You've all heard the claim that we aren't really atheists, we are just mad at god. (Or you will see such things as "so and so claims to be an atheist.")
Today, though I saw an argument in chat with a theist, and someone else's account of an argument they had out in public, and I stopped to wonder if maybe we aren't sometimes encouraging this line of bullshit, albeit unwittingly.
What happened in both cases was the atheist began recounting all the sorts of horrible things Yahweh is portrayed as doing or believing or commanding. In one case, I saw the atheist say "why should I love god when he won't love me back?"
The problem with this sort of thing is we usually don't take care to phrase our remarks to make it clear that god is a character of fiction. When discussing the misdeeds of Yahweh we tend to fall back on a convention we use when we talk about a fictional character in a book. We refer to him by name and talk as if the guy was real and the book was not fiction, for example, "In George Orwell's 1984, Winston Smith was arrested for thoughtcrime," not, "In George Orwell's 1984, the character Winston Smith..."
We know what we mean, because we both know Winston Smith (or god) is fictitious. But they don't know god is fictitious.
Talking this way with someone who believes the fictional character is real might cause him not to understand you are just following the convention. Your phrasing sounds to him like you accept god as real, he "knows" god is real, so he assumes at some level you think god is real.
What I am suggesting here is that you ever want to bring up how nasty this being is, you make it clear that you don't think he exists, make sure you put "fictitious" (or equivalent) in every other sentence at least, and not let them think for a minute that you assume the existence of god.
Yes I know that when you just said you were an atheist this shouldn't be necessary, but obviously many of these people don't understand atheism in their guts, so don't let their paradigm default you into a "believer but mad at god" box.
RE: "@archy - your replies are succinct and respectful - always enjoy reading your comments."
You might mention that to Molly Cashio, who's decided I'm treating Lonely terribly because of the language differences.
What I said, Lonely, is, "would you PLEASE assure Ms Molly Cashio that I have not mistreated you in any way, or humiliated you because of the language barrier."
The question is, have I mistreated you because our English-speaking abilities are less than equal?
Thanks - I'm taking the day off, but we can certainly resume our discussion tonight.
I think that theists may take it that way but all we're doing is meeting them on their own grounds because the scientific evidence that contradicts their holy book is abundant and well known
Yes. But the fact that they "take it that way" is precisely my point. What we are saying makes perfect sense to us and we understand each other. But when we say it that way to THEM they get the impression we accept the existence of god but don't want to be christians for some other reason.
All I am suggesting is, when talking to an Xian, you make clear what the fundamental disagreement is in a way they will comprehend (if at all possible--some truly cannot wrap their brains around it even when you've gotten it across to them). That way they don't scurry off thinking you are just another person who is mad at god or wants to sin or what have you.
They will hopefully understand that you are an atheist because, as they might phrase it, "you do not accept that god exists." That phrasing, right there, would be the way a theist would describe an atheist and it's accurate within their context. Then maybe they won't spend all their time trying to quote bible verses at you to show you Jesus loves you; they will realize they have to convince you that god exists before explaining to you that you are committing crimes against god or what-have-you.
I agree, and I do try to present my position very clearly when communicating with theists, but I must admit I have been guilty of unwittingly being less than 100% clear. It infuriates them so when we pleasantly assert that we just don't believe their deity exists, period.
I do get a bit perturbed with the inevitable, "You're too stubborn to submit." or "You are close-minded and arrogant." Oh yeah, THAT makes me want to suddenly believe in their deity. I am stubborn, and I don't want to submit, but I don't think I'm close-minded or arrogant. Like John Mellencamp said, "You gotta stand for something or you're gonna fall for anything."
I don't know, I've never had the experience where a theist has simply thought I am angry with god when we argue so I guess I can't relate
Let me reverse it Steve - imagine a group of astrophysicists sitting around, discussing space/time and string theory, then you or I wander in and join them. They have a language all their own, and are likely to continue speaking in it, but when they address me, they tend to forget I'm not one of them, and that I don't understand their terminology. What to them is a given, is something I can't even grasp.
So it is with theists. You and I, and others on this board are so accustomed to speaking with each other, accepting without need of clarification that god is fictional, that we often forget that with theists, that's a concept beyond their comprehension.
I'm not saying dumb it down, just make it clear.
The fact that (in your example) I make dumb assertions to them about their specialty doesn't relieve them of the responsibility of trying to be clear to me. If they choose to talk to me about it. Likewise a theist's ignorance of atheism doesn't relieve me of the responsibility to present my side clearly to them, if I decide to engage them.
(In actual life if I were to run into a real astrophysicist, I might ask leading questions but I would be there to pick their brains, bigtime.)
Keith, you seem to have misunderstood the point of my analogy - I chose not to correct your first post, but your second one on the subject makes it necessary. The point was that different sociological groups have their own languages, and in the vocabulary of the theist, there is no word for disbelief in an immortal being capable of transcending the laws of physics. We should not be surprised then, when we discuss atheism, that they can't grasp our concept.