You Respond: The Phases of Belief and Disbelief

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You Respond: The Phases of Belief and Disbelief

For details/rules, please see The Unapologetics Challenge.

The first entry in the Unapologetics Challenge is a blog by Godheval, The Phases of Belief and Disbelief, describing "militant atheists" who "rebel violently", "screaming and yelling" like "rebellious teenagers" who need to "grow up". These, of course, are how he describes so-called 'new atheists'. Presumably, he's the grown up in the metaphor.

Poor guy has ZERO comments! Maybe somebody can help him out with some comment love?

IMPORTANT: Remember to comment on the original blog post. Comments to this RRS post can be considered the 'peanut gallery', but don't count as fulfilling the challenge.


The Phases of Belief and Disbelief

As children, we believe mostly whatever we are told – by parents, family, teachers, and even friends. We hear a story and we do not know – until it is clarified by another – whether or not the story is real or make-believe.

Then as teenagers it is common for us to go through a rebellious phase – not necessarily acting outside of any established moral or ethical framework, but daring to venture out on our own, to establish our identities as individuals, and to explore for ourselves what constitutes “truth”. Sometimes we act like raving lunatics just to be contrary.

Then we enter adulthood, and invariably become more “grounded”, learning to temper our youthful passions, to focus that energy towards more “practical” pursuits.  We learn balance, objectivity, humility.  We are able – in most cases – to reconcile our personal views with the fact that others have different views.

We grow up.

It occurred to me recently that there may be a parallel between this maturation from childhood to adulthood, and people’s progression through different phases of belief and disbelief.  Of course not everyone has the journey through belief and/or disbelief, just as we don’t all mature at the same pace or experience the same things at any given point in our lives.  So the parallel I am drawing is meant to be generic and abstract, rather than a precise comparison.

mere-christianityFor those of us who grow up in religious households, we are taught our parents’ beliefs, go to their church, temple, or mosque if they have one, and are saddled with our parents morals, ethics, and any baggage that might come with it.  We take what we are given at face value, accept it as truth, due to the trust we place in those that have proven themselves by caring for us.  But unlike our natural inevitable journey into adolescence, many people never push beyond the beliefs instilled in them during childhood, they do not dare to venture out on their own, to establish their own personal religious identity.

More often than not, those who do not “progress” beyond this stage are the fundamentalists of any given theology, the hardliners, the literalists.  These are people who retain their childhood stories but never learned to look at it with grown-up eyes, to appreciate things like subtlety, nuance, multiple interpretations – like only appreciating poetry where it rhymes, rather than being able to read between the lines.

For those that do move to the next phase, however,  some rebel violently against their former beliefs and institutions – or at least the most vile version or perception of those institutions.  Perhaps they rebel due to a falling out with a parent or preacher or other authority figure.  Perhaps because of some major discrepancy between what we’ve been told to think and what we’ve reasoned for ourselves or even directly experienced.  This discrepancy usually has some noteworthy psychological impact, forcing a person not just to let go of their beliefs, but to run away from them screaming and yelling.

God_Is_Not_Great_-_Christopher_HitchensThese are the militant atheists, who far from simply establishing themselves as individuals “free” of religion, feel some pressing need to return to their old beliefs and institutions with venom and fire, to criticize and belittle them.  In this way they are just as tethered to those old institutions as they always were, their identities as atheists dependent upon there being a religion against which to rebel.

Just as angry teenagers do not listen to their parents’ reasoning, their attempts to defend their choices, militant atheists do not listen to the more rational believers, the liberal theologians.  They are too busy screaming and yelling.  They need to cast religion and religious people as villains against whom they must stand in opposition.  The ironic thing is that they become the very thing that they are trying to rebel against, like the worst nightmare of any rebellious teenager – to become just like their parents.

The new atheists, who attack a repugnant version of religion, use it to condemn all religion. They use it to deny the reality and importance of the religious impulse. They are curiously unable to comprehend those who found through their religious convictions the strength to stand up against injustice…The new atheists, like all fundamentalists, flee from complexity. They can cope with religion in its most primitive and abusive form. They are helpless when confronted by a faith that challenges their caricatures.

America’s New Fundamentalists pp. 33-34

My experience with this involved some evangelicals and their implication that my mother, for her experimenting with Buddhism and other religions, would be condemned to Hell.  Another example can be seen in the movie The God Who Wasn’t There, which presented itself as a critique of religion and the Jesus myth, but by the end revealed itself to be one man’s personal vendetta against his religious upbringing and parochial school.  Much like a teenager finally getting to tell her parents all the things they did wrong in raising her.

atheist-defends-religionFinally, though, the incendiary passions of militant atheism, like adolescence, are tempered through a sort of rational – rather than physical – maturity.  We learn to read religion like poetry – to understand subtlety, nuance, interpretation.  We learn that no one interpretation is necessarily right or wrong, but that they simply are.  This is not to say that we become believers again, but we no longer categorically deny the possibility – or legitimacy – of believing again.  And should we choose not to believe, we are able to make peace with religion, to reconcile our disbelief with others’ belief, to accept that disbelief is merely another interpretation of our experience.

To clarify, I do not mean to imply any qualitative difference between people at the different stages of belief or disbelief.  I do not think that people at any given stage are better than any other, no more than adults are better people than teenagers, or teenagers better people than young children.  They all simply have different ways of viewing and interpreting the world and their experiences within it.  I do contend, however, that just as adults tend to be better educated, better adjusted, and to possess greater wisdom for their length of experience, those who have progressed to the “third phase” are also wiser and better adjusted.  They are more capable of higher order thinking, more rational, more objective, and more established and comfortable within their identities.

They are independent enough to think for themselves, to make their own choices, and wise enough to look deeper into things rather than taking them at face value.  They are secure enough that they no longer need to prove themselves against the standards or norms of another.  They are grounded enough to no longer need to fly to the attack on others’ beliefs, or the defense of their own.

In short, they have grown up.


IMPORTANT: Remember to comment on the original blog post. Comments to this RRS post can be considered the 'peanut gallery', but don't count as fulfilling the challenge.

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RatDog
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Ok, I've posted something. 

Ok, I've posted something.  It says that "Your comment must be approved by the site admins before it will appear publicly."  I wonder if it's going to get through. 


Wonderist
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Cool. Are you FrenchPencil?

Cool. Are you FrenchPencil? If so, it looks like he's responded already.

Apparently, he doesn't need evidence because it's all opinion anyway. Furthermore, even though it's just opinion, apparently you either don't understand what he wrote, or you're in the first stage (translation: He's calling you a baby). But that's just his opinion, right? So you're not allowed to challenge him. Cuz it's just his opinion... you baby. BTW: Grow up!

lol

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v4ultingbassist
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Ditto. Though I must admit,

Ditto.

 

Though I must admit, I was a bit militant. 


v4ultingbassist
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natural wrote:Cool. Are you

natural wrote:

Cool. Are you FrenchPencil? If so, it looks like he's responded already.

Apparently, he doesn't need evidence because it's all opinion anyway. Furthermore, even though it's just opinion, apparently you either don't understand what he wrote, or you're in the first stage (translation: He's calling you a baby). But that's just his opinion, right? So you're not allowed to challenge him. Cuz it's just his opinion... you baby. BTW: Grow up!

lol

 

I definitely implied that he was the one who needs to grow up... lol


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Yes, I was FrenchPencil. 

Yes, I was FrenchPencil.  Strangely RadDog was already taken. 

 

edit:  I just made a reply to his statement. 


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v4ultingbassist

v4ultingbassist wrote:

Ditto.

 

Though I must admit, I was a bit militant. 

What, did you strap on a vest bomb, or something? Militant makes no sense to me if there's no violence involved or implied.

 

Interesting. He has edited his first reply to RatDog. When I read it earlier and commented here on it, it was way more dismissive than the current version.

 

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v4ultingbassist
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natural

natural wrote:

v4ultingbassist wrote:

Ditto.

 

Though I must admit, I was a bit militant. 

What, did you strap on a vest bomb, or something? Militant makes no sense to me if there's no violence involved or implied.

 

Interesting. He has edited his first reply to RatDog. When I read it earlier and commented here on it, it was way more dismissive than the current version.

 

 

Just in the sense that I essentially told him to grow up, aka said something in an almost 'attack' kind of way.

 

Yeah, I saw that too.  I think he kind of realized what ratdog then says in his second reply.

 

I don't know why mine hasn't shown up yet... If it isn't there in the morning I'll try again.  I had meant to copy it to put it on here, but forgot to.


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RatDog wrote:Yes, I was

RatDog wrote:

Yes, I was FrenchPencil.  Strangely RadDog was already taken. 

 

edit:  I just made a reply to his statement. 

Oops, you apologized, without doing anything wrong! You'll make Baby Hitchens sad. lol

Quote:
It seems that you feel you can judge all unbelievers based of your personal experience. I'm sorry if I am misjudging you.

What are you, Canadian? Come on! Minus 10 points.  

 

 

(I'm Canadian, BTW.)

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v4ultingbassist wrote:Just

v4ultingbassist wrote:


Just in the sense that I essentially told him to grow up, aka said something in an almost 'attack' kind of way.

 

Yeah, I saw that too.  I think he kind of realized what ratdog then says in his second reply.

 

I don't know why mine hasn't shown up yet... If it isn't there in the morning I'll try again.  I had meant to copy it to put it on here, but forgot to.

If you have to retry, post a copy of your comment here, so we can see if he has double-standards in his comment moderation.

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RatDog
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natural wrote:RatDog

natural wrote:

RatDog wrote:

Yes, I was FrenchPencil.  Strangely RadDog was already taken. 

 

edit:  I just made a reply to his statement. 

Oops, you apologized, without doing anything wrong! You'll make Baby Hitchens sad. lol

Quote:
It seems that you feel you can judge all unbelievers based of your personal experience. I'm sorry if I am misjudging you.

What are you, Canadian? Come on! Minus 10 points.  

 

(I'm Canadian, BTW.)

Actually I'm in California.  Which makes my attitude somewhat outside the standard deviation on the bell curve of normal.  Unless I'm really angry I tend to be supper polite to people.  This, I must admit, is not always a good thing when it comes to debates. 

So he edited his post.  That would explain why why I was confused when I read what he wrote, and compared it to what you said about his reply.  Well to can play at that game.  There, I just edited away my apology. Suck on that Godheval. Evil


v4ultingbassist
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Quote:If you have to retry,

Quote:

If you have to retry, post a copy of your comment here, so we can see if he has double-standards in his comment moderation.

 

I tried again.  This is what I wrote this time:

 

Godheval, I find it strange that you give examples of fundamentalists, and then 'wise' theists, yet you ONLY talk about militant atheists.  This implies that you think that all atheists are militant.  Also, why are you using the word 'militant?'  Is it because we are acting on our beliefs?  No one calls a jehova's witness militant when they go door-to-door proselytizing.  What about scientologists?  They offer free stress tests so they can explain their beliefs, are they militant too? Your use of the word militant has a negative connotation, and it makes it clear that you look down on atheists, as if they haven't grown up.  I would take you seriously if you didn't single out one group with name-calling like a child.  Maybe you are the one who needs to grow up. 

(I also find it interesting that you said you were trying not to make a qualitative difference between beliefs, even though you imply atheism and fundamentalism are young and stupid while lazy theism is wise and noble.)

 

Now we wait and see...


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He responded again. He's

He responded again. He's pretty slippery, that one. He's actually correct that you misread him as only speaking about 'wise theists' and not also 'wise atheists'. However, I wouldn't get distracted down that path. The major issue is his characterization of 'new atheists'. I think RatDog was on the right track when he challenged him for evidence. He's trying to slip away from any commitments to what he said, though, which I think is even more intellectually dishonest than simply being wrong/biased.

Anyone else got an angle they'd like to try? It looks like a good challenge.

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v4ultingbassist
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"I will contend that I

"I will contend that I misread, however my main purpose in commenting is to help eliminate the use of the word 'militant.'  My points were meant to show that people of various religious faiths share their beliefs with others, but it is the atheist group that has been labeled 'militant.'  I would also argue that the ultimate goal of any 'unapologetic' (a better term if there must be one) atheist is to express their view on the non-existence of the supernatural, while some of the more famous atheists target fundamentalists in an attempt to garner support from those who are religious but see fundamentalism as idiotic."

 

My reply.


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Godheval wrote:Just as angry

Godheval wrote:

Just as angry teenagers do not listen to their parents’ reasoning, their attempts to defend their choices, militant atheists do not listen to the more rational believers, the liberal theologians.  They are too busy screaming and yelling.  They need to cast religion and religious people as villains against whom they must stand in opposition.  The ironic thing is that they become the very thing that they are trying to rebel against, like the worst nightmare of any rebellious teenager – to become just like their parents.

But if we are the one's that don't listen to the other side, why is your material able to be posted on an atheist web site? Theists are welcome to come and debate and present their arguments. Is the same true of "rational believers"? We are booted  off theist web sites, objectional material(aka good arguments) deleted. We are not invited to any church to debate, while atheists are willing to debate anytime anywhere. Why? All religion is business that depends upon censorship to keep the flock brainwashed.

So maybe that's why we're angry, these big lies like you want to have an actual debate and listen to the other side. Truth is you want us to just shut up and not talk to your impressionable youth. That's how you keep people duped. Whereas atheists want to educate children about the arguments on both sides and let them decide.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Hi, EXC, sorry, I guess I

Hi, EXC, sorry, I guess I didn't make it very clear. This was posted as part of The Unapologetics Challenge, where the idea is to go and comment on blogs/news that paints atheists with stereotypes like 'militant' and whatnot. Kinda like a 'you respond' mailbag post, but you actually go to their blog to respond. (I just updated this post to make it more obvious. Sorry bout that.)

Shouldn't be too hard to adapt your comment and put it on his blog, here. Wanna give it a shot?

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