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IEET > Security > Rights > Life > Vision > Contributors > Valerie Tarico

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10 Reasons Freethinkers Can Look Forward to a Bright 2014


Valerie Tarico
By Valerie Tarico
Away Point

Posted: Dec 31, 2013

Days may be dark right now—after all, as the memes proclaim, axial tilt is the reason for the season. But things are looking bright for those who would like to see humanity more grounded in science and reason. If you are a nontheist in the mood for a party, here are ten reasons to celebrate.

1. Coming out atheist is up and coming. In May of 2013, after a deadly tornado destroyed her home, young mother Rebecca Vitsmun gave an unexpected answer when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked whether she thanked the Lord for her decision to flee. Vitsmun tells the story in a sometimes tearful interview with Seth Andrews, host of The Thinking Atheist. “I had this moment in which I realized you either lie or tell the truth, and I-I’m not a liar.” In that moment, Vitsmun outed herself not only to a national media audience but also to her Christian parents and friends.

Vitsmun’s situation was extraordinary, but candor about nonbelief is becoming more and more commonplace. From Hollywood celebs like Angelina Jolie to ordinary high school students, skeptics are opening up about their beliefs and values—or simply declining to lie when asked. A quick-read book, Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist, offers tips for those who are contemplating when, where, and how best to come out.

2. The cutting edge of freethought is less cutting and edgy. In generations past, coming out as an atheist required a devil-may-care attitude. The social and even financial costs were so high that most admitted atheists were also unflinching social activists, people who had a high degree of zeal and high tolerance for conflict. Most were also white males who were comparatively safe taking on the religious establishment. Until recently, then, atheism was virtually synonymous with anti-theism, and even today people complain that pioneers of the New Atheist movement like Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and the late great Hitchens are unnecessarily antagonistic.

But thanks in part to their courage and flame-throwing, a new generation is emerging, one that sees atheism not as an end point, but as a beginning. Alain de Botton’s TED talk and book, Atheism 2.0, simply posits the nonexistence of God and then goes on to discuss what humanity can glean from the rubble of old supernaturalist traditions. Many younger people are casting aside labels and adopting what fits from religious holidays and traditions, in the same way that they mix and match cultural, racial or sexual identity. As boundaries soften, more women, Hispanics, and Blacks are joining or even leading the conversations.

3. Biblical sexuality is getting binned. Finally. In the last part of December, marriage equality became law in two more states: New Mexico and—drumroll—Utah! Even more exciting is the fact that legal changes can barely keep up with shifting attitudes about queer sexuality. Things are changing when it comes to straight sex, too, and not in keeping with biblical priorities. Perhaps the most consistent sexual theme in the Bible is that a woman’s consent is not needed or even preferred before sex. By demanding an end to rape culture, today’s young women and men are making the Bible writers look as if they were members of a tribal, Iron Age culture in which women were property like livestock and children—to be traded, sold, and won in battle. Small wonder the culture warriors have ramped up their fight against contraception and abortion. Imagine if, on top of everything else, all women got access to expensive top-tier contraceptives and the power to end ill-conceived childbearing. The words, you’re fucked, might lose their meaning.

4. Recovering believers are reclaiming their lives. Most nontheists are former believers, which means that many carry old psychological baggage from childhood beliefs or some post-childhood cycle of conversion and deconversion. While many former believers slip out of religion unscathed, some do not, and believers in recovery now have a name, reclaimers.  A small but growing number of cognitive scientists are exploring the relationship between religion and mental illnesses like depression, anxiety disorders and panic. For example, Marlene Winell, a California consultant who works full time with recovering fundamentalists, has brought attention to a pattern she calls Religious Trauma Syndrome. Dr. Darrel Ray has created a matching service for secular clients and therapists, while Kathleen Taylor at Oxford has raised the question of whether religious fundamentalism itself may one day be treatable.

5. Communities are coming together. When two British comedians, Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones, launched a “sort-of church” for nontheists last January, their Sunday Assembly got media attention around the world. By December, they were on a 40 day tour of 40 cities from Auckland to Portland helping local groups launch assemblies of their own.

Their quirky effort is part of a much broader movement among non-theists who are exploring how to build communities that provide mutual assistance, outlets for wonder and delight, rituals to mark holidays, and organized volunteering. Some, like the Sunday Assembly or Jerry DeWitt’s Community Mission Chapel, deliberately draw on the structure of the traditional church service, with music and a brief lecture followed by tea or coffee. Others, like Seattle Atheists, use social media to organize a broad array of lectures, community service opportunities and recreation. Harvard’s Humanist Community opened doors on a new Humanist Hub for both students and locals on December 8. Even clergy who have lost their faith are banding together for mutual support and friendship.

6. Secular giving is growing. In times of crisis, faith communities often step in to provide emergency assistance or to help those who are most poor and desperate. Proselytizing aside, churches are able to provide real service because they have both the will and the necessary infrastructure. Increasingly, atheists and humanists are saying, we need to do the same. Since 2010, the Foundation Beyond Belief has given away almost 1.5 million raised from nontheists who can give as little as $5/month, and is now turning attention to building a corps of humanist volunteers,  which is also a focus of the Harvard community.  In July, the Foundation Beyond Belief will host their first conference, Humanism at Work.

​7. The Religious Right is licking wounds. Bets are still out on whether the Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptists are retreating or simply rebranding, but either one is good for people who care about science, reason, compassion, or the common good. What’s clear is that the two most powerful hierarchies in the Religious Right have realized that they can’t simply seize the reins of power and remake secular institutions along theological lines. Pope Francis has given a mixture of signals on how much evidence and compassion will guide church priorities—mostly along the lines of yes if you’re poor, no if you’re female or gay. Russell Moore, new head of the Southern Baptist Convention, has warned that Baptists shouldn’t be “mascots for any political faction.” The takeaway for all of us? Fearful, authoritarian conservatives have been smacked back in their patriarchal power plays, and they know it. Shining a light on cruelty bigotry and ignorance works.

8. Texas is evolving! The State of Texas is such a large textbook market that Texas standards can influence content across the nation. This means that a handful of well-placed wing nuts in Texas can reshape the next generation’s understanding of science or history. Thanks to the hard work of the Texas Freedom Network and young activists, public school texts in Texas will be teaching biological science rather than creationism. This fall, reviewers appointed by the Texas Board of Education pushed to include creationism in the texts, but publishers pushed back.  Acceptance of evolution is growing across the country, and as Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Ultimately, the review panel itself rejected creationist arguments. Now that’s evolution!

9. Millennials are booting religion out of the public square. When it comes to separation of church and state, young people are teaming up with established players like the Freedom From Religion Foundation for some real wins. Many of the most hopeful, inspiring freethought stories of 2013 had young protagonists, and we can expect more of the same moving forward. Zack Kopplin was still in high school when he took on the state of Louisiana over creationism in schools. Now he is a full time science advocate and columnist for the Guardian. “Evil little thing” Jessica Ahlquist, whose lawsuit forced removal of a prayer banner at her high school in 2012, has continued a path of secular activism. Inspiring stories of other young church-state activists can be found here.

10. Young freethinkers are also leading on fairness, curiosity and wonder. The list goes on. Young adults who grew up isolated in abusive homeschooling situations have created a network, Homeschoolers Anonymous, so that they can lend each other support and fight for change. When a Catholic school in Bellevue, Washington fired a gay teacher, hundreds of students walked out chanting, “Change the church.” Their protest was picked up by students at other schools and Catholic alumni.

A new documentary movie with a Millennial production crew, The Unbelievers, has been described as a rock concert love-fest between biologist Richard Dawkins and physicist Larry Krause and their fan base of science lovers. For freethinkers who want to find secular inspiration rather than to join a fight for rights and reason, young photographer Chris Johnson has created a coffee table book that challenges readers to grab hold of this one precious life: A Better Life—100 Atheists Speak Out About Joy and Meaning in a World Without GodEven independent of Johnson’s project, the title says it all.

Together, these small changes add up to real progress for science and reason. According to a recent Harris poll, belief in gods, miracles, souls and heaven and hell are down by close to 1% a year over the last eight years, while recognition of evolution is up.  Better yet, From Matures to Baby Boomers to Gen X to Echo Boomers, each generation surveyed reports a lower level of religious supernaturalism than the generation that came before. Let’s drink to that!

———-

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Subscribe to her articles at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

Related:
An Atheist Photographer Takes a Trip that Changes His Life
London’s “Atheist Church” Goes All Out to Celebrate Its First Holiday Season
Right Wing Finally Notices That Women Vote–Maybe.
Religion May Not Survive the Internet


Dr. Valerie Tarico is a psychologist with a passion for personal and social evolution.  In 2005, she co-founded the Progress Alliance of Washington, a collective of future-oriented donors investing in progressive change.  She also is the founder of WisdomCommons.org, an interactive website that showcases humanity’s shared moral core via quotes, poetry, stories and essays from many traditions. Tarico’s book, Trusting Doubt:  A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light, offers personal insight into how we can apply “constructive curiosity” to our most closely guarded beliefs. 

As a social commentator, Tarico writes and speaks on issues ranging from religious fundamentalism to gender roles, to reproductive rights and technologies. A primary focus is on improving access to top tier contraceptive technologies.  To that end, she serves on the board of Advocates for Youth, a D.C. based nonprofit with wide-ranging programs related to reproductive health and justice.  Tarico co-chairs of Washington Women for Choice, serves on the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest Board of Advocates, and is a Senior Writing Fellow at Sightline Institute, a think tank focused on sustainable prosperity. Her articles appear at sites including the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Salon, AlterNet, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and at her blog, AwayPoint


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No wonder the religious and their sympathisers are on the defensive.





I look forward to the coming “Jesus who?” era. But I’ve noticed that many of the people who go around now calling themselves “atheists” may define “atheism” as “nonbelief in gods,” or words to that effect; while in practice they really use “atheism” as a label for a liberal social ideology which makes positive claims.

If these “atheists,” so called, really have a commitment to freethinking, why haven’t they considered the possibility that a lot of traditional beliefs and practices might have originated for good empirical reasons, with the religious rationalizations for them riding along as adventitious hitchhikers?

For example, I don’t see anything woo-woo or superstitious about patriarchy, despite the fact that many of today’s “atheists” denounce it as an irrationality. We can’t observer or communicate with our tribe’s supernaturals, despite what televangelists and those foolish ghost hunters on cable claim. Yet men have had to live with women all along in a harsh and dangerous world, and this history has given our species literally billions of learning experiences about cause and effect regarding human behavior and the relationships between the sexes. If the resulting body of tradition from this hard school tends to put women in a bad light - well, you can’t blame that outcome on the gods now, can you?





Not on Gods, but on religion yes?

Seeing as men were originally, (still are), hunter/gatherers and are genetically evolved more physically stronger than women, then yes, religions merely helped perpetuate and “strengthen” this divide in gender inequality and helped justify it. It may have not been frowned upon these past centuries, but it is now, for “progressively” good reasons?

Barbarians treated women as property, and Abrahamic religions maintained the status quo. Key philosophers like the Buddha and Plato promoted lack of discrimination, yet Buddhist monks and Ancient Greeks were less than democratic towards women still? In fact, Spartan women were more free than others from Greek/Athenian societies?

Judaism must be highlighted for poor attitudes towards women in Abrahamic faiths, (Ruth, Jezebel), even though in the middle-east and Persia women were coverted and traded as lower species - again notice that religions did not upset social traditions?

However, point taken, contemporary Atheists do claim the social high-ground and “assume” they are morally superior to everyone else?

 





I haven’t really noticed “atheism” being used as a label for liberal social ideology as such. I think it’s probably fairer to say that people on the left tend to be far more comfortable being explicit about their atheism than those on the right, and they may see atheism as advantageous on the grounds that it helps to pursue progressive goals. (There are, of course, others on the left that claim the opposite and say that religion helps to make for a fairer and more compassionate society etc.)

The issue about relationships between the sexes perhaps illustrates this point: for example, Valerie sees the “binning” of biblical sexuality as progress, and as an example of evidence that reason is finally triumphing over religion and superstition, but that doesn’t mean she’s equating “atheism” with “binning biblical sexuality”. Only that the two are part of the same trend towards progress and away from anachronistic barbarism.

This distinction is also important with regard to claims that “contemporary Atheists…claim the social high-ground and “assume” they are morally superior to everyone else”. Personally I’m not aware of a shred of evidence that this is the case in general (is there data? Studies? If so what?), but of course there is a militant strain of atheism, which has tended to be (but is by no means exclusively) associated with the political left, and which indeed tends to carry with it a sense of moral superiority. But as more and more atheists “come out”, and atheism (or nontheism) becomes mainstream, I think it is gradually losing this militant edge and association with the political left. Atheists are increasingly just atheists, without either needing to hide it nor necessarily make a big song and dance about it.

Not all religious people are particularly defensive about this trend, and not all ways of being defensive are necessarily bad. But to the extent that a person’s religious practice is based on delusional belief, the flourishing of freethinking, non-religious atheism, whatever its political colour, has to be a threat, since it makes those delusional beliefs ever harder to maintain.

What is still an open question for me is whether religion minus such delusional beliefs can ever have the motivational pull to become a significant force in the world, especially when it has to compete with other means for fulfilling the same psychological needs. Obviously there are many who find value in religious practice without actually, as a former Anglican Bishop put it, “believing six impossible things before breakfast”, but I suspect that the “true believers” in their midst play a key role in keeping the show going. The lesson of the last hundred years or so seems to be that, once enough people stop believing, they tend to drift away, leaving religions to be increasingly dominated by true believers. Fundamentalist branches of religion tend to be the ones that are growing, and I can’t help suspecting that they are basically manifestations of religion’s last gasp.

For me there are two ways in which my suspicion may prove unfounded, one acceptable and one unacceptable. The acceptable (but I suspect unlikely) one is that non-delusional forms of religion will once again come to dominate, and will play a positive role in steering humanity safely towards a glorious future. The unacceptable one is that the pull of delusional religion will prove so strong that it becomes an apocalyptic self-fulfilling prophecy. It is the latter that, above all, we must seek to avoid.





re “‘atheism’ being used as a label for liberal social ideology”

“Liberalism” is a package: atheism, affirmative action, over-regulation and all that. I used to consider “liberalism” as a _good_ package, but I am more and more persuaded that it’s a very slippery, and very dangerous, slope to a bigot authoritarian society, and that’s why I now oppose it.

Of course no ideological package is all good without bad, and I see the bad parts in other ideological packages as well. But sometimes one has to make choices, if only for clarity.





Giulio, your choice is your business, as you like to remind us. But let’s at least make sure we are not saying things that are grossly inaccurate.

“Liberalism” is in the first place a word, and it had different connotations for different people, but more than anything else it is a political philosophy that places a lot of emphasis on individual freedoms and the need to have sound justifications for any limitation on those freedoms. It is not specifically atheist, it does not imply condoning affirmative action (though it does allow for it, provided that the justification - essentially on utilitarian grounds, is sufficiently sound), and it explicitly rules out over-regulation. Of course different people have different views on what constitutes “over-regulation” - what seems perfectly reasonable to the average liberal may constitue “over-regulation” to, say, a libertarian - but to describe liberalism as a package that includes over-regulation seems to me highly dubious.

I do understand that from your essentially libertarian standpoint what passes for liberalism today, whether on the US where “liberal” tends to be a synonym for “on the political left”, or in Europe where there is generally more sympathy for governmental regulation, even among liberals, may seem like a package that includes over-regulation. But this is a misunderstanding of what liberalism actually is.

What is especially implausible in what you write, from my perspective, is the idea that opposing this imaginary package called “liberalism” will actually reduce the risk tht we slip into a bigoted authoritarian society. I agree that the risk is real, but given liberalism’s roots as a practical and workable philosophy that emphasises individual freedoms, opposing it seems far more likely to be counterproductive.

Once again, your choice is your business, but I can also choose to point out that it seems likely to exacerbate, albeit incrementally, the very danger that you are warning us about.





Happy New Year Peter, may Grace be with you in 2014! wink

I am referring to American liberalism. I see that you try to reclaim also European liberalism with “in Europe where there is generally more sympathy for governmental regulation, even among liberals,” but I believe this is grossly inaccurate (tit fot tat).

I think over-regulation (originated not by stupidity, but by endemic corruption) is one of the main reasons why Europe is in such a hopeless mess. Must I remind you of the regulations on the curvature of bananas and other countless examples of Brusshit? (wow I invented a term, let’s hope it goes viral).

Let’s put it like this: I think there are very serious flaws in the “liberal” ideological package, and I see flaws in the “libertarian” package as well. I would prefer to choose a-la-carte instead of having to buy one of the two menus. But if I have to choose a package for clarity and legibility, then I choose the libertarian.

I remember that I promised to write these things down in a coherent way. I started a draft essay on suspending disbelief in naive libertarianism, and one of my new year promises is to finish writing it soon.





Not quite sure what you mean by “trying to reclaim also European liberalism”. What I was actually trying to do was describe what I understand the most coherent and historically accurate (but also contemporarily relevant ) meaning of word “liberalism” to be.

Do you really disagree that there is generally more sympathy for governmental regulation in Europe than in the US? I thought that was generally accepted and well supported by evidence. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is another matter. We have discussed many times before the extent to which Europe’s problems are the result of over-regulation, and why that might be, and I really don’t want to get into that discussion again now (not least because it’s clearly off-topic). My point was merely that describing liberalism as a package that by its nature includes over-regulation seems dubious.

Re “I would prefer to choose a-la-carte instead of having to buy one of the two menus”, the obvious response to this is, “What is stopping you?” A desire for clarity and legibility? But what purpose is this supposed to serve?

To be honest, I’m not necessarily looking forward to reading an article on “suspending disbelief in naïve libertarianism”. I doubt I will learn much from it, and once again it’s really not very relevant with regard to Valerie’s article, which I did like. As I wrote - somewhat snarkily, I’ll admit - in my first comment on this thread, what Valerie writes helps me understand why religious people and their sympathisers are on the defensive. And they really are (though, as I later clarified, not all of them). What then provoked me was advancedatheist’s claim that self-styled “atheists” are using “atheism” as a label for liberal social ideology, and you picked up on this by describing liberalism as a “package” including things that seem to have little or nothing to do with liberalism per se.

Once again, liberalism is a political ideology that emphasises individual freedoms and the need for sound justification for any limitations of those freedoms. It is not atheism, and so far I have not noticed any self-styled “atheists” confusing it with atheism. But perhaps they’re out there somewhere.





The problem is in advocating the use of “labels” and in believing the labels that we subjectively project onto each other, and in the labels that acquaintances give us, (when was the last time your mother described/addressed you by your sociopolitical beliefs? - customarily never, as your mother understands you better and more deeply than any political labels can describe)?

The problem continues with believing and adamantly/loyally adhering to your chosen label, and thereby accepting all of the indoctrination, rules and baggage that comes with it - because by custom, how else can others take you seriously unless you conform to the semantic description of your subscription, (groupthink)?

Mavericks, “wild horses”, “loose cannons”, are cast out as heretics, stripped of institutional labels, often forcing them to create their own as others are then confused as to what to label them?

Yet Heretics, (often burned alive or crucified in the past), are not scorned and feared for their courage and creative thinking/questioning, but for their influence in spreading dangerous disassociative ideas that pollute/dilute doctrine, rules, tradition and labels?

A Heretic is a “free thinker”, a person who thinks, questions, seeks answers, and often “cherry picks” wisdom from various sources, cross fertilizing from different philosophies - a very destabilizing influence for any “members club”?

A Liberal appears to promote freedoms as is customarily expected as attributive by the label, yet often political Liberals are moral “realists”, (although my own experience views them like reeds bending to fickle outrage, emotions, and knee-jerk politics - ie someone gets shot, let’s ban “all” guns? note: I do not advocate guns or harm to others, I am using this as example)

Liberal authoritarian tendencies are to punish and constrict the freedoms of “all” for the transgressions of the one, (or the few Jim)?

So what of your currently chosen label to which you now describe yourself? - on reflection is this now sufficient to describe what you believe in whole? Does one label really describe your sum total of values and beliefs? Even a fundamentalist may have difficulties?

Are you a Techno-progressive or Trans-humanist, Transhuman-ist? Are you being forced to choose and declare your preferred label to “prove” validity/integrity?

Truth is, “when push comes to shove”, we “will” choose if we have need to, to be “free” in the face of adversity and oppression we must still.

Labels = smabels

To deconstruct the very basis of “Self”, to subscribe to Anatta, (no Self doctrine), what need of you for any labels? Your very own noun and “name” gifted you by your parents is the hardest to discard, even for a Buddhist?


“isms” are only useful for terms of intellectual discussions?





Interesting thoughts, CygnusX1.

I’ll start with the last: “To deconstruct the very basis of “Self”, to subscribe to Anatta, (no Self doctrine), what need of you for any labels?” If the purpose is indeed to deconstruct the Self, then indeed we must dispense with labels, and indeed any noun (common or proper) with which we habitually identify ourselves.

And this we do, when we are being mindful. When we simply bring a non-judging awareness to the present moment (easier said than done, I know), there is no Self, no “I”, and there are no labels (unless someone is talking, but then ultimately that is just sound…).

But we can’t always be mindful, and as you say, when push comes to shove we must choose labels. And some - such as the name gifted to me by my parents - I am happy to embrace. As I’ve written before, for me mindfulness is a means to an end - something I do because I think it helps me handle my affairs more effectively, in line with my values.

For the rest, what labels accurately describe me? Many, of course (for starters: English, British, European, human, male, white, blue-eyed,...), and also: moral subjectivist with a preference for utilitarianism as an ethical framework. Transhumanist? Yes, basically, but it depends a bit how you define it. Technoprogressive? Basically yes, but not as gung-no as some - I can also be quite conservative at times.

Liberal? No, I would not really characterise myself as a Liberal, certainly not with a capital L. But I certainly see liberalism as an important contribution to political philosophy, and worth defending, understanding, and defining in a coherent way.

Atheist? Yes, “for all practical purposes”, but I am not anti-theist, nor am I entirely “apatheist” (à la Jethro Knights): I think these issues are worth discussing.

Secular? Certainly, but again this doesn’t mean anti-religion. But I do sometimes get irritated with the way some people defend religion, as you know.

Freethinking? Yes, to a large extent (I strongly self-identify as a freethinker), but as you say freethinkers tend to be scorned and feared for their influence in spreading ideas that are perceived as dangerous, and undermining beliefs that are considered essential or sacrosanct, so freethinking takes a degree of courage, depending on one’s circumstances. Fortunately my circumstances allow me to develop and express opinions without much risk, but that is not to say that fear doesn’t constrain my freedom of expression at all. It certainly does. So freethinking, but not entirely.

I also take your point that political “Liberals” - on both sides of the Atlantic - tend to bend to fickle outrage. Then again, I think just about any successful politician in a democracy does that, and that may just be the price we have to pay for democracy. It’s how they get (re-)elected. Does that mean that the term “Liberal” has lost its meaning or become completely decouple from its original, historical meaning? I don’t think so. I think liberalism is still a strong, coherent, and positive force. Again: it is (in my view) worth defending, understanding, and defining in a coherent way (but still this doesn’t quite make me a “Liberal”).





If not Liberal precisely(?), then what then? Seems we are all obliged to choose some definitive label yes? why?

In real democratic terms, society comprises a collective of “free thinking” individuals who vote, not through loyalty, or even worse, through “nearest” political affiliation and habit, but in measuring and weighing circumstances, policy, benefits and consequences - for this philosophy no labels are required ever?

True your points on mindfulness, yet again mindfulness can be used for any direction, and can be used to “focus” on Self entirely if so chosen. Mindfulness is a discipline expressed perfectly in the Buddha’s instruction “Right concentration” yet can be applied to whatever goal.

Relinquishing our name given at birth by our beloved parents requires an enormous feat of determination and will/tenacity. It is what we prize more than any other single material thing in this world, save perhaps love itself. It is the mark of our individuality and the symbol of our freedoms to “choose”, (to keep it). Yet how many others are named Peter?

You the Peter still strongly attach to this common name as specifically descriptive of you as individual however? yes? (this is no sin, but a noble expression of both love and loyalty to both yourself and your family)?

Most do not even contemplate renouncing their name, even in face of instruction and renaming by a Guru - for the Western Buddhist, this is not even important enough to spare contemplation?

Like the comments on the recent Buddhism article, which expresses contradiction between existence and non-existence, or more precisely “emptiness”, (there is no such thing as “no thing”, the “potential” is the underlying perpetual source of existence) - and similarly, we all seem full of contradictions from one moment to the next, in our words and actions, especially as viewed by others?

Yet “all” things and conflicts can be reconciled with openness and honesty in communication and aim for mutual understanding, and in employing integrity - the Self does not exist, is a construct, yet it is still as real as real can be, still the most important notion and delusion we humans “all” subscribe to?

Some think these contradictions are meaningless and worthless, that you must either be Liberal or Libertarian, when in fact you are neither - these are just stifling labels that hold us all back in communication and in seeking progress?

Sure enough, by weighing consequences, even I practice utilitarian principles, am moral consequentialist in practice, (Obama/Syria), ranting over social injustice, yet can at the same time practice and espouse “non-harm” as a progressive moral imperative.

Through all of this you may begin to understand that theists and non-theists may have opportunity to communicate here, debate and argue, with aim to understand, reconcile differences and make real progress, (I think you do already, yet some still do not)

Presently this site is still wanting of participation, most likely by audiences who may feel it worthless to contribute their opinion, such like much blowing in the wind?

1. Humans are “spiritual” and social entitles, will never relinquish this “spirit” to objectivity and rationalism, (and we should not)

2. This means that traditional religions will either change to accommodate technological progress or die, and moreover, new hybrid religions will emerge to supplant old ideas, yet still support Human spiritual needs.

3. The bell curve designates both theist and atheist fundamentalists at either end, yet the majority and progress will be realised by the progressives abundant in the middle?

“who am I?” some profess “not this! not this!”

What if we all commented here totally anonymously, without nicks, names and labels - then our words and comments would need be judged by weight and relevance alone?





I like the last suggestion. Quite intriguing. At the same time, given that - as you write - the Self, despite being a construct, is nevertheless “as real as real can be”, and so are our ape-inherited and not always entirely noble motivations, I wonder what would then motivate us to contribute. Intellectual curiosity? A desire to change the world? In any case, the nym we use provides some information about which human mind has generated the thoughts expressed here, and I think this does have (utilitarian) value.

Re “I practice utilitarian principles, am moral consequentialist in practice, (Obama/Syria), ranting over social injustice, yet can at the same time practice and espouse “non-harm” as a progressive moral imperative”, I think I can more or less say the same thing. I perhaps rant less over social injustice, and am less scathing than you have been regarding Obama/Syria, and yes, perhaps I am less diligent on practising “non-harm” than you try to be (at least when it comes to eating meat!), but I certainly see non-harm as a useful “rule” in the context of rule utilitarianism. If we are going to inflict significant harm on another living being, and especially another human or non-human animal with relatively high sentience, then we had better at least have a very good reason.

Re mindfulness, I agree in principle that it can be applied to whatever goal. In practice, though, the goals we are likely to apply it to - and, more importantly, the goals that are likely to emerge from practising it, which will not necessarily be the same - will tend to be aligned with our values, which in turn are created by our genes, our upbringing, and other factors, including the conscious decisions we have made at various stages of our lives. I would hesitate to teach mindfulness to a true psychopath, but for anyone else I think it is definitely a social good.





@Peter re “liberalism is a political ideology that emphasises individual freedoms and the need for sound justification for any limitations of those freedoms.”

I think you are confusing classical European liberalism with the contemporary American version, which is a _very different_ political beast.

Contemporary U.S. liberals emphasize the individual freedom of their own electoral base (of course) and stand against the individual freedom of everyone else. So yes to the right of women but no to the right of men, yes to pot but no to guns, yes to the rights of gays but no to the rights of smokers, yes to the right of atheists but no to the right of believers…

Not that the conservatives are any better (same things, with no and yes swapped). The reason why I am focusing on liberals are 1) I used to be one, so I find this sad, 2) I find the the no-negotiation, total-submission, thought-policing attitude of the liberals very annoying.





Well, if we are going to talk about “liberalism” then I am going to use the word to refer to the overall political ideology that has its roots in classical European (English, to be more precise) liberalism. I’m not interested in discussing caricatures.

In what sense were you ever a US liberal?





@Peter re “In what sense were you ever a US liberal?”

In the sense that I support the core idea of the welfare state, protecting the weakest members of society (I don’t always support specific implementations, but I do support the core idea). I am in favor of basic income, drug liberalization, women rights, gay rights, and many parts of the “US liberal” package. I still support all these things, but I oppose other parts of the “US liberal” package. I am in favor of everyone’s rights, including the right to eat, but excluding the “right” to deny others their own rights.

re “I am going to use the word to refer to the overall political ideology that has its roots in classical European (English, to be more precise) liberalism.”

Then this discussion doesn’t apply. Classical European and contemporary US liberalism are two very, very, very different political beasts. Actually, almost opposite.





I completely disagree. There is nothing about the welfare state, or protecting the weakest members of society, that is “opposed” to the basic tenets of (classical) liberalism. It is true that (continental) European liberals tend to favour small government and low taxes, but this is not a logical consequence of the basic idea that there has to be sound justification for any limitation of individual freedoms.

In fact, it is very unclear to me what you are really “against”, and whether it is something real or a figment of your imagination. Do US liberals deny men’s rights? Well sure, of you stick to your view that any kind of affirmative action entails an unacceptable restriction of male rights. If you prefer the company of reactionaries, so be it. Similarly, if you insist that there are no good reasons to limit gun ownership or ban smoking in public places (which is really all that US liberals are trying to do), then fine, go ahead. I disagree, but that’s Ok. But if you think that US liberals want to deny the right of people to believe what they want, then you are on planet Zog.

Now what one should be allowed to teach children or other vulnerable people, that is another matter





Religious values appear to be virtually synonymous with family values; they are well-nigh equivalent. Religion is a ‘necessary’ glue (social cohesion) keeping the family together. Family is the glue holding religion together: without familes, organised religion wouldn’t have much of a future. However this is making a virtue of ‘necessity’; in effect tacitly admitting a majority of the public harbor an immature longing for the childish fantasies of religion. For instance the story of the Garden of Eden is appealing yet it is not really adult, is it?
The above is where the dichotomy comes in: we are told by authority and peers to be mature and strong, although at the same time are pretty much also told by religions to be somewhat immature and weak. So Nietzsche was correct religion (to paraphrase him) is a weakness. What it comes down to is any attempt to praise religion falters in its damning religion with faint praise,

“religion is mumbo jumbo, but important for…”

“I don’t agree with all the Christians say, but…”

Frankly, I would like both the family and religion to disappear; but realistically they are here to stay for decades and perhaps longer.. perhaps—unfortunately—into the 22nd century.





@Peter re “There is nothing about the welfare state, or protecting the weakest members of society, that is “opposed” to the basic tenets of (classical) liberalism.”

Now, now. Did I ever say the contrary? Didn’t I state that “I support the core idea of the welfare state, protecting the weakest members of society”?

Re “If you prefer the company of reactionaries”

If “reactionary” means caring equally for all persons, then most certainly I am one.

re “it is very unclear to me what you are really “against”, and whether it is something real or a figment of your imagination.”

I am against selective, partisan support of the rights of some persons at the detriment of the rights of other persons. I am against self-righteousness, bigotry, and thought-policing. I am against total cultural annihilation of “the enemy,” especially when the enemy is a large part of our own society. I am against making one pushy demand after another. I am against politics motivated by hate.

re “if you think that US liberals want to deny the right of people to believe what they want, then you are on planet Zog. Now what one should be allowed to teach children or other vulnerable people, that is another matter”

A very good example of fake concession, immediately withdrawn. Bit too easy if you ask me.





@Intomorrow re “Frankly, I would like both the family and religion to disappear”

At least, you are honest about your feelings, which is good. I understand that you may have been hurt by family and religion, to the point that you wish to destroy both.

Similarly, some homophobes hate gays because they were raped by one when they were children. And all over the world there are people who hate us Westerners, because their families were killed by our bombs.

These personal reactions are all perfectly understandable, but I don’t think anything good can come from politics motivated by revenge and hate.





@Giulio
Personally I’m quite curious as to why Intomorrow wants family and religion to disappear, and I would like him to say more about it. I think that would give us an insight into his thinking about the future, and how he would like it to evolve more generally. Clearly Intomorrow does not see the disappearance of family and religion as a realistic perspective any time soon (“realistically they are here to stay for decades and perhaps longer”), but perhaps he can tell us which versions of the future he prefers among the options that he does consider realistic?

For the rest:

- I know you said you supported the welfare state and protecting the weak. My point was that there is no contradiction between this and classical liberalism, so it seems incorrect to describe classical liberalism and contemporary US liberalism as “almost opposite”.

- “Reactionary” does not mean caring equally for all persons, it means opposing progress out of revenge and hate, e.g. because you were once passed over for promotion, or thought you had been, as a result of affirmative action? To me, opposing affirmative action *in principle* is an essentially reactionary position.

- We are basically all against the “selecting, partisan support…” etc, etc. You might as well tell us you’re against torture as well. So what?

- Not a fake concession at all. You really are at liberty to believe whatever delusional nonsense you want, and I challenge you to name a single US liberal who would disagree with that. But if your delusion beliefs cause you to act in ways that harm others - and yes, that includes passing them on to the vulnerable - then you become my enemy.





@Peter re “I challenge you to name a single US liberal who would disagree with that.”

Too bad you are British, otherwise based on your next sentence I could answer “Peter Wicks.”

I agree that harming others is bad, but who said that passing religious beliefs to children must always harm them? Some billions of people on the planet would strongly disagree.





Indeed, I am not a US liberal, so you can’t use me to back up your claim. Sorry.

Re “who said that passing religious beliefs to children must always harm them?: not me. Or at least, that’s not what I meant. It really depends on the alternatives. As you say, some billions of people on the planet would strongly disagree (which is partly why I think it is worth saying). But as secular culture increasingly develops the means to serve psychological and social needs previously served by religion, then I think we can do better than passing on delusional religious beliefs to children. (To the extent that there are “religious beliefs” that are not delusional, I don’t have a problem with anyone passing them on to children.) Consequently, I think there is a strong case for making it illegal to do so, especially in certain contexts (such as schools).





So you propose to make all forms of religious education illegal, based on your own unilateral definition of “delusional beliefs,” and against the wish of billions of people on the planet? Sorry, but this doesn’t sound like liberalism to me. It sounds like something else.





Do you agree that some people have delusional beliefs? That is to say, beliefs that are based on wishful thinking rather than on evidence? If so, then that’s what I’m talking about, and I think there is a strong case for making it illegal to pass them on to children as “truth”, or alongside science as some kind of equally valid version of truth, especially in certain contexts such as schools. Of course, you can teach children *about* religion (probably quite important given its prevalence), but children and others need to be protected from religious (and other) claims that are delusional.

Anyway, it’s not going to happen just because I suggest it here, so there’s no need for anyone to get upset about it. What I’m mainly objecting to is your lumping together of various things you hate under the umbrella “liberalism”. You say you used to be a liberal, in the US sense, and that you have since become annoyed at their “no-negotiation, total-submission, thought-policing attitude”. Perhaps you have more experience of them than I do, but I really haven’t picked that up. And that’s why seeing classical liberalism and contemporary US liberalism as “almost oppoosite” strikes me as grossly inaccurate. Perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s how it appears to me.





@Peter re “Do you agree that some people have delusional beliefs?”

Barring really extreme clinical cases, no. Some people have beliefs that I consider as delusional, from my point of view, but I don’t claim the role of arbiter of mental health.

Denying the mental health of political opponents (because politics what we are really talking about) and sending them to mental hospitals, is one of the oldest tricks in the authoritarian book. See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_the_Soviet_Union

Who can decide what is the mental norm? Not I, and I oppose those who claim this role.

 





Point taken, Giulio, but if some people have beliefs that you consider delusional “from your point of view” then there are people who, from your point of view, have delusional beliefs.

As it happens, I think that *all* of us have delusional beliefs, in fact all of our beliefs are to some extent delusional, including this one. Nevertheless, we could not live without assuming that some beliefs are more delusional than others. To think that the Earth was flat several centuries ago was not particularly “delusional”: on the contrary, it was consistent with the evidence that most people had at their disposal. By contrast, for a modern person to believe (for example) that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead is delusional: there is no serious evidence for this, and plenty of evidence that it is highly unlikely.

Now of course, if you have been brought up to believe this, and everyone around you believes this, and you have never really thought to question it, then I would not consider you particularly “delusional”, at least not in a way that would lead me to question your mental health. We all tend to pick up our beliefs from those around us, and we cannot question everything. But if you have been exposed to evidence that your beliefs are inaccurate, and you persist in believing them anyway, then for me that is a form of psychosis, albeit an extremely prevalent one.

You ask who can decide what is the mental norm. The answer, I guess, has to be “society”. For example, a psychopathic serial killer is considered mentally ill by society, irrespective of his or her (usually his, I guess) views on the subject. For others, society may tend to take the view that someone is mentally ill, but if they don’t pose immediate danger to others they may retain the right to make that judgement themselves. In other cases a next of Kim might play that role. Do you oppose all of these people (including the self-acknowledged mentally ill?) because they dare to claim this role? I guess not.

I use the example of Jesus having died for my sins and risen from the dead because this is part of the belief system I was brought up to believe. Also that I would go to hell if I didn’t believe it myself. I want to spare others from being damaged in the same way.





@Peter re “Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead is delusional: there is no serious evidence for this, and plenty of evidence that it is highly unlikely.”

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and you know that many Nobel laureates and top thinkers share this particular belief. I don’t happen to share it literally, but I certainly don’t condemn those who do.

“I use the example of Jesus having died for my sins and risen from the dead because this is part of the belief system I was brought up to believe. Also that I would go to hell if I didn’t believe it myself. I want to spare others from being damaged in the same way.”

I might agree IF I thought that this belief system always results in damage, but this is not the case. On the contrary, it gives hope and peace to billions of believers (especially to those who don’t take the notion of hell too literally, or seriously).

I understand that you have been damaged by this belief system. However, I think that you haven’t been damaged by the metaphysical aspects of the belief system, but by the very physical persons who indoctrinated you, who in my opinion would be a better target for your (legitimate and justified) anger.

Books and ideas don’t damage people - other people do. Remember my previous example: some homophobes hate all gays because they were raped by one when thew were children. But I think (and I am sure you do) that they should realize that the vast majority of gays are good and caring persons, and redirect their hate at the specific persons committed the crime.





Again I disagree, Giulio. Essentially you are asking me to love the sin, but hate the sinner, in the same way that you have repeatedly expressed hatred for “bureaucrats and bankers”. I consider this kind of scapegoating to be dangerous and immoral.

I do agree that the Christian belief system gives hope and peace to many (though hardly “billions”), and of course it becomes far less damaging if one doesn’t take the notion of hell too literally or seriously. But that is easier said than done if you are a child, particularly if you are predisposed to take this kind of thing literally and seriously. Furthermore, the “very physical persons who indoctrinated” me generally did so with my best interests at heartat least to a large extent (as much as I can reasonably expect of anyone). So it would be irrational, as well as immoral, to blame them.

Giulio, you have written many times that books and ideas don’t damage people, but this is itself (in my view) a delusional belief. They do. Nobody has raped me, and I have gained a lot from my Christian upbringing as well as having (in other ways) been damaged by it. Such is life: the glass is never entirely full, nor entirely empty.

On Boxing Day I was discussing with someone who worries that the decline of organised religion is leaving a dangerous vacuum, and is unsure that anything is really emerging to replace it. She has a point. If you were to make that kind of point, instead of just ranting (ridiculously) about US liberals denying people’s right to believe, we would be having a much more interesting discussion.





Peter, the only way a book can damage you directly is by self-propelling by means of some unknown physical phenomena and hit you hard. All other damages that a book can do to you are done by people who read the book and interpreted it in their own way.

re “Essentially you are asking me to love the sin, but hate the sinner.”

I wouldn’t put that way. I am suggesting (not asking) you to show some tolerance for those who believe (which is not a sin) without damaging anyone. It is very sad that you were damaged by indoctrination by the people with your best interests at heart. That happens, unfortunately, but not always and not to everyone.

re “worries that the decline of organised religion is leaving a dangerous vacuum… a much more interesting discussion.”

This is a very good topic. I share these worries, and I humbly try do do some little things thing about.





Giulio, if I understand English (for example), and a book is written in English, and something or someone prompts me to read that book, then I will be influenced by it, and not always in a helpful way. You really want to avoid understanding that books and ideas, and not only people, can harm you (see my Fear of Knowledge article), but this is delusional, and you are harming others by failing to do so.

I already show a lot of tolerance for people who believe things I disagree with, even when i think their beliefs risk harming others. Where I become less tolerant is when people insist on believe things essentially because they just don’t want to question their beliefs. That annoys me.

As you say, the consequences - both good and bad - of the ongoing decline of organised religion is a very good topic. Valerie seems largely to applaud it, though what she is really applauding is the increasingly benign environment for freethinkers, at least as far as religion is considered. You seem to see a more adverse trend, with increasing *secular* bigotry, and intolerance of religious belief. Personally I think you are shooting at the wrong target - secular bigotry and authoritarianism exists, for sure, but certainly not because of US liberals - but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise if you can present credible evidence.

Re “It is very sad that you were damaged by indoctrination by the people with your best interests at heart”, actually I am not particularly sad about it, and I don’t particularly want you to be sad about it either. I just want to spare others from being damaged in the same way. Don’t you?





Clearly Intomorrow does not see the disappearance of family and religion as a realistic perspective any time soon (“realistically they are here to stay for decades and perhaps longer”), but perhaps he can tell us which versions of the future he prefers among the options that he does consider realistic?

Living in Middle America, progress appears to be virtually entirely material: little/no visible social progression. Every single day brings the same extremely backward-looking conversations:
Rightwing Jesus,
Natural Law,
Rush Limbaugh,
Ronald Reagan,
Auntie Laura Schlesinger,
Nosy Parker,
Football,
Baseball,
Bureaucrats in Washington [who happen, Giulio, to send the same anti-government coots and codgers thousands a month per capita].
And it isn’t all that much more modern on the coasts either; yet noticeably so.

Thus, Pete, among the IMO realistic options, those which contain any social progress whatsoever are the ones I prefer. PS, Giulio, I know we have to go easy on the religious. But going too easy is mistaken for more than one reason:
We wind up shilling for the status quo,
We reverse-smarm the religious.

We do not want to excessively rock the boat but neither do we want to have the boat stand stock-still. If I were interested in family and religion—really interested—perhaps technoprogressive IEET would not be the site to visit? Maybe merely for example Mormon Transhumanist sites would be preferable to a family/religion enthusiast? Pete: you once wrote right-on-target of how futurism is Mom and apple pie—but aren’t family and religion also little or nothing more than Mom and apple pie as well?





In any case Giulio hasn’t yet responded to my latest, and I wonder why. Too busy, or doesn’t know how to answer? Like I said, he seems to really, really want to avoid understanding that books and ideas can harm people.

IMO, social progress depends (among other things) on people reducing their tendency to buy into delusional beliefs. Giulio reads that to mean “whatever I think is delusional”, but he does so largely to avoid addressing the issue. The reality is that people are harmed, and harm each other, by their delusional beliefs, and by that I principally mean beliefs that people stick to, despite being presented with evidence that they are false, because they are afraid of questioning them. The more people face their fears and question their beliefs (in particular ones about which they have become defensive), the more social progress there will be in my view.





It is true I’m not afraid of religion sans political power: “how many divisions has the Pope?”
However unlike Europe (we might want to distinguish between agnostic W. Europe and more religious E. Europe) the religious in America try very hard to grasp some sort of power, economic/political. At any rate, amass enough capital then a religion automatically obtains power, which is why IMO Hank P. is correct religious orgs ought to be taxed. Not so much for the revenues but to rein in the power of the religious—because in America power = money and vice versa. If Giulio doesn’t know that, he doesn’t know America.





“The reality is that people are harmed, and harm each
other, by their delusional beliefs, and by that I principally mean beliefs that people stick to, despite being presented with evidence that they are false, because they are afraid of questioning them. The more people face their fears and question their beliefs (in particular ones about which they have become defensive), the more social progress there will be in my view.”

It depends what you mean by “delusional beliefs” You need to be more specific?

For example if a group/family raise their kids to believe there is faith, (but not merely hope), that heaven and transcendence is real - what right have you to feel you need to stop/prevent this?

As you well understand, it is fear of death, and the inability for children to reconcile death of loved one’s and by extension themselves, that faith in heaven and afterlife is promoted and so well established?

Sure enough we also promote and tell kids that Santa is real for no rational reason other than sentiment and for the promotion of charity, (or more cynically consumerism), and then need to correct these teachings lest our kids become ridiculed - yet faith in life after death and fear of death is something that extends beyond childhood?

Or more specifically if parents aims are to soothe their children’s fears, anxiety and questioning/quizing, then it would be a poor parent that spins lies of faith and religion to their kids yet did not believe/have faith themselves?

As a Utilitarian you should agree that the above has “utility” in protecting our children from fear and anxiety - by all means raise your own kids as secular, (as I would if I had any), yet don’t take this away from others?

So to recap - you need to be more specific in what you deem as harmful and delusional?

And to hammer the point well and truly home - can you be absolutely honest with us and yourself - that either through mortal sudden accident or thoughtful contemplation, your final thoughts will not reflect upon death and the possible teachings you were once raised to believe as a child?

If your mother/child was dying in your arms, would you take away their faith in such delusional beliefs?





” If I were interested in family and religion—really interested—perhaps technoprogressive IEET would not be the site to visit? Maybe merely for example Mormon Transhumanist sites would be preferable to a family/religion enthusiast?”

Ha! is this a polite way of telling Giulio to bugger off?
Have to admire your audacity!

Truly you will not be happy Intomorrow until there is absolutely no one commenting/visiting IEET - not even yourself? Will you be happy then?





@CygnusX1
I am a long way from seriously advocating that parents should not be allowed to pass religious beliefs on to their children. It is obvious that this would be taking the role of the state way too far. That’s why I specified “in certain contexts such as schools”. Basically I was responding to Giulio’s (ridiculous) claim that US liberals want to deny the right of people to believe what they want. While I indeed find this claim ridiculous (US liberals just don’t do that), I wanted to make the point that what one believes is not actually morally neutral, and especially what one passes on to the vulnerable is a legitimate subject for regulation, since it has potential to do genuine harm.

In this increasingly interconnected world, we are all to some extent responsible for what ideas get circulated. Certainly I agree that if a mother/child (or anyone else for that matter) is dying in your arms that might not be the best moment to relieve them of their delusional beliefs. Yet we know it is possible to achieve serenity in the face of death without belief in an afterlife (think Christopher Hitchens), and while we may feed all sorts of fairy tales to our children (and to each other, as pillow talk) we should not wish them to grow up believing in them. Nor do we have to approve of others bringing them up to do so.

For my part, Giulio is welcome to keep commenting here. But I really wish he would make more effort to question his beliefs, instead of merely repeating them.





@Peter re “Giulio hasn’t yet responded to my latest, and I wonder why. Too busy, or doesn’t know how to answer?”

There is a third possibility: perhaps I just don’t see the point of repeating the same things over and over. Therefore, this is my last comment on this topic. You have stated yours points, and I have stated mine.

re “I really wish he would make more effort to question his beliefs, instead of merely repeating them.”

So I should question my beliefs while you don’t question yours? Sorry, I won’t do that.

Books and ideas can not harm you directly. I will change my mind when the heaviest book in my shelf (Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science, a real megabrick of a book) will decide fly out of the shelf and hit me on the head. Until that moment.

So some books are “delusional and harmful”? Who decides that? You?

I don’t buy your previous answer (Society), because it’s meaningless. Perhaps you mean the State (the current power in the society)? So we should have a State-sanctioned definition of sanity, and perhaps mental hospitals for those who don’t comply? No, thanks.

What should we do with “harmful and delusional” books? Burn them to protect the simple from their content? Perhaps I should remind you that the Inquisition did that.

There are a lot of books that I don’t like, but I don’t propose to burn them. First because, old-fashioned as it is, I believe in free minds and free speech. Second, because history shows that those who burn books will soon start burning people too.





I also don’t see the point of repeating the same things over and over, Giulio, unless there is some chance of influencing someone by doing so. You insist that books and ideas can’t harm people directly. Well, I disagree, but if you are really too afraid to question that belief, then so be it. As you say, I have stated my points.

What I will do, however, is to point out how you are caricaturing my arguments in order to score cheap, and ultimately meaningless, rhetorical tricks. I don’t hold out much hope that this will discourage you from doing so in the future, but it will at least help to illustrate why I am so convinced that you ate afraid of questioning your beliefs.

Firstly you have read my comments as evidence that I expect you to question your beliefs without question mine. What makes you think I am unwilling to question my beliefs?

Secondly you have repeated the implication, once again without any evidence, that because I think books and ideas can be harmful I should be the one to decide which ones are.

Thirdly you have extrapolated my assertion that books and ideas can be harmful to mean that I think we should start burning them, and then contrasting this imagine point of view with your own to make yours look better.

Shame on you, Giulio.





@ Peter..

Yes I realise this.. however, I saw opportunity to move the discussion further - because it may help to find the common/middle ground with theists by deciding and collaborating on what is deemed “delusional beliefs”, not merely by yourself, but as customarily stated by hard-line New Atheists.

If you proposed to a theist they should throw out their entire belief system in entirety, moral reasoning and all, under the guise of “your religion is a delusional belief and it should be against the law to teach your children/any children this” - then for sure, no one “in their right mind” and mental state will stand for this..

so by deciding carefully and progressively to work with religion/theists to ditch unreasonable beliefs, and to accept science and the potential of new technology, we may see and even help religion to change, avoid reactionary regress, (rejection of technology, antiquated mindsets), and see traditional religions evolve into something that aligns itself to incorporate Humanity’s future - and at the same time be more tolerant, (acceptance is far superior), of secularists and vice versa?

You seem to agree with my points regarding death and what we teach children - but I was hoping you would have more to add. Hint: so what would you suggest, that we soothe our children’s fear and anxiety of death with stories until they are old enough to decide for themselves? A possibility yes, but I already added that for parents to do this when they do not really believe themselves is hypocrisy yes?

So, come on, have a think - if you want to make progress here, this again is opportunity to do so?

Yes, I wish Giulio would add more also, but it’s really up to him?





To be honest I hesitate a bit to express views on how parents should go about soothing their children’s anxiety, and in particular how to deal with the (inevitable?) questions about death. I don’t have children either, so like you I lack direct experience. One consideration that may be relevant, though, is that when people (including children) are anxious there tend to be many factors involved, and not only what they are directly worrying/asking about, including (for example) how much anxiety the parents themselves are emitting, how well they are getting on, and so on. I know I am like a broken record on the subject, but again I think mindfulness is key.

I don’t altogether agree that it is hypocritical to tell children stories that you don’t believe yourself. When you read a child a bedtime story (or tell him/her about the tooth fairy), obviously you don’t believe the story yourself, and you don’t necessarily go out of your way to tell the child that the story is fictional. The assumption is that the child will figure it out as and when he/she needs to (and is indeed capable of making such distinctions). So the policy of soothing them with stories until they are old enough to decide for themselves seems reasonable to me.

I do agree that, as a general rule, it is unreasonable and likely to be counterproductive to expect people to throw out their belief system in its entirety. Deciding carefully and progressively to work with people (whether secular or religious) to ditch unreasonable beliefs seems like a good strategy. It’s basically what I do, including on this site, and if sometimes I get annoyed it is, as I’ve pointed out, usually when people insist on a belief at is clearly unreasonable (such as “US liberals want to deny the right to believe” or “books and ideas can’t hurt you, only people can”), apparently because they are simply not curious enough to consider alternative points of view. On the whole I agree that tolerance and acceptance is better, but I think you agree that one should not tolerate everything.

Certainly there is more we could add, more ideas we could come up with, but that’s all my brain is coming up with for the moment…





Shame on you, Giulio.

Pete, don’t underestimate Giulio. From Giulio’s perspective, he is doing the right thing: he can discuss each side of an issue out of both sides of his mouth. As Liberace would say to his detractors,

“I’m crying all the way to the bank.”

Same with Pastor You-Know-Who: he wisely left IEET because there are more philosophical brownie points for a Canadian mining town priest elsewhere. No matter how religious, everyone today looks out for their interests very carefully.
Henry Bowers was more problematic: he tipped his hand by insulting gays. So he left knowing the game was over; plenty of other sites to diss people at. At any rate, I’m not afraid of the Bible [or any other book], am afraid of the hand that holds the Bible. On the coasts, there was little difficulty with the religious. In Mid America it is frightening how stuck in the past they are. Now, their religion is well thought out whereas the ancillary politics are poorly reasoned. Conducted, orchestrated by demagogues such as Limbaugh.
John Derbyshire made a telling point—conservatives talk of their fear of the mob (small case ‘m’):

“but Limbaugh is the mob.”

That is exactly what I fear, the mob; not the Bible or any book, anywhere.
@Cygnus:
Truly you will not be happy Intomorrow until there is absolutely no one commenting/visiting IEET?”

Let’s see what Giulio himself thinks about what I wrote, if he thinks anything about it.





I don’t underestimate him, Intomorrow. I just find his style of debating shameful.





@Intomorrow re “Let’s see what Giulio himself thinks about what I wrote”

Let’s not. You guys seem to resent the fact that others think different from you. I don’t think I can continue to participate in this discussion without violating the Buddhist Right Speech policy of this site with very strong words, so I prefer to let you have fun and dedicate my time to more useful things.





Not the fact that others think different. Your debating style. But indeed, if you don’t think you can continue to participate without using “very strong words” then it’s probably better that you don’t.





@Giulio Prisco: aren’t you an atheist? Don’t you believe in the freedom of the individual at the same time? All you have to do is use the most non-offensive language as possible - for I was never told to enforce the BRS anyway…. just say what you want to say without being “over-the-top”.





“I don’t underestimate him, Intomorrow. I just find his style of debating shameful.”

Giulio is so much more appealing than some others who have been at IEET,
I now like him. Midwesterners are thickheaded; thus Giulio, no matter how over the top, is preferable. IMO a Mike Lorrey writing he’d like to conscript—Draft—is exponentially worse and intolerable. I wont say what I think of Lorrey, because it would involve profanity, and Buddhist Right Speech is probably the right way to go in almost all cases.





“Buddhist Right Speech is probably the right way to go in almost all cases.”

Very well put.





Over the years I’ve come to appreciate Giulio more: could be he sees what is beyond my understanding—as da Vinci saw beyond.
Don’t even mind the following:

“You guys seem to resent the fact that others think different from you. I don’t think I can continue to participate in this discussion without violating the Buddhist Right Speech policy of this site with very strong words, so I prefer to let you have fun and dedicate my time to more useful things.”

As a scientist he does have more useful things: but outside of science he might not know more than I do; would rather read Valerie’s and Hank’s articles for instance—because IMO they offer more in that respect and I learn things I did not know before. So it isn’t necessarily disagreeing with Giulio on these matters, it is how he offers little new (to me at any rate) re non-science discussions. Now, God and Physics.. there he does have something quite substantial to offer.

Giulio is preferable, IMO naturally, to Henry Bowers and his ultraconservative Catholicism. All that Bowers wrote of substance was our interest in technologies of the future being based on a ‘promissory note’. But of course: such goes without saying. Speculation religious or secular is speculation.
Above all, Mid American religion has soured me on religion as religion is today, at this time. Not religion of the past nor what religion may possibly be like in the future:
now.

In Giulio a comprehension is lacking of the differences—not enormous, yet noticeable—between European religion on one hand, and N. American religion on the other. Have only been to the Low Countries and Scandinavia; religion in N. Europe did not seem as agnostic/atheist as Giulio indicates, though I was in N. Europe 24 yrs ago- thus the situation could have changed there in the past quarter or so century.
At any rate, it does not appear Giulio grasps how commercialised, and at the same time fanatical, Mid American religion really is. I asked him a couple years back: what does a guy in Budapest know about America?

Example:

yes to the right of atheists but no to the right of believers…

NOT so in Mid-America, Giulio.





Giulio thinks we resent the fact that others think differently from us; what I actually resent is the way he writes absurdities and then resorts to cheap rhetorical tricks when we call him on it. Henry was more honest in that sense: completely away with the fairies, of course (far more thoroughly delusional than Giulio), but admirably willing to engage in honest debate, at least up to a point, though ultimately sharing with Giulio an unwillingness to genuinely question his beliefs.





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