Positives that religion provides and making a case for a different approach to promote atheism

While I am what most people would describe as an atheist, I normally call myself an agnostic, not so much because of any belief in a creator, but more because I would be open to accepting there was one if I had any proof. Dawkins has said about the same thing, but unlike him, I am not sure that the world would be a better place without religion. Yes, many bad things have been done because of religion, but there is a huge bias working in what we hear and see. Most religious people that have moderate views are silent and get much from their faith. Many if not most believe in science, evolution and such, but simply add the comforting belief that there a loving god and afterlife. I see this coming from several basic human needs.

  • First, the more miserable a life someone has, the more need there is to seek some sort of comfort. A belief that they suffer for a reason, that there will be something better is a powerful balm.
  • Second, people often are tempted to do things that they morally know are bad, like stealing, lying, etc. Religious belief sets up within people a sort of self governance.
  • Third, people suffer when they lose someone they love, A belief in an afterlife removes much of the pain.

There is also a big difference in peoples reality due to IQ differences. Most of us here have a higher than average IQ. My IQ is higher than 99.99 percent of the people around me. The world seems much different to someone with an IQ of even average range. I got a hint of what it would be like to be less logical when an illness affected my cognitive abilities. I had to learn new coping skills and it made me see how someone who just does not have the mental abilities to really understand things like deep time would simply come to the conclusions they have. Nature is really rather miraculous looking.

I have come to the conclusion that humanity will not ever be free of superstitious thinking and it is understandable. With that in mind, insulting religion does not seem to me a good way of fighting against it. Maybe we would be better off trying to influence religious beliefs instead to promote them being a more positive influence while insuring that as much science education as possible while trying to minimize parental indoctrination.

I am not at all sure that Dawkins is a positive force for atheism. I understand why we tend to have a chip on our shoulder. I am so tired to having people try to indoctrinate me, flipping through the religious shows on tv, etc. Before the Internet, I had not even met another person who would admit being an atheist. We have a lot of pent up frustration. But now, we have the Internet and people who are interested in atheistic ideas will find us. We should work towards ways of being seen positively.

Be Well,

HoP

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"Positives that religion provides"

Religion does not necessarily provide "positives," but it does provide beliefs.  The positives, presumably kindness, etc., are behaviors which are not dependent on religion. But the beliefs are.

I find the Humanist Manifesto far more appealing than any "core beliefs" of any religion (Buddhism is close, though, if we include it as a "religion"). We don't need religion for "positive" behaviors.  But we do need it for injustice.

"The biological and spiritual drive towards survival, health and wholeness"

Some biological events are not so good for survival.

"From the molecular level upwards, all living things have evolved to stay alive"

Living things evolve simply because they can - the chemical properties of DNA are such that evolution via changes in DNA is inevitable.  Life is a by product of DNA, not the other way around.  And, there are "bad" mutations leading to harm as well as death (including cancer, non-viable pregnancies, etc.). 

"The Golden Rule has been hard-wired into the human brain by evolution"

Granted, over time treating others well, on average, seems to be more advantageous.  But there are many examples of societies that survived and thrived without a universal "golden rule"- unless of course you restrict the rule to the members of a specific society.  "Outsiders" in many societies, including today, often did/do not get the benefit of a universal golden rule.

First, the more miserable a life someone has, the more need there is to seek some sort of comfort - Certainly, and that is how any religion starts, then the superstitious myth was built on top, and Voila, religions of many persuasions were born, and thse new religons just keep on breeding. I personally have great regard for people in Third world countries and their religious beliefs, what sticks in my craw, is how these people are controlled and frightened. These are the people the catholic church are now targeting, and insisting they not use condoms, having children they can't feed. But, I shouldn't be angry.

Religious belief sets up within people a sort of self governance - If that were the case, I would not be bothered, in the scheme of things I don't care what people believe or not believe, it is when it intrudes on my life, seeping into politics. Then, there are the charlatans, who are ripping off people, making millions. Then the Americans have the likes of Mitt Romney, who could have been president of the world, who would have turned the world upside down, as Bush did, both believers. The evangelicals, we have them in Australia too, making millions, and I know the only thing they believe in is the god of money. 

But, I shouldn't be angry.

Then all religions hate gays - with the stupid, absurd, hateful statements that it is a choice. The bashings and suicide continues of young gays, both male and female, and made to feel like third class citizens, not quite the same as the rest of us.

But, I shouldn't get angry.

The gentle well meaning xians, I don't have a problem with at all - it is the ones who hide behind cloth and cross - the religions that castrate girls - who keep women at home. Just read about what the powers that be are doing in Saudi Arabia at the moment. A country that both our countries support. But I shouldn't get angry.

There is also a big difference in peoples reality due to IQ differences - There is a difference in uneducated, as in third world countries and IQ. No education, indoctrination and brainwashing from adults they trust, from the time they are born, is a hard one to get out of.

With that in mind, insulting religion does not seem to me a good way of fighting against it - Certainly pick one's battles, I discuss things when people come to my door, I don't get angry, but I don't back down.

I am so tired of having people trying to indoctrinate me, flipping through the religious shows on TV - These are the arseholes who know full well there is no god, they just want sad, frightened peoples money.

I had not even met another person who would admit being an Atheist - I don't have pent up frustration because I didn't know other Atheists, I am angry because of the likes of Westboro, of Hillsong, of Danny Hins, of Ted Haggard, of Jim Bakker. I want the pope and his cohorts all around the world, who protected pedophiles, and ruined the lives of thousands of children, to be jailed.  But I shouldn't get angry.

How about the xians stand up against the cancerous aspects in their own religion, how about catholics say clean out these festerous old men, how about xians say, how about we treat all gays with dignity and respect - how about they themselves do something about it, instead of waiting for secular people to show them the way - Then I wouldn't be angry.

@Ron V. I find the Humanist Manifesto far more appealing than any 'core beliefs of any religion -  exactly Humanist ideals and Philosophy, nothing to hide behind there.

Hey Hopper,

This seems to be in line with a growing opinion here at TA, so I'll speak up.

While I am what most people would describe as an atheist, I normally call myself an agnostic, not so much because of any belief in a creator, but more because I would be open to accepting there was one if I had any proof. Dawkins has said about the same thing, but unlike him, I am not sure that the world would be a better place without religion. Yes, many bad things have been done because of religion, but there is a huge bias working in what we hear and see. Most religious people that have moderate views are silent and get much from their faith.

Right, but I don't think they are the ones - by themselves - creating the problems. Its the core, underlying belief systems of religion used by so many millions around the world to behave irrationally that causes the biggest problems. What happens when that same "quiet" majority, for example, goes to the polls and votes to make abortion illegal in any and all cases because god doesn't like it? Or for a new law to criminalize homosexuality because god doesn't like it? This "quiet" majority will move with one voice, I promise you. And if this is too ideological to be fair, there are any number of examples we could come up with like this that have nothing at all to do with politics. This is the weak argument that I must throw in as the obligatory introduction.

But let's point out what I think Dawkins might be far more concerned about. Suppose a group of religious fanatics desperately wants attention and decides to fly airplanes into buildings in NYC. Now, just suppose the United States happens to have the highest religiosity of any industrialized nation on Earth (which it does), but mostly in a religion inconsistent with the religion of the attackers. Now, suppose the United States has the world's largest, most sophisticated, accurate and deadly nuclear weapons arsenal. How close is a hypothetical Sarah Palin or her kind to the nuclear button if she were President (I only use Palin as an example because of her own professed dedication and adherence to Christianity - the "norm" in this country)? Now, switch lenses. What if a "madman" or "lunatic" out to "get attention" manages to get their hands on nuclear weapons because gee, the technological infrastructure just keeps getting more and more sophisticated and it keeps getting easier and cheaper to build this kind of stuff? This is what scares me about religion and that is where the true danger lies:

1. The technological sophistication of humanity has dramatically magnified the potential catastrophic impact of religious zeal to a point that the two are fundamentally incompatible.

2. We have a choice. We can choose civilization and the perpetuation of humanity or religion and destruction of the technological infrastructure to reduce us back to barbarity.

I think its crystal clear. I'm not selling sheep and this is not a game we're playing. I wish people would listen to people like Stephen Hawking and the very few alive today that understand this. Religion must go.

Of course,  I will qualify this as my own wicked, heterodox little opinion ;-) But my point follows your next paragraph:

Many if not most believe in science, evolution and such, but simply add the comforting belief that there a loving god and afterlife. I see this coming from several basic human needs.

  • First, the more miserable a life someone has, the more need there is to seek some sort of comfort. A belief that they suffer for a reason, that there will be something better is a powerful balm.
  • Second, people often are tempted to do things that they morally know are bad, like stealing, lying, etc. Religious belief sets up within people a sort of self governance.
  • Third, people suffer when they lose someone they love, A belief in an afterlife removes much of the pain.

Surely there are smarter ways we can help people cope than to use something like religion, a 1000 plus year old corpus of sayings of mostly wise old men? Prozac? I don't mean that facetiously, I'm serious. Science can help here. We don't need to rely on religion for this, nor should we. It's the essense of backward, imo.

There is also a big difference in peoples reality due to IQ differences. Most of us here have a higher than average IQ. My IQ is higher than 99.99 percent of the people around me. The world seems much different to someone with an IQ of even average range. I got a hint of what it would be like to be less logical when an illness affected my cognitive abilities. I had to learn new coping skills and it made me see how someone who just does not have the mental abilities to really understand things like deep time would simply come to the conclusions they have. Nature is really rather miraculous looking.

I don't think IQ has anything to do with this. My extended family over the last 70 years has consisted of a lot of people, all atheists, and not one of them is a Stephen Hawking, or even a soft scientist for that matter. It isn't smarts; its horse sense.

I have come to the conclusion that humanity will not ever be free of superstitious thinking and it is understandable. With that in mind, insulting religion does not seem to me a good way of fighting against it. Maybe we would be better off trying to influence religious beliefs instead to promote them being a more positive influence while insuring that as much science education as possible while trying to minimize parental indoctrination.

We agree here. But I do think that superstition can be reduced to a small minority. There will always be eccentric people. And I agree that insulting religion doesn't help. As I've said over and over, all atheists should take deconversion very seriously. The clock is ticking. If that sounds alarmist, its 12 O'clock and the time is nigh.

I am not at all sure that Dawkins is a positive force for atheism. I understand why we tend to have a chip on our shoulder. I am so tired to having people try to indoctrinate me, flipping through the religious shows on tv, etc. Before the Internet, I had not even met another person who would admit being an atheist. We have a lot of pent up frustration. But now, we have the Internet and people who are interested in atheistic ideas will find us. We should work towards ways of being seen positively.

Very strongly agree with you there. We need to learn how to manage our anger better. It's okay to be angry. Its necessary, in fact, for social change, but imo we should focus it constructively.

Great Post, thanks

- kk

"[I]nsulting religion does not seem to me a good way of fighting against it."

What better way is there? A dimwit is impervious to reason: he won't get it. Laughter, he gets.

The best way to fight a ridiculous concept, religious or otherwise, is making fun of it relentlessly and without mercy. If apologists for that concept are insulted, then touché. So much the better. I say: worship leprechauns and you deserve to be mocked. I say: use my tax dollars to start an 'Office of Leprechaun-based Initiatives' and you deserve to be ridiculed.

I'm with Mark Twain on this one. Look at the "God Hates Fags" routine. Eleven seconds of the irreverent Stephen Colbert is more effective than eleven years of reverential debate.

"For your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon--laughter. Power, Money, Persuasion, Supplication, Persecution--these can lift at a colossal humbug,--push it a little-- crowd it a little--weaken it a little, century by century: but only Laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of Laughter nothing can stand." - Mark Twain in "The Chronicle of Young Satan" [Emphasis added to the last sentence.]

Maybe a more accurate statement would be "Insults are not always a good way of fighting religion" There are times when I do think insults and sarcasm are the best approach. However the people where insults are the best are also not the people I want to reach. These people are closed to other ideas. It's in talking to the moderates that we do damage to our cause. Insults surely have the effect of closing off a moderate christian to other ideas.

So,"Insult a Fundy, Kiss a Moderate" (On the lips if she is hot)

If some people need religion to cope with life’s vicissitudes, so be it.

As for myself, I think my reliance on the manifest successes of reason and science rather than the caprices of a mythical, medieval overseer, however benevolent, provides me with infinitely more self-respect, self-confidence, and self-worth than is experienced by even the most devout religious person.  

Me too. Unfortunately it appears that not all people agree with us.

Going back to the reasons we argue. Are we trying to persuade, justify or explain?

 You can't persuade if you are offending. You just sound like a maniac trying to justify something all the while insulting them. If you are explaining then the other persons take might be something like "He told me why He is atheist but he's also a jackass!" Trust me they will focus on the jackass part.

 Leaving there to be absolutely no point in having the conversation if nobody is listening.

 If we are simply out to offend people lets not do it in the name of atheism. This just promotes the stereotype that atheists have no morals.

 Now when I think about do people NEED religion. People get along with out all kinds of superstition everyday. The same religious people do too. Maybe actually knowing how old the earth is, where we come from, and that when we try real hard we can reason through things and we don't need a god to reveal things will give the needed self confidence that they need to survive and co-exist w/out a god/religion.

Sometimes there is no polite way to call out someone or to criticize a belief. If it's clearly nonsense then that's what it is. What am I supposed to call it if it's clearly batshit bonkers? Keep in mind, the nicey-softy approach has its limits and If I do speak my mind, what invariably happens is that believers tend to mix up a rational debate with their sensitive emotions. That's not my problem... it's theirs. 

I would add to this important point that religious folk often find criticism of their religion to be offensive and insulting. For example, the images below are harmless cartoons worth a slight chuckle. To a Muslim they are insults that justify murder in the name of Allah.

That's as insulting and offensive as it gets: expectations that even non-Muslims in foreign countries must comply with Islamic law and customs, under threat of death or a life in hiding.

You have the right to offend an Allah that exists only in the delusions of brainwashed madmen willing to kill in His imaginary name. Choosing not to exercise a right for fear of reprisal is akin to surrendering that right or not having the right at all. I say: stare it down. Issue so many "insults" of the type shown below that even Muslims will become desensitized to criticism and will no longer think of such things as insults at all.

Some skin is thin. But I'm not going to get a point across to my grandmother by saying  "That bitch" did this or that. again what is the purpose for the argument? To offend? Then that is not an argument. To persuade? You'll never get there like that.

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