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View Diary: Struggle and Faith: How Occupy Has Taught Me To Tolerate Religion (231 comments)

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  •  Brilliant comment, thanks. (14+ / 0-)

    You speak up about the degree to which militant atheism, is a response to modern, militant religious fundamentalism.

    OK, don't believe in God; that's your right. But to tell others what they should or should not believe? You're out of bounds.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:11:08 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  thanks. I think that belief systems that arise (20+ / 0-)

      from anger--just like non-belief systems that arise from anger--are really, really unhealthy and often dangerous.  And I see that same anger (and fear) underlying both radical fundamentalism and radical 'neo-atheism'.  

      Ray Bradbury had some beautiful observations about the interplay of science, art and religion--although I'd have to dig them up (I remember one in the Martian Chronicles--articulated by a character named Spender)

      I wish people would lose the anger and see the magnificence of the unknown.

      •  I've got some rereading to do (19+ / 0-)

        of Bradbury.  I find the religion vs. science thing in popular society baffling.  To me it's a phony conflict based on superficial understanding of one or the other.  Some of the pro-religious/anti-science folks seem to have come by an amazingly shallow, narrow sighted faith.  And some of the pro-science/anti-religious types seem to thrive on criticizing the easiest possible targets.

        I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

        by Satya1 on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:35:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The religious historian Karen Armstrong (13+ / 0-)

          discusses the evolution of atheism, and of religious fundamentalism, in one of her books, I think "The Struggle for God."

          Atheism first arose after Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain attempted to purge Jews living within Spain in the early 1500s. The Crown told Jews they could either convert to Catholicism, or leave the country. Many left; many also converted. But the forced conversions weren't sincere, with the result that many became alienated from religion altogether. The urban cosmopolitan sensibility of the day absorbed this alienation. That's the earliest historical incidence of formal "atheism," the lack of a belief in God.

          Religious fundamentalism, a belief in the literalism of scripture, according to Armstrong, arose as a reaction to the scientific worldview taking over in the west at about this same time. Science purported to uncover the "literal truth," so religion felt it had to compete.

          It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

          by karmsy on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:57:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And amazingly (8+ / 0-)

            the extreme examples of each seem to need each other.

            I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

            by Satya1 on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 08:07:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Re (10+ / 0-)

            There is no such thing as formal atheism.

            From the time back when the first idea of gods formed in people's heads, there were other people who said 'no, I do not believe it'.

            Atheism is not a religion (it isn't really a 'thing' at all). It didn't form as a political statement or as a response to (or encouragement of) any sort of repression or political event.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 04:32:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  OK, I'm sure you're the expert :) n/t (0+ / 0-)

              It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

              by karmsy on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 04:41:55 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Actually it's just logical (7+ / 0-)

                If someone asserts the existence of an Invisible Pink Unicorn and I say no, I don't think so, I am not "just advocating another kind of belief".  If Invisible Pink Unicornists start trying to convert others by the sword, and I fight back, I am not just another believer in a religious war.

                And if I say that believing in Creationism is not consistent with science, I am not somehow failing to see a grand truth that faith and science are not incompatible.

                There are other things that you and others in this thread are saying that are true, or partially true, but please take care not to conflate them with falsehoods like the ones I mention above.  These arguments are not from authority, just logic.

                I will not make a "craziness exception" for religion.  A lot of religious beliefs are nuts, some much more benignly so than others. One of the most benign ones may be believing that the arc of the moral universe is long but bends toward justice.  I tend to belief that, but rationally, it's only verifiably true to the extent that a lot of people persist (with some luck on their sides) in doing the bending.

                "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

                by dackmont on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:42:25 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  I agree but I think the Dawks are a new (0+ / 0-)

                wrinkle

                Newt 2012. Sociopath, adulterer, hypocrite, Republican.

                by tikkun on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 01:32:32 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The only thing (0+ / 0-)

                  new about the "New" Atheists is their cultural prominence.

                  There is nothing that Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, or Dennett (or Victor Stenger, Julia Sweeney, Greta Christina, P.Z. Myers....) has said about religion that wasn't previously stated decades, centuries, or millennia earlier by Socrates, Lucretius, Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Twain, Russell, Ingersoll, O'Hair, and the like. And the "New" Atheists themselves have consistently pointed that fact out.

                  One consequence of an increased profile for atheist criticism of religion is that it's much harder for religious figures and organizations to hide from that criticism. They can (and have) attempted to shoot the messenger by pretending that the Gnus are barbarians who deserve to be disregarded, but it's demonstrably not working.

                  So what's new about the Gnu Atheists is that religion is scared of them.

                  •  What Is Different About Them (0+ / 0-)

                    is their Calvanist methods.  I don't take it from Calviinists and I don't take it from Dawks.

                    Newt 2012. Sociopath, adulterer, hypocrite, Republican.

                    by tikkun on Thu May 02, 2013 at 06:37:17 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  What exactly (0+ / 0-)

                      are "Calvinist methods"? That sounds very much like a stand-in for "they do things I don't like, even if I don't have legitimate reasons to object to those things."

                      You'll forgive me if I don't give the benefit of the doubt to vague complaints directed at members of despised and disempowered minorities for doing things that just so happen to bruise the unjust privilege of the overwhelmingly powerful hegemon.

            •  Well, it's a 'thing' in that it embraces logic and (8+ / 0-)

              skepticism. And it insists that extraordinary claims (for instance, that the Universe is ruled by an invisible omnipotent & omniscient being who has chosen not to speak to us openly for the last 2,000 years) demand extraordinary evidence. Something more rigorous than a clumsily stitched together pastiche of collected oral traditions dating from circa 1000 BCE to 200 AD in multiple different languages with countless internal contradictions.

              •  Logic is of human construction. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                tikkun

                When you think of the force that brought about the universe, why do you think it would need to talk like humans?

                The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

                by dfarrah on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:37:25 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Then why is the only thing that has helped (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  No Exit, Tonedevil

                  us understand how the universe works based on logic?  (I speak of SCIENCE! <== read in the voice from that Thomas Dolby song)

                  "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

                  by dackmont on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:46:32 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  As much as I love that song, (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    dackmont

                    we are humans and what we use to understand anything is still limited by ourselves.

                    The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

                    by dfarrah on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 03:21:30 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  True, but then how useful is religion? (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      gsenski, Rieux

                      If we're gonna take science down a peg (which is reasonable, but tends to be overdone by the faith ~ science false equivalence advocates), then we need to do the same for religion, which doesn't have any irrefutable evidence for having ever helped us understand the universe.  I strongly refute "God of the gaps" thinking.

                      But I think we'd agree that religious experience can show us a lot about ourselves, as can (even moreso) science, and as can basic sympathy and self-understanding (which can be but isn't necessarily something that happens in a religious context).  Alexander Pope had a good point when he wrote "the proper study of mankind is man".

                      "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

                      by dackmont on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 05:10:39 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                •  God speaks English (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  dackmont

                  One curious glitch committed by Biblical literalists is they believe God is at once all-powerful and all-knowing, yet is still constrained by the limitations of human language. I know that when I think, English words run to and fro in my head. Literalists seem to think God also thinks in English. Were that true that alone would prove God's lack of omnipotence.

            •  I might suggest that there is both informal and (5+ / 0-)

              formal atheism, in the sense that while certainly there have people for most of recorded history that didn't believe that there were gods, or didn't believe in them if they did exist (informal atheism) there has only been a term "atheism" for that situation for a fairly brief time, and some people who self-describe that way maintain websites and have meetings, which is a fairly formal expression of it.



              Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

              by Wee Mama on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 06:18:52 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  There was Gravity long before there was a word (6+ / 0-)

                for it.  

                Non-belief or naturalism has a long and proud history going back at least to 600 BCE with the Buddha, who preached against belief in gods on the grounds that such beliefs are indemonstrable, and so disturb peace of mind by leaving it in a state of needing demonstration and proof all the time.  

                The robb'd that smiles steals something from the thief. -- Shakespeare

                by not2plato on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:02:20 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yes yes yes (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  No Exit

                  There was/is room in Buddhism for materialists.  The Buddha discouraged believing that one's actions don't matter morally, but didn't care whether one believed in heaven.  He believed in karma, but there is a tradition of Buddhist logic that interprets karma in a materialistic way.

                  "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

                  by dackmont on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:49:17 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  formal, as in semantically. Maybe. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cotterperson
          •  ugh no (7+ / 0-)
            Atheism first arose after Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain attempted to purge Jews living within Spain in the early 1500s.
            Yes, let's just ignore pre-Christian atheist philosophy.
            •  Who has studied it? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              CBrachyrhynchos

              What have they written about it?

              A paraphrase, sort of a counterpoint to Karen Armstrong, would be interesting.

              It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

              by karmsy on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 07:46:18 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Caught flat-footed (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                karmsy, Tonedevil, dackmont

                I don't really have much of a bibliography to share. The Guardian's CiF Belief section was running a series on Epicurianism. Not exactly pre-Christian but certainly non-Christian, Batchelor has some work exploring skepticism and agnosticism within the Pali canon.

                •  Thanks for your candor. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  CBrachyrhynchos

                  Admittedly, this thread may not be the place for an in-depth discussion of this topic. But I think there probably is material for an interesting comparison.

                  It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

                  by karmsy on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 08:18:15 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Ack, I should have read this before posting (0+ / 0-)

                  my reply below -- you made the exact same points.  Hayes is fun though, and more trenchant than Batchelor!

                  "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

                  by dackmont on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 08:06:10 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Read Richard Hayes (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                karmsy

                "Land Of No Buddha" for (along many other things) some discussion of Buddhist philosophers who were atheists.  I think Epicurus was too -- certainly some of the Greeks were.

                "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

                by dackmont on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:51:15 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Errrrrr No (4+ / 0-)

            This Bartonesque history lesson was brought to you by the letter W for WRONG and number 0 for the IQ of the poster.

            I suggest you try to pick up a history book before giving a lesson on Spanish history, as it seems you slept through most of class or were taught by a bible bashin goof. Utter twaddle.

            Atheism has been around as a recognizable and written down philosophy since ancient times. Ever hear of Diagoras orSocrates? Hellenic culture was full of atheists. There was also a strong atheist school of thought in Indian society in the 6thC BC. Then later in Rome, through the Byzantine period, and through the Middle Ages all the way to the day.

            And as for Armstrong...well wrong again. Fundamentalism has been around as long as religion itself, and is a reaction to contra-dogma or a belief that counters that of its own "brand" or a perceived threat to the faith from within or without. Example - the iconoclasts of the Byzantine period were active long before the birth of modern science.

            So please, put your holy book down and pick up a history book. You will learn more from the latter.

            •  There is such a thing as conscientious (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Buckeye Nut Schell, Quicklund

              and informed disagreement. Then there's attitude.

              This comment represents the latter, in full blossom.  

              It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

              by karmsy on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 07:31:17 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  And Buddha was a staunch atheist (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              blueoasis

              The robb'd that smiles steals something from the thief. -- Shakespeare

              by not2plato on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 08:58:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Socrates was not an atheist. He questioned (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Quicklund

              and sometimes poked fun at various beliefs about the gods, thereby unsettling many people, who charged him with undermining belief in the gods.  However, he never taught that there were no gods.

              However, speaking during his trial, he said (doing this from memory, may not be precise) that he had a daemon (spirit) that told him when he did wrong.  So he knew that questioning beliefs about the gods was not wrong.  In fact, he considered pursuing truth (which involved questioning) to be a task laid on him by the god.  If those trying him offered him his life if he would stop questioning, he could only answer them by saying, "Men of Athens, I love you and I honor you.  BUt I will obey the god rather than you."

              I'm not saying there weren't atheists long before the Spanish Inquisition.  I agree with you that there were.  But Socrates was not one of them.

              --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

              by Fiona West on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 10:00:18 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  insulting the poster in your first line renders (0+ / 0-)

              the remaining paragraphs useless.

              continuing to insult the poster in the second paragraph renders your remaining paragraphs a bunch of bs.

              go back to the drawing board and learn how to engage in civil discussion.

              Have a nice day.

              •  Walter: "Am I wrong?" (0+ / 0-)

                Dude: "No, you're not wrong."
                Walter: "Am I wrong?"
                Dude:  "You're not wrong, Walter, you're just an asshole!"

                --the gospel

                "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

                by dackmont on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 08:15:53 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Ray Bradbury had a reputation as a (6+ / 0-)

        pulp sci fi writer. But his work occasionally rose to artistic heights.

        I liked his account of the tattooed man in "The Illustrated Man," basically a professional freak in a carnival road show whose body art, under the right circumstances, became animated and foretold the future. In one scene, he's telling somebody he'd just met that his tattoos behave one way if he "lies down with a man," and behave another way if he "lies down with a woman." Unforgettable stuff.

        I'll look at his "Martian Chronicles" again.

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:47:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  there was some pulp sci-fi. And definitely some (10+ / 0-)

          pulp horror.

          But I think he was one of the most brilliant writers of the genre, ever.  He was naturally poetic but could go overboard with words sometimes...  but I've never read anyone who could conjure up a dream-state like Bradbury.

          Reading Bradbury--particularly in the Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked...  some of the pulp stories too--  feels like lucid dreaming to me.

          •  The partly delusional dream-like sequence in (0+ / 0-)

            "The Man Who Lost the Sea" is exquisitely done, and very moving, imo.

            --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

            by Fiona West on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 10:05:51 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Belief that slavery is wrong (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        not2plato, Rieux

        arose partly from anger.

        "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

        by dackmont on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:44:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You have that backwards (0+ / 0-)

          Why would anyone be angry about slavery, if there was no concept that slavery is wrong? No, people were angry because slavery is wrong, yet there it was, existing.

          •  Cruelty is offensive at multiple levels (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rieux

            and different individuals react in different ways.  Apes don't like it when their companions are maltreated.  Nor do little kids, and I think that that's emotion-based, and that the concept (at some point) follows.

            Anyway, in the overall picture, I would certainly argue that anger can be righteous, and channeled into good things.  "Voting is the best revenge", as was recently said by someone I'm justifiably angry at for various reasons.

            "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

            by dackmont on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 04:57:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I'm an atheist, but a quiet one. (10+ / 0-)

      I was raised Catholic and fell away from the church, and ultimately away from believing in God.  Though I dislike the leaders of many organized faiths, I do have a strong appreciation for what that faith can mean for believers.  It can provide a solid framework for doing good in this world, and strong, steady support during difficult times.  Local churches can be the anchor of a strong community, and improve things for everyone, member or not.   It's unfortunate that some people can't see that side of things.  I guess you could think of them as Westboro Atheists.

      •  That allusion is offensive to me, as a life-long (5+ / 0-)

        atheist (since around age eight).

        I am not a "Westboro Atheist".

        I am not a believer in religion or any sort of supra-natural (not supernatural) being.

        I do not try and convert anyone to my way of thinking, although I freely admit I believe the entire world would be better off without organized religion.

        I do not degrade or offend others with differing belief systems.

        Live and let live has always been my motto, I only wish it were so for everyone.


        "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

        by Angie in WA State on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:53:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Since that shoe does not fit (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JDsg, alain2112

          Why assume it was constructed for you to wear?

          Do you feel every self-declared atheist is above criticism?

          •  If we are to have a respectful discussion of (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Tonedevil, Rieux, Simian

            religious beliefs vs non-belief, then when someone says

            Local churches can be the anchor of a strong community, and improve things for everyone, member or not.   It's unfortunate that some people can't see that side of things.  I guess you could think of them as Westboro Atheists.
            and I am an atheist who believes that organized religion serves no purpose, then I think that, yes, that person is talking about me.

            Your second question begs this question: What criticism is there to lay at the feet of self-declared atheists, other than to note that they do not believe in a supra-natural, omnipotent being?


            "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

            by Angie in WA State on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 10:51:03 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Then the problem lies with you (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              alain2112, gene s

              People are free to discuss their personal experiences. You don't get to veto their comments because - even when it is clear they do not apply to you - you perversely insist they are aimed at you.

              What criticism is there to lay at the feet of self-declared atheists, other than to note that they do not believe in a supra-natural, omnipotent being?
              Way to dodge the point. The point is this: Even athiests can be assholes.
              •  I did not "veto" any coment. Point of fact: (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Tonedevil, Simian

                I have often Rec'd comments by lineatus for years now.

                But this one comment struck a chord with me. So I responded.

                I clearly explained why that comment DID APPLY to me.

                You asked a question, I asked one in return. That is not "dodging the question". It's called 'arguing the points' and 'debate', in most places.

                Yes, even atheists can be assholes. What's the point of saying that? That I am an asshole? Yes, on occasion, I am. But not in this case.


                "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

                by Angie in WA State on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 11:52:58 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Fine. Delete "Veto". Insert "complain about" (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  alain2112

                  No, you described why you insist a "if teh shoe fits" comment applies to you. If you feel the shoe fits, then the problem lies with your foot.

                  And yes, you did dodge the point of the question. The "if the shoe fits" comment you complain about is predicated on the fact that yes, even atheists can be assholes. It was not, as your dodge would have it, that to be an atheists is to be an asshole. Simple.

            •  Oh come on! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JDsg

              Some of the rock stars of the recent "new" atheists have been rather militant and absolutist about their philosophy. So much new (heh!) atheist writing focuses on and attacks the strident Abrahamic faith-based religions. That's fair game, I suppose. But people of more liberal traditions find themselves lumped in with the crazies all the time. So, I guess all I can say is, how does it feel?

              Not good, eh? On the other hand, it's OK to say things like "religion serves no purpose" or "...I believe the entire world would be better off without religion". I wonder how that makes someone feel who has dedicated their life to helping the community! In addition, as well explained in this diary, some organized religion did indeed bring about good. It did "serve a purpose" in spite of what you believe. In fact, it caused the writer to re-evaluate their thinking in regards to religion. I think that's a good thing. You state that you've been an atheist since you were 8. Yet, you are upset by certain atheists being called "Westboro". I don't know if you ever frequent some of the atheist blogs, but comments like that are hurled at the spiritual or religious community constantly.

        •  Was not directed at you or others like you and me. (2+ / 0-)

          I have my non-belief, and I don't push it.  You don't either.

          I'm contrasting with those who feel it necessary to insult people of faith, who go out of their way to provoke.  As you say, you do not try to convert anyone to your way of thinking, nor do you degrade anyone for their beliefs.  Ergo, you are not a Westboro Atheist.  I don't think Christians (or Muslims or Jews or any believer) should be defined by the most extreme "believers" of their faith, nor should atheists or agnostics be defined by the loudest, most provocative voices on our side.

          I think we're saying the same thing, but perhaps I didn't clarify it well.

    •  Well, Allah loves everyone regardless. n/t (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JDsg, cotterperson, dfarrah, Quicklund
    •  Not at all (8+ / 0-)

      It's simple historical reality that religions are more likely to breed monsters and monstrous acts than saints. (As a former Catholic, it was disappointing to discover how few so-called saints were in any way truly saintly - or even just how little religious history was actually true.)

      That doesn't make the saints or the concerned citizens any less valuable, but it does raise questions about the role that religion plays in politics.

      And since religion is so rarely truly private in practice, and since it overlaps so obviously with politics, it's not at all unreasonable to question whether or not it offers a net social benefit.

      The basic moral fact is that no matter how much religious people would like to pretend otherwise, absolutely any moral position can be justified religiously.

      Whether it's gay-indifference or gay-hate, feminism or anti-feminism, hatred of the poor or support for the poor, killing your neighbour or loving your neighbour, some preacher somewhere will be preaching it from a pulpit, and their followers will believe that it's religiously-inspired morality.

      It's not belief in god that's the problem, it's the political forces it creates.

      Now, if the political forces were reliably progressive, progressive atheists would be more likely to make an accommodation with them.

      But they aren't. The religious left is a tiny minority compared to the religious right.

      So yes, you can believe what you want. But faith is not enough to create effective change when your beliefs are a minority interest, when the majority of the established religions are institutionally reactionary, and when even progressives use the 'I believe this because god tells me to' to justify their politics - and certainly not when progressive politics should be able to offer much more robust and persuasive reasons for doing the moral thing without leaning on supernatural narratives.

      "Be kind" - is that a religion?

      by ThatBritGuy on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 06:48:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Factual Correction (7+ / 0-)

      for the hard of thinking - that would be you my friend, and a lot of the equally low wattage bulb commentators here who seem to think like you....

      Most atheists, even what you laughingly call "militant" ones (and as I am more strident than most or more vocal I guess that I'm one of those....), do not insist that the religious pack in believing in whatever they believe in. That my chum is just what the religious think atheists are insisting on.

      NO

      what secularists believe in, and I want you to note the correct word there, and insist on is that your particular brand of faith, or that of any other faith, plays NO PART WHATSOEVER in public policy making and laws.

      Why?

      Because in a modern pluralistic society, making laws based on one particular faith only favors the particular beliefs and prejudices of one section of society. The only fair default setting therefore is total neutrality.

      And the reason occasionally some of us sound rude, abusive or snitty is because after decades of attempting to explain that, the message still hasn't frickn sank in has it?

    •  Where atheism falls short is recognizance that (0+ / 0-)

      religion does fill a void - a community void.  I don't think it is the only way to fill the void, or necessarily a good way, but it does fill the void of creating / fostering community.

      For example, imagine this:  Imagine a community where it was NOT considered rude to talk about politics in public.  In fact, NOT TALKING politics was considered rude, and considered free-loading off the community as the person benefits from the civil society but does not contribute to its governance.  Imagine a society where, instead of being told what to believe every sunday, you went to a Popular Assembly or Town Hall where a moderator introduced an agenda and some background information, then asked you what you believed about the matter...???  And no-one felt threatened by your beliefs...???  And, everyone felt it was their duty to attend such meetings every sunday....

      To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

      by ban48 on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 07:55:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Apples and oranges (0+ / 0-)

        That's kind of an apples and oranges comparison. Atheism isn't a movement or institution in the same way as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or Neopaganism. It's more similar to vegetarianism and pacifism, ideas that developed independently in multiple cultures via different theories.

        That said, certainly atheist groups including Ethical Culture, UU Humanism, Secular Judaism, and a new wave of congregational groups have an explicit focus on community building.  Unfortunately the response when atheists organize humanist and interfaith communities is generally skeptical or hostile.

        •  My point is that a side-benefit of membership in (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Simian

          a church is membership into a community.  Heck, wasn't there a survey that 1/4 or so of the people attendant at church functions don't believe but stick around for the community.  The problem is - when you ditch the religion you also lose the community functions.  Atheism isn't a spiritual movement, but a church is a also community function.  You leave the church because the magical mumbo-jumbo has lost its appeal and 2000 year old tales-of-the-desert don't seem to inspire, well, you also lose the church picnic....

          To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

          by ban48 on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:47:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  What on earth is this supposed to illustrate? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tonedevil

        The robb'd that smiles steals something from the thief. -- Shakespeare

        by not2plato on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 08:55:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  You can be an atheist and still (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tonedevil, A Citizen

        embrace community and ritual.

        "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

        by dackmont on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:52:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I know. That is actually my point, but it is (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dackmont

          harder because there are fewer structures and organizations.  (I also got to this part pretty clumsily....)

          But, I also think the structure and organization of church also inhibits, because you are listening and talking about tales of times long gone, but you are not talking about the school board.

          To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

          by ban48 on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 10:15:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Couldn't agree more (0+ / 0-)

            It's a real goldmine to find like-minded people along those lines.  What has your experience been?  There are various community-based art projects, like Figment, that have a prosocial angle; Burning Man people know of a lot of stuff like this -- and that's cool if your inclined to bohemian/art stuff.  More sedately, there are always Unitarian Universalists -- sometimes a bit dry on the ritual side, but it depends, and they have subsets like Quakers and Buddhists and Pagans.  They can be really, really cool.  They're all over the country, and trust me, you will meet a lot of people there who would love to talk about the school board!

            One thing I've learned is that even if these things seem like silver instead of gold, silver isn't to be sneezed at, and can "appreciate" (transmute?) over time into gold.

            "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

            by dackmont on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 05:36:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  If the religious right is going to mistreat me (5+ / 0-)

      I will mistreat them right back.  Your opinion of militant atheism ignores its motive.  You simply denounce it and move on without reasons -- very, er, religion like.

      The robb'd that smiles steals something from the thief. -- Shakespeare

      by not2plato on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:04:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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