Ranting defense of RRS and some positive comments about us

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Recently an atheist blogger asked his audience what they thought of The Rational Response Squad. Now I recognize and expect for about half of the atheist community to disagree with us. I think that's a good thing. I do however find it ironic that people who disagree with us rarely take the time to find out that we think a passive atheist is needed as well. We wish we could be the passive atheist, and it's only after many years of experience in this realm (and being the passive atheist for a while) that we decided a more blunt approach from a few intellectuals is necessary and vital. We recognized this niche wasn't being filled properly and have fallen into it quite nicely. When we started our group we envisioned it as a jump off point for strident ideas. We envisioned ourselves as a united front of people who agree that religion must go, and that our collective activist power would be strong enough to actually make an impact on a wider front, this was the "Squad" aspect we were hoping for. We see ourselves as the people who shake up those comfortable with irrational beliefs, a passive atheist can spend compassionate dialogue time helping the theist overcome religion, and will have a more receptive candidate after the individual was "shaken up" a bit. However it is entirely possible that the passive atheist will have little chance to help a friend overcome theism if that friend never had the RRS "shake up."

We have contributed behind the scenes or in front of everyone to a great many projects. The Blasphemy Challenge was spawned from a phone call in which I remember feeling as if Brian Flemming was calling the head of a security organization looking for back up. I remember hearing, "I've got this idea, but I think it would be better as a Rational Response Squad project, would you want to play a role?" Since then we've played vital roles in helping to spread the work of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, as well as many others. The author David Mills calls us the biggest catalyst he's ever had for driving his book sales.

Unfortunatly we live in a world in which negative or controversial opinions get media play and calm level headed rationality often gets put on the backburner. I've seen stories sent to the cutting room floor because we weren't harsh or controversial enough in a pre-interview or during a taping. We get press because we're bold, in your face, no holds barred, and blunt. It just so happens we are blunt about an issue that so many people irrationally adhere to and often are unwilling to accept any atheist message whether strident or passive. In the marketplace of ideas, we're at a crucial point. As Brian Flemming once noted on our radio show, our country looks exactly like you'd expect it to look right before it slipped into a theocracy. I can only attribute atheists who think speaking up against religion is a bad thing to a disinformation meme campaign. Atheists often have to abandon religion on their own volition, unfortunatly the remnants of theistic dogmatic bullshit remain in some, and they buy into ridculous notions like "faith is a good thing." Or even sillier yet, the meme that atheists like RRS do more harm than good, or simply reinforce the faith of the believer. These are dishonest memes spread by theists and then accepted within some atheist circles. This is evidence that it's not theists alone that can come to poor conclusions. Shame on the appeaser "RRS sucks" atheists for making themselves a target for pointing out ignorant assertions.

From experience (not from scientific testing... it's an awful lot of experience) I can tell you that the majority of the theists that claim debates with atheists merely reinforce their faith are merely self deluding themselves. A person prone to self delude themselves will do so whether it's a strident atheist in your face, or viewing "God Bless America" on a billboard. Strident atheists aren't hurting the cause, atheists who use the platform given to them by strident atheists to take pot shots at strident atheists are hurting the cause. And as far as I can remember this is the first time I've typed words along those lines in public. And the reason is simple... I don't want to denigrate the work of other atheists, they are too important to a much bigger common goal. Even when those atheists lack common sense in how to overcome the dangers that thinking irrationally can lead to.

As Steven Wells pointed out in this weeks Philadelphia Weekly magazine...

 

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Downey doesn't have a bad word to say about the RRS, nor they about her. Both are too aware just how powerful and capable of real harm their mutual enemy still is to waste time squabbling over turf or tactics.

 

 

Thankfully Mr. Wells pegged one of the dividing problems here so I don't always have to be the one to say it. Simply put the RRS has said over and over that it supports the work of any other atheist who on any level is helping this effort, even if that person refuses to use the nasty "a" word, and even if that person is passive and subtle in their ways. The only thing we ask for is mutual respect and understanding. Tolerate us, the same way you preach tolerance. We have only come out against two public hard working atheists and only after being provoked by their camp. There was Greg Epstein and then Michael Shermer. I've since had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Michael Shermer behind the scenes (note I took it out of the public eye after returning one piece of public fire) and he expressed regret for writing the story the way he did. He was reasonable about the issue upon discussing it, and I support him again today because of it.

We're fighting for a world in which you don't have to be passive and subtle when the entirety of humanity is at stake. We're fighting for a world where you don't need to be passive towards religion as it simply wouldn't exist. We're fighting for a world in which we no longer need to call ourselves atheists to find others who think like us. We fight this fight with every iota of knowledge we have accumulated in the many years we've collectively accumulated as a team analyzing the religious climate. Some atheists who are relatively new to atheism may still have those "but you'll never change anyone" thoughts. Please understand, we know what we're doing, we're doing it well, and better than expected.

We're helping many atheists who deserve to be lifted on a pedestal, and taking the time to show the world that we're not all bad with projects like atheist volunteers. Or maybe as an atheist you can appreciate the dedication we've given to teenagers that have trouble feeling normal in a society heavily plagued with religious and dogmatic thought in creating freethinking teens. Freethinking teens serves as a website for freethinking teens, run by freethinking teens, we simply pay for it, help oversee it, and assist the teens with anything they ask of us. Giving these teens a home free from faith gives them a chance to explore themselves in an environment of similar children. Maybe you see the work of our activist force in creating a website for free for the amazing and peaceful Margaret Downey as a benefit of RRS activism. She's on the record as being highly thankful for our ability to get her message out to a younger generation. Maybe you find that my dedication to helping people like Greydon Square hone their voice, or building Greydon a website for free so that he can help get his message out there is an advantage of RRS. Or maybe you're simply inspired by the fact that a group of people exist that would dedicate so much time to an effort they believe in. Kelly, Rook, and I work 100 hours a week or more. If a Christian can say the best word to describe me is "driven" why do I still have to deal with atheist holdouts? (semi-rhetorical question)

I briefly addressed memes. A particularly dishonest blogger has had semi limited success in spreading false memes about many different atheists over the last few years, but particularly the Rational Response Squad. I won't link to him, instead I will soon proceed with taking him to court on my own behalf, but doing so I will be speaking up for all the other important people who have been libeled by the blogger I speak of (similar to what I'm doing with Uri Geller). I also helped get a groundswell of internet support when CSE Ministries submitted a bunch of take down notices against atheist dissenters.

The Christian blogger I speak of recently read the post asking for opinions about the RRS and chose to pick the worst comments to paint a negative picture of RRS while it would seem that overall the majority of commenters actually support our work. Considering his negative meme spreading, I thought I'd play in the fun and take an opportunity to point out the nicest and most positive comments about us on the blog. I even know how to quote mine like my special friend...

 

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good points were made by the squad. -

 

The redhead, Kelly, is way hot! - Kevin Morgan

 

...the Blasphemy Challenge... certainly raised a lot of awareness - Secular Planet

 

There are a lot of secular groups out there, especially in the past few years, and each one of them has their own identity. Some are more activist, some are more social, some are more intellectual. No one is going to be happy with them all. The RRS, given that it's more active and confrontational than most secular groups, is predictably going to get a lot of attention. It can be argued if this attention is a good or bad thing, but I tend to lean towards the positive side. As a social pseudo-movement, the bleeding edge has to be the most offensive, especially given the low regard most people have for atheism.
I discussed this further on the Apologia podcast if anyone is interested in hearing what Christians and atheists were able to agree on about the RRS.
http://www.drzach.net/apologia.htm

 

I think Kelly is hot. I think their style has a lot to do with where they're from - Philly. If you've listened to the Bloodhound Gang or watched Jackass you start to get an idea... They also reflect something that hasn't been acknowledged enough: atheism is a youth movement. I think they appeal very well to the high school and college crowd and they encourage participation. And like it or not, this demographic is what counts. They maybe come off as childish and immature, but to an 20 year old, it's a lot more relevant than reading about Bertrand Russell and the plight of the agnostics.

 

The RRS has one redeeming quality: it forces people to notice that those who believe in reason are starting to make their voices heard. - Mike

 

OTOH, they're out there and raising awareness. I thought the Blasphemy Challenge itself was stupid, but if it got some folks to think about the Bible's teachings and maybe moved them away from fundamentalism, then that is a good thing. -

 

I Think the RRS accomplished its goal of raising awareness with the abc debate.Whatever there faults,the got a major news station to show a debate about god.It shows people who are belivers that talking about it wont get you struck down,and atheist that there are pthers like themselves. -

 

 

I've watched the dateline RRS debate and the RRS team was more than affable. They came prepared to debate by the rules of the debate and they formed their responses based on their opponent's arguments. Just the fact that I can't say ANY of that about the Christian team is remarkable. They broke the rules of the debate right off the mark and then they went on to make extremely condescending ad-hominem attacks on the RRS. Even as they were completely incapable of responding to any RRS positon. To the point of being dumbfounded speechless and having no response at times.

 

Take it easy, bbk. We are talking about the RSS here because I asked what my readers thought about them. I'm genuinely interested to hear how they are perceived by other atheists, and I'm interested in the full range of opinions. I will share my opinion in another post, but I created this one to hear from others. -

 

Same goes to anybody who makes excuses like "oh well they're from philly" or "maturity comes from experience" You people really just don't understand the point of the Blasphemy Challenge — like any of you have bothered to ask them in their open chatroom(s) in which they show up very frequently. The challenge wasn't so much directed at Christians as it was a neon sign in an alley. It was to help young secularists, agnostics and atheists have some kind of outlet in which to make a stand or learn to make a stand against oppressive theists around them, to learn to stand up for themselves in some way. For many, the B.C. was the first thing they've ever done to rebel against their asshole parents who psychologically beat theism into them every day. People like those in this thread keep talking about how RRS is counter-productive and don't help anybody. But you haven't bothered reading the hundreds of rejuvinated people on youtube and the many, many more letters and emails Brian, Kelly and Rook have received thanking them. I think that nearly 2,000 individuals much disagree with you on this point, and many more who don't bother writing thank-you notes anyway.

Every passive or apologetic person that was not resisting oppressive theism is something taken away from the oppressive theists and given to the secularists. Like a turnover in dodgeball. That does nothing? What bullshit. -

 

Yep, RSS can be quite 'in your face' but sometimes a bit of that is needed to get people to become aware of something. As others have said, RSS are a younger group aiming at a younger audience (though I read their blog also). - OzAtheist

 

Shouldn't atheists realize just how stupid this whole thing is? We're so sensitive to Christians calling us arrogant and immature that we completely forget - it doesn't take a PhD to say that Christianity is full of crap. It takes a 12 year old. I really want to meet the one single atheist who has talked to a Christian and never been called arrogant or immature. Let's start with Dawkins and work our way down. Whose ever managed to portray atheism as "mature" and "humble" in the face of Christians? -

 

 

As far as the RRS, I think they're great, whether or not I'm 100% comfortable with the strategy and approach that they take. - Kevin

 

I liked the Blasphemy Challenge. I thought the idea was good, and many of the videos that were made in answer to it were interesting. - Valhar2000

 

Two thumbs up for the "Rational Responders". There has to be people that have the time, energy and resources to help educate the people of the evils of theocracy in America. - Corey Mondello

 

- Brian Sapient


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I just happened to see one of those dishonest meme spreaders a few minutes after referring to them in the first post.  In Kelly's recent blog "Triumph of Reason" a poster "The Saint" has no arguments for god, and almost nothing in terms of fact.  But he's got a mouth full of backwards bizarro world bullshit to sell to future appeaser atheists... will you buy his mouthful or see it for what it is?


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The neo-atheists can boast of their "effectiveness" all they like, but the reality, it seems, paints a different picture.  This "movement" (if it can indeed be called that) seems populated largely by angry, cynical anti-theists who's only real interest is in baiting and attacking Christians, and finding a way to profit from it.  Historically, atheism--even in its most benign form--has never held wide appeal, and yet the tactics of the neo-atheists are even less appealing;  if gaining widespread acceptance is the goal, then the tactics of the neo-atheists are counter-productive:  asserting that believers are either deluded, insane, or just plain stupid is certainly no way to endear yourselves to the masses. 

The Saint

 

 

 

That's how it happens, appeaser atheists.  It's that simple.  If you've ever called the rational response squad immature, arrogant, and lacking of intellectual worth you may have seen one of these memes and abstained from the proper critical inquiry that was required of the situation.  If you buy anything the above poster is saying, spend time doing research.  Start with a look at the rising statistical trend of atheists, then read his first sentence, then laugh a little, then repeat for the rest of the sentences.

- Brian Sapient


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