarian is not like a fundamentalist Baptist it's true.

The religion Dawkins and others are primarily referring to is that of a personal god. One that plays an active role in the world. Apologists for religion act like those that hold the active personal God view is small when in fact it is not. They are the that is not my religion theists, and in my opinion dishonestly so, since it is clear that is not what Dawkins et al are talking about.

Anti-theist movement is the best to use when describing the BSL unless as it seems you are purposely distorting what atheism is.

Although I don't see the point I have no animus toward those who believe there is some unknown creative force behind the universe, nor do I think most atheists do.

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And there is the hypocrisy: Why is it alright for atheists to use the term "religion" when referring to a specific brand of religion that involves a personal god that plays an active role in the world, but unfair for theists to use the term "atheism" when referring to a particular brand of atheism that involves "anti-theism"?

Again, I think you conflate religion with believing in god. I would say the latter is mistaken from my point of view, but people don't do bad thing because of the belief in the concept of a god, but because the believe in a specific god and the dogma and and afterlife associated with said deity, and because that belief gives other humans power over them to tell them what got wants.

Atheism on the other hand has no church, collects no tithe to support its work, and holds no conventions to agree on its literature and tenets.

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I agree RedSeven. Atheism, by itself, has no dogma, etc etc ... you need to add something to atheism to get to something like the Soviet League of the Militant Godless. I don't think you could make the argument that the Militant Godless were only coincidentally defined by their atheism, like a mustache. Their atheism, was an essential element that defined them as a movement. "Anti-theist" movements add something to atheism in much the same way that "fundamentalist" movements add something to religion.

For example, to get to the type of religion that might lead to 9/11 bombings, in addition to a belief in a personal god that plays an active role in the world (surely, at least, that qualifies as "religion"!), you also need to add: 1) A belief that your God has commandments 2) A belief that your God will punish you severely if you don't obey His commandments 3) A belief that these commandments are intended universally 4) A belief that it is your duty tot take it upon yourself to act, in the name of your God, to enforce those commandments universally

"Anti-theist" movements add something to atheism in much the same way that "fundamentalist" movements add something to religion.

Fundamentalist movements don't add something to religion, they are part of the definition of religion. If an atheist is also an anti-theist they are adding something to their worldview, and therein lies the difference.

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We have a difference in terminology: In my use of the term, "fundamentalism" is an approach and/or attitude applied to an ideology. The ideology need not be religious. For instance, "Strict Constructionism" is a fundamentalist approach and attitude toward the U.S. Constitution.

"anti-theism" can become an inseparable aspect of "atheism" when "atheism" becomes the central identity of a group or movement. For example, "anti-theism" can manifest itself as an aggressive attitude against the out-group (or 'other"), and as such anti-theism is wholly dependent on the "atheist" identity of the group or movement.

Because religion is a much broader term than is atheism. Belief in a personal god is clearly within the definition of religion, do you disagree. Anti-theism on the other hand is not part of the definition of atheism.

But I take your point, and that is the reason that Dawkins and others are careful to define the specific brand of religion they are talking about. The hypocrisy comes in ignoring the definition they provide and then accusing them of being unfair to religion.

And since there are a multitude of gods the different religions believe in many of the brands of religion are anti-theist when it comes to the other guys god.

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Dawkins and others are careful to define the specific brand of religion they are talking about. The hypocrisy comes in ignoring the definition they provide and then accusing them of being unfair to religion.

I agree, Dawkins (with some notable exceptions) is careful to specify the brand of religion he is talking about when criticizing "religion". But that point is irrelevant to the issue of hypocrisy I note here, because, even if a theist allowed (as many do) that the atheist movement of Bolshevik Russia was a particular brand of "atheism" not to be attributed to atheism general (except in as much as atheist would attribute the 9/11 attacks to religion in general), it would not matter to atheists such as yourself. You (please correct me if I'm wrong) reject the notion that the actions of any atheist movement could possibly be motivated by atheism. And that's what in my opinion blinds you to the reality of the situation (which I have argued exists at least in the case of the League of Militant Godless) and the hypocrisy of your position.

The problem here is one of categories.

I would argue that Bolshevikism isn't an atheist movement, rather that Bolsheviks are also atheists. In short atheism follows from Bolshevikism, but Bolshevikism doesn't follow from atheism, Bolshevikism is the broader category.

I would further state that Boshevikism includes atheism, but that atheism doesn't necessarily includes Bolshevikism. The anti-theism doesn't follow from the atheism but from the Bolshevikism.

You wouldn't say that Christianity includes religion just like you wouldn't say that atheism includes Bolshevikism.

Chrisitanity is a part of religion like atheism is a part of Bolshevikism.

Religion is a General Category that necessairly includes Christianity, Judaism, Islam But Atheism isn't the general category that inclues Boshevikisim , Materialsim, Secular Humanism. Naturlaism etc.

Bolshevikism isn't a brand of atheism, but Christianity is a brand of religion.

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Chrisitanity is a part of religion like atheism is a part of Bolshevikism.

You are drawing a false analogy here. No one would object to the idea of sticking Christianity under the category of "religion", what people object to is sticking Al-Qaeda under the category of religion.

We don't have a religion, or church, or dogma. Sorta by definition. Should all non-English speakers be blamed for every crime committed by a non English speaker?

yes, I agree, you need to add something to atheism.

But you need to add something to religion too. Personal god belief is not enough.

Yes, I include "theism" under the banner of "religion". If a group of people claim to believe in an intelligent creator of the universe whose love for us is evident in the goodness of the world, on what basis would you not include these people under the banner "religion"?

We don't have a religion, or church, or dogma. Sorta by definition. Should all non-English speakers be blamed for every crime committed by a non English speaker?

atheist dogma? Impossible

anti-theist dogma? Certainly

that sounds reasonable, it's what norm was saying too. i accept that there are both atheists and anti-theists, and they're not the same thing. so why do i get the feeling we almost never hear from true atheists, and that most of the noisemakers are anti-theists who throw stones at their straw-man "religion" and then run and hide behind a rock, claiming to be harmless "atheists"?

just practicing my trolling how'm i doing? :)

to further clarify: i'll pretend somenone cares what i think and say that i don't think ther's anything wrong with atheism OR anti-theism. but MY religion is calling a spade a spade. call it anti-bullshitism. and when i hear norm claiming not that atheism has no dogma (which i accept) but that HE, as an atheist has no dogma, i just howl, it's too funny. hey, how about "don't tread on me?" it's a little dusty, but still as good as ever. ther'es a club i bet both norm and syngas could get into. c'mon, have a little dogma. it's fun. and once you stop pretending you don't have any, you can throw much bigger rocks.

Wah? I think you take Riley's views a step further then he would. Stalin and Mao weren't endorsed by those at the Atheist world headquarters and he didn't quote the atheist handbook as he looped of the heads of faithful peasants.

he didn't quote the atheist handbook as he looped of the heads of faithful peasants.

the only thing more comforting than knowing there's no god when you're looping :) off the heads of a few million peasants is knowing there is one, and she WANTS you to loop off those heads.

i think there must be a better way. unless the actual goal is looping. as it so often seems to be.

With respect to the Kindle/Guild post, the comments were interesting for the most part. Then I read the very last line in the last comment.

"I’d like that paycheck to continue to my kids, too, though, the same way Google shares can be passed down to the shareholders’ kids."

I think this is a fundamental flaw regarding copyrights today, the fact that some believe someone besides the artist deserves a share of the spoils realized by good work. It gets a little ridiculous when people generations removed from an artist clamor about their rights to aged licensed works.

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I totally agree Steve.

I think the issue of inheritance is a major ethical problem in general. It's a particularly interesting problem to discuss with Ayn Rand acolytes and Libertarians, as that's usually the place where their ideological world view breaks down most significantly.

Money represents inherited power. They don't call them "royalties" for nothing.

c'mon, have a little dogma. it's fun. and once you stop pretending you don't have any, you can throw much bigger rocks.

WHat do you think this "Dogma" is and who enforces it?

Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted or diverged from.

I don't think you could make the argument that the Militant Godless were only coincidentally defined by their atheism, like a mustache.

Oh, I don't disagree. I just think that to say that Stalin's Atheism and my atheism are necessarily the same atheism seems like a stretch to me. Atheists share some basic philosophical beliefs but they have not formed large groups that march in step. The Russian Revolutionaries did form a group and set out to slaughter their opposition. Atheism was no Mustache to their dogma. It was a part of their dogma, but it wasn't the other way around. Communism and violence against counter-revolutionaries was not a part of atheist dogma, in the way that discrimination against gays is the part of the dogma of many religious fundamentalists.

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RedSeven,

I definitely would not try to say that Stalin's Atheism and your atheism are the same atheism.

In the case of the League of the (Militant) Godless specifically, I would say that not only was atheism a defining part of the identity of that group (in that it was a non-debatable requisite of membership), but that their unwavering assertion that there are no gods provided a source of motivation (at least in part) to persecute god-believers, and also, based on their own words, I would guess that it provided members an important part of the rationale they needed to feel morally 'ok' when doing so.

I think you are comparing Militant anti-theism to the wrong thing when you try compare it to religion. I think it is better compared to a prejudice. Even the Anti-theists don't all meet once a week and read from dogmatic literature.

I also think that the assumption that all atheists are motivated to see the elimination of theism is like saying all heterosexuals are motivated to see the destruction of homosexuality. The reality it is a small group of both groups that have those feelings.

Most atheists don't "believe there is no God." In fact most are on a wide spectrum of agnostics that even the harshest will often concede to being teapot atheists. There are polls that show this.

Also, even amongst those that will tell you they don't think there is a god, only a subset of those believe religion needs to be eliminated. And amongst that small minority think it should be done by any method other then rational and polite debate. and finally amongst those that think we should actively discriminate against the religious only a handful in the history of time have advocated for policies of military force used against theists in the way a Stalin did. And I am sorta curious what percentage of Stalin's atrocities actually had anything to do with religion. My guess is that it is pretty small, however real and abhorrent.

But yes I concede that on occasions that Atheists have mistreated theists and in part done so with some comfort that they were right and theists were wrong.

But its been pretty darn rare and the opposite event has happened with some great frequency. Socialists and atheists were amongst the victims of the holocaust and have been the victims of a lot of crimes, not the least of which is the forced participation in religious activities and tests for public office and the scorn and ridicule, by not just believers but by the church.

My point about My atheism and Stalin's atheism is not about whether we have the same brand of beliefs but to point out that atheists and agnostic for the most part, figure it out on their own. USSR endorsed a brand for a while, but for 99% of non-believers their beliefs are the best answer they could come up with on their own or by talking with friends and family.

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I also think that the assumption that all atheists are motivated to see the elimination of theism is like saying all heterosexuals are motivated to see the destruction of homosexuality.

I didn't say all atheists. I said the League of Militant Godless. That there are no gods was a secular creed not to be disputed, doubted or diverged from within the League of Militant Godless, and I argue that this brand of atheism provided members motivation to act and a basis to feel justified when persecuting theists.

Do you dispute the above? Because if not, it appears that we pretty much agree on most everything else.

I would assume too that the majority of atheists come about their status as atheists by default (i.e. "figure it out on their own"). They simply don't see evidence to support the claims of theist. But that doesn't mean that this informal atheism is the only type of atheism that deserves the label "atheism". I also don't dispute the fact that violence motivated by atheism is rare, especially in proportion to violence motivated by religion. But that doesn't mean it can't and hasn't ever happened - and that's what many (it appears most) atheists are claiming. That's where I take difference in general, but specifically, I find those atheists to be hypocritical (I assume out of ignorance) when they link the acts of the 9/11 bombers to religion in general, but then get all whiny when a comparable link is made between Stalinists and atheism in general.

Also, for the record, I did not compare "militant anti-theism" to religion. I made a comparison between atheism and religion.

I didn't say all atheists. I said the League of Militant Godless. That there are no gods was a secular creed not to be disputed, doubted or diverged from within the League of Militant Godless, and I argue that this brand of atheism provided members motivation to act and a basis to feel justified when persecuting theists.

I would just make the distinction that the secular creed that promotes anti-theism in the case of the League of Militant Godless doesn't necessarily follow from atheism, more likely it follows from the Bolshevik ideology that was the catalyst. Atheism on the other hand has no ideology.

Whereas in the case of religion, the crusades for example the anti non-christian did logically follow from the religious beliefs, dogma.

I think it is important to distinguish between atheism and atheists. Likewise to distinguish between religion and those who practice religion. Does the bad behavior follow from the dogma of atheism (there is none) and in the case of religion does the bad behavior come from the dogma of religion, of which there are many examples. There are examples of atheists acting badly, as there are example of the religious believers doing likewise, but does the action flow from the atheism in the case of the atheist or from something else, or in the case of the religious person does it flow from some religious dogma or something else. I would argue in the case of the religious it could logically follow from either, but not in the case of the atheist, because once again there is no atheist dogma.

I think that is the same point that Stephen Weinberg was making when he said.

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. — Stephen Weinberg

the wienberg quote- which i also love- is an excellent example of dogma/truthiness that borders on incitement. i love that stuff, you know. i think "the league of the militant godless" is an awesome name. maybe i should use it for my next band instead of "global villiage idiot".

why do i love that stuff so much? because it helps us to know exactly where we stand vis-a-vis others. it helps to brush away that all-enroaching, globalistic grey area that threatens to destroy individual thought.

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Does the bad behavior follow from the dogma of atheism (there is none) and in the case of religion does the bad behavior come from the dogma of religion, of which there are many examples.

There is no dogma of religion. It doesn't exist. What exists are organizations and movements which fit under the category of "religion". Organizations and movements are the source of dogma.

Organizations and movements get placed under the category of "religion" whenever a necessary part of their identity involves a positive statement about the existence of the supernatural. Likewise, I think it's only fair that organizations and movements be placed under the category of "atheism" whenever a necessary part of their identity involves a positive statement that there are no gods. Adding dogma that goes beyond, or exists independent of, the necessary component of the categorization, does not disqualify the organization or movement from the category! At the very least, to say that it should in the case of "atheism", but that it should not in the case of "religion", is inconsistent.

I realize, that unlike religion, atheism is a status that can be arrived at by default. It doesn't require a positive statement on the part of the person who is an atheist. But atheism can also be a positive statement. Certainly this is the case, at the very least, when one asserts that there definitely are no gods.

I think I need to see your definition of religion. It appears to be so broad and at the other times so narrow as to accommodate any position you choose.

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Reading through this thread again, I can't find any place where I've used the term "religion" in such a way that it would be incompatible with the way I used the term elswhere.

Could you please point out to me the example where you where you found me using the term "religion" in such a way as to "accommodate any position [I] choose"?

about the weinberg quote- if we say that whatever it is that makes good people do evil things, THAT is religion- think of the incredible, potentially ww3 inducing grey area that would encourage. sound like fun? i nominate myself as the minister of deciding who's a good person.

and norm can be minister of "what's an evil thing".

i might as well just say it.

norm, if you weren't a militant atheist- that is, if you were the kind of atheist that, say, redseven claims to be, i'd be a lot less interested in what you have to say- about atheism, at least.

one thing i like about atheists an anti-theists alike is that they have intelligent things to say about OTHER issues, a la big red. but if they're not "militant" about their atheism, than who cares what they say about it? if you want people to listen to you about, say, non-violence, you have to be MILITANT about it.

I don't think that's a fair accusation JB. Mabye your definition of militant is different than mine, but so far, I have yet to see Norm advocate physical violence for any cause.

well you're quite right that we're using the word differently. i certainly don't mean to imply that norm is involved with, or advocates physical violence for any cause or reason. i meant "militant" of course in the modern vernacular meaning ideologically forceful or unbending.

that's why i used non-violence specifically as a concept worthy of "militant"...um....belief as an example. you don't really think i was using the o.e.d's defenition #4 or whatever, do you? i wouldn't be party to any blog that advocated violence. and no, i don't hang out at "idf .com". :) i iz a pazifist. i just like to argue. preferably at the top of my lungs. yeshiva training.

that's why i used non-violence specifically as a concept worthy of "militant"...um....belief as an example. you don't really think i was using the o.e.d's defenition #4 or whatever, do you? i wouldn't be party to any blog that advocated violence. and no, i don't hang out at "idf .com". :) i iz a pazifist. i just like to argue. preferably at the top of my lungs. yeshiva training.

Chrisitanity is a part of religion like atheism is a part of Bolshevikism.

You are drawing a false analogy here. No one would object to the idea of sticking Christianity under the category of "religion", what people object to is sticking Al-Qaeda under the category of religion.

I'm making no claim that Al-Qaeda falls under the category of a religion.

I would say however that what follows from Islamic dogma, killing of the infidel, or at least the apostate. The terrible treatment of women certainly. The demand for respect for Islam etc, are justified, not without merit from a religious point of view.

Or in the case of many Christians, the sanctity of 'life' from which follows a prohibition against the use of stem cells is a logical outgrowth of Christian dogma.

The point is that is not the case with atheism.

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in the case of many Christians, the sanctity of 'life' from which follows a prohibition against the use of stem cells is a logical outgrowth of Christian dogma. The point is that is not the case with atheism.

Hypothetically, the "use of force to eradicate belief in gods" is justified/motivated in the minds of the movement because, in their view, it follows logically from their assertion that: "people who believe in gods are poisoning everything in society", which flows logically (in their own minds) from their assertion that: "people who believe in gods are prone to irrational thought and action", which flows logically from an essential premise (upon which their ultimate action relies) that "there definitely are no gods". In this case, the movement in question has formed a motivational link between their atheism (their position that there definitely are no gods) and their actions to eradicate god-belief.

No matter how convoluted the logic may be, as long as the members of the organization and/or movement accept it, then I think it must be acknowledged as (at least part of) their motivation to act. The logic need only exist in the minds of the actors; it need not pass a universal test of reason and it need not be written down.

Hypothetically, the "use of force to eradicate belief in gods" is justified/motivated in the minds of the movement because, in their view, it follows logically from their assertion that: "people who believe in gods are poisoning everything in society", which flows logically (in their own minds) from their assertion that: "people who believe in gods are prone to irrational thought and action", which flows logically from an essential premise (upon which their ultimate action relies) that "there definitely are no gods".

ouch. i'm far from sure that all flows necessarily, but it sounds pretty scary. help!

whatever happened to the old chestnut "if there are no gods, there are no rules"? how complicated do we have to get with this? was alistair crowley really that stupid? well, i suppose...

It flows not from an absence of belief in gods, but rather from the actions of the believers. Who is it that said, "there are definitely no gods." I'd be surprised if you can find one in a thousand atheists who hold such a view. Now if you'd like to rephrase it as there is definitely no credible evidence for gods, I'm on board.

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It flows not from an absence of belief in gods

Exactly. It does'nt flow from the absence of belief. It flows from the positively asserted statement that there are no gods.

Back to my premise: That there are no gods was a secular creed not to be disputed, doubted or diverged from within the League of Militant Godless.

Who is it that said, "there are definitely no gods." I'd be surprised if you can find one in a thousand atheists who hold such a view.

why, i believe that was you, norm. no, really: it's pretty clear to me, at least (correct me if i'm wrong) that you haven't made even a cursory study of comparative religion. you certainly don't know much about judaism or islam, and frequently say "religion" when you mean christianity.

if somenone told you there was a tiny chance that there was a million bucks buried in your backyard, wouldn'nt you think that after 30 or 40 years of living in the same house, you might have dug up a corner or two, maybe just out of boredom or curiosity, or even-god forbid- desperation?

and yet i don't think you have even done this. i think you are so convinced theres no money in your backyard that you've had it landscaped and would shoot anyone who tried to dig a hole. if this isn't dogma i don't know what is. and i like it. i think you've done a hell of a landscaping job, something god, if there is one, must surely appreciate. :)

i'm sorry, am i being passive/aggressive again? need new meds.

What are you accusing Norm of not doing? Not checking the Koran for evidence of god?

I think Norm has studied his backyard through science and philosophy. What you want him to do is read some books about the gold in his back yard and then not dig any holes. Just trust its there and he can retire on it and leave a bunch to his kids.

no, not at all. and i don't mean to imply finding god is like finding a million bucks, either. rather a simple familiarity with the religions of the world, for one who is so against them is not an unreasonable expectation.

it's pretty clear to me, at least (correct me if i'm wrong) that you haven't made even a cursory study of comparative religion. you certainly don't know much about judaism or islam, and frequently say "religion" when you mean christianity.

That is certainly one possibility, but it would take a real dullard or a serious lack of thinking about alternative explanations to arrive at that conclusion. Try again, and remember snark begets snark.

would you like me to administer a test? i don't have any problem admitting to unfamiliarity with a topic- certainly no atheist should. if the "topic" is "norms familiarity with basic principles of world religions", i would not consider myself unfamiliar with that topic. you sure you wannna do this? no snark implied. but i relate to you as someone pretty straight, no bullshit. i'd hate to be disappointed.

i did say, if you'll remember, "correct me if i'm wrong". i meant it.

You're wrong,

I thought that was clear from my previous response. Are you bored or perhaps feeling a little threatened? Whatever it is it's fucking annoying.

not bored, thanks to your marvelously landscaped blog. i was hoping to provide some passing amusement to others so involved this evening. sorry if that's not working. i'll go away.

Likewise, if a gang of kids with atheist t-shirts were caught running around the city at night tagging post-boxes with the scarlet letter "A", would you argue that their actions could not flow from the absence of belief, and so therefore their actions did not flow from their identities as atheists?

It seems to me that even lack of belief, in the presence of strong belief, can also be a potent factor motivating people to act out.

I think the argument is that such a scenario is inevitable for most any belief that serves to bond people into close nit subcultures. But that the Atheism does not contribute to an outcome like this any more then any other philosophical belief. While on the other hand religion does increase the chance of fundamentalist violence through its very nature.

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I'll buy into that.

I should have said their actions don't necessarily or logically follow from their lack of belief whereas in the case of the religious it is much more likely.

If I can step beyond the debate about language and see if I can't boil down my thoughts...

I feel the original assertion is that, the view that there is no god plays the same role in the crimes of a Stalin as say the view that Mohammad is god plays in the crimes of a suicide bomber or that belief that JC is god plays out in the Crusades.

From one perspective I believe there is some similarity in that all said groups take comfort in their certainty of possessing the one truth. I think that for all philosophical positions should take that as a very simple lesson in humility. Even those with all the facts in their favor.

But i think that is sort of where the similarities end and the religious dogmas create some real darkness. Churches, religions, religious writings, and lone religious leaders endorse and promote violence and discrimination at times. Sometimes to defend their flock but also frequently because they are trying to interpret the will of the Lord. The second is something atheism never does. Then their followers follow orders for a variety of reasons some like the shared certainty and the community and belonging it create, which it shares with atheism. But also because of their concern for both retribution from and angry god, but also the pie in the sky when they die. THere again there is no atheist equivalent.

Not to mention the archane dogmas that are either out of date or based on fear that discourage the use of contraception and deny people needed medical assistance. Look at Mother Teresa's views on pain relief.

Certainly there is no Atheist equivalent there.

So this is how I justify the my first response, where I said that My view falls between Riley's and the author's. Atheism doesn't play the same roll in Stalin's crimes as did Catholicism in the aids epidemic or Islam in 9/11 but any perspective when believed with furvor can divide people and serve to dehumanize opposition.

I would just add to my comment that the anti-theists also lay at the feet of theists that magical thinking in general deteriorates rational public policy discussions, With old G.W.Bush at the center of that accusation. Folks that have "then a miracle occurs" as one of the lines in their plans for a peoples future are usually driving everyone off a cliff(he types as his country sits at the bottom of a cliff).

So we have... 1. Violence in the name of the will of god. 2.following orders to avoid the wrath of god 3. superstition promoted by religion causing the suffering of millions if not billions. 4. Leaders who use magical thinking, and sending modern civilization into the ditch.

And anti-theists put all this at the feet of every believer of even the impersonal and non dogmatic sort of god/Spirituality, because the primary reason that anyone believes in god, is not because of facts or reasons, but because other people believe it. It's a social norm. Everyone can't be wrong? It's what you were taught by other people.

Atheism doesn't play the same roll in Stalin's crimes as did Catholicism in the aids epidemic or Islam in 9/11...

wow. i am no lover of the catholic church, believe me. but how you could compare catholic influence on the aids epidemic (it was us against a bunch of microbes, frcrisake!) is beyond me. what am i missing here- millions of gays and drug addicts refused to use condoms because of the pope? really, always willing to be corrected.

I was thinking the third world where Catholics and other religious missionaries push abstinence and discourage birth control, including condoms.

BTW, referring to AIDS victims as "gays and drug addicts" is a pretty prejudicial statement as most victims are neither.

referring to AIDS victims as "gays and drug addicts" is a pretty prejudicial statement as most victims are neither.

if you say so. i guess i'm "unfamiliar with the topic". my bad.

as a drug addict, though, i wish i'd known a long time ago that i wasn't at a risk any more serious than joe citizen.

All depends on the drug and the Joe.

I think that dogma and bigotry are the common element that can be found in all the large scale cruelty in the world.

Such qualities I think are more likely to pop-up in institutions that encourage group identification and passionate beliefs on insufficient evidence.

In a world full of false prophets (and we know, at the very least, almost all of them are), if the devil wanted to consume the world in strife and conflict, I can think of no more effective way than for him to plant the notion in the minds of men, that they should accept the claims of prophets on faith.

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btw, that's my positively asserted argument for why the God of the Bible definitely does not exist.

I was convinced once I saw this supposed god wanted us to both "not Kill" and also stone people to death for collecting firewood on the sabbath. You expect all-powerfulness to create a few paradoxes but that one was a little much for me.

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ya gotta kill those who disobey.

no reason an honest atheist should know this, but anti-theists should. the "isn't killing forbidden in the 10 commandments" issue, like the "jesus and the virgin birth" issue, is a simple matter of mistranslation that even the lamest priest or rabbi (or anti-theist) would be able to straighten you out on pretty quick.

the hebrew word for "killing", like in english, is different from the word for "murder". it is the second word that appears in the 10 commandments. killing in the bible, like slavery, is not forbidden, but strictly regulated.

I don't think RedSeven was confused on this distinction you make between what is "murder" and what is "killing".

If it's not murder to kill someone who picks up sticks on the wrong day of the week, then justification can be made in almost any case that "murder" was actually justifiable "killing" ... after all, is there any Man not guilty of sin?

Same goes for slavery. That it would be morally justified in ANY case seems absurd and hypocritical (e.g. the enslavement of Men is incompatible with the notion that Man is made in god's image ... in ALL CASES)

if you're trying to say the definition of murder has anything to do with motive, i beg to disagree. although i think i understand the emotional underpinnings of this statement.

no, murder is any killing not mandated AND performed by the relevant authorities.

in the bible,the obvious grey area here is taken care of by the cities of refuge.(google if necessary).

my only point was that killing, per se, including animals, and humans who have been convicted in a court of law, is not forbidden in the bible and is sometimes mandated.

i'm sorry,have to amend that: the "relevant authorities" can, of course, decide that motive is an issue in any particular case. but the defenition of "murder" in the bible remains as i have said. and i didn't even google it. :)

i would further point out that motive is definitely an issue in many crimes described in the bible. but not all, i wouldn't even bet on a majority.

having fun here, the jewish perspective:

"what do you mean it's not ok to kill someone just because you don't like him? god does it all the time, along with people he DOES like! it's just that if you do it, you'll have to go into exile, just as god does. or you might be killed by the family of the one you killed. just like god sometimes is. or you might find a sympathetic priest...."

oh my. i would write for stewart but i'm too good. :)

You are right Riley. Phrasing it as, "Don't Murder, Just Kill whomever I say and I will murder whomever I like because I made you all immortal anyway and my son will/did die for you sins, PS: I am my son." does not make good seem like the consistent moral lead character that could inspire me to finish a book.

oh, i would definitely leave out all that new testimant crap. :)

it is, in other words, one of many straw man arguments that's been floating around for hundreds of years muddying the waters, just like those used by creationists.

why don't i go to a creationist site and bitch about their ignorance of science and bible criticism?

those guys have no senses of humor.

God, the ultimate straw man.

:) how do you think i'm so good at recognizing them?

I thought you were a straw man.

nah, i like to drink from the bottle.

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there must be something beyond the back and forth, julian barbour points a way. and einstein('s spacetime), not to mention zeno d'elea, were proto-barbours. There is was could be no "nothing". no creation is needed, only harmony, harmonia mundi. and perspective, nihilism's "nihilism". we are armies of strawmen. let's take a break for free lunch. we owe "god" nothing, it's just an evolutionary psychological trading instinct we can transcend if we try.

One could spend their time plumbing the depths of the old testament, a project not without some interest, but I think spending one's time with Shakespeare and others is infinitely more rewarding.

if somenone told you there was a tiny chance that there was a million bucks buried in your backyard, wouldn'nt you think that after 30 or 40 years of living in the same house, you might have dug up a corner or two, maybe just out of boredom or curiosity, or even-god forbid- desperation?

Well, Jonathan, there is, in fact, a tiny chance that a million bucks might be buried in your (or anyone else's) backyard. Do you spend your time digging up your backyard looking for it?

well, JoAnn, it's a matter of authority.

hypothetically of course, is it you telling me about said "tiny possibility", or is it my grandmother, telling me that her great-great-great etc. grandmother buried it there?

I'm sure your great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother was sweet, but she was also quite likely a superstitious old lady who spawned an excellent line of superstitious descendants. I'll go with JoAnn over granny any day, and you should too.

Jonathan,

No matter what JoAnn or Sweet Granny or Norm may tell you, there is some unknown value for the probability that there's a million bucks in your backyard. Still, there is a teeny teeny tiny probability.

There is also some unknown value for the probability that some god exists. That is all that can objectively be stated about the probability of the existence of a god (that the probability is unknown), and this is before taking into account that each different person has their own individual definition of god which just increases the complexity.

The minute subjective value of Norm spending his time studying in depth all of the various religions is equal to the subjective value of you spending your time digging for bucks in your back yard.

Should this study of comparative religion include Heaven's Gate, Animism, Wicca, Witchcraft, Norse Paganism, Goddess Worship, the beliefs of the Hopi, etc etc etc?

i concede. i don't know why i picked the grandmother argument. it's actually used by jewish "outreach" groups to convince other jews to be religious. it has more merit than you might think (due to the claimed # of witnesses at mount sinai) but in any case is not infallible and wholly inappropriate here. i'm certainly not trying to convert anyone to judaism. neither of my grandmothers was all that impressive, anyway. i guess i was shooting for a "schmaltz" nerve that you may very well not even possess. norm should put that on his list of fallacies- the "schmaltz" fallacy. :)

norm should put that on his list of fallacies- the "schmaltz" fallacy. :)

How about the becker-schmaltz fallacy :)

i would accept that. call it a combination of "appeal to emotion" and "appeal to authority". it's basically everything that atheists hate all rolled into one. :)

Erick had an excellent response on another thread which could apply here.

http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/2009/02/religion_1.html#comment-129600

o hai, erick. good to see you back in the comments and even being referenced by other readers. damn, am i the prophet elijah or what? (heralding the messiah, for those who don't get the reference).

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