Response to "You guys are bad representatives of atheism!!!" people

kellym78's picture

I found this article on the USAToday website. It's written by Nica Lalli and is a thoughtful piece that makes the very valid counter-point to all of the people who carelessly lob the accusation at us (or others, such as Christopher Hitchens here) that "You guys are bad representatives of atheism!" Since this is so frequently used as an argument against us, I thought I would re-post it here.

Quote:

Atheists don't speak with just one voice
All religions have richly diverse histories and equally diverse believers. Yet why are non-believers treated as a monolith? Equal treatment might lead to greater understanding.

By Nica Lalli

I have a question for the Christians out there: If you could pick one living person to be the face of the entire Christian faith, who would that person be? Even if you could pick three, or even five people, it would still be a challenge. I imagine it would be hard to figure out whether you wanted to pick those Christians who think most like you, or if you would pick people who could better represent the many colors of Christianity, the subtle differences and big-picture similarities.

I am an atheist, a humanist, a secularist, a person of no religion. I am nothing. And I ask the question above because in recent months, the word "atheist" has become synonymous with one kind of non-believer: the kind that writes books about atheism and is not very nice about religion.

Many of these books have been written by atheists who are tired of being silent, who are sick of being reviled and who are no longer willing to play the religion games according to the rules of the devout. That means that they no longer consider religion off limits to criticism.

The authors of these books have chosen titles that re-set the stage, with new scenery, new production and new lyrics. God is Not Great, The God Delusion, The End of Faith. These titles tell the reader right away that religion is being looked at from a different, far less reverential, view.

But there is more than one kind of atheist. And even in the pool of (mostly male) writers who are called "atheist fundamentalists," there are many differences. Don't confuse your Sam Harris with your Daniel Dennett, and although Victor Stenger or Richard Dawkins may mostly agree with Christopher Hitchens, there are many disparities as well.

I take a different approach altogether. Although I do not believe in God, I have no interest in telling anyone else what he should or should not believe. I am more interested in dialogue, and I hope that conversation will get us to respect and understanding. I cannot see dialogue happening with someone who tells you that your core beliefs are wrong, so I refrain from telling anyone what to believe.

It isn't that I am not angry at some believers. These days, many atheists are angry. And we should be.

We are not liked by most people in our own country, and we couldn't win an election unless the other guy was a child molester. We are regarded as threatening, unethical and downright evil. We are rarely even invited to the table when discussions among different religions (or beliefs) are held. We have no representation, and we get very little respect.

Yet the believers want us to be nice; they want us to respect them and leave them to their religions, to their worship, and to their hope that we will see the light and become like them.

The road to understanding between those who follow a religion and those who do not is fraught with difficulty. The difficulty is compounded when the sides involved in the journey resort to name-calling, finger-pointing and the blame game.

It is true that we all need to learn to get along. It is true that the atheists need to be included and respected. But how to start? Where to begin?

It would help if everyone could stop fearing the differences. If people admitted that they don't know the answers to all the big questions and stop being frightened by the possibility that there is more than one answer (or no answer at all), then we might be able to start a discussion that would be worth having.

In the meanwhile, when people think about the atheists out there, it would be helpful if they at least acknowledge that there are numerous approaches to non-belief just as there are a wide variety of ways to believe. Because if you really want to understand Judaism, you have to talk to more than one Jew; you can't ask a Protestant what a Baptist does or doesn't do; and even one kind of Presbyterian is not the same as another kind. And so it follows that no single atheist, or one approach to atheism, represents all the atheists out there.

With that in mind, let's invite more of everyone to participate in the discussion. In fact, the discussion should not be held in some far off conference room with only those invited seated at the table. We should all be having the discussion, within our communities and neighborhoods. At the park, in the coffee shop, at the community center, even at each other's dinner tables.

Once we start, we might see that we have more in common than we all think. Once we all agree to disagree, once we set the rules that no side is trying to convince the other of its rightness or wrongness, once we clarify that we are simply trying to understand each other — and then move on to other topics of common interest — then the conversation about religion and its place in our society can really begin.

Nica Lalli is an artist, educator and writer who lives in Brooklyn. Her first book is a memoir titled Nothing: Something to Believe In and was published last spring.


http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2007/10/atheists-dont-s.html
(emphasis mine)

So, maybe some of these people who are so quick to criticize will take a minute to listen to what she said, which is ironically the same thing that we have been saying since the inception of RRS, and stop trying to find the one perfect voice of atheism (which is a ridiculous concept in and of itself, considering that atheism is the exact antithesis of a dogmatic belief which ascribes an all powerful leader the ability to represent it publicly) and allow us to be the kind of atheists that we are, and you can be the kind that you are, all the while recognizing that the important thing is the fact that we are all refusing to remain the silent minority.

Atheist Books

   "GOD" is on our side,

   "GOD" is on our side, We are atheists .... we are Jesus/Buddha like,  healing the world .... of mind disorder and confussion. This day RRS is about love, and LOVE ROCKS Supreme ......

I agree.  And you don't

I agree.  And you don't seem to see the irony to your own approach here. I think you guys can start following this by not labeling and stereotyping all believers with the same brush, as you frequently do, or calling humanists who aren't "in your face" like you are "chicken shit", or by telling agnostics they don't exist. you don't want to be labeled as the "one voice of atheism", yet you frequently label most if not all theists as being the same, and talk about wanting to have them stigmatized and labeled as mentally ill, as well as labeling other atheists, humanists, agnostics and other non-theists who don't agree with your approach. take your own advice, and follow the article yourself.  try working on helping non-theists and defending them and working for the rights of everyone instead of attacking others who don't agree with you so much.

SamTanner's picture

Harmful issues

I think the biggest problem is not with stereotyping all theists under the same banner, but with finding a way to leave out religion in sorting the harmful reprecussions of dogmatism. If there is a way to leave God out of the conversation when it comes to polygamy, stem-cell research, jihadism, abortion, ect.; anything that has moral side effects, that would be the most productive conversation we could possibly have. I don't see it happening without a great deal of social change and (possibly) a different administration.

Brian37's picture

blueocean wrote:

blueocean wrote:
I agree. And you don't seem to see the irony to your own approach here. I think you guys can start following this by not labeling and stereotyping all believers with the same brush, as you frequently do, or calling humanists who aren't "in your face" like you are "chicken shit", or by telling agnostics they don't exist. you don't want to be labeled as the "one voice of atheism", yet you frequently label most if not all theists as being the same, and talk about wanting to have them stigmatized and labeled as mentally ill, as well as labeling other atheists, humanists, agnostics and other non-theists who don't agree with your approach. take your own advice, and follow the article yourself. try working on helping non-theists and defending them and working for the rights of everyone instead of attacking others who don't agree with you so much.

Show us a specific example of where RRS has stereotyped theists? I dont think Kelly or Brian are stupid.

Many atheists do see religion as a collective organization as ignoring it's dark side. Muslims NOT ALL, but many ignore the harm caused by people within that label saying that Isam is a religion of peace and "they are not true Muslims". The true scottsman fallacy is in play here.

Same can be said with Christianity. Many NOT ALL, but many Christians ignore their own past atrocities and use that same fallacy. I do defy you to show us where Brian or Kelly say all religious people are bad? I defy you to show us where Kelly and Brian treat all Christians the same. They dont.

Atheists do however, treat all theistic claims about deities the same, "what evidence do you have?" Would be apropreate if one were claiming Thor existed. We do feel all religious people are fooling themselves into believing in fictional beings. We do feel that far too many religious people ignore the harm that has been done to retard education and science and caused divisive tribalism in all of human history, not just Christianity.

Brian and Kelly and all of us here are very capable of treating an individual as such. Where you get the idea that they stereotype theists absurd.

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37

Hambydammit's picture

Quote: I think you guys can

Quote:
I think you guys can start following this by not labeling and stereotyping all believers with the same brush, as you frequently do, or calling humanists who aren't "in your face" like you are "chicken shit", or by telling agnostics they don't exist.

Blue, you're starting to be a broken record.  Part of the stereotype of atheists is the misconception that we think all theists are the same.

Did you read that carefully?  I've said it to you more than once, and you don't seem to be listening.

Theists say that atheists say theists are all the same.  The truth is, we recognize the difference.  Now, my thread about moderates is often used as proof that we lump all theists together.  Sam Harris and I are not the majority of atheists.  Most atheists actually get kind of upset with me for coming down so hard on moderates.  However, it's really important that you notice exactly how I lump moderates with fundies.  I don't say that they are all insane, or that they're all immoral, or anything like that.  I make an objective observation of something that logically MUST be consistent to all of them -- faith.  It would be like saying that all people who have children have human babies.  This is not stereotyping.  It's pointing out a universal quality.  All halibut have scales.  All people with cancer have a disease.

 

Quote:
you don't want to be labeled as the "one voice of atheism", yet you frequently label most if not all theists as being the same, and talk about wanting to have them stigmatized and labeled as mentally ill, as well as labeling other atheists, humanists, agnostics and other non-theists who don't agree with your approach.

Read.  Think.  Read again.  Comprehend.

If I say, "All theists believe in faith," this is true.  It is necessarily true.  It is impossible for it to be false.

If you say, "All atheists label all theists as insane," this is false.   Demonstrably so.

All "all" statements are not equal.

 

Quote:
take your own advice, and follow the article yourself.  try working on helping non-theists and defending them and working for the rights of everyone instead of attacking others who don't agree with you so much.

Are you blind?  I've already pointed out to you that this is exactly what RRS does.  This is exactly what Margaret Downey does.  This is exactly what Atheist Volunteers does.

We are all about education, defending our rights, and working for the rights of everyone.  That's WHY we attack those who are working against us.  It's not our fault they happen to be theists.

 

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

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

Beyond Saving's picture

Ummmm...I don't try to

Ummmm...I don't try to represent anyone other than myself so I guess I am a bad representative. Unlike MOST (not all) theists, atheists are perfectly capable of representing themselves. Also Blue, I recognize that theists are all different, but are all the same in one important way, they are all theists. As for helping non-theists, I'll even help a theist if I feel like it but don't really view my actions as representative of atheism. I'll let the others speak for themselves and help people where they see fit.

 

Bad representative,

bad, bad, bad...

I just usually go with my own taste. If I like something, and it happens to be against the law, well, then I might have a problem.- Hunter S. Thompson

Cpt_pineapple's picture

I don't see where blue got

I don't see where blue got that the RRS is lumping all Theists together.

 

 

' Fighting to free humanity from the mind disorder known as Theism.'

 

http://www.rationalresponders.com/theism_is_a_mind_disorder_video1 

 

http://video.rationalresponders.com/item/RB6M702YMWXZX6T9 

 

 

 

hmmmmmmmmmmm. Where did blue get those ideas?  I don't see the RRS trying to lump Theists into a group. Undecided

Quote: ' Fighting to

umm, that is where. the MIND DISORDER known as theism? that implies all theists. trying to get theism labeled a mental disorder, that implies all theists. read pineapple's post as well. I'm glad at least one person gets it.  you can't have it both ways-you can't make statements like that and then say "we're not talking about all theists". it's amazing how many people on here turn a blind eye to this fact. if you're really against religion and dogma, why not say "fighting against the disease of religion and dogma?"  by implying that theism itself (which is a very general term) is a mental disorder, ANYONE who believes in any sort of higher power is automatically labaled as mental, and this can include  a lot of different backgrounds.

and I never said Kelly or Sapient was stupid. you added that. If someone put up a website labeling atheism as a mind disorder, you'd get upset, and rightfully so. when atheism is attacked in the media, you get upset, and rightfully so. you take it was an attack on all atheists. the reverse is also true.

Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

 

Quote:
Blue, you're starting to be a broken record.  Part of the stereotype of atheists is the misconception that we think all theists are the same

there's a lot of broken records on here, but you seem to only go after those who don't agree with you

Did you read that carefully?  I've said it to you more than once, and you don't seem to be listening.

this is the first time you've said anything to me, you just said it at the same time in several boards. and yes I did read carefully.

Quote:
Theists say that atheists say theists are all the same.  The truth is, we recognize the difference.  Now, my thread about moderates is often used as proof that we lump all theists together.  Sam Harris and I are not the majority of atheists.  Most atheists actually get kind of upset with me for coming down so hard on moderates.  However, it's really important that you notice exactly how I lump moderates with fundies.  I don't say that they are all insane, or that they're all immoral, or anything like that.  I make an objective observation of something that logically MUST be consistent to all of them -- faith.  It would be like saying that all people who have children have human babies.  This is not stereotyping.  It's pointing out a universal quality.  All halibut have scales.  All people with cancer have a disease.

where did I say ALL atheists lump theists together? I was making a statement about SOME of the people on this board.  I did not say you steroetype b/c you say theists have faith. I said you stereotype b/c you seem to assume that all theists in one way or another support the religious right, and b/c RRS in general says that theism is a mind disorder. Why are you trying to say I said something I didn't say? I thought RRS didn't speak for all atheists-and I never said it did.  as for the faith thing, it looks like under your post on moderates many people made good arguments, so I'm not going to reiterate them. I am glad though that you are not in the majority in this view.

Quote:
Read.  Think.  Read again.  Comprehend

If I say, "All theists believe in faith," this is true.  It is necessarily true.  It is impossible for it to be false.

If you say, "All atheists label all theists as insane," this is false.   Demonstrably so.

All "all" statements are not equal.

again, where did I say ALL atheists label theists as insane? I was talking about SOME people on here. that's a long way from all atheists. and many on here have said more than just "they depend on faith". Many on here say anyone who believes in a god or higher power of any sort supports the fundies indirectly. that is ridiculous.  that's like the stupid claim that all atheists are communists.

Quote:
Are you blind?  I've already pointed out to you that this is exactly what RRS does.  This is exactly what Margaret Downey does.  This is exactly what Atheist Volunteers does.

I have no problem with the last two. the last two don't actively try to have those with differing beliefs labeled as "mentally ill".  RSS does. It's one thing to have this attitude against those who would violently attack you; that's understandable.  but there seems to be that general attitude on here towards anyone who doesn't agree with the general consensus that theism (no matter what) is a "disease". That's why even several non-theists have a problem with RRS. Saying we have don't agree with it is not the same as labeling all atheists. Get a grip.

Quote:
We are all about education, defending our rights, and working for the rights of everyone.  That's WHY we attack those who are working against us.  It's not our fault they happen to be theists.

not everyone who doesn't agree with what you do is a theist. you just seem to think they are.  it's good that you are about education and defending rights. then why don't you stick to that, and leave the psychology talk to the experts. you don't need to try to label another group as "mentally ill" to fight for your rights.  we'd be nowhere if that had happened in other fights for rights.

 

Brian37's picture

blueocean wrote: Quote: '

blueocean wrote:

umm, that is where. the MIND DISORDER known as theism? that implies all theists. trying to get theism labeled a mental disorder, that implies all theists. read pineapple's post as well. I'm glad at least one person gets it. you can't have it both ways-you can't make statements like that and then say "we're not talking about all theists". it's amazing how many people on here turn a blind eye to this fact. if you're really against religion and dogma, why not say "fighting against the disease of religion and dogma?" by implying that theism itself (which is a very general term) is a mental disorder, ANYONE who believes in any sort of higher power is automatically labaled as mental, and this can include a lot of different backgrounds.

and I never said Kelly or Sapient was stupid. you added that. If someone put up a website labeling atheism as a mind disorder, you'd get upset, and rightfully so. when atheism is attacked in the media, you get upset, and rightfully so. you take it was an attack on all atheists. the reverse is also true.

How does that mean they are stereotyping all theists? If 1 billion people believed that Horus was real, rather than Yahwey or Jesus, wouldn't you think something was wrong with that?

"mind dissorder" is basically pointing out that deity belief goes beyond objective critical thinking. Theists are quite capable of critical thought in other aspects of their lives besides the issue of religion. "Mind dissorder" is justified, just as it would be if someone told you that they could talk to the dead through a plastic triangle and a wooden board sold at Toys R Us.

They are being fair, because they are being honest, unless you want them to lie to you and say it is ok for adults to believe in Santa. And they are not singling out one label but all claims of deities. If theists want to escape their delusion, they need look no further than the weath of critical thought at this site.

Superstition is superstition, weither the claim is Loc Ness, Bigfoot, Vishnu, Thor or a zombie god surviving rigor mortis. It is 2007, not 3,000BCE. Isnt it time humanity outgrow it's immaginary nipple in the sky? 

So if you claim that a multiple armed deity is real, you do have a mind dissorder, just as the ancients did in believing Apollo pulled the sun across the sky in a chariot. And  modern monotheism doesnt get a pass from criticism merely because it is the most current and most popular today. 

That is not stereotyping, that is calling fiction what it is, fiction. People who believe fiction as fact have a problem, just as a 70 year old man litterally believing in Santa would have a problem. 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37