Posts Tagged ‘atheist’

Ranting defense of RRS and some positive comments about us

Recently an atheist blogger asked his audience what they thought of The Rational Response Squad. Now I recognize and expect for about half of the atheist community to disagree with us. I think that’s a good thing. I do however find it ironic that people who disagree with us rarely take the time to find out that we think a passive atheist is needed as well. We wish we could be the passive atheist, and it’s only after many years of experience in this realm (and being the passive atheist for a while) that we decided a more blunt approach from a few intellectuals is necessary and vital. We recognized this niche wasn’t being filled properly and have fallen into it quite nicely. When we started our group we envisioned it as a jump off point for strident ideas. We envisioned ourselves as a united front of people who agree that religion must go, and that our collective activist power would be strong enough to actually make an impact on a wider front, this was the “Squad” aspect we were hoping for. We see ourselves as the people who shake up those comfortable with irrational beliefs, a passive atheist can spend compassionate dialogue time helping the theist overcome religion, and will have a more receptive candidate after the individual was “shaken up” a bit. However it is entirely possible that the passive atheist will have little chance to help a friend overcome theism if that friend never had the RRS “shake up.”

We have contributed behind the scenes or in front of everyone to a great many projects. The Blasphemy Challenge was spawned from a phone call in which I remember feeling as if Brian Flemming was calling the head of a security organization looking for back up. I remember hearing, “I’ve got this idea, but I think it would be better as a Rational Response Squad project, would you want to play a role?” Since then we’ve played vital roles in helping to spread the work of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, as well as many others. The author David Mills calls us the biggest catalyst he’s ever had for driving his book sales.

Unfortunatly we live in a world in which negative or controversial opinions get media play and calm level headed rationality often gets put on the backburner. I’ve seen stories sent to the cutting room floor because we weren’t harsh or controversial enough in a pre-interview or during a taping. We get press because we’re bold, in your face, no holds barred, and blunt. It just so happens we are blunt about an issue that so many people irrationally adhere to and often are unwilling to accept any atheist message whether strident or passive. In the marketplace of ideas, we’re at a crucial point. As Brian Flemming once noted on our radio show, our country looks exactly like you’d expect it to look right before it slipped into a theocracy. I can only attribute atheists who think speaking up against religion is a bad thing to a disinformation meme campaign. Atheists often have to abandon religion on their own volition, unfortunatly the remnants of theistic dogmatic bullshit remain in some, and they buy into ridculous notions like “faith is a good thing.” Or even sillier yet, the meme that atheists like RRS do more harm than good, or simply reinforce the faith of the believer. These are dishonest memes spread by theists and then accepted within some atheist circles. This is evidence that it’s not theists alone that can come to poor conclusions. Shame on the appeaser “RRS sucks” atheists for making themselves a target for pointing out ignorant assertions.

From experience (not from scientific testing… it’s an awful lot of experience) I can tell you that the majority of the theists that claim debates with atheists merely reinforce their faith are merely self deluding themselves. A person prone to self delude themselves will do so whether it’s a strident atheist in your face, or viewing “God Bless America” on a billboard. Strident atheists aren’t hurting the cause, atheists who use the platform given to them by strident atheists to take pot shots at strident atheists are hurting the cause. And as far as I can remember this is the first time I’ve typed words along those lines in public. And the reason is simple… I don’t want to denigrate the work of other atheists, they are too important to a much bigger common goal. Even when those atheists lack common sense in how to overcome the dangers that thinking irrationally can lead to.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Sapient - December 20, 2007 at 5:36 am

Categories: atheism, atheist   Tags: , , ,

People leaving religion in droves

From Economist

According to figures compiled by the American Religious Identification
Survey (ARIS), almost 30m people claimed “no religion” in 2001, a
doubling from 1991. This dwarfs America’s 2.8m who describe themselves
as Jews according to the same survey (although other estimates suggest
that the Jewish population is much larger, at about 6m). Catholicism,
the country’s largest Christian denomination, boasts 51m followers.

If atheists, agnostics and secularists could polish their image they
might prove powerful, and increasingly so. If the number of people
declaring “no religion” can double over the ten years to 2001 who know
how many more there are now or might be in years to come. Polls have
shown that eight years of Mr Bush’s mix of piety, divisiveness and
incompetence have pushed young people towards the secular in higher
numbers than before.

There are many who believe the battle against dogma is not winnable. Not only is it winnable, but it will be won, and it’s being won.

Keep Strong,

Sapient
Rational Response Squad

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - December 12, 2007 at 5:07 am

Categories: atheism, atheist, atheist orgs, margaret downey, Rational Response Squad   Tags: , , , , , , ,

Don’t Respect My Beliefs

He said it as concise as necessary. We’ve talked about this many times on The Rational Response Squad radio show. A quote of mine that floats the internet is… “If you don’t respect the beliefs of theists, and someone tells you to repect other peoples beliefs, remind them that they are not respecting yours.” – Sapient

Bitbutter » Don’t Respect my Beliefs

Don’t Respect my Beliefs Posted
by bitbutter on August 16, 2007

Don’t respect my beliefs.

Be courteous and patient towards me while you do your best to demolish them, and I’ll try to do the same.

Imagine that you’re carefully explaining to a member of the flat earth society why you’re convinced that the earth is roughly spherical. You wouldn’t be doing him any favours if you respected his belief; if you did, you wouldn’t be able to show him why he’s wrong.

Is it even meaningful to talk about respecting a belief that you are convinced is false? I don’t think it is. It seems to me that ‘respect for peoples beliefs’ is often nothing more than a virtuous sounding code phrase that really means “anything for a quiet life”.

Are there any beliefs deserving of respect? I don’t think so. Even beliefs which it’s widely agreed are true, or ones held by people who you trust, or ones you’re personally convinced about the truth of. If we expose all ideas to thorough analysis and criticism, the best ones will survive and we’ll be learning.

When we ‘respect’ each others beliefs we rob ourselves of the chance to learn, to test our reasoning and to get to know one another by talking frankly about the things that are most important to us. So don’t respect my beliefs, and I promise I won’t respect yours.

VIDEO REMOVED

 

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - December 2, 2007 at 9:49 pm

Categories: atheism, atheist   Tags: , , , ,

I interview Lori Lipman Brown

I recently interviewed atheist lobbyist Lori Lipman Brown. Join her organization at http://www.secular.org

Join the Squad in our struggle to help free humanity from theism.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Sapient - November 28, 2007 at 10:28 am

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Will Moderates Please Get Pissed? Please?

Can I Piss Off a Moderate? by Hambydammit, ModGod of Rational Response Squad Forums

Today, I will attempt to piss off Moderate Christians. This is going to be a difficult task, because one of the primary reasons I’m calling them out is their obstinate refusal to be offended. I had a long conversation tonight with one of my friends, who is some variety of theist, although he’s very difficult to categorize. He was relating to me a dilemma he’s going to face this weekend when his Moderate Christian family is going to ask him to go to church. The question of whether he should go, even though he disagrees strongly with many of the Christian church’s teachings, is very close to me.
Earlier today, I read a blog on an atheist forum, and then spent a good hour of my life trying to convince a fellow atheist that he should not wear a yarmulka to an orthodox wedding just because it will upset his girlfriend if he doesn’t. Her family had invited him to the wedding, but only if he would wear the yarmulka. He is neither Jewish nor religious.

I had to go to court earlier this month, and when the judge asked me if I swore to God that I would tell the truth, I had to bite my tongue before saying yes. This is something that comes up a lot in our religiostupified (Thanks for the new word, Byron!) country. It may not seem like a lot to you if you happen to believe in god, but for those of us who don’t, the signs of Christian infiltration into society are everywhere, and it is very difficult for us to live a life free from religion. Separation of Church and State was meant to provide both freedom of religion and, equally important, freedom from religion.
The fact that atheists butt heads with religion too much for my comfort is not the topic of this essay, though. I mention it to illustrate my gripe with moderates. Without spending thirty minutes finding statistics that will be debatable, I’m going to hazard a guess that maybe 20% of Christians in America are either fundamentalists or evangelicals or both. It doesn’t really matter. The point is, they’re the minority of Christians. Most are moderates. They believe in some version of Christianity, most likely one that leaves out the nastier elements like stoning homosexuals, and the unscientific elements like a 6000 year old cosmos.

These moderates, in my view, are the ones directly responsible for the decline of America into quasi-theocracy that has occurred in the last 30 years. Their complicity is a result of at least two things: first, they defend fundamentalists as “slightly misguided, but genuine, honest people,” and second, they defend “faith” as a legitimate source of knowledge.

The first defense is maddening. In any other discussion, moderates would most likely not advocate letting people continue to do harmful things just because they are well intentioned. Imagine an alternative medicine guru who advocated a return to the use of mercury to cure various illnesses. Suppose that he had been living by himself somewhere for the last thirty years, and was simply unaware of the mortal danger involved with mercury. Would moderate Christians say that he should be allowed to continue with his recommendations simply because he had a genuine desire to help people?
At this point, moderates, and probably even some left wing wackos, might be balking at my comparison. After all, we know that mercury kills, and advocating taking poison is not the same as letting people have their religious beliefs, is it? Well, in the case of right wing fundamentalism, it’s not really much different. After all, it is right wing fundamentalists who refuse to permit stem cell research, effectively killing people who would benefit from cures available only through this new research. If that’s not concrete enough for you, think for a minute about abortion clinics. They have security systems that would make a Guantanamo Colonel swell with pride. Need I remind you that there are dead doctors who would be happy to attest to the mortal harm that right wing fundamentalists do — if they didn’t happen to be dead.

Still, you may object that most moderates are vehemently opposed to right wing violence. They detest it as much as us non-theists. It’s unfair to say that they are not opposed to such things. This is where I, along with Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and other atheist activists, part company with even the majority of atheists. I say that not only is it fair to say they facilitate violence, I also say that they are actually causing much of the violence because of their refusal to examine their own beliefs and reject the very foundation of religion itself!

Moderate Christianity is deceptively alluring because of its seemingly scientific basis. Most educated Christians have no problem admitting that there’s something to evolutionary science, and they have no problem admitting that the earth is very old, and that dinosaurs once roamed about. In fact, if you get a good Moderate Christian into a theological discussion, they will almost inevitably tell you that they believe questions are good, and that any thinking person ought to question what they believe. Forgive me, but the devil is in the details, and they’re missing a very, very important detail.

The admission that questions ought to be asked makes it seductively simple to believe that moderate Christianity is ok, and doesn’t hurt anyone. Maybe it’s even helpful in some way. The problem, and the main point of this essay, is that questioning is not ok for moderate Christians. I can prove it.
Next time you’re talking to a moderate, try getting them onto the nature of god. If you’re any good at debate, you can quickly steer them to one of the half dozen paradoxes inherent in god belief. Once you get them there, note how quickly they will revert to the position, “There are some things you just have to take on faith.” The simple, indisputable fact is that any god belief requires faith, and if you follow my writings at all, you know that “faith,” properly defined, is “belief in a thing despite evidence to the contrary, or a total lack of evidence.”

Once you get them to the point of admitting that they hold a belief despite it’s opposition to reason, you can see that the facade of moderation is just that – a facade. At their core, they are exactly the same as fundamentalists. They just pick a more socially acceptable irrationality. What they really mean when they say you should question everything is that you should question everything – except for the validity of faith as a means of acquiring knowledge. This is why I don’t let spiritualists off the hook, either. They advocate the same thing. There are some things that are true because they just feel true. It’s exactly the same foundation, and it leads to exactly the same place.

If we, as skeptics and atheists, allow this hedge-bet to go unchallenged, we are also complicit in the religiostupification of America. In the case of both fundamentalists and moderates, the individual’s own sense of morality determines how much “faith” they need, or in other words, how much irrationality they will accept. Another way of saying this is that allowing a little irrationality is no different from allowing a lot.

This point is so important that it needs to be made again. Accepting the belief that some things are true and irrational is what gives a perception of validity to every religious belief. Right wing fundamentalists are crazy. These are people who are out of touch with reality The reason they are not either publicly ridiculed or maybe even forcibly medicated is that they are given a free pass — because it’s religion. If they believed some of the crazy things they believe because the Jolly Green Giant spoke from the side of a can of beans, they would be institutionalized. But, because the Mean Old Sadist in the Sky told them to blow up buildings, they’re encouraged to be a little more moderate.

The primary reason that moderates refuse to come out publicly against fundamentalists is the vulnerability of their own position. The really smart moderates know this, and I suspect that the rest sense it even if they can’t put their finger on it. The only way to effectively call out the fundamentalists is to challenge them on rational grounds. So, you see, the lie in Moderate Christianity is that it is moderate at all. It is not. It is, however, to use the colloquial term, chicken shit. Moderates are too intellectually dishonest, or too scared, to apply logic to all questions, lest they have to give up the illusion of a sky daddy that makes them feel better about the world. They are also too scared to take a stand against those of their own faith who are using faith as a weapon, and causing untold suffering among gays, women, atheists, and, dare I say it… Iraqis. They cannot, in good ecclesiastical conscience, take a firm stand against those within their order who eschew science, for if they did, they would be opening the door to the scientific scrutiny of their own beliefs.

Moderate Christianity is a lie. While moderates do not have a political agenda advocating taking America two hundred years backwards, they allow those who do to go about their work unimpeded Worse, they very often vote based on their religious ideology rather than their rational beliefs. I suggest that it is time to stop giving moderates a free pass just because they embrace a softer, gentler version of a hateful, misogynistic, authoritarian religion. People of reason will never have a rational leg to stand on until we challenge the very foundation of religion – all religion – that is, the errant belief that “faith is a virtue.”

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Sapient - November 27, 2007 at 3:03 pm

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Response to Dr. Roger Olson from Sexo Grammaticus

Sexo Grammaticus, Lord High Editor of the1585, rips Dr. Roger Olson to shreds in this fantastic rebuttal.

Many of you may already have seen the recent anti-atheist screed by one Dr. Roger Olson, a professor of theology at Baylor University. Some of you may even have noticed some of the problems with it. Well, 1585 noticed all of the problems with it, and will enumerate them in short order. Excited? We thought so. Here follows our point-by-point response. (Dr. Olson’s original text is represented in its entirety, in boldface, but interrupted by our responses.)

“I feel sorry for atheists. They are so much in the minority in American society and they are bound to feel some marginalization if not persecution.”

These first two points are presented as an expression of tolerance, but are no such thing. They are an attempt to 1) place yourself on the moral high ground, and more importantly 2) reframe atheists as a minority in the power sense, rather than merely in the numerical sense. Yes, obviously, atheists are statistically a minority of the population—but this is not all that the word minority is used to mean. We often describe women as a “minority,” despite the fact that there are numerically more women than men—why is this? Because, societally speaking, men have more power—so minority has a connotation beyond the numerical. Conversely, millionaires are a small percentage of the population—but have you ever heard anyone refer to millionaires as a minority? No—because millionaires have more power than non-millionaires. Now, since atheists are, on the whole, more intelligent than theists, and possess the sizable advantage of believing things that can be proven in place of things that are made up out of whole cloth, it would be inaccurate to look upon atheists as a minority in the power sense—yes, theists have more political power, due to the fact that we live in a democracy and you guys comprise a numerical majority—but when there is an argument, we win, period. But you open by talking about atheists as if we’re handicapped or something—as if we lack something that you have, rather than the other way around.

“Christians should be the last people to persecute anyone — including atheists. But that doesn’t mean Christians have to accommodate atheism as they tolerate and love atheists.”

First of all, we noticed that you say Christians “should be the last people to persecute anyone,” instead of “are.” This is, of course, because if you said “are” it would be just about the least true statement of all time—and since the rest of the piece is about how religion allegedly makes people more moral, I guess we’re done here… But what the hell, we’ll keep going. Your prescription here is basically that religious people should refrain from full-out attacking atheists in the street—and we’re supposed to be, what, grateful for your magnanimity? (Hey, wait a minute… You don’t say “religious people,” you say “Christians”… We guess that means you’re also implicitly applying the “tolerate but don’t accommodate” principle to all the people who are religions besides Christianity too, huh? But we understand that you couldn’t very well open an essay by announcing that you feel sorry for Jewish people. Yeah, that’s some nice moral high ground you’ve got there.) The “no accommodation” clause clearly means that you’re free to keep voting for lunatics who want to base all the laws on religious bullshit, tying the hands of science teachers, and perpetuating the idea that gay people are mentally ill, so what do you even mean by “tolerate and love?” If you can fuck with us by voting, you have no need to be openly mean to us in person, so you are conceding nothing. This is like a Jim Crow supporter thinking he’s a great guy because he still smiles at Black people on the sidewalk.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Sapient - November 20, 2007 at 4:24 am

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