Hair Trigger
Picture courtesy of, used without permission.

"While I don't condone the behaviour of 'dick atheists', I can empathise with their frustrations. I'd like to think I'm not one, but I'm not prepared... to compromise my intellectual integrity to avoid causing offence. And I will not tell my students lies about the world just because it might be what their religious parents would like me to do." - Alom Shaha, The Young Atheist's Handbook

I strongly feel, as I have a lot lot of reason to assume Alom does, that the teaching of science to children owes no censorship of its core ideas and historic developments to the chance of religious offence. Science is, and likely always will be, the best method we have of comprehending reality - and children have a right to know.

However, as I'm sure each and every reader is aware, there are some who feel that a parent's right to deny their children a decent education overrides this. Allow me to offend them:

Home-schooling a child, for example, with extremely conservative creationist material (like the infamous 'Accelerated Christian Education' stimulus Jonny Scaramanga lived through and now writes about over at 'Leaving Fundamentalism') not only infringes upon what I feel to be their own human right to a decent education (and exposure to information), but has the potential to harm both their mental health and even job prospects.

When everyone at University (with vastly superior qualifications) is doomed for hell in your eyes it can get pretty lonely. And when 'evolution' is a swear-word, it's very hard to be a biologist.

Tell this to a well-meaning fundamentalist Christian parent and you won't get very far though. There's a time and place for (often misrepresented) 'firebrand Atheism', and the issue of education - as it deals with the sensitivities of parents - may need to be approached a tad more carefully than simply telling people they may be ruining their children's lives.

But, and this is very important to reiterate time and time again, the possibility of offending is alone no reason to keep quiet. Some set their 'what offends me' lower limits so sensitively that the very concept of free speech altogether would be threatened if their inability to accept criticism were taken seriously... Only that is often is.

Rampant in countries such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, 'blasphemy' charges are all to liberally handed out for such petty offences as *allegedly* burning pages of the Qur'an or *allegedly* insulting the  prophet Muhammad - often with severe physical punishments as the first port of call. The bottom line, from the point of view of secular ethics and Humanism, is that no matter how sacredly millions hold notions of a long dead paedophile, personal offence does not warrant violence towards anyone exercising their deserved freedom of expression (especially when it's reasonable, but even when it's not).

(And yes, that was meant to be provocative to make a small point.)

I recognise that, in many cases, it's hardly productive, as it may be to tell a parent they're doing it wrong, to speak with such intentional confrontational passion. I don't consider myself to be a so-called 'dick Atheist', but there is a balance all of us must draw between what's seen as 'politically correct' (I use the term loosely) and our outward sincerity. That said, I see no reason to pick fights where they need not be fought - and so, for example, I wouldn't seek out a Muslim friend just to criticise Muhammad in front of them. In Islam's case, like many other faiths (but certainly more so), my fight, for the sake of the victims, is with the religion's numerous cancerous teachings and the fundamentalists who seek to impose them on the world. Not Muslims.

Of course, if the topic comes up in conversation I will speak honestly - but I see no need to use language reserved for the likes of the Pope when in the company of friends.

Which, even when directed solely at ideas themselves, still sets people off. Perhaps on the smallest of hair-triggers too - which, while it can be annoying (to say the least), is fine. When I say/write something publicly, everyone who comes into contact with it has the right to legitimately and intellectually criticise it. The only place a thought I have is safe from judgement is in my own brain, and rightly so.

I just wish that others would feel the same, because it's funny how often something like this happens in public discussion (especially in America):

Person A: I think that black people are inferior.

Person B: That's terrible! I think you're wrong, and a bigot.


And they never see the irony...

I think the point I'm trying to make (albeit in an unnecessarily roundabout way) is that it's perfectly fine to be occasionally labelled an arrogant, offensive, patronising 'dick Atheist' because if you're vocal about it at all there's bound to be someone who disagrees with you passionately and lazily enough  - at even the smallest detail  - to throw the supposed insult your way. All you should be concerned about is trying to prove them wrong in day-toady life by being anything but... If it worries you.

Carnun :P


(Reposted from 'The Ramblings of a Young Atheist' by the Author.)

Views: 118

Tags: Christianity, Islam, Offence, Religion, Science, Shaha, YAH

Comment by H3xx on July 13, 2013 at 1:13am

I believe that if you intend to speak the truth to someone, then you should speak nothing but the truth as you see it. To politely lie, or candy coat the truth for the sake of sensitive feelings is dishonest and dishonorable. Granted your vocabulary should be curved so as to let them know that you're not just slinging insults at them, but I digress. The pursuit of the truth, if it has any meaning at all should include all of the bumps and potholes that come with it. Occasionally there will be someone who is easily bruised and will refuse to speak with you, or even allow their children to know you, but then you just send them a stack of Dr. Sues books as an apology, and let the seeds of Curiosity be sown that way. I know, I'm a moral mad scientist.

Comment by Carnun Marcus-Page on July 13, 2013 at 10:30am

H3xx: Well said, thank you ;)

Comment by Brandon Dardano on July 13, 2013 at 11:18am

Truth is a structure of morality; a virtue. Morality is a structure of religious thought. An atheist spreading their truth in an unabated way is not very different from a Christian spreading their truth in an unabated way. 

You can be an atheist and study DNA, create vaccines, invent new computing algorithms, give people advice, etc.

You can be a Christian and study evolutionary biology, Quantum mechanics, create useful new chemicals, etc.

It doesn't matter what you DO BELIEVE. It matters far more what you DO irrespective of what you BELIEVE.

Attention atheists... you can't prove a Christian wrong. The bible is infallible. It can't be proven right OR wrong... that's why religion is based on faith. Go to church, as an atheist, and see the faith these people have in a non-existing being. See the ultimate power of persuasion. See the domestication of homo sapiens sapiens. Only then, and I doubt you would, should you judge religion on the basis of its sectarian ideology. 

soooo any thoughts?

Comment by H3xx on July 13, 2013 at 12:14pm

@Brandon Dardano

There are a few primary differences, The first and foremost is that we rely on evidence. Can evidence be wrong? No, it can lead us astray if we are not vigilant, but this brings me to my second point.

Atheists Admit when they are proven wrong and adjust their views accordingly. We adapt quickly and surely. It took nearly 6 centuries for the church to admit that it was wrong to persecute the Jews. It took less than a decade for the majority of the scientific world to shun nuclear weapons.

So, not only do we speak the truth openly and honestly, we are quick to accept new proof, if it passes examination. We won't believe something just because somebody says so, but if substantial proof is presented, consider me a believer. Remember, however, the bible is the claim, not the evidence.

Comment by max stirner on July 13, 2013 at 4:33pm

** a ‘persuasion theory’ of reasoning is unpersuasive and fallacious

If reasoning about nature (in physical science) or human action (in courts of law) were used only to persuade; then, there would only be successful persuasion and unsuccessful persuasion.

To mistake being persuaded that a statement is true with that statement’s being true is a blatant conceptual error. No matter how many persons over the years have been literally indoctrinated by a xian culture to a belief that “Christ rose from the dead” -- that statement is factually false, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Persuading is no proxy for determining truth or falsity of any statement. To imagine otherwise plays directly into the unreasonable techniques of xian apologetics.

• Knowledge can only be a public object. It is not a psychological (brain) state. No (empirical) statement can can be accepted as knowledge without publicly available evidence based on legitimate methods for its being true.

Religion and morality therefore contain no knowledge. There are no experts “on God” -- there are no experts on morality. That’s why the so-called socratic search for moral wisdom was not wrong factually, but conceptually flawed.

Comment by H3xx on July 13, 2013 at 9:49pm

there are no experts on morality.

I would beg to differ, if anyone could be considered an expert on human morality, I would say that Sam Harris is. In his book, "The Moral Landscape",  he explores human morality, both in religious and secular perspectives, and imparts a deep understanding of how people use and react to morality in their day to day lives. Philosophers explore the boundaries of human morality based on current culture and other aspects that influence people all the time.

The most important thing to consider when teaching people how to think, is to make them understand that a sense of wonder must be combined with a healthy skepticism, to explore strange new ideas, and test them on not only whether or not they are true, but also on how it may affect other people.

Knowledge can only be a public object. It is not a psychological (brain) state.

The pursuit and value of knowledge is what we seek, and yes it must be publicly available. Information should be free and vigorously distributed to all people. Learning is the road to progress, not conformity.


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