Saturday, October 18, 2014

That Was a Long Time Ago

If you have ever tried to point out the sins of the christian church to a christian, such as the crusades, witch hunts, burning non-believers at the stake, you will almost inevitably hear the reply "that was a long time ago".  There is a short reply that one can use in these situations:

There is no statute of limitations on murder or crimes against humanity.

To which you can add:

Even if there were, I wouldn't want to be associated with such an organization.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Here Is What Atheists Believe

One of the annoying things that religious people say to atheists is that we believe in nothing.  By this, of course, what they mean is that we have no values because, in their minds, values come from god.  In other words, it is little better than calling us psychopaths.  It is bigotry even if politely expressed.

It is also evidence of confused thinking or speaking if taken literally.  Literally, someone who believes in nothing is a nihilist, not an atheist.  If you choose, you can point this out to any religious person who says this sort of thing.  You will score a superficial point and it may well be worth the trouble to make this point quickly before moving on to the more important substance of the religious person's actual meaning.

In general, I find that religious people will invariably favor the emotional over the literal meaning of the things they say.  This is because they are fuzzy thinkers--not precise thinkers.  If you choose to point out the literal meaning of what they say, your response will be seen as mere nit-picking.  But, it will also usually make the religious person pause, and then probably agree with you regarding the literal meaning of the words.  (Though if the person is truly stupid, you may find that he or she doesn't even know what a nihilist is.)

This will give you an opening, if needed, to address the actual, bigoted meaning of what the person just said.  The most common response is to give the religious person a list of things in which atheists believe.  Many have put forth lists of the various things atheists believe.  A web search will turn up several, though most seem to be copied from the Murray v. Curlett decision quoting Madalyn Murray O'Hair

These lists are good, and I suggest reading them and maybe even coming up with your own list of values.  The problem with the lists is that they fail to address the core of the problem and fail to reveal why atheism is, at its core, the only moral religious philosophy.  (They also violate the soundbite rule--they won't register in the believer's mind.)

The one value that I think is central to atheism and which, I think, most atheists hold true even if they don't realize it is this:

Atheists believe in truth.

We believe in being honest with ourselves and the world.  Religious people don't.  They would rather say what is popular than what is true.  And, as I pointed out before, this is one of the reasons I say that atheists are more moral than religious people.  Because if you are not honest with yourself and the world, then no morals apply to you because you are implicitly reserving the right to lie.

Honesty is the core of atheism in my opinion.  We atheists don't pretend that we never make mistakes.  If we realize we have a belief that is false, we would rather admit it than engage in a face saving lie.  We would rather endure bigotry and scorn than take part in a lie, even a popular one.


Here is a brief list of atheist beliefs (in addition to honesty).  I believe:

1. We should love our fellow man instead of an imaginary god.

2. The needs of ourselves and others should be met by deeds and not by useless prayers.

3. This is the only life we will ever have.  Heaven is something we should strive to create here on earth.

4. We should strive for involvement and improvement in this life and not an escape into death.

5. We are each responsible for our own conduct.  No one can take our punishment for us.

6.  Only those we harm can forgive us for it.

7. We should do what is right regardless of reward or punishment.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Catholic Church Continues Cover-up

I recently came across this news item regarding a canon lawyer for the Catholic Church who recently resigned her post because of the continued policy of covering up sex abuse cases.  I think it is worth being aware of this both because it shows that religion does not lead morality or even decency and that religions do not change unless forced to do so. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Most Christians Don't Know the Ten Commandments

Here is a link to a recent article by Valerie Tarico in which she points out that most christians don't even know the ten commandments that they all claim are so important.  She also points out that the ten commandments are morally inadequate and offers a much better alternative set of moral imperatives.  Enjoy.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Discrimination Faced by Atheists

Below is an infographic originally published by the American Humanist Association regarding the discrimination faced by atheists.  I think it is quite revealing and a good source of information regarding the reality of the "war on religion" in the U.S.

infographic

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Is There a War on Religion?

Last month, The Atlantic published an article entitled "The Myth of a 'War on Religion'".  I highly recommend the article.  It is a succinct explication of some of the evidence regarding the continued exalted status of religion in our society and the continued vilification of non-believers.  As the story points out in its conclusion, there really is no such war; statements to the contrary are simply dishonest attempts by the religious right to play the victim.  (Obviously, they do this in order to bring social pressure to bear on those who criticize religion in an effort to shut them up.)

Of course, in my opinion, neither the exalted status of religion nor the vilification of non-believers is deserved.  Both are the result of centuries of repression of the truth, propaganda, brainwashing of children, and the genocidal persecution of non-believers.  All of these things have resulted in a society where the literal and moral insanity of religion is actually exalted over the honesty and integrity of atheism.

Frankly, I wish there were a war on religion.  It is long overdue.  For far too long religion has enjoyed an unquestioned exalted status in our society.  Nothing should be given such privileged treatment--particularly not something which is an important philosophical underpinning for so much of what happens in our society.  Imagine if some other aspect of common political philosophy enjoyed such a long tradition of being sacrosanct.

One doesn't really have to imagine it completely.  One can see the short term effects of such stifling of discussion in the recent history of communist countries where criticism of communist economic theory was not allowed.  Just imagine living in such a place.  Then imagine what the society would be like if the communists had 2,000 years to shape a society.  After 2,000 years of propaganda and brainwashing, even the craziest ideas can become social norms.

This is the case with religion, and this is why I write this blog and support secular organizations.  I think religion is even more immoral and nonsensical than communism. 

I have been an atheist for decades and have fought for secularism almost as long.  If there were a war on religion, I would know about it.  At best, right now, there is a war on theocracy.  A defensive war.  The theocrats have been working behind the scenes in the United States for decades to undermine our free society and turn the U.S. into a theocracy.  If you doubt this, then you need to read Jeff Sharlet's book The Family in which he details his time inside this movement.

I recommend Jeff's book not because it is the only evidence of the war on freedom currently being waged in the U.S. by the religious right but because it is one the most revealing sources--one that gives us a look at the true intentions of the religious right in the U.S.

As a long time secularist, I can see these true intentions even when the religious are able to convince most others with their lies and deceptions.  I know what those intentions are because I have had direct experience both as a member of the religious right (when I was a child) and as an adult non-believer who was subjected to numerous instances of discrimination and persecution.  Jeff's book lets the sceptic listen to what they say in private, which is something many new secularists need to hear to understand the true danger to freedom and democracy that the religious right represents.

I don't think it is too much to say that the religious right in the U.S. is a fascist movement.  It should be resisted at every turn before it is too late--if it isn't already too late.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Special Pleading

One of the most frustrating things about trying to have discussions with religious people is their tendency to insist that skepticism and the rules of logic should be applied to my position but that their position is somehow exempt from the same sort of examination.

This is not just a double standard.  It is extreme intellectual dishonesty.  It is extreme bias.

The term for this type of shifting standard, where the advocate of a position unjustifably claims that his position has to be judged by a different standard or an exception to the rules is "special pleading".

In my experience with the religious the "different standard" continually shifts.  As soon as they realize that a particular standard doesn't support their position, they claim that another one applies.  Furthermore, they do this without justification, which is what makes it special pleading.  There are situations where different standards apply, but only when justified by relevant, demonstrable differences between the things being judged.

The religious will claim that their new standard is justified but usually they will not have an adequate justification for it.  Their arguments for the shift in the standard will suffer from the same fatal flaws as most of their other arguments:  They will be based on unjustified assumptions, circular reasoning or some other logical fallacy.

Although one should know the term "special pleading" and what it means, it won't usually be helpful to use it in a discussion with a religious person.  Instead, once you recognize that the argument is based on special pleading, demand that the religious person justify the use of the claimed exception to the usual rules of logic.

Most often this type of dishonest argumentation is combined with circular reasoning, such as where the religious person claims that the rules of logic don't exist because god's alleged traits make him an exception to those rules.