Let the Mudslinging Stop

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Let the Mudslinging Stop

A typical banter between atheism and theism, at least in Western countries, is not a debate between atheism and theism per se, but a debate between one of the Abrahamic religions and atheism. The fact of the matter is that religion is not inherently theistic. Definitionally speaking, atheism is a lack of belief in a deity, but this does not entail irreligion. Definitionally then, Japan may be the largest atheist nation on Earth because the majority of her people do not claim to have a belief in a god, yet at the same time the same people will ascribe to some sort of religion. This would be atheistic religion. On the other hand, there are a growing number of people who believe in a deity of some kind but do not ascribe to any particular religion. This would be theism without religion, such as “god” in philosophy or the nondescript "god" used in governmental proceedings in America. I bring this up because I think we have to be crystal clear when with what we are talking about, as it is a false dichotomy to pitch theism and religion against atheism and irreligion. Attacks on intellectual ground have to do with the rationality of belief in a god, and this is not my contention. Rather, I fear that the ravings on both sides have produced a growing pseudo-intellectual banter of which both sides have fallen victim to not because the rationality of one's beliefs, but the workings of common beliefs and the genetic fallacies associated with them.

The recent plethora of New York Times bestsellers, dubbed the "atheist's gospels" among other titles, have made it clear that atheism has come from what was once considered a mental illness to a majority position among the intellectual elite. Often times, atheists will tout the discrepancy between the number of atheists and agnostics among academics compared to the relatively low percentages in the general population. Sam Harris claims that 93% of scientists in a poll conducted by the National Academy of Science (USA) are atheists or agnostic, but I'm not really sure where this statistic came from, as I was unable to find the poll online or even on the NAS's website. Other statistics cropped up all over the web, only to confirm one thing: there are no clear statistics on who believes what about what. I think the trend, though, favors Harris' touted statistics. In general, there are more academics who are agnostics or atheists than the general population in America.

Despite this rise from the depths, the bickering on both sides of the fence at times more resembles the back-seat fight in a car between siblings than it does a real intellectual debate, and this is really what I want to address, as it seems no one is immune. After reading the The God Delusion I was extremely disappointed from an intellectual standpoint. The book presumably presents a case leveled at theism in general, but Dawkins paints broad strokes. The read was difficult as I spent the bulk of my time trying to figure out whether he was addressing belief in God, a particular religious practice, Abrahamic religions, or all the above, or none of the above. In short, it was sloppy. If this is the best atheists can do, then atheists are in trouble, but fortunately it is not. Harris' books A Letter to A Christian Nation and The End of Faith seemed to have more meat to them, but still lacked the poise and rigor of Dennett's book, Breaking the Spell, whom I find to be the best of the quote, "Four Horsemen".

Media outlets latched onto Dawkins' book and began to caricature Dawkins as "fundamentalist" atheist because his book seemed more like a rant than it did a well thought out treatise against a god. The animated series South Park picked up on this, and basically did a reductio ad absurdum on Dawkins thesis that religion somehow breeds violence. The two part South Park story composed of episodes "Go God Go" and "Go God Go XII" trace the story of the chubby kid Cartman that only wants to play a Nintendo Wii. He cannot wait  for it  so he freezes himself in a glacier. He is thawed out 500 years in the future at a time where the world is inhabited completely by atheists. The atheists, however, are divided into factions. The leader of one faction says of another, "We cannot tolerate the otters! Their Science is flawed! Their answer to the Great Question is different from ours." The point of the parody was that the whole banter seems rather ridiculous as there are "fundamentalists" on both sides. The caricature of an anti-intellectual dogma-spitting fundamentalist in the western world is often associated with fundamentalist preachers screaming into a microphone banging his hand on a pulpit or a man with a megaphone waving a Bible in the air on a street corner shouting, "turn or burn! I'm not saying that atheists are fundamentalists in the same manner of speaking as religious fundamentalists.  The label "fundamentalist" implies that there is some sort of fundamental doctrine to ascribe to and atheists do not have such doctrines, but the impression that some atheists are giving is hardly any different than that of the dogma-spitting fundamentalist.

One would be foolish to deny that religion has produced numerous fundamentalist who enact violence on anyone who does not believe like they do and are responsible for some of the world’s worst atrocities. No religion is immune to extremism as religious fundamentalism exists in practically every world religion: Hinduism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Chinese traditional religions, and Judaism. Sam Harris tries to lay the guilt of the quote "moderates" in these respective religions, saying that moderation breeds extremism. There are at least two problems with this sort of thinking. First, it is not only the irreligious that decry these atrocities, but also those who are adherents to the religion do as well. Second, the critique is non-unique to religion, because ideologies of any sort can be taken to extremes and used to justify violence. One need only point to atrocities such as the Cultural Revolution in China and the extreme applications of eugenics carried out by Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany to justify extermination of Chinese and Jews by the millions. Blaming the whole of something for the actions of a few would be a genetic fallacy, as I fear this is what atheists are doing with religion. If atheists want to claim the rational high ground, I think need atheists to stop using genetic fallacies by blaming religion for the problems of the world.

On the flip side of the coin, and a point I think Sam Harris is right about, is that dogmatic sectarianism breeds violence. I think religions need to stop being intolerant--by that I mean executing violence on those who do not believe the same way. One religious thinker who I find quite refreshing is Brennan Manning who said on the topic of religious tolerance:

If we maintain the open-mindedness of children, we challenge fixed ideas and established structures, including our own. We listen to people in other denominations and religions. We don't find demons in those with whom we disagree. We don't cozy up to people who mouth our jargon. If we are open, we rarely resort to either-or: either creation or evolution, liberty or law, sacred or secular, Beethoven or Madonna. We focus on both-and, fully aware that God's truth cannot be imprisoned in a small definition.

This of course is a theistic quote, but it speaks volumes about the sorts of attitude that believers of one religion take against believers of other religions or even different sects within their own religion and atheists. My critique is not against the rationality of either theism of atheism, but against the muckraking that is prevalent on both sides, which really needs to stop. If one can get passed this, then one can have a true discussion about the rationality of atheism and theism.


[mod edit:crap deleted]

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”


ubuntuAnyone
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Mod, can you delete the crap

Mod, can you delete the crap appended to this???? I typed in Wii, and some stupid browser plugin adds about 400 lines of CSS to the post.

 

 

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”


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awesome, i agree if we can

awesome, i agree if we can get past the bickering , both sides can contnue to debate , and really get to the truth , insulting each other loses resources.


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Silly people, mudslinging is

Silly people, mudslinging is the entire reason most people debate, besides very few people care about the truth, i certainly don't

Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.


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pm9347 wrote:awesome, i

pm9347 wrote:

awesome, i agree if we can get past the bickering , both sides can contnue to debate , and really get to the truth , insulting each other loses resources.

I disagree. Political correctness IS NOT nor ever will be a good tactic for conflict resolution skills. Setting up taboos does nothing but create resentment and foster division.

This is a battle that needs to be fought. The problem I have with either side throwing the word "insult" as an attempt to silence dissent.

If I say, "Jesus is fiction", it wont matter to many that I do not mean it as an insult, but rather a position I AM WILLING TO DEFEND, they will still call it an insult, even if it isn't.

Nor for that matter do I take it personally when my Christian friends honestly think I am going to burn in hell.

The biggest insult to me is not being insulted, the biggest insult to me is that any one person, party or label deserves a pedestal "just because".

Your good intent of "getting along" which we should all want, should not come at the cost of losing sight of what human empathy is. It is not a utopia, but the REAL PRAGMATISM that all humans are capable of the same range of human emotions, even emotions that are not warm and fuzzy.

We all want comfort. We all want love. AND we all like to complain about things we don't like. 

Not every act of blasphemy is done out of hate or ignorance.

"You are full of shit" as a sentence does not address anything about the person's like or dislike of the person they might say it to.

WE all have, with close friends disagreed on something and even if we didn't use those exact words, did call someone on something we thought was absurd.

WE must not fear use of words to placate emotions. We must learn to recognize ourselves as all wanting to express ourselves, even in dissent. Blasphemy must exist to avoid the same fascism like that of North Korea or Iran.

 

 

 

"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


ubuntuAnyone
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Brian37 wrote:I disagree.

Brian37 wrote:

I disagree. Political correctness IS NOT nor ever will be a good tactic for conflict resolution skills. Setting up taboos does nothing but create resentment and foster division.

This is a battle that needs to be fought. The problem I have with either side throwing the word "insult" as an attempt to silence dissent.


Political correctness is not the issue--I was getting at the issues surrounding religious violence. My critique of atheism had to do with atheists using genetic fallacies to discredit the entire religious enterprise. It seem intellectual but really is more psuedo-intellectual, and more aking to mudslinging than real intellectual debate.

Brian37 wrote:

If I say, "Jesus is fiction", it wont matter to many that I do not mean it as an insult, but rather a position I AM WILLING TO DEFEND, they will still call it an insult, even if it isn't.

Nor for that matter do I take it personally when my Christian friends honestly think I am going to burn in hell.

The biggest insult to me is not being insulted, the biggest insult to me is that any one person, party or label deserves a pedestal "just because".

Insults really do more to descredit the insulter than the insultee.

Brian37 wrote:

Your good intent of "getting along" which we should all want, should not come at the cost of losing sight of what human empathy is. It is not a utopia, but the REAL PRAGMATISM that all humans are capable of the same range of human emotions, even emotions that are not warm and fuzzy.

We all want comfort. We all want love. AND we all like to complain about things we don't like.

Not every act of blasphemy is done out of hate or ignorance.

"You are full of shit" as a sentence does not address anything about the person's like or dislike of the person they might say it to.

WE all have, with close friends disagreed on something and even if we didn't use those exact words, did call someone on something we thought was absurd.

WE must not fear use of words to placate emotions. We must learn to recognize ourselves as all wanting to express ourselves, even in dissent. Blasphemy must exist to avoid the same fascism like that of North Korea or Iran.

Rhetorical battles are certainly better than physical battles. I'm not talking about placating language, but rather flamebaiting. Be contreversial, but do it in a manner that garnishes credibility rather than destroys it.

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”


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if you mudsling or insult ,

if you mudsling or insult , and by that definition i mean to disregarde the basic respect we should give to everybody, than an anger or a get even ideal takes over, you feel slighted and so you want justice, and while the fight continues we waste the time and energy we should be putting into the debate and loose sight of the truth


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/slings mud 

/slings mud

 


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I would up the ante to poo

I would up the ante to poo flinging.

 

2c


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This is an honourable position to take

 

But I find it difficult to chirpily accept christian/islamic dogma as a legitimate alternative to using one's brain.

Nor would I want to discount emotion from the fight.

On behalf of the tens of thousands of witches burned by the church, the horseshit dished up by the spanish inquisition,

the gutlessness of the islamic world with their cult that cannot be questioned, the hypocrisy of the pope, and the wasted sundays

of my youth I get great pleasure from telling believers what I think of them.

I agree wholeheartedly with the OP's points about the God Delusion. The Ancestor's Tale is by far the better read.

In the absence of pinning down facts relating to what went on before the dawn of time, or what exists outside our universe,

the rocks offer us irrefutable proofs about happenings on this planet.

I know a number of the godly who have been forced to amend their entire 7-day creation thing and take up a position where

they suggest that perhaps god used evolution to create earth's profuse life. This is the front line of the fight.

Remember, while it was Darwin who dished up the big theory it was Wallace's vast field work which proved all butterflies in the

thousands of islands of the Indonesian archipelago derived from a single ancestor. 

Small steps...

 

 

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


Brian37
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pm9347 wrote:if you mudsling

pm9347 wrote:

if you mudsling or insult , and by that definition i mean to disregarde the basic respect we should give to everybody, than an anger or a get even ideal takes over, you feel slighted and so you want justice, and while the fight continues we waste the time and energy we should be putting into the debate and loose sight of the truth

I hate the word respect. It is thrown around by humanity most of the time saying, "You must not challenge me because it might hurt my feelings".

RESPECT is only deserved when a person SHOWS the credibility of their claim. A person asking for or demanding respect without question is a person to be detested. They are the factories of lemmings. They create people like Stalin and Hitler and silence humanity like slavery and the Dark Ages.

If someone wants my respect, they don't have to agree with me, but they cant ask me to pretend I owe them silence because they like what they claim. If I cannot be honest with someone, they are not worthy of my respect.

 

 

"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


ubuntuAnyone
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Atheistextremist wrote:On

Atheistextremist wrote:

On behalf of the tens of thousands of witches burned by the church, the horseshit dished up by the spanish inquisition,

This is what the OP was getting at...When one starts muckraking, then the whole intellectual debate collapses into a mudslinging match.

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”


Atheistextremist
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Yeah I got that actually

 

But as I pointed out I love dishing it up to believers anyway. How can you keep emotion completely out of the argument?

Of course i also pointed out that I'd like to see the debate kept at ground level and based on things we can actually prove

on this particular planet. It's at this grassroots level our comprehension moves forward rather than arguing about parallel universes.

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck