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View Diary: Atheist Digest '10: How I Became an Atheist (215 comments)

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  •  One part really, really annoys me... (2+ / 0-)
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    SciMathGuy, rfall

    where he talks about how we've gone overboard about our treatment of pedophiles.

    He writes that what was basically once an old uncle letting his hands wander has become a major crime.

    I have no fucking idea what the hell this is doing in that book...but it makes him look like an idiot.

    •  I confess I don't remember that part, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SciMathGuy, David Kroning II

      or at least remember it implying what you say it does.  Not saying it doesn't, but I have to think his critics would have beat him over the head with that mercilessly if he really was advocating for easing up on pederasts.

      "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

      by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 10:32:07 AM PDT

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      •  I missed it when I read the book... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SciMathGuy

        the first time.

        When I got the audio version, it sort of jumped out at me.

        •  I would love to read the text of that. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SciMathGuy

          "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

          by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 11:18:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's in the section... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SciMathGuy

            where he talk about religion as a form of child abuse.

            •  You mean this part? (2+ / 0-)
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              SciMathGuy, RandomActsOfReason

              Priestly abuse of children is nowadays taken to mean sexual abuse, and I feel obliged, at the outset, to get the whole matter of sexual abuse into proportion and out of the way. Others have noted that we live in a time of hysteria about paedophilia, a mob psychology that calls to mind the Salem witch-hunts of 1692... All three of the boarding schools I attended employed teachers whose affections for small boys overstepped the bounds of propriety. That was indeed reprehensible. Nevertheless, if, fifty years on, they had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers, I should have felt obliged to come to their defence, even as the victim of one of them (an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience).

              The Roman Catholic Church has borne a heavy share of such retrospective opprobrium. For all sorts of reasons I dislike the Roman Catholic Church. But I dislike unfairness even more, and I can’t help wondering whether this one institution has been unfairly demonized over the issue, especially in Ireland and America... We should be aware of the remarkable power of the mind to concoct false memories, especially when abetted by unscrupulous therapists and mercenary lawyers. The psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has shown great courage, in the face of spiteful vested interests, in demonstrating how easy it is for people to concoct memories that are entirely false but which seem, to the victim, every bit as real as true memories. This is so counter-intuitive that juries are easily swayed by sincere but false testimony from witnesses

              Or was there a passage that is worse?  This one doesn't seem all that offensive to me.

              "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

              by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 11:36:48 AM PDT

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              •  That is one of them... (2+ / 0-)
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                SciMathGuy, XNeeOhCon

                I think it goes on.

                Not that I don't agree with him, but it is rather tangential.

                •  I'll give you that. I'll look for the rest. (3+ / 0-)

                  I don't have a copy of the book with me at the moment.  I certainly have no interest in being a fanboy or apologist for Dawkins.  It's just that I am curious about the part you refer to and am not willing to make a judgment on it until I read it for myself in context.

                  "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                  by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 11:54:02 AM PDT

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                  •  It's ok... (2+ / 0-)
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                    SciMathGuy, XNeeOhCon

                    It was just a tiny part of an otherwise fun book.  I don't have the paper copy any longer, I exchanged it for an audio version to listen to in the car.

                    I think Dawkins is far more interesting to listen to as an evolutionary biologist than an atheist.

                    But, his work is not all that accessible to lay people.

                    •  I think his expertise in Evo Bio (3+ / 0-)

                      is invaluable to his perspective as an Atheist.  IMHO, his section about evolution and the fossil record was the best in the book by far.

                      "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                      by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 11:58:51 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Of course... (2+ / 0-)
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                        SciMathGuy, XNeeOhCon

                        but I don't see the God Delusion as a book that will change any minds.  He's simply preaching to the choir.

                        I read\listened to it in order to find some good arguments to use to use in support of the atheist position, but I really didn't find all that much that was useful there.

                        People are always going to see atheism as an attack upon their faith.

                        •  True. Asking a theist to read that book (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          SciMathGuy, David Kroning II

                          would be useless, as they would either refuse or read the whole thing with their eyes closed.  Belief systems that are strongly internally and externally reinforced must be taken down slowly and methodically.  There is no frontal assault that will work.

                          "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                          by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 12:06:52 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Again: (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            XNeeOhCon

                            Asking a theist to read that book would be useless, as they would either refuse or read the whole thing with their eyes closed.

                            That's simply not true. This very diary describes "a theist"--you!--who went from Campus Crusade to Atheist Digest editor. At every step, you had the option to "refuse" to deal with the skeptical doubts you encountered, or to consider them "with [you]r eyes closed." But you didn't. And here you are.

                            The percentage of readers who open Dawkins' book as theists but close it as atheists is very likely tiny. (And, his tongue-in-cheek Introduction notwithstanding, I doubt Dawkins is troubled by this fact.) Nonetheless, a deconversion rate of--what?--0.01% still yields many thousands of theists who are now atheists thanks to TGD.

                            Now, I suspect most deconversion stories are similar to yours, in that no one book or argument or experience does the work all by itself (my own story fits your pattern); nonetheless, I don't think there can be any question that Dawkins' book, among many others, can serve as the beginning, or the end, or an important middle step of a trip from belief to nonbelief.


                            The God Delusion is anything but a perfect book, and there are worthwhile criticisms to make about it. I don't think the cliché "It won't actually convert anyone" line is one such criticism, though. Plenty of theists really do care about the truth of their beliefs and the reasoning used to arrive at them, and those folks are sometimes reachable by rational argument. It doesn't work often--but not oftennever.

                          •  Fair enough. Perhaps I made a mistake in (0+ / 0-)

                            rounding down from .01% if you will.  I think, though that any theist not open to having their beliefs challenged will not be willing to read the book or spend their entire time reading denying any arguments it makes.  If a theist IS open to having their beliefs challenged then I would argue that the already on their way from belief to non-belief.  I mainly referred to those theists that would reamain steadfastly close minded in the face of any critcism of thier belief.  I suppose that might be considered defining something as itself.  The only sentiment I wanted to convey by that comment was the as the Dawkins intro you referred to.

                            "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                            by XNeeOhCon on Mon Aug 02, 2010 at 01:06:04 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            RandomActsOfReason, XNeeOhCon

                            I mainly referred to those theists that would reamain steadfastly close minded in the face of any critcism of thier belief.  I suppose that might be considered defining something as itself.

                            No, I disagree. You and I are both good examples of people who honestly and legitimately believed in God even at the point at which we began to be "open to having [ou]r beliefs challenged." Were we "on our way from belief to non-belief"? Possibly--but we were nonetheless still theists, and who's to say how many theists on this very weblog are at precisely that point?

                            I think you're selling theists-as-a-group a bit short. There is more vulnerability to evidence, logic, and verifiable reality among a particular subset of religious believers than we often recognize. (Not that I'm saying that that subset is easy to identify from the outside, especially during the inner-conflicted "Do I really believe this stuff?" period....)

                          •  You're absolutely right. (2+ / 0-)
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                            Rieux, RandomActsOfReason

                            That idea is one of the fundamental reasons why I do this series.  If I can get to just one person that is like I was a decade and a half ago then I am happy.  If I felt this was an exercise in pure pontification I wouldn't enjoy it.  I like to argue, sure, but it's only really good arguing if you have a chance, even a slim one, of changing someone's mind about something.  I believe that is possible, and I didn't want to imply with my slightly flippant comment about The God Delusion that I think all theists are unreachable.  I don't know what the breakdown is, but I know there are many with doubts much as I describes in the above diary, and I want to welcome them and show them they are not bad people to think the things they do, despite what a lot of people in their lives have possibly implied.

                            "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                            by XNeeOhCon on Mon Aug 02, 2010 at 02:07:23 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                        •  Which would be fine (4+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Rieux, SciMathGuy, XNeeOhCon, johnva

                          People are always going to see atheism as an attack upon their faith.

                          If only they would own up to that, rather than pretending they are tolerant and don't think we are inherently inferior to their enlightened pious selves.

                          I have much less of a problem with someone who says, "I believe you are amoral and that exposure to your ideas will corrupt impressionable young minds", than I have with phony "liberal" theists who only say that shit when they are among other members of their congregation, except when it slips out every now and then here.

                          At least people who are honest about their beliefs are offering you an opportunity to present counter evidence (even if their faith makes them immune to it).

                          It is the people who pretend to be tolerant, but do not tolerate any challenges to their faith, that are the real pisseroos.

                          Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                          by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 02, 2010 at 12:01:26 AM PDT

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                        •  Au contraire. (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          XNeeOhCon

                          but I don't see the God Delusion as a book that will change any minds.

                          Except that it demonstrably is.

                          It is usually the case that theism is impenetrable to the hard-headed rational attack that Dawkins mounts in that book (as have so many other atheists in so many other works across millennia). Most theists will not deconvert after reading a book like The God Delusion. However, there is enormous evidence that, given the right circumstances, some theists do.

                          The whole "Atheist X won't change any minds" line has always seemed to me an under-thought cliché assertion that extends vastly beyond the evidence. All of us who were brought up religious, and then left, had our minds changed--almost always by various facts, arguments, and situations. It is, therefore, demonstrably possible.

                          Finally, "preaching to the choir" can be a valuable service in itself. It rallies the troops and builds community. It seems to me a weak basis for dismissing any work, whether Dawkins' or otherwise.

              •  I take his screed here as being partly about (3+ / 0-)

                ...the hysteria around alleged incidents of mass child abuse (the McMartin case is one such), about which I agree with him.

                I'm not so sure I agree with him here:

                All three of the boarding schools I attended employed teachers whose affections for small boys overstepped the bounds of propriety. That was indeed reprehensible. Nevertheless, if, fifty years on, they had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers, I should have felt obliged to come to their defence, even as the victim of one of them (an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience). [Emphasis added]

                "Certainly the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win." Lazarus Long

                by rfall on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 11:51:35 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I don't get that at all. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  SciMathGuy, David Kroning II

                  First he calls them or their actions "reprehensible" and then virtually dismisses the incident he was directly involved in.  I guess, especially absent any real detail, we should let him be the judge of whatever happened in that incident.

                  "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                  by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 11:56:35 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  This is my real problem... (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    SciMathGuy, cbyoung

                    He is, throughout the book, trying to be a scientific authority figure...then he says this:

                    ...I should have felt obliged to come to their defence, even as the victim of one of them (an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience).

                    He seems to suggest that a child being fondled by a pervert is little more than "an embarassing," yet "harmless experience."

                    Rather crude and it seems to belittle psychological studies that suggest otherwise.

                    •  Well, without telling us what happened to him (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      SciMathGuy, rfall, David Kroning II

                      we can't really know how dismissive he's being of the concept.  He only referred to what happened specifically to him as an "embarassing" and "harmless experience."  I think you make a mistake in first assuming that he was fondled, then assuming he then calls all fondling "harmless."

                      "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                      by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 12:11:34 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

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