First of all, I don't think religious belief is extremely destructive.  I agree that intrinsically divisive, irrational and unfalsifiable beliefs about the nature of reality are frightening in the 21st century.  You don't need to look far in this age of terrorism for evidence of this.

Yes, religion has committed atrocities.  Yes, nonbelievers have less reason to act so destructively.  And yes, religion is not necessary for a good life.  Most of us agree there.

BUT, religion is not always or even often destructive.  Although most Christians (I have no experience with members of other religions, sorry) would be fine without their religion-I'm not claiming they can't- it's a characteristic of religion's circular logic to convince people that God is the only source of meaning and morality. It is extremely sad when a delusion is all a person relies on for self-worth, but, there are people who DO rely on it to get along.  For example, I know a couple Marines who can only cope with the guilt of having taken human life by believing that God forgives them. 

I may be preaching to the choir here, but I hope you all realize that being religious also does not make a person stupid.  Neither does it make a person immoral, or crazy, or particularly different from you!

If I've learned anything from losing my faith, it's that there is always a chance I'm wrong in holding a particular belief.  We all are equally succeptible to confirmation bias and logical inconsistency.  Waving around the banner of "intellectual" "skeptic" and "freethinker" as a way to exalt yourself is betraying the very values we are representing. 

Now on to my main point.  Nonbelievers are in the minority, de facto atheists even smaller.  Are we hindering our own progress by being so strident?  Not all people who label themselves with a particular religion subscribe to all its ideas.  Are antitheists like thunderf00t and Hitchens for example isolating moderates and liberals?  Please tell me what you think.

Thanks guys, and this is an awesome forum :)

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Like conservatives aren't alienating moderates.

Obama, who I admire, ends his state of the union with "and god bless America" (does that imply everyone else, tough luck, god is an American?). After that the Superbowl Seahawk players are busy thanking god during their post game interviews. This morning a coworker is talking about how his guardian angel saved him from a reckless driver. Now I'm doing my taxes, wondering how all these pastors and churches I drive past on my way to work don't pay a single "in god we trust" dollar.

I just wanna scream "wake the fuck up". Hitchens helped wake me up....he sat there and told a pastor to his holy-grace-face "you don't deserve respect". He is right.



I would like to suggest that Obama thinks 'it can't hurt', and helps him to stay on the good side of theists that still have a large voting block. It might be cynical, but practical way to be nearly 'all things to all people'.

"religious also does not make a person stupid"

I'm going to make a wild assumption - that you don't mean that religion causes one to become stupid (as it seems to read) but rather you mean that being religious does not mean that one must be stupid (in order to accept religion); so I'll answer the latter and come back to the former. Of the smartest people I know well personally, most are religious. I struggle with this problem and, in fact I am trying earnestly but gently to deconvert some of them. I don't consider their plight to be a mental disorder but an emotional one. Faith is a virtue (to them) which means that they feel virtuous being able to switch off their mental (logical and rational) faculties when anyone broaches the subject of their foundational beliefs. I see the same mode shift here by folks like Jonathan Burian and  Dr. Bob. Surely they MUST know they are making no sense. They MUST be being intellectually dishonest. But they're not. Their emotional disorder wraps them in a soft cocoon of universal "love" which can protect them from any intrusion by reality. If any reality accidentally slips into the cocoon, Bang, they're gone, or the subject is changed, or they become defensive. In my opinion they really do believe that they're making perfect sense and that we are being willfully obstructive.

Back to your question, they are not potential allies while they're in this emotional state. All we can do is continue to poke the cocoon with a reality stick and occasionally this can get past their blind faith and force them to use their cognitive facilities. If this happens enough there might be a change. But unlikely.

In answer to your question as written (paraphrased as "religion causes one to become stupid"), I'd say, "yes", but that depends upon your definition of stupid.

Hey, someone remembered me!  That's very kind of you, @MikeLong.

To answer your question, no, I don't think I'm being intellectually dishonest at all.  My life and work as a scientist and science educator is fully compatible with my life as a Catholic Christian.  Is there an element of sentiment?  Well, certainly, in both my science and my life.  We humans prefer to be happy and productive.  Is that a "soft cocoon of universal love" protecting me from reality?  I hardly think so, though it is a way of looking at and interpreting reality, just as physics is. 

For me, the atheist arguments I read here from a majority of posters seem intellectually dishonest and emotionally driven.  There's a lot of self-righteousness and anger in many postings, and not a lot of coherent, rational thought.  There is considerable chest-beating about being free-thinking and rational, but not a lot of rigor applied to analyzing atheist claims and arguments or questioning one's own assumptions that would usually characterize such modes of thought.  If you think we go "bang" and disappear, it's not because we're defensive, it's because the discussion has become boorish.  That goes to @Renee's premise, that you tend to drive away even those who are sympathetic.

There are exceptions among posters here, but the predominant character of the forum is one of a very closed, defensive, tribal group.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  We all need places to feel safe and call home, among like-minded people.  Lots of people seem to be from the former Confederate states or to have grown up in difficult families, and finding other people to share that difficult journey is a fine thing.  I could easily see myself having become an atheist given the same environment. 

I sort of figure that eventually, real rationalists will recognize that labeling other people's worldview as "blind", "stupid", "dishonest" is a pretty good indicator that emotion has crept in, and that they should reflect on their own approach.

"labeling other people's worldview as "blind", "stupid", "dishonest""

You know you could post this stuff under a new member id and many here would still recognize you from your dissemblance. I did not label believers "stupid" - quite the contrary. (I'd invite you to review my post, but you already know this very well.) "Blind faith" is only pejorative if you choose it to be. Your Big Book admonishes you to eschew reason and just believe and that this is a virtue. "Dishonest"? Again I specifically said that were NOT being dishonest. (In light of your final paragraph, I feel I should perhaps retract that assertion.) 

I posted my opinions in regard to, "when anyone broaches the subject of their foundational beliefs". Again, you probably think that you've already clearly explained your foundational beliefs, but I'll try again with my reality stick - "How do you justify your belief in a magic, invisible daddy in the sky"? (Sorry, but the term "God" just doesn't do justice to this absurd contention.)

Please be specific (oops, there I go with my cynicism again.)

How's the cocoon holding up?

I did not label believers "stupid"

Nor did I claim you did, if you care to review my post.

Your Big Book admonishes you to eschew reason and just believe and that this is a virtue.

Again, neither I nor my religion are fundamentalist.  I understand that it is easiest to characterize the positions of others as simply being fundamentalist or "Big Book" driven, but it is a departure from reality.  I also don't believe in a magic, invisible daddy in the sky.  That, too, is a departure from reality.

Do you notice the emotion in your writing?  "How's the cocoon holding up?"  "my reality stick" "absurd contention"?   Can you honestly, on reflection, consider that approach free-thinking or rational?  Do you really think that is the sort of discourse which typifies scientific rationalism?

I think what you have to contend with, @kris, is that the psychologists have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that emotion does in fact override and replace rational thinking.  It doesn't replace an isolated memorized factoid like 2+2 = 4, but it does replace the process of reasoning and coming to a valid conclusion.

Almost all advertising relies on that fundamental truth, not to mention the campaigns of every politician.

"psychologists have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that emotion does in fact override and replace rational thinking"

Try replacing the word "does" with the word "can". The way your statement stands is that anyone with emotion (exhibited or otherwise) cannot think rationally. If you believe that, just say so and we're done.

Mike: "How do you justify your belief in [God]?"

Bob: "You're not being nice."

I have concluded that you believe in the existence of God. I ask how/why (for perhaps the fifth or sixth time). You again and again fail to answer or even address a straightforward question.

Yes, I DO allow my emotions some leeway. Whereas the only "logical" course would be to ignore you (knowing full well you have no answer to my question), I prefer to poke. It's fun. Fun is why I'm here.

I submit that the existence of emotional language does invalidate arguments.

Is there a "not" missing here, @kris? 

In an online forum where we can only read words, the presence of a lot of emotional language is generally taken as evidence of the presence of emotion at some level.   I do, however, concede the point that emotional language, by itself, does not necessarily interfere with the exercise of reason.

Continuing on to your further example of politics, what emotional language does do in that context is encourage people to abandon reason.   Emotional language is successful to the extent that it evokes emotion in the listener (or for that matter the speaker). 

Since the intent of emotional language is to evoke emotion contrary to reason, it is an odd thing to see in a discussion that is advocating for rationality.  Hitchens, for example, was very good at that sort of demagoguery, appealing to people's baser instincts and desire to feel superior, to ridicule others, etc.   It can be successful at manipulating the weak-minded, but I really find it off-putting, no matter who is using it.

I think all of what you say has value.

My question back to you is when you look at some (many) of the responses here that move so quickly to name-calling and such, what is your honest analysis? 

Is it really proper dialectic?

Quite right, @Kris, I agree with all of that as well. I try not to be an "advocate" of Catholicism or theism at all here, though, as I don't think that's appropriate. I don't wish to convert anyone, certainly. I think that it's just important to make informed decisions based on the reality of who others really wre and what we actually believe. There is much in Catholicism or other religions that might be objectionable or just plain hard to swallow if one is determined to go that way. One shouldn't have to make things up or pass along calumny.

What's interesting to me is how few in the community object to the broad-brush detractions, stereotypes, ignorant perspectives and poor arguments. Comments like @Renee's are relatively rare here, and are often jumped on by those who are the guardians of local orthodoxy.


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