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On Religion, Faith, Godlessness, And Why You Really Need To Just Mind Your Own Fucking Business 
2nd-May-2006 09:19 pm
A few days ago I posted links to two columns written for rawstory.com on the varying subjects of religious and atheistic extremism, science, secularism, and the fallacies within each. These are subjects of particular interest to me and always have been for a myriad of reasons. To begin with, I love intelligent debate. I'm intellectually turned on by any discourse wherein each side is passionate about their respective positions, yet seeks out the strongest opposing arguments to attack as opposed to the weakest ones which obviously is the easiest (and coincidentally the most boring) route to take. It also shows a strong foundation for grounding each system of belief structure, which is ultimately more persuasive than argument for the sake of argument or olympiad of semantics.

To be fair in presenting both stories, each of which I found very provocative and inspiring, they really should be presented as point/counterpoint - and not in the genius way that The Onion does. So here I'm reheating this all up again. My hope is that I'll get a whole slew of comments to this post and it'll open up dialogue for anyone who chooses to respond and keep up with the thread. I have many intellectuals who read this blog, many friends whom I revere not only for their opinions but their passion and humor, and I look forward to responses from each. city_of_dis, joeatlarge, ladysisyphus, thedigitalghost, envirobear, die7fox, arie, rahaeli, bubba, totheunknown, tons of you from every background conceivable, I'm eager for everyone's contributions and rebuttals to these columns. I want comments from anyone that happens to read this, everyone's point is valid to them and may well resonate with others.

Too many people use LiveJournal to post bullshit memes and complete crap in the name of getting 'lulz', and that's fine - your LJ, do what you want. Myself, I would rather gargle used motor oil and thumbtacks, but you do what you want. I want people to read something intelligent and have/contribute an opinion of their own about it. Here are the columns, read away and comment on whatever you feel hits you in the right or wrong spots - then get ready to be challenged by others and prepare to learn a few things. It is good to have your beliefs challenged, it serves to help you reaffirm your existing beliefs/values/morals, or it serves to change your mind in favor of something you find more agreeable. Either thing is good and we all benefit from one or the other, so bear that in mind.

Atheist Whackjobs: The Left's Own Religious Extremists
by Melinda Barton
Published: Saturday April 23, 2006 [link]
We Should All Be Secularists by PZ Myers
Published: Saturday April 29, 2006 [link]

What say you?
3rd-May-2006 03:44 am (UTC)
I wish I had the current time to blabble on and on about this issue. Perhaps I'll take the time later on to leave a more detailed comment! However, I am compelled to bring up a couple of additional points:

To examine if Melinda Barton's claim regarding Athiest Whackjobs is correct, do you think, if given a similar amount of cultural power and influence that the Far-Right currently has, would they go about "spreading the message," so to speak? It is fairly certain Intelligent Design/Creationists have a lot of power in spreading social messages regarding ID in classrooms, etc., even if it is unsuccessful at a legal level (thank Go....Darwin).

Or, in other words, are Atheist Whackjobs really any type of social threat, at least at the numerical level?

Obviously, I'm quite biased, as I think Creationists are wrong (among other words which I'll leave out), and "Atheist Whackjobs" are a small, insignificant portion of secular social philosophers.
3rd-May-2006 08:22 am (UTC)
See, I am not even convinced that these "Atheist Whackjobs" really exist at all. The actual quotes that she uses in their reference are generally very reasonable atheistic positions and then she throws out these "claims" that they supposedly make, but rarely says who made them or in what context. My guess is that her notion that Atheists are unmoving and stubborn comes from the fact that they consistently disagree with HER and who can blame them if her arguments are always this shabby and poorly constructed?
3rd-May-2006 04:43 pm (UTC)
I think this is certainly the impression I have. And I think it is important to examine how much of a political opportunist individuals who are extremist on both political sides of the spectrum actually are. I just don't think there are many Atheists out there doing anything remotely similar to what Creationists are doing.

I'm sure I'd be classified as an "Athiest Whackjob," though. :)!
4th-May-2006 03:04 am (UTC)
Hey, if being a confident Atheist makes me a whackjob, I'll proudly wear a whackjob t-shirt ;)
4th-May-2006 07:08 pm (UTC)

Another problem I have with the title of that article is that she refers to more "extreme" Atheists as religious fundamentalists, which is really a very big misnomer. The process by which individuals believe in the scientific method of inquiry is entirely different from that of religious belief, because they have different epistemological underpinnings.
4th-May-2006 08:24 pm (UTC)
Yes. As someone (I wish I knew who) said - "If Atheism is a religion, then 'off' is a TV channel"
3rd-May-2006 07:18 am (UTC) - a 2am ramble
Good points on both sides, although I do not find atheists as much of a threat as Melinda Barton did/does. As you know, I consider myself a Christian. I have studied a few religions, moving away from my Catholic upbringing for all the straight jacket (now there is a pun!) beliefs, went a-wandering with Buddha and Krishna, and found that Christ was my role model. He, St. Francis, and Freddie Mercury, but I digress. I do not consider myself an Evangelist; I don't go poking my nose in other people's souls. I don't believe in recruiting folks to "my side" or damning people to hell, or loving the sinner and hating the sin. All those ideas seem superciliously offensive.

I look at my relationship with God as I do one of the many smaller bands I love, like Kings of Leon, or Jeff Buckley. I don't want too many people to love them. I don't want them to become household names, like U2.. Know why? Because when you get loads of people loving your favorite band, then all hell breaks loose and things go to shit and the message gets lost and the music starts to get polluted by media, attitude, and fanatics, and they become sell-outs - you see the parallel? Get your own band to like. Not that I am exclusive; I am just not breaking my neck to get folks to sign on to my vibe, that's all.

I have no problem accepting secularism. Look what a bunch of crazy-asses have done to Christianity. Look at how they lobby over stuff that concerns the Public, not just the Christian Public. I wish Christ was not a public issue regarding whether or not I can have an abortion. That is between me and my soul. I wish religion did not come racing down the throats of gays who want to get married because they love one another. It's like throwing a bucket of pig blood on someone's fur coat to demonstrate killing animals is a bad thing. Jesus said LOVE, not hate.

The idea of secularism does not bother me as much as this backlash of hate for a guy who, about 2,000 years ago, came upon us to teach a different way of looking at one another. Taking a higher ground, and growing into a better person. Can someone be a good person without Christ in their lives? Of course. Can folks with Christ in their hearts be fat bastards? No, but the fat bastards will beat you over the head with their bibles to prove they are good folk. Hateful folks are not Jesus folks. Folks who preach hate are not Christians. Pure and simple.

I think the more we try to argue belief and facts, the further from agreement - and truth - we get. Why can't we just agree to know that we don't fucking know? Are we so tied to this belief of an angry father figure-type god, or a friendly loving god, or a blue powerful god, that we are afraid of what amoral bastards we will become if we don't swear to God in court? Can't we depend on our inner moral compass to teach us ethics? Can't we trust in our inner goodness to evolve? I see the belief in God help better individuals' lives, but I have not seen the belief in God moving civilizations to a higher or moral ground. I see a lot of hateful, judgmental God-fearing folks, all twisted up inside. I see wars, endless wars in the name of God - or people's perception of God. And I *still* believe. I find it easier to believe in God than I do a loving, evolving human race, and I think that is the greatest sin of all - losing faith in my earthly family. But that is the joy of free will; making the choice, every day, on whether or not you'll be cool today, or a shitty, loathsome human being. Here's to those who, either with gods in their hearts or not, make an effort to help further the process of human evolution.

I thank God we can still have open discussions about God and society. I have rambled enough.
3rd-May-2006 08:09 am (UTC)

The first article seems to have been pulled completely out of Melinda Barton’s ass. Who the hell are these atheists? I’ve never met anyone like the kind of people that she describes and I’m not in any way convinced that they exist. Atheists tend to be professors, scientists, writers, artists, or generally the kind of people who like to “explore” in one way or another. This makes them fairly open-minded in terms of most things, but open-mindedness and skepticism are not mutually exclusive.

Let’s break it down, Barton, ye frothy little bitch:

“The whackjob is a special sort of atheist, one so absolutely certain of the inerrancy of atheism and so virulently opposed to religion that he will latch on to any and all outrageous claims in defense of the former and against the latter.”

Such as? Let’s hear some of these “outrageous claims” in defense of atheism and against religion.

“…the atheist extremist holds that his belief that no such being exists and virulent opposition to the reverse make him intellectually and ethically superior.”

So, in other words, Atheists think that they’re right? Well, yeah…Who goes around thinking that they must be wrong about everything?

“Finally, he will ignore any and all reason or evidence that refutes his claims.”

She already said this, she just rephrased it. But still failed to back it up with any examples. She seems to be leading into an example in the following paragraph, but then fails again, by doing little else but quoting a perfectly reasonable definition of Atheism – “the acceptance that there is no credible, scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a God, god/s or the supernatural” – and then using the old “but you can’t prove he DOESN’T exist angle, which, ultimately, isn’t even related to the quote in question.

It’s the same old game: We say “the burden of proof is on those trying to prove hard-to-believe shit” and those making those claims say, “Ah, but you can’t prove that we’re wrong!” Well, no. But we don’t have to. We’re not out to prove that there isn’t a God because there is absolutely no evidence to make us even suspect that there could be one. Science doesn’t have time or (more importantly) money for wild goose chases.

...Actually, I am realizing that this is going to be a whole big rant. I may just post it over in my journal and link here, if you don't mind. That said, thanks for getting my juices flowing and I want to discuss this more in-depth. Now, I'll go read the other one and see what I think about that...
3rd-May-2006 08:09 am (UTC) - I"ll do my best......
Will try to be sharp and pithy in my responses....let the forensics begin!!!
3rd-May-2006 08:42 am (UTC)
The second article seems perfectly reasonable and sound to me. In terms of political maneuvers, it makes sense to separate political secularism from atheism. They're not the same thing and not really related at all. Plus, I'm fond of any argument that posits: "hey, we can debate our differences, but let's focus more on working towards our common goals together."
3rd-May-2006 05:53 pm (UTC)
I think Melinda Barton is getting carried away. Sure, I don't care for extremism on the right or the left, and my grandfather's unwavering atheism made no more sense to me than my parent's unwavering Christian fundamentalism. I don't see "extreme" atheism as any sort of danger to this society, except for as a possible embarrassment to the left.

Atheist outrageous claim #2: Since the natural is all that we have or can scientifically observe and/or measure, it is all that exists.

If this is truly an atheist claim, then it's about as ridiculous as medieval scholars basing their science on Aristotle. For people to whom science is practically a religion, this denotes a serious lack of faith in its ability to discover and uncover things we couldn't have imagined just a few decades ago

Atheism isn't completely innocuous, though. Pushed to an extreme, we see how its imposition on supposed utopian societies like those of the Soviet Union, created the opposite of a Utopia. Unless perhaps you were the guy who had fun kicking the chair out from under political dissidents in Lubyanka. Although I certainly wouldn't blame atheism as the sole offender in such a regime, either.

Again though, I don't see it as a danger to this country. I would argue that secularism in public life is the way to go. In private, any god you like can speak to you personally, or you can believe that the universe is just there and you created yourself. No skin off my back. No one should be persecuted for their religious beliefs or lack thereof. Period.

Sorry, this wasn't particularly linear or well-thought-out. Just kind of a gut reaction to the articles. Don't stop posting this kind of stuff, though- please!

3rd-May-2006 07:13 pm (UTC)
After reading Melinda Barton's article, I wondered if she'd been spying on my ex-boyfriend.

Just to let everyone know: Yes, these people exist. Intolerance can be found everywhere, even among the non-religious.

On the other side: There aren't that many of them, and from what I can tell, they're really no threat to anyone. Not that they don't want to be, but the ex-boyfriend in question is such a complete loser that I can't see his intolerance doing any real damage to anyone besides himself.

Just my 2 cents.
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