Open letter to Michael Shermer in response to his letter...

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Open letter to Michael Shermer in response to his letter...

Michael Shermer recently wrote an article for Sciam which covers the same issues he spoke about while on our show.

Here is the full original article:

These two blogs offer an opinion that I align myself with...

In defense of Dawkins and the enemies of reason show.

Totally cool atheist chick on the militant/appeasers...

This article reposted on Richard Dawkins site.

_____________________________

Shermer wrote:
Since the turn of the millennium, a new militancy has arisen among religious skeptics in response to three threats to science and freedom: (1) attacks against evolution education and stem cell research; (2) breaks in the barrier separating church and state leading to political preferences for some faiths over others; and (3) fundamentalist terrorism here and abroad. Among many metrics available to track this skeptical movement is the ascension of four books to the august heights of the New York Times best-seller list—Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation (Knopf, 2006), Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell (Viking, 2006), Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great (Hachette Book Group, 2007) and Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)—that together, in Dawkins’s always poignant prose, “raise consciousness to the fact that to be an atheist is a realistic aspiration, and a brave and splendid one. You can be an atheist who is happy, balanced, moral and intellectually fulfilled.” Amen, brother.

Whenever religious beliefs conflict with scientific facts or violate principles of political liberty, we must respond with appropriate aplomb. Nevertheless, we should be cautious about irrational exuberance. I suggest that we raise our consciousness one tier higher for the following reasons.

I don’t see the link here. We should be cautious about irrational exuberance whether it is irrational exuberance by being too extreme or likewise… irrational exuberance about being too passive. I don’t see how you’ve shown that the authors listed have ever reached an irrational exuberance. As you noted on our show you wrote a positive review of The God Delusion, consider Sam Harris a friend, and liked Hitchens book, you just take a different approach then they do. In fact I was surprised to hear you wrote a letter like this considering your recent appearance on our show where it sure seemed like you found quite a bit that you approve of in what we and the authors listed have done.

As we seemed to agree on that show, atheist diversity is acceptable and some will be more passive than others. People like Harris, Dawkins, and we here at the Rational Response Squad understand why someone would want to put a positive foot toward science as opposed to a negative foot toward religion when approaching life. Some people prefer this world outlook so much so that they’ll always be like this. They may even live their entire life without being confrontational towards religious people or its concepts. I understand those people exist, can respect that, and think those people are important. In fact I wish I had it in me to be that type of person. People like Dawkins, Harris, and those close to me simply have a hard time thinking like that. We think we must speak up so that several generations from now our great great grandchildren don’t have to.

I personally was one of these “respectful atheists” for a while. After 8 years of discussing religion online and 8 years of the Christian right gaining power I realized a different approach may be crucial to save our country from the interferences of religion in government. Unfortunately it seems that since our religious population tends to elect leaders that are religious or biased towards religion affecting change at the government level hasn’t always been successful. It would seem then that another approach would in fact be to affect the people, the people who vote. While I very much support the extremely crucial litigious sort of work that several major atheist orgs do, I see changing the hearts and minds of the people as another way to cut off the beasts head. Changing the hearts and minds of the people will occur via a multi pronged approach. Some will best be served by becoming curious and picking up a copy of skeptic magazine. They may find breaking the chains of religion to be calming and enlightening through your magazine. However not everyone operates in this manner. Some people don’t realize there is a reason to rethink questions like God when you pass the age of reason, they’ve been taught to embrace based on faith, and therefore critical examination hasn’t crossed their mind on the issue. A case could be made that the authors listed above were the catalyst for a great many confused people that had no clue that they should turn on their thinking skills and abandon irrational god belief in order to find their solace in life. Different strokes for different folks. We respect that some people will be positively affected by a simply scientific approach and I think we all hope that you, Greg Epstein, and those that align their beliefs with yours find reasons to respect our blunt and yet honest approach. After all if it wasn’t for us (and the authors listed) there would be a lot less attention for the community at large. As Brian Flemming noted in his blog during Epstein Gate, it’s in poor form when atheists receive a platform from blunt talkers like Harris and then use their platform to talk down about his methods.


In response to your bullet points

Shermer wrote:
1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail.

I’d bet a few dollars that Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennett (why is Dennett even part of this list?) would all agree with your first point. I can find positive views of the world and how to live it from all four of the aforementioned gentleman. All of the men listed are well known for holding critical thought and reason on a pedestal. To infer that their movement is simply “anti-something” (I don’t even believe this is a “movement&rdquoEye-wink is to not know much about what the men listed are trying to accomplish. I am sorry to note but feel compelled to note that the view that this “movement” is simply “anti-something” by itself is a view typically held by those with such hate and vitriol for us that they prefer to hold a delusional outlook of our position in an attempt to impugn our character and efforts.

 

Shermer wrote:
2. Positive assertions are necessary. Champion science and reason, as Charles Darwin suggested…

You’ve included a man nicknamed Darwins Rotweiller on your list of “new atheists,” there is certainly much championing of science and evolution from the crew listed. We make tons of positive assertions. For the most part we all agree and assert that “faith is irrational as a means for determining beliefs that are logical to hold” would you agree? It seems awfully odd that this is a point on the list, as I contemplate which positive assertions to list I realize that the list is hundreds of thousands of assertions long, that maybe you’re just not inclined to see it that way, and that maybe I shouldn’t even bother listing any (as I know that you’re already very familiar with their work). Should you seriously not be able to find any positive assertions for science and reason from the works of books listed and from the efforts of groups like mine, I can provide a small list upon request.

 

Shermer wrote:
3. Rational is as rational does. If it is our goal to raise people’s consciousness to the wonders of science and the power of reason, then we must apply science and reason to our own actions. It is irrational to take a hostile or condescending attitude toward religion because by doing so we virtually guarantee that religious people will respond in kind. As Carl Sagan cautioned in “The Burden of Skepticism,” a 1987 lecture, “You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don’t see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it.”

While Sagan was an amazing man, other amazing men have said otherwise. Isn’t it possible that there is rational middle grounds… can you see how a diverse approach from a diverse group can be rational? Engaging in ridicule doesn’t make one irrational if they’ve come to conclude that the person they’re speaking with has become semi-impenetrable to reason. Sometimes people need a reality check and sometimes condescension is just what one needs to kick them into gear.

Sam Harris brought up a good example in a truthdig interview…

“I think this is a war of ideas that has to be fought on a hundred fronts at once. There’s not one piece that is going to trump all others.

But I think we should not underestimate the power of embarrassment. The book Freakonomics briefly discusses the way the Ku Klux Klan lost its subscribers, and the example is instructive. A man named Stetson Kennedy, almost single-handedly it seems, eroded the prestige of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s by joining them and then leaking all of their secret passwords and goofy lingo to the people who were writing “The Adventures of Superman” radio show. Week after week, there were episodes of Superman fighting the Klan, and the real Klan’s mumbo jumbo was put out all over the airwaves for people to laugh at. Kids were playing Superman vs. the Klan on their front lawns. The Klan was humiliated by this, and was made to look foolish; and we went from a world in which the Klan was a legitimate organization with tens of millions of members—many of whom were senators, and even one president—to a world in which there are now something like 5,000 Klansmen. It’s basically a defunct organization.

So public embarrassment is one principle. Once you lift the taboo around criticizing faith and demand that people start talking sense, then the capacity for making religious certitude look stupid will be exploited, and we’ll start laughing at people who believe the things that the Tom DeLays, the Pat Robertsons of the world believe. We’ll laugh at them in a way that will be synonymous with excluding them from our halls of power.”

Again, why is Daniel Dennett on this list?

Shermer wrote:
4. The golden rule is symmetrical. In the words of the greatest conscious­ness raiser of the 20th century, Mart­in Luther King, Jr., in his epic “I Have a Dream” speech: “In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrong­ful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.” If atheists do not want theists to prejudge them in a negative light, then they must not do unto theists the same.

I speak up because I see a travesty on our planet. I see a society with tons of promise and hope but its being hindered. The science that we hold near and dear is under attack, it’s happened before (see: burning of Alexandria Library). At this moment in time it’s important for us to call a spade a spade. Those who have a belief in a god are not able to logically, philosophically, or scientifically defend their view. We know that faith is not a valid means of determining the existence of anything, and we should be pointing this out… this is science! If I held a belief that I couldn’t prove you can bet your life fortune that I’d want someone to call me out on it. I don’t care if they’re calling me out on it with all the kindness they can muster or all the hatred they can spew. I want to be called out on claims that I make illogically and I want to live in a world where it’s ok and normal for us to do this all the time. So when you speak of the golden rule, keep in mind that from what I know of myself and all of the authors mentioned we are in fact acting exactly as we would want others to act towards us.

My last problem with this point is your first three points. You’ve implied or inferred inaccurately that that “new atheists” or the authors listed, or whoever you’re referring to are simply anti something, don’t embrace science, don’t make assertions, and aren’t rational… which to me is either one big “prejudgment” or one incredibly jaded and vacuous view of the position of those listed.

Shermer wrote:
5. Promote freedom of belief and disbelief. A higher moral principle that encompasses both science and religion is the freedom to think, believe and act as we choose, so long as our thoughts, beliefs and actions do not infringe on the equal freedom of others. As long as religion does not threaten science and freedom, we should be respectful and tolerant because our freedom to disbelieve is inextricably bound to the freedom of others to believe.

But religion does threaten science it does threaten our freedom, it has for a great many years, as illustrated in each of the books from the authors you’ve listed. You said you read their books, right? This last point of yours seems like you’ve given us an open pass. You say as long as it doesn’t threaten science and freedom we should be respectful, but since it does threaten science and freedom one could infer that you think we can be disrespectful.

On the issue at hand… we noted in our podcast with you, we promote freedom of disbelief, I believe to some extent all of the authors you mentioned do as well, and inferring that they don’t is a gross mischaracterization of their position.

Shermer wrote:
As King, in addition, noted: “The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”

Rational atheism values the truths of science and the power of reason, but the principle of freedom stands above both science and religion.

I agree with King. Through scientific understanding some day hopefully the majority of the planet will understand how in fact we are all connected, and that there is actual proof for the claim that we’re all related. We care for the future of humanity and all humanity and that is why we speak up, not because we’re Nazis, fascists, freedom haters, racist, or prejudice. I hate to have to point it out yet again, but inferring any of those negative stigmas again is a gross mischaracterization of the authors positions and an opinion typically held by those deluding themselves to reinforce theistic self delusions.

A Rational Atheist,

Brian Sapient


LosingStreak06
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Yeah, I'm sure that an open

Yeah, I'm sure that an open letter from Michael Shermer of all people will convince them not to ride the cash cow that is writing anti-theistic literature. I mean, let's be honest, even if they weren't all totally convinced that their tirade against religion was completely righteous and justified, it's hard to argue with the money being put into your pocket. It's damn hard.


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LosingStreak06 wrote: it's

LosingStreak06 wrote:
it's hard to argue with the money being put into your pocket. It's damn hard.

$$$

Good night, funny man, and thanks for the laughter.


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LosingStreak06 wrote: Yeah,

LosingStreak06 wrote:
Yeah, I'm sure that an open letter from Michael Shermer of all people will convince them not to ride the cash cow that is writing anti-theistic literature. I mean, let's be honest, even if they weren't all totally convinced that their tirade against religion was completely righteous and justified, it's hard to argue with the money being put into your pocket. It's damn hard.

It's a good thing there are plenty of theists who set a good example on this front, not exploiting religion for their own personal gain.

 


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LosingStreak06 wrote:Yeah,

LosingStreak06 wrote:
Yeah, I'm sure that an open letter from Michael Shermer of all people will convince them not to ride the cash cow that is writing anti-theistic literature. I mean, let's be honest, even if they weren't all totally convinced that their tirade against religion was completely righteous and justified, it's hard to argue with the money being put into your pocket. It's damn hard.

Let's just sit and ponder for a moment the hypocrisy of a theist complaining about atheists making $$ from "anti-theistic literature".

An atheist puts his mind to work and tells the truth (highly un-popular), thereby making a little money.  Add in a few thousand death threats and the seething hatred of millions of people and you'll probably be spending that money on security.

A theist will sell an untrue myth (popular) to the vulnerable, indoctrinate the vulnerable's young and often will be very well paid for it.  Many of those will claim to heal multiple millions of afflictions for the right price while living in luxury and splendor.  Get huge tax breaks from the government, be granted absolution for some of the most horrible crimes in history, beg humans for their $$$ while keeping those same humans mentally and emotionally enslaved to an ideology.  

Is that about right ?  Maybe I missed the fact that there are a dozen "atheist" bookstores in every town in America devoted to nothing but books on atheism and kitschy atheism memorabilia.  Or is that theism?

Someone should tell Mel Gibson that the $371 million dollar piece of crap he put out (and made on the movie) is pocket change compared to what a movie on atheism could bring in.  Who knew ?

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."
George Orwell


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I quite enjoyed that letter.

I quite enjoyed that letter. I do agree with it, no matter how much I do enjoy debunking religion and irrationality. I think the problem is that many theists want to know why we are atheists as if we're the ones with the crazy, insane worldview. When that happens I can't see any other option but to show them why it is them who are the crazy ones.


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Thank you, Pile, for

Thank you, Pile, for pointing this out. It is exactly what I have tried to say in the past, but much better said.

To those Bible-thumpers: Remember that the Bible is the best selling book of all time. Don't make yourselves look like fools by disparaging the money a book makes.

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- Douglas Adams, Salmon of Doubt


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Pile wrote: LosingStreak06

Pile wrote:

LosingStreak06 wrote:
Yeah, I'm sure that an open letter from Michael Shermer of all people will convince them not to ride the cash cow that is writing anti-theistic literature. I mean, let's be honest, even if they weren't all totally convinced that their tirade against religion was completely righteous and justified, it's hard to argue with the money being put into your pocket. It's damn hard.

It's a good thing there are plenty of theists who set a good example on this front, not exploiting religion for their own personal gain.

Truth. But I wasn't trying to hold them in contempt. If their truth sells, then so be it. I'm certainly not going to judge them for that. I was merely inquiring as to just what Shermer thought he was going to accomplish with the letter. It would be comperable to some quasi-famous theist writing a similar letter to Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh.

AmericanIdle wrote:
Let's just sit and ponder for a moment the hypocrisy of a theist complaining about atheists making $$ from "anti-theistic literature".

It's not a complaint. Sheesh, you people are so quick to cry foul that it sometimes makes my head spin.


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Jacob Cordingley wrote: I

Jacob Cordingley wrote:
I can't see any other option but to show them why it is them who are the crazy ones.

 

There's nothing wrong with that. The point is that we must show everybody why reason, logic, and skepticism are better than blind faith. Insults alone won't help anybody. Though they are fun...

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I find the whole business of religion profoundly interesting. But it does mystify me that otherwise intelligent people take it seriously.
- Douglas Adams, Salmon of Doubt


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LosingStreak06 wrote:

LosingStreak06 wrote:
Pile wrote:

It's a good thing there are plenty of theists who set a good example on this front, not exploiting religion for their own personal gain.

Truth. But I wasn't trying to hold them in contempt. If their truth sells, then so be it. I'm certainly not going to judge them for that. I was merely inquiring as to just what Shermer thought he was going to accomplish with the letter. It would be comperable to some quasi-famous theist writing a similar letter to Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh.

You're comparing Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris to Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh?

That's a strong contender for the most ignorant analogy I've ever heard.

Dawkins, Harris and other freethinkers are men of science, whose alliegance is to TRUTH AND REASON. They're not afraid to admit they are wrong or correct their claims when reality contradicts their contention.

Contrast this with lying, scum-sucking partisan HACKS like O'Reilly, Coulter and Limbaugh who don't give a RAT'S ASS about any "reality", "truth" or "evidence" that contradicts their pre-conceived notion of the way everything works. An IED could go off in Bill O'Reilly's ass and he'd still claim conservatives have terrorism under control.

If you don't understand this distinction let me be the latest person to suggest you're a clueless idiot.

Sorry, but comparing a well-referenced, well-documented book written by people with actual fucking credentials, and specific experience in the field they're addressing, with two-bit pro-corporate propaganda and mean-spirited hatemongering from a bunch of idiots who have absolutely no credentials nor legitimate experience in the fields they lecture about is just fucking obnoxious and insulting to anyone with an I.Q. above that of a chicken!

 


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Max Wilder wrote:

Max Wilder wrote:

Thank you, Pile, for pointing this out. It is exactly what I have tried to say in the past, but much better said.

Don't thank me yet... I think Michael Shermer's diatribe is stupid. I just posted it here to see what other people thought.

Michael Shermer does a disservice to the freethought movement by moving into the slaveowner's house with watered down rhetoric asking for a live-and-let-live approach towards dealing with mentally retarded people who are systemmatically trying to destroy the world.

Let's address some of his goofy claims:

1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail.

Tell that to the anti-slavery movement, or the anti-smoking movement. There are plenty of examples throughout history where beliefs, actions and behavior that have been shown to be harmful have been altered, curtailed or abolished.

2. Positive assertions are necessary.

Oh really? So that's why relgion works? Because of all the "positive assertions" that are made? Not because any of the hellfire and brimstone, original sin, you're-going-to-die-if-you-don't-repent crap eh?

3. Rational is as rational does. IOW it's not rational to be condescending...

Again, this doesn't jive with the M.O. of theist leaders. They even have their own term to describe their brand of condecending arrogance: They call it self-righteousness. Shermer really shows off how insecure he is with this boneheaded contention.

4. The golden rule is symmetrical.

This may be the only thing that I agree with, but Shermer still doesn't get it. Let me be the first to make it clear to him and everyone else: If I'm delusional and suffering from mental retardation, I certainly would appreciate it if someone told me in no uncertain terms, that way I can seek treatment a lot sooner. Just because theists "can't handle the truth" doesn't mean the rest of us are little babies and need to be treated with kid gloves.

5. Promote freedom of belief and disbelief.

This is just insulting to anyone who has any goddam clue what the anti-theism movement is about. IF belief was personal and not institutional, Shermer's suggestion might have some weight, but the freethinking movement has never suggested personal belief be sanctioned. It's the personal belief that becomes publicly promoted and pushed as policy and law and political correctness that we have an issue with. When every theist on the planet respects AND DEFENDS the separation of church and state, then and only then will Shermer's idiotic, utopian, bong-hit-influenced, pipe-dream-of-a-world-where theists and atheists respect each other have any chance of existing.

So freethinkers need to take the high road eh Shermer? Exactly what good does that do in this day and age? Have you looked around at the dynamics of communication these days? Do you see the will of the majority prevailing in ANY arena where there's a minority force with more aggressiveness? Oh wait, Jesus said, "The meek shall inherit the earth" and what happened to him? Oh that's right, he got nailed to a goddam cross!  And it's all of god's "meek" followers who now rule the world.

 

 

 


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I decided to look at his

I decided to look at his arguments myself. I wrote this before reading what you did pile so sorry if I repeat you somewhere. Although I'm pretty sure I am because you were talking in the chatroom about this...

 

1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail.

“Atheists cannot simply define themselves by what they do not believe.” It might come as a shocker to that is what an atheist is then... You say anti movements don't work yet we have had the anti-slavery and anti-smoking movements. Those I think you would agree have had some level of success. But you know it isn't as much of an anti movement as you think though. It pro-rationality and it just so happens that people are starting to get less fearful and more vocal.

2. Positive assertions are necessary.

That quote was over endorsing an anti-religious book, no? A long time ago, no? But if you want a positive assertion here it is. “Rational thought is needed for the world to have progress or truths to be found.”

3. Rational is as rational does.

Having a spine doesn't mean I am trying to be condescending or hostile, but if you want argue faith is equal to rational thought we might have a problem.

4. The golden rule is symmetrical.

You talk about being viewed in a negative light like it hasn't been that way before. If the golden is what you want by all means have it. I'd love for people to be honest with me.

5. Promote freedom of belief and disbelief.

This argument is pretty much doomed to fail from the start. You say you want to promote freedom of belief, but not the belief in the freedom to criticize beliefs. That is what you are doing by the way. Also I'd like to know how talking is going to stop someone from believing in a unfair way? Is that they hear something convincing or something?


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I would agree with you if I

I would agree with you if I saw any evidence that your attiude was beneficial.

But every single time I see that aggressive, abusive, elitist attitude thrown at a theist, they simply pull back into their rose-colored delusion, except this time with even more hatred for the satanic atheist.

The part of the human mind that compartmentalizes magical thinking is like a child. You will not get that child to grow up by abusing them.

1. The anti-smoking campaign is gaining ground, but still has a long way to go. That is with the added benefit of tabacco users dying in droves!

Anti-slavery: failed until violence was used.
Abolition: failed
Anti-drugs: failing
Anti-war: failing
Anti-abortion: failing

The point isn't even that anti- movements don't work, the point is that substitution works far better. If you take away something, you'd better put something good in it's place, otherwise a typical human will latch on to the nearest thing that resembles what they lost.

We are trying to promote logic and reason in all aspects of life. Our efforts will be much more successful if we keep this in mind. After tearing down the theist talking point, we must then immediately point out how logic and reason make more sense and are more beneficial to the world.

2. The positive assertions of religion are redemption and heaven. The carrot and stick approach is the best method of training any animal, including humans. Though I am growing to despise religion, it is not all hellfire and brimstone. The warm-fuzzy part is what most people gravitate towards. And in my opinion, the greatest fault of the atheist movement is that it lacks the warm-fuzzy.

3. You really want to emulate the worst of the theists? Besides, those self-righteous pricks really only command the attention of the aged and weak-minded. Most religious people are much more moderate.

4. If you were delusional and suffering from mental retardation, you think somebody simply telling you that to your face would change anything? Especially if 90% of the people around you were suffering from the exact same affliction?!? They must be gently led, or they will not be led at all. You speak of theists who "can't handle the truth" as if they were a minority that could be treated harshly without repercussions. Please allow me to disabuse you of that notion. Yes, they are babies. They need to be treated with kid gloves. Otherwise they will find a shotgun and explain their feelings with both barrels.

5. Freedom of religion is merely the foundation of what we need to work for. Obviously the worst of the self-righteous theists will not work for this, but rather push their own agendas. It is up to us along with the more rational theists to ensure they don't get their way. In this way, it is imperitive that we respect one another so that we can work together for this fundamental right.

-----
I find the whole business of religion profoundly interesting. But it does mystify me that otherwise intelligent people take it seriously.
- Douglas Adams, Salmon of Doubt


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This reminds me of, what I

This reminds me of, what I beleive to be, a mistake Dawkins, Hitcens, and Harris make in debates.  They site facts.  This is not to say that their facts are inaccurate or that facts don't have value but, monotheists have had at least 2000 years to gather an indefinate amount of positive facts for their cause.  This means if one brings up a fact about how a Leader is using religion to justify murder, all a monotheist has to do is bring up facts of individuals using religion to justify helping those in need, thus, lending support to their overly used proposition "They are misusing religion, not following religion".  What they all need to focus on and stress is the implicatios of appealing to a higher power to explain morality since, at least for Hitchens and Harris, this is their real criticism of religion and quite possibly the strongest.

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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My response....

Quote:
Since the turn of the millennium, a new militancy has arisen among religious skeptics in response to three threats to science and freedom: (1) attacks against evolution education and stem cell research; (2) breaks in the barrier separating church and state leading to political preferences for some faiths over others; and (3) fundamentalist terrorism here and abroad. Among many metrics available to track this skeptical movement is the ascension of four books to the august heights of the New York Times best-seller list—Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation (Knopf, 2006), Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell (Viking, 2006), Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great (Hachette Book Group, 2007) and Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)—that together, in Dawkins’s always poignant prose, “raise consciousness to the fact that to be an atheist is a realistic aspiration, and a brave and splendid one. You can be an atheist who is happy, balanced, moral and intellectually fulfilled.” Amen, brother.

Whenever religious beliefs conflict with scientific facts or violate principles of political liberty, we must respond with appropriate aplomb. Nevertheless, we should be cautious about irrational exuberance. I suggest that we raise our consciousness one tier higher for the following reasons.

I don’t see the link here. We should be cautious about irrational exuberance whether it is irrational exuberance by being too extreme or likewise… irrational exuberance about being too passive. I don’t see how you’ve shown that the authors listed have ever reached an irrational exuberance. As you noted on our show you wrote a positive review of The God Delusion, consider Sam Harris a friend, and liked Hitchens book, you just take a different approach then they do. In fact I was surprised to hear you wrote a letter like this considering your recent appearance on our show where it sure seemed like you found quite a bit that you approve of in what we and the authors listed have done.

As we seemed to agree on that show, atheist diversity is acceptable and some will be more passive than others. People like Harris, Dawkins, and we here at the Rational Response Squad understand why someone would want to put a positive foot toward science as opposed to a negative foot toward religion when approaching life. Some people prefer this world outlook so much so that they’ll always be like this. They may even live their entire life without being confrontational towards religious people or its concepts. I understand those people exist, can respect that, and think those people are important. In fact I wish I had it in me to be that type of person. People like Dawkins, Harris, and those close to me simply have a hard time thinking like that. We think we must speak up so that several generations from now our great great grandchildren don’t have to.

I personally was one of these “respectful atheists” for a while. After 8 years of discussing religion online and 8 years of the Christian right gaining power I realized a different approach may be crucial to save our country from the interferences of religion in government. Unfortunately it seems that since our religious population tends to elect leaders that are religious or biased towards religion affecting change at the government level hasn’t always been successful. It would seem then that another approach would in fact be to affect the people, the people who vote. While I very much support the extremely crucial litigious sort of work that several major atheist orgs do, I see changing the hearts and minds of the people as another way to cut off the beasts head. Changing the hearts and minds of the people will occur via a multi pronged approach. Some will best be served by becoming curious and picking up a copy of skeptic magazine. They may find breaking the chains of religion to be calming and enlightening through your magazine. However not everyone operates in this manner. Some people don’t realize there is a reason to rethink questions like God when you pass the age of reason, they’ve been taught to embrace based on faith, and therefore critical examination hasn’t crossed their mind on the issue. A case could be made that the authors listed above were the catalyst for a great many confused people that had no clue that they should turn on their thinking skills and abandon irrational god belief in order to find their solace in life. Different strokes for different folks. We respect that some people will be positively affected by a simply scientific approach and I think we all hope that you, Greg Epstein, and those that align their beliefs with yours find reasons to respect our blunt and yet honest approach. After all if it wasn’t for us (and the authors listed) there would be a lot less attention for the community at large. As Brian Flemming noted in his blog during Epstein Gate, it’s in poor form when atheists receive a platform from blunt talkers like Harris and then use their platform to talk down about his methods.

 

In response to your bullet points


Quote:
1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail.

 

I’d bet a few dollars that Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennett (why is Dennett even part of this list?) would all agree with your first point. I can find positive views of the world and how to live it from all four of the aforementioned gentleman. All of the men listed are well known for holding critical thought and reason on a pedestal. To infer that their movement is simply “anti-something” (I don’t even believe this is a “movement”) is to not know much about what the men listed are trying to accomplish. I am sorry to note but feel compelled to note that the view that this “movement” is simply “anti-something” by itself is a view typically held by those with such hate and vitriol for us that they prefer to hold a delusional outlook of our position in an attempt to impugn our character and efforts.

 

 

Quote:
2. Positive assertions are necessary. Champion science and reason, as Charles Darwin suggested…

 

You’ve included a man nicknamed Darwins Rotweiller on your list of “new atheists,” there is certainly much championing of science and evolution from the crew listed. We make tons of positive assertions. For the most part we all agree and assert that “faith is irrational as a means for determining beliefs that are logical to hold” would you agree? It seems awfully odd that this is a point on the list, as I contemplate which positive assertions to list I realize that the list is hundreds of thousands of assertions long, that maybe you’re just not inclined to see it that way, and that maybe I shouldn’t even bother listing any (as I know that you’re already very familiar with their work). Should you seriously not be able to find any positive assertions for science and reason from the works of books listed and from the efforts of groups like mine, I can provide a small list upon request.

 

 

Quote:
3. Rational is as rational does. If it is our goal to raise people’s consciousness to the wonders of science and the power of reason, then we must apply science and reason to our own actions. It is irrational to take a hostile or condescending attitude toward religion because by doing so we virtually guarantee that religious people will respond in kind. As Carl Sagan cautioned in “The Burden of Skepticism,” a 1987 lecture, “You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don’t see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it.”

While Sagan was an amazing man, other amazing men have said otherwise. Isn’t it possible that there is rational middle grounds… can you see how a diverse approach from a diverse group can be rational? Engaging in ridicule doesn’t make one irrational if they’ve come to conclude that the person they’re speaking with has become semi-impenetrable to reason. Sometimes people need a reality check and sometimes condescension is just what one needs to kick them into gear.

Sam Harris brought up a good example in a truthdig interview…

“I think this is a war of ideas that has to be fought on a hundred fronts at once. There’s not one piece that is going to trump all others.

But I think we should not underestimate the power of embarrassment. The book Freakonomics briefly discusses the way the Ku Klux Klan lost its subscribers, and the example is instructive. A man named Stetson Kennedy, almost single-handedly it seems, eroded the prestige of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s by joining them and then leaking all of their secret passwords and goofy lingo to the people who were writing “The Adventures of Superman” radio show. Week after week, there were episodes of Superman fighting the Klan, and the real Klan’s mumbo jumbo was put out all over the airwaves for people to laugh at. Kids were playing Superman vs. the Klan on their front lawns. The Klan was humiliated by this, and was made to look foolish; and we went from a world in which the Klan was a legitimate organization with tens of millions of members—many of whom were senators, and even one president—to a world in which there are now something like 5,000 Klansmen. It’s basically a defunct organization.

So public embarrassment is one principle. Once you lift the taboo around criticizing faith and demand that people start talking sense, then the capacity for making religious certitude look stupid will be exploited, and we’ll start laughing at people who believe the things that the Tom DeLays, the Pat Robertsons of the world believe. We’ll laugh at them in a way that will be synonymous with excluding them from our halls of power.”

Again, why is Daniel Dennett on this list?

 

 

Quote:
4. The golden rule is symmetrical. In the words of the greatest conscious­ness raiser of the 20th century, Mart­in Luther King, Jr., in his epic “I Have a Dream” speech: “In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrong­ful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.” If atheists do not want theists to prejudge them in a negative light, then they must not do unto theists the same.

I speak up because I see a travesty on our planet. I see a society with tons of promise and hope but its being hindered. The science that we hold near and dear is under attack, it’s happened before (see: burning of Alexandria Library). At this moment in time it’s important for us to call a spade a spade. Those who have a belief in a god are not able to logically, philosophically, or scientifically defend their view. We know that faith is not a valid means of determining the existence of anything, and we should be pointing this out… this is science! If I held a belief that I couldn’t prove you can bet your life fortune that I’d want someone to call me out on it. I don’t care if they’re calling me out on it with all the kindness they can muster or all the hatred they can spew. I want to be called out on claims that I make illogically and I want to live in a world where it’s ok and normal for us to do this all the time. So when you speak of the golden rule, keep in mind that from what I know of myself and all of the authors mentioned we are in fact acting exactly as we would want others to act towards us.

My last problem with this point is your first three points. You’ve implied or inferred inaccurately that that “new atheists” or the authors listed, or whoever you’re referring to are simply anti something, don’t embrace science, don’t make assertions, and aren’t rational… which to me is either one big “prejudgment” or one incredibly jaded and vacuous view of the position of those listed.

Quote:
5. Promote freedom of belief and disbelief. A higher moral principle that encompasses both science and religion is the freedom to think, believe and act as we choose, so long as our thoughts, beliefs and actions do not infringe on the equal freedom of others. As long as religion does not threaten science and freedom, we should be respectful and tolerant because our freedom to disbelieve is inextricably bound to the freedom of others to believe.

But religion does threaten science it does threaten our freedom, it has for a great many years, as illustrated in each of the books from the authors you’ve listed. You said you read their books, right? This last point of yours seems like you’ve given us an open pass. You say as long as it doesn’t threaten science and freedom we should be respectful, but since it does threaten science and freedom one could infer that you think we can be disrespectful.

On the issue at hand… we noted in our podcast with you, we promote freedom of disbelief, I believe to some extent all of the authors you mentioned do as well, and inferring that they don’t is a gross mischaracterization of their position.

 

Quote:
As King, in addition, noted: “The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”

Rational atheism values the truths of science and the power of reason, but the principle of freedom stands above both science and religion.

I agree with King. Through scientific understanding some day hopefully the majority of the planet will understand how in fact we are all connected, and that there is actual proof for the claim that we’re all related. We care for the future of humanity and all humanity and that is why we speak up, not because we’re Nazis, fascists, freedom haters, racist, or prejudice. I hate to have to point it out yet again, but inferring any of those negative stigmas again is a gross mischaracterization of the authors positions and an opinion typically held by those deluding themselves to reinforce theistic self delusions.

A Rational Atheist,

Brian Sapient

- Brian Sapient


Buy popular atheist books and support the Rational Response Squad at the same time on Amazon.


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Open letter to atheists in Scientific American

This is probably worthy of discussion:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleId=423C1809-E7F2-99DF-384721C9252B924A

 

Rational Atheism  
An open letter to Messrs. Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens  
By Michael Shermer  

Since the turn of the millennium, a new militancy has arisen among religious skeptics in response to three threats to science and freedom: (1) attacks against evolution education and stem cell research; (2) breaks in the barrier separating church and state leading to political preferences for some faiths over others; and (3) fundamentalist terrorism here and abroad. Among many metrics available to track this skeptical movement is the ascension of four books to the august heights of the New York Times best-seller list—Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation (Knopf, 2006), Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell (Viking, 2006), Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great (Hachette Book Group, 2007) and Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)—that together, in Dawkins’s always poignant prose, “raise consciousness to the fact that to be an atheist is a realistic aspiration, and a brave and splendid one. You can be an atheist who is happy, balanced, moral and intellectually fulfilled.” Amen, brother.

Whenever religious beliefs conflict with scientific facts or violate principles of political liberty, we must respond with appropriate aplomb. Nevertheless, we should be cautious about irrational exuberance. I suggest that we raise our consciousness one tier higher for the following reasons.

1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail. Atheists cannot simply define themselves by what they do not believe. As Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises warned his anti-Communist colleagues in the 1950s: “An anti-something movement displays a purely negative attitude. It has no chance whatever to succeed. Its passionate diatribes virtually advertise the program they attack. People must fight for something that they want to achieve, not simply reject an evil, however bad it may be.”

2. Positive assertions are necessary. Champion science and reason, as Charles Darwin suggested: “It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds which follow[s] from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science.”

3. Rational is as rational does. If it is our goal to raise people’s consciousness to the wonders of science and the power of reason, then we must apply science and reason to our own actions. It is irrational to take a hostile or condescending attitude toward religion because by doing so we virtually guarantee that religious people will respond in kind. As Carl Sagan cautioned in “The Burden of Skepticism,” a 1987 lecture, “You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don’t see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it.”

4. The golden rule is symmetrical. In the words of the greatest conscious­ness raiser of the 20th century, Mart­in Luther King, Jr., in his epic “I Have a Dream” speech: “In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrong­ful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.” If atheists do not want theists to prejudge them in a negative light, then they must not do unto theists the same.

5. Promote freedom of belief and disbelief. A higher moral principle that encompasses both science and religion is the freedom to think, believe and act as we choose, so long as our thoughts, beliefs and actions do not infringe on the equal freedom of others. As long as religion does not threaten science and freedom, we should be respectful and tolerant because our freedom to disbelieve is inextricably bound to the freedom of others to believe.

 


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Criticism is a hopeful process!

When I try to understand the nature of some of these people who promote a more benign, milktoast approach towards addressing such controversial issues, I can't help but come up with the notion that they just don't get it. There's a very important, very crucial aspect of the dynamic of virtually all progress, that some of these so-called learned men, seem to have forgotten:

Progress is problem solving.

Problem solving requires identification and understanding of problems.

Therefore all attempts to identify and understand problems are a positive and hopeful process.

The opposite of this is apathy, nothing more, nothing less.

 

Let me give you an appropriate analogy from my own personal life. I am by trade, a software engineer. I program computers and I design systems. I create processes that if done properly, provide new and helpful services to mankind. I'm not suggesting this in any grandiose sense. I'm just saying, this process helps people.

According to people like Shermer, I have to get my hands dirty with two undesirable aspects before I can help people. First I have to identify a problem to solve. If I was polite, I guess, I could avoid doing so. Then, assuming I commited the offensive transgression of suggesting I had a better idea, I would get to work on it, and all along the way I "debug" the issue, seeking out things that don't seem to work, and removing or replacing them. I could make sure that I do not offend anybody by suggesting there's a better way to do something, or that someone else's system wasn't broken or inferior. But then there would be NO PROGRESS. If there's one thing that most religion has claimed throughout history, it's that nothing is broken, and nothing needs to be fixed with its own dogma, but then it seems every 11.5 seconds a new sect is born from people who disagree with this, but only just enough to take their own sky fairy over to a newer, bigger building.

And this is the basic idea. All progress, in virtually every category of existence is predicated on the idea that something can be improved upon, and the only way you recognize this is by identifying things that don't work well. It's as simple as that. Whether we're talking about a piece of software or a spiritual belief, it's the same thing. If we want to progress, we understand the nature of the issue, find out what's wrong that could be improved and fix it. It's a very hopeful process, but unfortunately for many sensitive people with fragile self-esteem, we might impinge on areas where someone's feelings might get hurt, but ultimately it's in the name of progress.

We're not going to cure cancer by talking nice to people who are dying. We're going to cure cancer by identifying it as early as possible in people, and learning whatever we can by tearing cancer cells apart and finding out how they work. This highly-critical process is at the same time, highly hopeful and positive.

When theists and people like Shermer suggest we should respect other peoples' beliefs, it is antithetical to progress when there is AMPLE evidence that these beliefs are detrimental towards the progress of mankind!

The most obvious example of this is stem cell research.

The theists resistance towards this area of advancement of science is clearly hurting progress.

There is no middle ground here. The argument theists give for avoiding the use of stem cells is based on core beliefs that freethinkers can clearly prove are irrational, hypocritical and meaningless, and just because these beliefs are at the core of their religion does not mean we should play mind games and pretend to respect them when we don't. When it comes to certain aspects that are directly related to dramatically improving the human condition, I think people can afford to be a mentally inconvenienced, and if they can't, fuck 'em. They're a speed bump on the highway.  The sooner we pave over them, which is an inevitablity anyway if we are to move forward, the better.  Notwithstanding the cries by people such as Shermer who suggest we slow down, turn off the road and find a slightly less confrontational way to get to our destination.  Meanwhile people die.

 

 

 


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I wholeheartedly agree with

I wholeheartedly agree with the content of your letter, 100%!

 

If there's anything I dislike more than the irrationality of [religious] faith in being so frightfully detrimental to humanity in numerous ways, it's the irrationality of "faith in faith" as seems to be the position of Shermer and his ilk. However, Shermer is foremost an entrepreneur with a keen sense of business acumen. I think this accounts for his lackluster and very disappointing stance toward opposing the cancer of the religious mindset -- it's better for his magazine business.

 

"And I think it [religion] should be treated with ridicule, and hatred, and contempt -- and I claim that right." ~ Christopher Hitchens, on Freedom of Speech

"How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg." ~ Abraham Lincoln


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I went to Borders yesterday

I went to Borders yesterday because I had heard that there's now an atheist section.

There is. It's an endcap near the very back of the store, facing away from the main aisle, dwarfed by several prominent displays for Tarot cards, Dungeons and Dragons, and How to Get Girls To Fall In Love Through Hypnosis... For Teenage Geeks.

Ok, I made that last title up, but it really is in between D&D and Tarot.

Can you think of a place to put it where it would be any less conspicuous?

There were 6 books on it. Dawkins (1 copy) Dennett (1 copy) Harris (2 copies... It's kind of a small book) Hitchens (1 copy), err... brain fart... can't think of the next one (1 copy) and Bertrand Russell (Why I am Not A Christian) (1 Copy).

I asked one of the girls there, and she said they might have extra copies in back, but she doesn't think so.

So, LosingStreak and anyone else who thinks there's bank in this, I'd like you to note that there was an entire 4 FULL ROWS devoted to Christianity. Then, there was another section for RELIGION. I would guess there were two thousand religious books, easily. If you didn't count earlier, there were 7 books in the atheist 'section'.

If you'd like to compare the numbers for bibles and religious books vs. atheist books for the last five years, or even the last year, I think you'll see where the money is.

Oh, and since when is it a bad thing to write books about what you think is true? Have we ever suggested that Christians stop writing about what they believe? It's their right. We just want them to stop believing it.

 

Quote:
It's not a complaint. Sheesh, you people are so quick to cry foul that it sometimes makes my head spin.

So, why exactly were you pointing out the making money thing?

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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While I agree that

While I agree that promoting science and reason is important, what good will it do if the people we are targeting are already sure they are right, and that we are wrong? In my view and experience, it seems they we will more likely “get through” to these people by first demonstrating how and why their position is wrong (incoherent, illogical, contradictions, factually incorrect, etc), and then progressing to demonstrate that science and reason are far better, by showing how they are better explanations.

Of course, this certainly will not get them to instantly concede that their beliefs are wrong, but this is not the aim. The intention, as I see it, is to plant two seeds: doubt about their beliefs, and the superiority of science and reason. Then hopefully, they will begin to question their beliefs, and in turn be more willing to consider science and evidence. And of course, the advantage of this method is that it is they who are doing the thinking and the questioning, not us telling them what to think. Sure, we planted the seed, but that’s it.

Max Wilder wrote:
If you take away something, you'd better put something good in it's place, otherwise a typical human will latch on to the nearest thing that resembles what they lost.

In a sense I agree, but ultimately, I think what we need to do is not to find a replacement motivation/comfort (which is currently filled by religion) but rather, we need to remove the need for such a replacement to begin with.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Excellent response

I Just wanted to state that Brian Sapient's Open letter to Michael Shermer in response to his letter... was precise  and rational. Very much up to the point. Michael Shermer grew up in a time when it was considered 'the right thing' to be polite to people of faith.  He seems yet to fully grasp the fact that it doesnot work, we need to be more proactive and you have told him why.


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Seems to me that you will

Seems to me that you will ALWAYS need a good cop and a bad cop.  I generaly stick with the good cop route and do what I refer to as "Plant the seed of doubt.".  Noone is going to convert right then and there so all you can do is give them some facts and simply let it fester.  You would be surprised how well that little tactic works.  Smiling

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Honestly, I think your

Honestly, I think your fisking here is mostly a lot of over-excited misreading of the thrust of his piece. Shermer very carefully and specifically worded his piece so as to NOT to accuse any of the people he was writing to of not necessarily doing or agreeing with the things he's saying. His piece is a "let's all remember to keep these things in mind as we move forward and spread these ethics as well" and NOT a "oh you naughty (fellow) atheists!" Nowhere does he say that we shouldn't be forthright and unbending in our criticisms of religious claims and political power grabs.

I mean, half of your responses seem to be angry "but who said Dawkins/Harris/et al wouldn't agree with this!!!" Well, uh yeah, and Shermer didn't necessarily say they wouldn't.  


In fact, your response is in many ways a perfect example of what Shermer is talking about. When someone is constantly outraged and disdainful, they trip over themselves to see enemies and falsehoods everywhere. They de-facto consider the arguments of their then "opponent" to be misguided and not worth considering seriously. And as a result, this leads to sloppiness.

Claims like "Those who have a belief in a god are not able to logically, philosophically, or scientifically defend their view." are pointlessly presumptive (many theists believe the exact same thing about atheism: just about everyone on any subject or importance thinks they are right: so what?).

I'm unconvinced by god claims, find the arguments to be false, misleading or even dishonest, and I'm willing to say so and exactly why and argue my case. But just declaring, as you do, the debate universally over and done with and then from THAT concluding that this fully justifies almost any further characterization of your opponents is just jumping the gun.

The whole point of the liberal scientific method is that no one is in authority to simply declare a debate over, and the debate, in fact, never ends because we're always open to the possibility that some new piece of evidence or argument may come along. Of course we advocate our position and defend it. But once we start assuming that the argument is basically over and so its now time to think our opponents are idiots because they are too dumb to realize it, then we've left the path of rational argument and moved into the realm of polemic.

You're right: moving beyond that path and being really aggressive and calling people "cretins" and "theistards" like your linked blogger does CAN shake things up and inspire non-believers. Unfortunately, the tradeoff is that going too far down that route can inspire them to be rather nasty people.  That's a danger that everyone in all the diverse corners of non-belief and activism needs to take seriously.

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Some successful anti

Some successful anti movements:

Anti-slavery - In Britain slavery was ended without violence

Anti-alcohol - Volstead Act and the 18th Amendment banned alcohol in the U.S.

Anti-prohibition - 21st Amendment banned prohibition

Anti-apartheid - Apartheid abolished in South Africa

Anti-smallpox - vaccine discovered and smallpox was wiped off the planet

Anti-colonialism - America is no longer a British colony

The list goes on and on.  Michael Shermer must be absolutely ignorant about history to make such an absurd statement.  When the world moved to find a cure for polio nobody needed to make a positive statement.  Simply removing polio is a positive, just as removing religious fundamentalism is a positive in itself.

Shermer has written 'anti' books against creationism and superstition.  So is he just writing another 'anti' book and doesn't want any competition on the bookshelves?  The guy is ignorant, illogical and a hypocrite.


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Bad wrote:

Bad wrote:

Honestly, I think your fisking here is mostly a lot of over-excited misreading of the thrust of his piece. Shermer very carefully and specifically worded his piece so as to NOT to accuse any of the people he was writing to of not necessarily doing or agreeing with the things he's saying. His piece is a "let's all remember to keep these things in mind as we move forward and spread these ethics as well" and NOT a "oh you naughty (fellow) atheists!" Nowhere does he say that we shouldn't be forthright and unbending in our criticisms of religious claims and political power grabs.

Cool, I hope you don't take this the wrong way but I thought it would be appropriate for me to draw a comparison to what Shermer did, if you do in fact think he was just issuing a warning. At this important time in our history allow me to remind you of a few things. If you hang out mostly with crack junkies, you could in fact become a crack junkie. Now getting hooked on crack rock isn't the worst thing that could happen to you... it's all of the things that you've got to do to get crack that could demoralize you. One minute you're posting here on the message board, and then this slippery slope of rationalizations leads you to get on a train, the train could stop in the middle of nowhere, and you could find yourself in an alley sucking dick for crack and carrying all your belongings in a plastic bag... oh wait, you might not end up having any belongings!

Did that sound stupid out of place and having almost nothing to do with you? I hope so, if not then I'm not giving you a fair representation of what it sounded like when I read the letter. Shermer names some atheists, then names some offenses, and makes several completely off the mark points even if he had the proper target picked out. His letter was unwelcome, screams of Captain Obvious, was full of holes, representative of theistic irrational opinion, and as D-Cubed showed with all the anti-something movements that worked... his piece was... get this now... UNSCIENTIFIC.

 

I will give you this. He did specifically try to make his argument politically correct, unfortunatly in the process he ends up standing nowhere. He says we should respond with aplomb, recognizes that religion infringes on science and then goes on to write a piece about a world without religion infringing on science.

 

Quote:
I mean, half of your responses seem to be angry "but who said Dawkins/Harris/et al wouldn't agree with this!!!" Well, uh yeah, and Shermer didn't necessarily say they wouldn't.

I know, that's the point. Who is he talking about? Do you agree that you don't want to become a crack junkie? Then don't forget my warnings! Just call me Captain Obvious. Or would that be Captain Out Of Place?

 

Quote:
In fact, your response is in many ways a perfect example of what Shermer is talking about. When someone is constantly outraged and disdainful, they trip over themselves to see enemies and falsehoods everywhere. They de-facto consider the arguments of their then "opponent" to be misguided and not worth considering seriously. And as a result, this leads to sloppiness.

Which could be exactly what you're doing right now, couldn't it? (rhetorical)

I'm not mad or outraged. This is your first post here, get to know me. My words may be harsh but I'm simply calling it as I see it, not full of rage and emotion (not with Shermer at least). By the way... I went very easy on him.

 

Quote:
Claims like "Those who have a belief in a god are not able to logically, philosophically, or scientifically defend their view." are pointlessly presumptive (many theists believe the exact same thing about atheism: just about everyone on any subject or importance thinks they are right: so what?).

They believe the exact same thing about atheism, fine. My point still stands, unless of course you can show me someone who can defend a belief in god logically, philosophically, and or scientifically.

 


Quote:
I'm unconvinced by god claims, find the arguments to be false, misleading or even dishonest, and I'm willing to say so and exactly why and argue my case. But just declaring, as you do, the debate universally over and done with and then from THAT concluding that this fully justifies almost any further characterization of your opponents is just jumping the gun.

You realize I've recorded over 150 hours of material and written over 50,000 posts on the issues in the last 6 years? This isn't exactly my first day... it's yours. Oh, and welcome aboard.

 

Quote:
The whole point of the liberal scientific method is that no one is in authority to simply declare a debate over, and the debate, in fact, never ends because we're always open to the possibility that some new piece of evidence or argument may come along. Of course we advocate our position and defend it. But once we start assuming that the argument is basically over and so its now time to think our opponents are idiots because they are too dumb to realize it, then we've left the path of rational argument and moved into the realm of polemic.

So is there no such thing as an idiot then? You seem to be proposing that we shouldn't call idiots "idiots" because there is still a debate brewing on what exactly a stupid person would be. It's possible that in the future we'll determine that idiots are not idiots and are actually geniuses, and all geniuses of the world would become idiots.

Bad, there are things in this world that we accept as true. Smart people understand that we could receive data that turns one of our truths in to a falsehood. Preparing to be wrong is one my mantras, it's why I'm very careful how I word things. Look at Shermers absolute statement "Anti-something movements by themselves will fail." He was wrong. Will you be writing Shermer as well?

Quote:

Some successful anti movements:

Anti-slavery - In Britain slavery was ended without violence

Anti-alcohol - Volstead Act and the 18th Amendment banned alcohol in the U.S.

Anti-prohibition - 21st Amendment banned prohibition

Anti-apartheid - Apartheid abolished in South Africa

Anti-smallpox - vaccine discovered and smallpox was wiped off the planet

Anti-colonialism - America is no longer a British colony

 

BAD SINCE YOU'RE NEW, I'LL GIVE YOU A FREE RESEARCH TIDBIT... I don't believe all theists are idiots or stupid (I don't even believe half of them are). I do however believe every single one of them is acting irrationally when choosing to believe in a god. Furthermore I have never in my life seen anyone defend a belief in God without having to resort to being either ignorant, dishonest, or both.

 

Quote:
You're right: moving beyond that path and being really aggressive and calling people "cretins" and "theistards" like your linked blogger does CAN shake things up and inspire non-believers. Unfortunately, the tradeoff is that going too far down that route can inspire them to be rather nasty people. That's a danger that everyone in all the diverse corners of non-belief and activism needs to take seriously.

I feel the most important mission we have today is shaking people out of their irrational belief foundations. Irrational beliefs include the notion that someones arguments aren't as valid if they don't like the messenger. As for how nasty I am... www.atheistvolunteers.org is my site.

Yes we should all heed Shermers warning along with a shitload of countless other warnings we could all dole out. Here's one warning I have to you folks... don't write articles that call atheists out on offenses they don't commit. Furthermore don't write those articles under the guise of trying to lift atheists to a higher tier, while playing into the hands of the religious right which will degrade the atheist image more than if you never write the article.

Well at least his (average) 80 year old subscriber base is happy this month.

 

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Bad
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His letter was unwelcome,
His letter was unwelcome, screams of Captain Obvious, was full of holes, representative of theistic irrational opinion, and as D-Cubed showed with all the anti-something movements that worked... his piece was... get this now... UNSCIENTIFIC.
Shrug. I don't agree: it's unwelcome only because you are so immediately defensive and hostile, and interpreted it the wrong way. (see below for my response to the last point).
He says we should respond with aplomb, recognizes that religion infringes on science and then goes on to write a piece about a world without religion infringing on science.
Really? Where? He says "Whenever religious beliefs conflict with scientific facts or violate principles of political liberty" and then I don't see anywhere he writes about religion never infringing on science.
I know, that's the point. Who is he talking about?
I already explained an alternative, and in fact much more plausible, at least in my mind and from what I know of Shermer (and, amazingly, seemingly also from what you say you know of Shermer!), interpretation of what his point was. You also seem to miss the point that throughout, he is talking not about "you guys" but rather about "we," as in, including himself.
I'm not mad or outraged. This is your first post here, get to know me.
I'm familiar with you, but sure, I'll get to know you better. But I just don't believe you when you say that you aren't worked up: if you aren't, then you simply failed to convey this in your letter, because it sounds pretty outraged and hostile and even sort of betrayed.
My point still stands, unless of course you can show me someone who can defend a belief in god logically, philosophically, and or scientifically.
No, your point doesn't stand, for the reasons I outlined. Being unconvinced is not the same thing as knowing for certain that you are correct and that all attempts at defending god belief are de facto failures. I think everything I've heard fail, you think they fail as well, but neither of us are final authorities in a position to declare the debate over and done with.  We win by convincing other people that our arguments are superior, but the process is ever ongoing.  Simply being convinced you are correct and the issue is settled is pointless, because who cares that you think that?  Anyone can believe that on any side of an issue.
You realize I've recorded over 150 hours of material and written over 50,000 posts on the issues in the last 6 years? This isn't exactly my first day... it's yours.
I'm not sure what this has to do with anything. Yes, this is my second post to this particular website: what does that have to do with it being my "first day" against what you compare to your experience thinking and writing and talking about atheism? This website just one among very very many, and you one of very very many fellow atheists out there talking over the years, and that I've talked to over the years. You've gotten a lot of dedicated listeners and some attention and that's great! So.... what was your point with this exactly?
So is there no such thing as an idiot then? You seem to be proposing that we shouldn't call idiots "idiots" because there is still a debate brewing on what exactly a stupid person would be.
No, I'm proposing that basing your usage of the word idiot off of the fact that people fail to agree with you and you think they are wrong is a little presumptive.
Look at Shermers absolute statement "Anti-something movements by themselves will fail." He was wrong.
You have argued that he was wrong: not quite the same thing. All of the examples given are arguable, especially in the sense that you've simply neglected to mention the fact that all of those movements came coupled with all sorts of positive values offered in their place (slavery/apartheid: human dignity, equality, liberty, anti-smoking: public health, etc.) I'm not even sure why smallpox is on the list, since it clearly isn't a movement in the same sense.
BAD SINCE YOUR NEW, I'LL GIVE YOU A FREE RESEARCH TIDBIT... I don't believe all theists are idiots or stupid (I don't even believe half of them are).
Oh, indeed? You see, the big disclaimer about theism being a "Mind disorder" must have been confusing me then. Smiling That certaily seems to fit the bill of being condescending, at the very least, which is pitfall you bristled at Shermer reminding people of because it was so "obvious."
Yes we should all heed Shermers warning along with a shitload of countless other warnings we could all dole out.
But this poses a bit of a problem then, because it seems like, in practice, anyone mentioning or trying to discuss these things is de facto "playing into the hands of the religious right" no matter how politely worded and filled with compliments it is. If you celebrate diversity and self-criticism on one hand in theory, but then declare it "unwelcome" in practice, then I don't think claiming that the warnings and pitfalls are worth discussing and knowing about is very sincere.

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D-cubed wrote: Some

D-cubed wrote:

Some successful anti movements:

Anti-slavery - In Britain slavery was ended without violence

Wonderful for them. Here in the US it took one of the bloodiest wars ever fought.

D-cubed wrote:
Anti-alcohol - Volstead Act and the 18th Amendment banned alcohol in the U.S.

Anti-prohibition - 21st Amendment banned prohibition

Congratulations, you are now contradicting yourself.

D-cubed wrote:
Anti-apartheid - Apartheid abolished in South Africa

Anti-smallpox - vaccine discovered and smallpox was wiped off the planet

Excellent points.

D-cubed wrote:
Anti-colonialism - America is no longer a British colony

I would argue that colonialism still exists in the form of nation-building and economic strong-arming in places such as Iraq.

We could go back and forth on this point forever, since there is a huge list of "movements" in history. From what I've read, and from the few good examples you have given, I must conclude that successful "anti- movements" are rare, though not impossible.

I must agree with Sapient on the point that Shermer used an absolute in a place where it doesn't belong. A more accurate statement would be "Anti-something movements by themselves tend to fail."

-----
I find the whole business of religion profoundly interesting. But it does mystify me that otherwise intelligent people take it seriously.
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Quote: I would argue that

Quote:
I would argue that colonialism still exists in the form of nation-building and economic strong-arming in places such as Iraq.

I wouldn't argue against that. I would maybe invent a new name for it, like "neo-colonialism" or "economic colonialism." It is significantly different from British colonialism, probably different enough to be its own category.

I'd also note that the anti-colonialism in the US did end British colonialism. That was the only goal of the movement. Therefore, the original statement seems valid.

Quote:
I must agree with Sapient on the point that Shermer used an absolute in a place where it doesn't belong. A more accurate statement would be "Anti-something movements by themselves tend to fail."

Although we haven't really had an in depth conversation about this, I think Sapient and I have similar, although not identical views. I completely understand and agree with his disagreement with Shermer. Shermer pretty much got himself all KY'd up so he could stick his own head up his butt. I understand that he doesn't want to piss anyone off, but he's completely missed the point. Atheism and theism are diametrically opposed. They are enemies. Not necessarily the people, but the philosophies. There will be hard feelings, and there will be people who are enemies. There are too many theists with too much to lose, and too many atheists who really want them to lose what they have. How can you not make enemies?

This is the downfall of pacifism. Pacifism is a very good way to let the strong continue being strong. Granted, there are examples of passive resistance that has worked, but in almost every case that I can think of, there was also active resistance.

In other words, Shermer seems to be saying that everyone should just be nice to each other and bend over backwards to accomodate all sides. The problem is the two sides are not compatible. Both sides say the other is completely wrong. While individual people can get over this difference and be friends, the public debate sphere is entirely different, as well it should be.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
I would argue that colonialism still exists in the form of nation-building and economic strong-arming in places such as Iraq.

I wouldn't argue against that. I would maybe invent a new name for it, like "neo-colonialism" or "economic colonialism."

I prefer "economic imperialism". :-P 


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Quote: I prefer "economic

Quote:
I prefer "economic imperialism". Sticking out tongue

DOH!  I suppose that has been a bit of a buzz-word in the non-FOX press, hasn't it.

Wiki's entry is less than illuminating:

Economic Imperialism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Redirected from Economic imperialism) Jump to: navigation, search

Economic imperialism is the term used to describe the application of economics to the so called non-economic aspects of life such as crime, marriage and war.[1][2]

 I suppose you could use this definition to describe what we're doing in Iraq.  It definitely has a nice ring to it. 

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Bad wrote:

Bad wrote:

His letter was unwelcome, screams of Captain Obvious, was full of holes, representative of theistic irrational opinion, and as D-Cubed showed with all the anti-something movements that worked... his piece was... get this now... UNSCIENTIFIC.

Shrug. I don't agree: it's unwelcome only because you are so immediately defensive and hostile, and interpreted it the wrong way. (see below for my response to the last point).

This is what I mean, get to know me. Those that do know me know that I don't make knee jerk reactions like the one you proposed. Those that know Shermer know that he plays politically correct, and has done things like this in the past. This is the first time he's done it since talking to us on our show. On our show he backed down from the positions mentioned because they didn't hold up in debate, however he's ignored his own admissions and is back to his old pandering tricks.

Please keep in mind, I see more behind the scenes than most people, and if that is going to continue, I need to keep my mouth shut about a plethora of things. This is my politically correct way of saying...... well I can't say, because then it would be too obvious.

 

 

Quote:

He says we should respond with aplomb, recognizes that religion infringes on science and then goes on to write a piece about a world without religion infringing on science.

Really? Where? He says "Whenever religious beliefs conflict with scientific facts or violate principles of political liberty" and then I don't see anywhere he writes about religion never infringing on science.

Of course he doesn't say the words "religion never infringes on science" because he knows those words are bullshit. Instead he chose to wrote a thinly veiled piece in which he infers that religion doesn't infringe on science very indirectly, and very politically correctly.

Quote:

 

I know, that's the point. Who is he talking about?

I already explained an alternative, and in fact much more plausible, at least in my mind and from what I know of Shermer (and, amazingly, seemingly also from what you say you know of Shermer!), interpretation of what his point was. You also seem to miss the point that throughout, he is talking not about "you guys" but rather about "we," as in, including himself.

I agree he includes himself, that was the political correctness we're speaking of.

Quote:

I'm not mad or outraged. This is your first post here, get to know me.

I'm familiar with you, but sure, I'll get to know you better. But I just don't believe you when you say that you aren't worked up: if you aren't, then you simply failed to convey this in your letter, because it sounds pretty outraged and hostile and even sort of betrayed.

Even if you read my words as outraged and betrayed, you do realize that neither quality diminishes the validity of my arguments, right?

Quote:

My point still stands, unless of course you can show me someone who can defend a belief in god logically, philosophically, and or scientifically.

No, your point doesn't stand, for the reasons I outlined. Being unconvinced is not the same thing as knowing for certain that you are correct and that all attempts at defending god belief are de facto failures. I think everything I've heard fail, you think they fail as well, but neither of us are final authorities in a position to declare the debate over and done with. We win by convincing other people that our arguments are superior, but the process is ever ongoing. Simply being convinced you are correct and the issue is settled is pointless, because who cares that you think that? Anyone can believe that on any side of an issue.

I don't declare the debate over and done with, however there is no good reason to see otherwise. If I proposed that all cars are designed to transport you from one place to another, are you going to remind me that the debate isn't over, and a new piece of evidence could prove that statement wrong in the future?

No theist I have ever heard has ever defended their god belief with a coherent, logical, philosophical, or scientifically sound argument. The debate is not out on this... I am referring to the past. Do I have a reasonable expectation that this will always be the case? You're damn right I do. Would I be willing to back off my position if I was shown to be wrong? You're damn right I would.

 

You've repeated this point twice now, and seem to be presenting the same point over and over like Shermer. The point doesn't pertain to me, and it's a point I was already aware of. I care not that the Christian thinks I am illogical and he isn't... I know logic well enough to know that it's the other way around.

 

Quote:

You realize I've recorded over 150 hours of material and written over 50,000 posts on the issues in the last 6 years? This isn't exactly my first day... it's yours.

I'm not sure what this has to do with anything. Yes, this is my second post to this particular website: what does that have to do with it being my "first day" against what you compare to your experience thinking and writing and talking about atheism? This website just one among very very many, and you one of very very many fellow atheists out there talking over the years, and that I've talked to over the years. You've gotten a lot of dedicated listeners and some attention and that's great! So.... what was your point with this exactly?

My point was that you are proposing that I presented a conclusion without proving my case. My point was I have countless hours booked where I do just that. The notion that I have made a conclusion without backing was an unfair one.

Quote:

So is there no such thing as an idiot then? You seem to be proposing that we shouldn't call idiots "idiots" because there is still a debate brewing on what exactly a stupid person would be.

No, I'm proposing that basing your usage of the word idiot off of the fact that people fail to agree with you and you think they are wrong is a little presumptive.

You're slipping into a realm where it is pointless to talk with you. In fact with this comment I see that you may in fact be projecting your flaws on me over and over. I think you proposed I had a knee jerk reaction anti-shermer, because you had a knee jerk reaction to being anti-sapient on this issue.

I see this, because not only to you interject the word idiot in to the conversation first, you've also proposed that I use the word simply because people don't agree with me. This is highly insulting and you show yourself to be so extremely ignorant of who I am. I call a spade a spade, that's it. There are plenty of people who disagree with me who aren't idiots, Shermer is one of them. There are also people who disagree with me, like Matt Slick for example... who happens to an idiot.

Anywho... in the above paragraph you made a presumption while vocalizing a inaccurate discontent with me for doing the same thing.

You see the problem here? YOU MADE A PRESUMPTION, YOU DON'T KNOW ME WELL.

Quote:

Look at Shermers absolute statement "Anti-something movements by themselves will fail." He was wrong.

You have argued that he was wrong: not quite the same thing. All of the examples given are arguable, especially in the sense that you've simply neglected to mention the fact that all of those movements came coupled with all sorts of positive values offered in their place (slavery/apartheid: human dignity, equality, liberty, anti-smoking: public health, etc.) I'm not even sure why smallpox is on the list, since it clearly isn't a movement in the same sense.

Isn't it funny how you point out all the positives in the"anti-something" movements yet Shermer doesn't? In fact Shermer arrogantly infers that an "anti-something" movement exists with nothing positive in it. Not only is there no atheist movement, but anything similar to a movement that we have going is riddled with positivity of our positions. His arguments are those of a fundamentalist Christian who is dishonestly inferring positions in an attempt to thwart the efforts of those trying to overcome such outdated concepts.

Please point your trigger at Shermer. Where was your expose on all the positives that atheists argue for, eh? Just adhering blindly to Shermer?

Quote:

BAD SINCE YOUR NEW, I'LL GIVE YOU A FREE RESEARCH TIDBIT... I don't believe all theists are idiots or stupid (I don't even believe half of them are).

Oh, indeed? You see, the big disclaimer about theism being a "Mind disorder" must have been confusing me then. Smiling That certaily seems to fit the bill of being condescending, at the very least, which is pitfall you bristled at Shermer reminding people of because it was so "obvious."

Yes it did confuse you.

THESE ARE TWO DIFFERENT TERMS:

1. mind disorder

2. idiots

 

If you'd like to find somewhere that I said all idiots have mind disorders or that everyone with a mind disorder is an idiot, then you'll have something. Until then it apparently wasn't obvious to you.

Quote:

Yes we should all heed Shermers warning along with a shitload of countless other warnings we could all dole out.

But this poses a bit of a problem then, because it seems like, in practice, anyone mentioning or trying to discuss these things is de facto "playing into the hands of the religious right" no matter how politely worded and filled with compliments it is.

It seems like that? Where you pulling that load of bullshit from?

 

Quote:
If you celebrate diversity and self-criticism on one hand in theory, but then declare it "unwelcome" in practice, then I don't think claiming that the warnings and pitfalls are worth discussing and knowing about is very sincere.

And if you infer that by "unwelcome" I am referring to criticism and diversity, then this conversation is over, and your dogmatic clinging to Shermer is shining through.

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Max Wilder

Max Wilder wrote:

Wonderful for them. Here in the US it took one of the bloodiest wars ever fought.

Well it could be argued that people died fighting to keep the union together.  Slavery was abolished in America without bloodshed but America had split so the war commenced.  Minor details. 

Quote:
Congratulations, you are now contradicting yourself.

Not really.  The two campaigns didn't exist at the same time.  One couldn't be for ending prohibition until it existed.  Nevertheless, we still don't have prohibition.  In both cases people had their goals and accomplished them.  If accomplishments aren't a sign of success then what are they? 

Quote:
Excellent points.

Thanks. 

Quote:
I would argue that colonialism still exists in the form of nation-building and economic strong-arming in places such as Iraq.

We could go back and forth on this point forever, since there is a huge list of "movements" in history. From what I've read, and from the few good examples you have given, I must conclude that successful "anti- movements" are rare, though not impossible.

I must agree with Sapient on the point that Shermer used an absolute in a place where it doesn't belong. A more accurate statement would be "Anti-something movements by themselves tend to fail."

The point was merely to present that America is no longer a colony.  True that Shermer was suffering from absolutism.  There are always two sides to a conflict.  Ending prohibition would be providing more freedom, ending foreign rule would have provided a grounds to begin a new government.  It's not that we are in disagreement with any of this but what perplexes me is what motivated Shermer to go on such an anti-literature rant since there seems nothing to be gained from silence.  Well, the only group that gains from silence is the party we are opposing.

It'll be an interesting test of character for Shermer.  I'm sure he's getting a flood of mail as a result of his outburst.  Will he take the reasoned arguments and change his position or will he be stubborn and keep to his erroneous position?

Now I'm going to start my campaign against sobriety by drinking.  Because if we aren't consuming alcohol then the Islamic fundamentalists win. 


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This is what I mean, get to
This is what I mean, get to know me. Those that do know me know that I don't make knee jerk reactions like the one you proposed.
Ok: so, now I've learned something more about you: you apparently consider yourself incapable of misinterpreting things or overreacting. The strange thing about this for me is that this is the second time today I've heard someone claim something like this, and the other person I heard it from was World Net Daily columnist Vox Day.
Of course he doesn't say the words "religion never infringes on science" because he knows those words are bullshit. Instead he chose to wrote a thinly veiled piece in which he infers that religion doesn't infringe on science very indirectly, and very politically correctly.
Again, if you are going to allege that something was not openly there but was "thinly veiled" (according to you) then my case that you are jumping at shadows and misreading things out of hostility looks a lot stronger, not weaker. I mean, as far as I can tell, you are now apparently accusing Shermer of outright saying something he knows is false... except of course, not actually ever saying it: you just have to sort of "know" that this is what he really means... somehow. And of course, he's SO devious in hiding this true message that he outright says THE EXACT OPPOSITE right off the bat.
Even if you read my words as outraged and betrayed, you do realize that neither quality diminishes the validity of my arguments, right?
Of course. What I think diminishes the validity of your arguments is that they respond to what I've argued are largely imagined slights.
No theist I have ever heard has ever defended their god belief with a coherent, logical, philosophical, or scientifically sound argument.
You keep saying that you already know this next point, but then why do you keep going back and ignoring the point all over again? So what? Who cares that either of you think that you are right and that the arguments of the other are crap? The the only thing that matters is the arguments and the evidence that you keep in play.
My point was that you are proposing that I preseted a conclusion without proving my case. My point was I have countless hours booked where I do just that. The notion that I have made a conclusion without backing was an unfair one.
Ah I see then. In that case, that wasn't at all what I was trying to say, and as such, I had no idea what your response was getting at, sorry. I wasn't trying to assert that you were uninformed, unexperienced, or even hadn't done a good job in making your case against theist claims. I was arguing with your idea that you can sensibly or productively just declare that you've succesfully proven your case, that it is conclusive that your opponents are simply all wrong, and then start going on from there.
Isn't it funny how you point out all the positives in the"anti-something" movements yet Shermer doesn't?
Aside from being a non-sequitur from this line of discussion (about whether Shermer was wrong to claim that purely negative movements fail), what does that have to do with anything? Shermer's point is that people shouldn't forget that: you are the only one asserting that he's said that none exists. Remember, Shermer's list is presented as a bunch of reasons, not a list of accusations or even failures, as you seem to interpret them.
Yes it did confuse you. THESE ARE TWO DIFFERENT TERMS: 1. mind disorder 2. idiots
It's a fair point that you didn't not use the specific term idiot (though I guess I was getting that from playing off the "cretins" and "theistards" stuff): I concede that. But for the larger point, this is a difference without a distinction: they are both just insults that write people off presumptively. Diagnosing your opponents with mental disorders based on your assertion that you think their arguments fail is not a sign of respect.
And if you infer that by "unwelcome" I am referring to criticism and diversity, then this conversation is over, and your dogmatic clinging to Shermer is shining through.

That's quite a nasty accusation there: is this another thing I need to learn about you: that you'll start calling people dogmatic and syncophants if they disagree with you?

My point is that I can't imagine how Shermer could have made his letter LESS contentious and accusing. If even that tepid a degree of criticism is treated as harshly and hostilely as you've treated it, then I feel that your claim that you really care about warnings and cautions rings hollow.

But okay, we've sparred over this for awhile now and that probably isn't a good way to appreciate what anyone is about. Given that, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt from now on other issues I encounter your views on, and not hold this particular disagreement (which I don't see getting resolved anytime soon, and I'm certainly not backing down on either) against you in the larger picture.

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Sapient wrote:

Sapient wrote:

As we seemed to agree on that show, atheist diversity is acceptable and some will be more passive than others. People like Harris, Dawkins, and we here at the Rational Response Squad understand why someone would want to put a positive foot toward science as opposed to a negative foot toward religion when approaching life. Some people prefer this world outlook so much so that they’ll always be like this. They may even live their entire life without being confrontational towards religious people or its concepts. I understand those people exist, can respect that, and think those people are important. In fact I wish I had it in me to be that type of person. People like Dawkins, Harris, and those close to me simply have a hard time thinking like that. We think we must speak up so that several generations from now our great great grandchildren don’t have to.

 

I think it's a rather bad move to sweep religion into one little box anyway. To go after the moderates, but not the fundies is an extremely bad way of going about it since the moderates pretty much hate the fundies. After all do I not destroy my enemy by making them my friend?

You are throwing away good allies by doing this.

Sapient wrote:

Shermer wrote:

1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail.

I’d bet a few dollars that Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennett (why is Dennett even part of this list?) would all agree with your first point. I can find positive views of the world and how to live it from all four of the aforementioned gentleman. All of the men listed are well known for holding critical thought and reason on a pedestal. To infer that their movement is simply “anti-something” (I don’t even believe this is a “movement”) is to not know much about what the men listed are trying to accomplish. I am sorry to note but feel compelled to note that the view that this “movement” is simply “anti-something” by itself is a view typically held by those with such hate and vitriol for us that they prefer to hold a delusional outlook of our position in an attempt to impugn our character and efforts.

But isn't the goal to get rid of religion? That would make it anti-religious.

 

Sapient wrote:

Shermer wrote:

3. Rational is as rational does. If it is our goal to raise people’s consciousness to the wonders of science and the power of reason, then we must apply science and reason to our own actions. It is irrational to take a hostile or condescending attitude toward religion because by doing so we virtually guarantee that religious people will respond in kind. As Carl Sagan cautioned in “The Burden of Skepticism,” a 1987 lecture, “You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don’t see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it.”

 

While Sagan was an amazing man, other amazing men have said otherwise. Isn’t it possible that there is rational middle grounds… can you see how a diverse approach from a diverse group can be rational? Engaging in ridicule doesn’t make one irrational if they’ve come to conclude that the person they’re speaking with has become semi-impenetrable to reason. Sometimes people need a reality check and sometimes condescension is just what one needs to kick them into gear.

Y halo thar sweeping generalization!

Quote:

Sam Harris brought up a good example in a truthdig interview…

“I think this is a war of ideas that has to be fought on a hundred fronts at once. There’s not one piece that is going to trump all others.

Yes, and adding the moderates will increase your fronts. I can't possibly fathom how they don't see this.

 

Quote:

So public embarrassment is one principle. Once you lift the taboo around criticizing faith and demand that people start talking sense, then the capacity for making religious certitude look stupid will be exploited, and we’ll start laughing at people who believe the things that the Tom DeLays, the Pat Robertsons of the world believe. We’ll laugh at them in a way that will be synonymous with excluding them from our halls of power.”

Again, why is Daniel Dennett on this list?

And you wonder why they don't like atheists?

 


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Sapient wrote:

Sapient wrote:

I speak up because I see a travesty on our planet. I see a society with tons of promise and hope but its being hindered. The science that we hold near and dear is under attack, it’s happened before (see: burning of Alexandria Library). At this moment in time it’s important for us to call a spade a spade. Those who have a belief in a god are not able to logically, philosophically, or scientifically defend their view. We know that faith is not a valid means of determining the existence of anything, and we should be pointing this out… this is science! If I held a belief that I couldn’t prove you can bet your life fortune that I’d want someone to call me out on it. I don’t care if they’re calling me out on it with all the kindness they can muster or all the hatred they can spew. I want to be called out on claims that I make illogically and I want to live in a world where it’s ok and normal for us to do this all the time. So when you speak of the golden rule, keep in mind that from what I know of myself and all of the authors mentioned we are in fact acting exactly as we would want others to act towards us.

My last problem with this point is your first three points. You’ve implied or inferred inaccurately that that “new atheists” or the authors listed, or whoever you’re referring to are simply anti something, don’t embrace science, don’t make assertions, and aren’t rational… which to me is either one big “prejudgment” or one incredibly jaded and vacuous view of the position of those listed.

I'm sorry you feel this way, I truly am. But since U.S is ~75% Christian, it is safe to assume that voted/are speaking out against creationism or any other fundie plot for that matter are Chrisitian.

 

Sapient wrote:

But religion does threaten science it does threaten our freedom, it has for a great many years, as illustrated in each of the books from the authors you’ve listed. You said you read their books, right? This last point of yours seems like you’ve given us an open pass. You say as long as it doesn’t threaten science and freedom we should be respectful, but since it does threaten science and freedom one could infer that you think we can be disrespectful.

On the issue at hand… we noted in our podcast with you, we promote freedom of disbelief, I believe to some extent all of the authors you mentioned do as well, and inferring that they don’t is a gross mischaracterization of their position.

 

No, it does not. Many scienctists are Christian and many of those that are speaking out for science are Christian. Do you not see this?

 

Sapient wrote:

I agree with King. Through scientific understanding some day hopefully the majority of the planet will understand how in fact we are all connected, and that there is actual proof for the claim that we’re all related. We care for the future of humanity and all humanity and that is why we speak up, not because we’re Nazis, fascists, freedom haters, racist, or prejudice. I hate to have to point it out yet again, but inferring any of those negative stigmas again is a gross mischaracterization of the authors positions and an opinion typically held by those deluding themselves to reinforce theistic self delusions.

A Rational Atheist,

Brian Sapient

And making such sweeping generalizations of over 2 billion people is a gross mischaracterization of reality.

 

 

 


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Shermer's entire letter

Shermer's entire letter comes from a deeply flawed arch-liberal academic view of truth as something which is relative and open to interpretation. This is how he can say that we should "respect" superstitions - ultimately, he views the whole debate as a political exercise in which the winners and losers will only be determined by the numbers of converts they win.

 I have news for you, Mr. Shermer. Theists don't share your view of truth. They think there is one truth, one really true truth, and that you and I and everyone are either on its side or on the side of error. While you might be tempted to browse urbanely through the boutiques of possible truths, appreciating and sampling first one and then another with great "respect" for each, theists have made their purchase and are ready to beat you over the head with it the minute you try to bring a different idea out into the street. Your wimpering pleas for tolerance and mutual respect for every paradigm are helpless to stop them.

Remember this is an argument about truth. You can't win it by saying everything is true: that just means nothing is. You might be satisfied with that answer, but most people are not and theists certainly will never be. 

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Congratulations, Losingstreak...

Congratulations, Losingstreak06--you've managed to find a tautology whereby anyone who ever writes a book about anything can be dismissed based solely on the fact that the book is successful.  I mean, Shakespeare's work made him money, but what does that prove?

Besides, if someone's only goal was to make money, then I hardly think that "anti-theistic literature" would be their first choice of genre.  What about romance novels?  Oh, and I'm pretty sure the dipshit who writes those "Left Behind" books is sitting on top of a pile of money too.

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Tilberian wrote: Shermer's

Tilberian wrote:
Shermer's entire letter comes from a deeply flawed arch-liberal academic view of truth as something which is relative and open to interpretation.

 This is the attitude I just don't get: you declare that someone is wrong, and then suddenly, any nonsensical thing you say about them is justified, even if it makes no sense. Shermer has never been a relativist in the sense you are claiming: in fact, he's always been a voice against that sort of post-modernism, including pointing out how the Intelligent Design movement embraced those sorts of philosophies in order to try and take science down with all knowledge. 

Quote:
This is how he can say that we should "respect" superstitions - ultimately, he views the whole debate as a political exercise in which the winners and losers will only be determined by the numbers of converts they win.

 What Shermer is urging respect for are people: people are different than the quality of the arguments they make.  The inability to distinguish the two is a real problem, because it leads to fanaticism.

Quote:
Remember this is an argument about truth. You can't win it by saying everything is true: that just means nothing is. You might be satisfied with that answer, but most people are not and theists certainly will never be.

 Like I regarded Brian's response, I think you are tilting at a complete straw man here.  Nowhere in Shermer's piece, nor in any of his writings, does he advocate the position you are attacking him for.  He never once says that we should regard all things as true, or not attack assertions about truth that are unjustified or illogical.  In fact, he says that we must.

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D-cubed wrote: It'll be an

D-cubed wrote:
It'll be an interesting test of character for Shermer. I'm sure he's getting a flood of mail as a result of his outburst. Will he take the reasoned arguments and change his position or will he be stubborn and keep to his erroneous position?

Undecided

Yes yes, the true test of ones character is whether someone agrees with you. Your arguments are obviously so infaliably correct that we can out and out judge a person's character on whether or not they simply accept this fact or deny it or, heaven forbid, attempt to argue with it as if it were even possible that you could be wrong. 

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Bad wrote: D-cubed

Bad wrote:

D-cubed wrote:
It'll be an interesting test of character for Shermer. I'm sure he's getting a flood of mail as a result of his outburst. Will he take the reasoned arguments and change his position or will he be stubborn and keep to his erroneous position?

Undecided

Yes yes, the true test of ones character is whether someone agrees with you. Your arguments are obviously so infaliably correct that we can out and out judge a person's character on whether or not they simply accept this fact or deny it or, heaven forbid, attempt to argue with it as if it were even possible that you could be wrong. 

I agree. this seems to be a problem for certain people on here. what surprises me is how they can point the finger at others and not see themselves.

Quote:
So public embarrassment is one principle. Once you lift the taboo around criticizing faith and demand that people start talking sense, then the capacity for making religious certitude look stupid will be exploited, and we’ll start laughing at people who believe the things that the Tom DeLays, the Pat Robertsons of the world believe. We’ll laugh at them in a way that will be synonymous with excluding them from our halls of power.”

this is a problem I have with Harris. In his book he goes further and claims people like this should be "censured". So, if someone says something you don't like, we automatically limit their freedom of speech? Doesn't sound very rational to me. And Harris also advocates for here to be like Western Europe-well, Western Europe allows religion and treats believers equally, so he's contradicting himself there.  I also find it ironic that you guys go on and on about how great Harris's books are, but you disagree with one of the main ideas he sets forth in "The End of Faith"-that mystical experiences can give us knowledge.  He just doesn't think they have to be religious. You guys started out pretty good, but some of your ideas are getting quite hypocritical.


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Quote: I agree. this seems

Quote:
I agree. this seems to be a problem for certain people on here. what surprises me is how they can point the finger at others and not see themselves.

I've noticed that too and it does bother me. I didn't think the article was that bad-certainly not worth all this hoopla over it. It's almost as if some on here are getting this whole "if you're not with us, you're against us mentality". Some people on here say they appreciate a multi-pronged approach, but seem to look down on those who approach it differently from them. I've seen a lot of hostility toward humanism on this site, and also toward other "non believers" who don't define themselves a certain way (like agnostics bascially being told their position is invalid). It's like in order to be one of the club, you need to hate all religion no matter what and think all religous people are idiots. Not EVERYONE who believes in god is a creationist fundie. When they get in my way, yeah, I get mad. But my main focus is to fight for my rights, and if there are some religious that will help me do that, I have no problem being friendly or at least civil with them. And lots of people feel this way. And if some people can't accept that, that's just too bad.

 


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Quote: I agree. this seems

Quote:
I agree. this seems to be a problem for certain people on here. what surprises me is how they can point the finger at others and not see themselves.

Everybody's human, and for the most part, everyone here tries to admit it.  Sometimes, egos get in the way.  I think that's obvious.  Having said that, I haven't seen a clear, logical rebuttal of the points that Sapient has made.

For the record, I disagree with a good bit of Harris's approach.  I think he is using the same scare tactics that the Rethuglicans have been using, claiming that religion will be the end of civilized society and what-not.  I'm also in disagreement about censorship.  I think censorship is unnecessary when a viewpoint has become blatantly ridiculous in the public eye.  Also, for the record, my support for RRS is not based on complete agreement, but on general agreement.

You would do well to recognize that many of us simply don't argue points that we think aren't crucial, even if we might not agree fully.  I also disagree with Shermer's approach, but for slightly different reasons than Sapient.  Would you prefer that we all bicker over minutia, so that we could never come across with any message at all?

 

Quote:
It'll be an interesting test of character for Shermer. I'm sure he's getting a flood of mail as a result of his outburst. Will he take the reasoned arguments and change his position or will he be stubborn and keep to his erroneous position?

The question has not been answered.  Is Shermer's position erroneous?  Many people think so, and many logical reasons have been given to support them.  If Shermer cannot adequately answer these rebuttals, it is not a popularity contest.  It's legitimate debate.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
It'll be an interesting test of character for Shermer. I'm sure he's getting a flood of mail as a result of his outburst. Will he take the reasoned arguments and change his position or will he be stubborn and keep to his erroneous position?

The question has not been answered. Is Shermer's position erroneous? Many people think so, and many logical reasons have been given to support them. If Shermer cannot adequately answer these rebuttals, it is not a popularity contest. It's legitimate debate.

 


I don’t necessarily think his approach is erroneous as such. It’s not the approach I personally think is best, but that said, I think there should be more than one approach so all corner are covered. I don’t think all theists will respond to one single approach. Some might respond well to the ‘nicey nicey’ way of doing things. On the other hand, others might need a more direct and blunt approach in order to understand.

 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Bad wrote: Yes yes, the

Bad wrote:

Yes yes, the true test of ones character is whether someone agrees with you. Your arguments are obviously so infaliably correct that we can out and out judge a person's character on whether or not they simply accept this fact or deny it or, heaven forbid, attempt to argue with it as if it were even possible that you could be wrong.

Well that's cute.  You claim I'm wrong as are others on their rebuttal concerning Shermer but you haven't expressed why that's the case.  So by all means actually respond to the points in the post rather than just make unsupported assertions. 


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D-cubed wrote: Well that's

D-cubed wrote:
Well that's cute. You claim I'm wrong as are others on their rebuttal concerning Shermer but you haven't expressed why that's the case. So by all means actually respond to the points in the post rather than just make unsupported assertions. (emphasis added)

Someone didn't read the thread they are talking about.

Who didn't read it?

YOU didn't read it. 

If you had read it, you might notice that I spent a rather long time arguing precisely this issue, responding to points made, and expressing why I "think it's the case."

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Though I enjoy and agree

Though I enjoy and agree with much of Shermer's writing, I tend to lean toward Sapient's main point here, that is, that it is neither inappropriate nor overly exuberant to essentially say "enough already!" to those who would insist on theirs being the only valid moral or religious standard that trumps all the very many other traditions that abound in our multicultural new world. It's about time people became proud of their having shrugged off outmoded paradigms without the shame and stigma that would accompany such renunciations in days of old. Lord knows it's a very difficult thing to do, even today - (pun intended). An iconoclast from way back, I always say, "you go, girl!" to all those who chose to oppose etcetera . . . Smiling

What worries me about these debates has worried me everytime I chance to read these and other similar forums. Namely, that in our efforts to defend our positions, we sometimes over-reach, offering up things as facts, things that, because they are not facts at all, might take wind from the sail of our arguments.

Specifically, you made a reference to the effect that the great library of Alexandria was burned as a result of religious intolerance.

This is but one of several theories that has been put forth to explain the destruction of the library. Though none can be proven beyond doubt, some are more tenable than others. Two of them credit religious extremism as the cause:

1- by decree of Theophilus in 391 - this is probably the one you refer to but this has been shown to be highly unlikely and in essence a misunderstanding by Gibbon of a single vague sentence written by Paulus Orosius - the fact is that it's attested by no ancient authors. Without getting too technical, there simply is no evidence that zealous X-stians (as annoying as I find them) were the plunderers of the great library. . . whatever they did plunder was something else . . . smaller libraries (academic activity continued on in the city despite the loss of the big library, after all)

or

2 - by decree of a Muslim caliph in 642 - which can easily be shown to be just a useful but untrue polemic for later X-stian crusaders or alternately coopted as an apology for muslims who needed exagerated Hadith-like reasons to burn their own most hated libraries later.

Personally, I think the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of Julius Caesar in 48 BC as the perpetrator of this infamous fire. . . it's the theory with the least holes. Later, a more thorough job of destroying the city was done by Aurelian and then by Diocletian.

Here's a very good link regarding all of this:

http://www.bede.org.uk/library.htm

I won't belabor the point further, the point being:

Yes . . . It's important that we stand up to self-appointed pretenders to some heavenly throne . . . but . . . we need to be accurate with our info when we do so. I think it's important.

I sincerely hope this post is not received as antagonistic.

Continuing my good wishes for the success of the site.

Ó

"Theology is that science which treats of the unknowable with infinitesimal exactitude." - Anatole France


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I Quixie wrote: I

I Quixie wrote:


I sincerely hope this post is not received as antagonistic.p

 It wasn't, thanks for posting it.

Quote:

Continuing my good wishes for the success of the site.

Ó

 

thanks, right back atcha. 

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Bad wrote:   Someone

Bad wrote:

 

Someone didn't read the thread they are talking about.

Who didn't read it?

YOU didn't read it.

If you had read it, you might notice that I spent a rather long time arguing precisely this issue, responding to points made, and expressing why I "think it's the case."

I looked over the thread and never saw it. 


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  Wednesday, August 22,

 

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Chamberlain of Atheism

In an open letter to Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens Michael Shermer speaks out against "militancy" in the endorsement of atheism (and presumably rationality, sensibility and metaphysical naturalism). Shermer is pretty smart, and I usually like him, but here he's pretty much completely full of shit. Brian Sapient of the Rational Response Squad does a good job of deconstructing Shermer's bullshit, but I think I have a few points to add.

Shermer has fallen hook, line and sinker for the technique of caging and framing, which philosopher Steve Gimbel eloquently describes. Theists want to allow only the manner of the presentation to be discussed; the actual substantive points are caged and left undiscussed. Then that one point is framed in terms of atheists' supposed hostility; the lie of militancy (of course no atheist actually supports opposing theism by military force) has been shouted so often by the theists that even a supposed skeptic such as Shermer swallows it, along with its negative connotations.

That Shermer has swallowed the theists' big lie of "militant" atheism is made obvious by his inclusion of Dawkins and, inexplicably, Dennett on the list. If there were ever two people who exemplified the complete opposite of hostility and even the most broad metaphorical interpretation of "militancy", they are Richard Dawkins and especially Daniel Dennett.

Shermer asks us to "raise our consciousness". He gives us "reasons" to do so, but he doesn't tell us anything at all about what he actually means by this term; Shermer seems to be channeling Deepak Chopra or Sylvia Brown. Shermer then regurgitates the Christian Right's talking points about atheism.

"Anti-something movements by themselves will fail." Well duh. But "atheism" is not, and never has been just anti-religious. The movement is pro-science, pro-reason, pro-logic, pro-common sense, pro-humanist. It is theism, especially Christianity and Islam, which are the "anti-something movements"; the only thing they're for is continuation of their own parasitic authoritarianism.

He continues with this theme: "Positive assertions are necessary." Again, duh. Has Shermer even read the authors to whom he's addressing his letter? All of these books talk positively about the value of reason, rationality, science and humanistic sensibilities. Shermer quotes Charles Darwin, "It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science." That's worked out really well: For his reticence Darwin is one of the most respected figures even among the most extremist Christianity... well, perhaps not.

"Rational is as rational does. ...It is irrational to take a hostile or condescending attitude toward religion because by doing so we virtually guarantee that religious people will respond in kind." Good grief. The blatant, manifest stupidity of this statement boggles my mind. Does Shermer actually think that the hostile and condescending tone of religion towards science and rationality is some sort of reaction to the atheists starting a pissing contest? I simply cannot imagine that an educated person in the 21st century would say such inane blather. From Tertullian's, "I believe because it is absurd," to the arrest of Galileo to Martin Luther's, "Reason is a whore," the bitter enmity of religion to rationality and sensibility long precedes even the Enlightenment, much less modern atheism.

Shermer seems to think that the entire 1960s black civil rights movement sprang Athena-like from Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. Now this is a terrific speech, and Dr. King was a terrific guy, but there were a lot of other people involved in the civil rights movement, from the Black Panthers to Malcolm X.

The golden rule is symmetrical. In the words of the greatest consciousness raiser of the 20th century, Martin Luther King, Jr., in his epic "I Have a Dream" speech: "In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline." If atheists do not want theists to prejudge them in a negative light, then they must not do unto theists the same.
King here is exhorting his listeners to not engage in vengeance, retaliation, terrorism, the kind of terrorism and murder that had been used against them. It is not only misguided but utterly despicable to implicitly accuse the atheist community of even contemplating such measures. Perhaps Hitchens, with his support of the Iraq war (and this support is not widely shared in the atheist community), deserves such a warning, but only in the most oblique sense.

Prejudgment is foolish, but theism has had tens of thousands of years to declare itself; it is judgment itself that Shermer seems to denounce. Again, one wonders if Shermer has even read or listened to King's speech:
This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'"
That sure sounds like a judgment—and quite a harsh one—to me.

"Promote freedom of belief and disbelief." Shermer seems to feel that atheists, especially those he names, oppose the First Amendment and freedom of thought. There's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that any of the mentioned writers even slightly support such a position; perhaps Shermer has had a divine revelation. It is Shermer himself who betrays this principle: he is asking us to remain silent, not because of the falsity of our criticism but because criticism is disrespectful and intolerant. The massive hypocrisy and contradiction of that stance is obvious: Shermer is clearly himself disrespectful and intolerant of criticism of theism.

Shermer would support the value of freedom only by denouncing our own, to condemn our own "militancy" while quoting King's praise of the "marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community," to chasten us for our presumed negativity in an entirely negative article, and to speak in favor of skepticism by uncritically regurgitating theistic propaganda.

Shermer is more than just mistaken. He is an appeaser, the Chamberlain of the atheist movement. He would have us be Albigensians, and we all know how well that turned out.

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"Caging and framing"...I

"Caging and framing"...I like that because it gives a name to a theist tactic I've been trying to describe to myself for a long time. As long as we are within the bounds of law and free speech, we shouldn't let anyone try to tell us how to make our point unless they can show first that the point is wrong. And that goes for Shermer, too. As for people concerned about whether we will alienate moderate theists, well, no big loss there. Moderate theists don't like us now and take the fundy's side against us every time they have the chance. The days of trying to make theists like us are over.

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 I was kinda beast in this

 I was kinda beast in this op.  Good times.

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