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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Please, Jared. Use personal insults to persuade your grandmother?

I said insulting religion and absurd concepts are effective ways of tearing them down, and criticism of religion generally qualifies as an insult. The examples I posted were satirical depictions of religion from literature, television, and a newspaper editorial.

Satire is social criticism presented with mockery and humor. The purpose is making a constructive point and effecting change by shaming something that deserves it. Twain, Colbert, and editorial cartoonists do it well.

You may never influence your grandmother as an individual. But you can influence teeming masses of people by daring to point and laugh at the outrageous and the forbidden, especially by trumping up the outrageousness.

There is no need to explain satire. I'm a huge fan of Pratchett and Douglas Adams.

Pissing off people is different then making them laugh at their religions absurdities. There is no guarantee that they will find it remotely funny. 

Just to be clear "shaming" isn't constructive. In fact it's kind of a religious thing.

 The grandmother thing was a poor example. Not sure if my point was taken correctly. but anyhow...

I once saw a shirt that said "I'm atheist. Debate me." I laughed. I know these people. These people wouldn't laugh. They would most likely try their hand at a debate over the shirt.

 Satire is great for open minded people and people that already agree with you.
 In the case of the religious there is not often a lot of open mindedness going on, especially on the extreme side.

 You'd be surprised how pissed certain people were when this was posted on a certain forum. I doubt they were extremist.

being a fan of satire, I don't think it should go away or that it is useless however I don't think its going shame anyone into changing their minds. I' mean they are not going to be like "I deserve being shamed for believing that."

 

Attachments:

Just to be clear "shaming" isn't constructive.

I said "shaming something that deserves it" is constructive. Dishonor, disgrace, and embarrassment are powerful behavioral motivators.

Satire is great for open minded people and people that already agree with you.

Agreed: for them satire is great. For influencing minds already made-up, it's good-to-fair.

In the case of the religious there is not often a lot of open mindedness going on, especially on the extreme side.

True. But it doesn't take a lot. The irreligious population is growing very quickly in the US: most irreligious are formerly religious. American, European, and Internet cultures are permeated with satirical and irreverent depictions of religion. The audience is there.

You'd be surprised how pissed certain people were when this was posted on a certain forum. I doubt they were extremist.

That's a fine example, Jared. The message is simple and effective: Islam commands followers to kill unbelievers. The non-extremists get upset because the message confronts them with a shameful concept from an outsider's perspective.

If an insult was the only point, then depicting Mohammad would be enough and the commentary on suicide bombing would be unnecessary. One could make the insult far worse by showing Mohammad kissing a veiled pig on their wedding day. But delivering an insult for its own sake isn't satire, and it's not remotely the approach I've been advocating.

So they're insulted. But the anti-violence message is delivered in a powerful way that is almost impossible to ignore. Deliver that message (and others) often, widely and well enough, and it incites a reckoning, even if daring to deliver the message in itself is an insult. I say: keep delivering it.

What happens then? Non-extremists reflect on their beliefs. Some respond by disowning Islamic violence. Others leave Islam behind entirely. The "unchangeable" religion slowly starts to change. A small movement within Islam to strip away its worst qualities isn't atheism by a long shot. But it's a start.   

Hey Gallup's Mirror,

What is your goal or intent in the "stare down" to which you refer? Is it to change minds? Alter belief? If I understand you correctly, you are saying that you can "influence" [teeming masses of] people in this way?

- kk

@kk

I mentioned the intent earlier: tearing down religion and absurd ideas by making fun of them. That's what brings us to satire.

Examine satire academically as rhetoric and you'll find there are myriad criticisms of it. But notions that satire is ineffective at influencing social change (especially at a population level) have no traction: satire is effective. Differences of opinion are about why and how satire works, not about whether or not it works.

So, yes, I've been pointing out that persistent and pervasive satire does influence the teeming masses. As a secondary point, I've also mentioned that satire from iconoclasts is an insult almost inescapably, like any other criticism of religion. 

The best satire is usually a didactic, informative, aggressive, focused, and (above all) humorous form of criticism that targets something in need of improvement, reconsideration, remodelling, or whatnot. The humor is the vehicle, hook, and payoff. The criticism is the payload. Go for a laugh: ideally a merry laugh or, less ideally, a bitter one.

The consensus is that satire is more effective at making up minds than at changing them, although it's capable of doing both. I agree with that consensus. Apparently, so do the politicians who work the late-night comedy shows.

Deliver a message, any message, with good satire and that message is more likely to get through, and the messenger is more likely to be seen as appealing and likeable. This effect works even when the message is challenging or delivered at someone else's expense, provided the message is not simply an insult for its own sake.


  • 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.

Human suffering being explained as a necessary circumstance in life to appease an invisible being is not that comforting to me. It actually just pisses me off.

  • 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.

It's called having a conscious. There is no rule book in life, contrary to popular religious opinion. The idea that I am good to placate an invisible being is a shitty reason to be moral. Morality was created, adapted, and advanced long before religion and supernatural myth had come into existence. 

  • Third, people suffer when they lose someone they love, A belief in an afterlife removes much of the pain.

What if they believe the person is going to Hell because they happened to not play by the rules of religion? Life is a finite proposition. Why the wringing of hands? 


  • 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.

Human suffering being explained as a necessary circumstance in life to appease an invisible being is not that comforting to me. It actually just pisses me off.

But that is not how most religious people see this and this thread is not about how you see things anyway. This seems to be a common way responders here are getting off point. It's not about how you see things, it about how religious people see us. The bible says something about an atheist being blind and a fool. By telling religious people that we do not see the wonder of nature that could have only been created by god, it only affirms their beliefs and allows them to dismiss us as being poor creatures that have been misled by Satan or satin or something.

  • 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.

It's called having a conscious. There is no rule book in life, contrary to popular religious opinion. The idea that I am good to placate an invisible being is a shitty reason to be moral. Morality was created, adapted, and advanced long before religion and supernatural myth had come into existence.

You think I disagree? Again, it's about what religious people think and how best to mitigate the damage religion does. Our approach will reach some people who are already disbelievers but are religious because of indoctrination or social pressure and maybe some will convert, but being insulting and rude also lets people think this: "So what is my religion is false, I am a better person for it, look at how this atheist turned out." "He is angry and obnoxious, do I want to be like that". For some reason we seem to think that everyone values honesty over comfort. They don't. We are the exception, not the rule.

  • Third, people suffer when they lose someone they love, A belief in an afterlife removes much of the pain.
What if they believe the person is going to Hell because they happened to not play by the rules of religion? Life is a finite proposition. Why the wringing of hands?

Again, what you think is not important. Religion is designed to motivate the follower to try and convert people. The idea that a son is turning away from the church and going to hell is horrible for a father and he will be motivated to keep that from happening. Religion is not fought against in the emotional arena which is what insulting religion does, they have that locked up. It is fought against in the part of the brain that values logic and knowledge. Not all people value that so their will always be religion until the basic human nature changes. That is not going to be anytime soon. All we can do is try and limit the damage that religion does and promote the good that it brings.

"Religion is not fought against in the emotional arena which is what insulting religion does, they have that locked up. It is fought against in the part of the brain that values logic and knowledge. Not all people value that so their will always be religion until the basic human nature changes."

So the mystery for atheists who attempt to embark on transforming someone's "basic human nature" is how to gain access to a theist's logic without upsetting them emotionally. When you figure that out let me know. 

"All we can do is try and limit the damage that religion does and promote the good that it brings."

I don't believe the promotion of even the good aspects of religion is really necessary or even wise. I want to dismantle the institution, not prop it up.

And I'm actually a pretty laid back kind of dude (even a dudeist, if you will) who eschews being angry and obnoxious. Those traits are certainly apparent around here in the form of hell fire and brimstone fundamentalist Christians.

 

We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart
--H. L. Mencken

 

I must respect the other atheist illogical folly, but only in the sense and to the extent that I can't force him to see the bigger picture or shut him up when he causes harm to my goals.
HoP HoP McHoPiTy

I don't believe the promotion of even the good aspects of religion is really necessary or even wise. I want to dismantle the institution, not prop it up.

When you figure that out let me know. Seriously, we are trying to dismantle something that has been with humanity since we have been human and your idea of how to do this seems to be by making as big an ass of yourself as possible. Yep, that's going to work. Even politicians understand that when you want to make changes that are not popular, you instead make small palatable moves in the right direction. When the public could not stand the idea of making it so the police could pull you over for not wearing a seat belt, instead they compromised with the law making it mandatory to wear a seat belt but only allow a cop to write a ticket in conjunction with some other offense that was a pull over violation. Later, after the public got used to this, they quietly passed additional laws allowing the cops to pull for seat belts. This time the public went along without a whimper. The same will be true for changes to religion. What we want is to get rid of the dogmas that are the most damaging first, the anti-science push, the indoctrination of children, rejecting known facts, etc.

But every time you insult all religious believers, rub it in their faces, you turn away the moderates that already support the idea of getting rid of the dogmas that so damage humanity. And for what? Because it makes you feel better to give them back a little of what you have had to put up with? Yes, maybe religion does poison everything, but lets move on now to how do we best dilute the poisons.

I've understood for 40 years how silly and illogical religion is and spend a few years wanting to shout this in the face of every religious proselytizer who stepped in front of me, but I got past that and want to move forward. Maybe it's time you do too. And BTW, I did not say this:

So the mystery for atheists who attempt to embark on transforming someone's "basic human nature" is how to gain access to a theist's logic without upsetting them emotionally

That is a straw man you set up to knock down. Of course there are going to be times when you will emotionally upset a religious person, but you don't need to make this your goal and when he gets emotionally upset, then be compassionate and understand, not say "See how stupid you have been"  How many generals have basically said: To defeat your enemy, come to understand him and when he is disarmed, make him your friend? And we are not going to change basic human nature anytime soon. We can however nullify the negative aspects of human tendency to see the hand of god in everything. I'm also not saying you should not speak out against the religious absurdities. But speak out in a way that does some good.

If this concept is too hard for you, then maybe you should sit silently on the sidelines and watch instead of grabbing the ball and running the wrong way because that is what every angry obnoxious mouthy atheist does IMHO.

Is that straight up enough for ya Ed?

I like that 99.99% thing. Old Pappy used to say, "The best way to make yourself look good Is to hang out with a bunch of ugly people".

Your "benefits of religion" list seems to center around Marx's famous criticism: Religion is the opiate of the masses. 

Personally I think opiating the masses is a bad thing. And opiating myself is a bad thing. I would never numb myself against thinking about all the wonderful aspects of life (philosophy, scientific discovery, and yes, the bad things too, like pain, existentialist despair, etc). Something doesn't have to feel good to be a worthwhile life experience, and if you avoid everything that doesn't feel good, you're seriously missing out on life.

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