Irrational "Rationalism"

coldfall2002
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Irrational "Rationalism"

A certain "movement" has come to my attention lately. The movement is apparently inspired by such thinkers as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. I have not had the chance to approach Richard Dawkins' books yet, but I am halfway through "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris. Harris is using a rational, pointed argument to point out the dangers of religion and to call humanity to a new vision of rational secular ethics. I completely disagree with his overall view and hope to post a response eventually to his argument. However, I believe that he is a rationalist and is approaching the topic with an honest point of view. Harris is calling us (specifically the country in "Letter to a Christian Nation" - which I have not read yet) to use our minds and reasoning to deduce truth and morality.

The movement I have referred to is on a totally different wavelength than Harris is. This movement has designated themselves the "Rational Response Squad." You can visit them on myspace or check out their challenge at blasphemychallenge.com. The "Rational Response Squad" is directly targeting Christianity (though they take shots at all of the religious world) and using ineloquent phrases such as "the virgin birth is bullshit" and "Jesus is a fake" to spur emotionally based disputes. They have challenged people to declare their "independence from the stone age" by uploading a video denying the existence and power of the Holy Spirit to youtube and are going as far as entering churches to put a copy of "The God Who Wasn't There" documentary into hymnals, behind wall hangings, etc.

I find it quite interesting how those claiming rationality are acting so irrational. I have seen it happen in many religions as well. "If we have the truth then we get it across to people in whatever way we can." This means doing ridiculous things such as intruding on people's privacy and rights. Someone who believes homosexuality is wrong takes matters into their own hands by physically enacting God's wrath. Someone who thinks America is a place of wickedness flies a plane into a building expecting the reward of Allah. The argument of "we are the only one's with the truth" becomes a militant call to forceful advance.

Well, here we have an example of a role swap. The Rational Response Squad apparently believes that verbal outlash and forceful advance are rational responses. They are ready to move and become some kind of force for truth. They have become what they hate in order to beat what they hate, and in the process even their name has lost meaning.

Sam Harris was on their live broadcast Christmas day for a short interview. He was well-spoken and addressed some of the controversy behind his writings. The most interesting part, however, was his response to RRS's decision to go into church buildings and plant the dvds. I cannot give you an exact quote because I did not write it down or record it, but he basically said he thought that might be walking the line of vandalism. He seemed rightly hesitant to fully embrace their methods, and moved on quickly with the interview.

I believe the following is imperative for any rational thinking person to understand. Rationalism leads to dialogue, and dialogue leads to individual and cultural change. Anyone who cannot dialogue is not rational. I am not saying that RRS cannot dialogue. What I am saying is that if they want to be taken seriously they need to stop using the attack mode and begin interacting with their "opponents." If someone is calling you names or attacking what you believe (by basically calling you a complete idiot who does not use reason), why would you hear them out? You would not! The almost militant tactics of RRS do not make them a scholarly force to be reckoned with, it only raises red flags yelling "here's another extremist group!"

My first recommendation goes to Sam Harris: Stay away from groups like this! They taint your argument. I say the same to Richard Dawkins: If you are rational and want to stay part of the global dialogue, do not associate yourself with groups such as RRS. My final recommendation goes to RRS specifically: Move back to rationality. Stop the militant advance and promote knowledge and dialogue. I honestly believe your blasphemy challenge and verbal smear campaign gives you much less validity among thinking people.


todangst
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coldfall2002 wrote: This

coldfall2002 wrote:
This movement has designated themselves the "Rational Response Squad." You can visit them on myspace or check out their challenge at blasphemychallenge.com. The "Rational Response Squad" is directly targeting Christianity (though they take shots at all of the religious world) and using ineloquent phrases such as "the virgin birth is bullshit" and "Jesus is a fake" to spur emotionally based disputes.

This is a small sample bias fallacy. There are many rational arguments presented on the site, and in the radio show. Purposely focusing on an emotional statement and attempting to use such an example as representative of the entire site is irrational.

 

Quote:
 

They have challenged people to declare their "independence from the stone age" by uploading a video denying the existence and power of the Holy Spirit to youtube and are going as far as entering churches to put a copy of "The God Who Wasn't There" documentary into hymnals, behind wall hangings, etc. I find it quite interesting how those claiming rationality are acting so irrational.

I find it quite interesting that this claim is supported through an irrational argument, a small sample bias fallacy.

 

It would be more sensible to say that one does not find these behaviors as representative of rationality.

 

 

Quote:
 

I have seen it happen in many religions as well. "If we have the truth then we get it across to people in whatever way we can." This means doing ridiculous things such as intruding on people's privacy and rights. 

  Having a CD hidden in a church hardly intrudes on people's privacy... at worst, it's an annoyance equal to finding a Chick tract on the payphone (does anyone use payphones anymore?)  

 I personally love Chick tracts to death.... but even if I didn't, I wouldn't call finding one an intrusion of my privacy. 

The sober reality is that the RR team does in fact take part in some attention grabbing behaviors, but I'd hardly call them irrational for it, nor do I think you need to make a call for arms against the team.

The final irony is that the overwraught emotionalism in this post is just as 'irrational' as any of the behaviors it supposedly takes to task....  

 

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

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carpetfeller
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I would like too add one

I would like too add one more thing to this argument: Saying that what the RRS does is the same as religions is simply not true for they have evidence that backs thier arguments.  It has been argued that one cannot prove that there is no God but it can and has been proven that things said in The Bible (The infalliable word of God) are false.

That said it is so hard to point this out to people of "faith" that, in my opinion, the only way to get through to the hard core religous is to malliciously bash thier beliefs.  Now I know that the seeming only result of doing this is making them hate you but I would hope that it at least makes them think about the idiocity of what they base thier lives on.*

After all, all it takes to overcome the tradition of believing in religion is thought and that is exactly (and only) what The RRS is trying to get you to do; think.

You must also understand that what they do is also for entertainment.  If thier show was boring, no one would listen.  With a prodominatly atheist audience, they make thier show funny because that's how we view people who base thier lives on ancient stories; humorous.  By making thier show entertaining they help people strengthen thier arguments against religions and the dangers of them.

*Idiocity sounds harsh but that does not make it untrue.


coldfall2002
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First, let me say thanks

First, let me say thanks for your response. I appreciate being able to interact with people who disagree with me. There are many things to learn and I hope to learn from you, as I hope you do from me.

Quote:

This is a small sample bias fallacy. There are many rational arguments presented on the site, and in the radio show. Purposely focusing on an emotional statement and attempting to use such an example as representative of the entire site is irrational.

 

First, I never said that they do not have rational arguments on their site or show. My statement was that they are using irrationality to argue for rationality (or as you prefer, one could argue that their behaviors could not be called rational and end up over shadowing their scholarly work). 

 

 

 

 

Quote:

  Having a CD hidden in a church hardly intrudes on people's privacy... at worst, it's an annoyance equal to finding a Chick tract on the payphone.

 I would have to argue against this statement. It is a little different to put a tract at a payphone than it is to put a DVD such as the one listed in a church. First of all, a payphone has no values, feelings, worldview, etc. Putting a tract in a phone booth is not purposefully attacking someone's worldview. It is public property and no one was directly targeted (However, I still think it is a ridiculous way to conduct oneself or to introduce someone to the Christian narrative). Secondly, the churches are places where people come together to interact (worship) and dwell on specific aspects of life.  I do not believe it is productive to attack a group of people regarding their belief system, especially by placing something to disturb an event that is important to their worldview. 

Quote:

The sober reality is that the RR team does in fact take part in some attention grabbing behaviors, but I'd hardly call them irrational for it, nor do I think you need to make a call for arms against the team.

I would not at all consider this a call to arms. I specifically address the RRS at the end of the argument to explain what I believe their reaction should be. The point I was making is that when you attack, mock, and exaggerate your argument becomes lost with rational people. 

Quote:

The final irony is that the overwraught emotionalism in this post is just as 'irrational' as any of the behaviors it supposedly takes to task....  

 

 

I also do not believe I displayed "overwraught emotionalism". I attempted to lay out that I believe that one who is truly rational will not tie themselves to groups that use extreme methods to spread what they believe to be true. RRS is certainly not doing what religious extremist groups do. However, if we want to attempt to promote peaceful global dialogue it is imperative to avoid any extremes.

 


coldfall2002
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Thanks for the

Thanks for the repsonse!Feel free to continue the dialogue.

carpetfeller wrote:

Saying that what the RRS does is the same as religions is simply not true for they have evidence that backs thier arguments.  It has been argued that one cannot prove that there is no God but it can and has been proven that things said in The Bible (The infalliable word of God) are false.

There is evidence to back many things. Just having evidence does not take away our responsibility to treat each other with respect. I think one could argue pretty convincingly that their method lacks the proper respect. 

I would also like to examine this evidence that the Bible is false. I have examined evidence that makes that claim, but so far none of it has been able to stand. I believe the Bible is a historical narrative of human beings' interaction with YHWH. At this point, I would argue that it stands very convincingly as a true description of the narrative of the world. I would truly appreciate evidence if you have it!

Quote:
That said it is so hard to point this out to people of "faith" that, in my opinion, the only way to get through to the hard core religous is to malliciously bash thier beliefs. 

i think you may be right that there  are many out there who will just shrug off rational arguments and will not take part in productive dialogue. However, I do not think that attacking them will do anything to change that. Why not address thinking people who want to learn and understand the world? At least then a there may be mutual gain.

 

Quote:
After all, all it takes to overcome the tradition of believing in religion is thought and that is exactly (and only) what The RRS is trying to get you to do; think.

I do not have a problem with making people think. I believe that it is critical that people do think. However, I believe that the message of RRS is controversial enough to provide them the audience. Well over 90% of the world believes in some god(s). I have no problem with jokes about theism. However, direct attacks will turn people off.. Entertainment is a great way to spur debate. However, if you do radical things to gain an audience, you gain a radical audience and lose credibility.



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Coldfall, I must disagree

Coldfall, I must disagree with you.

 You claim that the RRS is against productive dialogue.  This is simply NOT the case!!!  These forums exist with the intent of bringing anyone who wants to debate in to discuss their views.  There are two forum areas for this, one that is "no-holds-barred" and one that is heavily moderated for civility.  You are welcome as are all theists to engage in discussion on this website.

 Secondly, you claim that putting DVDs into churches would be vandalism.  In the context of the Flemming interview, do you think this was an idea that was brought up or an active campaign that is underway?  I have many bad ideas in the span of a day, but that doesn't mean I should be punished for my thought crimes.  Unless I'm living in an Orwellian society.

 Thirdly, you must consider what's at stake here.  Harris argument in "Letter to a Christian Nation" is that religion is supremely harmful to society.  Would you DISAGREE that rapture politics, that is supporting policies to bring about the "rapture" are harmful to American society?  Is it completely benign to teach children things that are false and cause them psychological damage with fear of Satan, demons and hell?  There is a better way.

The necessity of RRS is that religion is given a free pass in society and discussion about it is considered taboo.  Yes, you have a "right" to your beliefs.  We cannot force you to change your beliefs.  And I am for secular government which allows anyone to have whatever religion they want.  The "battleground" is purely the battleground of information.  And the problem is that many theists have NEVER heard any alternative ways of thinking, have never heard of Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins, and have been indoctrinated since birth.

 If anything, I think the RRS advocates reading, discussing, and thinking about ALL sides of an issue.  If most theists have never even heard the atheist position in a well-formulated manner, isn't it the responsibility of atheists to "get the word out" to prevent misunderstanding?

 We are bombarded by Christian evangelism every day, and the RRS is no more harmful...  All the RRS asks is for people to come take a look at the evidence and arguments for both sides.  I read prolifically of Christian literature, and I have taken great strides to hear both sides.

 Christian evangelism is far more harmful for its stance on keeping a closed mind, labelling all dissent as blasphemy, and insinuating that simply THINKING about atheism is a sin punishable by eternity in hell.  THAT is a harmful idea, and far more harmful than putting DVDs in a church, something I don't think the RRS has ever actually done, just committed thought crimes about.  Christianity is ALL ABOUT thought crimes, and if you haven't read 1984 by Orwell, you should.

The Blasphemy Challenge is a noble, necessary campaign.  Not believing in the holy spirit carries no consequences, and saying it out loud carries no consequences.  The goal of the blasphemy challenge is to speak out against the Christian belief in "thought crimes," and if anything, is devoted to ALLOWING people to THINK and express their beliefs without hollow threats from the opposing believers.

 I welcome you on RRS, encourage you to debate, and encourage you to read more literature.

 I would further recommend Bertrand Russell's "Why I am Not A Christian" and Daniel Dennett's "Breaking the Spell."

 Welcome.


Sapient
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 First thanks for coming

 First thanks for coming on the message board, and talking about this with  people who have the time.  I'll try to briefly touch on some of the points from your several posts.  I may not have time to respond if you retort, but hopefully others here can pick up my slack.

coldfall2002 wrote:
A certain "movement" has come to my attention lately. The movement is apparently inspired by such thinkers as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.

While Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins think very much like myself, you should know that I hadn't read almost anything from Harris or Dawkins before we started RRS (I'm almost embarrased of this fact).  My partner Rook Hawkins hadn't read either of these men as well, and we were the brains behind the conception.  Our science geek, Razorcade, and Kelly had all read plenty of both authors before we started however, although they initially went along with our concept, without having to interject the thoughts from Dawkins or Harris.  We were of course delighted as we read Dawkins and Harris, as we found out their views matched our already formulated opinions.

Quote:
using ineloquent phrases such as "the virgin birth is bullshit" and "Jesus is a fake" to spur emotionally based disputes.

That avatar was made by a fan, without us asking him to make it.  Had it been my conception those words wouldn't have been there, however I found the avatar to be quite cool and better then nothing, so we went with it.  I would've said something more like "prove virgins can have babies" and "Jesus never existed."

Quote:
and are going as far as entering churches to put a copy of "The God Who Wasn't There" documentary into hymnals, behind wall hangings, etc.

We've actually gotten away from this and moved to giving DVDs for free via mail to Christians who simply ask for it.  During December I filled about 30 requests.  The information is here: http://www.endchristmas.com/christians_please_read_and_free_dvd_offer 

Quote:
This means doing ridiculous things such as intruding on people's privacy and rights.

Never have we intruded on someones rights or privacy.  We've never once walked into someones home, and would very much be against intruding on rights.   We will however be organizing a bible recycling campaign where activists will be going door to door to ask people to donate their bible for recycling so that the profits can get donated to stem cell research. 

Quote:
They have become what they hate in order to beat what they hate, and in the process even their name has lost meaning.

No.  First we don't really "hate" much.  However we do have severe disdain for beliefs that are held without any proof, and to that end we have not yet become what we dislike.  Contrary to your misconceptions, we actually are glad that people attempt to persuade others to believe what they do, it's the content of what they're attempting you to believe that's the problem.

We don't hate preachers for preaching, we have problems with what they want us to believe.  We actually have a lot of respect for people that try to convince others of what they believe, in fact it is exactly what you've done in your blog.

Quote:
The most interesting part, however, was his response to RRS's decision to go into church buildings and plant the dvds. I cannot give you an exact quote because I did not write it down or record it, but he basically said he thought that might be walking the line of vandalism. He seemed rightly hesitant to fully embrace their methods, and moved on quickly with the interview.

He's also come out and publicly endorsed us since the airing of that show as one of only 5 or 6 groups that he gets behind.

Quote:
What I am saying is that if they want to be taken seriously they need to stop using the attack mode and begin interacting with their "opponents."

 Hello?  Have you ever heard our show?  We grant theists hours worth of conversation on our show and give them the ability to make their viewpoints in the most fair setting I know of for debate amongst the two conflicting viewpoints.  (at least in terms of length of time allotted to them to be able to speak, and there is no mute button)  

Quote:
If someone is calling you names or attacking what you believe (by basically calling you a complete idiot who does not use reason), why would you hear them out? You would not!

I don't call someone a complete idiot unless they are one, it's rare that words like that are uttered.  However it isn't necessarily rational to think you are going to change someone who is acting like a brainwashed idiot in an internet conversation, some might argue (me) that it's more rational to tell the idiot he is an idiot and let that marinate in his head for a while... and just move on.

Quote:
I honestly believe your blasphemy challenge and verbal smear campaign gives you much less validity among thinking people.

Of which both Sam and Richard are fans of. 

Quote:
The point I was making is that when you attack, mock, and exaggerate your argument becomes lost with rational people.  

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity." - Thomas Jefferson

On how to end irrational faith: " I think we should not underestimate the power of embarrassment.....  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."  - Sam Harris

Quote:
There is evidence to back many things. Just having evidence does not take away our responsibility to treat each other with respect. I think one could argue pretty convincingly that their method lacks the proper respect. 

On the contrary I would argue that you lack respect for delusional people because you will not engage in the proper tactics to help them out of their delusiuons.  In order to respect certain people it is crucial that we disrespect their beliefs that don't deserve respect, and sometimes in such a way as to shake them out of their trance.

- Brian Sapient


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Quote: We will however be

Quote:
We will however be organizing a bible recycling campaign where activists will be going door to door to ask people to donate their bible for recycling so that the profits can get donated to stem cell research.

Brilliant, Sapient.  Where do I send my bibles?  I still have a few floating around in boxes somewhere.

 

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

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Sapient
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Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

Brilliant, Sapient.

Credit goes to Tomcat for the idea.

Quote:
  Where do I send my bibles?  I still have a few floating around in boxes somewhere.

Just hold on to them for now, we haven't figured out how exactly we want to run the campaign.  The project probably wont start til mid 2007.

Both the Blasphemy Challenge and Bible Recycling will be part of the upcoming Perpetual Enlightenment, in which we will be engaged in specific efforts until the end of theism.  So think long term with us.  Eye-wink

- Brian Sapient


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That will certainly make

That will certainly make things interesting. I'd buy a few to send but then I'd be giving the church more money.

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