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View Diary: Being an atheist in America (242 comments)

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  •  Meanies (0+ / 0-)

    Start with educating the atheist community about how counter-productive it is to tell everyone else how stupid their beliefs are.

    Do atheists do this more than any other community? Do liberals, for example, refrain from speaking out about how stupid many conservative beliefs are? Do you object whenever someone says that astrology, or Bigfoot, or the idea that Noah's Ark has been found, are stupid beliefs?

    Surely you aren't insisting on a different standard for atheists than for everyone else?

    But I don't see how claiming victim status achieves any positive end.

    So, you contend that atheists aren't victims of discrimination and hatred?

    In fact they are, and the "positive end" which this achieves is by revealing that atheists aren't the ones to distrust or fear; those engaging in discrimination and hatred are.

    I will further insist that there is something wrong with you if you think that there is anything even remotely comparable between atheists saying "religion is stupid" and atheists losing custody or their children simply because they are atheists. That, however, is just the message you are sending when you think that "working for change" to end bigotry towards atheists should start with atheists not saying mean things about religion.

    Maybe, just maybe, atheists will stop saying mean things about religion when religious believers stop slaughtering human beings, discriminating against minorities, and imperiling the future of the world in the name of those beliefs. Maybe, just maybe, that's where we should start. I dunno... stopping religion-based slaughter sounds a lot more productive than silencing a handful mean atheists.

    "If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive."

    by AtheismGuide on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 11:55:42 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  We could go in circles forever (0+ / 0-)

      You can expect the rest of the world to change, or you can change yourself.  One course of action offers hope, the other futility.  Your choice.  

      And no, I do not argue that atheists have never faced discrimination of hate, but as a whole they are not a victimized community.  Every possible sub-group of people has suffered hate and/or discrimination at some point.  That is the reality of tribalism.  

      •  I'm sure it feels nice to be on the winning tribe (0+ / 0-)
      •  Oh? (0+ / 0-)

        You can expect the rest of the world to change, or you can change yourself.

        1. False Dilemma fallacy. You're wrong to insist that only those two choices exist. Why not change both.
        1. I don't go around telling people that their beliefs are stupid. You're presumptuous for assuming that I'm in need of change in this particular context.

        I do not argue that atheists have never faced discrimination of hate, but as a whole they are not a victimized community.

        Why?

        "If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive."

        by AtheismGuide on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 12:07:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sure (0+ / 0-)

          False Dilemma fallacy. You're wrong to insist that only those two choices exist. Why not change both.

          Go for it.  How is it going so far?

          I don't go around telling people that their beliefs are stupid. You're presumptuous for assuming that I'm in need of change in this particular context.

          I don't recall making any personal accusations.

          I do not argue that atheists have never faced discrimination of hate, but as a whole they are not a victimized community.  - Why?

          Okay then.  I'll call you a victimized community then.  But so then is pretty much every other community.  Some Christians even suffer discrimination and hate in this country.

          •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

            How is it going so far?

            Actually, I have gotten people to understand what atheism is and that atheists shouldn't be discriminated against. I write around 100,000 words a month on atheism, religion, politics, and philosophy. It has an impact.

            Thanks for asking and pretending to care about other human beings.

            I don't recall making any personal accusations.

            You said that I can either change the rest of the world (which in this context would refer to getting people to stop being prejudiced against atheists) or change myself (which in this context appears to refer to your comment about not telling "everyone else how stupid their beliefs are."). That is an implicit accusation.

            But so then is pretty much every other community. Some Christians even suffer discrimination and hate in this country.

            Yes, other groups have been victimized as well. Some continue to experience consistent discrimination. That's not an argument against the members of one of those communities standing up and objecting to being treated that way.

            "If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive."

            by AtheismGuide on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 12:19:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You are welcome (0+ / 0-)

              Actually, I have gotten people to understand what atheism is and that atheists shouldn't be discriminated against. I write around 100,000 words a month on atheism, religion, politics, and philosophy. It has an impact.

              That's great.  And though this discussion has been heated, may I say that I appreciate that you seem to understand that bad behavior exists on both sides of this issue.  Keep writing.  I do think thoughtful humanist voices are important  

              Thanks for asking and pretending to care about other human beings.

              I care deeply.  I simply don't see any value in claiming victim status.  You apparently do.  No need to impugn each other's humanity.  You know nothing about me or how I live my life.  

              You said that I can either change the rest of the world (which in this context would refer to getting people to stop being prejudiced against atheists) or change myself (which in this context appears to refer to your comment about not telling "everyone else how stupid their beliefs are."). That is an implicit accusation.

              I wasn't speaking of you personally.  I was speaking figuratively.

              Yes, other groups have been victimized as well. Some continue to experience consistent discrimination. That's not an argument against the members of one of those communities standing up and objecting to being treated that way.

              All groups have been victimized.  Therefore all deserve victim status.  But to view things through that lens robs the entire concept of its currency.

              •  The Truth (0+ / 0-)

                I simply don't see any value in claiming victim status. You apparently do.

                I see value in telling the truth and speaking out against injustices.

                Sometimes the truth isn't pretty.

                All groups have been victimized.

                Not all groups in America are currently being discriminated against and even experiencing violence on account of some personal quality which cannot justify such treatment. Not all groups in America are told that perhaps they should just keep quiet about who they are, and not tell the truth about what they think, as if this were an appropriate response to bigotry or the prospect of victimization.

                "If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive."

                by AtheismGuide on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 12:33:53 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  really (0+ / 0-)

                  Not all groups in America are currently being discriminated against and even experiencing violence on account of some personal quality which cannot justify such treatment. Not all groups in America are told that perhaps they should just keep quiet about who they are, and not tell the truth about what they think, as if this were an appropriate response to bigotry or the prospect of victimization

                  Name one.

                  •  Easy... (0+ / 0-)

                    Name one.

                    Stamp collectors.

                    "If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive."

                    by AtheismGuide on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 12:42:37 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                      •  Irrelevant to your Question (0+ / 0-)

                        Hate them

                        So, you hate stamp collectors. You didn't ask for an example of someone that isn't hated by anyone. You were much more specific. You asked for an example of some group not: being discriminated against and even experiencing violence on account of some personal quality which cannot justify such treatment; told that perhaps they should just keep quiet about who they are, and not tell the truth about what they think, as if this were an appropriate response to bigotry or the prospect of victimization

                        So hate stamp collectors all you want, but your personal hatred will not lead to stamp collectors being discriminated against and even experiencing violence on account of their hobby. It will not lead to them being told that they should just keep quiet about collecting stamps and maybe even lie about their hobby as if that were an appropriate response to your bigotry towards them.

                        "If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive."

                        by AtheismGuide on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 12:53:02 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Give a serious answer (0+ / 0-)

                          and I'll give you a serious response.

                          •  I did... (0+ / 0-)

                            ...give a serious answer. There are lots of groups which don't experience persecution and discrimination. There are some which do. The fact that more than one group experiences discrimination is no reason not to object to particular cases of discrimination.

                            Unless, of course, you just don't give a damn about people's suffering. Frankly, that's precisely the impression I get from you. The messages you write communicate to me the idea that you don't care and don't understand why others care.

                            Maybe that's not what you intend, but it's what you're communicating. If it's not what you intend, you might want to consider saying things differently.

                            "If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive."

                            by AtheismGuide on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 01:52:48 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I could care less what you think of me (0+ / 0-)

                            What I object to in your position is that it waters down the language of "hate" and "discrimination."  We live in a world in which these are very real issues for human beings every day of their lives.  The don't have the choice to decide whether to reveal themselves as part of a hated group.  They simply are forced to suffer simply for being alive.

                             

                          •  Then You Must Care a Little... (0+ / 0-)

                            ...but nothing you write is consisting with caring.

                            What I object to in your position is that it waters down the language of "hate" and "discrimination."

                            You offer no reason to think that these labels don't apply.

                            We live in a world in which these are very real issues for human beings every day of their lives.

                            Yes, I know. Some more so, some less so.

                            The don't have the choice to decide whether to reveal themselves as part of a hated group.

                            I didn't choose to be an atheist.

                            They simply are forced to suffer simply for being alive.

                            Some atheists in America have experienced exactly that.

                            "If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive."

                            by AtheismGuide on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 02:34:27 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  sigh... (0+ / 0-)

                            You offer no reason to think that these labels don't apply.

                            Well you can claim them if you want to.  But then so can pretty much every ethnic, religious or political group in this world.  If those words are to have any meaning, they must be reserved for instances in which systemic discrimination or an overwhelming pattern of violence exist.  Being unpopular simply doesn't rise to that standard.      

                            I didn't choose to be an atheist.

                            Perhaps.  But you have a choice whether to share that information or not.  There are people on earth who do not have this luxury - and who face much graver dangers.  To compare your "plight" with theirs is wrong.    

                          •  Your Attitude Encourages Bigotry (0+ / 0-)

                            But then so can pretty much every ethnic, religious or political group in this world.

                            So? There are obviously degrees to which discrimination and hatred occur. To use the labels exclusively with the absolute worst cases minimizes the suffering in every other case. For example:

                            Being unpopular simply doesn't rise to that standard.

                            This is an active and deliberate minimization of the discrimination and hatred against atheists — it's more than a mere lack of popularity.

                            But you have a choice whether to share that information or not.

                            Yes, I have the truth about whether to tell the truth about myself or to conceal the truth as if the truth were something to be ashamed of. Telling atheists to be quiet about their atheism is a way to ensure that the discrimination and bigotry against atheism continue.

                            There are people on earth who do not have this luxury - and who face much graver dangers. To compare your "plight" with theirs is wrong.

                            Actually, I personally have no "plight" — as far as I know, I haven't experienced discrimination because I am an atheist. That, however, does not prevent me from caring about the fact that many other atheists have been the targets of very serious discrimination, bigotry, hatred and violence.

                            You are the only one who is comparing people's experiences. The fact that most atheists in America haven't had it as bad as people elsewhere isn't a very good reason to pretend that discrimination, bigotry, and hatred don't exist here for atheists. It's simply wrong for you to suggest that unless atheists have it as bad as some people elsewhere, then what they experience isn't "real" discrimination, "real" hatred, or really worth being concerned about.

                            If I said that the racism experienced by blacks in America today isn't "real" racism because it isn't as bad as what blacks experienced under Jim Crow or slavery and therefore isn't worth worrying about, people would rightly dismiss me as a crank and perhaps a racist myself.

                            "If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive."

                            by AtheismGuide on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 03:50:52 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •   (0+ / 0-)

                            So? There are obviously degrees to which discrimination and hatred occur. To use the labels exclusively with the absolute worst cases minimizes the suffering in every other case.

                            The use of the words "hate" and "discrimination"will always ratchet up emotion.  By nature they imply a pervasive danger.  When they are used to describe isolated acts by bigoted individuals the use is irresponsible.

                            The suffering of individual atheists who have been targeted is not in question.  But the suffering of atheists as a community is not worthy of those words.  To use them is a manipulation.      

                            Yes, I have the truth about whether to tell the truth about myself or to conceal the truth as if the truth were something to be ashamed of. Telling atheists to be quiet about their atheism is a way to ensure that the discrimination and bigotry against atheism continue.

                            This whole "as if it is something to be ashamed of" meme is a manipulation I refuse to bother with.  Nor (and I've now explained this many times) am I telling atheists to be quiet.  But you have that choice.  I do not tell people many things that are true about me - and I do not feel discriminated against for it.  I do not owe them intimate facts about my life, nor do you owe anyone an answer about your spiritual beliefs.  If you choose to offer it it is because you want them to know and you must then accept the fact that they might have a reaction.

                            If you feel that being open an honest will counter bigotry - that is great.  But countering bigotry is not a bloodless sport.  If you choose to do so, accept the fact that some days aren't going to go well.

                            If I was a firm beleiver in polyamory and felt it was a beautiful thing that needed no apology, I'd still be a fool to share that information with a potential employer or in a political race.  If I decide to do so anyways, calling discrimination after the fact won't change my foolishness.

                            If I said that the racism experienced by blacks in America today isn't "real" racism because it isn't as bad as what blacks experienced under Jim Crow or slavery and therefore isn't worth worrying about, people would rightly dismiss me as a crank and perhaps a racist myself.

                            Do I really have to explain to you why this is a dubious argument?

                          •  Don't Be so Arrogant Dismissive of Others (0+ / 0-)

                            The use of the words "hate" and "discrimination"will always ratchet up emotion. By nature they imply a pervasive danger.  When they are used to describe isolated acts by bigoted individuals the use is irresponsible.

                            Given the widespread bigotry towards atheists and the insistence on the Christian Right to use "godless" as a smear, the acts are not isolated.

                            What is truly irresponsible is your arrogant dismissal of people's suffering when it fails to meet your subjective and undefined standards of what qualifies as "sufficient" to merit the obviously accurate labels. You can't and don't deny that atheists experience bigotry and discrimination; all you can do is pretend that somehow it's not enough to actually use those terms.

                            Face facts: there are degrees of degrees of discrimination, hatred, and bigotry. It's not a simple either/or issue where it's either extreme or it doesn't exist. The "standard" you are trying to use here isn't worth of serious consideration — which is probably why you appear to be the only person who uses it.

                            This whole "as if it is something to be ashamed of" meme is a manipulation I refuse to bother with.

                            Then don't tell atheists that they should act as though they should be ashamed of being atheists.

                            If you choose to offer it it is because you want them to know and you must then accept the fact that they might have a reaction.

                            Whether people might react negatively is not the question; whether such prejudice should be criticized and opposed is.

                            Do I really have to explain to you why this is a dubious argument?

                            It's your choice, but it won't change your foolishness for pretending that unless discrimination and bigotry are as bad as they can be, then they are unworthy of the words.

                            Once again, face facts: if you don't find the discrimination against and hatred of atheists to be worthy of your attention, then don't pay attention to it. We'd prefer your callous indifference than your efforts to undermine the very idea that the discrimination and hatred exist. Such efforts ultimately aid and support that discrimination and bigotry.

                            Which I'm not so sure isn't the point.

                            "If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive."

                            by AtheismGuide on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 04:35:01 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Don't be a self-righteous twit (0+ / 0-)

                            Just listen to yourself.  Look at the words you have written.  "Suffering," "hatred,"etc...  Do these words really describe your life?  I was an atheist for years and count many among my most closest friends and relatives.  None is suffering.  None live in fear.  Nor did I suffer or live in fear when I openly called myself an atheist.  

                            Is there disturbing rhetoric floating around society regarding atheists?  Sure.  But more so than I encounter as a Jew?  More so than we both encounter as liberals?

                            Have there been injustices done to atheists?  Absolutely.  But given the chance to trade places with you as an American atheist, do you doubt that millions in the world would not trade places in a heartbeat and carry that burden if you would agree to carry theirs in return?

                            But if you are firmly committed to assuming  victimhood, far be it from me to stop you.  I just would have thought you didn't believe in nailing one's self to a cross.    

                          •  Don't Be a Sociopathic Bigot (0+ / 0-)

                            Just listen to yourself.  Look at the words you have written.  "Suffering," "hatred,"etc...  Do these words really describe your life?

                            No, actually, but they do describe the experiences of other atheists. Unlike you, I guess, I'm capable of empathizing with them.

                            "If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive."

                            by AtheismGuide on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 05:16:10 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

              •  'nuff said. (0+ / 0-)

                All groups have been victimized.

                Touche! Let's keep up the good work!

                But to view things through that lens robs the entire concept of its currency.

                Right. If at least one member of every group has faced discrimination at some point, then is a waste of time to discuss discrimination.   Hey discrimination is pretty much everywhere -- just deal with it crybabies!!! Or move back to atheist-land!

                •  No (0+ / 0-)

                  But keep a sense of proportion about it.  Ratcheting up emotion by using the language of "hate" and "discrimination" is irresponsible.

                  Want to talk about the legitimate issues faced by some athiests in this country?  I'm all ears.  But don't try and sell me on the concept that the life of an American atheist is one of suffering and bigotry.  I've lived as an atheist and continue to hold religious views that are no more popular than that of an atheist.  I know perfectly well what it is like in those shoes.

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