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 :)

Tags: antitheism, isolating, labels, liberals, moderates, religious

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:)  Good to have you back Bobbie.

If you want me to call you Bob, drop the Dr. label.  Lots of members on this site could put labels in front of their names and a bunch of letters behind them, but most don't.

I remember when you first came on this site Professor, your attitude of superiority was palpable, your arrogance obvious, until you got Hitch-Slapped by several of the very smart members on this site.

I am fascinated by the psychology of the delusion you hold so dear in your mind.  It puzzles me how someone with your obvious intellect and education can maintain your beliefs surrounded every day by the overwhelming evidence that your worldview is wrong. 

So yes Bob, I hold you to a much higher standard then I do the Third grade dropout country bumpkin with an IQ of 89.

And yes Bob, I am disappointed in you, you got lucky, you were born in a place where your parents could get you quality food and medical care, to grow a healthy brain.  You were lucky to receive a quality education, an education developed thru Science not Religion.

You want respect Bob?  Then earn it, reread Dave's post, he has your tactics pegged fairly well.  Bring your quality mind here, not your useless rhetoric, and let's learn together the truth of the world we all share.



Well said, Gregg; I've wanted to say much of it, especially that Bobbie's use of "Dr." (originally "Doctor" offers him a prestige he feels he needs.

I've also wanted to tell him that Catholicism gave him defenses similar to those it long ago gave me, and his use of those defenses is as automatic as my use of them once was.

I used those defenses until several years of hardball politics (while pursuing a cause I needed to pursue) helped me grow a strength I had lacked (in much the same way that physical exercise helps me develop physical strength).

I will try to describe:

  • When opponents with some credibility level a charge that I want to answer, I assume for a few moments that the charge has some validity. (Allow me a metaphor: doing this delays the response my amygdala might set into motion.)
  • During these moments I am vulnerable but I have time to decide whether to ask for more information, acknowledge some or all of the charge, or defend against it. (You continue the above metaphor.)

@Tom Sarbeck "I assume for a few moments that the charge has some validity"

Good plan. I'm going to try to do more of that.

"Catholicism gave him defenses similar to those it long ago gave me"

Could you elaborate, please. 

All of my family and at least half of my good friends are Catholic. Of course I was too - up to the point where I found myself saying, "this is just SILLY". I don't think anything in particular changed my mind - it was more like I just grew up. I'd love to understand better how so many friends and family remain in the Church. I've been asking Dr Bob for months only to be ignored and/or side-stepped. Since you have a handle on where you were on the subject "long ago", I'll ask you. When you were a believing/practicing Catholic and an atheist asked YOU (in effect) "how COULD you believe in something for which there seems to be NO evidence?" Demonstrate, please, what defenses you'd have used.

"I've wanted to say much of it, especially that Bobbie's use of "Dr." (originally "Doctor" offers him a prestige he feels he needs."

An interesting hypothesis, but wrong in this case. I was just trying to get through the registration process, and couldn't figure out what to do with the form's requirement for a first and last name. The original I think was actually "Professor Robert".

My question back at you is whether it makes you feel more comfortable responding ad hominem in this way?

"arguing semantics instead of subject (regular tactic used by yourself)"

YES! Almost all of Bob screeds are about style. Virtually none are in answer to direct statements or questions posed.

I am (obviously) unschooled in the structure of scientific dissertation. Bob, it seems, can think of nothing else. It reminds me of my frustration in high-school when I would give the right answer in a test but have in marked down for insufficiently structured proof. I've learned little on that subject since (I majored in Music at university).

Bob, it seem, cannot extricate himself from that mode. Perhaps he spends too much time criticizing his students' submissions. One of his criticisms was a failure to conduct "discourse which typifies scientific rationalism". I'm not trying to "typif[y] scientific rationalism" - I'm trying to have a conversation like I might have at a party. Calling out my ideas as bullshit is one thing, but having them "corrected" as if with a red pencil while ignoring the content "can [indeed] get irritating to the point of an 'emotional' response".

Very religious people can still get the work done, love their children, have a conscience, value 'honesty', and even promote the scientific method. Sadly, the 'devil' is in the details...

I don't believe much progress, whatever that entails, has been made in the past by remaining in the atheist closet. Being timid amidst the bible thumpers has not helped move our culture towards acceptance of non-belief. On the other hand, being an asshole and showing obvious disrespect for things supernatural does not help our cause. Diplomacy sometimes fades away when you're being told your ass will burn in hell for eternity. My comments are from the perspective of living in the southern US where one is faced with the strident rhetoric of Protestant fundamentalists. 

"showing obvious disrespect for things supernatural does not help our cause"

Gotta disagree here. Showing obvious disrespect for things supernatural serves more than one useful purpose. Firstly "things supernatural" do not exist so disrespecting them is NOT the same as disrespecting the individuals who hold such belief (although people like Hitchens would say that the people who defend these doctrines are likewise unworthy of respect). Secondly and more importantly, God is assumed by most of our societies. It's the default. It doesn't NEED defending - it's just there. Confronting religion AND the religious begins to change that. People can no longer automatically ASSUME that their "rights" (for instance to spend public money on religious displays) will go unchallenged. Yes, people will be offended but only those that believe they have a God-given right to be free from offense.

The progress that has been made over the last couple of decades has not been made without stepping on some toes. 

I do believe that flipping off people (by insulting them as a whole and trashing them as both people and for their beliefs) is not a wise strategy. Perhaps it works on a minority or those ready to convert ... but it most certainly alienates people, puts their guard up, reinforces their sad beliefs and makes atheists look like smug ass-holes.

I think there are certain people and groups who do alienate people who are religious.  I especially see it in online forums where you see an ideological echo chamber effect that creates and us vs. them mentality.  That said, I don't see those actors as being much more than a vocal minority in the overall atheist "community".  There are a lot of endeavors where secular and religious elements can work together for the common good, and I personally wouldn't hesitate to do so.

Humans have been naturally selected for religiosity. Religious institutions will always exist because religiosity is not cultural, it is biological. The biological religiosity module in our brain offers significant advantages in increasing courage, empathy and the initiation of the search for objective morality. There are also downsides to this module, as it can also activate a desire to build an utopian "Chosen Ones" society that might war with other societies.

From a game theory perspective, objective morality is a detriment to individual selection but aids group selection at a societal level. Positive religious institutions that activate religiosity modules and channel them towards objectively moral virtuous behavior benefit a society. Similarly, negative religious institutions can also start holy wars.

If existing positive religion institutions are destroyed, there is an enormous risk that in the absence of religious institutions, dictators could channel religiosity activations of their subjects towards themselves, to the overall detriment of society. Marxist dictators often use this tactic to maximize power and control.

"Humans have been naturally selected for religiosity. Religious institutions will always exist because religiosity is not cultural, it is biological."

Is this your opinion? Do you have any scientific references to back up this notion? Religion is a learned concept that occurs through indoctrination and tradition. Nothing genetic about it. There remains isolated peoples where the concept of god(s) and a supernatural realm are not part of their awareness.


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