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IEET > Rights > FreeThought > Vision > Futurism > Directors > George Dvorsky

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Why Humanists Need to Make the Shift to Post-Atheism


George Dvorsky
George Dvorsky
Sentient Developments

Posted: May 15, 2012

I’m getting increasingly annoyed by all the anti-religious propaganda that litters my Facebook newsfeed. Look, as a fellow humanist and atheist, I get it. Organized religion is a problem on so many levels that I don’t even know where to begin. I’d be the first person to say that something needs to be done about it and I’m delighted to see atheism become normalized in our society and culture. But seriously, folks, what are you hoping to achieve by posting such facile and inflammatory material?

Who are you speaking to? Are you doing it to make yourself feel better? Or do you really feel that through this kind of mindless slacktivism that you’re making a difference and actually impacting on real lives?

It’s time to put these toys away and consider the bigger picture. Humanists need to start helping people make the transition away from religion, while at the same time working to create a relevant and vital humanist movement for the 21st century.

The intellectual battle against religion has already been won — and a strong case can be made that the victory came at the time of the Enlightenment. The struggle now is to find out why religion continues to persist in our society and what we can do about it. I have a strong suspicion that posting pictures of silly church signs isn’t helping.

For those of you who have been part of organized religion, you know how hard it is to break free. I’m one of them. Compounding the inner turmoil and cognitive dissonance is the problem of breaking free from the in-group. It is not easy for people to just pack up and leave their communities, nor is it easy for them to face the inevitable backlash from their families. The thought of leaving religion can be completely debilitating on so many levels. Posting a rabid comment or image on your Facebook wall isn’t going to help anyone get through this. In fact, all you’re doing is re-enforcing a tribalistic urge and alienating those most in need of help. These actions can only serve to stratify and polarize the lines even further.

Instead, what I’d rather see are more focused efforts on understanding how and why religion continues to spread, and what kinds of interventions and approaches are most effective at helping individuals move past it. There’s been amazing work done in this area by such thinkers as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, both of whom subscribe to the meme theory of religious propagation. I myself have argued that religious fundamentalism is a kind of disease and that religion works best by dictating the reproductive processes of its hosts. I’d like to see more work done in this area as we work to improve our cultural health.

In addition, we need to figure out the best way to pull religious people out of their situation. This is probably the most difficult challenge, and there are no easy answers. I’m a staunch believer in education and the idea that we need to equip children at a young age with the powers of free thought, critical thinking, and skepticism. We can’t make decisions for others, but we can give them the tools to help them make the right decisions for themselves. More radically, for those deeply entrenched in fundamentalist religions and cults, there’s always the possibility of deprogramming. The trick is to start the intervention.

Lastly, I’m hoping to see atheists move past the religion bashing and start thinking about more substantive issues. This is what I mean when I say post-atheism. It’s time to set aside the angst and work more productively to help those who need it, while working to develop a world view and set of guidelines for living without God. It’s unfortunate and tragic that so many humanists have equated the movement with atheism, while completely forgetting their progressive roots.

Humanism is about the betterment of all humanity and the contemplation of what it is we wish to become. It’s about taking control of our own lives in the absence of divine intervention. And it’s about taking responsibility for ourselves and doing the right thing.

This is where our energies and attention needs to be focused. Not in ridiculous Facebook timeline posts that serve no one.


George P. Dvorsky serves as Chair of the IEET Board of Directors and also heads our Rights of Non-Human Persons program. He is a Canadian futurist, science writer, and bioethicist. He is a contributing editor at io9 — where he writes about science, culture, and futurism — and producer of the Sentient Developments blog and podcast. He served for two terms at Humanity+ (formerly the World Transhumanist Association). George produces Sentient Developments blog and podcast.
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COMMENTS


“We can’t make decisions for others,” wink, but the actual mondialist situation/market is making this for all, even us..
I like your post here, yep, some friends have stupid/deserving picture against religions, also for “christianity” too ...
But as you wrote about critical thoughts, i just smile about THE religion exactly spreading today and forgetting the rights and the good ways for humans all over the .. Earth ...
This religion is just the time consuming of fordism/taylorism/stakanovism/ today toyotaïsm too .. all those criterias (like products/h or even the big PIB !! ..) which make humans be like robots (who must act like..) and unthinkings beings who have just to produce their all day life for a “just simple similar life for all”, in bad applied and never verified theories taken around economy and Kapital ...
“Financial arena” is now the big religion which is always shared/given/sold to all the people hesitating to quit their “old” - GOD(s or heroes) religion ...
A religion of “do it now or die coz you’re all alone now !”
(yep same time destroying )
The fact is that i’m ok with your text, but really smiling to the non-said inside, which is about how to convert our “fatal” system to the well known today, “ideal”/utopistic system WE all would like to work on, at our little self levels ...?
for other ideas, and pretty happy to discuss about your ideas to find the good roads to our real framed ethical freedom ..
cheers,
yours
AkoZ
ps: for other ideas or help for more: http://pear.ly/2QM9
and about post-democracy: http://pear.ly/3B6v





Good article George. One comment though:

Re “we need to figure out the best way to pull religious people out of their situation.”

I have a better proposal: why not just leave them in peace until _they_ choose to ask for help. Forcing help on person who have not requested help sounds arrogant and socially dangerous to me.

Also, this attitude legitimizes its opposite: the attitude of those believers who in the middle age “helped” non-believers to believe, often with the aid of torture instruments.





Atheism is a religion.





The power of religion is that it provides a unifying story which gives meaning to existence. Whether you think the story to be “true” or not matters little in this context.

The only way to move people from superstitious religion is to give them a better story. Just as the story of Santa Claus for young children is replaced by the story of parents who give gifts out of love for older ones. The challenge for humanists and atheist etc is to develop a compelling story of meaning and purpose that people can subscribe to. 

By story in this context, I don’t mean narrative or plot. For example, the Christian story as I tell it is this: We are loved, though we are a people who live in broken relationship with each other and the world that we live in. Those relationships can be repaired by love (the deliberate attitude of caring) and forgiveness. By letting go of the things that warp us out of shape and decrease our humanity and focusing on loving each other we become open to the healing presence of Divine Love. We then can live our live fulfilling the purpose for which we exist.

You will note that this very brief story suggests that humans have purpose and meaning which is very important to personal happiness, and that it is possible to make positive change. The atheist and humanist story that I most often hear is either. Life is random and we have to make our own meaning, or that life is fake, there is no free will and what ever we experience is false.

As you say, telling people they are wrong is counter-productive. The most effective way of ‘evangelism’ is to live in a way that attracts people to imitate your life style.

When I talk to people about their faith, I don’t tell them what to believe. I don’t even tell them that they need to believe anything at all. What I suggest is that they need to find a way to live authentically as themselves, and that necessitates some self-examination of faith and belief structures. What religion should be good at, and sadly is often not, is offering ways of self-examination that aid in that authentic living.





I totally agree with Alex on “The power of religion is that it provides a unifying story which gives meaning to existence. Whether you think the story to be “true” or not matters little in this context.”

Re jwphil’s “Atheism is a religion,” if atheism is simply defined as “not believing in any god,” of course it is not a religion.

I guess, however, that jwphil is referring to “militant atheism” or “new atheism,” which is characterized by self-righteousness, closed mindedness, and holy wars against “unbelievers” (unbelievers in the True Religion of Atheism, that is). In this sense, atheism is a religion, of the worse kind.





Being a-religious is fine; being anti-religious is drawing attention to that which the anti-religious would be better off ignoring.
Alex, I’ve never had anything against Christianity- it is the Christians themselves I can’t stand.. eighty percent or so of them.
Even fundamentalism is acceptable (not just tolerable), the rigidity of orthodoxy is beneficial to a minority. At the ‘Is School Lowering your Child’s IQ?’ thread I wrote of how the strictness of fundamentalism works for some; Andre’ correctly wrote of how choosing poems (as an example) for students is random, arbitrary;
yet in a madrassah it makes sense (whatever ‘sense’ is) to read the ‘Rubayat of Omar Khayyam’;
it makes sense in a Bible school to read ‘Chronicles of Narnia’.
In a secular school such doesn’t make sense.





I take issue with Alex (and Giulio) on two fronts: firstly on the (to my mind ridiculous) claim that “whether you think the story to be ‘true’ or not matter little [in the context of giving meaning to existence]”, and secondly on the (less ridiculous but still questionable in my view) that “telling people wrong is counter-prodcutive”.

On the first issue, it seems perfectly obvious to me that whether you think the story is true is supremely relevant, precisely in the context of how effective it will be in giving means to your existence. The Christian story with which I was brought up - and I suffered the exact problems that George describes when I rejected it - would be perfectly effective in giving meaning to my existence if I thought it were true. The reason it doesn’t is that I don’t. Same with Alex’s version of it: I regard the sttements such as “we are loved” as vacuous nonsense (unless you can point to actual real people who indeed love me, in which case I don’t need to believe your story to feel better), so consequently it doesn’t give meaning to my existence. I agree that a story doesn’t have to BE true to give meaning to your life, but you certainly have to think it is true. Alex, if even YOU don’t believe your story is true (and I take “believe” to be a synonym of “think is true”), then you should stop lying to people.

The second claim is, at face value, more reasonable, and has more truth to it. Telling people wrong can be counter-productive, especially when they are not receptive, and when doing so is more likely to put up their neurotic defences than anything else. Sometimes you indeed just need to wait for people to figure it out (or not) for themselves. But “can be” is not the same as “is”. For example, by taking issue with these two claims I am essentially telling Alex that he is wrong. Not about everything, of course, but with regard to these specific claims. Admittedly, my purpose in doing so is not specifically to change Alex’s mind: I am posting comments on a public forum with the aim of influencing anyone who reads them, not specifically Alex. But if I did want Alex to change his mind (and why not?), then telling him that I think he is wrong seems like a reasonable place to start.





By the way I agree with every word of George’s article. And as I’ve said before I don’t agree with Giulio’s suggestion that we should “just leave them in peace until _they_ask for help”. Being delusional also affects others, so we have a responsibility, judiciously and sensitively, to pull people out of their religious mindset.

With one caveat. As I have also said before I have not yet given up on the idea that some form of theism might actually be helpful, and if not exactly “true” then at least not false. I still find Lincoln Cannon’s ideas (when stripped of their explicit Mormonism) promising in this regard. So we should not regard all religion as a disease to be cured. Most of it is, including, frankly, vacuous suggestions that “we are loved”.





Peter, the truth of a story in the way that I am talking about it is indeed irrelevant. Look at the stories, other than religious, that guide our times. The story that rich people drive the economy and we need to give them free reign to invest to create jobs.  It is false. The less regulation and the lower the taxes on the investor class, the lower the amount of investment in the economy. The real driver of the economy is spending by the poor and lower middle class.

Then there is the story that countries that are poor are badly run and deserve to be poor. It too is false. The debt load imposed on the poorest countries crushes their economies. The rules imposed on them by their creditors forces them to put what little money they have into infrastructure for foreign interests. Education, health care etc are lower priorities than making sure that corporations can continue to make profits.

Than there is the story that we can’t feed the population of the world. Another lie. We can, we just choose not to.

There are different levels of truth and falsehood interwoven into the way we understand the world. People will follow a story they know to be false if it makes them feel better about themselves.

As for the “being loved”, I would suggest that a sense of being loved and valued, even if the one doing the loving is not defined is of tremendous importance. Would you rather go to people and tell them that no one loves them so they might as well get over it and get on with life? This is what I mean about humanists needing a better story. Until they can explain in some way why people are valuable and yes, loved, they will never replace religion.





@Peter re “Being delusional also affects others, so we have a responsibility, judiciously and sensitively, to pull people out of their religious mindset.”

I know you mean well, but please be _very_ careful: this argument has been used to justify the worse atrocities in history. It has been used to put innocent people in gulags. I personally know people who have been tortured (yes, tortured) in “mental care institutions” to cure them of their “delusional” belief.

And please tell me, how is your position different from that of the inquisitors who used hot white iron to cure non-believers from their “delusional” lack of belief.

I guess many Holy Inquisition torturers were sincere in their convictions and really thought they were doing good. Never claim the right to judge other innocent and peaceful persons delusional. _Never._

Don’t we _ever_ learn from history?

When I hear similar things, I am proud to be a peaceful, live-and-let-live believer.





First, a pet peeve of mine is the use of the word Atheist to describe a non-believer. An “Athiest” is not something. It is the absence of something, and therefore is a very poor descriptor of something; anything. The risk we run when we try to use the term to describe us as a group, people like jwphil will say things like, “if you are a group and share a common belief system then that group must be religion.” A false argument, but then that argument leaves us wasting energy defending an issue that never existed. In addition, the use of the term, implies falsely, that all “Athiests” share a common set of beliefs.

Secondly, I believe that people should be free to choose how, what and if they should worship. The problem that we encounter is that many of those that follow a particular faith think that they hold the lone key to salvation, and it is their moral responsibility to make sure that they save those poor unfortunate souls who believe differently. This is the dilemma. Freedom should be extended to religion, but what if that group has as their mission the loss of everyone else’s freedom. This logic would be clear cut if we were talking about neo-Nazis, skin-heads, or even Sharia law. When any group starts attempting to force its unique set of ideologies and laws on everyone, that that group is no longer practicing religious freedom, and should be outlawed or restricted from that practice.





@Peter Wicks & Giulio Prisco :
I personally think that those battles can be fought in the courts, and that bashing the gavel of facts over irritated people’s heads will do little to sway positions.  Going on attack won’t bring justice to those being discriminated against until the law backs up that attack.

@Pastor_Alex:
I very much enjoyed reading your comment.  This has been on my mind a lot lately as I contemplate my own existence as walking, talking stardust.  Religion, lore, and history allow people to place the tough questions on other’s shoulders.  Not needing a search for the answers to “why am I here?”, “what do I do about it?” and “where am I going after this?” can be very liberating.  And as you stated, whether or not the answers are true doesn’t matter, because it is true in the believer’s mind.  If the Humanists (myself included) want to persuade people of our position who do not have the same thirst for skepticism, logic or whatever brought us to Humanism, we will need a better story.





Political parties are groups that share a common set of beliefs, they are not religions.  Atheism, however, requires faith.





@Giulio

I’m afraid you’re slippery-sloping again. The difference between me and an inquisitor should be obvious: I’m not planning to use any white-hot irons. You may choose to believe that the delusional don’t adversely affect others,  and thus be proud to be a peaceful, live-and-let-live believer, but then you yourself are one of the delusional believes. Does that mean I intend to use a white-hot iron on you? No. Does it mean I would like to change your mind? Sure. Whether it’s worth my time and trouble trying, that’s another matter.

@Alex

“People will follow a story they know to be false if it makes them feel better about themselves”.

It is very difficult to feel good about a story you know to be false. Trust me, I’ve been there. Cognitive dissonance sucks. The only way you can feel good about a story (in the sense of following and live by it, that is, not in the sense of appreciating it as fiction obviously) is by believing it to be true. The examples you give are prevalent precisely because people believe them to be true.

Re “being loved”, I don’t dispute that this story helps some people. If you can get them to believe it is true, the.n of course they will find it comforting. Who wouldn’t? But we’ve discussed this before. For some, both myself and many, many people I know, such stories lack traction precisely because they so obviously rely on wishful thinking. Of course we have to do better than “just get over it”. But surely demonstrating actual, practical love, showing empathy, and giving them the techniques they need to help themselves and the resources to get by in the mean time, surely this beats telling them stories based on wishful thinking.





“I’m afraid you’re slippery-sloping again. The difference between me and an inquisitor should be obvious: I’m not planning to use any white-hot irons.”

Yes, libertarians (and so many others) go overboard with the slippery slope, invoking the the GULag too often—
“there is a specter haunting Europe, the specter of the GULag.”.
This brings to mind what is wrong with the following:

“Political parties are groups that share a common set of beliefs, they are not religions.  Atheism, however, requires faith.”

Disagree here: Communism and fascism for instance were not based on good politics, but as has been said (possibly Orwell) bad religious beliefs. As for atheism requiring faith, so what, everything requires a bit of faith, as in
‘I think therefore I am’.





@ Intomorrow

I think you may be right that forms of political parties can be akin to religion.  I think I heard once that Hitler planned on becoming some sort of official state religious deity had he succeeded.

As to your second point - does ‘I think therefore I am’ really require faith?  It seems to be perhaps the only thing beyond doubt since in the process of doubting this, one cannot help but affirm its truth.  Well… perhaps Descartes was not correct to assert there is beyond doubt an ‘I’, but it seems beyond doubt that there are thoughts, that some sort of thinking exists.  I’m not sure knowing this requires faith at all.

But can one know with the same sort of certainty that there is no God whatsoever as one can know cogito ergo sum?





Any future existence in which one group of people dictates to other groups of people how they should live or what they should think or believe is not the ideal transhumanist future. No matter what you may have convinced yourself to believe, on such a foundation it also will be no better than what we have now.

There are people that have religious or spiritual beliefs who are not a part of organized religion or fundamentalist in their thinking and others who are genuinely searching for ‘truth’ but would not bother approach a transhumanist because the atheist reputation is akin to someone who has undergone a ‘conversion experience’ and must now proselytize his ‘one’ truth. Unfortunately that includes Dawkins, to a lesser degree, Dennett and inflammatory posts all over the internet or on Transhumanism related Facebook pages do not help. 

Just a reminder: Transhumanism is not supposed a club for people who hate religion. Transhumanists are supposed to be forward thinkers genuinely interested working toward the combined future of humanity in the ‘best’ way possible by taking into account all of the ethical and philosophical underpinnings that may include - Like respecting, as a humanist would, the individual’s ability and RIGHT to determine his or her own existence.

Be the solution, not part of the problem.

Great article George.





Love this post, George!  I think it is the arrogance and militancy of fundamentalists of all types that bothers me—it is all about ego (I’m right and you are wrong), rather than finding common ground. 

Right on the money: it’s about taking responsibility for ourselves and doing the right thing.  Bravo!





I think Linda is on the right track. What we are talking about really isn’t about religion and God, the whole point of the article is that it is necessary to move past discussion of religion and God. The implication is then that the positive term “humanist” or even “transhumanist” is to be preferred over the negative (the word form is a negative, not a judgement on the position) atheist. Focusing on the concept of humanism allows for a new anthropology to grow up around the challenge of transcending ourselves as we are. This in turn may provide the framework for a new story which may better engage the imagination and psyche of the average person.

Peter, people know that the stories I mention are not true. They read it in the papers, they see it in their bank statements. The problem is that there is no strong alternative for them to attach their hopes and aspirations to. Most of what people believe about themselves is either an implicit or explicit lie. The difficulty is not in pointing out the lie, it is in convincing people that they can live without the lie.





@Alex

“people know that the stories I mention are not true”
In one sense I’m relieved to hear it - I’d hate to see you as some kind of snake-oil salesman - but unless your experience is very different from mine the comfort they can derive from such stories must be quite superficial and short lived. And there ARe strong alternatives for them to attach their hopes and aspirations to, you’re just not giving it to them because you’re distracting yourself and them with stories you don’t believe. I’m sure you’re making efforts to ensure your church provides a loving and supportive community for those who need it. And yes, I understand that the stories are part of what binds that community together. But maybe you want to wean your church away from that?

@Xhyra Graf and others

Your point about transhumanism not being a club for those who hate religion is well-taken, and is somewhat reinforced by the updated definition of “religion” on Wiktionary, which seems (rather intriguingly) to have emerged over the last few days for reasons. Where before the first definition, which I thought was rather good, was “a collection of practices, based on beliefs and teachings that are highly valued or [considered] sacred”, the definitions now refer variously to belief in a supernatural deity or deities, a particular system of faith or worship, the way of life committed to by monks and nuns, and any practice that someone or some group is seriously devoted to. Lord above, with such a broad definition of religion we must all be either religious or insane? How could you possibly live without a system of faith to without being seriously devoted to any kind of practice. On this definition, “religious” basically means “not a confused wastrel”.

But sticking with the older definition for a moment, Intomorrow’s point is in my view essential: communism and fascism were bad religious beliefs - they were indeed a system of faith, but the problem was that they were considered sacred and adhered to unquestionably by those practising their tenets - while atheism, like living, merely requires faith.

So back to Alex and his stories: as long as they are recognised as (partly) fiction (not ALL Biblical/Christian stories are necessarily false, of course), and considered on this basis then the only problem I really have is that they may be distracting his flock from those more promising alternatives on which to hang their hopes and aspirations (are these two different things by the way?). But the more such teachings are considered “sacred”, and are this the objects of “religion” in this sense, the greater the risk that they indeed become confused with the truth, and thus lead people more seriously astray.

Essentially the spirit of George’s article, from my perspective, is that we need to steer a middle course between indulging delusional religion, as Giulio advocates, and attacking it in hateful, mocking and unproductive ways. Giulio might see the former path as an example of “soft rationality”, a concept of which on the whole I approve, but I think that would be taking the concept too far. If “soft rationality” means refraining from ever challenging and criticising delusional belief, then our commitment to rationality becomes so “soft” as to be meaningless. Rather I would see it as recognition that some inconsistencies need to be tolerated in order to allow a “system of faith” (such as faith in the scientific method) to grow, and also that a degree of temporary, short-term delusion (such as suspension of disbelief when watching a good movie) can be rewarding and positive.

Finally I want to point out that there is a difference between “dictat[ing] to other groups of people how they should live or what they should think or believe” and being willing, when appropriate, and always judiciously and sensitively, to express views on the subject. This is the point I was making earlier when I took issue with Alex’s suggestion that telling people they are wrong is (always) counterproductive. We need to balance empathy and respect with assertive advocacy of what we believe ourselves, otherwise we just leave the field open to the less scrupulous. This is the gripe I have with CygnusX1 when he repeatedly ticks me (and others) off wanting to “influence others”.





I also don’t think that the whole point of George’s article was that we need to move past discussion of religion and God. These are very interesting topics. It was rather that just relentlessly attacking them isn’t very helpful. I don’t see anyone disagreeing with that.





And we do sometimes need to be negative, and point out what we think is false or unhelpful, and not only what is true or helpful. Otherwise we risk becoming hopelessly fluffy.





Mr. Dvorsky’s article seems to be primarily concerned with religious fundamentalism, but I don’t see why it is necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  There are plenty of people who live sane lives who are religious and who benefit from their religion.  I understand that some people go from growing up in fundamentalist and often abusive situations and naturally turn to a complete rejection of religion by embracing atheism. 

There is, however, a middle-ground.  There are moderate religious practices which are beneficial to many people’s lives, even if based on faith rather than evidence.  It’s not clear that one who grows up in an abusive religious system is better off, objectively speaking, becoming atheist rather than a religious moderate, though this certainly might be the case for some.

It seems to me that most of the problems with religion do not stem from a belief in God, they stem from a strict and literal adherence to texts written thousands of years ago.  Belief in some form of God is compatible with science and compatible with a progressive and even transhumanist future.  Darwin may not have believed in creationism, but he did believe in God.

Mr. Dvorsky, while looking to sanitize the movement he is part of, still treats religion, and ultimately all religion including moderate religion, as an enemy or a disease to destroy.  The goal shouldn’t be to tear others away from religion and one shouldn’t be merely trying to pull people in abusive religious situations out of it into atheism.  That’s preying on the weak in my opinion and as I said, those individuals are not necessarily better off as atheists than religious moderates.  The goal should be to come up with a compelling alternative worldview and let individuals decide themselves.





Exactly, Pete. Look what happened to the original transhumanists;
too much fluff, not enough stuff—not enough substance—the negative side of ‘60s- early ‘70s optimism.
Rapture of the future.

“But can one know with the same sort of certainty that there is no God whatsoever as one can know cogito ergo sum?”

If God exists only in the mind, then yes. Occam’s razor leads me to that conclusion.





@Intomorrow.  Is your premise that God exists only in the mind self-evident?  Is Occam’s razor certain proof of anything or just a heuristic?





...this can be thought of as possible validation for deism:
if ‘God’ no longer has an active role in events, one might say ‘God created the cosmos’ but now solely exists in the mind; makes some sort of ‘sense’. I find it less interesting today to talk to the religious, as not only do they secretly want power, they also discuss the same topics over ‘n’ over because they can’t at first estimate how much their interlocutors are familiar with spiritual religious/ matters. Best way I know of to deal with the religious is to talk to them only when necessary and tell them right off what you don’t believe in. I tell them I don’t like fairy tales such as Heaven, reincarnation, the Return of Jesus, parting of the Red Sea, Jonah being swallowed by a whale yet surviving, a staff turning into a serpent.
However nothing wrong with the teachings of Christ, it is probably better to live a clean life though one might miss out on fun: as Springsteen sang at the end of in ‘Blinded By The Light’ ,

“Momma told me not to look into the eyes of the Sun,
  but, Momma! that’s where the fun is!...”





In any case, cogito ergo sum is hopelessly out of date. Linguistic philosophy hadn’t even started then. If you take cogito ergo sum as self-evident, then you haven’t thought much about the relationship between language and identity, or the nature of existence (ontology). We’re not in the 17th Century any more.





@Peter re “You may choose to believe that the delusional don’t adversely affect others,  and thus be proud to be a peaceful, live-and-let-live believer, but then you yourself are one of the delusional believes. Does that mean I intend to use a white-hot iron on you? No.”

But others do, and you know that. Read history. When some people, even well meaning people, claim the right to define “sane” and"delusional” for everyone, and the right to enforce compliance, white-hot irons follow soon.

Re “Does it mean I would like to change your mind? Sure.”

Well, you can hope whatever you like! Your hoping doesn’t harm me. Please feel free to keep hoping! (perhaps this is the difference beyween you and I).





“But sticking with the older definition for a moment, Intomorrow’s point is in my view essential: communism and fascism were bad religious beliefs - they were indeed a system of faith, but the problem was that they were considered sacred and adhered to unquestionably by those practising their tenets - while atheism, like living, merely requires faith.”


Sorry Peter, but I have to disagree with this..

Communism and fascism were not bad religious beliefs they were bad political beliefs.
These were systems based on faith, (of success), but not religious FAITH
You are conflating the term sacred using it for both religious and political application, yet by way of implying that sacred wholly, (holy), applies to the religious alone, when it clearly does not.
Adhered to unquestionably - yes indeed - as all belief systems comprise
Atheism does not require faith, (in the non-existence of God), but is yet a belief system adhered to - you are conflating these terms belief and faith.


“I also don’t think that the whole point of George’s article was that we need to move past discussion of religion and God. These are very interesting topics. It was rather that just relentlessly attacking them isn’t very helpful. I don’t see anyone disagreeing with that.”

Exactly, the argument as to whether God or an evolved architect exists is mostly irrelevant yet can still be hotly debated ad infinitum. Debates rather than attacks is beneficial to “en-able” sceptics to free themselves from tribes and family religious loyalties, and guide free-thinking of individuals for themselves - this will have a natural erosion on fundamentalist thinking, (as intimately tied to “sacred” practices and rites), which may then also be easily disassociated from Human ethics, morality and the greater goals and ideals of Humanism, (if Humans guide thus and not towards decadence and immorality), and as prescribed by Jesus, Forgiveness, Love, have no ethical exclusiveness with regard to adherence to any religious faith or belief systems.

I personally do not pay much attention to anything Dawkins says/rants anymore, it is on the whole empty and not novel, aside from his protestations against brainwashing kids, (club members), in faith schools and their specialised critique against Darwinian evolution in favour of creationism.

However, what would happen to Dawkins’ “faith” in his “belief system” if we did eventually find out that we are descended from the “thirteen tribes” and that our bent towards technology Greek myth, and monotheistic fundamentalism and yen for the stars is merely due to past memetic inheritance?





Also..

“In any case, cogito ergo sum is hopelessly out of date.”

This does not make it any less true!

“I think therefore I am”, or similarly “I am, I exist” is still pertinent - because the illusion of “I” is maintained and perpetuates until demise! You are nothing less than the Self-perpetuating “I”?

Descartes rationalism is pertinent even now, here, today, right this moment!


Remember Descartes was also required to appease the Sorbonne and their adherence to belief in God, (although I believe his own belief in the perfect ideal of God was also truthful)?





How can the logic of the cogito go out of date?  Is 2+2 not 4?





@Giulio
Who said anything about enforcing compliance? Why do you choose to read into my words what is not there? And if well-meaning people do not express views on what is “sane” and “delusional”, then what kind of meaning WILL these words take on?

You want to believe that if well-meaning people just live and let live then everyone else will happily follow our lead and do the same. Unfortunately that’s not how it works. There a various pathologies around, and they need to be addressed. For sure, believing in imaginary deities is hardly the worst affliction one can imagine, which in a way is George’s whole point: we can do better than continually attacking religion (which still isn’t the same thing IMO as Alex’s “move past discussion of religion and God). But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying to coax people away from delusional modes of thought.

@CygnusX1
Whether you regard communism and fascism as religios beliefs depends on which definition of religion you are using, which is why I was careful to distinguish between the various definitions that are knocking around. Ditto belief and faith. And believe me, if you have been brought up to believe that atheists will go to hell, then being one requires faith.

Regarding cogito ergo sum, it is not that it is old that makes it untrue, it is the fact that it has been superseded/undermined by later philosophy, notably the linguistic philosophy (Wittgenstein et al) of the twentieth century. I don’t say that it is not pertinent, nor do I say that “I” is an illusion. I would rather say that “I” is a highly ambiguous concept. But I do think cogito ergo sum LOSES pertinence, and certainly the definitive, conclusive character it has been traditionally assumed to have, when one starts to consider these things seriously. I do not deduce the fact of my existence from the fact that I think. I choose to believe I exist, as an act of faith. It is awareness, far more than thought, that gives substance to that believe. I am aware that I also think, but that is a secondary experience to the compared to the primary experience of just Being.

If you want to talk about illusions, I would say the illusion is that the usual narrative concept of self, wit or without immortal soul and/or afterlife, has real objective significance. But cogito ergo sum is hardly relevant in this context. One can be aware one is thinking, and still deny that one has a past and a future.

All this is somewhat off-topic, of course, but illustrates the point that there is NOTHING that we know for certain. Not even that religious fundamentalists are delusional. I choose to believe that they are, because my whole experience of life seems to indicate thus. And I therefore take the view that it is good to coax such people away from their delusion. And I also choose to believe - because my experience of life seems to indicate thus - that many religious people who are not particularly fundamentalist are also delusional. And that people who hold rigid political beliefs, whether libertarianism, neoclassical economics, or whatever, are also delusional. And with George, I believe that the best way to coax people away from their delusions, whether religious or not, is by showing that we are able and willi to take control of our lives in the absence of such delusions.

And this is also the disagreement I have with Alex: encouraging people to cling to stories they know are not true is a bad way to try to help them.





@Peter re “Who said anything about enforcing compliance? Why do you choose to read into my words what is not there? And if well-meaning people do not express views on what is “sane” and “delusional”, then what kind of meaning WILL these words take on?”

You are of course free and welcome to express your views on what is “sane” or “delusional”, but without misrepresenting “your views” as The Truth.

I know that you don’t—- but you know that others do, and you know that others want to enforce compliance from those who don’t follow The Truth.





Yes, Descartes may have been wrong to assume ‘I’ exist, but the cogito can tell us with certainty that at least thoughts must exist.  Not much to go on, but it’s beyond doubt.  All else requires some faith.  Therefore Atheists should not assume with certainty they are correct and religious believers are wrong.  There is good evidence to believe religious texts are not literally true,  but there is not good evidence of what caused the big bang!





“I do not deduce the fact of my existence from the fact that I think. I choose to believe I exist, as an act of faith. It is awareness, far more than thought, that gives substance to that believe. I am aware that I also think, but that is a secondary experience to the compared to the primary experience of just Being.”

Hence..

1. Mind, (complexity in biological brain function), is emergent, (is evolved.. arguably?)
2. Self-reflexivity, (consciousness of Consciousness feedback loop) establishes differentiation of subject and object through thoughts and contemplation?
3. Thoughts reconcile and establish the notion of Self “I”

Ergo..?





Short answer: George, you are a hypocrite.
———
Not so short answer: Slacktivism. That’s a hoot, coming from an Internet blogger. How about you walk the walk and delete your Facebook profile and end your blog? After all, Facebook timeline posts are ridiculous, right? Your words. Funny, how I found at least two Facebook pages that belong to you. How does that work? Facebook is suitable only if it suits you? Facebook has more than 900,000,000 active users, so for you to comment on the impotence of sharing information on that site is beyond absurd.

Maybe you should get your own slacktivist ass out to Kolkata and work with my friend Hemley Gonzalez in the slums. Then, you might be qualified to point a disapproving finger at anyone about what they don’t do.

It is ironic that you exalt Professor Dawkins as a champion of the atheist movement, yet you also condemn those who openly criticize and ridicule religious belief. Maybe you missed the part at Reason Rally where Professor Dawkins clearly stated, “Religion is not off the table. Religion is not off limits. Religion makes specific claims about the universe which need to be substantiated and need to be challenged, and if necessary, need to be ridiculed with contempt.”

I was there at Reason Rally. I heard the man say this. So, which is it? Are you even sure where you stand on this topic, or are you cherry-picking the way creationists do so often?

Maybe you haven’t noticed that the religious right/Republican party is introducing and passing faith-based legislation that is rife with malevolent bigotry against women, gays, and ethnic & social minorities. With your suggestion of easing these regressive cretins into reason via intervention, we can just ignore the fact that we have a fight on our hands against the very people you so arrogantly would presume to save from their own stupidity.

You use the word atheist in a scornful context. Oh, that’s right… You’re a “humanist.” Let’s pause for the ominous ambient music. Okay, that’s better. Wake up, George. You are an atheist, so let’s dispense with the divisive labeling you are doing by attempting to use humanist as a safe word while treating the word atheist as if it is a militant sub-section of something greater.

One of your lines is rather disturbing in it’s proposal: “It’s time to set aside the angst and work more productively to help those who need it, while working to develop a world view and set of guidelines for living without God.”

Really? Guidelines? Seems a lot like the pre-natal stage for a new religion. F**k your guidelines and your suggestion to control a group of freethinkers with mandates that would be an insult to any self-respecting, freethinking atheist. Didn’t you get the memo? We atheists don’t take kindly to being told what to do and what to think.

You do whatever you like, and don’t presume to tell the rest of us how we should conduct ourselves in our approach towards religion, religious belief, and those who would make us subject to such to the very superstitious constructs & ignorance to which they willingly bind themselves.





This article by George has started yet another religious fight - it brings in traffic to IEET but I often feel like it’s all a distraction— 

because here’s my opinion—

Atheism is the belief system of the future. It is the creed of the educated, it is rising in percentile of population, it won’t stop rising, it will eventually swallow up and convince all the “believers.” I look forward to that day. Very much.

George seems to be using the term “humanist” to mean “non-militant atheist.”

Personally, I’d like to see about 50% of atheists be annoying, militant, pissed-off, in-your-face god-hating getting-rid-of-religious-dogma-and-repression atheists.  Taxing churches and insisting on secular education for children are things I’d like to see happen. The other 50% of atheists/humanists can be nice, apologetic, community-building, seeking common ground types. They can be the “good cops” in a Good Cop/Bad Cop assertion of rational atheist beliefs.

I am concerned quite a bit that IEET is too “soft on religion.” In my opinion, which was probably Mike Treder’s as well, IEET looks ridiculous as a “futurist” organization if isn’t insistently atheistic. I know many contributors disagree. I know atheism isn’t a tenet of IEET’s or even of Transhumanism. Nonetheless, that’s my opinion. I’d like IEET to build relationships with atheist organizations. I think IEET looks retro and reactionary and New Agey when it publishes anti-atheist articles, religious articles, or articles that talk about how valuable religion can be to transhumanism. 

The site has become a bit of a battleground between religious and non-religious ideas. I find this unfortunate. It brings in Christian/religious commenters who want to debate - I think it is a waste of our time engaging with them.

Since I took on the job of blog editor, I believe the majority of comments have been on religious topics. I find it very redundant, I am quite tired of it. People can fight about religion on other sites, I’d rather we did something else.

If I had things my way, IEET would be stridently anti-religious. I don’t have that control, though, not even close. But I am happy to tell you that’s exactly how I feel.





I sympathise with much of what Hank writes. Personally I find it difficult to resist a good debate on religion when it crops up at IEET, and as I’ve written several times (including above) I don’t really share Hank’s view that atheism is necessarily the belief system of the future. But I do take the point that the constant battle between religious and non-religious ideas is distracting us from more productive discussions and possibly it may also be negatively affecting IEET’s image.

So what to do? An obvious measure would be just not to publish articles that address religion, on either side of the debate. This will not necessarily avoid debates about religion creeping into the comment thread, however. The fact is that this is an issue people feel strongly about - that is precisely the nature of religion, it’s why it is such a powerful force - and creating some kind of editorial taboo would seem to be an over-reaction.

Another strategy would be to actively encourage more interesting debates. Even in this thread there is some quality discussion mixed in with the mudslinging. Some of it is pretty abstract, but IMO no less valuable for that. For example, I disagree with jwphil’s assertion that the existence of thought is beyond doubt. There’s also an interesting (to me) meta-discussion with Giulio about how legitimate it is to express views about how other people should think and behave. Exactly what we know for sure, what seems unreasonable or u helplful to doubt, what should be regarded as speculative at best, and what is downright delusional: these are important issues, and I think is site can play an extremely valuable role by acting as a forum for some careful discussion around these issues, illuminated by the urgency that comes from considering where the future is really headed, which is of course IEET’s key strength.

So I guess my conclusion is that if we are tired of the pissing contest between the religious and the anti-religious, then let’s actively promote and participate in discussions that we are actually interested in. And let’s not overdo Good Cop/Bad Cop manipulation. On the whole I’m still with George Dvorsky: we should endeavour to be respectful, even when critical.





I am very disinterested in religious arguing because:
1. I find it incredibly redundant
2. because no one ever ever changes their mind, do they?
3. because it’s easy, isn’t it? we already know our POV so we just stick to it and assert it over and over again
4. because it keeps us from thinking about and learning about other topics, and envisioning the future
5. because I’m an atheist, so “religion” isn’t really a topic, it’s just talking about something that doesn’t or shouldn’t exist
6. because, in general, I’d like IEET to do something more concrete, more product-oriented.  Let’s draft some policy proposals and send them to governments. In keeping with George’s article’s suggestion, let’s plan the new world.

re: Peter’s comments above. I disagree with the last statement, I’m with Pat Condell instead. There’s no value in feigning “respect” if we actually believe the other viewpoint is painfully ludicrous.





You have a way of getting right to the point, Pete.
Overall, Giulio is correct, we have to be soft on religion, if that is what he is writing here. However at this site we ought not feel guilt in confronting the religious; it has gradually dawned in my chronically gullible mind how in America for instance Christians have less respect for those who don’t talk back to them than they do for those who stand their ground. The religious almost certainly respect strength above even piety—this being a syncretisation of Darwinism and Christianity (doesn’t make sense otherwise, presuming there is substantive rationality involved).
So though we don’t necessarily have to deal with the religious at IEET, we do at times—hopefully not very often—have to engage with them in real time, in the flesh.. they number large and on top of that have an influence outsized to their number.

We are stuck with them and to be fair they are stuck with us.





“re: Peter’s comments above. I disagree with the last statement, I’m with Pat Condell instead. There’s no value in feigning ‘respect’ if we actually believe the other viewpoint is painfully ludicrous.”


Technically correct, Hank, however we at times have to feign respect; this is called diplomacy, something we practice every day. To be truly honest we would have to tell the religious we disagree with to bugger off—which is even more painful, in my experience at any rate. Those who manipulate with ideology/religion nine times out of ten only respect subtle manipulation in return.. remember, the reason they are what (who) they are in this regard is usually because they were brought up in such a way, and or of course peer pressure.
In other words, they had ideology/religion injected into their minds, thus they do the same to others.
Giulio is right it is best to leave the religious in peace yet only if they reciprocate—if they will not leave us in peace, if they insist on manipulating us with their religiosity IMO we, again, have to pay them back in their own coin because they generally but definitely expect no less.

It took me five decades to realize people respect those who stick up for themselves more than those who are humble. The squeaky wheel does get the grease. Good news is though we have to play games with ideologists/the religious in real life, here at IEET we do not. IEET can be a DMZ of sorts.

 

 





I don’t feign respect. It is real. Every person has something to teach me, though what I learn may not be what they think they are teaching.

I am tired of the religion/atheist pissing contests for almost exactly the reasons that Hank lists. I am here because I like the ethical debate. So lets bring on some ethics. What are the ethical implications of what we are talking about? If we aren’t dealing with ethics, then we should take it out the name of the sight.

Besides, if I want to get into stupid arguements, there is always youtube.





Though I regularly get tired of talking to atheists because in most cases it is no less frustrating than ‘conversations’ with former pastors and family, I’m going to try to stick this out because I need to believe there are some rational people here.

The fact is there is a diversity within ‘religion’ that is not evident in the class of atheist that is normally to be found in places like this - forms of religion or spirituality which are not in conflict with Transhumanism, humanism, the scientific method, evolution, rational thinking, the philosophical method or any of the things that reasonable persons find valuable.

—Oh yeah, let me not forget to mention that there is a class of atheists who believe that highly intelligent aliens may have at the very least contributed to advancing our civilization and/or *gasp* may have even created our kind either with advanced technology or simply breeding.  I find this no less ridiculous than the bearded white guy in the sky and a blond, blue-eyed Jesus. Not to mention that without the reptilian description in some versions, it sounds suspiciously like when the angels come down to earth in the bible.—

Let us be clear that what most of you are talking about when you say religion [but proceed to lump it along with general spirituality anyway] is Christianity - because Buddhists and other eastern religious/philosophical traditions are religious or based in ritual practice while for most there is not a belief in God. Indigenous people are ritualistic/religious while having the admirable trait of not having to be convinced that there are non-human persons.

What I am primarily worried about was mentioned above - throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  A lot of the richness of our species resides in the cultures outside of western thought.  Do those also have to get educated, deprogrammed, whitewashed, coerced, rounded up into camps until they develop the atheistic mindset in this transhuman future? Is it necessary for those kinds of conceptual/cultural frameworks that may only use the word God as a metaphor for other beliefs like forms of animism, ancestor worship, pantheism, the attempt to reach nirvanha, samadhi or ‘higher’ states or universal consciousness? Are we sure that the boddhisatva, the yogi, the shaman, or even the christian mystic is delusional because we are incapable of reproducing the same sort of experiences?

I am not. Therefore I am not dismissive nor use the term religion so narrowly.

The fact that there are people who claim to look to the future of humanity who are so dismissive and use the term so narrowly is the actual practical concern that undergirds my entry into this most annoying and continued fracas.

 





@Hank re “IEET looks ridiculous as a “futurist” organization if isn’t insistently atheistic”

To me, it is insistently atheistic persons and organizations that look ridiculous. But of course they have the right to defend their opinions. I just ignore them.

Re “I think IEET looks retro and reactionary and New Agey when it publishes anti-atheist articles, religious articles, or articles that talk about how valuable religion can be to transhumanism.”

Looks retro and reactionary and New Agey to whom? You mean to the neverworked and overpaid “intellectuals” who never leave their ivory tower offices and never talk to real people in the real world? But these are politically correct yes-men, they were the first to demonize atheists a few decades ago. I think will stick with the New Agey crowd, at least they are fun.





They are fun, but I don’t trust them.
I want Alex to know, if it would matter to him, that I have nothing against Jesus, the Bible—it is Christians I want to avoid as much as possible. Modus vivendi, yes; brownnosing, no way, in no way whatsoever except to get rid of them, to say “yessir, whatever you say” and then get out of the way.





On feigning respect, I stand somewhere between Hank and Intomorrow on this. Intomorrow is right to say that we all feign respect to some extent. Which one of us does not tend to be more polite to others to their face than behind their back? And the few of us who don’t are never the most popular. On the other hand one can be disrespectful of those one disagrees with without necessarily being dishonest.

In the case of religion, it really hangs on the extent to which we indeed find religious opinion “painfully ludicrous”, in all its forms. I certainly don’t. Some manifestations of it certainly are - and not only ludicrous but also downright harmful - but others may be quite promising. For example I don’t find Lincoln Cannon’s ideas about “becoming God” particularly ludicrous, what I find ludicrous in Lincoln’s case the insistence with which he ties these non-ludicrous theistic ideas with the Mormonism from which he has not yet emancipated himself. And even then, I don’t find it particularly ludicrous if people draw comfort and inspiration from religious rituals, as long as - like Alex - they are careful to remind themselves and others that the stories they are telling each other are (partly, mostly) fictional.

It is not the case that nobody ever changes their mind. My thinking has certainly evolved somewhat as a result of these debates. But we should indeed avoid just repeating the same points over and over. When I see the same people coming up regularly taking the same kind of positions, I either ignore them or try to understand why they hold those positions and help them to understand why I see things differently. And I think we make progress, gradually.

Regarding Intomorrow’s idea of IEET as a kind of DMZ, actually this is indeed one of the things that draws me to comment regularly here. As Intomorrow says the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it’s refreshing to engage in debates where there is some real logical/philosophical meat to get one’s teeth into. Yesterday evening I sat through a long, tedious set of opinions about the eurozone crisis and ended up virtually having a row; the great thing about a public forum is that one can pick and choose the comments one pays attention to, and there is no reward for boorish verbosity: people will just skip reading your comment. And if Alex doesn’t understand the difference between the debate here and the “debates” on YouTube then he should go over there and familiarise himself with the quality of the “debate” there.

But none of this means we have to be constantly talking about religion. So: less articles on the subject of religion (in either direction), and let’s follow up on Hank’s points 4 and 6. (6 especially intrigues me: it sounds like opening a hornet’s nest, but if we can get it right then I think it would be an excellent way to enhance our influence on the world. Exciting! We might find we get somewhat less “demilitarised”, though.)





By the way, the mistake at the end of the first paragraph (“disrespectful” should read “respectful”) may possibly have been Freudian. smile





This “them” and “us” attitude is pathetic and egocentric and lame

You really, seriously, think and regard Trans-humanism as some sort of tribe, to differentiate your “needy” Self from others? If so then you are missing the whole point.. of progress!

Re-think again, about what Trans-humanism philosophy entails, it is no more exclusively Atheist than it is red-neck American

Do you want more people in the debate? Do you want more readers? Do you “really” want to disseminate and encourage wider and wider audiences, contemplation, and acceptance?

.. Or do you just want to rant on and on about this “them” and “us” divide that helps to support your own hubris and Self-esteem?





High levels on religious grounds, discussing about beliefs…which is a word about uncertainty… You are thinking in THE duality, but future is just the 3rd you miss…
Have you noted how you feel more “i don’t know but things must be like past thoughts:
It or it is not !” !!
But your challenge is to think about it may be, and position as agnostics.
The reality is not that some believe in some god or heroes but in what culture they live ?

Far majority is just reproducing the context by simple and adapted attitude to be in a “I’m ok here, that’s the way"and never find any tool to pull out of the real absurdity they watch in their system coz that is just a rejected normal position: thinking is not acting but preparing to act…
To read about religion and confusion,...is not giving good focus.

As communism is theoretical about sharing, and had been applied not by beliefs but by force by brutal men as enrolling in army !

If only beliefs were the applied instruments ! No more, only a bureaucratic hierarchy…


The 3rd attitude is to welcome the diversity and finding the great tools and small reasons to make self reflexions and reasonings about where and what you are in the context compared to your beliefs about others contexts: finding an evolutive position to talk  neutrally to them and understanding together.
It reminds me about choosing the circumstancial politics, saying “but your choice is to think about the best for your family ? no ?”
And to direct answer “no, but to find the best politics for all around me, yes !”.

Future is in marginalities and emerging parallels, not in “what is the truth of dominating contexts now ?”..
Just give your beliefs of knowledge arguing about surviving people everywhere to find anddiffuse the best tools…

Cheers





@CygnusX1
To whom was your comment addressed?





Addressed to anyone and all that seek to divide between “them” and “us” and be divisive





So that would include you then?





NO… as far as I am concerned there is no “them” and “us” which is the whole point of my comment..

If you have something constructive to add, then please do.. as indeed you seem to do above.. so why then fall into line with this attitude of fashionable hubris?





@CygnusX1
“so why then fall into line with this attitude of fashionable hubris?”

Yes, that’s a fair question, and deserves a careful reply.

We’ve discussed several times before our different sensibilities on these issues. Where you seem to emphasise mindfulness and values such as peace, humility, respect, and so on, I have a lot more sympathy for worldly ambition and “getting things done”. It’s not that I disvalue those other qualities, but I see these as a means to the end of increasing overall well-being, and frankly, my own more selfish personal goals. So where you see “fashionable hubris”, I am more inclined to see a desire to bring about practical change, rooted in a largely correct understanding of how the world actually works now.

So while on the whole I support George’s exhortion to fellow atheists to move past religion-bashing and start building positive futures, I also reject the fluff and fudge that comes with trying to be all things to all men and refraining from stating a clear position, which inevitably involves dividing the world into “us” - those that share our views - and “them” - those who oppose them or are sceptical.

So yes, I align myself with those who are willing to form in-groups based on clearly-stated values and positions. Dismissing such initiatives as “pathetic and egocentric and lame” is both arrogant and naïve.

The reality is that we have many possible futures ahead of us, and which ones will come to pass will depend on choices we make in the here and now. I have views about which of those futures I would like to come to pass, and I’m prepared to break a few eggs to make that happen. You don’t have to like me for it, but you might as well get used to it. Continually criticising any discourse that offends your preference for living in world where we are all nice to each other is itself a way of dividing the world into “us” - those who value humility and harmony above all else - and “them” - the fashionably hubristic - and, more importantly, is a way of denying reality.

You can’t bring about peace by refusing to fight. It’s been tried time and time again. It doesn’t work.





jwphil atheism is NOT a religion and does not require faith. People who say that merely cannot conceive of the possibility of living without some god in their life. why don’t you try learning what the atheist position really is instead of making up your own definition?

@Pastor_Alex religion gives a false meaning to people’s existence. This is harmful in many ways, just look at all the injustices initiated and supported by believers thinking their religion trumps freedom and the law.

People only think they need another story to fill the void if you convince them to drop the one they have. The truth and reality of existence is sufficient, and is full of wonder. The challenge for atheists is to convince people that they don’t need any story or “personal relationship” to have that meaning.

I fail to see how the fact that you don’t tell people what to believe is meaningful in any way, since the bible does that.  People do indeed need to live authentically, but not believing in thing s that do not exist, that cause serious lapses in judgement.

As idealistically wonderful as it may seem to think it would be just fine to live and let live, the problem is that religion is trampling our rights and persecuting us. THEY are not just living and let live, and by all indications have no intention to leave us alone and let us think what we want. Also, religion is extremely harmful in many ways, even the most benevolent. Asian cultures seem to have the least problem with separating religion from reality and not forcing their beliefs on others, but it can still erect standards of behavior that are not reasonable and incur penalties if you do not comply. So, NO, I strongly disagree that we should stop challenging and calling out religion at every opportunity. Everyone doesn’t have to, but I think it is necessary and serves a very important purpose.





@Peter re “I have views about which of those futures I would like to come to pass, and I’m prepared to break a few eggs to make that happen. You don’t have to like me for it, but you might as well get used to it.”

Same here! wink Let’s draw the line before nukes though.





@nude000y re “As idealistically wonderful as it may seem to think it would be just fine to live and let live, the problem is that religion is trampling our rights and persecuting us. THEY are not just living and let live, and by all indications have no intention to leave us alone and let us think what we want.”

You sure? What I see here and now, in _this_ discussion, is a healthy live-and-let-live attitude from those who support religion, and normative bigotry from the others. Here and now, we are saying that others should think what _they_ want, and you are saying that others should think what _you_ want. Please correct me if I am mistaken.





I like nude0007’s comments, and I like the “naked spy” name.

Giulio - I am incredulous that you think religionists have a live-and-let-live attitude. You are from Italy, where the Catholic lobby has successfully squished movements for gay marriage. That full-of-hubris Pope travels around the world with his anti-gay rhetoric - he exemplifies the “bigotry” that you decry -

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iATdXeENApfTcKeHD1XToIaKEvAg?docId=CNG.ed3fc3e016a720a3286d8f3516f0c011.501

Abortion is also illegal in Italy. Italians are subjected to intense repressiveness from Vatican City, to the extent that they do not enjoy the progressive reforms that other European nations enjoy.

I’m just talking about Catholics here, who are mild compared to Islamists. In Indonesia, the Muslims in government just banned Lady Gaga from performing there. South Korean Christians also protested against her. (because she’s pro-gay and pro-sex, etc.)

I agree with nude0007, and what InTommorrow has been saying. Advocating religion’s right-to-exist just enables creeds to happily continue their repression of children, women, gays, non-believers, and anyone else that can muck with.

InTommorrow is right when he notes that smiling and being polite and respectful to fervent religionists is interpreted by them as weakness, passivity, uncertainty, lack of conviction. It is a useless strategy, IMO. Quite honestly, acting that way is often interpreted by religionist as a sign that you could be converted! I say this from personal experience.  Aggressive atheism - including ridicule - is the only strategy that can work, and it is working. Comics are big help - Ricky Gervais, Bill Maher, and Jim Jeffries are examples.





Once again, what right has the Atheist to claim exclusivity over Trans-humanism goals, ideals and philosophy? What hope of convincing minds by way of “aggression and ridicule”?

Yet what really turns my stomach is the posturing of those that claim to align themselves to Atheism yet still go to church?

@ Hank.. Are there many smart Israeli practicing Jews who align themselves with Trans-humanism?





i think jwphil is getting at something important here:

Mr. Dvorsky, while looking to sanitize the movement he is part of, still treats religion, and ultimately all religion including moderate religion, as an enemy or a disease to destroy.  The goal shouldn’t be to tear others away from religion and one shouldn’t be merely trying to pull people in abusive religious situations out of it into atheism.  That’s preying on the weak in my opinion and as I said, those individuals are not necessarily better off as atheists than religious moderates.  The goal should be to come up with a compelling alternative worldview and let individuals decide themselves.

i think we’re missing something key. when we criticize religion in any way - even in ways we think are respectful - many believers will feel attacked. take this statement from dvorsky’s above post:

I myself have argued that religious fundamentalism is a kind of disease and that religion works best by dictating the reproductive processes of its hosts. I’d like to see more work done in this area as we work to improve our cultural health.

this kind of hypothesizing about religion is a lot scarier to believers than a silly, photoshopped church sign - it looks like an insidious attack in the guise of an academic discussion; hate disguised as philosophy. the point is, some people will be turned off no matter what we say - indeed, in some cases, the mere act of declaring oneself a non-believer is considered offensive - so to get hung up on what others do or do not share on facebook is massively pointless.

look, i’m tired of the inane and often poorly executed and unfunny antitheist-for-the-sake-of-it garbage, too. but there are a lot of atheists out there who are angry at religion and use facebook and other social media as vehicles to vent that absolutely justifiable anger and feel some solidarity with others who share their frustrations. if you’re sick of looking at it, do what i do. remove the perpetrators from your timeline.

i do think there is a vitally important place for well-executed, incendiary satire pointing out and attacking religion where religion attacks liberty and human dignity. free-thinking people who value our right to live our lives as we see fit should feel no qualms about hitting back when that right comes under attack.

 





Once again, what right has the Atheist to claim exclusivity over Trans-humanism goals, ideals and philosophy? What hope of convincing minds by way of “aggression and ridicule”?

Yet what really turns my stomach is the posturing of those that claim to align themselves to Atheism yet still go to church?

@ Hank.. Are there many smart Israeli practicing Jews who align themselves with Trans-humanism?
But you’re right, these tiresome tirades against religion and theists is continually distracting from more concerning bio-ethical debates?

The strenuous mood here has certainly been invoked/provoked?

#Integrity





Quoting examples of scientists who have acted badly and falsified data does not mean that all scientist are liars. Listing the names of athletes who cheat does not make all athletes cheaters. Yet listing a few actions by a few religious people is enough to paint all religion as evil? It is time to return to rationality and judge each person, each group by the results of their actions, and hold them responsible when those actions are detrimental. To say that all people of any labelled group are deluded/evil/wrong is to fall into the worst kind of logical fallacy.

That is exactly the point of this article as I read it. If religion is irrelevant to the discussion at hand, let’s leave it out.





@ Pastor Alex - It is not accurate to represent the Pope and the Islamist powers of Indonesia as “a few religious people.” They represent power that persuades millions and billions to adhere to their dogma. The Pope is not just an “individual guy.” His decisions, his desire, impacts all who discard their own rationality to follow the irrational beliefs of His Holiness.

You, Alex, are obviously a good person. But you appear to be on the Religious Team, that’s why you are criticized for the actions of your teammates.

I am on the Anti-Religious team. The Militant Atheist Team.

There is a third team here that wants to be recognized, the Team of the Good Religious People, but they seem to be so closely aligned to the Other (Bad) Religious People as to be rather indistinguishable.

There’s also another team, the Anti-Militant-Atheist Team (that George has volunteered for) but the problem with this team is, they want exactly what the Religious Team wants, they want the Militant Atheist Team to shut up.

I’ve crudely broken it down, from my perspective. The Militant Atheist Team is deeply sick of the Bad Religious Team, and they see the Good Religious Team and the Anti-Militant Atheist team, as merely collaborators with the Bad Religious team.

I know Cygnus hates the team talk, so I thank him for his inspiration.

@ Cygnus - would it be better if I represented myself as “Only A Transhumanist” ? You seem to think so, and probably I agree. But I’m not. I’m an Atheist Transhumanist, Alex is a Christian Transhumanist, Lincoln is a Mormon Transhumanist.  Our attitudes on religion impact and perhaps interfere with our Transhumanism, which is vaguely defined anyway, unless we memorize the Transhumanist Declaration/Manifesto - where is that anyway? For a variety of reasons, I - and others - get “strenuous” talking about religion.

I don’t know any, or anything about, practicing Jews in Israel. My own immediate community, the people I know and see regularly in San Francisco, they’re about 90% atheist. I didn’t seek them out, they’re just here, that’s what SF is composed of, it seems. I live in North Beach, aka “Little Italy”, so another 5% of my acquaintances are Catholic. The remaining 5% is Jewish, because… Jews are here too.

I’m telling you this because… I didn’t anticipate my online community at IEET to be… religious…





The problem with your division of teams, Hank, is that there are more teams than in the NFL. Oversimplifying the issue will only add to the confusion not relieve it. Scientists don’t say “Oh well, we have too many species to describe we’ll just call everything with six legs bugs.” If we are going to discuss things rationally then we should at least attempt to get the taxonomy right.

The concept of moving past obsession with religion is not to limit discussion to non-religious topics or to ban religion, but to recognize that not everything is about religion and lets get on with talking about important stuff that has nothing to do with either religion or the hate of religion.

The religious fixation is a vicious circle, someone starts by knocking religion by making broad generalized statements, soon someone feels the need to protest and say there is no logical support for such broad statements and the discussion goes swirly. Let’s just leave the prejudice out of the discussion. Surprisingly, one’s religion or lack of it has very little to do with much of the discussion that could be happening here.





Alex - I totally agree. Let’s talk about something else. Three articles on sex issues are going up tomorrow—enjoy!





@ Hank..

Well at least you have acknowledged that Trans-humanism is not exclusively Atheist, need not be, and perhaps extend to contemplating the benefits of such?

It’s a shame you have to further divide and segregate instead of aspire to unity, but hey, whatever?

Now please note, I have no problems with your stated “political” opinion regarding religion as openly expressed and clearly stated - I think you are too strongly militant, but I appreciate “your” integrity none-the-less.

I think you are totally wrong in conflating your teams and taking sides, and do not believe this is constructive.

You may see, if you so wish, that there are only individual minds which can be influenced both positively and negatively, and that “glorified” groups are yet further political constructs and obstacles to progress?

For this reason I myself shun “all” labels as irrelevant save one, I am tenaciously Agnostic - thanks for reminding me and affirming my own directive here.

#Integrity





Chief complaint is: the spiritual/religious are more interested in what might be contained in the wallet and pocketbook than what might be contained in the soul and spirit.
It is basically acceptable because such is part of how things change via the market, including the precious marketplace of ideas; religious/spiritual memes are bought, sold and traded, chopped up, put back together, moved around.
But one doesn’t have to like it… it can take the serendipity and joy, etc, out of spirituality; it would be almost comparable to a spouse charging you for sex:
“tonight it will be $100 a throw, $150 for all night.”

However you can think whatever you want, after what happened the last decade IMO one has to be on guard all the time and trust very few—so the positive news is we received a clear wake up call informing us of this. Yet, if you don’t think so or choose to ignore it, it is your funeral.





@Hank

Who told you that abortion is illegal in Italy? That is just false. Abortion is legal in Italy since 1975. Two years after Roe v. Wade.

Now, I am not patriotic at all, but - since I happen to live in Italy I can tell you that your description of the Italian cultural environment is particularly inaccurate. There is really no bigot repression whatsoever - and especially not from the Vatican city. You should come and see yourself. If you drop by Milan, I can offer you a glass of good wine and show you around. Here, life is really not different from any other secular, European society.  I admit that our Italian legislative system is rather inefficient and obsolete. However, for example, here homosexuals enjoy more or less the same rights and respect as in US. Of course rural areas are different. But I suppose that also in certain region of Dixieland two bearded men cannot simply French-kiss in public.





I like Hank’s teams. Alex is dead wrong when he implies that simplifying an issue adds to the confusion (and if we take “oversimplifying” literally he is merely stating a tautology). Since reality is always overwhelmingly complex, you always have to simplify to understand anything. And Hank’s analysis is a useful starting point.

I have some quibbles, of course. To say that the “good religionists” are “so closely aligned with the Other (Bad) Religious People as to be rather indistinguishable” is an exaggeration
And of course there are those of us who are reluctant to join any “team”, who lean towards atheism but are not wholly convinced by it, who find that disrespectful discuss should, in general be avoided but agree that a certain amount of satire and ridicule has its legitimate place. Now which team does that put me on? The Flip-Flopping Team perhaps?

But actually I do try to be consistent, as far as one can be if one is also willing to learn and allow one’s thinking to evolve, and from this hopefully nuanced-but-consistent position I do agree that the Good Religionists, and Alex in particular, are quick to defend religion and make rather silly claims about what its “true purpose” is (its purpose is whatever you make it, Alex), in a way that indeed gives the impression (and not only the impression IMO) that they are playing for a team and therefore biased. Lincoln tends to be less defensive.

By the way I want to respond to the following from carr2d2’s point about hypothesising about religion looking like an insidious attack in the guise of academic discussion. Yes, it can, and sometimes is. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. While direct religion-bashing gains is perhaps more honest and has greater gut impact, the insidious philosophising can shed more light and pinpoint the REAL reasons why religion is a problem. It is a fact that religious ideas are memes, and they do a lot of harm. So let’s say so, and let’s be clear about the nature of that harm. The point is not that such discourse is less off-putting, rather that it is more enlightening.

I don’t mind philosophical theism. I don’t mind unfalsifiable beliefs as long as they are recognised as such and held tentatively. By definition they will never be proved wrong, but one might later come to find them less useful, and feel more comfortable with those holding a different view. Philosophical theism, like atheism does not require teams: fighting for them is as ridiculous as fighting over whether we should prefer vanilla or chocolate ice cream. And I don’t mind religion, of by religion we mean some kind of ritual or set of practices that gives meaning to your life, perhaps inspired by ancient stories,  and which you don’t try to impose on others or claim to have some objective worth independent of your own prejudice.

But the two should not be mixed, and just as Lincoln has yet to emancipate himself from his Mormonism, Alex has yet to refrain from jumping in any time anyone attacks religion to defend it in some way, or from trying to find less and less convincing ways to claim an objectivity of worth (such as the benefit of telling people stories they know aren’t true about being loved by an imaginary deity) that far exceeds what can reasonably be justified. That is what I mean by agreeing with Hank that he plays for the Religion Team. Alex, just because “someone” is always going to feel the need to protest when someone else starts “knocking religion” (the poor, fragile thing) doesn’t mean that “someone” always has to be you.





Actually Peter, I usually jump in when people make ridiculous logical or scientific statements and argue the nature of the statements. You, and others just prefer to label that as defending religion. If similar statements were made about any other group all kinds of people would be jumping all over them. Just try substituting black or African or woman where ever you read religious and you wiil see what I mean.

I have rarely met any group so obsessed with religion as militant atheists and I have seen members of that group use all the usual propaganda tricks to paint religion in as bad a light as possible. These tricks include but are not limited to:

generalities - religious people have done bad things in the past so all religions are bad now

logical fallacies - I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in the tooth fairy, therefore anyone who believes in God must also believe in the tooth fairy

bad science - some studies come up with a result that religious people’s brains are different than others, therefore religious people are inferior

old fashioned prejudice - religious people are ruining the world, no religious person can be rational, smart or right

false dichotomies - you can’t be religious and a scientist, or humanist or transhumanist etc.

replacing facts with anecdotal opinions - my Uncle George’s pastor was a money grubbing pedophile, so all pastors are money grubbing pedophiles.

To be honest it isn’t the religion vs atheist debate that is dragging down the discussion on the site, but the abysmally bad standard of argument that is accepted as soon as the word religion appears. Some people are atheists, some are religious, let’s just get past that and talk about sex, or neurostimulation, or cybernetics, anything but the everlasting name calling that the religious/anti-religious debates descend to.





I like Italians a great deal, and if someone gives the Godfather a hard time, he sends Luca Brasi out smile
Frankly, the more someone such as Alex defends religion, the more I dislike religion- not that there’s anything wrong with Alex.. rather tjhere is something wrong wirth religion: it is excessively commodified.
Anyone who knows anything about economics and that which is ancillary knows a certain amount of commercialisation is necessary, even desirable; things have to change, you can’t live in a Medieval monastery , ashram, etc. But in America commercialisation of religion is counterproductive, and can only be justified (or rationalised) by the covert intention being to undermine spirituality in pursuit of greater modernity—after all, there are hidden purposes involved in virtually everything, and Americans in many ways (as Tvi’s piece illustrates) are a forward looking people. Yet you don’t just eat up whatever ‘spiritual’ gunk some sel-appointed priest dishes out to you; you have discernment both intellectual and spiritual (whatever ‘spiritual’ is). Best spiritual adice I ever read was in ‘The Teachings Of Don Juan, A Yaqui Way Of Knowledge’; very prosaically to the point:
“a man must be deliberate in all things.”





Giulio—

You’re right about the Italian abortion laws!  My apologies! Although the Church would love to rescind that, and they excommunicate any woman who gets an abortion, and any physician who performs one.

But I’m right about the anti-gay laws and the influence of the Church.

Below I’ve posted Italy’s Abortion Law, and a url to gay activism that I’ve titled, “Italian Parliament Under the Vatican’s thumb”

Abortion in Italy
Availability: On request
Gestational limit: 12 weeks
Conditions: A one-week reflection period is imposed unless the situation is one of urgency. A certificate confirming the pregnancy and the request for termination must be issued by a doctor and signed by the woman and the doctor.
Parental authorisation is required if the woman is under 18. After 12 weeks, abortion is allowed only if the foetus has a genetic deficiency or to preserve the physical and mental health of the mother. An abortion must be performed in a public hospital or authorised private facility - if there are staff willing to perform the procedure.
The influence of the Roman Catholic Church - and the threat of excommunication for anyone performing an abortion and any woman obtaining an abortion - means the majority of physicians and other healthcare professionals invoke a conscience clause allowing them to be exempted on moral or religious grounds.


“Parliament Under The Vatican’s Thumb”

http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2011/07/italy-rejects-lgbt-rights.html





Apology for the typos, tried to write at 50 words a minute.

BTW, everything Alex and any other reasonabe religious person says would be acceptable (not merely tolerable) if they would admit religion is necessary fiction.
Naturally, they cannot admit so in public, but if any of them hides behind spiritual gobbledygook—thus becoming anti-spiritual—we go nowhere fast. Alex undoubtedly helps his congregation and many others, plus his resume is impeccable (we know because he practically posted it here). Yet we, if one may write ‘we’, at a technoprogressive site are going to be skeptical of an Alex’s intentions in addition to what he writes. For all we know, his faith may be his career and vice versa; if this was a religious site then no problem, Alex would be a standout, a gem. But it goes without saying, without even thinking, that technoprogressivism and religiosity are not synonymous. Alex is not fair game, however pastor Alex is; he put on the armor of God so now he has to take the heat.





Are you Flip-flopping? Only you can wrestle with that one?

Actually, Flip-flopping is acceptible, it’s the two faced hypocrite that stirs the stomach bile.

Q: Why are you so intent on convincing Lincoln away from his faith? This may not be palatable to you, but perhaps Lincoln is happy with his own spiritual philosophy?

Hank has stirred up this article quite nicely, certainly worth unravelling this malignant malcontent? Or are we merely feeding the troll?





So what you are saying Intomorrow is that if we are talking about religion that all the rules about scientific process or critical thought go out the window and whatever bigoted drivel one wants to post is acceptable?

As I commented in Hank’s violent god article, I like a GOOD argument. Bad arguments disguised as reasoned debate are still bad arguments. I suppose if I start suggesting that you are necessarily inept because you are American that you won’t complain.

All I am asking is that we bring the same critical faculties to discussion of religion as we do to other issues.





Speaking for myself, Alex is the one to worry about, not Lincoln. Mormons are not control freaks to outsiders- and their family concerns are not something one wants to meddle in without a law degree.
Not that Alex is necessarily a control freak, but priesthood isn’t merely a calling, it is a burden; the Bible unambiguously says one will at times be persecuted for one’s faith, therefore if one can’t take the heat in the kitchen one’d better head for the dining room entrance.
Alex obviously has the talent for any number of career options- perhaps the priesthood is something to be left behind? none of my business save for the last decade was such a wash the lesson IMO is we must be on guard 24/ 7.
Let no man deceive you, sayeth the Bible.

What I want is an admission religion is necessary fiction, that the majority of individuals and—especially—families, still need the comfort religion provides. Alex made one good point: going to a priest for succor is preferable (IMO of course) than going to an expensive psychiatrist for many years… wish Alex would stick to such insights.





“So what you are saying Intomorrow is that if we are talking about religion that all the rules about scientific process or critical thought go out the window and whatever bigoted drivel one wants to post is acceptable?”


We posted around the same time, Alex, which is why the following is the belated answer to your question: yes; in matters of faith it is asking too much for any of the sort of rational/empirical standards Stefan wants. Besides, this is not a Religious Studies site. Will write it again.. I appreciate religion as escape and anodyne- yet do not trust the religious themselves—why ought they be trusted any more than they trust us? none of us are mindreaders or clairvoyants. In God we trust, all others pay cash.
Incidentally, CygnusX1 isn’t required to apply rational/empirical standards in his public utterances on Jews; this sort of thing is considered fair, as we are merely ‘sharing’ our opinions.





“Why ought they be trusted anymore than they trust us”

Again with the “us” and “them” bullshit - who the fuck are you speaking for here?

Don’t understand your comment regarding “wot I said”, most likely cos’ you didn’t understand my comment.. Let me clarify for you - my intimation to Hank was that practicing Jewish Trans-humanists do exist, perhaps even in Israel?

It puzzles me why someone who adds little to any techno-progressive argument, but rather spends his time in spiteful vindiction against Christianity? Or is it Christians? Or just pastors in general, or just Canadians, (any non Americans), or simply guys named Alex deemed dangerous - would want to blog here?





Hello folks, calm down. This is getting too vitriolic and personal.

I’m referring to Cygnus’s comment above - there’s no need for the cuss-words “f**” and “bulls**” and your attack on InTommorrow was too personal - he is very much welcome here. 

If anyone insists on swearing and personal attacks, they lose their privilege of automatic posting, they have to be monitored.

Cygnus, I’d like to see an apology. And no repeats.

Everything else seems fair to me, on the razor’s edge, but still in bounds.

But - keep the swear words out. And personal attacks, too.

I don’t want to close the thread because it is so much fun.

The process is like this,

1. if your comments are within bounds, you post automatically.
2. if they’re not, you have to wait for your comments to be  
  “moderated” and possibly censored.
3. If I have to censor you too frequently, as the moderator, then  
    you’re gone.

I don’t know how to enact any of the steps above, I just refer the problem to more technical people.

okay, continue. Play hard, but play clean.

 





@Giulio Prisco OF course they say “live and let live” HERE. but try to have a choice about abortion, or simple rights when you are gay, or equal rights if you are a woman, and far more. you quickly find out that their “live and let live” is live like we say, and we’ll let you live. Religion is harmful, has no foundation in reality, and so the absence of religion is the only justifiable position. Not my fault if I chose correctly, and want others to do the same.

@Pastor Alex Religion is not necessary. That is an assumption by the religious because they are religious and have denied themselves the ability to conceive of anything different..
As for your fallacious fallacies:
religious people have done bad things because their religion tells them it is okay, and no rational being would do those things and call them good, and they still do them today. If it had stopped, why would we complain?
There is equally no evidence for gods or tooth faeries, not that one must believe in both, but the same reason you don’t believe in faeries should tell you there is no god (likely)
Religious people are ruining the world. no one said they were inferior, just wrong.
you can’t be a scientist and believe in a god, IF you let your belief take precedence over evidence and reality, which most do. No fallacy there.
The catholic church condones pedophiles by denying preists the right to marry and have normal, sane sexual relations, then covering up and failing to remove or censure preists who are pedophiles.

etc. etc.. This is a bunch of good examples of the irrational twisting of what we say to try and make it sound like we are the irrational ones. It never works, but they never see it because they refuse to.

@Intomorrow Why should any church or even government have a say in what a woman does with her body? Just stay out of it and leave the choice to the individual.





Do you mean to write we are all One, One in Christ or something?
As for Alex, it isn’t a dislike for him, it is a mistrust. I like 80- 90 percent of priests, but they all without exception harbor ulterior motives and since they claim to speak with some authority for their faith or at least for their own house of worship, I do not and will not trust them.
I comment at IEET because Pete advised me to remain; I want nothing to do with your sort; am pleased you are six thousand miles away—farther the better. Let’s keep a healthy distance—we, IMO, are not all One.





...Hank, the last was directed at you-know-who, not yourself.
It isn’t off-topic, or not esp. so. We can reach a modus vivendi with the religious, but trust is extremely hard to come by.





I would like to see your study on the ulterior motive of priests/ministers/pastors/rabbis/shamans etc. What I hear is your personal dislike of people in religious leadership positions. That is fine, call it what it is, a personal bias. It is not science and it is not rational, at least not rational in the sense of being supported by peer reviewed journals. It doesn’t bother me because I just filter out the static.

No we are not all one, and thank the Great Spaghetti Monster that we are not. It would be a boring world if we were. The unity you speak of is not of agreement but of ownership and I won’t go into that unless we get into a discussion in which it is relevant.





“What I hear is your personal dislike of people in religious leadership positions.”

No, most religious leaders are likeable; yet I do not trust them because everyone has a combination of good and bad intentions save for Christ Himself, who was blameless—and I accept how Jesus was perfect because why visit a church or talk to the religious if it is all 100 percent mythology? better places to visit for a stone-cold atheist.
To discuss spirituality/religion one has to to some degree suspend one’s disbelief in service of deeply exploring metaphysics, otherwise one is similar to Data in Star Trek, trying to understand artistic matters scientifically.





You sound like my redneck friend who says some of his best friends are black, then proceeds to tell a series of racist jokes. It really isn’t about whether you like or dislike, trust or distrust, it is that you make assumptions and claim factual status for what are really your own prejudices.

There is no need to check your brain at the door when it comes to religion, not unless you particularly desire to. I don’t. I think critically about what I believe and how that belief should dictate how I live. It isn’t science, I don’t claim that it is, but neither is it fluff and fairy tales. What other people claim or don’t claim is their problem not mine.





“Fun” is one word for it smile

I’m glad Hank is thinking strategically about his moderating policy. I’m glad Intomorrow followed my advice (plea might be more accurate) to keep commenting here. I’m glad Alex is hanging on in there as well. I wish CygnusX1 wouldn’t get on his high horse quite so often.

Forgive me for time-warping back to Alex’s immediate reply to me and largely ignoring the ensuing the discussion, but this is a dialogue I want to have with Alex because I think it’s important. And specifically I want to respond to his first paragraph: “Actually Peter, I usually jump in when people make ridiculous logical or scientific statements and argue the nature of the statements. You, and others just prefer to label that as defending religion. If similar statements were made about any other group all kinds of people would be jumping all over them. Just try substituting black or African or woman where ever you read religious and you wiil see what I mean.”

First of all, while I agree that the subject of religion arouses strong emotions and therefore the standard of debate tends to slide, this is hardly unique to religion. We get pretty emotional on other issues as well, such as bureaucrats and bankers. I don’t see you jumping in in the same way with an eagle eye for irrationality and bad argument on other subjects.

Secondly, while some of the anti-religious statements that crop up here can reasonably be described as “ridiculous”, that is a long way from being the only circumstance in which you “jump in”. For example, you may find things to disagree with in George’s article, but where exactly is the “ridiculous scientific or logical statement”? Show me, please. I don’t see one. Yet you were one of the first to comment, and with a statement extolling the (positive) “power of religion”. Yes, I call that defending religion, and I politely took issue with two of the arguments you used to do so. And this has happened time and time again: as soon as anything is written that casts religion in a negative light, you jump in with a defence. When the attacks contain ridiculous or sloppy statements that makes life easier for you, but that isn’t your main motivation.

Let’s take ourselves back to George’s article for a moment. What was the point he was really trying to make? That secular humanists should let go of their religion-bashing urge and focus on building positive futures instead. Nothing to get defensive about there. The problem, of course, was that in making that argument he also made clear where his own beliefs and sympathies lay, and also gave personal testimony (as I have done) about the damage religion has played in his own life. Even the Jesus of the gospels recognised this: “I came not to bring peace but a sword”. And how true that is. And very painful, Alex, for those of us who have experienced this within our own families.

So George was casting religion in a negative light, however subtly, both by characterising it as delusional and by pointing out the harm that it can do. This is why Alex jumped in. Was there a ridiculous scientific or logical statement there? No there wasn’t. Was Alex completely wrong to want to present the other side of the argument and defend religion? Of course not. There is good to be said about religion as well as bad, something that I think Hank and others should reflect on further. But for Alex to characterise his motivation on terms of demolishing sloppy reasoning stretches our credulity. Alex, you are playing for Team Religion. I don’t even mind, I just wish you were more aware of it.





@Peter re “Let’s take ourselves back to George’s article for a moment. What was the point he was really trying to make? That secular humanists should let go of their religion-bashing urge and focus on building positive futures instead.”

This is George’s main point indeed, and I totally agree with it.

I take issue with his side point “we need to figure out the best way to pull religious people out of their situation.”

Because I consider the right to think with one’s own head as a non-negotiable right (it is one of the very few things that I really hold as non-negotiable).

This sounds to me very much like the “forced healing” imposed by totalitarian regimes on dissenters. Of course George doesn’t mean that, but in a Facebook debate a few months ago, a “militant atheist” fascist proposed “forced therapy” for believers. This is the slippery slope I keep referring to.





@Peter re “The problem, of course, was that in making that argument he also made clear where his own beliefs and sympathies lay, and also gave personal testimony (as I have done) about the damage religion has played in his own life.”

Yes, I am acutely aware of the damage religion can do to weaker persons, such as children. Yet the damages does not come from the beliefs themselves (which on the contrary can contribute to personal happiness), but from the coercive power structures that have been built around them.

And this is not unique to religion, the same damage can be done, for example, by political indoctrination at an early age. Here also, there is nothing necessarily wrong with the political beliefs themselves, but there is a lot wrong with the psychological methods used to keep people in.





@Peter re “But for Alex to characterise his motivation on terms of demolishing sloppy reasoning stretches our credulity. Alex, you are playing for Team Religion.

You said that you don’t mind breaking a few eggs to promote your positions, and others do the same. Alex is calling sloppy reasoning sloppy reasoning, and of course he does that to promote his positions. Perhaps others should be more careful and avoid evidently stupid arguments. I do the same, and you do the same. They call it “play to win”.





@ Intomorrow .. Apologies if I hurt your feelings, however you seemed continually bent on hurting others here, so I say fair game!

“I comment at IEET because Pete advised me to remain; I want nothing to do with your sort; am pleased you are six thousand miles away—farther the better. Let’s keep a healthy distance—we, IMO, are not all One.”

PETER!!!

Indeed, same sentiment here, you are not my brother in any fashion, shape or form.


““Fun” is one word for it” .. !!!

“I wish CygnusX1 wouldn’t get on his high horse quite so often.”

I can’t help it Peter, it is the stomach wrenching hypocrisy that is unpalatable *Burp*


@ Hank OK.. points duly noted, however, remember you lit this fire and then walked away? I do not normally curse and swear here anyhow, but if you are going to be hard line about this, then “what’s good for the goose” etc? And why ‘O’ why are you Americans so sensitive to the word “Bullshit” - it is a common reference most everywhere across the world?

#Integrity





@Giulio

I disagree that the damage does not come from the beliefs themselves. Delusional beliefs tend to be damaging. The personal happiness they bring is a relatively superficial one, and does more harm than good in the long run.

Power structures, like delusional beliefs, are naturally occurring emerging phenomena that occur when humans live together in large numbers. Just as we should try to make our beliefs less delusional, we should try to make our power structures more democratic and egalitarian, while supporting and rewarding individual endeavour and innovation.

Religion has played a crucial role in underpinning power structures, for both good and evil. The Roman Catholic church is probably the most salient example of this in human history. It continues to wield immense power. It is supported, nurtured, and fed, principally by delusional beliefs. Without those delusional beliefs it would lose much if not all of its power. Every time someone repeats, however tentatively and disbelievingly, the story that they or others are loved by an imaginary deity, they are promoting a meme as surely as allowing the dandelions to seed in my garden is promoting propagating the dandelion gene. And it is precisely this meme that keeps people running to their priest for guidance and thus feeding the beast. In some ways the gay-haters and other overt bigots are doing a service in freeing people from these memes, by showing clearly where they can lead. Alex is working, however unwittingly and unintentionally, to keep them oppressed.

You have your slippery slopes. I have mine.





@Peter re “I disagree that the damage does not come from the beliefs themselves. Delusional beliefs tend to be damaging. The personal happiness they bring is a relatively superficial one, and does more harm than good in the long run.”

I respect your opinion, and your right to express it, but please let me be the judge of what is good or bad for me. I affirm everyone’s right to make this choice for themselves, and of course their choice can be different from mine, but my own choice is mine to make.





@nude007 re “of course they say “live and let live” HERE. but try to have a choice about abortion, or simple rights when you are gay, or equal rights if you are a woman, and far more. you quickly find out that their “live and let live” is live like we say, and we’ll let you live.”

I am talking of here. What I said is: “What I see here and now, in _this_ discussion, is a healthy live-and-let-live attitude from those who support religion, and normative bigotry from the others. Here and now, we are saying that others should think what _they_ want, and you are saying that others should think what _you_ want.”

This is a fact, that everyone can verify by reading the comments above.

Of course the IEET is not the world, and yes there are many believers out there who do not share our live-and-let-live attitude. But this discussion shows that many believers do, which voids your premise.

Re “Religion is harmful, has no foundation in reality, and so the absence of religion is the only justifiable position.”

Here it is, you are Right, and those who disagree with you are wrong. Note that you are assuming the conclusion that you want others to agree with, which is not an argument.





@Peter re “Every time someone repeats, however tentatively and disbelievingly, the story that they or others are loved by an imaginary deity, they are promoting a meme as surely as allowing the dandelions to seed in my garden is promoting propagating the dandelion gene. And it is precisely this meme that keeps people running to their priest for guidance and thus feeding the beast. In some ways the gay-haters and other overt bigots are doing a service in freeing people from these memes, by showing clearly where they can lead. Alex is working, however unwittingly and unintentionally, to keep them oppressed.”

Or (filling the structure of your argument with different words), every time someone says that workers should have rights, they are justifying the Soviet gulags. Come on Peter, you can do better than that wink





@Giulio

We can all be the judge of what is good or bad for anyone, including ourselves. The fact that I express my opinion in no way prevents you from forming your own judgement, and of course you will decide what you do with that information. No-one else can. And therefore no need to affirm it.

Re dandelions, well I said I was slippery-sloping smile But there’s a serious point here. “Workers should have rights” is not a delusional belief, it’s a political opinion, which is fairly self-evidently helpful in the context of creating a better and fairer world. It is true that the gulags were in some respects a tragic consequence of Marxist thought, but the idea that workers should have rights is now totally mainstream, it’s even in the UN Declaration, one can quibble about the nature and extent of those rights, but you will be hard-pressed to find people who disagree.

By contrast, when you encourage people to draw comfort from stories about being loved by an imaginary deity, you are encouraging people to believe in precisely the kind of fictions that feed religious power structures, and also non-religious power structures (such as News Corp) that feed off such nonsense. And if you simultaneously tell them, as Alex claims to, that those stories are not actually true, then you are probably confusing the hell out of them. Like I say, there are far better ways to help people in distress.

@CygnusX1
Yes, I want Intomorrow to keep posting here at IEET. He makes a valuable contribution.





Want Alex to know nothing against Christianity specifically and religion in general—but this is because I’m backward-looking, though not ‘conservative’; if I wasn’t backward-looking, religion would not be important.
A conservative for instance looks to the past for guidance, whereas I merely miss beings who have died (plus, related to that, the further one moves in time the higher the statistical probability of dying in an accident). Christianity in & of itself presents no difficulty, the Bible as a book does no harm unless someone is hit over the head with a hardcover copy of it; Jesus cannot hurt anyone, he has been dead since circa 27 CE. However though I do not dislike the great majority of Christians, there is no reason to trust them and no reason they should trust others.. that is to say really trust, genuine trust has to be strong and mutual.
This goes for Communism, too, for example. The books Das Kapital and State and Revolution are just words on paper, it is the Communists who couldn’t be trusted.

At any rate, as long as there is no contradiction between transhumanism and religion, then no problem. Apparently Mormons have shown an abiding interest in h+, so perhaps other faiths can be persuaded to see the H+ Light shining in the dark.





“@CygnusX1
Yes, I want Intomorrow to keep posting here at IEET. He makes a valuable contribution.”

Yeah… he just needs to curb his personal prejudices and not continually disguise them under the misdirection of “us”, “we” and in promoting IEET for his own agenda.

 





Pretty happily impressed by the high score of this dual discussion..
No more than finding walls .. but really interesting in facts:
the first one is to see that the block thema is [“religion is obsolete” and people who believe are not trust people] ..
i keep the 3rd point of view accurate for finding neutral territories:
- like laîcism is tolerating religions to the max of its ethical and benefic comportement for people who stick at them ...
- beliefs are profundly inside humans like hopes which are logical tools for humans to expect the future in good mood like a possible time, like enthusiasm is likely to permit innovation against any old heavy beliefs ...
i’m sure tran-humanist are not only unbelievers or atheists, even their deity is no more than “what is outside this expanding universe ?”
All what you may answer can’t have any known scientifical supports for now: also all expectations about “no more god” can’t be resolved.

- one more thing, (as i measure how far i’ve been hidden in a little box), is to look at the past
to watch its histories which are regularly “just” political leaders propagandas .. and how a big belief or say, numerous people believing in the same idea propagated by some of those “leaders” are conducting people individualy to stupid crowd ! .. may be nefast and destructive..
Also we may be really enjoying this era where individualism is emerging as the “colored suns” all around are in each heads thinking enough and having enough tools and notions and reason and intuition to make his own opinion and ways to search realities and not only artefacts like materialism or religious laws ...
Also believing is high expectations but regularly up to date by daily facts, and atheism is thinking about not ignoring any energy as god possibilities .. wink)
That’s why i’m just writing to you, saying you (? ohh some there ...) are good thinkers but terribly “blocked” ones by not updating there modus thinking to actual facts and staying down their big wall, ignoring any other proposition to be sure to answer to the direct skud/textual regular missile of their duality world.
I’m not religious but believe, i’m not atheist but “let-them_believe”, just noting step by step
that—knowledge and reasoning is rising up to ethical and common benefits for grounds—are for me and expanding for all the true actualized supports.
cheers

ps: ok that’s not direct answer to the “lost” article up there, but stopping reflexion to “only one answer to one question” has never been a climbing model to find solutions ... trying to open 3rd X reasoning to your “calculator/cultivated” brains .. slowly joking

citation from Peter W: ...encourage people to draw comfort from stories about being loved by an imaginary deity, you are encouraging people to believe in precisely the kind of fictions that feed religious power structures, and also non-religious power structures (such as News Corp) that feed off such nonsense.
And if you simultaneously tell them, as Alex claims to, that those stories are not actually true, then you are probably confusing the hell out of them.
Like I say, there are far better ways to help people in distress.”
—> i would “loke”  (like-love ? wink to know your ways too wink





Peter, I started with identifying the power of religion, but continued to talk about how humanists need to build their own story to be effective in attracting people who are now attracted to religion.  I define what I mean by story in this specific case since I am using it in a different way than usual and end by stating that religion often fails to challenge people to think critically about the world we live in.

I fail to see how that is defending religion. I actually point out religion’s failures in the context of offering a way for humanists to avoid the failures.

We then go on for several comments about stories and their truth. To be honest, I’m not sure you understood the particular way I am using story in this context but no matter. There is also some blurring of lines around “true” with you referring to factual truth and me allowing for the possibility of a psychological/emotional truth that isn’t dependent on fact.

Hank then comes in with his comment that he is tired of the atheist/religion pissing contests and I agree with him.

After some particularly inflammatory comments I point out the absolute lack of any approaching rational discussion when it comes to religion. There are no studies quoted, no references given, statistics are made up out of thin air. Opinions are stated as fact. All I do is point out that the way the anti-religionists talk about religion would get them tossed off a first year debate team.

Then I again say, lets leave religion alone and talk about the issues at hand.

You state that I keep jumping in to defend religion, but your statement goes back to the sad generalization that militiant non-religionists are more obsessed with religion than religious people. It is like people who are homophobic who talk a lot more about homosexual acts than the gay community do. 





@Peter - “Workers should have rights” is a political opinion, which we share. Today, most people in the civilized world accept it, but it has been considered as a delusional belief by nearly everyone until a couple of centuries ago.

“We are loved by a deity” is a belief that has been held in all human societies, by most people in history, some much smarter than me (e.g. Isaac Newton, and you know that I could add hundreds of names to the list). Of course this does not make it right, whatever “right” means, but it does make it difficult to dismiss as a delusional belief.

This is not the main point that I have been making in this thread. My main point is a very firm opposition to thought policing.

However, back to religious beliefs, I happen to be persuaded that there are ways to make propositions like “we are loved by a deity” completely compatible with science and with our transhumanist convictions, and I choose to hold them as true.

I have written about this elsewhere, and will not write more here because, as I said, my main point is another.

For those interested, I am writing an article titled “YES, I am a believer.” I don’t know if Hank will have the b…ravery to repost it here, but I will post a link.





“Peter, I started with identifying the power of religion, but continued to talk about how humanists need to build their own story to be effective in attracting people who are now attracted to religion.”


Takes two to tango, the religious need to build their own story to be effective in attracting people who are now attracted to humanism.





Interesting how my latest comment has not been posted. I said nothing inflammatory, crude, or rude. All I did was refute what a few others have posted.  I guess only one side of the argument is allowed here. Pardon me, I thought you were interested in a real open discussion. Could you at least email me why my post was censored?





@ Intomorrow, Why? We have a story and I am not interested in making it the only story in the world. What I want to do is help the people who choose to live this story live it with joy and exuberance.





@ nude0007 - I am the Comment Moderator and I haven’t censored any posting on this thread. I don’t know what happened to your post, please try again.

@ Giulio - “bravery” has nothing to do with me posting or not posting an article. I will probably post it; I post almost all your articles. I did send Lincoln and Alex a note about 10 days ago saying I wanted a moratorium on religious articles, but I sent them another note about 3 days ago rescinding the previous statement. I am a bit conflicted about the religious flaming, etc. Today I feel… well… I am glad this topic makes you all happy.  I wish it was another topic or topics but if this is it, that’s alright, for now…

Peter Wicks and I are trying to figure out how IEET can draft proposals for social reform, and send them to influential parties. When we figure it out, we’ll pitch it to James. I’d like IEET to have real direction and power, not just be a site where people go to squabble.





@Hank re moratorium.

Articles about religion have always received a lot of comments here. This is understandable because religion is a topic about which many people have strong feelings, one way or another.

I agree with you that other topics may be more relevant to IEET’s mission. So I would not necessarily be against a moratorium on religious articles, of course provided there is an equivalent moratorium on anti-religious articles.





@Alex

Do you really think I’m a militant anti-religionists? You haven’t been reading my comments very carefully if you do. I do have a sensitivity about religion, for reasons I have explained. So do you. Clearly you don’t like the idea that you are jumping in to defend religion. Ultimately it is your choice what you want to believe. I have my perception, you have yours. I think you tend to jump in to defend religion. But we don’t have to agree about that.

In a way I share Hank’s conflict about these discussions. Sometimes it feels like we’re just scratching an itch, sometimes it feels like we’re doing something important. I guess it’s a bit of both. I would still like you to reduce your tendency to defend religion (by the way why DID you start by “identifying the power of religion?), and I would like Giulio to reduce his tendency to see “thought policing” every time anyone expresses an opinion about how they would like others to behave. And by having these debates in a public forum, we can potentially help to elucidate these issues for others. We have different opinions and perceptions on these matters, obviously, but we are also largely (I hope you agree) staying within the bounds of respectful discourse, and learning from each others. And others can hopefully also learn from the debate.

Earlier in the thread Giulio talked about playing to win. In a sense we are all defending something here: it may be Team Religion, it may be Team Atheism, it may just be our own deeply held beliefs. And it’s helpful. If we keep going, and remain within the bounds of respectful discourse, then there is only one team that will win. The truth.





Possibly we can reach a concordat with the religious on transhumanism- as has apparently been done with Mormons.
We can declare a truce, with IEET being part of the DMZ which is open to inspection by neutral forces.





Here are some reasons why excluding religious people from this website or your movement more generally is unwise:

1)  Some of the best scientists are religious, i.e. Francis Collins

2) Some of the world’s most important and revolutionary leaders have been religious, i.e. Ghandi and MLK

3) From a political standpoint, better not to overtly cast yourselves as the Godless enemy of traditional values (though you may be).  Remember, in the US at least, we live in a democracy, where popular opinion can shut down important research, i.e. stem cells.

4) You should be the standard-bearers of open discussion.  Don’t be so arrogant as to assume there are no intelligent religious thinkers.  That is demonstrably incorrect. 

5) It’s not clear that a group like IEET, examining the ethical issues emerging today, should have a clear-set agenda - though clearly they do.  Perhaps the discussion should be more open and should not automatically exclude thinkers who are out of line with your intended program.





@Peter re “I would like Giulio to reduce his tendency to see “thought policing” every time anyone expresses an opinion about how they would like others to behave.”

Twice wrong:

I am not against normative rules on how others should _behave_. If you tell me the people should not go in the street with a machine gun and shoot others randomly, I certainly don’t disagree. But I am against normative rules on how others should _think_.

I am not against expressing opinions (if anything, in this and other discussions I affirm the right of everyone to expressing their opinions). But I am against enforcing compliance.

You will tell me that you don’t want to enforce compliance, and of course I believe you.

But history shows that normative philosophies become normative policies (read gulags) as soon as their promoters get to power. The philosophers don’t want to oppress others, but the thugs who inevitably end up working for the party in power do.

 





@ jwphil

Well said, especially your last point. And believe it or not these values are exactly what this site does stand for, (or should do)? Yet it appears this tribal posturing has been “festering” for some time now.

I guess it’s only natural that “humans” ascribe to “teams”, even when there are none apparent, (in the same way that Robots huddle together in the dark). And the limitations on thinking and commentators as expressed here is clear enough.

In a way all of the above nonsense has cleared the air somewhat, and helped highlight some deep seated animosity and bias, yet more importantly, has highlighted that IEET is not and will never aspire to be the “Think Tank” it hopes - at least not with this kind of “closed mindedness” towards diverse thinkers?

I have said many times before, but will say it again *yawns* See how many hits/readers(?) there are for every article, yet so few comments? Why?

With the kind of “ethic” towards team in fighting, it’s hardly surprising?





@Giulio

But if your concern is that normative philosophies become normative policies, then in effect you ARE objecting to people expressing opinions on how others should think, which is of course reflected in how they behave.

So for example, take the normative principle: “people should strive to avoid holding delusional beliefs”. This is, at least in some sense, an opinion about how others should think. Now does this mean we should avoid expressing such principles for fear that in some future scenario it will be used to oppress others? It’s an argument, for sure, but I would be reluctant to commit to such self-censorship, because I would fear that the costs would vastly outweigh the advantages. I think it’s quite important for people to strive to avoid delusional beliefs, and also to wean others away from beliefs they consider delusional. This must be done respectfully, but it must be done. If I were to refrain from saying so, I would be missing an opportunity to influence the world in accordance with my values. And if we don’t want to influence the world in accordance with our values, then what ARE we here for?

@jwphil
I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting excluding religious people from the website or movement. In any case IEET does not control the “transhumanist movement”, and nobody has been talking about censoring comments merely because they are made by religious people. Nor is anyone saying there are no intelligent religious thinkers.

Whether IEET chooses to portray itself as explicitly atheistic/anti-religious is another matter. Personally I don’t have strong views, I’m happy to leave that to those in charge. But I tend to agree with you that making this a core focus of IEET’s positioning would be counterproductive, essentially for the reasons cited by George in his article.

Obviously it is up to those who control IEET - the Board I guess - to what extent they want to have a “clear-set agenda”. It is clear from a comment posted recently by James Hughes that this is there intention, and he explicitly stated that he didn’t see IEET mainly as a public forum. I have since expressed the view that it is steering a good middle course between the two and that this should continue, but this doesn’t mean it wouldn’t benefit from greater focus, greater clarity about the agenda it wants to promote, and a reflection about how we might pursue that agenda other than via this website. Personally I think it would.

@CygnusX1
Reading between the lines of your various comments you seem to have two concerns: firstly you find some positions taken here offensive, and secondly you want IEET to attract a wider and more participatory reasership and believe that those same positions are putting them off. I think a greater focus would help with the latter: one reason people don’t comment is that it is not always clear what will change in the world as a result of the discussions we have here. Agreeing on and pursuing a clear policy agenda would change that.

Regarding the former, I think it would help if you found a less moralising way to express your distress. In particular you seem to get quite upset at anything that looks like a personal attack on others (notably Alex), when in reality they are (and this especially applies to Alex, who is no shrinking violet) adults who are perfectly capable of defending themselves, and their religion or (other) beliefs. It is Hank’s job to monitor comments, not yours. If what we write offends you then feel free to say so, but bear in mind that this is primarily your problem rather than anyone else’s.





@Peter re “But if your concern is that normative philosophies become normative policies, then in effect you ARE objecting to people expressing opinions on how others should think, which is of course reflected in how they behave.”

You should be free to have opinions, and express them, about how I should think. I should be free to listen to you, or to ignore you.

You should NOT be free to kill me, send me to jail, send me to forced therapy, or any other coercive use of force, on the basis of what I think or say.

You should be allowed, under extreme circumstances that must be clearly defined by the law of the land, to use force to prevent me from actually harming others.

In other words, sticks and stones may break my bones, but thoughts and words will never hurt me. Please feel free to think or say what you want about me, but don’t use sticks and stones against me unless I use sticks and stones against peaceful others. If you do, I reserve the right to use bigger sticks and heavier stones in return.





@Giulio

Fine for the most part, but with two caveats.

Firstly, you safe conflating what my intentions might be (even though you seem to believe me when I state the obvious fact that I have no intention of using sticks or stones against you, or indeed against anyone except in the extreme circumstances you mention) and what I might unwittingly be inciting others to do. It was the latter concern I was trying to address in my previous comment and which led me briefly to consider refraining in the future from expressing opinions about how others should think. I have explained why I think that wouldbe unwise.

Secondly, and this is related to my first point, I still DISAGREE, very strongly and in capital letters and large font size, with your claim that thoughts and words will never hurt you. The idea that thoughts and words do not hurt us is a dangerous myth…indeed, it is probably rather more pernicious than the equally (or perhaps actually somewhat less, for reasons you have mentioned) delusional belief that we are loved by an imaginary deity. Thoughts and words do hurt us, and others. All the time. So we need to be careful about how we deploy them.





@Peter re “Thoughts and words do hurt us, and others. All the time. So we need to be careful about how we deploy them.”

This is right, but you have to put a line somewhere. I choose to put the line at physical force. Thoughts and words do hurt, but I think mature adults should be able to deal with that (and most children and teens deal with that by just not caring). Sticks and stones hurt much more, believe me.

One caveat: I consider taking food and shelter away from others, which in today’s world means taking money away from others, as physical force. This justifies my sometimes lefty political positions.





@ Yes, IEET is a Think Tank - but Think Tanks are not just “public forums” where everyone’s opinion gets to influence the agenda.

If that were so, we could easily be deluged by right-wingnut Christians, or worse, insisting on a voice in our policy.

IEET’s welcomes people of all belief systems. I fully support that stance - (because) it’s my job.

I’m happy that IEET provides a “public forum” for commenters.  Plus, we survey readers via polls for their positions on issues we care about.

Commenters are very valuable - they indicate that there’s discussion occurring and they can - to a certain degree - attract additional readers.

But… IEET writers don’t write solely because they want their articles liked by our 5-7 regular commenters. They want wide readership, serious influence, a voice in cultural and political direction.

For writers, IEET is a portal into the blogosphere. Good things happen occasionally, like NASA calling George Dvorsky to discuss his Dyson Sphere idea. I’d like to see more of that.

I see IEET as very “open” in it’s discussions - no problems there.

What I think IEET needs is Clarity, Purpose, Focus, Direction. Commenters can help. Any ideas?

Peter Wicks is writing an essay I’m looking forward to - it outlines, I hope, How Think Tanks Can Influence Political Policy.

 

 

 

 

 





One can take religion seriously, but not too seriously otherwise one is akin to a Marxist who might think he can live in a classless world.





@Giulio

Fully agree re food and shelter. Nor do I disagree about sticks and stones hurting more, but “mature adults should be able to deal with that” is not the same as “thoughts and words don’t in practice do a lot of harm”.

When you caution against gulags on this blog, you are generally (no, always) reacting to some thought or other that has been expressed here. So implicitly you are pointing out that such thoughts have a potential to do harm. I agree, they do have that potential. But there are other ways for thoughts to do harm than by encouraging thought police. Failure to express opinions about how others should think can be just as damaging. As in all things, we have to strike a balance.

@Hank
I meant to send you a first draft yesterday but think I forgot to attach it. You should have it now! Let me know if you don’t.





@Peter re “As in all things, we have to strike a balance.”

Here, I can only totally agree. If I frequently insist on certain points, it is precisely because I feel that we risk losing the needed balance.

So when I see too many people pushing one side, I often push the other. In other discussion spaces, I use to say different things, sometimes very different things.





“What I think IEET needs is Clarity, Purpose, Focus, Direction. Commenters can help. Any ideas?”

Would you invite more Asians to write here? living in America it is tiring hearing about George Washington all the time, as if he were Jesus H. Christ Himself. How about a Chinese writer doing a piece about Deng Xiao Peng or someone? or something on life extension in China.
We like to think of ourselves as interested in diversity- but we aren’t all that interested; one example being we largely ignore Leo Igwe’s articles about religious persecution in Africa because we don’t actually care much about Africa and Africans—because, as Asians, they live on different continents and they are considered excessively different from us.





“...because, as Asians, they live on different continents and they are considered excessively different from us.”

Bad syntax, but you might know what it means:
Africans, like Asians, are considered ‘faraway’ and ‘different’. Now, we don’t want to smarm them by saying, “we rearry rove flied lice and egglolls”, but the talk of inclusive internationalism that surely Giulio remembers from the ‘60s turned out to be mostly hype.





@ InTommorrow - okay, Asian and African writers. We have Miriam Leis but I don’t know if she is still with us. Sohail Inayatullah is Pakistiani, but we’ve published most of his material. Ayesha Khanna is also Pakistani. We lost another Middle Eastern writer who quit when I put up the penis extension video. Ramez from Egypt is working on a book. Leo Igwe is Nigerian; I post him all the time. We have Jonathon Dotse from Ghana but he is not that prolific. Honestly, I don’t know if IEET is even available in China. I did read on Google Analytics that we have more readers per capita in Pakistan than any other nation, 2nd is Lebanon. So, this Thursday might be Pakistan Day, with 2 articles referring to it. Generally, though, you’re right, the international articles don’t get that many readers.





Then IEET has done all it can to be global-oriented; it appears mostly residents of bubble communities in N. America and Europe are interested at this time.





@ Guilio Prisco I am saying that religion is WRONG, and that the evidence proves it so.  I am saying that those who cling to religion are WRONG.  It is not about “everyone should accept my opinion” it is everyone should accept the facts. We don’t argue on 2+2=4, do we? Why should we argue on the FACT that religions are myths and are harmful.

“Here it is, you are Right, and those who disagree with you are wrong. Note that you are assuming the conclusion that you want others to agree with, which is not an argument.”

You are right, it is not an argument. It is a statement of fact. Are you telling me no one can be right, especially if they are backed up with facts?

Religion is harmful in many ways. Whatever good it does cannot compensate for the bad it brings with it. If it gets rid of the bad, it loses any reason to exist, so why allow it to continue to drag us down? Let’s get rid of it and work towards a real Utopia. No one should be asked to “live and let live” with people who presecute, kill, and deny rights to us. Why should we? This is just saying “shut up and acept your 5th rate rights or go away and live all alone if you can’t fall in line”.  Why should we just “live and let live” with people who trample our rights and equality, while demanding we live by things their fairy tale book says?





“@ Guilio Prisco I am saying that religion is WRONG, and that the evidence proves it so.  I am saying that those who cling to religion are WRONG.”

Technically you are correct, but technically the nuclear family is also wrong, because families only, deep down, care about their own; they may help others out of a sense of obligation- yet their loyalty is to their families and if it is in their interest to marginalize those outside the family circle, they will do so. What do religious Rightists mean when they say ‘conservative values’ and ‘religious values’?: they are referring to family values.
IMO religion will continue as long as the nuclear family continues.





@nude0007

You seem to be completely disregarding the fact that there are billions of religious people throughout the world who are not remotely interested in trampling anybody’s rights.

In my comments here I have been stressing the extent to which many if not most religious beliefs are more or less delusional, and the harm that such delusional beliefs can do. I have been defending the right of people to point this out and therefore suggest that it would be better if people didn’t hold such beliefs. But to suggest that any kind of tolerance for religion is tolerance for people who “persecute, kill,man’s deny rights to us” is absurd and provides fodder to those who want to portray atheists as insecure bigots.

In an earlier comment Hank introduced the useful idea that we are playing for different teams, and clearly you are playing for Team Atheism/Anti-Religion. I’ve been quite supportive of your team on the whole, but I am not on it. You are stating that “religion is WRONG” as a fact, without even (as far as I recall) having told us what definition of “religion” you are using, which is crucial. You state that religion is “harmful in many ways”, but as far as I can see you have provided even less evidence of this than I have.

If we want to highlight the evils of religion, we should at least state what they are.





Nude is right, we should give him that-
but so what? for now we are stuck with religion as we are stuck with death and taxes. I happen to like religion but then I’m a chump who fell for the future-fluff (remember, there’s future-fluff as there is religious-fluff) in the ‘60s concerning drinking Tang on Mars in the year 2010.
Pete, Nude is no fool, don’t be so hasty in rejecting what he writes merely because he is technically correct smile





I would like to see the scientific basis for Nude’s assertion that religion is WRONG.  Otherwise it is an opinion, strongly held, strongly stated even held by many other people, but still an opinion. I would like to see references to a peer reviewed scientific journal that shows that religion is WRONG.

By the way the nuclear family is probably the least safe relationship we have. Most murders/rapes/abuse happen within the context of that nuclear family and the broader extended family. The flip side of the family thing is the reality as stated above that families do give bias toward their own.





“By the way the nuclear family is probably the least safe relationship we have. Most murders/rapes/abuse happen within the context of that nuclear family and the broader extended family…”


Yes, and we can draw some linkage between murders/rapes/abuses in the family and religion. Henry VIII’s history comes to mind as being famous for the family intrigues involving religion, familial jealousies, dynastic ambitions, and murder (plus torture) inside and outside the families involved. Religion wasn’t the main factor per se, however it was an important factor: for starters Henry VIII sincerely believed God wanted him to divorce and execute (murder) a few wives in strengthening his dynasty and nation.
Just the last two decades we witnessed the Bush dynasty’s potent ambitions, their religious motivations, their two wars in Iraq- and war elsewhere. Family, religion, power, murder, rape and abuse are negatively synergistic.





Well for once I’m with Alex on this one. Intomorrow, where indeed is the peer-reviewed evidence that the naked spy is “technically correct”? I’m not aware of any either. Nor, for that matter, for the (at least more meaningful, and frankly more important) assertion that religion is harmful.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t, of course. You know my views on that. But the truth is we don’t really know unless we can find some way to quantify and measure it, and compile actual evidence that is in accordance with the scientific method. (Peer reviewing has its limitations, by the way, but in the context of this discussion that’s a technicality.)





Re “where indeed is the peer-reviewed evidence that the naked spy is “technically correct”? I’m not aware of any either.”

Neither am I, and I wish to add that the naked spy shows precisely the same self-righteous bigotry and intolerant dogmatism that s/he accuses believers of.

I also wish to say again that, in this discussion, the religion “camp” shows tolerance and the anti-religion camp shows intolerance. Evidence: read all the comments above, and please correct me if I am wrong.





Re “But to suggest that any kind of tolerance for religion is tolerance for people who “persecute, kill,man’s deny rights to us” is absurd and provides fodder to those who want to portray atheists as insecure bigots.”

Thanks for the fodder! wink

But I don’t want to portray all atheists as insecure bigots. Many atheists are great persons and great thinkers. I am just afraid that some “militant atheists” are, indeed, insecure bigots. I would be happy to be proven wrong, but unfortunately much of this discussion above proves me right.





@Giulio
To be honest I don’t really care whether the religion or anti-religion camps are more or less tolerant on this thread. Is it important? One comment I do want to make though: some militant atheists are indeed insecure bigots. Some non-militant atheists are insecure bigots. Some militant religionistas are insecure bigots, some non-militant religionists are, some people who don’t really care one way or another about religion are insecure and bigoted about other things. I don’t know of any particular evidence that there’s a correlation between bigotry and attitude towards religion on particular.

The important point being that you can be militant without being bigoted, although the one can easily be confused with the other.





@Peter - I totally agree with your last comment.

Re tolerance, I think it is important because it helps living together in a society. I try to be tolerant of the ideas and habits of others, even when I don’t like them, and I hope they will be equally tolerant of mine.





I thoroughly disagree with most of the above comments, especially Stefan’s - and I suspect that many of the writers above are too inexperienced to express any informed opinions.

here’s some links:

82% of British say Religion Causes More Harm than Good

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/dec/23/religion.topstories3

————————————-

Psychological damage to children due to religion
1. The belief that we are born with an inherent evilness (original sin).
2. The belief that there is an invisible “voyeur” watching their every action, and that if they don’t believe in the invisible being, they’ll burn in fire forever.
3. “2+2=4” logic, such as the trinity, or assertion of the scripture as “inerrant” despite obvious contradictions and errors, or that “God is everywhere” despite tangible evidence to the contrary, or the classic Epicurean paradox (that God is good despite plague, famine, etc.).
4. The implication by ministers that almost all sex is “dirty”.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080614110533AA0LmXM

————————————-

Evidence Of Harm Caused By Religion

http://www.facebook.com/EvidenceofHarmbyReligion

————————————-

Regarding my first comment, my own background is that I was raised in a strict Catholic household, and everything in the second section, and much more, regarding “psychological damage” was inflicted on me.

Plus I worked for a crises intervention center in my 20’s for a while, talking to various “harmed” individuals, gay youth for example, a demographic that pertains to this thread.

I have, and have seen, personal experiences that validate my ability to answer the question in the affirmative: “Yes, religion causes harm.”

you other commenters, - especially Stefan who says religion causes no harm - what is your background? I find your stance quite offensive.

I don’t tell war victims or victims of child abuse or sexual abuse that they weren’t really harmed. That would be dishonoring their experience. How do you imagine that you are in a position to tell people who were abused by religion, that they actually experienced no harm?

I suspect many militant atheists, like myself, are militant because they are personally angry about harm inflicted upon them by priests, doctrines, nuns, parents, etc. Plus, they have encountered other similarly, grievously harmed people.

It is detached and rude for people who have not had bad religious experiences to scoff and ignore people who have bad religious experiences, telling them.. what? that what they experienced was actually FUN? That religion is actually GOOD, even though it made them feel suicidal?

There are many USA gay high schoolers who are bullied relentlessly and they’re committing suicide - religious leaders enable the situation because they proclaim gays as evil and destined to hell. Suicide is a preferred way out for the teens because they are sick of living in a religious climate that bullies them. Do you want to work for a gay youth hotline and tell those kids they’re not feeling any harm?  that they are, what, imagining their pain?

—-

My stance is, there is good work to be done in society, to make the world a better place. I understand that churches do good work, and I applaud them for it, but… attacking the evil and harm of religion is also very constructive - I choose the latter path, because the first - doing good work with the churches - is closely associated with false doctrines, etc., and the next thing you know, your church is engaged in “InterFaith” dialogue, etc., with other churches that are deeply harmful. yes, I suppose I might be throwing out the baby with the bath water, but the water is seriously polluted.

a final note - I am so weary of ALex and others saying “show me the Peer-Reviewed Evidence.” Asking for this… you are just obfuscating the obvious. Everyone knows millions of people have been burned as witches, slaughtered in Crusades and jihads, stoned to death, abused by priests, annihilated in genocides, etc., Read up on just Nigeria today and you will read about people pounding nails into the heads of “child witches” urged on by Pentecostal preachers, animists killing humans randomly for “magical” body organs, and Muslims and Christian mobs killing each other. If you think religion causes no harm, read everything Leo Igwe has written, and reform your opinion.  Please, no more of this demand for “peer-reviewed Science reports.” I find it distracting to the point of deviousness.

that’s it for me, I spend too much time on this thread.





Blame is a waste of time. It achieves nothing but to increase the amount of toxicity in our lives.  My desire to move past the debate about religion is that religion is a smoke screen. Either we hide behind it and claim the divine right to do as we damn well please, or we use is as a scapegoat and say that the world will be a wonderful place as soon as we get rid of religion. Both positions are untenable.

Forget religion, forget science, what our species needs is a more highly developed sense of responsibility for ourselves and the environment. EVERYTHING must be tested, not by our personal biases, but by the measuring stick of whether we have thought it through, whether it will better the whole community, and whether we are willing to stay around and pick up the pieces if it fails.

Maybe it is time to repost this: http://responsiblist.blogspot.ca/2011/11/code-of-responsibility.html





Here’s an article on a Christian pastor who advocates significant harm, actually, total massacre. He suggests penning in all gays and lesbians inside an electrified fence and having them to starve to death.

http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/05/21/487707/north-carolina-electric-pen/

Alex, Blame is what the judicial system does, to locate and apprehend culprits, and to keep them from preventing further damage to innocent members of society.

Your maxim above “Blame is a waste of time” might be handy for you, but it isn’t accurate.

Articles have been reposted the last two years if they were among the leaders in hits, etc. In 2011 the Top 12 were posted, in 2010 the Top 31 were posted. I might post the Top 70 this year because we’re putting up more articles than before.





Alex, the only way to move past the debate about religion is to refrain from commenting on threads such as this one, which are precisely debates about religion. By commenting here about your desire to move past such debates you are display an inconsistency between your words and your action.

The idea that anyone is trying to hide behind the debate to claim the right to do as we please is a straw man. Nor do I recall anyone saying that getting rid of religion should be sufficient to make the world a wonderful place. You are caricaturing your opponent’s arguments in a clumsy attempt to score points for your team. Hardly “responsible” behaviour.

To a large extent I suffered the same psychological damage as Hank did as a kid. And if the assertion is “religion has done a great deal of harm, and continues to do so”, then indeed we have evidence aplenty. If the assertion is “religion does more harm than good overall” then obviously a poll of my compatriot’s opinions isn’t enough, nor is the ample evidence of the harm it does. We would also need a way to quantify that harm, and weigh it against a comparably quantified assessment of the good that it equally unquestionably does. So in that context I still think your call for peer-reviewed evidence is relevant: I don’t share Hank’s disdain for the idea. But I, along with at least Hank and Intomorrow, am also weary of your relentless ducking and diving in an increasingly vain attempt to deny or downplay the evils of religion. It’s boring, it’s disingenuous, and it’s irritating.

If the above comes across as somewhat aggressive and personal it’s in part because I am astonished - but Intomorrow will tell me I shouldn’t be - that someone whose job it is to profess a gospel of love can post such an unempathetic response to Hank’s largely valid points.

By the way, in response to Giulio’s claim that the atheists here are more bigoted than the religionists: Giulio, haven’t you considered that this might be a biased (as well as tiny) sample? Obviously religionists are going to try to be on their best behaviour on a site like this. Unfortunately Alex doesn’t quite manage it, in my view.





Just because people do it, doesn’t make it right. The judicial system as it stands now is racist, classist and almost completely dysfunctional. There are much better ways of dealing with most ‘crime’ than what we call the justice system.

Stupid is stupid, prejudice and bigotry arises out of cowardice. It is easier to make blanket generalizations that blame others for the problems of the world than it is to accept the possibility that we have the responsibility for making a positive change.\





“Brian: No, no. Please, please please listen. I’ve got one or two things to say.
The Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!
Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong. You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals!
The Crowd: Yes! We’re all individuals!
Brian: You’re all different!
The Crowd: Yes! We’re all different!
Man in crowd: I’m not…
Man in crowd: Shhh!
Brian: You’ve all got to work it out for yourselves.
The Crowd: Yes! We’ve got to work it out for ourselves!”

Tim Minchin - I Love Jesus

Tim shows how easy it is to inspire “group think” and “team” playing..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0xQcEH7Dqo

 





@Alex
I’m really wondering how hard I should try to convince you that the way you engage in debates about religion is irresponsible. On the whole I strongly support Hank’s wish to give IEET more clarity, purpose, focus and direction. You could help with that, but not by using one spurious argument after another to deny or downplay the evils of religion. In the latest example, you have responded to Hank’s perfectly valid point that blame is an essential part of the way society functions with a series of remarks of questionable accuracy or relevance. And as I’ve hinted at on the neuroscience-and-self thread, this is making me wonder what kind of discussions I should be having with you on other subjects. But you are resilient, and I don’t enjoy bashing my head against brick walls.





@ Hank..

“Regarding my first comment, my own background is that I was raised in a strict Catholic household, and everything in the second section, and much more, regarding “psychological damage” was inflicted on me.”


Question: How do you reconcile communication, conversation and your own self-confessed militancy towards believers within your own family? I am guessing you make some exceptions and apply tolerance with the beliefs of others? If so, then what is different here at IEET?

If you are hoping to convince others as to the harmful nature of dogma and religions, then logic dictates you must enter into dialogue and debate?

If you want to encourage secular Humanism over antiquated religious doctrine, then you must encourage the debate, and not shun, exclude, or stifle debate with others here at IEET?

You are encouraging a step backwards from disseminating and promoting understanding of techno-progressive ethical issues by not consulting with any “human being” that chooses a religious belief?

Therefore the debate concerning religions and dogmatic points of argument must continue, to pursue genuine progress?

Religions will not disappear overnight, believers will not suddenly choose to shun their religious faiths without reasoning. The conversation must continue to pursue reasoning, therefore anyone who shows interest in the ethical issues here at IEET should be encouraged and not discouraged or attacked because of their beliefs?

Religions that evolve beyond their bigotry and “closed mindedness” will survive, and may even thrive. For this, communication and tolerance is required?

Thus there will always be religious points of argument entering into all topics here, and religious morality must play a key role in the debate towards real progress and to overcome bias on both sides.

If your aim is to pursue secular Humanism, then dividing the world, (and IEET), in two is not the solution and is a part of the problem.

What we don’t need is the constant attacks and bigotry against theists, this is both tiresome and non-constructive.





Peter what you are suggesting is that I have to hold a different standard of conduct than you because of my position on faith. I suspect if you went back and counted that you have talked about religion more than I have. For me it is a non issue unless someone makes it an issue.

In our North American justice system, because it is not just the US, black and native people are well over represented in prisons. This is not because black and native people are worse people, but because the system is bent to favour white and wealthy. Read Johnson’s “Two Families” for more from the native viewpoint.

Also as I said. Just because that the way it is, doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be. That’s a refusal of our responsibility.





@ Intomorrow I fail to see what the nuclear family model has to do with it. Religion will continue as long as we give it such power by allowing it to continue to brainwash their children and give them special concessions so they do not have to face reality.

@Peter Wicks Sure, there are many religions that don’t directly murder men for thinking rationally and denying their god, but then just cross one of their taboo lines and see what you get. Ostracism at the very least. Certainly not the tolerance advocated here. besides even if they were totally tolerant or even totally happy if you didn’t believe, they still believe and declare that myths are reality, so it encourages denial of reality and prohibits rational thinking.

Religion is the worhip of gods especially without any proof of their existence. How’s that? I didn’t think we really needed to narrow that down. No one has asked me for any evidence on any specific issue or point, but I figured that everything I had stated was so obviously painstakingly researched that I didn’t have to give a lot of details. Every religion has failed to meet even the minimum requirements for evidence of truth. How much total lack of evidence do you need before you conclude it is totally unreasonable to continue acting like there is something backing it up? Besides, no one else has offerred any evidence for their statements, I didn’t think I had to either.

Intomorrow, we are not stuck with religion.  We can put our foot down and say enough! Relegate it to the category of “interesting fictional literature” like it should have been all along (and quite possibly was). Get rid of all the special allowances for it like tax breaks, religious exceptions to the law, no religious schools, and enforce laws that already state no law should be passed for religious reasons, like most all abortion laws (for instance).

@Pastor_Alex like I hav ealready said, you haven’t offered any peer reviewed scientific support for your point of view, yet you demand it of mine. For 2000 years no one has been able to offer any such evidence of the validity of religion, but the harm is well documented. Perhaps not by a peer reviewed paper, but certainly in the annals of history. Heck, right now in many states, an atheist is forbidden to even run for office. Tell me that’s not from a religious source.

Asking for US to be tolerant, as I said earlier, would seem to require the religios to be tolerant first, in order to ask us to step up to the plate of peace, but since we are still being persecuted, and denied equal rights, I don’t think you have the right to ask us to be tolerant.

I can assemble a list of how religion harms, or find any number of articles exploring it, I might even be able to find peer reviewed articles relating to the same, but I feel I shouldn’t have to until any of those asking me to do so provide any such evidence for their religions existence as valid. Let’s be fair.





@CygnusX1

Not wanting to respond on Hank’s behalf, but I believe your comment reflects a number of fundamental misunderstandings, which I wish to point out.

Firstly, you seem to be confusing angry, strident comments with a refusal to enter into dialogue and debate. On the contrary, making angry, strident (but also intelligible and relevant) comments is a way of entering into dialogue and debate.

Secondly, it we are to give more focus and clarity to IEET then we probably do need to work harder to avoid certain (not very productive) debates. As Hank has pointed out, there are plenty of other places to talk about religion.

Thirdly, you are confusing criticising people for defending religion with refusing to consult with anyone that holds a religious belief. This is related to the first point, of course.

Fourthly, you seem to be confusing “reason” with being nice to everyone, while any expression of anger or stridency (except your own, of course), is “bigotry” and “closed-mindedness”.

I’m not saying I disagree with everything in your comment, in particular I’m inclined to agree with your remark that it will be difficult to avoid religious issues cropping up here in view of the profound issues of meaning that we discuss. But equally well we need to strike a balance between tolerance, on the one hand, and honest, vivid clarity on the other. What I think Hank is trying to do here - but he can speak for himself of course - is above all that we don’t end up denying and downplays the evils of religion, as Alex wants us to do, in the name of tolerance and inclusiveness. And on that I agree with him.





Cygnus - I am wearing two hats here, on this thread. I think it is the honest thing to do, and I intend to keep doing it.

One hat is I am the blog editor. As such, I have been very tolerant, publishing numerous articles that I don’t agree with, for the public to dispute. I have censored no one’s opinion, and I haven’t been biased in the publication content, nor do I intend to be. If I put a moratorium on religion here, the moratorium will also be on anti-religion (atheism).

The other hat is I that am personally militantly atheist. As such, I indulge my right to express my opinion in that regard, like everyone else does. I suppose I could say that because I am Managing Director, that I will pose myself above the fray, that I will be neutral, and not-engage, but I am choosing not to do that. 

Wearing this hat, as a commenting ordinary reader, I am happy to say whatever I want, however I want.  This means that I can of course attack theists in any way that I choose. You can call my attacks on religionists bigoted, tiresome, non-constructive, whatever you wish. You can even say, as you are implying, that my behavior is unethical in some type of way. I personally disagree and your disapproval of what I say and how I say it is certainly not going to make me be silent, or even hesitate for a second. My opinion is that you want me to behave in some way that is PC to you, but absolute nonsense to me.

In regards to your original question, how do I reconcile my anti-religious militancy with members of my family? I haven’t. I don’t think that is ever going to happen.

I like what Pat Condell says about religious “tolerance.” He believes that we should respect the RIGHT of others to believe what they want (freedom of speech)  but we certainly don’t have to respect what they believe. We can ridicule it if we want (freedom of speech, again).

I believe in Freedom of Religion but I also believe in Freedom to Blaspheme. The first without the second is Repression. I think Churches should be taxed, I think children should be given a secular education, and churches and mosques should not be allowed to express Hate Speech.





“Peter what you are suggesting is that I have to hold a different standard of conduct than you because of my position on faith.”
No, I don’t hold you to a different standard because of your position on faith. I consider that you position on faith is irrational and unhelpful and is leading you to downplay or try to distract attention away from the harm at religion can do. You don’t like it, but that’s the way it is.

“I suspect if you went back and counted that you have talked about religion more than I have.”
Quite possibly. So what?

“For me it is a non issue unless someone makes it an issue.”
Religion for you is a non-issue? Do you expect me to believe that? This is so obviously untrue it could win prizes. I don’t have a problem with people making religion an issue. What’s important is what you say about it when you do.

“In our North American justice system, because it is not just the US, black and native people are well over represented in prisons. This is not because black and native people are worse people, but because the system is bent to favour white and wealthy. Read Johnson’s “Two Families” for more from the native viewpoint.”
What does this have to do with the discussion we were having? Do you seriously think this invalidates Hank’s point?

“Also as I said. Just because that the way it is, doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be. That’s a refusal of our responsibility.”
That comment appeared to be a response to Hank’s observation that blame is an integral part of the justice system. To interpret that as a suggestion that whatever happens is what should happen is disingenuous.





Gosh, this article will end up having the most comments.

One way to reach a modus vivendi with the religious is to tell them:
“religion is a good escape from the pressures of the outside world through fairy tales and feel-good.”
And it’s true, a house of worship is the most pleasant place there is.
But the religious obviously wont go for it, it is tactless. On the other hand, to lie to the religious, to tell them we accept their fairy tales and ‘Kumbaya’, is disingenuous. So we are in a double-bind on this.
If one were to say to the religious,
“religion has existed for thousands of years and for now we are stuck with it—as it is quite deep-seated”,
is entirely direct, but too direct. I’ve noticed how people want others to be honest, yet not too honest; strong but not too strong. People want otthers to be ‘in-between’.





Come to think of it, there are a number of possibly good reason to hold those who style themselves “people of faith” to a higher standard than the rest of us.

Firstly, the use of the word “faith” in this context is problematic, since it perpetuates the myth, believed by religious and some non-religious alike, that faith is the exclusive preserve of the religious. I have often made the point that we all need faith. But faith in what? That is the whole issue.

So if people are going to (wittingly or unwittingly, but oh so conveniently) expropriate the word “faith” as a vehicle to promote their religion, or religion in general, then they should at least make up for it by being especially meticulous in living up to the values they proclaim.

Because the fact is that religion is, and has been throughout history, associated with certain proclaimed values, always practised more by the masses than by the religious elites who oppress them, an by associating yourself with a certain religion you are implicitly proclaiming those same values, as well as legitimising the harm that religion causes. So there is a debt to be paid.

Hypocrisy is by no means the only or the worse evil, and we are all hypocrites to a greater or lesser extent. But in my view greater harm is done by someone who proclaims, either explicitly or implicitly by associating with religion, certain moral standards than by one who doesn’t. I will at least agree with Giulio on this: those of us, including myself, who like to express views about how others should think or behave, need to be especially careful to monitor the consistency between those views and our own actions.





“Gosh, this article will end up having the most comments.”

Perhaps Hank should close it at some point. On the one hand I really would like to get through to Alex and other regulars who like to defend religion (even, in Alex’s case, while denying doing so), on the other hand we should not be calling for more clarity and focus and getting completely obsessed with this religion issue.

I just wish one of those who are defending religion would give some kind of an olive branch, not only recognising that religion does harm (along with whatever good it also does) but also showing some willingness to actually question their beliefs. That would be a nice thing to see when I (that is to say somebody with basically the same memories as me in one of the myriad near futures) wake up tomorrow morning.





Agreed, Pete, religion does harm as well as good. Again, I personally do not mind religion at all- but my judgment is not of the highest order, growing up in the ‘60s made me impressionable.
One has to be v. careful about delusions, delusions ought to be minimized as much as possible, and though the fairy tales of religion are pleasant, so are secular fairy tales yet for instance no one at IEET in the year 2012 would believe we could have a revolution leading to a dicatorship of the proletariat, then the eventual withering away of the state in a classless world. The secular fairy tales of Marxism were pleasant to workers and activists in the 19th and early- mid 20th centuries but were discredited long ago in the late 20th.





@ Hank..

Fair enough, as long as there is no exclusion or vindictive attitude towards contributors, and no censor of opinion in the promotion of “free speech”, then all is fine?

As I stated above, I respect your personal standpoint and your integrity in saying so, but please also note that your position should promote one of fairness and tolerance for all of the motives I described above.

An example, you once said that all Christians are imbeciles, (or similar). Trouble is, this is continually reiterated here under the sanction that you said it, so this must be OK or even true? This type of attitude does not show IEET in a favourable light for anyone reading, and excludes a wide audience? It may be a personal viewpoint, but generalisations like these should not be promoted as IEET policy.

I too have friends, family, colleagues ranging all faiths and atheist, yet we communicate from a position of respectful debate, no militancy is necessary..





@ Hank.. (cont)

There perhaps have been too many articles of late regarding God and theism, yet may I remind, that you wrote one of these also, and I certainly had no problem myself with its content or approach towards religion. Also Leo Igwe’s articles generally feature religion. So it’s kind of impossible to promote progress and debate without these articles featuring religion?

No.. I think the main problem/diversion here of late is with attitude towards religious commentators, which is now becoming tiresome and distracting?





Hey Stefan - and Alex, Guilio - everybody - enjoy this:

Religion Does No Harm? Bill Maher reflects
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyHhAoxTXKI

I quite liked this, expresses my POV.





Agreed.
Yet nominal reliosity is acceptable; I couldn’t get away from Christianity even if the interest in doing so existed.. it is lodged in the subconscious. But because the belief in:
i) the Divinity of Christ
ii) the Resurrection
iii) the Return of Christ
isn’t there, what good is it? it is superficial—albeit if true-believing Christians can tolerate nominal Christianity, a modus vivendi can be realized.





I have decided that I am wasting far too much time arguing in circles here. I am not interested in defending religion. I am not interested in discovering that everything I say is religious because of the irrational attitude of people who are afraid of anything that might be remotely connected to religion. I will ignore any and all future references to religion unless the article is specifically religious.





Alex wont answer any more, all the same my reply to him is he shouldn’t take all critiques as criticism of religion/spiritualism, but rather, as criticism of idiosyncratic religious positions. A question all along has been why call oneself Christian if the Divinity, Resurrection, and Return of Jesus is removed? one then becomes tantamount to a unitarian or Buddhist, say,; it becomes Christophilosophy, something not based on canonical scripture, nor what the original Christians wanted. You understand it makes no difference either way to me.. however the more orthodox—who still number in the scores of millions—are believers to be reckoned with and do not care what we think. To them religion can’t be understood scientifically, peer reviewed material means little or nothing to them—and nothing to me.

Metaphysical matters are of the ‘heart’, not the head; otherwise we are left with nothing more than Religious Studies, and I don’t take very seriously at all what academics postulate concerning religious matters, or what statisticians say regarding sports.





@Alex re “I will ignore any and all future references to religion unless the article is specifically religious.”

I think this is a good call, honestly. It’s not quite the “olive branch” I was looking for, but at least it will remove one of the factors that is irritating people here and leading to what one has to admit are rather sterile discussions. I hope you’ll stick to it.

@Stefan
Indeed correlation is not causation, but are you seriously suggesting that the experiences Hank, George and others (including myself) have reported do not demonstrate causation? If you scroll up to one of my earlier comments you will see that I made a careful distinction between the assertion “religion has done a great deal of harm, and continues to do so”, and “religion does more harm than good overall”. For the latter, I told Alex that I thought his call for peer-reviewed evidence, which I had already supported, was relevant. But if you are requiring peer-reviewed evidence to accept the former, then you are simply denying reality. Do you need peer-reviewed evidence to see what is in front of your eyes?





@CygnusX1
I only really get personal (in a bad way) with commentators when they just relentlessly express the same views over and over without any apparent willingness to question their beliefs. I don’t only do it with regard to religion, but of course it happens especially with religion not only because of my own sensibilities but also because religion, almost by definitions, involves beliefs one is especially reluctant to question, and because I’ve reached roughly the same point of intolerance with Alex’s commenting style that Intomorrow had reached some weeks ago.

I understand that you find this tiresome and distracting, but you should also understand that others of us have different experiences, and different sensibilities. And it is important to distinguish that from the ultimately more interesting and positive question: where do we want IEET to go, and what is likely to get us there? I’m sure Hank would welcome concrete suggestions on that, as would I.





@Peter re “I just wish one of those who are defending religion would give some kind of an olive branch”

Here you go (pasted from my new essay http://turingchurch.com/2012/05/21/yes-i-am-a-believer/ ) :

I must, however, acknowledge that often militant atheists have their heart and mind in the right place when they point out that religions have been directly responsible for many bad things. Besides atrocities like the Inquisition and holy wars, the bigotry, self-righteousness and hateful intolerance of organized religions (I am intentionally using the same words that I used against militant atheists) have caused a lot of suffering. For example many have suffered from forced religious indoctrination at an early age, and many have been mistreated and abused in religious schools. I think many militant atheists react to bad experiences with religion, and I understand them.

But religious beliefs in themselves are not responsible for the flaws of organized religions. What makes people suffer, is other people. I know that religions attract many sadistic and power-hungry sociopaths and thugs… like all other power structures. The visionary thinkers and mystics who create new religious organizations are usually good persons, but the thugs who inevitably end up working for them aren’t, and they often achieve power. A related problem is that (the thugs in) organized religions often support authoritarian and oppressive policies. This is the problem to solve, not the beliefs of billions of peaceful people all over this planet.





@Peter re olive branch, continued.

You also wish to see others “showing some willingness to actually question their beliefs.”

Personally, I always do. Actually, one of my flaws has always been that I question by beliefs _too much_ instead of acting on them. This is the way I am wired, and I consider it as a flaw.

However, I question the need to question one’s beliefs (too much). For example:

Here, most of us are against racism. Do we really need to question our beliefs and dedicate some time every day to read racist rants? I think it would be a monumental waste of time.





Thanks Giulio.

I still disagree that religious beliefs are not responsible for the flaws of organised religions. OK they are not solely responsible, but they do give rise to and help to maintain them. In fact, yesterday evening it occurred to me that the interesting battle today is not, as it has been throughout our evolutionary history, the battle between genes, but rather the battled between ideas. One of my beliefs is that the future will be decided by the ideas that we allow to circulate today.

That is not to say that the people who come up with religious beliefs are necessarily bad persons, but one has to wonder why such people have quite such a tendency to attract thugs and sycophants. As an olive branch of my own, though, I will repeat that I think religion has played a crucial role in the development of civilisation, a fact that those who focus solely on its flaws tend to forget.

As for the beliefs of billions of peaceful people all over the planet, I tink Intomorrow has it right when he says that people want us to be honest, but not too honest. It is one thing to accept that religious ideas, like so many other ideas, can be DANGEROUS, and another to thrust one’s own disbelief down everyone else’s throat in a way that is reminiscent of the very thuggery that some of us like to associate with religion. For example I would never respond as I do to Alex to people who just go about practising their peaceful (if delusional religious beliefs without bothering anyone else with them. There’s what you believe, and there’s whether a particular situation is the right occasion to express those beliefs.

In the past I also had the impression that I questioned my beliefs too much, which is one of the reasons why I like your “soft rationality” idea. We have similar experiences on that. Beliefs help us to build an accurate picture of the world, but are also needed to provide a basis for action, and sometimes accuracy is the enemy of implementability. For example, my “moral subjectivism” stance on meta-ethics is already a compromise between the accuracy of non-cognitivism and the action-oriented clarity of moral realism. The problem with the latter is that our moral realisms have a tendency to collide, and then NOBODY gets what they want.





@Stefan

Calling you pedantic would be like the pot calling the kettle black smile

I agree that blaming religion for the behaviour of the religious is unscientific unless we do some controlled experiments to eliminate confounding factors, and more generally about the way our intuitive interpretations of evidence (as per your anecdote) so often fail us. Still, I’d be in serious trouble if I waited for a peer-reviewed article to tell me, say, that there was a car about to hit me. There are some circumstances in which you’d better trust your own eyes. CygnusX1 boasts superciliously that he has good relations with friends and family of many different faiths, but the reality is not always so benign.

My main point in any case is that referring to the evils of religion is not the same as claiming that religion is evil, not by a long shot. I think we may have quite similar views on the role that religion plays generally in the affairs of humanity, but the psychological pain mentioned in George’s article, in particular cognitive dissonance (of a very deep and harmful kind) and ruptures between family members, are real problems of which some of us here have direct experience. This should be recognised, not brushed aside.

Part of the problem is illustrated by the discussion I just had with Giulio: we need beliefs to build an accurate world view (and for that the scientific method is, of course, without equal) but we also need beliefs to motivate action. And religion, for both good and ill, goes further than any other kind of belief system with the possible exception of political ideology (and even there the idea that we have a choice is at least more explicit) in providing a basis for action, and not just specific, ad hoc actions (such as “I’d better get out of the way of this car) but the habitual behaviours that determine who we are. And precisely because of this, people are really, really reluctant to question them, even if it means killing people or rejecting loved ones.

But back in the spirit of George’s article, and my latest exchange with Giulio, this also means that there is little point in just barking “religion is bad”. We need to give people an alternative, positive basis for action that is less dependent on those beliefs that we consider delusional or (otherwise) harmful. And, of course, those of us who have had bad experiences with religion should endeavour to avoid allows those experiences to blind us to the possibility that religion also plays a more benign role. Speaking personally, my experience has been mixed.





Will go into one v. narrow point, textual and higher criticism of the Bible. Textual is about studying the origins of texts; higher criticism concerns studying and comparing passages of the Bible, researching contemporary historical and literary corroboration (and non-corroboration), etc. What this getting at: there isn’t even a genuine consensus on what the Bible says textually—let alone hermeutics; so how can we come to an approximation of what Christianity actually stands for? there is nothing truly scientific in religion, yet I assume there is some spiritual value—perhaps great value—without knowing what it is.
Too much chaff with the wheat.
Beyond that, you are all covering many other topics of interest related to George’s piece.Technically, Hank is correct, however what to do about it? as an aside, Hank has written of a practical suggestion of how houses of worship ought to be taxed; unfortunately their lobbies are too powerful to do so. So it isn’t that these discussions are worthless, it is the lack of practical suggestions re religion.





“there is nothing truly scientific in religion”
I agree, completely. Science is about understanding the world; religion is about beliefs that underpin people’s habitual behaviours and give meaning to their lives.

“yet I assume there is some spiritual value—perhaps greater valuea—without knowing what it is”
The value is its power to motivate good behaviour (invoke the strenuous mood, as li Colin would say) and give meaning to their lives. The problem is that it involves too much delusion and leads people into conflict, even under the guise of promoting peace. (Compare “we are a peace-loving nation”, a meme typically used by leaders, including Hitler, as they prepare for war.) Like you say: too much chaff with the wheat. Or like Hank says: the water is seriously polluted.

“how can we come to an approximation of what Christianity actually stands for?”
Not b studying the Bible, you’re right about that. Have to ask Christians what they think it stands for, and judge them by the consistency of their actions with their words.

“technically, Hank is correct, however what to do about it?”
Well technically not all of Hank’s arguments stack up, as Stefan has pointed out, but what do about it? Read on:

“Hank has written of a practical suggestion of how houses of worship ought to be taxed; unfortunately their lobbies are too powerful to do so.”
In the latest version of the article I am working on I point out that what we need are “proximate objectives”: concrete policy objectives that appear to be achievable, but not inevitable, ina relatively short time frame. So if the lobbies are too powerful for taxing churches to fly, then we’d better not go for it. But there is nothing to stop us brainstorming ideas concerning steps in that direction that we DO think are achievable, and making that official IEET policy. What’s the worst that can happen?





“CygnusX1 boasts superciliously that he has good relations with friends and family of many different faiths, but the reality is not always so benign.”


There is no superior position taken in my comment below..

“I too have friends, family, colleagues ranging all faiths and atheist, yet we communicate from a position of respectful debate, no militancy is necessary..”

My point was that we should pursue lines of communication without the militancy, (which few really express anyhow in face to face communication with friends, family or colleagues. But rather use a blog to rant and rave). We have to be tolerant towards the beliefs of others and respectful of their rights to hold their beliefs. (This is the rule of thumb and law in a secular society). This does not mean we should not endeavour to change minds, but not by using insult, ridicule and coercion, but rather by rational argument.

If anyone has a superior attitude here, it is not myself.


@ Hank..

I notice you have not responded to my last comment. I am not surprised.





@CygnusX1
From Wiktionary: “supercilious” = arrogantly superior; showing contemptuous indifference; haughty.

You claim not to have a superior attitude. Yet to me the hallmark of a superior attitude is to criticise others or express views about how they behave, and then point out that you are behaving that way yourself. If there’s a better definition, I can’t immediately think of it.

“My point was that we [what, every single person on this planet?] should pursue lines of communication without the militancy…We _have_ [emphasis mine_] to be tolerant…”

“I too have friends, family, colleagues ranging all faiths and atheist, yet we communicate from a position of respectful debate, no militancy is necessary..”

Are you beginning to see my point yet?





The above should read “...express views about how they should behave,...” Just so there’s no misunderstanding regarding the continuation of that sentence: it’s having a superior attitude I’m accusing you of, not self-confessed hypocrisy. The latter would be unusual.





To be even more clear: you obviously dislike the stridency of Hank and some others here, including (sometimes) myself. I dislike the moralising way you have of expressing that dislike.

I guess we don’t have to like each other.





First, before I begin, let me apologise for saying that my post was not posted. It did show up, but it really hampers my ability to respond in a timely manner when my comments do not appear instantly. I am sure you could remove them quickly enough if I were to be vulgar or too argumentative, and I feel like I am just on the periphery of things because of this. I am honestly not reading everything posted here thoroughly, because I cannot respond quickly enough to matter.

Aparently another post of mine did not stick, Maybe it will show up later, who knows. I copied it to my hard drive at home, so I will try to re-send it tonight, but it will be moot by then.

Pastor_Alex “Forget religion, forget science, what our species needs is a more highly developed sense of responsibility for ourselves and the environment. EVERYTHING must be tested, not by our personal biases, but by the measuring stick of whether we have thought it through, whether it will better the whole community, and whether we are willing to stay around and pick up the pieces if it fails.”

This is a very interesting comment by someone who posts as a Pastor. This is the basic atheist position if you alter “thought it through” with “demand evidence”. Am I to assume that you mean question everything except god, like most religious people?

Pastor_Alex has surrendered. Perhaps you are arguing in circles because you refuse to accept and acknowledge arguments that totally refute your position’s validity, thus you return to the same arguments over and over? We are not afraid of religion, but the harm religion is doing. We are standing up for what is right, and if your religion cannot stand up to the truth, then it shouldn’t stand at all. Too many believe their religion should not be questioned or challenged in any way, which only makes it MORE dangerous.  Refusing to discuss religious matters only reveals that you have no arguments that can stand up to the truth. If you were right, you could prove it, and we would HAVE to acknowledge the truth of your pov.  Run if you must, but please think about why your arguments get defeated so easily.


I’d like to thank hankpellissier and Peter Wicks for their most eloquent comments.





I have suffered immensely because of religion in my life. My inability to reconcile the “truth” of the bible with reality nearly drove me insane. I couldn’t understand why I alone was having trouble with it. The denial of sex being normal made me deathly afraid of interacting with girls till I was in my 40’s when I finally managed to oust most of the last vestiges of brainwashing out of my mind. Still, I missed so much of my life, and yes, I am bitter about it. That does NOT invalidate my position, and saying that I am merely mad at god and dismissing what I say is totally unfair.  I am mad that such brainwashing is allowed to occur. I am mad that it was my own family that did the brainwashing, thinking they were doing the right thing. There is no greater betrayal. I have to keep reminding myself that they were/are duped also.  Hating gods that I don’t believe exist would be stupid and irrational, so I do NOT hate god in any form. I hate people claiming something exists they have no evidence for, and insisting that I live in a way dictated by an ancient book proven wrong on many major points conclusively and that doing really bad and evil things is fine of the god says so. THAT’s what I hate. I firmly believe we could be living in a virtual Utopia by now if people weren’t clinging to these ideas that squelch true human growth and progress.





Oh, I found my lost post!:

@ Intomorrow I fail to see what the nuclear family model has to do with it. Religion will continue as long as we give it such power by allowing it to continue to brainwash their children and give them special concessions so they do not have to face reality.

@Peter Wicks Sure, there are many religions that don’t directly murder men for thinking rationally and denying their god, but then just cross one of their taboo lines and see what you get. Ostracism at the very least. Certainly not the tolerance advocated here. besides even if they were totally tolerant or even totally happy if you didn’t believe, they still believe and declare that myths are reality, so it encourages denial of reality and prohibits rational thinking.

Religion is the worhip of gods especially without any proof of their existence. How’s that? I didn’t think we really needed to narrow that down. No one has asked me for any evidence on any specific issue or point, but I figured that everything I had stated was so obviously painstakingly researched that I didn’t have to give a lot of details. Every religion has failed to meet even the minimum requirements for evidence of truth. How much total lack of evidence do you need before you conclude it is totally unreasonable to continue acting like there is something backing it up? Besides, no one else has offerred any evidence for their statements, I didn’t think I had to either.

Intomorrow, we are not stuck with religion.  We can put our foot down and say enough! Relegate it to the category of “interesting fictional literature” like it should have been all along (and quite possibly was). Get rid of all the special allowances for it like tax breaks, religious exceptions to the law, no religious schools, and enforce laws that already state no law should be passed for religious reasons, like most all abortion laws (for instance).

@Pastor_Alex like I hav ealready said, you haven’t offered any peer reviewed scientific support for your point of view, yet you demand it of mine. For 2000 years no one has been able to offer any such evidence of the validity of religion, but the harm is well documented. Perhaps not by a peer reviewed paper, but certainly in the annals of history. Heck, right now in many states, an atheist is forbidden to even run for office. Tell me that’s not from a religious source.

Asking for US to be tolerant, as I said earlier, would seem to require the religious to be tolerant first, in order to ask us to step up to the plate of peace, but since we are still being persecuted, and denied equal rights, I don’t think you have the right to ask us to be tolerant.

I can assemble a list of how religion harms[EDIT it seems I have been beaten to this], or find any number of articles exploring it, I might even be able to find peer reviewed articles relating to the same, but I feel I shouldn’t have to until any of those asking me to do so provide any such evidence for their religions existence as valid. Let’s be fair.





Re last comment, it is hilarious to read references to “arguments” that have not even been formulated.





Re my previous comment, it is not referred to the post immediately before it, but to the comment beginning with “First, before I begin, let me apologise for saying that my post was not posted.” Hank, Marcelo, why can’t we edit our comments here like everywhere else?

@nude0007 re “I have suffered immensely because of religion in my life….”

I understand, and I would probably have the same reaction. You are right to condemn oppression and brainwashing, and I know that religion is responsible for a lot of suffering, similar to yours. But, I insist this has nothing to do with the heartfelt beliefs of peaceful folks. I will repeat my comment above:

I acknowledge that often militant atheists have their heart and mind in the right place when they point out that religions have been directly responsible for many bad things. Besides atrocities like the Inquisition and holy wars, the bigotry, self-righteousness and hateful intolerance of organized religions (I am intentionally using the same words that I used against militant atheists) have caused a lot of suffering. For example many have suffered from forced religious indoctrination at an early age, and many have been mistreated and abused in religious schools. I think many militant atheists react to bad experiences with religion, and I understand them.

But religious beliefs in themselves are not responsible for the flaws of organized religions. What makes people suffer, is other people. I know that religions attract many sadistic and power-hungry sociopaths and thugs… like all other power structures. The visionary thinkers and mystics who create new religious organizations are usually good persons, but the thugs who inevitably end up working for them aren’t, and they often achieve power. A related problem is that (the thugs in) organized religions often support authoritarian and oppressive policies. This is the problem to solve, not the beliefs of billions of peaceful people all over this planet.

 





@Giulio
Read nude0007’s previous comment and see if you still find it hilarious. Empathy cuts both ways, you know. That’s the one point Alex never quite seems to grasp.

@nude0007
I didn’t respond to your reposted comment the last time because I was to focused on bickering with Alex smile I really do appreciate your personal testimony, which I believe to be representative of a far wider problem than the vast majority are aware of and/or willing to admit. And the people defending religion on this site (and elsewhere) need to read that kind of comment.

Ultimately I still agree with George Dvorsky. We need to find a positive message if we are to give people a basis for action that is more compelling and less harmful than delusion. But Hank’s proposal to advocate taxation of religious organisations deserves consideration. Hank has now posted my article on how IEET could influence government policy, and it would be great if we got loads of ideas in response to that. Bickering with each other here can be entertaining, and provide temporary soothing of psychological wounds, but actually bringing about some change in the world is a more glorious endeavour.

Hope they manage to sort it out so that your comments get posted immediately.





@Giulio
Our last comments crossed. I prefer your later response of course…but also refer you to my previous comments about how religious beliefs ARE responsible. In fact, on the whole I find it more useful and constructive to blame beliefs than people. Beliefs can be changed, and as I’ve posted elsewhere, the interesting battle these days is the battle of ideas. Not people.





@ nude0007 - thank you for your honest comments, I really appreciate it. I went through the same guilt, fear, and confusion about sex that you did, although not, gratefully, as long. I remember a sermon when I was 13 with the pastor promising and describing Hell to anyone who masturbated; horrifically frightening to a boy young enough to still be a “believer” but old enough to be erect half the time.

yes, I too am still Angry about what religion did to me. I do not intend to “get over it.” I believe it is sensible, moral, and constructive for me to remain Very Angry until religions are entirely halted from their misdeeds. Religion will continue to pester and torment people with it’s Nonsense and Cruelty, unless enough Angry people are mobilized to change or halt it.

I find it heartless and callous that commenters like Stefan and Alex, and even Giulio to a lesser degree, avoid or obfuscate the obvious fact that (many) religions cause serious harm. They’ve said stuff like “show me the peer-reviewed data” or “it’s not religion that causes harm, it’s the bad people that are religious.”  I really find this attitude - defining religion as harmless even when victims raise their hands in front of them or gesture sorrowfully at the dead in history or gay bullied youths hanging suicidally in closets - I find this denial of the trauma - quite upsetting. Not mentally upsetting. Emotionally Painful.

All I really have to say to anyone who insists, incredibly, that religion causes no harm, is “WTF?!?!?!? I am not talking to you anymore.”

(on that particular topic…)





@ nude0007

You raise some good points, but what is your solution to eliminating religions from the world? War of attrition? What about theocratic nations? What do you propose here sanctions, boycotts and penalties?

This site is tax exempt, so it’s a little hypocritical to profess that religious bodies are any less worthy than here? Also, would this really affect congregation numbers and drive religions into decline?





@CygnusX1
I don’t see any hypocrisy at all. Here at IEET we are trying to have serious discussions about the future based on knowledge and a secular discussion of values (including our attitude to religion, and faith more generally). We are not promoting harmful and delusional beliefs.

Personally I don’t think we should be focusing on this. I think there are issues that lie closer to the core of what IEET stands for. But I think it’s too soon to rule out good ideas at this stage. I would like you to comment on the more general issue of whether IEET should be trying to influence policy (governmental or otherwise) more directly than it currently does, and if so how.





“we are trying to have serious discussions about the future based on knowledge and a secular discussion of values (including our attitude to religion, and faith more generally).”


IEET is nearly bending over backwards to accomodate the religious, albeit we have to, as the religious—as libertarians do for transhumanism—contribute a great deal. Something coming to mind is how during a disaster religious charities help out in partnership with government; now, such doesn’t mean we have to subscribe to mystical belief systems, but to be civilised and ecumenical we do have to show gratitude.
#1 reason is, religions have existed for thousands of years.. to put it baldly we are stuck with religion. ‘Course, this isn’t something we can say out loud in a house of worship but it appears to be self-evident. One also might possibly make a case that the religious have a higher morality than the secular, but then the religious can become so repressed they act out their frustration, as in ‘debauchery on Saturday night, church on Sunday morning’. And violence, too—the Thirty Years War may have been more concerned with politics than religion, yet when a warrior hacked off someone’s head it didn’t matter whether the soldier was 20% religiously motivated and 80 percent politically motivated—the head was still severed from the body smile
As to religions causing great harm psychologically, IMO we have the main point, psychic manipulation is the primary negative of religion. We can say let houses of worship be free to do what they want in the context of the law, however as long as it is not us being manipulated by the religious, that is what we secretly think: let the dumbasses be puppetized by the religious because there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it, is there? what goes on behind closed doors is very complex & complicated.
I personally don’t have much negative feeling directed at religion, but only because my grandfather was a kindly, repressed priest who had a secret life to escape to; perhaps extramarital children scattered around. He over-ate himself to death. One day not long before he died, he took some cake and pie (not a positive thing for a grossly overweight hypoglycemic to do) and went down to the basement with me to pig out. His wife, Granmama, had good antennae, when she returned from an errand she noticed there was pastry missing and headed straight for the basement. “Well I’m hungry!”, he yelled.
It was a good lesson in what repression does.





@Cygnus, as I said treat them equally as the rest of us, deny them control over schools, so that only science is taught in science class, religion shouldn’t qualify as a charity donation, religions should be taxed on their income and property, no law shall be passed based on religion (like abortion restrictions), They, like any business, should not have rights any of us can’t have, and certainly not rights granted to individuals either. They can toe the law or face the penalties, meaning they will abide by the constitution or fail to get funding for anything they do. NO federal or state funds should be given to any religious cause ever, for anything. As long as we enforce civil rights and equality over religion, they will be forced to change or die. If they change, they will have to give up most of what their religion says is true, especially the story of creation and the need for redemption from sin, so their religion is moot.

Thanks for understanding hankpellisier

@Stefan, apparently you failed to read in my comment where I said why should I be required to produce scientifically peer reviewed evidence when those that asked have not provided any for their side. Not to mention, I think it was Peter Wicks who supplied just a taste of evidence in that area, though not peer reviewed.  I would think the catholic pedophile scandal would be sufficient evidence, but here is lots of evidence that kids who don’t accept science and do accept religion do poorly in school and get lower paying jobs. Who is gonna hire kids who don’t know their science? Again, brainwashing a kid into thinking god is the truth and the answer to all things, shuts down any quest for real truth. If gods is the answer, then hey won’t be curious about a real answer that might cure cancer or whatever. Why invent a new widget if god supplies all our needs? Religion inhibits critical thinking, so people are more likely to get ripped off or not use critical thinking when it matters most. “I’m fat because god made me that way, so I don’t need to exercise or eat better.” they might say. Priests made natives wear clothes out of biblical mythical morals, causing all of them to die (a tribe in california I am thinking of specifically). Denial that sex is natural and good and wholesome causes warped attitudes towards sexuality, and failing to extend rights to gays harms a good percentage of our citizens. the list is long and complicated. these are just a few. I know you ask for peer reviewed science, figuring that either there isn’t any, or that I don’t have access to it, but:
I asked any religious proponent to supply me with any evidence that their position (that a god exists) is verifiable. No one has been able to for thousands of years.  In other words, until you provide me with peer reviewed science that proves ANY god exists, you don’t have the right to require similar evidence from me.

Religion cannot endure, because the more educated people become, the more likely it is they can see the truth. This is why churches fight science in classrooms, and the GOP is trying hard to cripple our education system. Religious people are easily controlled and manipulated. Educated people will stand up for the truth and their rights. We are definitely not stuck with it. secularism is on the rise, as secular humanists are saying “ENOUGH!” and coming out of the closet and refusing to be persecuted any more. Others are listening and finding that religion is not the truth they thought it was.  We can have community and purpose without religion, and it serves only to keep us from the real truths that hold REAL wonders for us. It WILL go away, maybe slowly, but too many people know the truth for it to survive. Go with the change, change is good. compromise and “tolerance” is only giving credence to hurtful, harmful fables that keep us from fulfilling our true potential.





@nude007 re “until you provide me with peer reviewed science that proves ANY god exists, you don’t have the right to require similar evidence from me.”

Fair enough. And same here.

I think even peer reviewed evidence, one way or another, would fail to persuade many people to change their mind. As this discussion demonstrates, most people live this not as a scientific issue, but as an emotional issue.

Let’s face the facts. whatever you say will not persuade me. And whatever I say will not persuade you. Let’s then put our difference on this point aside and see if we can work together on something else.





So, guys, should IEET have an official position on this or not?
And if so, what should it be?





@Peter - first try:

The IEET welcomes both atheists and believers as contributors, and respects individual choices as far as religious belief (or lack thereof) is concerned, provided such choices do not result in oppressive policies.





@Giulio - not bad, but with three caveats:

1. Whether choices result in oppressive policies, or may be likely to do so, can be difficult to determine.
2. We might want to draw a clearer distinction between “respects the right of people to freely choose what to believe” and actually respecting the choice. Personally I do not generally respect delusional belief, even though there may be many other aspects of a person’s beliefs and behaviour that I respect greatly.
3. From the perspective of increasing IEET’s policy influence we should perhaps think of some that are of more public interest than IEET’s in-house policy. Hank’s tax idea (and/or nude0007’s ideas on the subject) are more significant in this context, although I understand much more controversial among some commenters on this thread.





@Peter:

1. Everything “may result” in oppressive policies if enough sophistry is applied to the analysis. We must be practical.

2. Agree. “The IEET respects the right of people to freely choose what to believe.”

3. Not necessarily more controversial. For example I firmly insist on point 2. above but I think churches should be taxed exactly like other organizations.





@Stefan Pernar ok, the meaning is that the most evil action one can think of is acceptable because a god say s it is ok. This is what the bible and possibly the koran show in abundance.

For me, here, in this forum, the argument is that religion is harmful and so we should not “try to live and let live ” with it. It is easy to find all the ways religion is harmful, so to me even this argument is not really in question except for those who believe in it and fail to actually read what it says.

@ Guilio Prisco The problem is that people making the claim that a god is real and it is the one they worship, is that they have the burden of proof, not I, so it is not as equal as you want to claim it is.
However, let’s put aside the fact that religion is false, and delve into the topic this thread tried to get at: live and let live.
I say it is impossible till religion cleans up its act and abides by our laws (like all our citizens should have equal access to rights like marriage) and assumes a more moral position than what the bible teaches, (like treating women as equals, not property).  In order to truly live and let live, religion needs to fall under the law like every other entity. Instead of protecting priests who are pedophiles, the church needs to call them to the attention of law enforcement at the earliest incident, not defend them, hide them and otherwise obstruct justice. Repealing the doctrine that says they can’t marry would probably solve much of that problem, and allowing contraception would go a long way to establish churches as truly moral institutions, or at least that what people do with regards to sex is their own business and no concern of the church. This goes for all denominations, and Islamists as well.





@Stefan

I like it. I think Giulio’s reformulation, woe addressing my concerns, is a bit too motherhood and apple pie. However I would want to see a discussion about what we mean by “illegitimate”. One of my long-standing gripes with Alex has been that he tends to interpret scripture in a way that conforms this values, which by and large I share, rather than no light of the most likely intention of the actual authors.

An alternative would be to build on Giulio’s formulation and make it a bit LESS motherhood and apple pie. Basically I would forget about who IEET welcomes or doesn’t welcome, and rather go with something like “IEET affirms freedom of religion as a general principle, however interpretations of scripture or other religious traditions that breed violence and hatred should not be tolerated”. I’m not so worried about disdain.





@Peter, let’s not get too pedantic, shall we.

My only non-negotiable point is “The IEET respects the right of people to freely choose what to believe.” Either we agree on this, or we don’t, there is no half way between. All the other things that you say are fine.





@nude0007 re “In order to truly live and let live, religion needs to fall under the law like every other entity. Instead of protecting priests who are pedophiles, the church needs to call them to the attention of law enforcement at the earliest incident, not defend them, hide them and otherwise obstruct justice. Repealing the doctrine that says they can’t marry would probably solve much of that problem, and allowing contraception would go a long way to establish churches as truly moral institutions, or at least that what people do with regards to sex is their own business and no concern of the church. This goes for all denominations, and Islamists as well.”

I totally agree.





Stefan, you dislike nude0007’s comments but it is a fact that in many parts of scripture there is very clear evidence that the authors intended to portray actions that we would normally consider evil as justified because it is somehow in accordance with the God’s will. It is also a fact that this has been used by religious people to justify such actions throughout human history since then. This needs to be recognised, and Giulio no this is not being pedantic. It is precisely why I object to the word “illegitimate in Stefan’s formulation (and also therefore in the charter for compassion) because in my view hateful incitations should be rejected because they are hateful, not because they are “not what the author intended”, or not what some imaginary God intended/intends.

The IEET position on this issue,, should the Board decide to adopt one, should reflect limited tolerance for religion, even delusional religion, but it should not actually reflect delusional belief itself. Any suggestion scriptural passages that contain hateful messages provides a good basis for inspiration and guidance is delusional (or inethical), and any suggestion that such scripture should be interpreted in a way that suggests it doesn’t is equally delusional. IEET should not be promoting delusional beliefs and obfuscation. If scripture contains hateful messages then it should be interpreted in that way…and rejected.





Stefan,

I got really pissed off with your shoddy out-of-context quotation on the other thread, but at least here your tackling head-on the issue that Alex has been evading for almost a year.

But I still disagree. I’m certainly not saying that being “evil and delusional” is all that can be said a out religion, or even that it is the main story. As you say, many aspects of scripture that appear barbaric by 21st standards were beacons of enlightenment and compassion in their day. But hateful is still hateful. When the Bible says that homosexuality is an abomination, it says that homosexuality is an abomination. No real way to interpret that away without being obscurantist. And we should not be obscurantist.

Basically, I only approach religion and scripture as inherently evil and delusional when arguing with people who are defending it well beyond what can be justified, or quibbling over matters that are self-evident and should just be accepted. Obviously it has played a fundamental role in the development of our civilisation, for both good and ill, and it has its merits. But it is also the case that it inherently makes people reluctant, sometimes existentially reluctant, to question the beliefs associated with the particular religion, and this is inimical to secular debate, reason, and conflict resolution. I still want to see far more recognition from those supporting religion here that this is the case. Not calls for peer-reviewed evidence.

(By the way, this is a quibble but you know that the peer reviewing system is riddled with biases, so I advise you to find a different way of expressing your insistence on the need to respect the scientific method, which I entirely share, even if I am not above using the odd rhetorical trick or two when necessary to get a message across.)





@Stefan

The fact that the Bible also includes a story about an apparently homosexual relationship doesn’t alter the fact that elsewhere it describes homosexuality as an abomination, and that this can and should not be interpreted away. That was my point.

I agree about human nature, but not all evidence is academic evidence. That is also my
point. We can also learn from anecdotal, eye-witness evidence, provided it is (reasonably) trustworthy (we don’t know anything for sure, right?). We just have to be careful about what we learn.

I don’t actually agree that “science is not perfect”. Science is the quest for knowledge, and the scientific method is unsurpassed in its power to lead us to the truth. But peer reviewing is not the scientific method. It is basically an academic tradition. The social sciences in particular are rife with peer-reviewed drivel, quite creative but lacking in any respect for or understanding of the scientific method. Sometimes you can learn more, and more reliably, from personal testimony than you can from reams of peer-reviewed literature.





I hope the powers that be will allow me to respond to statements made against me. I have never said anything bad about anyone here, and have only responded to ideas I disagree with.
@Stephan this is exactly what I hate about religion. It is not
bigoted to accept facts and truth, nor hateful to point out that
religion has neither. When you quit getting angry at challenges
to your beliefs (which are just opportunities for enlightenment),
and taking the truth as a personal attack, you might entertain
these possibilities as the truth.

You call me unsophisticated, something I never claimed or
aspired to and fail to see how that is relevant to anything said
here. You claim I am willfully ignorant, but it is you who will not
entertain a different point of view. I WAS a christian, and
explored many more when my doubts became too deep to
continue in that religion. I know full well where you come from,
but you will not even entertain for a moment that what you have
been taught could be wrong.
No, as I have tried to make you and others understand, it is not
my opinion, but proven facts that form the basis of my point of
view. As science discovers new facts and grows and changes,
so does my stance. this is hardly the definition of willfully
ignorant.
I fail to see where I was contradictory, althoughas an imperfect
being, I am likely to present seemingly contradictory points of
view. It is amazing how some scientists, steeped in critical
thinking can still accept a religion that doesn’t stand up to it. I
make no clalim to have all the answers, or a neat, all
encompassing philosophy that is irrefutable. Please shoot me if I ever do without a substantial source of scientific knowledge.
I also fail to see how I am childish, although I still make effort to
see things as a child, to look on the world with wonder and
fascination, marvelling at the vast amount of things I do not
know or understand, rather than claiming some outdated old
book, proven inaccurate, knows everything.

I do not agree that even 5000 years ago that the bible was a
“beacon of enlightenment”. Like almost all other religions it
seeks to restrict, control, and deny our normal, natural functions
and interactions in order to insert an unnecessary “spiritual”
aspect into our lives. This was usually done to gain control over
people in some way. If I am not a good hunter or farmer, then I
create a need for spiritual guidance which, of course, only I can
provide. This guidance comes at the cost of feeding me or even
making me well off.  I have never seen a society improved by
religion.
Religion DID serve a unifying purpose, but in doing so, it has
also caused a conflict of interest. My god is better than yours, or
merely that god is with us, not you. It is a source of divisionism
that is evident even within itself, as there are thousands of
different denominations of even just christianity.
I think we would have been much better off without religion, and
I think history proves that.





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