Atheism, à la Carte©
|theists, by whatever name they are known, comprise some 15-20 percent of the population in almost every region of the world. In particularly oppressive areas this may include some who pretend to believe in the local gods in order to avoid persecution. On a worldwide basis, they are more prevalent than even Sunni, which is apparently the religion
with most adherents.
This web page presents essays about what it means to be an atheist in a religious world. It explores societal stereotypes and prejudices that are directed against atheists as distinct from prejudices against those who 'believe' in gods, but differently.
I often wonder why it is that atheists, who have managed to wrest their minds fairly free from religion, are so often not among those who seek to be free of authority in other realms, such as health, parenting, learning and privacy. Why is it that we can so easily see the importance of being free from government in matters of faith, and yet are willing to be told what to think and do in other areas of our lives? What will it take for us to understand how important it is to have these other freedoms? Will it take having the tables turned on us, so that one or two new wrong minded Supreme Court justices manage to reshape public schools in ways we don't like?
It is not at all true that raising kids on a factory model is efficient. Affording children a fine opportunity to discover for themselves how the world around them works is far less complicated than one might think. Compare the maze bright lab mouse to the field mouse. Which has a larger brain mass and more dendrites? The field mouse, by far. Similarly, those children whose parents can find a way to let them fully explore the world, in all its wonder, are lucky indeed... far luckier than the ones who are figuratively chained to their desks all day for twelve years. --- '00-Oct-12th
Wow! Thanks! I love maps! In fact my map making business was where my à la Carte was born. I often fantasize about designing 'the perfect map'.
I had no clue Sunni was so large. I'd like to see one with stripes, showing each country with, say, its top five religions with stripes sized in accordance with their proportion of population. Even better would be including a stripe for atheist. They may be some 20% everywhere, making them even more prevalent worldwide than Sunni (was that the largest region?).
Somehow, I have to think that places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or even New York do not have a majority of population that is Jewish. If they're getting down to neighborhoods, then why no Chinatown in San Francisco and New York?
I am reminded of this neat long timeline poster I had hanging in my house for several years, which showed in each time period the relative amount of power of the different peoples. I couldn't tell how they had measured it. It wasn't by population, since they showed the United States as currently more powerful than China. It really does put things into perspective to trace China's color back over 6,000 years and to realize that civilizations come and go, but China endures.
I often thought that it would be interesting to see that graphic on a global histogram, with the higher populations seeming to bulge out that area of earth, only, instead of representing time as a dimension on the graphic, use time to animate the globe.
For those interested in more on maps, you might want to check out this book from John Noble Wilford,The Mapmakers: The Story of the Great Pioneers in Cartography from Antiquity to the Space Age. --- '00-Oct-21st
It is customary for people to accept apologies when offered, and to comment briefly upon the character of the person who has issued it, complimenting them upon their manliness and so forth.
I stand by the "Are You AntiChrist" wording which I used in the title to the post above, in which I originally complained about seeming to have been called the AntiChrist. Patrick, the word 'an' did not appear there, as you claim, in quotes, even. However, I will accept your apology, such as it is, clothed in an inaccurate denial, and immediately followed by even more inaccurate sideswipes. (A genuine apology usually signals an intent to refrain from similar offenses.)
What does it mean, in practical terms, for me to accept the apology? It means that I will not document, refer or link to the offense itself, outside this essay. It should be fairly easy for me to abide by this commitment, considering that the evidence has been wiped out. However, I do intend, someday, to write an essay or comment about the word 'chistophobe,' that you may like to think you have coined, and which I've long considered to be an oddly ironic word for god fearing people to hurl at unbelievers.
Regarding your follow-up post... this kind of post should also be beneath you. Though I have to hand it to you about how you tied my hands with an apology, and then launched into this inaccurate mockery in a manner in which you can maintain plausible deniability about whether or not it was directed at me. You can thereby paint me colors that I am not, while making me seem petty if I object.
Since I'm the only person around that it could have been directed at, I will respond, even though I can hear Austin Powers (or somebody) saying, "If the shoe fits, baby..."
I have never said "Our founders were never Christian." ...emphasis mine. That would be ridiculous. Some of them were. Your suggestion that history teachers and the Internet writers of history pages engage in historical revisionism is exactly correct, though not in the way you mean. Textbook writers and Internet writers are heavily influenced by christian market forces and personal conviction. A dispassionate consideration of the actual evidence, by scholarly historians yields a much richer tapestry. See Howard Zinn and James W. Loewen.
Even if all of the founders were christian, though (which they were not), it would not change the fact that they intended for the new government to not dictate to anybody what they must believe in matters of faith or politics. This is the clear meaning of the language of the First Amendment.
I also have never used the phrase "ranting crazy Christian," or anything like that, in this thread or any other, or at any time. Though, I will admit my belief that you have done a few good imitations of one in this and other threads, some of which you have since deleted. I'll leave it for others to conclude what was your true character and what was just an act.
You and others have several times implied or outright stated that I have spoken in favor of gun control. I, emphatically, have not. This is an unfair smear, ...plain and simple.
I have never counseled anyone to not read what the Founders said. In fact I strongly encourage every U.S. citizen to read their actual words, and not just compilations of bogus and usually quite irrelevant revisionist quotes. I particularly recommend for folks to look at the full text of the deliberations of the constitutional convention.
I think you have me confused with someone else. One doesn't have to be a "leftist" to believe that the Founders of the United States intended for the new government to not dictate to anyone in matters of faith. Republicans and Democrats alike, throughout history, have pandered to the christian vote.
I wasn't expecting an apology. It takes a
big man to admit when they have done somebody wrong.
I greatly doubt that any ancient "Paul" ever discussed the word at all, and in addition, I doubt that you will find any Bible that suggests otherwise. But what if he did? Imagine a man, speaking at the time of the birth of the church, a time at which the vast majority of people in his region, not to mention worldwide were of other religions. How could such a man, informing about the supposedly previously unknown existence of such creatures as antichrists "among us" possibly be referring to the tame idea that there existed people who were merely not christian?
If that's what it meant to you, then why would you even bother asking me if I were "an" antiChrist? No. I believe that you used the word in the sense that it is usually used... to intimidate. It's the word used to label the notoriously evil people that have inspired wars or otherwise committed heinous crimes against humanity. It's the word that is used to justify when average everyday people are tortured, burned or gassed for the crime of being 'other.' --- '01-Jan-1st
http://boards2.parentsplace.com/messages/get/ppatheist27/50/13.html and at
There are few atheists in prison, as compared to their representation in the population at large. Even so, I believe that those who are there are more likely to have been victims of a biased trial or crooked law enforcement efforts. When atheists actually do commit a crime, they are probably more likely to be caught. Like redheads, their presence tends to be noticed by those who are aware of their views. Unfortunately, if they are anywhere near the scene of a crime they can also tend to be caught up in any dragnet or be falsely accused by any bystanders.
Religious symbols abound in many police departments. Some police cruisers have a city emblem on their patrol car doors featuring a cross. Some police uniforms have a cross on their shoulder patch, and if not, their departments may allow officers to wear a crucifix outside their shirt, which can sometimes be a big honking medallion. In some police departments it is politically wise to attend prayer breakfasts, particularly if the captain favors them.
Here's one amazing discussion in which right-wing christians defend the actions of a sheriff rounding up his county's registered gun owners for the purpose of preventing his god from being mocked: A Sheriff's Letter To Concealed Weapons Permit Holders.
Police stations and court rooms alike sport holiday decorations, pictures of Jesus and Moses, stone carvings on the building about god, and plaques of The Ten Commandments in strategic locations. In some states they also post the Twelve Steps of so-called twelve step programs, in which the first step is to "admit" that one is powerless to effect change in their life without accepting a "higher power." If jurors weren't already inclined to do so anyway, such symbols may tend to encourage them to believe that the state would appreciate it if they would stick it to the atheist.
As if that weren't enough... jurors can be automatically dismissed for refusing to utter a god-oath. In states where this is not allowed, the fact that a prospective juror has "made a scene" by insisting upon swearing in by a legally proscribed alternative oath marks such jurors as dangerous to either the prosecution or the defense. Thus, atheist defendants will almost always be denied a jury containing even one person who is not biased against their opinions regarding religion.
Similarly, plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses also are required to either ceremoniously place their hand upon a large bible and swear a god-oath or make a scene and insist upon the secular alternative oath, thus signaling to biased jurors whether or not their testimony is to be believed. Prosecuting attorneys are routinely allowed to question defendants about their religion, whether or not it has any bearing on the case, because "it goes to character, your honor."
Atheists generally have fewer church members serving as character witnesses for them. Atheists are extremely unlikely to stage a phony repentance display for a crime that they have not committed. Atheists are probably less likely to have prison chaplains champion their cause, less likely to have activists financing their appeals, and less likely to be pardoned or offered clemency by any governor.
Given all of these stumbling blocks, it's amazing that the prisons aren't overflowing with atheists. The fact is, though, they are under-represented in prison populations. As DNA evidence is now showing, many of those doing time are not guilty. I believe that a significant proportion of any atheists who are now sitting on death row are probably innocent of the crimes of which they've been found guilty
Studies have consistently shown atheist under representation in prisons an order of magnitude or two lower than would be expected based upon their prevalence in the general population. The first example my web-browser brought me to found that while atheists tended to be as high as 16% in the general population (they must be including some agnostics, freethinkers, humanists, and some others), in prisons they are under 0.2 of one percent. That's almost two orders of magnitude lower! This, based upon a survey of prison populations of several tens of thousands of prisoners. By contrast, the catholic population in prison is nearly 50%, all out of proportion to their incidence in the general population. (This article makes some mistakes at the end in how it estimates the number of Catholics in the general population but we can assume that it is well under 25%.)
Granted, there may be some extreme incentive to disavow atheism in prison, but this would help to make my main point above, about the extreme injustice dealt to atheists in prison.
But, perhaps when you ask "why do [I] think that" you mean why is it that there should be so few atheists in prison. I believe, besides the fact that they're more highly educated, they also tend to live lives that can be rationally justified. People who are in the habit of using their religion to justify whatever they might choose to do wouldn't have as many opportunities to practice attenuating their behavior, and can thus fly off the handle more easily. --- '01-Jan-3rd
One need no longer waste energy on untangling biblical inconsistencies and filth that rivals the worst X- and R-rated films, after they realize that the bulk of scripture is mere fairy tales. Those who can thus avoid being mired down in nonsense can focus instead upon deflecting the negative energy which is directed at them by so-called 'true believers.' It is not a given, for instance, that unbelievers are, in any degree, worse or more selfish, as suggested in the passage quoted here. --- '01-Feb-16th
Dan Reilly complains that: atheists profess to know what it is to be Christian.
It may very well be true that I do not, as you say, "know what it is to be Christian."; I do not pretend to understand how one reconciles the internal inconsistency of Christian scripture, or how one can claim any degree of self respect while worshiping the supposed author of such a barbaric text (backup copy). But, I reject the idea that those who do not profess to be Christian should not even speak of it in public.
Only an outsider can tell how things look and feel on the outside. Fortunately, Christians do not usually behave much differently from others and seem, superficially at least, to be guided by a more enlightened humanistic ethic, promoting harmony with those who are different. But now and then, if they get drunk on liquor, or worse, power drunk, all hell beaks loose. One Christian 'moment' lasted for one thousand years, and is now commonly known as the dark ages.
One of my visions of calamity is of a collapse of the social fabric which holds baser religious impulses in check. The rise to power of people such as John Ashcroft [broken link] and Clarence Thomas, who have an inadequate appreciation for the importance of the first amendment, feeds my foreboding sense of doom.
I am determined to shine a flashlight into dark corners and onto anyone who utters a thinly veiled threat to attack people for the mere offense of disbelieving a pet delusion. To not speak up, when it is safe to do so (i.e. anonymously, online), can sometimes be taken as condoning someone's behavior or opinion, and possibly even contributing to any coming sea change. As for my earlier admonishment of Psylenced for saying that I was "looking to be attacked" ( I said "How Christian of you."), my apologies to the movie character Forrest Gump, but Christian is as Christian does. --- '01-Feb-18th
My mother was raised Methodist. My father was an alter boy in the largest Episcopalian church in the same large town in Kansas, of which his mother was excessively proud. When I was two years old we moved over 1000 miles away and started going to a Methodist church in a small mid-western town. I attended Sunday school, and my folks taught (baby-sat) in the classes of my two younger brothers.
I didn't mind going to church at all because I enjoyed getting compliments on how pretty I was in my dress and winning all of the prizes for memorizing the most verses. I specifically remember asking my mother to explain the Lord's Prayer, line by line, because it was completely over my head. We enjoyed listening to a particular radio show in the car on the way home. I don't remember any of the programs, but at the end of the show we always said her signoff line together, in unison: "Aunt Bertha, Box 1, Grand Rapids, Michigan." I was SO impressed that she got Box 1!
During these years my take on religion was that it was something that I just didn't 'get,' but that I would understand when I grew up. At Sunday school I won all kinds of posters and knickknacks for my room, but I didn't want them, so I always just gave them to the runner up. However, I did prize the Bible that I won when I turned eleven, and I read it cover-to-cover a few years later. It all seemed pretty ridiculous, but still, I treasured that bible for years until somebody, ironically I thought, stole it from me. As far as I can remember it's the only thing anybody's ever stolen from me. If they read it, then maybe they're an atheist, too, now.
Shortly after I turned ten my sister was born a Mongoloid, as we called it in those days. I think they didn't tell me right away, but only a few days later. That night, alone in my room, I got the closest I ever did to saying a true prayer. By that, I mean not just kneeling beside the bed, folding my hands, and droning "Now I lay me down to sleep, etc. etc." I said to myself, "God, if you're real, I know you can fix my sister. If you do it, I'll believe." My sister stayed retarded, and I never did come across any convincing evidence that there are any gods. I didn't exactly 'become' an atheist, but only eventually recognized that I was one. --- '01-Apr-12th
...we hardly spend any time at home at all. We travel quite a bit. For example, out of the last eight weeks we were out of state for half that time on four separate trips. Wherever we are I swim a mile on most days, and we're out running around on a variety of errands and projects most of every day.
As an atheist, I was always a distinct minority at La Leche League and then at Mommie & Me. A lot of people now incorrectly assume that because we're homeschoolers we must also be Christians, and so we get a lot of nice invitations to participate in church activities, and not-so-nice presumptuous comments from other folks who'd probably sooner not talk to an atheist.
My favorite online hangout during the past three years is chock full of Christian apocalyptic doomers who are about 50/50 split between SAHMs and husbands of SAHMs. I've been open since day one about my atheism, there, and I'm fairly proud of how I've managed to fit in, while still expressing my honest opinions. I have no doubt, though, but that I could easily step on a land mine at any given moment.
::: veering wildly off topic, now ::: One of the companies that my husband worked at in recent years was headed up by people who had no compunction about pressuring the employees to attend the owners' favorite church. It was truly disgusting to watch how many complied. Knowing how important it was to his career, my husband probably would have gone to the church, if I had been willing. It was a great relief for me when he moved on to another spot. --- '01-Apr-14th
Phil Brennan says: ... [today's prevalence of various examples of rage... road rage, air rage, school rage] is above all a symptom of a deadly malaise inflicting far too many Americans - the sickness of despair born of nihilism - the inability to recognize our natures as children of a loving God, and to act upon that knowledge
Just to keep things a bit in perspective, it may interest readers of this article to know that atheists are not found in abundance in prisons except in regions of the world where merely being an atheist can land one in jail. --- '01-April-30th
Whether their parents are atheist or not, most children receive massive indoctrination from an early age in the dominant religion of their culture. This can come from television, literature, school (even public school), neighbors, and other kids. It is upon this foundation that all subsequent learning is built. Thus, it can be a monumental task for adults to question beliefs and attitudes adopted in early childhood, since it can require an overhauling of one's entire world view. Most people would prefer even war over that prospect.
Although there are plenty of religious wars, with at least one raging on any given day, most people recognize that it is exceedingly rare for an adult to adopt a religion other than one in which they have received at least some early indoctrination. So, the religious practice a kind of truce among themselves, in which they pretend to 'respect' the beliefs of others. Usually, though, this 'respect' does not extend to those who do not believe in any gods at all. Atheists are perceived as fair game by all in the battle for market share of hearts and minds.
Competition presses those whose livelihood is religion to increase their flocks. Historically, the most successful way to do this is to encourage breeding among adherents and the proselytizing of the resulting children as well as the children of one's neighbors, at every opportunity.
So, although religious wars still produce a great death toll, the prime religious battlefront is the minds of the children of atheist neighbors, who are often seen by the religious as in even more need of religious instruction than are one's own children, who can after all be proselytized at leisure. Thus there is sometimes a great urgency behind the felt need to 'witness' to atheist children every time an opportunity presents itself (i.e. whenever their parents' backs are turned). Many religious people have absolutely no compunction against doing this to the children of neighbors and strangers, and especially to their own extended family. --- '01-May-26th
Although I agree with the others posting above that your questions are out of place, being asked as they are, on this support board, I will comment because your issues are of recent interest to me. I have already put online my own personal answer to the question of how I 'became' atheist.
You may not be aware that those who do not believe in the literal truth of the christian bible (whichever version) are heavily concentrated among those who have actually read it, as opposed to just pretending to have read it. This why some religious leaders have forbidden it to be read, forbidden it to be translated into the language understood by the masses or have resisted having its language updated into current idiom.
You may often hear an atheist imploring, "Please, read your Bible!" The same is true for atheists in other cultures regarding their local scripture. Many atheists, if not most of them, have also made it somewhat of a hobby to study the scripture of cultures other than their own, since we are the focus of religious pressure from all sides.
Your respect for the power of early teachings in the development of a world view drills right to the marrow. You’ve undoubtedly encountered the biblical admonition to "train a child up in the way that he should go." Like anybody else, children are happy to swallow, whole, the opinions of people that they love and respect. Having limited experience in life, they recognize that they have a lot to learn and are usually quite eager to gratefully accept the teachings of the adults around them when these seem useful to them.
As I am, many atheists are careful to not abuse this natural tendency in their children, in hopes of encouraging them to develop a habit of thinking for themselves. We attempt to strike a careful balance between giving children free reign to explore, and giving them the tools they need to protect themselves from people (neighbors and relatives, adults and older children) who see every child as an empty vessel in need of filling. Children of atheists may be especially vulnerable to being proselytized by those who believe that atheists have "no morals."
For almost all atheists, even ones whose parents were atheist, the process of shaking free from religion involves some amount of world view overhaul, done with varying amounts of thoroughness. Thus, we may find ourselves struggling for years with reconciling apparent inconsistencies in our thinking. These, many times, will have been pointed out by religious people hoping to score points for the God Team.
A most usual situation is to be challenged by some 'true believer' about some issue that we've already worked out to our own satisfaction, but that is not easily reduced to a sound bite, or that is not an explanation that has been committed to memory, like scripture. And, so, we find ourselves subjected to constant pop quizzes and to feelings of inadequacy as we stammer our reasoning. It is quite understandable that anyone would choose a closeted life, or at least that we should wish to claim at least this small corner at Parents Place as a no splash zone; a place to relax.
While we may find constant direct challenges by religious people to be merely annoying, we can handle this in a peer relationship. It is an entirely different matter when religious challenges come to us from our employer or from our government. For a child, when any adult presses their religion, the situation is comparable to pressure from an employer or from government. Children are utterly dependent upon adults and subject to their authority at almost all times. This subjugation is worse for children who are explicitly taught, as many are, to always obey and show complete respect for every adult, and to never question their superiority (not even in their private thoughts) --- '01-May-28th
There's a hilarious comic strip style cartoon that pokes fun at Rogerian Psychotherapy. I can only approximate it, since I last saw it about thirty years ago. It shows a patient telling in very a very long winded way how screwed up and hopeless he is. The doctor drones "You're hopeless." The patient goes on about how he's going to end it all and might jump out the window at any moment, and the doctor says "You want to kill yourself." The patient runs across the room and hurls himself out the window. The doctor walks over to the window, looks down, and says "Splat."
Although I was a psych major, undergrad, I can't speak from personal experience about Rogers, since I didn't specialize in clinical psychology, and I've also never undergone psychotherapy myself. One of my professors (for one class) did his doctoral thesis under Rogers and was quite high on the method.
I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Rogers because he took some abuse over his atheism. Of course, just being an atheist doesn't mean his therapy works. Apparently, though, it does seem to do pretty well in some applications. It is reportedly quite effective when used for so-called deprogramming of people who have been captured and dragged away from groups that their parents consider to be cults. It is also the basis of Rational Emotive Therapy [RET] that is used in the atheist alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous and other drug treatment programs.
From what I can remember about it, it involves spotting inconsistencies in the patient's belief system and rephrasing what they say in a way to bring these inconsistencies into bold relief. What drives people nuts is the mental gymnastics they have to go through when their belief system doesn't hold together. The therapy helps them to focus on the rough edges that are causing uncomfortable friction points. The goal is a belief system with 'integrity' i.e. one that holds together because it is internally consistent. --- '01-Jun-15th
RALsays: Communism is Atheism. No ifs nads or buts about it.
You may have talked to more atheists than I have, but in my 46 years I have encountered numerous atheists from across a wide spectrum of political philosophies, including libertarians, conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Republicans, socialists, anarchists, capitalists, communists, independents and every possible combination in between and more besides.
Designing a study to address this question would be VERY challenging. I once worked in the field of survey research methodology, specializing in what we called 'social desirability bias.' If this is not the toughest issue to get people to be frank about, then it runs a close second to sex.
Based upon a variety of surveys, I think it's quite safe to say that atheists, by whatever name, including freethinkers, humanists, and agnostics number a fairly consistent 15-20% worldwide, though they may vary in their willingness to say so.
According to Dan Barker, among the people who say that they have a religion, about one third believe in religions (such as Buddhism) that do not have any gods. There may be some overlap between these first two categories.
Then, there's always a mushy category of those who choose 'none,' or 'no preference,' or who refuse to answer. A high percentage of these people are probably atheists.
The Washington Post reports that more people would be reluctant to have a family member marry an atheist than to marry into another race.
I'd need to see details about how this survey was conducted. Who was in the population being studied? Did it include atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, humanists, and apathetics? Did they ask the same question even if the respondent was one of these? If I were asked the question might I substitute in the word 'fundamentalist' in my own mind (just so the question would make sense) and still answer 'no'?
How many people in this survey would have answered that they would not like their sister to marry a fundamentalist?
[ text only version ]
I 'm going to do my best to respond to your comment. But, I must admit, right off the bat, that I cannot make much sense of most of it. We don't even have a common vocabulary. So, my explanation may not be at all what you are seeking… unless, as you predicted, you're just looking for something that you can point to and declare to be gibberish. In that case, if you understand what I have to say no more than I understand what you have written, then you will have found that for which you are looking.
Despite what you may find in the dictionary, atheism is not as you, and many others, have described it. Dictionary definitions are often fuzzier than they should be because they include a wide variety of meanings, including those cooked up by detractors and confused people. Over a period of thousands of years almost all of those who have managed to get their work published, until recently, had only bad things to say about atheism, and had free reign to define it in any way that helped them to make their case against it.
So, you will find in some dictionaries that atheism means devil worship, the practice of evil, or wanton immorality. Some definitions betray their bias by assuming the existence of a god, and then painting the atheist into that world view as one who denies, or as someone refusing to believe or as having a disbelief. If you consult a Falwell glossary, for example, you will find that atheism means "the rejection of the teachings and grace of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
The true meaning of the word 'atheist,' as accepted by the vast majority of those who call themselves such (and that's ultimately whose opinion matters, n'est-ce pas?), is a negation of the word 'theist.' A theist is someone who (for whatever reason, or for no reason at all) believes that there is a god or that there are some gods. An atheist is someone who does not. To not believe that there is any god is not the same thing as to believe that there is not. Atheism quite simply does not involve 'belief' in the religious sense of having faith, at all.
Thus, the term 'atheism' encompasses a wide variety of groups that call themselves by different names. Some (many) of these disavow being atheists, all the while not quite believing that there are in fact any gods. Sometimes they're just distancing themselves from the 'A' word as maliciously defined by those who are unfriendly to the idea. So, we have agnostics, freethinkers, humanists, heathens, infidels, skeptics, and many, many others. In some senses, I am all of these things.
Agnostics are commonly thought of (and I like to think of them this way, too) as those who won't commit their mind one way or another on the god question. Many agnostics prefer other definitions, including the one advanced by Huxley, who is thought to have originated the term. Huxley held that it is not possible to know one way or the other about the existence of any gods. In any case, though agnostics are atheists by my definition given above.
To complicate matters further… what someone 'believes' is not necessarily the same as what they 'think' is true. Two people might both 'think' that the evidence for the existence of Zeus is kind of poor. One may say, "I don't think that there is any Zeus such as that goofy character that is described in these books of ancient history." Another may say to himself, years earlier, in his native language of ancient Greek, something such as the following. "I've never actually personally seen any good evidence that Zeus comes and visits us from Mount Olympus, and copulates with our women, from time to time, and all that malarkey. But I'm apparently the only person in the entire civilized world who thinks this, and according to the elders the only alternative is to be an utterly depraved monster, killed or banished to make my way in the harsh wilderness, and so I will believe."
In the above example about Zeus, although neither person really thought there was such a being, one of them, as we saw, became a theist. The known theist is the one who played a trick on his own mind by demanding of himself that he have what is known as faith, that is, 'believing something despite any and all evidence which could ever be produced to the contrary.' Now, this is what is known as having a closed mind… snapped tightly shut.
To be fair, the ancient guy might have never had that one poignant moment of untruth in which he let his mind dramatically snap. Instead, most likely, he probably lost the use of the door to his mind, bit by bit, as he piled his mind and his life full of nursery rhymes, stories about the gods, songs, oaths, pledges, pageants, anthems, and all the other treasures and garbage of his culture. Eventually, it looked something like Fibber McGee's closet, inside and out, and he no longer knew that the door to his mind even existed. The door was behind a huge pile of rubbish, stuck half open, so that any critters who could make their way through the mess had uncontrolled access to his mind. The Zeus belief was in there taking up a lot of room, Zeus knows where, mating with everything that comes through the door and making quite a mess. The only solution is a dump truck. So, it's not so much a case of intellectual dishonesty, as a case of hopelessly disorganized confusion.
For the other guy, Zeus is a chapter in Edith Hamilton's Greek Way, taking up just a little room in his closet. For the most part it's not messing with his other books, and it's leaving plenty of space for books about all kinds of other gods, and even some non god books. He may choose to read other Zeus books. He may not. He may slam the door shut when the door-to-door Zeus pushers come to call, only to open it later for Zeus info in another format. This guy probably once said to himself "I refuse to trick my mind and convince myself to believe something that I don't really think is true." Alternatively, he may have acquired a strong habit of only believing things that he actually thought were true, so that he didn't even have to 'refuse' to believe, but just passed it by automatically.
An atheist need not 'prove' to himself that there are no gods in order to be justifiably unconvinced of their existence. We don't even have to seriously investigate the question, if we have other things we'd rather be doing. I don't need to waste any more time thinking about Zeus, Thor, Osiris, Zoroaster, Krishna, Leprechauns, fairies, gnomes, elves, ghosts, holy ghosts, or whatever your personal fave might be. It is not necessary for me to ask, "Why are there no Leprechauns?" and to seriously try to answer that question before I can logically say, "I do not believe that there are any Leprechauns." To be disinterested is not evidence of a closed mind with respect to Leprechauns. If somebody has some convincing evidence I'm willing to consider it, if they can get me to focus while trying to shake off a huge yawn. But I'm not going to click on the Leprechaun thread. You'll have to sneak it into a chemtrail thread or something like that, where I stand some chance of seeing it.
That said, in my forty-six years of atheism (thirty-six actively studying theology on an almost daily basis), including memberships in many relevant activist organizations and interest groups, I've met many atheists. I've never yet encountered one who was as poorly informed about the Bible as all but a few of those who believe every word of it, whether they've actually read it or not.
Some say it is not necessary to 'know' the Bible, but only to believe. It is not necessary for me to actually try crack cocaine to know that it is not for me. Nor do I need to try it to speak out against it. That way lies madness.
Atheists classify themselves as 'strong' atheists and 'weak' atheists. Strong atheists are ones who not only say to themselves "I do not believe that there are any gods," but also that "I am convinced there are no gods." Generally, those atheists who are willing to actually call themselves atheists, as opposed to one of the other names that atheists use, tend to be 'strong' atheists. Even strong atheists are not necessarily closed minded, although they may be. It is possible to be convinced about a matter, and yet still be willing to listen to evidence to the contrary.
Just because someone is open minded on matters of religion, though, does not mean that they need to be willing to discuss religion with any old moron who might breathlessly ask "Are you saved?" If we were willing to do that, then we would never get to do the other things that we aim to do in our lives. It would get to be quite repetitious dealing again and again with the same tired arguments and insults.
Such encounters are usually quite predictable, though they can sometimes be interesting when talking to someone who has a few notches on their belt. Invariably, though, if one does not eventually give up the sinners' prayer, the parting shot will be that we're closed minded and that we should get back with them when we're willing to be open-minded.
The irony never seems to register. They're asking us to believe on faith, despite all evidence to the contrary... to close our minds to the evidence, and then unwillingness to close our minds is close minded. --- '01-Jul-24th [ text only version ]
First, what is the meaning of 'the meaning of life'? --- '01-Sep-3rd
I think the platitude about atheists not being found in foxholes may easily be accounted for by a reluctance on the part of atheists to come out of the closet to relative strangers who have just been hauled away from the civilizing influence of their homes and whipped up by their government into a religious frenzy, while those strangers are shaking in fear for their lives and carrying a gun. You want to know who's conspicuously absent from foxholes? Chaplins! --- '01-Oct-12thSee also: I Was an Atheist in a Foxhole
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If you've ever felt strangely threatened by the in-group taunt "By their fruits!" your sixth sense is doing you proud. Here's the whole passage:
Beware of false prophets,
TECH32 said: I have to wonder if [TIPS] isn't really some ploy to get around the whole 'racial profiling' thing.
I think you've got that right. However, I don't think it's only the brown people they might target.
I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens... --- George H. W. Bush, '88-Aug-27th
...throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools..., the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen'. --- Jerry Falwell, '01-Sep-13th
The terror bombing of New York was an act of atheistic horror --- Ben Stein
This enemy tries to hide behind a peaceful faith. But those who celebrate the murder of innocent men, women, and children have no religion, have no conscience, and have no mercy. --- George W. Bush, Address to the Nation at World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia
You're with us or you're with the terrorists. --- George W. Bush, '01-Sep-23rd
No, these criminals [the terrorists] have no religion --- Colin Powell, '01-Nov-19th
[Terrorism] represents no faith, no religion. It is evil, it is murderous --- Colin Powell, '01-Nov-26th
The bulk of international terrorism is due not to Islamic theocratic zeal and religious intolerance, but rather well known atheists who live un-muslim lives... --- Wm. F. Buckley, '01-Dec-14th
You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence. --- Charles A. Beard --- '02-Jul-21st
It is clear to me that the Fox News article, Atheist Takes New Swing at God in Government, is not as impartial as we might wish for our news sources to be. The 'takes a swing' wording of the title paints Michael Newdow as an aggressive person right off the bat, so-to-speak, an angry person who would dare to shake his fist in the face of God himself. Granted, headlines must necessarily be 'punchy.' But Dr.Newdow could, as would most advocates for state-church separation, patiently explain that the behavior being reported upon is not so much an attack on any god. It is, instead, a patriotic legal action, designed to help realize the greatest promise of the Constitution of this fine country.
Similarly, the lead sentence of the story says Newdow is now “going after” taxpayer-funded chaplains. Technically he’s questioning the taxpayer funding of chaplains. There’s a difference. People don’t like to hear about anybody 'going after' the nice preachers. They might, however, be willing to think twice about funding them out of their own pocket.
If the paper wanted to show Dr. Newdow in a good light they probably would have respectfully photographed him in the professional clothing of either of his professions, doctors’ scrubs, or the three-piece suit in which he probably made his arguments before the circuit court. Instead, they show him in a T-shirt, or perhaps it’s even an undershirt! Somehow, that makes him seem to be something less than what he is.
This is actually a fairly decent looking man who just happens to be talking at the moment that Fox News selects to feature him. But what do we have? Miss Maiden-most-Compassionate, who is apparently too humiliated to step out from behind her own protective bushes, still dares to call for us, in line number one of her thread originating post, to look at this man, and then says nothing more, but inserts the emoticon for gagging or vomiting. Our own studly Satanta seems to also be criticizing Mr. Newdow on looks. Is this really necessary? Aren’t we above this, really?
I just had a flash of understanding about something that has befuddled me for three-plus decades, and which has not been discussed anywhere, that I know. Despite any 'love the sinner' philosophy that is espoused, there is a kind of antipathy toward non theists all around the world that seems to me all out of synch with the exemplary, ethical lives that most lead. A variety of explanations is usually offered, such as xenophobia (fear of other), and hard-wired religiosity. While there may be some truth to these explanations none of them addresses the odd phenomenon of perversely mislabeling 'disbelief' in a deity as 'hatred' of that deity. This particular misunderstanding is seemingly impervious to correction. I think I finally have a clue about this.
To some (most?) religious people, the concept of the existence or non-existence of any gods is closely bound to their overwhelming faith-love for the one or ones that they do believe in. Any time the smoke of any doubt creeps up in them, it is fire-hosed back down with a heavy dose of faith-love, as taught by parents, then pastors and fellows. Eventually, even the theoretical possibility of the non-existence of their pet deity becomes inconceivable. To even suggest it is to insult their faith-love. Such suggestions can only be seen as defiant, rebellious, god hatred by people who know as well as anyone that the god exists, yet they deny it. This is consistent with Falwell’s definition of atheism: the rejection of the teaching of our Lord.
There are plenty of religious folks that favor state/church separation who wouldn't characterize their position as one of offending their own god. So much the less is this true of non theists who don’t even begin to think along these lines at all. To go one step further and paint non theists as megalomaniacs who consider themselves to be a god is a leap of logic left to the mere one-on-the-street, or today, on the information superhighway. Our own aintitfunny comes through on that score with flying colors, stating that it is by “insisting” that Americans offend God rather than him, Newdow sets himself up as the new god. There is certainly nothing new in this line of thought.
What? You don’t believe in leprechauns? You’re a leprechaun hater then! Leprechaun hater! Leprechaun hater! You think you’re your own leprechaun! The audacity! You want all glory to yourself! That’s greedy! The unbridled self-importance! Don’t you know what happens to leprechaun haters? Watch your step, buddy! Hater! Denier! Liar, liar, liar! Leprechaun basher! You are anti-leprechaun! An anti-leprechaun! The anti-leprechaun! You will burn, etc. etc. ad nauseum, insert emoticons of happy guys with assault rifles here. It is precisely this process that produces the dehumanization necessary to develop the level of hatred on display here today.
This is the kind of language that puts heroes like Dr. Newdow in danger from the mentally unbalanced. [And, he is a true hero, whether you and I happen to agree with every point of his politics or not, if for nothing more than his willingness to stand up for what he thinks is right, in the face of overwhelming odds.] Some people think nothing of making thinly veiled threats. For example, they might allude to previous incidents in which people have been gravely harmed, such as what happened to poor Ms. Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her adult children at the hands of three christians. The making of this kind of threat may seem to be nothing more than good clean christian fun on a board such as this but it’s actually the vile vomitus of one sick puppy, times many such message boards all across this great country of ours. --- '02-Sep-2nd
I stand by my analysis of the effects of Newdow photo ridicule that was engaged in by the picture perfect Maiden & Satanta. It seemed to me as though my calling attention to their own photographs was going to be the quickest method of bringing home the point that this kind of talk hurts. I certainly hope that it is not too harsh for me to have wondered aloud about how physically perfect the two of you must truly be, to be pointing at Mr. Newdow and pretending to vomit, or suggesting that he's missing chromosomal material.
...my comment upon the unsavory sniping at Newdow is entirely on topic, considering that it is the only original material, and the lead line in the thread originating post. The remaining material in that post was illegally (IMO, but not my policy call) pasted, copyrighted material, i.e. the FoxNews article, and the rather lengthy sig from which I borrowed my "Ms. Maiden-most-Compassionate" jab, after having been potentially subjected to it over five thousand, one hundred sixty times. --- '02-Sep-2nd
Dancr, what ever happened to discussing the message and not attacking the messenger.
Puhleese! The full extent of your thread originating comment was basically "Hey, everybody, look at this guy’s photo. And, now watch me vomit." [my paraphrase] I addressed that message at length, focusing in turn upon FoxNews’ expression of that same message, then yours & Satanta’s, and progressing to one or two more who I did not name, to protect the overly guilty.
Maiden said: Dancr, ... your post made this thread go to TIO.
You may be correct. Since I have not received any communication to this effect from any moderators I will continue to assume they have only the best of motives in making such decisions. If I'm at fault it may be for having dared to speak of the gifts that the elephants left on the dining room table. --- '02-Sep-5th
According to the Drudge Report article, "Rev. Jerry Falwell Calls the Prophet Mohammed a 'Terrorist'," the Christian Right’s belief is that in the Battle of Armageddon ...non-believers will be destroyed...
You said: "atheists deny the existence of 'God'" This definition presumes 'the existence' because of the way that it is worded. This presumption is furthered by presenting the word as a proper noun, capitalized, like the name of someone with a personality.
A theist is someone who is convinced or accepts on faith that there is a god or that there are gods, i.e. beings that operate outside the laws of nature. To 'accept on faith' means to be determined to believe something despite any and all evidence that might be presented to the contrary.
A non-theist, or atheist, is anyone who is not a theist. In other words, they are not convinced that any such beings exist. In addition, they're unwilling to believe it anyway, on faith.
One can be a non-theist without having to 'profess' or 'confess' anything. It is also not necessary to 'deny' something to be an atheist. Many people who profess to be theists are in fact atheists in that they don't truly believe what they claim, but only say so to go with the flow. Some politicians come to mind.
This topic is discussed from another angle at: Are Atheists Closed Minded? --- '03-Mar-20th
A theist is someone who is convinced, for whatever reason, that there is or are or was or were one or more beings that operate outside natural law. Everybody else is not a theist. Two precisely equivalent terms for being "not a theist" are "non-theist" and "atheist". This includes all agnostics, as well as everybody else who does not fit the above definition of a theist.
If somebody "thinks" or "believes" there's a diety (or more than one), in the sense that they are not quite "sure", then they are a non-theist. If they vasilate between being sure that there is or are one or more gods, and not being sure, then they are a theist at the times of being convinced, and an atheist at all other times.
A person can be convinced by evidence. It doesn't have to be good evidence. It can be thoroughly flawed evidence. As long as they're convinced, they're a theist. They can also decide to remain convicted despite any and all evidence that might ever be presented contrary to their conviction. That's faith.
A person can claim to be what they are not. The most bible-toting, Jesus-quoting, never-miss-a-prayer-breakfast politician could be atheist. The televangalist who cries and says "I have sinned" could be atheist. A person can also SEEM to be what they are not. The most dedicated soup-kitchen volunteer could be atheist. The mom homeschooling for religious reasons could be atheist. The group "Atheists for Jesus" is another pretender bender.
greater than any sin that occurs in the perversion
of morals - Thomas Aquinas
Happiness has less to do with getting what you want than
.with learning to like what you get. --- Bobbie Kirkhart
The fool says in his heart, 'There is no god.' They are corrupt, they do
abominable deeds, there is none that does good. - New Testament
All religions disagree with each other, except on the subject of atheism,
they all agree that we are the root of evil. - John R. Brackin
Even in the valley of the shadow of death, two and two do not make six."
--Tolstoy, on deathbed in 1910, to priest attempting to convert him.
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine [that Jesus
is come in the flesh],
All thinking men are Atheists. -- Ernest Hemingway
Atheism: A Non-Prophet Organization!
WWJD = What Would Jefferson Do?
No god. No devil. Just us.
No heaven. No hell. Just here.
Believe what you're told. There would be chaos if everyone thought for themselves.
Belief, Truth, and the Columbine Tragedy (Richard Carrier)
Exposes the process of anti-atheist myth making as exemplified by the common, yet untrue, belief that the Columbine killers were atheists who killed Cassie Bernal for her courageous willingness to stand up for her religionWritings of John Patrick Michael Murphey
Interview with an Atheist (David Mills)
The Age of Reason (Thomas Paine)
It is Reasonable to Not Believe (Joseph Busche)
Atheistic Education and How to Educate an Atheist (Michael Martin)
Ethics Without Gods (Frank R. Zindler)
Now More Than Ever (Lauren Sandler)
Why I am Atheist (Kyle Williams)
Phonies and Frauds of the Century (Time Magazine) N.B second paragraph
.101+ Book Atheism Library.
An annotated list that's an education in itself, though it would be better if it would link to competitors of Amazon for purchaseAmerican Atheists, The Amerrican Humanist Association, Atheism & Freethought, The Atheism Web, Atheist Alliance, Atheists for Jesus, Atheists United, Celebrity Atheist List, Classic Freethinkers Books Online, Council for Secular Humanism, Heresy Page, How Can You be an Athiest? [sic], Internet Infidels Discussion Forum, Kathleen's Page on Secular Humanism, Myths About Atheism, Opportunists Hall of Shame Awards, Positive Atheism, Reason for the Common Good, Restrictions Targeting Nonbelievers, Secular Homeschooling Board, Secular Parenting Resources on the Internet, Secular Spirituality, The Secular Web, The Skeptic Society, Talking About Death, Top Ten Atheist Myths, Wasteland of Wonders,
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Completely Different POV on Atheism [pov?]The Psychology of Atheism (Paul C. Vitz)
A mean-spirited attack upon atheists by a "former atheist" who "...puts many psychologists on the defensive and gives them some taste of their own medicine."God Gave U.S. What We Deserve (Jerry Falwell)
Atheists Cannot Understand the True God (Citizens for the Ten Commandments)
God, country gain fragile new toehold (Kathleen Parker) (Letters to Editor on this)
Atheism, the Enemy of Civilization (Wm. C. Irvine)
Life in Our Anti-Christian America
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