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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Has the word "atheist" become poisoned? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Has the word "atheist" become poisoned?
oscfan17
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Have loud, unpleasant and evangelist atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and that guy who sometimes appears on Fox News and whines about Christmas trees at airports (David something or other) ruined the word "atheist"?

Basically, I'm not inclined towards religious belief, but I clearly see its social utility and use in holding communities together, and I see first hand the comfort and meaning it gives to my parents (who are Muslim.)

I have absolute compassion for people wanting to believe that there is a God who designed the universe with humanity at its center. By accident humanity became too smart and therefore too aware of its mortality, and started telling itself stories and myths that gave an order and meaning to life which assuaged humanity's neurotic concerns about the meaning of existence, and these myths become wrapped up with cultural traditions.

So much evangelist atheist rhetoric seems absolutely devoid of basic compassion for humanity's use of religion as a tool to overcome anomie and meaninglessness.

So we need a new word that means something like "atheist but totally respectful of religious folk while being understanding and forgiving of Man's desire to use religion to avoid existential despair and anomie."

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oscfan17
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By "poisoned" I mean: At one point it might've been hip to say one is an atheist, but it really isn't anymore thanks to the aggressiveness and vehemence of the Dawkins/Harris/Maher types.
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Rakeesh
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I'm sorry to start off so critical, but it doesn't sound as though you've paid much attention to the figures you've named outside of their debates and appearances where a combative and critical stance is required (such as when discussing issues with an unfriendly talking head, or on a debate stage).

For one, none of the figures you've referred to discounts the benefits religion has provided. Rather they all, particularly Harris*, repeatedly suggest that taken in total the drawbacks now out with the benefits-and that in any event, it's not true anyway and so ought not be believed. Which whether you agree with it or not, there is an argument to be made there and it's not the same thing as simply dismissing it altogether as you suggest.

Another thing to consider is that none of them seek to discard religion and replace it with some cold caricature of atheism that is some sort of stereotype of nihilism, as you seem to suggest. There are secular philosophies which also combat despair that they advance as well.

Third, whether or not it is 'cool' presently to identify as an atheist, it's simply factually untrue to claim that it's growing less cool over time, regardless of who you blame for it. The fact is that the percentage of Americans who identify as atheist (much less non-affiliated) is growing and has been growing for awhile now, and shows no sign of slowing. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/05/7-facts-about-atheists/

Finally, in a broader public debate of ideas, I am skeptical of the utility of a stance such as 'totally respectful etc.' when any glance around at the culture in the United States shows which side of the religious-atheist divide still has control and calls the shots. Of course that's changing, and it seems likely that in the next hundred years that divide will look a lot different than it does now, but we're not there yet.

Put more simply: I've very little time or patience with people who complain that atheists are being too mean to religious people and cast the matter as though that were the sum of the issue, and the biggest problem. It's simply not true, and it's distasteful to see a side begin to play the victim when it's been the uncontested juggernaut in a given struggle for millenia.

*I'm wary of Harris on a few levels, but 'too mean to religious people' ain't one of them.

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TomDavidson
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The word "atheist" was poisoned before you were born by people who weren't outspoken atheists.
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oscfan17
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Could you elaborate?
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oscfan17
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
I'm sorry to start off so critical, but it doesn't sound as though you've paid much attention to the figures you've named outside of their debates and appearances where a combative and critical stance is required (such as when discussing issues with an unfriendly talking head, or on a debate stage).

For one, none of the figures you've referred to discounts the benefits religion has provided. Rather they all, particularly Harris*, repeatedly suggest that taken in total the drawbacks now out with the benefits-and that in any event, it's not true anyway and so ought not be believed. Which whether you agree with it or not, there is an argument to be made there and it's not the same thing as simply dismissing it altogether as you suggest.

Another thing to consider is that none of them seek to discard religion and replace it with some cold caricature of atheism that is some sort of stereotype of nihilism, as you seem to suggest. There are secular philosophies which also combat despair that they advance as well.

Third, whether or not it is 'cool' presently to identify as an atheist, it's simply factually untrue to claim that it's growing less cool over time, regardless of who you blame for it. The fact is that the percentage of Americans who identify as atheist (much less non-affiliated) is growing and has been growing for awhile now, and shows no sign of slowing. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/05/7-facts-about-atheists/

Finally, in a broader public debate of ideas, I am skeptical of the utility of a stance such as 'totally respectful etc.' when any glance around at the culture in the United States shows which side of the religious-atheist divide still has control and calls the shots. Of course that's changing, and it seems likely that in the next hundred years that divide will look a lot different than it does now, but we're not there yet.

Put more simply: I've very little time or patience with people who complain that atheists are being too mean to religious people and cast the matter as though that were the sum of the issue, and the biggest problem. It's simply not true, and it's distasteful to see a side begin to play the victim when it's been the uncontested juggernaut in a given struggle for millenia.

*I'm wary of Harris on a few levels, but 'too mean to religious people' ain't one of them.

I'm judging them from their public appearances, in which they display hostility to religion and lack of compassion for humanity's need for religion. I don't really care what they said in a few paragraphs (perhaps) in this or that book. In their public persona they exude disdain and contempt for religion in general which I regard as inhuman.

Additionally, there's the factor of the New Atheism being a "stealth religion" in itself according to evolutionary psychologist David Sloan Wilson (an atheist himself).

https://evolution-institute.org/article/the-new-atheism-as-a-stealth-religion-five-years-later/

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oscfan17
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Also: A lot of people are like me in that they just moved away from religion not because of distaste but, just because. They didn't feel it. I find it really dishonest when loud and evangelist atheists claim these people as their own.
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TomDavidson
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That's a hangup you'll probably have to get over, then.
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Rakeesh
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Well, now I'm certain you haven't paid much attention. Viewing snippets of debates or an interview with a television news anchor will provide quite a lot of weight for your point, but only if you ignore the context and don't watch for example an entire debate. The people you mentioned, for example, write more than just 'a few paragraphs' revealing more complicated ideas than your simple 'they hate religion and the religious' portrayal. If you'd like to point to a particular piece or interview or debate so we can discuss it-as the person advancing a position, I mean-I'd be happy to.

Now, all of that said, I reject the notion that to disbelieve religion is to hold contempt for it as a whole, or for its adherents as a group. Everyone is after all an atheist to some extent or another. A Baptist Christian, for example, is an atheist in thousands of religions and a believer in one. Does it then follow that that Baptist must, by definition, hold contempt for followers of all the other religions?

Of course if you get a professional in the 'culture wars', so to speak, on a stage with a direct opponent of their stance, some contempt will often leak through. Again, though, I'd be happy to review which of the pieces you're referring to so we can discuss what was actually said by whom.

As for the piece you linked to, having read it I'm unimpressed. Though it had a lot useful to say when examining atheism in evolutionary terms, it presupposes that atheists or particularly new atheists take the stance: atheism is pure reason.

Which misses the point. People can be atheist for a ton of reasons. That Baptist earlier is an atheist with respect to the Greek Pantheon not because he or she considered the merits of Zeus dispassionately and evaluated the evidence on empirical grounds, but because they already believe in a different God who in fact is very clear about *not* believing in other gods. This is just a hypothetical Baptist, but you get the idea.

Atheism is a statement of disbelief, regardless of what a particular atheist might also to on to believe about other things. In fact in the writings of the people you're critiquing, they spend more than 'a few paragraphs' on this point. "I don't believe in any god or gods," is not a statement that motivates *for* anything except opposition-specifically to belief in a god or gods, and not always then either. Many atheists are indifferent to the idea of persuading others to disbelieve.

So when atheism is called a 'stealth religion', well, some groups of atheists will unify and exhibit some of the same characteristics as any group. Religions are also groups. And since believers and atheists involve exactly the same issue, some similarities will emerge unavoidably. But that's not the same as claiming atheism as a religion. Unless we're going to label the Southern Baptist Convention, for example, as just a group.

As for 'dishonesty', well you already don't like them on the basis of let's just say incomplete experience with them, so your distaste isn't a surprise. But they don't claim you as 'theirs'. In fact all of them will readily acknowledge that lack of appeal of religion has a lot to do with the growth of atheists* I mentioned as does a visceral distaste for it.

*You did say that these people have made it unfavorable to declare one's self an atheist. But atheism and non-affiliation are growing, not shrinking. How do you reconcile your claim about what they have done to the popularity of atheism with the fact of its continued growth?

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oscfan17
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
Well, now I'm certain you haven't paid much attention. Viewing snippets of debates or an interview with a television news anchor will provide quite a lot of weight for your point, but only if you ignore the context and don't watch for example an entire debate. The people you mentioned, for example, write more than just 'a few paragraphs' revealing more complicated ideas than your simple 'they hate religion and the religious' portrayal. If you'd like to point to a particular piece or interview or debate so we can discuss it-as the person advancing a position, I mean-I'd be happy to.

Very uncharitable of you to assume that I only experienced snippets of their oeuvre, but then again the new atheism is a bit cultish, isn't it, and its acolytes are in the habit of lashing out when their idols are attacked. In any case, I paid too much attention and followed these people for years. The statement about "few paragraphs" was in fact a reference to a tactic by Sam Harris I noticed quite a long time ago where one of his critics will accuse him about not addressing this or that and Harris will point to a paragraph or two from his essays or books where he merely raises the topic but doesn't grapple with it substantively.

quote:
Now, all of that said, I reject the notion that to disbelieve religion is to hold contempt for it as a whole, or for its adherents as a group
Who has put forth this notion that you are rejecting so dramatically? It's just common sense that to disbelieve a religion doesn't mean to hold its adherents in contempt. But if you are saying this to defend the New Atheists like Sam Harris, then you're being dishonest. These men are not mere disbelievers -- they hate religion and evangelize hatred and contempt for religion while wrapping themselves up in the cloak of science and reason. This hatred of theirs and crusade against religion is not compatible with compassion for the human condition.
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Rakeesh
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Well, the new atheist I was most a fan of has been dead for years, and the one with whom you appear to have the biggest problem I have reservations about on a number of important issues. That does sound like the thinking of a cultist, doesn't it?

I've asked for you to point to a specific discussion or statement so we can talk about it, and so far you haven't done so. At the same time you've doubled down on your claims about what they do and say, so if it's 'uncharitable' to be openly skeptical of how much you've actually learned about any of these figures, color me a Scrooge. Pre-redemption, of course.

You've said they hate religion and 'evangelize' that hatred. While accusing me of dishonesty, no less, when you use the term 'evangelize' that way so any persuasion counts as evangelism. Well, let's talk about such an instance.

Some key points that you've neglected to answer, whether because the discussion has moved quickly or you've missed them in a cell phone screen (that's where I'm posting now), or what have you:

How do you reconcile the claim that these new atheists have made it unfashionable to claim to be an atheist with the growth of atheism? What do you say in response to my remarks (that have been made by others, much better than I could), that regardless of the similarities new atheism has to religious groups, they are not themselves a religion but rather a group opposed to religion? And finally, could you refer to something specific they've said or done that you disliked so much, so we can stop talking in generalities?

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Rakeesh
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Also, as to who put forth that position, well so far you have. You've said earlier in the thread that they disregard the benefits religion brings to humanity, which is factually untrue. Thinking it is a net drawback is not the same thing as thinking there are no benefits.

Further, you're now conflating 'respect for religion' with 'respect for the human condition'. You don't just get to sneak that absurd claim in without substantiating it at all. Whether or not you agree, these new atheists believe they have ideas that would better serve humanity than religion, and offer up those ideas regularly. Therefore they are trying by their own lights to improve the human condition. Again, you are welcome to disagree that they're correct about that and explain yourself, but don't get hysterical about it.

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TomDavidson
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For my part, I'm wondering whether you've actually heard many religious leaders speak on the topic of atheists, just by way of comparison.
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Rakeesh
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Where we're going to hell forever to be torrured for all time and it's good that we are and a sign of god's love for humanity?

I can't speak for 17 but I have! It seems atheism gets traded in a pretty steep curve for some people. They do it for millenia, much to respect about religion. Some atheists do it for a few years (supposedly, and even then in a much decreased quantity), poison the very term.

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oscfan17
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quote:
How do you reconcile the claim that these new atheists have made it unfashionable to claim to be an atheist with the growth of atheism? What do you say in response to my remarks (that have been made by others, much better than I could), that regardless of the similarities new atheism has to religious groups, they are not themselves a religion but rather a group opposed to religion? And finally, could you refer to something specific they've said or done that you disliked so much, so we can stop talking in generalities?
Simple:

Atheism != New Atheism a la Dawkins/Hitchens/et al.

There is the disbelieve of religion, and then there's the inhumane attack on religion by the New Atheists that seems to dismiss the human longing for meaning and purpose and community. These new atheists pretend that religion can merely be cast aside.

On online discourse it used to be fashionable to parrot the arguments of these people, but it really isn't any longer.

quote:
I've asked for you to point to a specific discussion or statement so we can talk about it, and so far you haven't done so. At the same time you've doubled down on your claims about what they do and say, so if it's 'uncharitable' to be openly skeptical of how much you've actually learned about any of these figures, color me a Scrooge. Pre-redemption, of course.
Any time Bill Maher, almost certainly part of the Evangelist Atheist tribe, makes a comment about religion. Say, a terrorist attack here or there, and then he'll something like "see? Isn't religion such an awful thing" etc etc. A lot of atheists and non-believers might themselves regard that sort of opinion as inhumane. Disbelieve in religion need not mean lack of respect for religion and the religious.

Now reading above I do note that I said it isn't "hip" to say one is an atheist anymore, but what I meant was that it isn't actually hip to identify with the Evangelist Atheists.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
and then there's the inhumane attack on religion by the New Atheists that seems to dismiss the human longing for meaning
Yeah, let me know when atheists start burning Christians at the stake, as opposed to just saying that their beliefs are stupid.
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oscfan17
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:


Further, you're now conflating 'respect for religion' with 'respect for the human condition'. You don't just get to sneak that absurd claim in without substantiating it at all. Whether or not you agree, these new atheists believe they have ideas that would better serve humanity than religion, and offer up those ideas regularly. Therefore they are trying by their own lights to improve the human condition. Again, you are welcome to disagree that they're correct about that and explain yourself, but don't get hysterical about it.

It is a necessary conflation for the time being, for most humans are religious and derive much meaning and comfort from religion. The New Atheists have not really made it clear that disregarding religion will make humanity better off, because they have seemed mostly ignorant (perhaps willfully so) of the positive aspects that religion provides people and communities.
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oscfan17
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
and then there's the inhumane attack on religion by the New Atheists that seems to dismiss the human longing for meaning
Yeah, let me know when atheists start burning Christians at the stake, as opposed to just saying that their beliefs are stupid.
There are degrees of inhumanity, Good Sir, and loudly insulting religion and the religious is inhuman, although not as inhuman as killing people.

Perhaps though, loudly insulting all religious people could be comparable to murder in some way. In consideration of total harm caused, perhaps the injury and harm of psychological distress caused to the numerous religious folk by such demeaning remarks can be compared to the harm of killing a few of them. But this tangent is too philosophical for my taste so I won't pursue it.

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Rakeesh
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Oscfan17,

quote:

Simple:

Atheism != New Atheism a la Dawkins/Hitchens/et al.

There is the disbelieve of religion, and then there's the inhumane attack on religion by the New Atheists that seems to dismiss the human longing for meaning and purpose and community. These new atheists pretend that religion can merely be cast aside.

On online discourse it used to be fashionable to parrot the arguments of these people, but it really isn't any longer

You've both moved and narrowed your goalposts here. You weren't specific to 'online discussion' (and god knows that's a subjective experience), and you said that they had made it simply unfashionable to call oneself an atheist.

I think at this point I can fairly remark that you haven't made your case at all to your initial claim (see: the continued growth of atheism), and instead pointed out simply that these figures have made it distasteful to you.

Now, as to the claim about their belief that religion can simply be cast aside, well, at least in the case of Hitchens I can state as a point of fact that he wasn't blithe about the difficulty of setting religion aside at all. With less certainty I think the same is true for Harris as well. You're welcome to point to a statement either have made that says or even suggests it is easy to put aside religion, either for humanity in general or for a particular believer.

As for what remarks Bill Maher makes, I can't speak to those. I don't watch his shows and haven't in the past, nor have I read his books. All I can say about him is that he rated third from the last of the list of prominent new atheists, out of a list of fifteen or twenty or so. (Just the wiki entry is all.)

As for the term being unhip, welllllll your use of the term 'Evangelist Atheists' makes me skeptical that you were ever going to be a fan of theirs at all, oscfan17. I'll also note you've yet to make your case for atheism as something that can even *be* evangelized (that is to say, a religion). You posted one link which had a lot more to do with religion as a group in evolutionary terms, rather than this context wherein religion is a belief in a god or gods.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
There are degrees of inhumanity, Good Sir, and loudly insulting religion and the religious is inhuman...
Interesting. Do you believe that insulting the areligious, or loudly asserting that religion is a necessary component of society, is inhuman?
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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I'm judging them from their public appearances, in which they display hostility to religion
And the religions don't display hostility to atheism is that it?

quote:
and lack of compassion for humanity's need for religion.
What about religious people's lack of compassion for humanity's need for atheism? And said need for atheism is frankly MUCH better established.
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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
So we need a new word that means something like "atheist but totally respectful of religious folk while being understanding and forgiving of Man's desire to use religion to avoid existential despair and anomie."
And no, we don't really.

For the same reason that we don't need a word that means "non-racist but totally respectful of racist people while being understanding and forgiving of Man's desire to use racism to create tribes and a sense of belonging".

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by oscfan17:
quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
Well, now I'm certain you haven't paid much attention. Viewing snippets of debates or an interview with a television news anchor will provide quite a lot of weight for your point, but only if you ignore the context and don't watch for example an entire debate. The people you mentioned, for example, write more than just 'a few paragraphs' revealing more complicated ideas than your simple 'they hate religion and the religious' portrayal. If you'd like to point to a particular piece or interview or debate so we can discuss it-as the person advancing a position, I mean-I'd be happy to.

Very uncharitable of you to assume that I only experienced snippets of their oeuvre, but then again the new atheism is a bit cultish, isn't it, and its acolytes are in the habit of lashing out when their idols are attacked.
Eh. This is such a tired line of intrigue against atheism. It would be so much easier if athiesm were some sort of monolithic belief structure, but I'm afraid it just isn't so. There's no newsletter- there's no doctrine.

As I think Christopher Hitchens put it, atheism is the only belief system (to borrow a slightly inappropriate phrase to describe it), that can be and has been arrived at independently in every culture, at every point in history.

There can be no effective criticism of atheism as a movement that encompasses Jefferson, Einstein, Camus, and Stephen Hawking. These figures arrive at their philosophical conclusions largely independently, and without need of much reference to each other. What's more, each conceives of their own atheism in starkly different terms than the others.

Identifying a specific clique of atheists, such as popular science writers or people on the tv talk circuit (always to sell books of course), doesn't grant you access to the mainstream of atheist thinking- if only because no mainstream exists or is central to atheism.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by oscfan17:


Atheism != New Atheism a la Dawkins/Hitchens/et al.

There is the disbelieve of religion, and then there's the inhumane attack on religion by the New Atheists that seems to dismiss the human longing for meaning and purpose and community. These new atheists pretend that religion can merely be cast aside.


You betray here a simple lack of familiarity with the "movement" you describe. Hitchens in particular devoted more than one book to acknowledging the human longing for meaning and purpose and community, and arguing patiently and with much care, for a fulfillment of those same needs outside of organized religion.

Hitchens was a critic of organized religion- but an apologist for spiritualism and the human tendency toward religious practices.

It's rather important that Hitchens went out of his way, unapologetically, to deride Dawkins, his friend, for his insulting rhetoric about the treatment of religious people. What's more, Dawkins and Hitchens fundamentally disagreed, in that Dawkins conceives of atheism as a coherent philosophy, and Hitchens explicitly did not, and disapproved of Dawkins' portrayal of atheism as a social movement.

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zlogdanbr
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quote:

Hitchens was a critic of organized religion- but an apologist for spiritualism and the human tendency toward religious practices.

It seems I have wrongly always associated Hitchens to the same type of pointless insane rhetoric endorsed by Dawkins and followers. Thanks for pointing it.

I have long before quit struggling to see Dawkins as a polite debater and proponent rather than just an angry fellow.

On the other hand, while not an atheist myself, I often disagree of organized religion and their necessity to preach moral rules and impose them evangelically rather than concentrating on the purpose of religion.

Believers who loudly condemn atheists for their disbelief or "lack of faith" are as wrong, imo, as new atheists discarding believers as unable to see the truth.

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Samprimary
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someone should really complain to the church of atheism that their public relations department is insufficiently pleasing to christians

i am having trouble finding their mailing address. they're so disorganized, it's like they're not even trying to be a monolithic entity of people as opposed to individuals who just incidentally don't believe in a mythological story

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zlogdanbr
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Well, try here :-)

http://firstchurchofatheism.com/

( Google shows some of them )

You can always go through their "secular" hands
like

http://www.atea.org.br/

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kmbboots
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oscfan17, for me, the bottom line is that if religious people want atheists to treat religion with more respect, they need to demonstrate religion worthy of respect.
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Rakeesh
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Zlog,

I'd be curious to see which remarks of Dawkins were to you 'pointless insane rhetoric'. I ask that because I wonder if you don't have the same sort of impression of Dawkins as you did Hitchens, on limited exposure. It's also because with both of those figures it is *very* easy to encounter some of their work and their words online where they are rather hostile and contemptuous of a given religious outlook or religion in general...but in my experience it's never as simple as that.

If your exposure has been viewing clips of debates, for example (and a quick check just showed many hundreds of thousands of views, so you would hardly be alone!), a mistaken impression would be very easy to have. If that is your source material, just bear in mind that that is a setting of formalized antagonism, a debate stage. And it's quite possible that if this is your main source, the remarks you're thinking of might be in response to things even more inflammatory that are off-screen so to speak.

As for believers critical of nonbelief being as bad as nonbelievers being critical of belief...well, I'll have to disagree there. For one thing quite a lot of the believers hold beliefs such as nonbelievers are going to hell to be tortured for all time. That's quite a few steps further than thinking (in the worst case) that a believer is stupid, isn't it? Further, it isn't non-believers that try to make their nonbelief law. Quite the contrary. No judge ever put up a stone tablet saying 'There is no God' in his courtroom, in the American context.

As for your links, I don't speak Portuguese is that the language? So I can't comment on that one. As for the first church of atheism, from their FAQ: "A church is defined as an association of people who share a particular belief system. So yes, a church of atheism can really exist."

It's plain that they are using a very narrow definition of 'church', and appear to be doing it largely to enable people to call themselves ministers. There's also a store, which makes me wonder how much of it is simply commercial.

Anyway, one particular group of atheists or people claiming to be atheists labeling themselves a church neither means atheism is a religion or that it is unified.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:

As for believers critical of nonbelief being as bad as nonbelievers being critical of belief...well, I'll have to disagree there. For one thing quite a lot of the believers hold beliefs such as nonbelievers are going to hell to be tortured for all time.

And a lot don't but that rarely seems to enter into atheist argument. I am not sure that even those that do are worse than holding the belief that everyone - believer or not, good or bad,* - we are going to die and that's it!. In fact, many religious people think that "hell" is just the absence of an afterlife with God so, basically, believing that atheists go to hell is pretty much what atheists believe about everyone. [Wink]

*Not that those are the same thing.

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Rakeesh
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Well when the conversation is specifically in the realm of 'who's worse', as oscfan17 started it, naturally fire and brimstone believers would come up.

Though you are correct, which was why I qualified my statement so I wasn't talking about all. And I will just remark that arriving at non-hellfire interpretations basically never happened without the authorities of those same religions exacting quite a price in blood and torture. Though that's more a question for the historic pro-con question of religion rather than one that has to do with (many) present religions.

Now as for being dead and that's it being potentially equivalent to dying with the wrong belief and being tortured on God's authority for all time...I have to assume I've misunderstood you, or you I. Are you really suggesting that eternal torture is potentially just as bad as oblivion?

But setting that aside for the moment, the religious outlook is still harsher. Believing that it's simply the way that reality works, what when you die that's it, is not the same as thunking that one's literal creator-the creator of everything-has judged you, personally, and found you wanting and thinks there is no point ever in having the possibility to reconcile...well, I submit that is a harsher belief. For one thing, there is the element of intent.

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zlogdanbr
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
Zlog,

I'd be curious to see which remarks of Dawkins were to you 'pointless insane rhetoric'. I ask that because I wonder if you don't have the same sort of impression of Dawkins as you did Hitchens, on limited exposure. It's also because with both of those figures it is *very* easy to encounter some of their work and their words online where they are rather hostile and contemptuous of a given religious outlook or religion in general...but in my experience it's never as simple as that.

If your exposure has been viewing clips of debates, for example (and a quick check just showed many hundreds of thousands of views, so you would hardly be alone!), a mistaken impression would be very easy to have. If that is your source material, just bear in mind that that is a setting of formalized antagonism, a debate stage. And it's quite possible that if this is your main source, the remarks you're thinking of might be in response to things even more inflammatory that are off-screen so to speak.


There is nothing he's ever said that I have read on his interviews, web site or wikipedia or online quotes that slightly suggests a tiny bit of respect for believers except in a condescending tone as if he were given the noble task of unmasking the truth and removing mankind from darkness and lack of reason. Ok, I admit that I have never read any of his books ( I am not going to read him in a near future too, not because of bigotry but because I have piles of science fiction to read and short time ;-)). But the remark made by Orincoro in regard to Hitchens was

quote:

Hitchens was a critic of organized religion- but an apologist for spiritualism and the human tendency toward religious practices.

And it made me think about how it looked like Carl Sagan had handled the topic on his book "Contact". Dawkins, however, seems to think that the very thought of a God is a sentiment that proves one's stupidity. Let me just say that I am not a religious person in a sense that I practice some kind of religion or that I am a true believer, but I do consider the God hypothesis more fondly than otherwise. The very fact I seek that "numinosity" does not mean I refute logic and reason.

And I was an atheist for many years and I do not remember anything peaceful about that.

quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:

As for believers critical of nonbelief being as bad as nonbelievers being critical of belief...well, I'll have to disagree there. For one thing quite a lot of the believers hold beliefs such as nonbelievers are going to hell to be tortured for all time. That's quite a few steps further than thinking (in the worst case) that a believer is stupid, isn't it? Further, it isn't non-believers that try to make their nonbelief law. Quite the contrary. No judge ever put up a stone tablet saying 'There is no God' in his courtroom, in the American context.

Yes when it comes to extremism, believers often win the dispute about "how narrow minded humans can be" but while I can tell you about many religious people that think that, I know a good amount of people that does not think the same ( Pope Francisco for instance ). It is fine and necessary for me to ask for rights and equality, to allow atheists to be allowed to think what they find more appropriate but still, "stupid" is a word that has a real derogatory connotation that is frankly, for me, offensive. I would rather say "wrong" than stupid.

But then I am guilty of using "stupid" to describe people that is cannot get into Meshuggah but I have been trying to avoid that since I was told that I might be kind of too over the top.

quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
[QB]
As for your links, I don't speak Portuguese is that the language? So I can't comment on that one. As for the first church of atheism, from their FAQ: "A church is defined as an association of people who share a particular belief system. So yes, a church of atheism can really exist."
It's plain that they are using a very narrow definition of 'church', and appear to be doing it largely to enable people to call themselves ministers. There's also a store, which makes me wonder how much of it is simply commercial.
Anyway, one particular group of atheists or people claiming to be atheists labeling themselves a church neither means atheism is a religion or that it is unified.

Sorry about that, I was being sarcastic. As a friend of mine once said, something like "Most of us have our own beliefs and we don't bother or waste time out trying to impose that to everybody that disagrees, we have atheists living lives and believers living lives without attacking each other". But once I read someone saying he liked to read about atheism and I could not avoid compare that to religion or a philosophy.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by zlogdanbr:
Well, try here :-)

http://firstchurchofatheism.com/

( Google shows some of them )

You can always go through their "secular" hands
like

http://www.atea.org.br/

i'm just going to say that i am direly amused by that you helpfully offered that there are "secular" branches of atheism i could consult, with "secular" in quote marks
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zlogdanbr
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
Originally posted by zlogdanbr:
Well, try here :-)

http://firstchurchofatheism.com/

( Google shows some of them )

You can always go through their "secular" hands
like

http://www.atea.org.br/

i'm just going to say that i am direly amused by that you helpfully offered that there are "secular" branches of atheism i could consult, with "secular" in quote marks
Sorry about that, I meant it to be humorous. The second link is for the Brazilian association of atheists and agnostics. I don't actually think atheism is a religious cult although when it gets organized it might look as a religion. [Smile]
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Rakeesh
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When it gets organized, those atheists who organize begin to look like a group. Organized religions are also groups. It's not quite the same thing as it looking like religion.
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zlogdanbr
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
When it gets organized, those atheists who organize begin to look like a group. Organized religions are also groups. It's not quite the same thing as it looking like religion.

Honestly, it is important and necessary to have an atheist association that aims to defend the rights of atheists face to religious bigotry. Truth to be told religious fundamentalism is far more annoying than new atheism.
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kmbboots
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Obnoxious evangelical atheists have a long way to go before they do as much damage to atheism as obnoxious evangelical Christians have done to Christianity.
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oscfan17
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
Oscfan17,

quote:

Simple:

Atheism != New Atheism a la Dawkins/Hitchens/et al.

There is the disbelieve of religion, and then there's the inhumane attack on religion by the New Atheists that seems to dismiss the human longing for meaning and purpose and community. These new atheists pretend that religion can merely be cast aside.

On online discourse it used to be fashionable to parrot the arguments of these people, but it really isn't any longer

You've both moved and narrowed your goalposts here. You weren't specific to 'online discussion' (and god knows that's a subjective experience), and you said that they had made it simply unfashionable to call oneself an atheist.

I think at this point I can fairly remark that you haven't made your case at all to your initial claim (see: the continued growth of atheism), and instead pointed out simply that these figures have made it distasteful to you.

Now, as to the claim about their belief that religion can simply be cast aside, well, at least in the case of Hitchens I can state as a point of fact that he wasn't blithe about the difficulty of setting religion aside at all. With less certainty I think the same is true for Harris as well. You're welcome to point to a statement either have made that says or even suggests it is easy to put aside religion, either for humanity in general or for a particular believer.

As for what remarks Bill Maher makes, I can't speak to those. I don't watch his shows and haven't in the past, nor have I read his books. All I can say about him is that he rated third from the last of the list of prominent new atheists, out of a list of fifteen or twenty or so. (Just the wiki entry is all.)

As for the term being unhip, welllllll your use of the term 'Evangelist Atheists' makes me skeptical that you were ever going to be a fan of theirs at all, oscfan17. I'll also note you've yet to make your case for atheism as something that can even *be* evangelized (that is to say, a religion). You posted one link which had a lot more to do with religion as a group in evolutionary terms, rather than this context wherein religion is a belief in a god or gods.

I am merely expressing a sentiment I'm picking up on, which is that these Evangelist Ahteists aren't really cool and hip anymore, as if people have grown tired of their combativeness and cult like behavior. There's a reason the thread title is a question and not a definitive statement, and my remarks should by read in that spirit. In any case, it's curious you dismissed David Sloan Wilson's vigorous attack on these Evangelist Atheists. Wilson, himself an atheist, finds this crowd ridiculous and quasi-religious in their own way. That's an atheist saying that.

One thing is clear: These Evanglist Atheists have a lot of sway such that an attack on them is perceived as an attack on all atheists.

It's a bit of motte and bailey tactic if you think about it: These Evangelist Atheists behave in quasi-religious and cult like ways and, when challenged, their defenders respond with variations on "Why do you have a problem with atheism" etc etc. Atheism is not a problem, it's the weird and cult-like behavior of its loud Evangelist tribe that is.

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oscfan17
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by oscfan17:


Atheism != New Atheism a la Dawkins/Hitchens/et al.

There is the disbelieve of religion, and then there's the inhumane attack on religion by the New Atheists that seems to dismiss the human longing for meaning and purpose and community. These new atheists pretend that religion can merely be cast aside.


You betray here a simple lack of familiarity with the "movement" you describe. Hitchens in particular devoted more than one book to acknowledging the human longing for meaning and purpose and community, and arguing patiently and with much care, for a fulfillment of those same needs outside of organized religion.

Hitchens was a critic of organized religion- but an apologist for spiritualism and the human tendency toward religious practices.

It's rather important that Hitchens went out of his way, unapologetically, to deride Dawkins, his friend, for his insulting rhetoric about the treatment of religious people. What's more, Dawkins and Hitchens fundamentally disagreed, in that Dawkins conceives of atheism as a coherent philosophy, and Hitchens explicitly did not, and disapproved of Dawkins' portrayal of atheism as a social movement.

I've watched various debates with Hitchens and his main hobby horse seemed to be recycling very old arguments about why there isn't any proof for deities. His book on the subject didn't seem any more promising than those debates where he's shooting fish in a barrel by mentioning geological evidence that the earth is not 6k years old. Anyway, I have ordered it on Amazon and hope that it's better than that, but I'm guessing it will more or less be devoid of compassion for man's need to tell himself stories that give order to a chaotic universe or will be very short on evolutionary analysis of religion as something that facilitates group cooperation, the sort of understandings that are not compatible with contempt and hatred for religion in general.

[ April 19, 2016, 09:03 PM: Message edited by: oscfan17 ]

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oscfan17
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Obnoxious evangelical atheists have a long way to go before they do as much damage to atheism as obnoxious evangelical Christians have done to Christianity.

Yea Evangelical Christians rub me the wrong way. How can you be all "I'm a follower of Christ and lover of Mankind" but then side with the Israelis in their ethnic aggression against the Palestinians?
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Rakeesh
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I'm busy right now so I can't go into at length, but it made me chuckle that you basically doubled down on your claim that Hitchens had no compassion for humanity's need for stories and meaning. Also that his arguments were mainly about how deities don't exist.

Whereas before I wasn't sure, now I am: you haven't really paid attention to his debates and you're unfamiliar with his books. I've read several of them, Orincoro I think more, and watched many of his debates in their entirety. You don't have to agree with his conclusions, but a significant part of his books and debates was an awareness of human's need for meaning and how agonizing it could be to move past religion, ethical problems with organized religions as their stories told to themselves, and yes, skepticism about the claims of organized religion about itself and the world at large.

In fact, as someone who is actually familiar with the dude's work, I can say that it's tough to say with certainty whether or not 'there's no good cause to believe this' or 'by the way, if true this is monstrous' gets more words and screentime.

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Heisenberg
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I've read most of his books, and spent more hours then I care to admit watching him on Youtube.

Rakeesh is correct. I don't think you've had enough exposure to him to really make a judgement.

He wasn't just an atheist, I look at him kind of like a philosopher. He very much cared for other people and their suffering, and when he spoke against religion he did so because he believed that the negatives vastly outweighed the positives.

He also spoke at length about why it was possible to just enjoy life as is, without the promise or hope of an afterlife.

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Rakeesh
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Welcome to the cult, Heisenberg!
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zlogdanbr
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quote:
Originally posted by Heisenberg:

He also spoke at length about why it was possible to just enjoy life as is, without the promise or hope of an afterlife.

Which is fine for me and it is what I do. Except for the part of "not hoping for the afterlife" and not believing in the possibility of a God. [Smile]

One personal curiosity ( it is not a critic or an accusation please have that in mind ) is why devote such time and effort to read about a topic that is so simply stated as atheism ? Why reading so many books reinforcing an evident fact as described in the precious and succinct carpe diem motto ?

Of course I do understand that is necessary to explain why such obvious ideas do not constitute a sin - to enjoy life without the numinous- to the far numerous quantity of religious extremists and blind followers.

And why the debate must go in the extremes of considering religious people ( or agnostic quite prone to believe like myself [Big Grin] ) as mere "idiots"?

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Heisenberg
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I'll put it like this.

I'm an agnostic. I don't believe in the afterlife based upon the evidence given, but I'm open to the possibility. Many people who think like that grew up in religious families and/or religious communities, and the writings of Hitchens and others like him were a strong and valuable counterpoint to the religious crap that permeates society. They were people who gave compelling reasons to believe that there wasn't an. afterlife.

People like to get offended, but what they mostly get offended by is "Look at those people doing silly things, aren't they silly? And those people doing horrible things, aren't they horrible?"

Rude perhaps, but not really inaccurate. And at the end of the day they're preaching to the choir. Nobody is forced to buy their books.

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Rakeesh
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Oscfan17,

quote:
I am merely expressing a sentiment I'm picking up on, which is that these Evangelist Ahteists aren't really cool and hip anymore, as if people have grown tired of their combativeness and cult like behavior. There's a reason the thread title is a question and not a definitive statement, and my remarks should by read in that spirit. In any case, it's curious you dismissed David Sloan Wilson's vigorous attack on these Evangelist Atheists. Wilson, himself an atheist, finds this crowd ridiculous and quasi-religious in their own way. That's an atheist saying that.
Well now that you've recast the discussion (again) to 'this is what I feel on the Internet', my original question still stands: atheism isn't shrinking. This poses a problem for your stance that 'evangelical'* atheists have tainted the well.

It's curious that your main defense of that particular atheist is that he is an atheist and therefore I should take him seriously. Ummm, Ok? I read the link, and the funny thing is is that he had a lot more to say about how atheists are grouping and behaving like religions-other groups-which was my point. But by all means, continue to avoid addressing multiple other challenges to your position.

quote:

One thing is clear: These Evanglist Atheists have a lot of sway such that an attack on them is perceived as an attack on all atheists.

Well when you consider that a significant portion of the response to your attack is that 'hey you're factually inaccurate', and another significant portion is 'atheists are not grouped together like you say'...this response is funny. But you've already shown yourself to have difficulty in hearing 'hey, that's not what that person actually thinks'.

quote:

It's a bit of motte and bailey tactic if you think about it: These Evangelist Atheists behave in quasi-religious and cult like ways and, when challenged, their defenders respond with variations on "Why do you have a problem with atheism" etc etc. Atheism is not a problem, it's the weird and cult-like behavior of its loud Evangelist tribe that is.

You are mischaracterizing the objections you've gotten. As they've been explained by multiple people now I'm starting to question if it's deliberate.

quote:
I've watched various debates with Hitchens and his main hobby horse seemed to be recycling very old arguments about why there isn't any proof for deities. His book on the subject didn't seem any more promising than those debates where he's shooting fish in a barrel by mentioning geological evidence that the earth is not 6k years old. Anyway, I have ordered it on Amazon and hope that it's better than that, but I'm guessing it will more or less be devoid of compassion for man's need to tell himself stories that give order to a chaotic universe or will be very short on evolutionary analysis of religion as something that facilitates group cooperation, the sort of understandings that are not compatible with contempt and hatred for religion in general.
I don't believe you've done more than skimmed through any debates. I believe it is much more likely that you're misremembering or simply lying. I feel comfortable making that claim because I've asked repeatedly for specific statements and others have pointed out the facts about his work, and you've ignored it every time only to restate your own opinion. However, when you've read the book (I won't hold my breath), perhaps *then* you'll have something to talk about.


*By all means, keep using this term as much as you like, and it will continue to be wrong. Evangelical is a religious term, and (some) atheists are in groups, but not religion.

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oscfan17
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
Oscfan17,

quote:
I am merely expressing a sentiment I'm picking up on, which is that these Evangelist Ahteists aren't really cool and hip anymore, as if people have grown tired of their combativeness and cult like behavior. There's a reason the thread title is a question and not a definitive statement, and my remarks should by read in that spirit. In any case, it's curious you dismissed David Sloan Wilson's vigorous attack on these Evangelist Atheists. Wilson, himself an atheist, finds this crowd ridiculous and quasi-religious in their own way. That's an atheist saying that.
Well now that you've recast the discussion (again) to 'this is what I feel on the Internet', my original question still stands: atheism isn't shrinking.
I never made claims about atheism's growth, just that loud and obnoxious atheists weren't hip anymore, which you bizarrely interpreted as saying that atheism itself wasn't growing. There's a difference between saying "I don't believe in God" and going around with Atheist as an identity and looking down on religious people, and it's latter I have a problem with, not the former. It's this Atheism as an identity, as pushed by the Evanglist Atheists and their simple minded status hungry followers, that has the marks of a stealth religion and betrays lack of compassion for the human condition.

quote:
Well when you consider that a significant portion of the response to your attack is that 'hey you're factually inaccurate', and another significant portion is 'atheists are not grouped together like you say'...this response is funny. But you've already shown yourself to have difficulty in hearing 'hey, that's not what that person actually thinks'.

Well, no, I'm not "factually" incorrect. Look, calling people and asking them if they believe in God and marking them as atheists if they say no doesn't mean they're the same type of people who are fans of Evanglist atheists and have the contempt towards religion I find so problematic. This is really a stupid misunderstanding on your part that I will charitably interpret as purposeful.

quote:
You are mischaracterizing the objections you've gotten. As they've been explained by multiple people now I'm starting to question if it's deliberate.
I'm doing no such thing, people have responded in this thread (you in particular) as if I'm attacking atheism in general when I've mostly been attacking a subset of it.

quote:
I don't believe you've done more than skimmed through any debates. I believe it is much more likely that you're misremembering or simply lying. I feel comfortable making that claim because I've asked repeatedly for specific statements and others have pointed out the facts about his work, and you've ignored it every time only to restate your own opinion. However, when you've read the book (I won't hold my breath), perhaps *then* you'll have something to talk about.
I will be the better person and not make such nasty assumptions about you, Rakeesh. I am enjoying this discussion, and I hope that we can be the best of friends.
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Rakeesh
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Oscfan17,

quote:
I never made claims about atheism's growth, just that loud and obnoxious atheists weren't hip anymore, which you bizarrely interpreted as saying that atheism itself wasn't growing...
That's not what I interpreted it as. I remarked that it was strange that since atheism was still growing, it was apparently now uncool to be an atheist. Further you're changing your initial statement, again: "Have loud, unpleasant and evangelist atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and that guy who sometimes appears on Fox News and whines about Christmas trees at airports (David something or other) ruined the word "atheist"?"

So no, you weren't just speaking about 'evangelical' atheists. And even if you had been, you mischaracterize their position anyway. It goes further than whining about Christmas trees, though those have no place with public money.

quote:
Well, no, I'm not "factually" incorrect. Look, calling people and asking them if they believe in God and marking them as atheists if they say no doesn't mean they're the same type of people who are fans of Evanglist atheists and have the contempt towards religion I find so problematic. This is really a stupid misunderstanding on your part that I will charitably interpret as purposeful.
I agree. In fact I noted the fact about atheists and non-affiliated people in my very first post in this thread, fourth paragraph. You're the one who claims that 'evangelist' atheists are claiming agnostics as their own. Unlike you, I and others have actually read their work. They're not. It's not a question of whether I like them or think they're right, it's a question of fact. One which you are wrong about.

quote:
I'm doing no such thing, people have responded in this thread (you in particular) as if I'm attacking atheism in general when I've mostly been attacking a subset.
Well, you've gone back and forth on that and your clarifications were made only after your ignorance was directly pointed out and challenged. And even then you only made half-steps towards an accurate assessment of your opponents' statements.

quote:
I will be the better person and not make such nasty assumptions about you, Rakeesh. I am enjoying this discussion, and I hope that we can be the best of friends.
No you're not, and no you don't. You can't be enjoying it because it's not a discussion. That's something that involves asking and answering questions. And no, you don't, you've already asserted I'm being cultish. Which is almost sort of *personal* some might say! Also, goodness nothing proves one is the better person better than declaring it outright.
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oscfan17
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
[QB] Oscfan17,

quote:
I never made claims about atheism's growth, just that loud and obnoxious atheists weren't hip anymore, which you bizarrely interpreted as saying that atheism itself wasn't growing...
That's not what I interpreted it as. I remarked that it was strange that since atheism was still growing, it was apparently now uncool to be an atheist.

I'll repeat I never made claims about atheism's growth. Perhaps atheism is growing, but people are still unlikely to identify as such in a proud fashion, partly due to the poisoning of the well by the obnoxious atheists. There's a difference between a statement of disbelieve in god/s and taking up atheism as an identity in a loud fashion, and it's that sort of thing I've been seeing a lot less of, even if atheism has been spreading.

quote:
I agree. In fact I noted the fact about atheists and non-affiliated people in my very first post in this thread, fourth paragraph. You're the one who claims that 'evangelist' atheists are claiming agnostics as their own. Unlike you, I and others have actually read their work. They're not. It's not a question of whether I like them or think they're right, it's a question of fact. One which you are wrong about.
No, I have actually seen them claim the non-affiliated as their own. One of these loud atheist guys was at CPAC and representing himself as speaking for the religiously unaffiliated.

quote:
Well, you've gone back and forth on that and your clarifications were made only after your ignorance was directly pointed out and challenged. And even then you only made half-steps towards an accurate assessment of your opponents' statements.

The ignorance is mainly on the side of the Evanglist Atheists, who betray a lack of understanding of the human condition. There's a reason a lot of humanist scholars and philosophers haven't really been eager about joining their club.

quote:
No you're not, and no you don't. You can't be enjoying it because it's not a discussion. That's something that involves asking and answering questions.
Thank you for telling me how I feel.

quote:
Also, goodness nothing proves one is the better person better than declaring it outright.
Well, at *least* you can pick up on sarcasm.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
There's a difference between saying "I don't believe in God" and going around with Atheist as an identity and looking down on religious people, and it's latter I have a problem with, not the former.
Yeah, Christians are most annoying when they go around self-identifying as Christians and suggesting that non-Christians are in some way less preferred by the creator of the universe, too.

quote:
No, I have actually seen them claim the non-affiliated as their own. One of these loud atheist guys was at CPAC...
Why would you be at CPAC? You can't swing a cat at CPAC without hitting a sucky person.
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