Senate Atheism 4.0 - Now Discussing: Religiosity and intelligence

Discussion in 'Community' started by Lowbacca_1977, May 18, 2010.

  1. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    At over 6,000 posts in Atheism 3.0, it seemed time for a fresh start.

    First, some general guidelines mostly carried over from previously:
    1. Please be respectful to all members, regardless of beliefs or non-beliefs.
    2. Atheism is the belief that there is no God or the lack of a belief in a god. It does not necessarily mean that the atheist has a problem with every religion, or any religion, or even the belief in God in general as believed by another person.
    3. Different people have different concepts of what atheism and God mean. Your concept may not coincide with someone else's, and that's okay. Use the differences to bring illumination to each other, not anger.
    4. If you have a problem with someone, please contact the Senate moderators.



    To start off, one of the terms getting tossed around now is New Atheism. The usage goes back to an article by Gary Wolf for Wired that first coined the term. It can be defined using a CNN explanation cited on wikipedia: "What the New Atheists share is a belief that religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises"
    As it relates to the term, in particular, an article in the most recent issue of Free Inquiry, a secular humanist magazine that often has articles relating directly to atheism, made the case that the name itself is a misnomer since there's nothing actually new about New Atheism.

    Personally speaking, I think Gary Wolf's stance on what atheism is and what agnosticism is is, from the start, misled, as he clearly views atheism as a set belief that there is no god, or gnostic atheism, while ignoring entirely the position of agnostic atheism which from everything he says about himself, is his view even if he doesn't agree with a hostile stance towards religion.
    I think from that point it really does explain what seems to be a mischaracterisation of the 'New Atheists' he talks about simply because he doesn't really convey that Dawkins isn't certain in that there is no god, but more in the factual issues with the specific gods others claim. There's a lot more nuance in the positions than Wolf mentions, and while I'm not a fan of Dawkins, I don't think Wolf does Dawkins' views justice in trying to paint them as simplistic as he does, and it does strike me as similar to those that want to MAKE atheism fit how religion is viewed to get to a conclusion of "see, it's all the same" rather than looking at it as a unique thing, which doesn't preclude Dawkins or the other "New Atheists" from having flaws in their views, but would mean that any criticisms are more aptly directed at where the problems actually are in their views.
    The Free Inquiry article does also raise some strong points that their views are not new within the larger body of atheistic thought, but that the prominence they have is what is really unique, and I would agree with that article that that is what is new, not the thoughts themselves, per se./>
  2. Emperor_Billy_Bob Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 9, 2000
    star 7
    Ah, "New Atheism."

    First, it should be noted that New Atheism is a bit of an exonym. To my knowledge Dawkins and the other leading lights of the current surge in Atheism have never used the term. It is essentially pejorative, and it is meant to call up images of a militant strand of "fundamentalist atheism." The whole thing reeks of the "Just as Bad Fallacy".

    I think the definition of New Atheism given in the heading post is very lacking. From my own understanding, New Atheism has 3 unique components: 1. A concern for increasing the visibility and public image of Atheism. 2. An intellectual criticism of religion that is centered around evidential/scientific arguments rather than around theological argument (hence the criticism that Dawkins and others are theologically unsophisticated.) 3. A stance that religious dogma is not only incorrect in describing the world, but ACTIVELY HARMFUL in practice.

    I became an Agnostic Atheist at about the same time Dawkins was hitting it big, but I do not identify with the New Atheist movement. To be honest, until I became interested in Atheism I don't recall knowing who Dawkins was. That being said, I don't have much of a problem with the approach.

    It is brilliant to increase the public exposure of atheism. Billboards that declare "you can be good without God" and the like are EXACTLY what Atheists need to be investing in. One of the big problems with atheism's public image is that religious authorities have bombarded us with hate from their bully pulpits since time immemorial, and what the average American knows about atheism comes from hostile sources. I suspect that there is a huge, unaccounted-for percentage of the population that are de facto atheists of the "When you die you die" variety. They are skeptical of religious claims, but more or less keep mum because of societal pressure. They don't understand that they are atheists, and they won't support the cause because they think atheism is too scary. If atheism is shown to be a viewpoint held by men and women who are good citizens, take pride in their belief, and have fulfilling inner lives, THEN we can make progress.

    I think that a society of "When You Die You Die" atheists should be the ideal future vision for anti-theists (not by force of course, as I have seen some advocate for. That is scary.) Only when people are automatically derisive towards and suspicious of supernatural worldviews can religion be said to have been defeated. Just as Religious Fundamentalism is a hostile response to attack, strident public atheism is a response to the hegemonic power of religion. I've heard that anti-religious lectures that would rile up violence in America are met with a bored shrug of the shoulders in Sweden; such is the atheist promised land.

    In the long term, I think Darwin signals the end of religion-as-we-know-it. In the history books written a thousand years from now I imagine any text that summarizes the fate of religion in this era will read something like, "As mankind discovered the natural processes that created the Earth and allowed for the evolution of varied forms of life, the need for a supernatural explanation declined. Religion had previously been a dominant force in society, but over the centuries following Darwin a secular worldview became increasingly common, first in Europe and Asia and then in the rest of the world. The western world experienced a brief upsurge in "fundamentalist" reaction, but this too faded by the middle of the twenty-first century." In a few centuries, fundamentalist practitioners of any religion will be looked on with contempt and distrust (even moreso than today), while wishy-washy liberal "spiritual" non-religions will thrive as long as humans exist.

    I would use war imagery to illustrate the current state of Atheist-Theist debate. If one looks at evidential argumentation as the equivalent of intellectual conventional warfare, it is clear that Christianity has been routed and fled the field. Nearly every science, from biblical source studies to geology has told against the narrative
  3. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    I agree with these entirely. Although religions tend to teach selflessness and good moral lessons, very few people genuinely apply such attributes to their real lives. If they genuinely believed what Jesus said about rich people having less chance of going to heaven than a camel through the eye of a needle, then I can imagine there won't be many Americans going when they die.

    I've come to realize that atheists won't gain the favor of many religious people by shooting down their beliefs, so the best option is to try and present real answers that people will favor above their superstitions. If you knew the physics behind how something works, then you would be less inclined to call it a supernatural event. If you are told your supernatural crap is wrong, they'll tell you to **** off.

    I also do think that it's important to show how religion is a human-generated conflict which has caused a lot of problems in the last ten years... I know it has been much longer, but it's really in the last ten years that I really wanted religion to die.

    I never thought of it like that. They simply accepted the biassed and unreasonable as fact and they've always known it didn't make sense.
  4. DorkmanScott Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    I think Dawkins can speak for himself on this particular matter (though, as in many things, I agree with him).

    There's nothing "new" about atheism itself. What's "new" is that people are now willing to be open about their unbelief in equal measure to peoples' historical openness about their belief. They don't have to fear ostracism quite as much, and they no longer have to fear being put to death for their lack-of-belief, at least not here in the West. And those who characterize vocal atheism as so-called "new" atheism simply don't like having to admit that said atheists exist at all, and bemoan the fact that they won't sit down, shut up, and let believers say whatever nonsense they want unchallenged.
  5. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I've been open about it for thirty years and I've never had any problems. This is not America.

    Also, Yuthura, for the umpteenth time... religion is not the same as Christianity.

    That's two out of three - waiting for someone to say something like "all atheists are...". Would be nice if we'd learn something from every thread.
  6. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    ALL ATHEISTS ARE people who don't believe in deities.
  7. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
  8. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    Still, great clip Scott.
    "Threatened by clarity."

    Everybody click it!
  9. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Where did I ever mention Christianity in this thread? Any kind of religion where the overall objective is to replace factual answers with the supernatural is inevitably self-destructive. Christianity and Islamism are really the most stringent and least tolerant of other beliefs, but I'm not focusing on those two. If anyone has some kind of religious belief which doesn't significantly affect their perception of the real world, then I would encourage that kind of thing.

    It's when someone actively goes against logical reasoning that you get dangerous and erratic behavior in people.
  10. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Will say this time that he could well be referring to all religions, but the Jesus and heaven thing seemed more an example of people not taking religion's morals directly into their lives since Christian examples would be applicable to a large portion of America, which was how I read that one, though I'd agree with the importance of not treating all religions by the stance of one religion.
  11. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    Yeah. The behavior of believers, though, is not in any way related to atheism.

    It's been going on for too long. People come in here complaining about certain Christians, or about certain atheists. It should stop, if anyone's going to take the singularly philosophical position that is atheism seriously.

    Because that's all it is, a philosophical position. It's all that JKH said and nothing more. It's not in any way a blank cheque for riling against Christians, or a coordinated attempt to diminish the power of any church. The topic of atheism has been misused and abused for people's personal vendettas in every incarnation of this thread, and we'd be wise to get beyond that. Even if it means that this thread won't be the hot seller it always has been.
  12. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    Here is what I think is probably the number one misconception about "New Atheism": The notion that it is somehow akin "atheist fundamentalism".

    When you come down to it, the basic message of "New Atheism" is that we should hold all extraordinary claims and beliefs to the same standards of skepticism, regardless of how religious in nature they might be.

    It just so happens that no category of belief gets a free pass quite the way religion does, so the attempts to achieve this level standard necessarily focus on religion.
  13. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    While I agree with much of that, and I'm particularly not fond of the argument of "this religion is annoying, therefore atheism" I would point out that at least at the moment, we are very clearly discussing a specific subset of atheism (or the premise of it being a subset, at least), albeit a contemporary one, in much the same way that at past points, we've had discussions on historic subsets of atheism. This one does rather have a criticism of much of religion with it. Though if I can find a good article on contemporary atheism within a religion, that would put a discussion in a very different light. Nothing to discuss if we don't have an atheism-related topic since purely atheism itself doesn't have much to discuss. The intention will be to when there's a way to, spice this up with new angles and the like, although that does become a bit time intensive to keep finding new angles.
  14. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    What the hell are you talking about?

    Atheists don't spout off about philosophical or hypocritical crap in the way that some people do. When atheists simply point out the flaws in religious reasoning, it's not meant as an attack... as difficult as it is for you to understand. I for one aim to deal with the conflict by informing theists of what is accurate to reality. Unless they willingly shut out logical reasoning, or if I make a bad case... I'll just say that religion lacks proof of the significant majority of its beliefs.

    Uh... no. The validity of the church speaks for itself. If there is any kind of 'blank check' in any of this, it's because the church deliberately leaves itself open for doubt. So it is my intent to draw people away from that flawed system and convince them that ignorance is the root of all misery. Only through enlightenment can one understand how to live in the world around them.
  15. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    [image=http://thedailyshow.mtvnimages.com/images/shows/tds/videos/season_12_v/v6/ds_12114_headline_b_v6.jpg]

    Yuthura, almost every post you make in these threads is incredibly confrontational, and often quite arrogant to boot. "Atheists don't spout off about philosophical or hypocritical crap in the way that some people do"? Like hell they don't. Lack of belief in deities doesn't make one any less capable of such nonsense.

    You also seem to be completely missing Watto's point that you come off as having an incredibly myopic view of the theism vs. atheism conflict, wherein you reduce it to "Christianity vs. reason" while ignoring the facts of atheistic religion and the wide spectrum of non-Christian theist faiths.
  16. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Very well, I accept and admit that I am quite biased towards theology. Partly it has to do with what conflicts religion has caused in only the last decade.

    George W Bush is one example of Christianity that I intensely dislike, as many of his voters supported him because he was a christian. Because he valued life, as proven by his anti-abortion rhetoric. And yet such people failed to look beyond that and recognize everything else about him that completely defiled his so-called values. If such people had not so narrowly looked at his religion and known how he spat on everything that christianity stood for, maybe the Iraq war could have been prevented.

    Look at the needless conflict between Muslims and the rest of the world, as some rammed jets into the World Trade Center. I'm sure some of you know of that. Religious terrorists... people who justify mass murder because their deity told them to do it. More casualties of God.

    And perhaps I went too far to say ALL atheists are reasonable and logical... I guess that it doesn't take a genius to see how much of the logic doesn't fit. Some do just trash religion with the same offensive and undeserved arguments without any proof to support their perspective. I have just as much contempt for people such as that, given as they stereotype all atheists in much the same way.
  17. Cheveyo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2001
    star 5
    Evidence that there really is such a thing as evangelical* atheism. ;)
    *Note: Evangelical as in: "marked by ardent or zealous enthusiasm for a cause."

    In my opinion, zealotry in any from -- be it religious, ideological, political, or biological -- is a bad thing for humanity. Sadly, atheism has had to climb onto this bandwagon. It wasn't enough to just say "you're entitled to your opinions and beliefs, and I'm entitled to mine."

    And no, New Atheism is not new.
  18. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Okay, so now I'm being told that my incessant criticism of believing in the supernatural is now evangelical? Need I remind you that atheism wouldn't have come to exist if religion hadn't first rooted itself into general acceptance? If someone wants atheism to go away, then religion has to go away.

    I am not just talking in respect to christianity or any other monotheistic ideology; if a new religion based around Star Wars were to come into general cultural acceptance, then I would just as rigorously object to its existence. However, because it's not generally accepted, anyone who prays to Yoda are not taken seriously. I happen to like Star Wars, Star Trek, and many other sci-fi dramas; but only because they don't attempt to escalate themselves beyond what they were intended to be. Same thing goes true for the communist and capitalism ideologies, which are not based on logic or understanding.

    Religion just happens to be one of the more needlessly problematic sources of international conflict that could be avoided if people would just not put so much value in God. For Christianity to vanish doesn't mean all the world's problems will be solved. (Actually, it wouldn't solve anything at all) But it would at least allow us humans to get rid of one of the more self-destructive causes for conflict and perhaps have the maturity to take responsibility for maintaining the world that we're so ruthlessly exploiting. Wishful thinking, I know; but I can't see it happening without first rejecting the idea that we are going to be taken care of by some mythical super-powerful being who's sole desire is to do what's in our best interests.
  19. Cheveyo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2001
    star 5
  20. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    I think a more appropriate term would be "evangelical skepticism".

    "Evangelical atheism" sounds like something a theist would say in a misguided/disingenuous attempt to paint atheism as a religious dogma.
  21. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    I don't get it. If someone is making a mistake, then why would constructive criticism be dismissed as biased and offensive? Yeah, what I say would probably sound better in the form of a question than as a statement of fact. 'I'm right and you're wrong' isn't exactly the best way to get people's attention, but don't forget that this is an atheist thread. I'm going on the assumption that religious people who participate are doing so because they've finally begun to seriously question the validity of their beliefs.

    Skepticism is a good thing; it's good that you understand why you believe something and not just take it for granted. If God exists, then surly he could have made himself known to us. If you're not so sure, then it would not be unfair to request more proof before sticking with something you might not be certain of.

    I actually agree with you. I'm not so sure that religion was what facilitated 9/11, but the US imposing itself in the Middle East. Someone figured that he could hide behind God and rally Muslims to dismiss the West as evil, so they said they did it in the name of God.

    At least when it came to people like Hitler using the ideology of Germany like ancient Rome, he was a bit more direct in his methods. He actually did have Germany's best interests in mind and took it upon himself to do whatever it took to return the Fatherland to power. He didn't just kneel down and start blabbering out loud to empty space, thinking that a supernatural being was listening. I'm in no way excusing his attempts at genocide, but rather he preyed upon others and their beliefs to accomplish his goals.
  22. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    What's been so special about the last decade? Conflict involving religion has always been around. (Upon closer look, religion usually isn't the root cause, just a recruiting tool)

    That's the voters fault, voting for Bush because they believed he was closer to evangelical Christianity. It's not "Christianity's fault" or "religion's fault" that Bush administration did controversial things, like pushing for the Iraq War.

    And same for Muslims. It's not conflict between Islam and the rest of the world, but between a minority of fanatical Muslims and whoever they happen to be angry at the moment. That definitely does NOT make 9/11 victims "casaulties of God."


    Not all theists are religious terrorists/fundamentalists/fanatics/extremists.
    Not all atheists are cool, rational, reasonable, unhypocritical, always-right human beings.



    (BTW, I responded to your post in the Christianity thread)
  23. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    I'd say AQ's behaviour towards fellow Muslims, along with their happiness to make profits off illicit drugs-both of which are in direct opposition to traditional Islamic rules-show they actually give about as much of a rat's ass about Islam as Rush Limbaugh does. Describing them as representative of a faith that has close to a billion members is pretty ludicrous.
  24. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I'd agree entirely here, since what's being put forward is a basis of skepticism, not a basis of just not believing in gods.
  25. Cheveyo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2001
    star 5
    I disagree with you both for only one primary reason; this statement and the meaning behind it:
    So says the proponent of atheism, and so say the evangelical monotheists. I find it amusing that you both are fine with the word evangelical but take offense at the use of the word atheism; which was what we have been discussing, have we not (it is, after all, the title of the thread)? Skepticism is not atheism (small a). Skepticism is saying: "There's a God? I'm dubious about that." (yes, I've been watching too much Electric Company with my kids.) This is more in line with agnosticism than atheism. Atheism has always been defined as the belief that a deity/deities does/do not exist. If one is being skeptical about the belief in a deity, then he or she is not demonstrating atheistic beliefs, but rather agnostic beliefs. Here's another great definition:
    Agnostic: (definition 2) a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.

    Back to D_Y and your above statement. I don't understand why you don't get it, given your position on the matter. You are basically telling someone that what they believe is wrong and trying to persuade them that your belief is correct. This is not constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is giving someone an example of how to be or do something in a better manner toward their ultimate goal. Telling someone they are wrong and you are right is just arguing dogma.

    And besides... strip away the particulars and in the end all you are arguing over is whose belief is correct without either of you ever really knowing. But of course, that's an agnostic statement. ;)