Confessions of a Lapsed Atheist

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The following essay first appeared on AmericanThinker.com on June 21, 2009.

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Do you believe in God?  Really?  And you’re willing to admit it in public?

Oops. Sorry, for a moment I slipped back into the arrogant Atheism of my youth.

Before my parents had children, they decided to raise their kids in a secular home.  We had gifts at Christmas time and chocolate covered matzoh during Passover, but there was no religion and certainly no God.

When I was in grade school, God was just a kind of nondescript character who popped up in Little House on the Prairie books from time to time.  He seemed like a decent enough fellow, but was more or less a bit player who didn’t have much to say.

After my grandfather died when I was seven, his Baptist minister lifted me up in his arms and told me, “It’s all right, Grandpa’s with God now.”  At that moment, I could feel my dress was hiked up in the back and all I could think about was pulling it back down.  But later, I asked around and discovered that God was our Heavenly father, whatever that was supposed to mean.

I figured, who better to ask about my Heavenly father than my earthly father, but when I did he laughed.

He wasn’t amused in a “kids say the darnedest things” kind of way.  He was laughing derisively at the idea that my mother’s family believed in God.  And thus began my introduction to Atheism.

There are people who call themselves atheist who are simply nonbelievers, and then there are the big “A” Atheists for whom Atheism is almost a religion.  This quasi-religious doctrine isn’t neutral on the existence of other religions; rather, Atheism is a virulently anti-theistic creed characterized by sneering contempt for religion and a profoundly dogmatic bigotry toward people of faith.

Want to know how Atheists see the rest of us?

I grew up learning from my father that Atheism is rational, and therefore, religious belief is irrational; Atheism is defined by logic, religious faith by fantasy; and science is real while religion is make believe.  Faith, I was taught, requires a willful stifling of reason.

The Torah, the Gospels, the Qur’an?  All woefully inaccurate, laughably inconsistent fictions used to encourage belief in an illusion for the purpose of social control.

My curiosity in religion surfaced again in seventh grade when several of my friends were planning Bat Mitzvahs.  Surely my friends weren’t ignorant enough to actually believe in God, were they?  The answer was no.  For most of these reform Jews, this celebration marked the official end to the tedium of Hebrew school. Most of their families were Ethical Culturists with a recreational interest in preserving their Jewish cultural identity.  In other words, they too were Atheists.

By the time I reached high school, having had little contact with religion, I was convinced that people of faith were credulous and unenlightened.  They gravitated toward soothing tales of God and afterlife to help them deal with their own mortality.  At best, I considered belief in God an anachronism, a quaint vestige of days gone by, on par with superstitions about wicked thoughts causing birth defects.

At my extremely liberal college, I was exposed to even more militant Atheism.  It was there that I learned the mere whiff of religiosity is worthy of denigration.  Many of the people I met approached religion with something between disdain and loathing, and considered all religious belief a form of fanaticism.  Christians in particular were characterized as knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing fundies (and that was in polite company.)

Fortunately my mother taught me enough manners that I kept my bias to myself.

In this new environment, my Atheism was more than evidence of good reasoning, it was a socially desirable badge of intellectual superiority.  Make no mistake: Atheists think they’re smarter than you.  Atheism isn’t simple skepticism.  It is a certainty that believers are wrong, and by extension, intellectually inferior.  Religion, especially Judeo-Christian religion, is nothing more than a crutch for dupes.

But Atheists aren’t content to leave religion as a mere object of ridicule.  They want it cleansed from public life.  And enlightened as they are, they’ve come up with quite the pretense for justifying the righteousness of their bigotry: they are defending the vision of our founding fathers from a dominionist conspiracy to establish Christianity as the state religion.

You see, for liberal Atheists, the only thing worse than religion is the Religious Right, a term they use to encompass all Christian conservatives.  And what better way to siphon fuel from the Religious Right than to convince Americans that the government is perpetually on the verge of becoming a theocracy?

And so, they accuse local governments of trampling the Constitution in the name of God and they find subliminal Christian iconography in political ads.  They wring new meanings from Thomas Jefferson’s notion of separation between church and state, and condemn our country’s motto and the status of Christmas as a national holiday.  But above all, Atheists stoke fear among religious and nonreligious alike that conservatives view government as a tool to force religion down your throat.

Pope-slandering buffoon Bill Maher, something of a patron saint among Atheists, has called religion “the ultimate hustle.” Last fall, Maher’s fellow liberal Chris Matthews, a self-described Catholic, roundly criticized Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for talking about prayer in a “secular environment” and complained that she made the Republican Party look more like a church tent than a big tent.  In March, Matthews complained, “Why does everything sound like the ’700 Club’ with this Party now?” Such examples of anti-religious bias can be found every day on cable news, network television, and in the pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post.

As my politics strayed right of center after college, I realized I wanted no part of that Maher/Matthews worldview based in elitism and the ridicule of others.  I made the transition from Atheist to atheist to agnostic, and have since discovered why it is often said that religion is experiential.

There was a time when I would have preferred any manner of torture to admitting the possibility of a higher power.  These days, I’m proud to say I lost my faith in the Atheist creed.

Comments

36 Responses to “Confessions of a Lapsed Atheist”

  1. salvage on June 21st, 2009 11:18 am

    >The Torah, the Gospels, the Qur’an? All woefully inaccurate, laughably inconsistent fictions used to encourage belief in an illusion for the purpose of social control.

    You make several points like this but you just sneer at them, you don’t actually refute anything they say. From what I can tell (and it’s hard, you kind of wander) you’re saying atheism is wrong because atheists are paranoid jerks who think they’re smarter than everyone else. You don’t actually make any points against the idea of atheism itself.

    There are no such things as gods.

    That’s all that atheism says, it makes no other comment on anything else. Not morality, not biology, not astronomy, not ethics and not even philosophy.

    Now, why is “There are no such things as gods” wrong? Can you answer that?

  2. DodiaFae on June 21st, 2009 11:55 am

    I think the point of the article isn’t that “There are no such things as gods” is wrong, but that trying to ram that idea down the throats of others is at least as wrong as trying to ram any other belief system down the throats of others.

    The idea is to remain open enough that you can accept that others believe differently than you without feeling the need to ridicule them about it or try to change what they believe. I have come across an Atheist or two who were as dogmatic about Atheism as those they accuse of trying to ram Christianity down their throats. Where is the difference? If you’re secure enough in your own beliefs (or lack thereof), why is it so important that others believe the same?

  3. The Barefoot Bum on June 21st, 2009 12:17 pm

    How dare those arrogant atheists actually believe they’re right!? Just because they have “evidence” and “arguments”? How gauche!

  4. Chris on June 21st, 2009 1:12 pm

    What does the arrogant atheism of your youth have to do with the question of whether or not a Christian is willing to express their belief in public? Did you have some power that none of the rest of us have? Were you able to scare or otherwise coerce Christians into not expressing their faith in public? I just drove past bunches of churches with people by the thousands spilling into the streets and their cars after effectively professing their faith in public. I saw no protesting atheists outside their doors and certainly no public officials taking down names.

    And what is the difference between an atheist who simply says that the evidence is insufficient to believe in a God and the Christian who “knows” that anyone who declines to accept Jesus as lord and savior will spend eternity in hell?

    I will tell you. One is arrogant and one isn’t. Guess which it is.

  5. salvage on June 21st, 2009 2:13 pm

    >but that trying to ram that idea down the throats of others

    Yes, I can turn on a TV without some atheist preacher telling me all about atheism. And all those tax breaks atheist organizations get! Not to mention all the atheist elected officials, no-faith based initiatives, affirmation of no such things as gods before major sporting and other public events, the “No Such Thing As God” printed on the money, etc.

    Oh wait, nothing like that happens, you’ll have to provide some real examples please.

    >The idea is to remain open enough that you can accept that others believe differently than you without feeling the need to ridicule them

    What law says I can’t ridicule anyone or anything for any reason? Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from speech.

    What harm does ridicule do anyway? Hurts feelings? Once again you’ll have to show me where it says our feelings are sacred and untouchable.

    Scientologists believe that all our problems are caused by the ghosts of dead aliens murdered by an interstellar dictator. Is your mind open to that? Would it be wrong to make fun of such deeply held beliefs?

    >I have come across an Atheist or two who were as dogmatic about Atheism

    Ooooh well there you go! You’ve met a few people who are like that so that must mean aallll are like that. And what did these people do? You told them you were a Christian and they what? Slapped you with a Richard Dawkins book and told you if you didn’t read it and renounce your superstitions they’d burn your house down? What form does this “dogmatic” attempts at conversion take?

  6. Rob Taylor on June 21st, 2009 3:08 pm

    Salvage-
    “Yes, I can turn on a TV without some atheist preacher telling me all about atheism. And all those tax breaks atheist organizations get! Not to mention all the atheist elected officials, no-faith based initiatives, affirmation of no such things as gods before major sporting and other public events, the “No Such Thing As God” printed on the money, etc.”

    Are you retarded? Humanist and “ethical culture” organizations are eligible for the same tax breaks as any other religion because whether you like it or not Atheism is a religion. I worked F.I.A. and Atheist groups were eligible, and last I saw there was no religious test to play sports, and a fair few politicians are Atheists.

    I’m curious as to why the anger? You mock the idea of a dogmatic Atheist attacking people of faith while trolling the Internet attacking people of faith with dogmatic arguments, that I will point out as I have for years, are lifted directly from Anton LaVey and plagiarized by Dawkins and the rest of you without even the decency to acknowledge that most of your arguments first appeared in the Church of Satan newsletter.

    I think your whiny emo-douchery is basically an endorsement of Jenn’s point, that Atheism is a childish game inferior people play to give them a sense of superiority over their betters.

    Chris-
    Really, people exiting a church (a private building) on Sunday are proof that public displays of religiosity are more acceptable than displays of Atheism? Let me take off my Valknot lest I be accused of beating you over the head with a Havamal.

    You don’t find your reaction to this piece the least bit childish?

    To Barefoot Bum- Atheism, like the Christianity you so despise, posits the impossible-ex nihlo creation. You claim the universe and all life in it “came to be” after some force created them from what was essentially nothing. How are you different from a Christian again? Is it that Christians will merely annoy you through telling you someone loves you, while you troll blogs cheerleading for the acceptance of a universe where, in the scheme of things, you’re personally no more valuable to me than a goat or chicken?

    In fact, since those things are useful and productive they are more important. In your view of reality, if I could kill some Atheist and not go to jail it wouldn’t be wrong in an objective sense, because in a random universe morality is subjective. I’m not a Christian myself, but you’ll probably agree that given the above, they probably make better neighbors.

    And you used gauche wrong.

  7. makarios on June 21st, 2009 3:33 pm

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I hope your journey is fruitful and satisfying.

    Once again I’m blown away by atheists who in their comments show that they actually think that holding this or that belief has no implications for other areas of their lives. That atheists are dull of mind and slow of thought shows itself once more in their purile wishful thinking.

  8. Chris on June 21st, 2009 4:09 pm

    Rob Taylor, you say this:

    “Chris-
    Really, people exiting a church (a private building) on Sunday are proof that public displays of religiosity are more acceptable than displays of Atheism? Let me take off my Valknot lest I be accused of beating you over the head with a Havamal.”

    I am not sure what you are talking about. The point of people going to church on Sunday is to counter one silly claim: that Christians cannot admit to being Christians in public.

    You do hint at one point of true contention. We do currently disagree on whether official public displays of piety are acceptable. But there is a difference between an official government sanctioned display of religious faith (the ever popular Christmas creche or Ten Commandments in the classroom) and being able to show your Christianity in a public setting (wearing a cross, talking to others in a public square, etc). It is just whiny to complain how unfairly you are treated just because the government will not sanction your belief. Atheists, for their part, are not asking for any official acknowledgement of the truth of Atheism. We are asking that the state be officially neutral. I realize that to someone trying to save the world from sin, neutrality is the same as sleeping with the devil.

  9. Chris on June 21st, 2009 4:18 pm

    Makarios,
    Maybe you would be less blown away if you actually read what we wrote. There is nothing in our comments that indicate that we think that our beliefs have no impact on other areas of our lives. But that is just a trivial point. Everyone’s beliefs affect their lives. The question is whether those beliefs are justified. But that has nothing to do with the original post or any of the subsequent comments made by atheists.

    Did you just make a mistake and cut and paste the wrong comment?

  10. Rob Taylor on June 21st, 2009 4:33 pm

    But Chris no one said Christians can’t admit to being Christian in public. Jenn’s piece says that religious folk are ridiculed (as you and your compatriots prove in these comments) and that that ridicule is childish nonsense.

    Did you read the piece?

    “It is just whiny to complain how unfairly you are treated just because the government will not sanction your belief. Atheists, for their part, are not asking for any official acknowledgment of the truth of Atheism. We are asking that the state be officially neutral. I realize that to someone trying to save the world from sin, neutrality is the same as sleeping with the devil.”

    You know that’s simply untrue, and another slam on Christians. Not being one myself I dislike having to defend them but surely you understand that “neutrality” as you put it, the excising “Christianity” from public life is a complete undermining of Western Civilization and our laws which have a Judeo-Christian basis.

    Monogamous marriage, the right to defend one’s person, parent’s rights over their child, even the right to choose your own religion are based Judeo-Christian worldview and while I disagree with the metaphysics of Christianity I will not live on the bones of Christendom without acknowledging the debt to we all have to it.

    The idea that you as an individual have worth is based on Judeo-Christian belief. No secular philosophy can claim you have any import at all, and many religious make the same case. You can cry about Nativity scenes at Christmas as if they torture you by their very presence, but at least admit the freedom you enjoy is a by-product of a evolving Christian worldview, that the Christian doctrine of Free Will is the grandfather of our ideas of personal liberty.

    You’re also misunderstanding the point of the piece. Jenn isn’t endorsing Christianity, neither am I. Jenn is endorsing the notion that people have a l8ittle class, and that being an Atheist doesn’t make you smarter than others. It is a belief the same as any other.

    I am stating that the Atheist obsession with crying about Christianity is childish and sad.

    You’re claiming that both of us are forcing you to endure Christian “oppression” but claiming we’re misunderstanding you. You’re saying the act of walking out of a church is a public display of faith (I’m not a Christina and have walked in an out of dozens of churches so you’re just being silly) but why can’t Christians say “I love Jesus” without you doing anything more than shrugging and moving on with your life? If Jenn’s piece is wrong, prove it by showing me a Christian who hasn’t been trolled on the net by Atheist who has nothing to gain by attacking them aside from, as Jenn point out, reinforcing their own misconceptions about religious people.

  11. salvage on June 21st, 2009 8:33 pm

    >Are you retarded?

    Awesome. Open with ad hominem, that’s good, frees me up some and remember to accuse me of being insulting and that’s why you’re not responding in your next post.

    > Humanist and “ethical culture” organizations are eligible for the same tax breaks as any other religion because whether you like it or not Atheism is a religion.

    Alas no, it is not. It meets none of the criteria for religion as it is defined by any anthropologist or other human cultural study discipline. How can it? Atheism is, as I stated, the belief that there are no such things as gods. If you can make a religion around that I’d love to see it.

    >I worked F.I.A. and Atheist groups were eligible,

    And what atheist groups gets a tax exemption? Please list them.

    >and last I saw there was no religious test to play sports,

    Yes, that’s what I said; you must be religious to play sports. Is there someone reading this too you or is understanding stuff something you’re not good at? In either case re-read what I wrote which was y’know, more talking about how religion is “rammed” far more than atheism in North America? Let’s say we were at a football game in the Bible Belt, could I read something out of Richard Dawkins after or before the prayer?

    Try and stay focused, I suspect that’s a bit of a struggle for you but I’d rather respond to points I make rather than what your walnut-like brain interprets them to be.

    >and a fair few politicians are Atheists.

    Yes, please tell me, what are the odds of an atheist getting elected higher than say Mayor in any American city would be? How many atheist congressmen are there? Governors? In your estimation how much part does religion play in any candidates’ campaign? Why do I know all about Obama’s church? GW Bush, how much did he talk about Jesus again?

    >I’m curious as to why the anger?

    Ah, yes, concern troll, cheapest rhetorical device there is. No you silly little twit, I’m not angry but you describing me so gives you leave to dismiss my points as emotional and thus without merit and logic. The internet has no inflection and I’m not an angry person so focus (there’s that word again!) on what I say not the voice you imagine.

    >You mock the idea of a dogmatic Atheist attacking people of faith while trolling the Internet attacking people of faith with dogmatic arguments,

    Yes! I’m attacking people of faith by asking pointed questions on an opinion piece that HAS A SECTION FOR COMMENTS.

    Please, do not think that’s yelling, it’s just that you seem very thick and I thought that an important point and I wanted you to see it. I may have to go to flash cards but we’ll see if you can learn, they can teach apes sign language so there is hope.

    >dogmatic arguments, that I will point out as I have for years, are lifted directly from Anton LaVey and plagiarized by Dawkins and the rest of you

    1+1 = 2

    Now have I just plagiarized something?

    See that’s the neat thing about the truth, it doesn’t change when LaVey says it, when ancient Greeks said it, when anyone anywhere says something that’s true it’s repeated because?

    IT’S TRUE!

    Again, not yelling, just need ya to see that.

    >without even the decency to acknowledge that most of your arguments first appeared in the Church of Satan newsletter.

    AAHAHA! Yes! We are Satan! The evil magic man that your god created because… um… why’d he do that again? Never really made that bit clear… I mean how do you rebel against a universe creating god who knows everything anyway?

    >I think your whiny emo-douchery is basically an endorsement of Jenn’s point, that Atheism is a childish game inferior people play to give them a sense of superiority over their betters.

    Oh so much pure stupid in such a tiny space, it’s almost quantum.

    Atheism is childish? Well let’s review, what is atheism again?

    The belief that there are no such things as gods.

    Well what are gods?

    Gods are rather dramatic beings that every culture has had, often these gods are extremely powerful beings who for one reason or another make the universe. Their stories are often full of magic and they never, ever match up with the physical evidence of the universe’s creation.

    For the most part we’ve stopped making gods, it seem if you were to chart mankind’s progress throughout the ages and the power of gods you would see the former rise and the latter decline.

    It’s almost like the more we figure out how we got here the less we need a bedtime story for an explanation.

    Gods are also father figures; they are wise and loving but will not hesitate to decline his children when they are wayward often with some sort of catastrophic natural disaster event like an earthquake, floor or volcano.

    Despite their predication to the occasional bit of mass murder these father figures offer protection to the believer, that is there is an all-powerful being who shares their exact same moral, political and cultural beliefs looking out for them at all times.

    Provided the believer stays in the god’s favor with a variety of rituals, rites and magic words often praising the god for his greatness.

    Why an omnipotent being needs praise is a bit of a mystery, perhaps he is insecure as its believers.

    And that is why theism is in fact the immature one; religion is a way for people to get through the stress and pain of life by believing in a delusion. They way children cope using imaginary friends.

    See I don’t need my magic sky daddy like you.

    > give them a sense of superiority over their betters

    Do you even see the irony in that statement like at all?

    Anyway, you’re right here, I do feel a measure of superiority to someone who believes in magic and myth, who thinks that the story of Jesus or anything in the Bible makes any sort of sense.

    Now I know plenty of people like that, theists that are smarter than I am, happier, more successful in life and just all around better people than I could ever be but that doesn’t change the fact that they think the mythology of a Bronze Age desert tribe mixed with Egyptian sun-god worship and Roman paganism is true and I think that’s just damn silly and that they are silly for doing so.

    But you know children and their security blankets, it’s hard to give them up.

  12. Beetle on June 22nd, 2009 9:35 am

    Greetings Jenn.

    Your piece is about going from big “A” Atheist to little “a” atheist to agnostic. It is a journey of tolerance, the main lesson of which seems to have been lost on your supporters which are commenting here. I think you are a full generation ahead of the average American.

    In reality, the vast majority of atheists are of the little “a” variant. Were it not for the relatively recent spike of religious fundamentalism, more atheists would still be in the closet. My opinion is that the gauntlet was thrown down in 1954 and 56 when “under God” was added to the pledge and “In God We Trust” to currency. The last eight years has been testament to the dangers of Christian fundamentalism at home and Islamic fundamentalism abroad. The big “A” Atheists talk and write about how it is dangerous, unpatriotic, and even inhuman not to press the issue. They can occasionally inspire little “a” atheists like myself to attend a march, or talk to a colleague about how organized religion seems like institutionalized fairytales, or to post on a blog.

    One can actually expect more people to be talking more often about true separation of church and state over the next few decades. I think parallels to the gay rights movement are appropriate and useful, but that atheists are probably about twenty years behind them. If you imagine Jane Q. Public in the 1970s, it seemed to her that gay activists were suddenly everywhere! In fact, the number of gays was the same, but before they were quietly invisible and silently oppressed. Of course, those battles are far from over, but at least nowadays Jane Q. Public tactilely acknowledges the legitimacy of debate on the issues.

    If atheists and agnostics all seem to be vocal and intolerant Atheists to you, please understand that the movement is in its infancy. The atheists rights movement merely strives for an America where the majority of citizens are as enlightened as you, Jenn, are now. As with sexual orientation, religious beliefs need not be an issue that comes up in every day conversation. Until such time that at least a few major political candidates no longer feel compelled to invoke gods in public speeches and in their campaigns, you can expect the Atheists to keep inspiring atheists to speak up for themselves.

    Thanks.

  13. DodiaFae on June 22nd, 2009 10:27 am

    Salvage,
    Wow… for an Atheist, you sure are great at making all sorts of assumptions about people with absolutely no proof.

    >but that trying to ram that idea down the throats of others

    Yes, I can turn on a TV without some atheist preacher telling me all about atheism. And all those tax breaks atheist organizations get! Not to mention all the atheist elected officials, no-faith based initiatives, affirmation of no such things as gods before major sporting and other public events, the “No Such Thing As God” printed on the money, etc.

    Oh wait, nothing like that happens, you’ll have to provide some real examples please.

    I’ve been watching a lot of “Noggin” and “PBS Sprout”, because I have a toddler… I’ve got to say, I’ve seen an awful lot of “Humanist” influence on both, and not a lick of “Christian” influence. I haven’t got a problem with that. In fact, I’d kind of rather be able to choose my child’s exposure to Christianity than have the networks do it for me.

    As for the tax break issue… I think Rob covered that rather well.

    >The idea is to remain open enough that you can accept that others believe differently than you without feeling the need to ridicule them

    What law says I can’t ridicule anyone or anything for any reason? Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from speech.

    What harm does ridicule do anyway? Hurts feelings? Once again you’ll have to show me where it says our feelings are sacred and untouchable.

    Scientologists believe that all our problems are caused by the ghosts of dead aliens murdered by an interstellar dictator. Is your mind open to that? Would it be wrong to make fun of such deeply held beliefs?

    Two words for you here… “Common Decency” As I’ve said, I’ve met a few Dogmatic Atheists, but the majority of those I’ve met were actually… nice.

    As for Scientology… I haven’t got a problem with any other system of beliefs so long as it’s not victimizing it’s practitioners. If Scientologists want to believe that the ghosts of dead aliens are causing all our problems, I have no more problem with that than I do with the girl who’s having trouble starting her car and starts chanting “Common Spaghetti Monster…” as she turns the key one more time. ;)

    >I have come across an Atheist or two who were as dogmatic about Atheism

    Ooooh well there you go! You’ve met a few people who are like that so that must mean aallll are like that. And what did these people do?

    Reading comprehension problems, much? Yeah, that’s what I gathered.

    Actually, my brother is an Atheist. And he’s not at all preachy about it. We can have very civil and informative discussions about our beliefs, without it becoming the least bit heated. We usually each come away with something of value from the other. In fact, he’s married to a Pagan. They’re raising their children to make their own decisions about what path to choose. He doesn’t ridicule his children for showing any interest in any spiritual path, and he doesn’t ridicule his wife for being Pagan.

    You told them you were a Christian and they what? Slapped you with a Richard Dawkins book and told you if you didn’t read it and renounce your superstitions they’d burn your house down? What form does this “dogmatic” attempts at conversion take?

    And here’s what I meant about your assumptions… I’m not Christian. I’m Pagan. Nowhere did I make any suggestion that I was Christian, but you made that assumption without proof. That doesn’t make you a very good Atheist, does it.

    BTW, I know a bit about Richard Dawkins from discussions with my brother, who is a big fan. He is a very intelligent man, and I think that we could all learn a lot from him. I don’t think that he’d endorse your childish behavior.

  14. salvage on June 22nd, 2009 12:03 pm

    >I’ve been watching a lot of “Noggin” and “PBS Sprout”, because I have a toddler… I’ve got to say, I’ve seen an awful lot of “Humanist” influence on both, and not a lick of “Christian” influence.

    So… this is your example of atheism being “rammed down throats”?

    >As for the tax break issue… I think Rob covered that rather well.

    No, not really, still waiting for the atheist organization that enjoys tax breaks.

    >Two words for you here… “Common Decency” As I’ve said, I’ve met a few Dogmatic Atheists, but the majority of those I’ve met were actually… nice.

    So if someone posts an article on the Internet with a comments sections it’s indecent to disagree with them in the comment section?

    >As for Scientology… I haven’t got a problem with any other system of beliefs so long as it’s not victimizing it’s practitioners. If Scientologists want to believe that the ghosts of dead aliens are causing all our problems, I have no more problem with that than I do with the girl who’s having trouble starting her car and starts chanting “Common Spaghetti Monster…” as she turns the key one more time. ;)

    This issue isn’t “problem” it’s mockery and freedom of speech vs. people’s feelings. But you bring up an interesting point:

    “not victimizing its practitioners”

    Let’s say for a second that religion is a lie, hypothetically let’s say there is no such thing as the supernatural, no gods, no ley-lines, nothing of the sort and prayers, incantations and rituals are all wastes of time. Would the practitioners be in fact victims? That is they’re told a lie thus making them the rubes of an ancient con-game?

    >I have come across an Atheist or two who were as dogmatic about Atheism

    >Ooooh well there you go! You’ve met a few people who are like that so that must mean aallll are like that. And what did these people do?

    >Reading comprehension problems, much? Yeah, that’s what I gathered.

    Nope, I think you’re the one with the RC problems, read what you wrote, you presented a few atheists as examples of the whole otherwise why bring them up in the first place? Read carefully:

    I have come across a Catholic or two who raped children

    Now, what kind of impression am I trying to leave you with here without actually saying it directly?

    See anyone can be dogmatic about anything, atheist or otherwise but one of the ways theists like to fight atheism (not on facts or reason of course) is to paint them all with the same crazy brush.

    See buddy calling me “angry” for another example.

    >And here’s what I meant about your assumptions… I’m not Christian. I’m Pagan.

    Meh, Christianity borrows so much from paganism that the difference is negligible but fine, sorry I assumed you were a Christian, I will restate my question appropriately and then you can answer it:

    You told them you were a Pagan and they what? Slapped you with a Richard Dawkins book and told you if you didn’t read it and renounce your superstitions they’d burn your house down? What form does this “dogmatic” attempts at conversion take?

    See you still haven’t answered my question, now you can.

    >Nowhere did I make any suggestion that I was Christian, but you made that assumption without proof. That doesn’t make you a very good Atheist, does it.

    One more time, very slowly:

    Atheism.
    Is.
    The.
    Belief.
    That.
    There.
    Are.
    No.
    Such.
    Things.
    As.
    Gods.

    The End.

    Atheism does not grant the power of correct assumptions or any other ability or virtue. It is merely the side-effect of being an intelligent human being with a healthy sense of critical thinking, observation and reason.

    >BTW, I know a bit about Richard Dawkins from discussions with my brother, who is a big fan. He is a very intelligent man, and I think that we could all learn a lot from him. I don’t think that he’d endorse your childish behavior.

    And you’re wrong again, Dawkins is quite intelligent and yes he does have much to teach but he not only endorse this “behavior” but encourages it. See he feels that atheism has kept quiet out of politeness for far too long and wants atheists to be more vocal in their opinions.

    Now I disagree with him on that point, I don’t “preach” atheism in real life because people need their sky gods and magic to get through life.

    Several studies have shown that religious people live longer happier lives than us poor atheists. Makes sense really, if you think there is an all-powerful magic man who shares your exact cultural and political beliefs looking out for you how can you be stressed out over anything? That calming effect adds years to a life.
    I don’t want to take that away from anyone, life is tough and if delusions are what people need to get through it than all the power to ‘em.

    But here we are on the Internet, here is an article rife with errors and a comments section so here I will vocalize and rarely anywhere else.

  15. paratha on June 22nd, 2009 12:38 pm

    Hey Jenn. I enjoyed your essay alot, but it sure did bring out the trolls. So be it. They just prove your point about there being a certain type of person that calls himself an atheist who thinks he’s better than just about everyone else. Atheism is a side-effect of being intelligent? That comment couldnt have made your point better. They really are anti-theists who treat the religious with nothing but contempt. And so angry! Look at how they treat your other commenters and lie about what you wrote and try to get you to answer questions about atheism that have nothing to do with the scope of your essay. Not to mention the criticism of your writing style right off the bat made clear you have a troll on your hands.

    I liked reading your personal journey and I understood that was what it was about. That and painting a portrait of a certain type of bigotry. And for the record, I don’t see how an essay about your opinions and perceptions can be rife with errors as the commenter above said. But I did enjoy his admission that the internet emboldens him to say things he wouldn’t dare say in real life. Truly the mark of a troll.

  16. DodiaFae on June 22nd, 2009 1:28 pm

    >I’ve been watching a lot of “Noggin” and “PBS Sprout”, because I have a toddler… I’ve got to say, I’ve seen an awful lot of “Humanist” influence on both, and not a lick of “Christian” influence.

    So… this is your example of atheism being “rammed down throats”?

    Now, where did I say that? It was an example of the fact that you can watch TV without having Christianity shoved down your throat. The point is, if you don’t like what’s on, get off your ass and change the channel.

    >Two words for you here… “Common Decency” As I’ve said, I’ve met a few Dogmatic Atheists, but the majority of those I’ve met were actually… nice.

    So if someone posts an article on the Internet with a comments sections it’s indecent to disagree with them in the comment section?

    No, it’s just indecent to be a huge ass about it. Which is what you’re doing.

    >As for Scientology… I haven’t got a problem with any other system of beliefs so long as it’s not victimizing it’s practitioners. If Scientologists want to believe that the ghosts of dead aliens are causing all our problems, I have no more problem with that than I do with the girl who’s having trouble starting her car and starts chanting “Common Spaghetti Monster…” as she turns the key one more time. ;)

    This issue isn’t “problem” it’s mockery and freedom of speech vs. people’s feelings. But you bring up an interesting point:

    “not victimizing its practitioners”

    Let’s say for a second that religion is a lie, hypothetically let’s say there is no such thing as the supernatural, no gods, no ley-lines, nothing of the sort and prayers, incantations and rituals are all wastes of time. Would the practitioners be in fact victims? That is they’re told a lie thus making them the rubes of an ancient con-game?

    If it’s their choice to be members of that religious group, then no. They’re not victims. People are capable of doing research and finding out what’s what with any given topic. If no one is forcing it on them, then they are not victims. If they’re choosing to believe something on faith, that is their choice. If someone else comes along and tries to force them to not> believe it because they believe it to be a lie or just plain silly, wouldn’t that be more of a victimization?

    >I have come across an Atheist or two who were as dogmatic about Atheism

    >Ooooh well there you go! You’ve met a few people who are like that so that must mean aallll are like that. And what did these people do?

    >Reading comprehension problems, much? Yeah, that’s what I gathered.

    Nope, I think you’re the one with the RC problems, read what you wrote, you presented a few atheists as examples of the whole otherwise why bring them up in the first place? Read carefully:

    I have come across a Catholic or two who raped children

    Now, what kind of impression am I trying to leave you with here without actually saying it directly?

    See anyone can be dogmatic about anything, atheist or otherwise but one of the ways theists like to fight atheism (not on facts or reason of course) is to paint them all with the same crazy brush.

    See buddy calling me “angry” for another example.

    Nice try. “I have come across an Atheist or two who were as dogmatic about Atheism” means just that… an Atheist or two (make that or three, at this point, if I include you.) I said nothing about all Atheists, or all of Atheism.

    I’ve actually known a couple of Catholics who were child rapists. I’ve come across far more Pagans who were the same than I care to admit. I’ve even come across some Atheists who tried to use their Atheism as an excuse to be child rapists. Lets not use the victimization of children as a way of muddying the waters here. That’s a different discussion all together.

    >And here’s what I meant about your assumptions… I’m not Christian. I’m Pagan.

    Meh, Christianity borrows so much from paganism that the difference is negligible but fine, sorry I assumed you were a Christian, I will restate my question appropriately and then you can answer it:

    You told them you were a Pagan and they what? Slapped you with a Richard Dawkins book and told you if you didn’t read it and renounce your superstitions they’d burn your house down? What form does this “dogmatic” attempts at conversion take?

    See you still haven’t answered my question, now you can.

    No, but then I’ve never had the pleasure of being slapped with a Bible by a Christian, nor have I been threatened by them. Not even when I was in the “Bible Belt”. Yet you make it seem like this is a regular occurrence that all non-Christians probably experience (borrowing from your “ability” to make assumptions based on a few words on a screen.)

    >Nowhere did I make any suggestion that I was Christian, but you made that assumption without proof. That doesn’t make you a very good Atheist, does it.

    One more time, very slowly:

    Atheism.
    Is.
    The.
    Belief.
    That.
    There.
    Are.
    No.
    Such.
    Things.
    As.
    Gods.

    The End.

    Atheism does not grant the power of correct assumptions or any other ability or virtue. It is merely the side-effect of being an intelligent human being with a healthy sense of critical thinking, observation and reason.

    Any “intelligent human being” with a “healthy sense of critical thinking” and “reason” would see the futility of trolling discussions such as this and making an ass of themselves. Sorry, just an observation.

    My comment about you not being a very good Atheist was not only based on your behavior here, but the fact that, as it has been explained to me by other Atheists, their belief (or knowledge, however you wish to word it) that there are no gods is based on reason and a lack of proof of the existence of any gods. Your assumptions about me were based on ignorance about who I am, without proof. You took the few words I typed on the screen, and let your imagination fill in any blanks. Think about that.

    >BTW, I know a bit about Richard Dawkins from discussions with my brother, who is a big fan. He is a very intelligent man, and I think that we could all learn a lot from him. I don’t think that he’d endorse your childish behavior.

    And you’re wrong again, Dawkins is quite intelligent and yes he does have much to teach but he not only endorse this “behavior” but encourages it. See he feels that atheism has kept quiet out of politeness for far too long and wants atheists to be more vocal in their opinions.

    Now I disagree with him on that point, I don’t “preach” atheism in real life because people need their sky gods and magic to get through life.

    Several studies have shown that religious people live longer happier lives than us poor atheists. Makes sense really, if you think there is an all-powerful magic man who shares your exact cultural and political beliefs looking out for you how can you be stressed out over anything? That calming effect adds years to a life.
    I don’t want to take that away from anyone, life is tough and if delusions are what people need to get through it than all the power to ‘em.

    But here we are on the Internet, here is an article rife with errors and a comments section so here I will vocalize and rarely anywhere else.

    OK, I’ll give you that I did get Dawkins confused with another Atheist I had an email exchange with my brother about…
    Richard Dawkins is just as hard on religion, but avoids the crime and punishment issue (wisely if you ask me, as it’s largely irrelevant to the question of whether any god exists), and gives very solid arguments to support his own stance and points out very clearly (and with surprising open-mindedness) the gaping holes in the creationist arguments, and most especially the ID front. I watched his speech at TED recently – TED is Technology, Entertainment, Design, a huge conference originally focused on those three areas, but has expanded greatly since it’s inception in 1984. Dawkins’ speech is titled “An atheist’s call to arms”, and he very plainly states that he wants to urge “Militant Atheism” on his listeners. Naturally this is done with a chuckle, but he does mean it.

    However, I hardly think he’d endorse your behavior in any way. It’s the childish behavior of the few Atheists acting out in this way who give Atheism a bad name and add to the misunderstanding of what Atheism is about. Your arguments are neither logical, nor are they worded in any way that is going to make anyone even want to listen to you. You automatically jump in with a written attack on the author of the blog (and me) instead of trying to engage her in any sort of mutually beneficial or logical discussion on the topic. All that shows on your part is ignorance.

  17. Rob Taylor on June 22nd, 2009 11:04 pm

    This is still going on? And surprise! “Salvage” was home in the middle of the day trolling in stead of working. I’m not surprised.

    But it’s hard to wade through all the straw man arguments that “salvage” has piled up in his bonfire to his vanity. So instead I’ll skip to the point.

    Why does this essay, which you clearly haven’t read since you attribute all sorts of arguments to Jenn she didn’t make, bother you? As an Atheist don’t you believe in the scheme of things this doesn’t matter?

    You imply as an Atheist you’re more intelligent than the rest of us. I have a Master’s and job, I assume you have neither. Is Atheism really what you hang your identity on?

    You claim Atheism isn’t a religion but argue as passionately as a Christian fundamentalist for your view being correct. You tongue bathe Dawkins the way Muslims orgasm over Mohammad. And your proof that Atheism isn’t a religion involves the belief that the state is the arbiter of religious status. Explain how you’re not only projecting the fanaticism of yourself on others, but how are you not proving Jenn’s point about people like yourself?

    You’re also wrong. The U.S. Army handbook for Chaplains recognizes Atheism as a religion. In 2005 a federal appeals court ruled Wisconsin prison officials violated a prisoner’s rights by not treating Atheism as a religion and Ethical Culture society in New York was eligible for Faith in Action grants. What’s your proof that the government doesn’t recognize Atheism as a religion?

    And why won’t you (or any Atheist) admit that this has all been said before by Anton LaVey. Or Celsus. You act as if the COS mention is silly but the Church of Satan’s official theology is that there is no God or Satan, they are Atheists. My point is that you’re not being original, your arguments are tired. At least do something different…

  18. Myrdek on June 23rd, 2009 5:23 pm

    Definitions of religion on the Web:

    * a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny; “he lost his faith but not his morality”
    * an institution to express belief in a divine power; “he was raised in the Baptist religion”; “a member of his own faith contradicted him”

    Tell me Rob Taylor, how does Atheism qualifies? Atheism is the OPPOSITE of religion, it has no church or doctrine. If your going to defend religion, please get your facts straight


    http://www.libraryindex.com/pages/2560/Prisoners-Rights-Under-Law-FIRST-AMENDMENT-CASES.html

    In 1996 the New York Court of Appeals ruled on Griffin v. Coughlin (NY CtApp, No 73), a case involving twelve-step programs. As a precondition to his continued participation in a family reunion program, David Griffin had been required to participate in a substance abuse program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which makes references to “God” and a “Higher Power.” He claimed that the requirement to participate in such a program violated his right to practice atheism under the First Amendment. The court ruled that the prison could not compel an inmate to attend a substance abuse program in which references to “God” and a “Higher Power” were made. The court concluded that the program violated the Establishment clause of the Constitution and “the state has exercised coercive power to advance religion by denying benefits of eligibility for the family reunion problem to atheist and agnostic inmates who object and refuse to participate in religious activity.”
    ——–

    I’m sorry but where does this prove that atheism is a religion? All this ruling did was prove that religion is being forced down our throats and we have the right to defend ourselves.

    Also, the Ethical Culture society is not related to atheism

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_Culture

    it’s a community of many religions who practice rituals and ressemble budhism in a lot of ways.

    To Jenn Q. Public: I don’t see anything in your essay that displays anything but personal experience. I’m not sure what the point is supposed to be except as an attack to what you perceive as an aggressive movement. You also claim to be agnostic but that’s only because you have the wrong idea about atheists, which you are. Your just not Anti-theist

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability

    Most atheists are a 6 on that scale, only some extreme irrationals are a 7

    It’s obvious that you are very critical and emotional about atheists because of your experiences, which I doubt btw and I think your a believer who lies like so many others. If not, my question is why are you so inclined to attack us and defend religion when we’re not the one killing abortion doctors, starting wars, attacking homosexuals, defending pedophile priests, forcing their religion down everyones throat and trying to teach kids the earth is 6000 years old?

    Don’t you even realize that the rise of the “new atheist” or anti-theist is only a reaction to this? That all we’d like to do is go back to “live and let live” policy that we used to have? We’re the victims that have been pushed into a corner and are now fighting back, not the other way around. We’re the minority trying to protect our rights from greedy religious people who want to control everything. I have nothing against religious light/moderates but extremists are abundant in the world and EXTREMELY dangerous to the good of all mankind.

  19. Bill Buchanan on June 23rd, 2009 5:53 pm

    As a member of the dreaded “Christian Right” I enjoyed your article. I already knew how the hard left feels about me and “my kind” but it was refreshing to hear someone admit the anti-Christian bigotry.

    Interestingly, it seems to me that both sides see “other side” as ignorant. For example, to be an Atheist one has to believe that they know all things; otherwise, there is a possibility that there is something beyond our perceptions or beyond our knowledge and that this something could be God, or at least a god.

    But the dogmatic Atheist broaches no such possibility. To take their position without the benefit of omniscience is a display of, dare I say it, ignorance.

    I look at a brilliant astrophysicist like Hugh Ross who is a Christian believer and wonder how the high-school dropout who is an A-list Hollywood celebrity could possibly think they were smarter than he is, but they do.

    In my humble opinion, that’s real ignorance.

  20. Rob Taylor on June 23rd, 2009 7:40 pm

    Ah! Ha! HA! HA! HA! HA! You’re trying to correct me by Googling. I though Atheists were intelligent and well read. Well actually I didn’t and you and Salvage prove it.

    “Tell me Rob Taylor, how does Atheism qualifies? Atheism is the OPPOSITE of religion, it has no church or doctrine. If your going to defend religion, please get your facts straight”

    But your definition of Religion (you lazily pulled from the ass of the Internet) would exclude many forms of Buddhism and Taoism for example. The Diamond Sutra for example posits that there is no such thing as Holiness at all, much as Atheism does, yet it is a key religious text in many Buddhist traditions.

    Maybe you can edit that Wikipedia entry to reflect that sometimes Atheism is part of a larger religious tradition.

    The case you cite is ten years prior to the case I point out. What are you some sort o legal fundamentalist? Why not deal with the case I used as an example?

    “Also, the Ethical Culture society is not related to atheism”

    Uh. Sorry. I literally knew those ethical Culture douches so guess again. But I suppose my personal experience with members of the Ethical Culture shouldn’t inform my opinion but your anonymous editors on Wikipedia should?

    “To Jenn Q. Public: I don’t see anything in your essay that displays anything but personal experience.”

    Her essay was about her personal experience. What’s your problem with people expressing their personal experiences? Isn’t it irrational to get worked up over someone’s experiences?

    “You also claim to be agnostic but that’s only because you have the wrong idea about atheists, which you are. Your just not Anti-theist”

    I see there is a supernatural power you believe in, like knowing what’s in the hearts of others. I assure you Jenn isn’t a confused Atheist needing ushering back into the fold, she laid out her opinions quite clearly, and you and others are unwilling to accept them, in quite a fundamentalist way.

    “It’s obvious that you are very critical and emotional about atheists because of your experiences, which I doubt btw and I think your a believer who lies like so many others.”

    Simply childish. Believing in religion is foolish to you but spinning conspiracy theories on demand isn’t?

    “If not, my question is why are you so inclined to attack us and defend religion when we’re not the one killing abortion doctors, starting wars, attacking homosexuals, defending pedophile priests, forcing their religion down everyones throat and trying to teach kids the earth is 6000 years old?”

    Atheists have never persecuted Homosexuals? Communists are both Atheists and notorious persecutors of gays. Atheists in the guise Communists/Socialists and National Socialists did in fact start most of the wars in the 20th century when you include the 30+ military interventions of Cubans in Africa, the dozens of communist insurgencies etc.

    As for your abortion doctor murderer, even if we suppose it was common for Christians to do such a thing (which it is clearly not since the streets aren’t awash in doctor blood) why would this reflect on other religions. There are 90+ religions in just in America, hundreds worldwide. Are you suggesting that it’s rational to judge all religion by the example of one?

    Also Atheists have swelled the ranks of NAMBLA, SOSEN and other pervert groups so you don’t want to start that tabulation.

    “Don’t you even realize that the rise of the “new atheist” or anti-theist is only a reaction to this? That all we’d like to do is go back to “live and let live” policy that we used to have? We’re the victims that have been pushed into a corner and are now fighting back, not the other way around.”

    Oh I get it. You’re a teenager. What exactly are you fighting back against? Are all those Christians preaching things like not murdering people bothering you?

    “We’re the minority trying to protect our rights from greedy religious people who want to control everything. I have nothing against religious light/moderates but extremists are abundant in the world and EXTREMELY dangerous to the good of all mankind.”

    You are familiar with the term hyperbole are you not?

  21. Myrdek on June 24th, 2009 7:39 am

    I copied the wrong case sorry, but I was sick yesterday because of allergies and I didn’t double check. Here is a good answer to the case

    http://www.secularleft.us/archives/2005/08/atheism_and_evo.html

    My headache made me too lazy to search for a proper definition of religion as well, here it is.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion?jss=0

    Atheism doesn’t fit any of those definition

    ….

    wow… you people are truly scary

    Not in a good intellectual way that makes me question anything but in a strap a bomb to their chest kind of way. So full of ignorance and anger
    I post a nice reply with no insult trying to clarify some things and I’m being insulted and ridiculed by the so called “moral religious people”. Don’t you see the irony in this?

    Jesus must be rolling his eyes seeing what happened to his message of peace and love.

    http://www.thepaincomics.com/Jesus%20vs.%20Jeezus.jpg

    If christian fundamentalist would actually follow those teaching of Jesus then there wouldn’t be any problem. The new atheist only appeared as a result of christians becoming more literal in their interpretation of the bible.

    I don’t even want to address your communist reply which has been debunked and laughed at so many times that my eyes roll over when I see it again and again. Stalin was an egocentric control freak who wanted to dominate the world. He didn’t do his atrocities in the name of atheism, he did it for power and control. No war, I repeat, NO WAR has ever been started BECAUSE of atheism. None

    Holy crap… you actually said NAMBLA was filled with atheists. Where is your proof? Even if there were, the atheist community would NEVER EVEREVERVEVER defend them! That was my point with the catholic priests, which DO defend them.

    I’m out of here… Rob Taylor has made me so depressed with his lies, insults and pure ignorance that I have no hope left for the future now. I’m really glad I don’t have any kids

  22. Myrdek on June 24th, 2009 7:57 am

    I forgot

    Rob Taylor:
    You don’t believe in Zeus right?
    Vishnu?
    Thor?

    Then your an atheist to those Gods

    So if Atheism is a religion, does that mean that you have 2 religion?

    We’re both atheists, the only difference between you and me is that I don’t believe in any god while you believe in 1 of them.

    Your an atheist to every other god you don’t believe in

  23. Mr. Grouchypants on June 24th, 2009 11:07 am

    Myrdek,

    Your definition of atheism is so broad that it is meaningless since it can be pretty much applied to every person that has ever lived. There is also the problem that it entails that a person can be an atheist and a theist simultaneously.

  24. DodiaFae on June 24th, 2009 9:06 pm

    Myrdek,

    “I post a nice reply with no insult trying to clarify some things and I’m being insulted and ridiculed by the so called “moral religious people”. Don’t you see the irony in this?”

    I’m sorry but, to put it bluntly, you’re full of shit.

    You did, in fact, insult Jenn by calling her a liar. Here’s the proof:

    “It’s obvious that you are very critical and emotional about atheists because of your experiences, which I doubt btw and I think your a believer who lies like so many others.”

    So… you want to get into who’s full of ignorance and anger? Your entire post (actually, all of them… particularly that last one directed at Rob) seemed a bit on the angry side to me. You even admitted to it:

    Don’t you even realize that the rise of the “new atheist” or anti-theist is only a reaction to this? That all we’d like to do is go back to “live and let live” policy that we used to have? We’re the victims that have been pushed into a corner and are now fighting back, not the other way around. We’re the minority trying to protect our rights from greedy religious people who want to control everything. I have nothing against religious light/moderates but extremists are abundant in the world and EXTREMELY dangerous to the good of all mankind.

    A couple of examples of Atheists using their “beliefs” as an excuse to promote pedophilia:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88xDHu6KryU
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbbBfHRsMBw

    Rob didn’t say that Atheism supports pedophilia. He simply said that a lot of Atheists have been joining pro-pedophile activist groups, which is factual information… meaning it’s based on fact. Think about that… pro-pedophile activist groups, which means they’re defending the “rights” of perverts to rape little kids and own child pornography. That should be depressing.

    While the Catholic church has done everything it can to cover up abuses within the church, the actual Catholic (or Christian) doctrine does not support child abuse. You insinuate that it does by bringing it up in the first place, then getting angry when the issue of Atheists joining pro-pedophile activist groups is mentioned.

    If you, being an Atheist, can’t look the Whole Truth in the eye and deal with it like a man, without getting all whiney about it, you may just as well stay off the blogs and message boards.

    Also, I don’t believe that Rob ever said he didn’t believe in gods… he did, in fact, mention that he is Pagan, and even mentioned that he wears a Valknot:

    Let me take off my Valknot lest I be accused of beating you over the head with a Havamal.

    He wasn’t actually kidding about that. He follows the Norse traditions, and takes it quite seriously as far as I can tell. He believes in more than one god, that’s for certain.

    Not believing in other gods does not make anyone an Atheist by any stretch of the imagination. That is probably the most ignorant definition I’ve heard yet, and it shows how sad and desperate you are to make a pointless point.

  25. Rob Taylor on June 25th, 2009 2:03 am

    Myrdek- That’s a specious argument but I do in fact believe in the literal existence of all “gods” as I’m a true Polytheist. I believe that there are multiple entities we perceive as gods and we can interact with them.

    However even if i was a Christin it’s silly to clam that I would still be an Atheist because I didn’t believe in Hinduism. this is re-defining atheism to simply make it mean you aren’t a member of a religion, which we both know is not what Atheists themselves envision the word to mean.

    Also Stalin was not the only Atheist to commit anti-theist pogroms. ALL communist regimes do the same, most recently the Chi-com persecution of the Fulan Gong, the Burmese military Junta’s persecution of Buddhists and the Venezuelan crack down on Jews. These are not lies, they are facts.

    I too am glad you have no kids by the way.

    And thanks for sticking up for me Dodia, i wasn’t watching this thread.

  26. DodiaFae on June 25th, 2009 8:00 am

    No problem, Rob, though we all know you’re fully capable of dealing with these trolls yourself. This one was just sad, though.

  27. Beetle on June 26th, 2009 6:31 pm

    I am hoping we might dial down the antipathy a bit, and in that spirit, since vikings have been mentioned, I would like to share this:
    http://www.thepaincomics.com/weekly041229.htm

    The only thing atheists have in common with each other is that they know they don’t believe in God. If pressed, most will admit that they do know that there is no god. See the difference?

    As far as atheism being a religion or not, I do not understand what that is such a hot button. But, here is how my dictionary defines religion:

    religion |riˈlijən|
    noun
    the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods : ideas about the relationship between science and religion.
    • details of belief as taught or discussed : when the school first opened they taught only religion, Italian, and mathematics.
    • a particular system of faith and worship : the world’s great religions.
    • a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance : consumerism is the new religion.

    Of these, only the last is applicable to religion. So atheism can be a religion like consumerism can be a religion. Why is this a such big deal?

  28. Eclectic Radical on July 7th, 2009 2:23 pm

    ‘They, who in quarrels interpose, often get a bloody nose.’

    I am going to ignore Lord Palmerston against my better judgment.

    I find comments ‘proving’ Jenn’s point about (A)atheists and the comments proving the (A)atheist point about ‘the Christian right’ equally interesting and alarming. The argument between fundamentalist Christian trolls and angry atheist trolls really illustrates why people on both sides are likely to see one another as the enemy and why those with no interest in taking a bold stance against either the evils of ‘aggressive secularism designed to destroy religion’ or ‘the fundamentalist attempt to force religion upon all Americans’ feel attacked from both sides.

    The sad fact is that atheist criticism of the religious right is more accurate than not and the religious right’s criticism of Bill Maher or Richard Dawkins, at least when it comes to feelings of intellectual superiority and contempt for religious belief, is also more accurate than not. There are aggressive bigots on both sides who feel themselves entirely superior to the other side. Each side is equally convinced of the stupidity, insanity, or evil of the other. It would be difficult to tell an atheist troll and a fundamentalist troll apart if the argument wasn’t complete with its own flash cards.

    I was raised in the Mennonite Church, which was one of the classical Reformation/Counter-Reformation Protestant movements. Much of my moral and ethical thinking (a belief in free will, a real but pragmatic commitment to non-violence whenever possible, a classical belief in freedom of individual conscience and the separation of Church and State, and my belief in the duty of all men and women to be good neighbors to one another) comes directly from core Mennonite doctrine even if my own personal brand of ‘critical realism’ has altered it in some forms. A reading of the Bible and a study of history has moved me more toward Unitarian Christianity and certain principles of Deism (though I am not a true Deist), but I believe in a creator with a plan for mankind and am a person of faith. So it bothers me greatly when the ideas of faith and God are attacked as childhood fables and dangerous cultural delusions by people who are essentially less ‘atheists’ than they are theological and philosophical materialists. Their religion is pure empirical science coupled with pure abstract logic and they have no room for anything that does not fit their system.

    Nor is the attack solely from the left. On the right, self-appointed disciples of Ayn Rand such as Christopher Hitchens hold disdain for any sort of societal morality not based in self-interest and personal profit. This thinking has even infected certain religious groups, such as ‘prosperity doctrine’ charismatics and evangelicals who preach that if we believe then God will make us rich and if we are not rich then we must not be right with God.

    On the other hand, when I went to work every day past a church with a big sign saying ‘Can America afford a watered down Christianity?’ I know who was being directly attacked by the question. They mean Christians like me, who believe in classical principles of post-Reformation Protestantism like free will, freedom of conscience, and the separation of Church and State and are rather repelled and frightened by the movement to pass arcane and often contradictory verses of Leviticus into federal law so that everyone’s sins stay safely ‘in the closet’ and do not offend those more moral than the sinners. I am also somewhat bothered by those who believe a nuclear attack on Iran will fulfill the requirements for the Rapture… and that belief is a real and powerful fact in many evangelical churches and to claim otherwise is simply untrue. The fact that it is also a real belief among politicians with some degree of power and influence is more disturbing yet, especially when one combines that with those people of faith who reject all science whatsoever because their attachment to literal truths in a book whose precise authorship is not open to scholarly proof and has been edited more times than the Oxford English Dictionary trumps empirical study and logical thought.

    I believe in faith and a divine spark, as a writer I feel I have occasionally touched/felt the divine spark and been inspired as a result, and I believe in the value of empirical observation and logical calculation as necessary tools to understand the world even as faith, imagination, and the divine spark are necessary to understand the human condition.

    In the end, sadly, I have to side more closely with the materialists than the fundamentalists in this argument. Not because the materialists are correct in their evaluation of religion and faith and God, which I believe they are not and which I find offensive, but because I believe they are ultimately right about the dangers of religious fundamentalism to individual thought and conscience and that those dangers are a much more serious threat to Americans than the petty nastiness of cynics. Faith, in the end, is too basic and true to be completely destroyed by cynicism or materialism. It is human nature to have faith in something greater than our own flawed reality.

    Empirical reasoning, on the other hand, is threatened not only by dogmatic devotion to unswerving truth or the incorrect belief that religion and scientific fact are somehow incompatible but by infoglut, by natural human laziness, by the desire of most people to be told where to go and what to do and how to do it. For many people, thinking is too much effort. In an argument between pure faith and pure reason, either of which would be a great tragedy for mankind, pure faith has a serious danger of winning. Pure reason far less.

    I have no ideological or moral commitment to absolute secularism. The Ten Commandments in a courthouse does not offend me and I do not believe Americans have an inalienable natural right not to be offended. Indeed, I believe the ‘right not to be offended’ is directly antithetical to principles of free expression. That said, I don’t believe that the religious right not to be offended trumps the rights of Americans to marry the people they love. To claim otherwise is no different than any liberal brand of PC. It’s all the same thing.

    I deplore racism, homophobia, nativism, misogyny, and economic classism… but I do not believe you can legislate against bigoted thought or speech. What we can do is all stop giving credence to bigots, whichever side of the aisle those bigots may claim as their constituency.

    My biggest concerns about this issue are two-fold. First, increasingly, the right wing fanatics (and that is what they are, I don’t care whom that offends) are increasingly gaining credence among the general population as the majority of Christians and the mainstream of Christian thought… which they are decidedly not. The second is that angry atheists are increasingly gaining credence as the mainstream of liberal thought, which they are also decidedly not. Even the majority of PC secularists are less anti-religion than they are against national displays of Christian piety in a multi-cultural nation, and while I do not agree with their core belief that everyone has a right not to be offended they are hardly evil. It is certainly secondary to the fundamentalist religious view that only THEY have a right not to be offended.

    This comment is much the length of posts on my own blog, but this back and forth really got me going.

  29. Beetle on July 7th, 2009 7:12 pm

    Yikes, I left out a key word!

    If pressed, most [atheists} will admit that they do *NOT* know that there is no god.

  30. Eclectic Radical on July 8th, 2009 4:32 am

    If you are referring to me, I am pretty sure there IS a God, so I still don’t qualify.

    And you are confusing atheists and agnostics. A good agnostic has an open mind on the subject of God and would believe in God if presented positive scientific proof of God, but refrains from belief due to what they see as the absence of positive scientific proof.

    An atheist believes that God does not exist, explicitly, and if they do not then they are not an atheist.

    A deist believes God categorically exists and that natural rights are derived from God’s creation of man and the world, but that God created man to let man manage himself and does not directly manage man.

    I am a critical realist, I believe that the preponderance of evidence favors the existence of God and I choose to believe based on that evidence. I am very specifically a Christian, but I am a Biblicist and a classical Protestant rather than a fundamentalist or an evangelical.

  31. Beetle on July 8th, 2009 6:34 pm

    @Eclectic Radical

    > I believe that the preponderance of evidence favors the existence of God

    Do tell! Please share your favorite authors. I am also a critical realist, and have taken my spiritual journey quite seriously. I have found no credible evidence for the existence of God whatsoever. I am bemused that we could come to such opposite conclusions, if we are both being rational and honest!

    >would believe in God … refrains from belief [in God]

    Implies that the person does not currently believe in God, ergo the person is an atheist by definition.

    > A good agnostic has an open mind on the subject of God and would believe in God if presented positive scientific proof of God

    A good atheist has an open mind on the subject of God, or is at least willing to ponder the subject, and consider what might make them reconsider their lack of belief in God. Many atheists, I even dare say most, would belief in God if presented positive proof. The proof need not be terribly scientific either, any verifiable modern day miracle of the sort found in the Old Testament would probably do the trick!

  32. Eclectic Radical on July 9th, 2009 6:20 am

    “I am bemused that we could come to such opposite conclusions, if we are both being rational and honest!”

    Different people interpret different facts in different ways. It’s why there is so much antipathy in the first place. The problem comes when people choose to listen to someone and then believe what that person tells them rather than going to a bit of effort to think and study for themselves. I think a great many religious people and some non-religious people are guilty of that.

    I try not to tell anyone what to believe, though I’m obviously more than happy to share my beliefs. I greatly resent my fellow ‘Christians’ (whose Christianity appears different than mine and kind of scary) calling me a ‘watered down Christian’ or an ‘atheist in disguise.’ I find Bill Maher’s snarky dismissal of all belief entirely somewhat offensive and insulting, but then I feel the same way about his occasional pro-PETA rants. On most other issues, I think he makes good sense.

    Anyone practicing proper critical thinking processes would accept absolute proof of a positive. I won’t deny that. However, the definition of atheism is an active disbelief while the definition of agnosticism is an unwillingness to believe or disbelieve without positive proof. One can debate how thin a line that is, but it is still a line.

    The trouble with miracles is they are terribly difficult to verify. A plague of locusts can occur for quite a variety of reasons and we live in an unpredictable world. A rain of blood, scientifically explained, might not be a miracle at all. On the other hand, a believer could equally argue that there would have to be a scientific explanation because God would work through the laws of the universe he created. So I don’t believe a ‘verifiable miracle’ in the manner you describe is possible, not because of a lack of faith in miracles but because of the ability of both unbelievers and believers to explain things as they wish to see it.

    I don’t think it rational for God to create any sort of natural law and then to run around superseding it willy-nilly, so it’s difficult to imagine a miracle that could not be explained scientifically somehow, even if only sketchily.

    I suppose a zombie apocalypse would be pretty convincing, but I don’t believe that would be God’s thing. :)

  33. Beetle on July 9th, 2009 6:13 pm

    @ Eclectic Radical

    > the definition of atheism is an active disbelief

    Whose definition is that exactly? I think passive inactive lack of belief works quite well for most atheists, thank you very much. Could you list all the gods you do not believe in? Some people use strong atheism and weak atheism. Jenn distinguished between capital A Atheists and lowercase a atheists. I think your definition of atheist is too narrow, and your definition of agnostic is too broad.

    I am intrigued that the God you believe is not omnipotent. Still, his physical laws allow outright miracles. For example, “God is Great” being spelled out — unmistakably, none of this face-of-Jesus-in-burnt-toast nonsense — in the clouds during the Super Bowl on national television.

    There are plenty of things that God could do that demonstrate his being real, all within the laws of physics, but beyond explanation due to probability.

    If there is a God, He is terribly, terribly committed to providing absolutely no evidence for his existence.

  34. pam on January 3rd, 2010 3:31 pm

    “Atheism is a virulently anti-theistic creed characterized by sneering contempt for religion and a profoundly dogmatic bigotry toward people of faith.”

    Well, “Lapsed,”…aren’t YOU just the sweetest, smartest little cupcake on the platter?

    With a surplus of venom for the religious, you turn the remainder against atheists, deciding how WE feel about the rest of the world.

    Your smug superiority makes it very difficult to read the remarks you’ve posted.

    We’re not ALL as “superior in our own view” as you’d paint us and we’re not ALL as full of ridicule as you’d like to depict us, either.

    One of the least humane and attractive things about religion is the prejudice and narrow-mindedness which YOU display. Honestly, you’re as bad as the right-wing “fundies” with your snide slander.

    There should be room for all of us…please don’t attempt to represent ME, ok?

  35. Jenn Q. Public on January 3rd, 2010 4:07 pm

    pam:

    The original article clearly distinguished between mere nonbelievers and those who ridicule others for their beliefs. That you choose to align yourself with the latter type says far more about you than it does about anything else.

    Either you have major reading comprehension problems, or you’re admitting you fall into the big “A” Atheist category. Which is it, pam?

    Also, thanks for accusing me of “slander,” but you might want to grab yourself a dictionary. Even if I had defamed you in my article, it would have been libel, not slander.

  36. Gasen on January 16th, 2010 7:50 pm

    SHOCKED by a MIRACLE :-

    I turned off Religion early in
    my life & developed finally to a FANATIC Atheist & VERY Anti
    Christ & the Bible.i would pick on Christians to Attack them &
    try to Disprove their faith & convince them of the Non
    Existance of God & that there is no life after death & that we
    all came about through Evolution (i was affected by Darwinism
    & Neo Darwinism). Deep inside though, i was Really Searching
    for a meaning in life & thinking that Since Death is the End,
    why live Longer…I mistook Pleasure for Happiness & immersed
    myself in that…But All was Temporary & the more the more
    depression. One day i met a Young Vibrant Christian Believer &
    as usual started attacking his faith & to prove a point i was
    making against Christ,i took out a Big Anti Christian Book i
    had & wanted to quote from it Against Jesus…. But when i
    opened this Book….SUDDENLY ALL THE PAGES TURNED
    WHITE….Even my Handwritten anti christ Notes at the Books’
    Margins…WERE ALL WIPED OUT…I Was SHOCKED (even NOW my
    hair stands on end). It was as if the God i SOO much Hated was
    telling Me:” Gasen, who do you think you are to try & Disprove
    ME, i WIPE out ALL your so called Proofs”. i lay awake All
    night thinking” then there IS a GOD & the BIBLE IS TRUE &
    JESUS IS REAL after all…” And then i made my Decision &
    told HIM: GOD i don’t know YOU & have attacked you always ,I
    am NOT Good …I DO NOT DESERVE Your Grace…But Please Do
    take over My life & Forgive Me for all the Bad things i did.”
    Instantly i felt The Great Presence of GOD in the Room
    FILLING me With JOY JOY i was Floating from Happiness…And I
    felt JESUS coming & Hugged me…..I slept 2 hrs & got up
    A NEW PERSON….Life,the World ALL looked Good …Everything
    fell into place. I went around to my Friends, relatives
    Telling them that THERE IS A GOD…they were STUNNED ,since i
    was always trying to prove the opposite…Many Came to Christ
    in time…Including both my parents & Also my Atheist
    Brother(DR Surgeon)..That increased My Joy a lot.

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