Methinks atheists doth protest too much

Sometimes atheists “get” Christianity more than many Christians do.  I’ll give them that. Below is an example or two.   But WHY do they care? I mean, come on!  Using money to purchase adds on the sides of buses!? If I’m a godless heathen who is only here for a short while and then I’m dead meat, fit for maggots and beatles, why would I be wasting time trying to convince Christians (or anybody else) that they are wrong about anything? Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.

From a godless heathen’s blog: “If you really believe that God exists, wouldn’t you do everything you possibly could to praise and please him. The Bible sure thinks so, yet so many “Christians” take it only half way. They believe what they want to believe, and they ignore what they don’t. If they could only step back and see what is going on there, perhaps they would realize the paradox of their beliefs.”

And another from the same blog: “I know so many people who believe that the God of the Bible (which one?) actually exists, yet they break the 10 Commandments all the time. Honestly, if you believe this all knowing, all powerful, ever present being exists, then shouldn’t you be doing everything you can to do what he/she/it says?”

The blogger didn’t like the responses he/she  had received, and condensed it down to this: “What it boils down to for me, again and again, is that the overwhelming majority of those who call themselves Christians do not behave as if their souls were at risk.”

I can’t speak for others, but the entire “problem” that this atheist sees can be boiled down to this answer, at least in my case.  I’m a sinner saved by the blood of Jesus, not by my own “good works.” I still have a nature that inclines me toward sinning. Sometimes that nature is allowed to overwhelm my desire to do the right thing. Often, I know the right thing to do, but I am too lazy to do it.  Or I try to rationalize why I am not doing the right thing, and why instead I am doing the wrong thing. 

But here’s a clue, you atheists out there: Whether Christians do the right thing does not determine whether the Bible is true or not.  2 + 2 equals 4 whether I get it right on my elementary math quiz.  The fact that these atheists are so concerned tells me either 1) they are trying to justify their own beliefs (see, I’m right because all Christians are hypocrites!) or 2) they are really interested and hoping to be convinced that they are wrong. Your salvation does not depend on other persons “doing the right thing.”  It depends on God.   

So, really, why do you atheists bother? You don’t have to fool me.  Ask yourself, truly, “hmmm, waste time arguing about a God who does not exist, or watch the football game (or whatever it is that  you do)?  Which should I choose?”   The answer seems simple to me.

24 responses to “Methinks atheists doth protest too much

  1. “If I’m a godless heathen who is only here for a short while and then I’m dead meat, fit for maggots and beatles, why would I be wasting time trying to convince Christians (or anybody else) that they are wrong about anything?”

    Most of the atheist ads I’ve seen (and there have been quite a few around the world lately) aren’t trying to convince believers about anything, they’re just announce that atheists exist, often with a website so local atheists can find each other.

    A lot of Christians seem to think that atheists putting up a sign that says e.g. “Don’t believe in god? You are not alone.” is somehow trying to change their minds. I don’t see any reason to think that; it’s just saying atheists exist.

    “hmmm, waste time arguing about a God who does not exist, or watch the football game (or whatever it is that you do)? Which should I choose?”

    Christians almost never can put themselves in an atheist’s shoes, as your example shows. A lot of atheists argue about religion and gods, including me, because it’s interesting. I don’t care about football, either.

  2. I am an ex-atheist. I call a spade a spade. Yeah, yeah, atheists sometimes feel “alone” wah wah. That’s bullshit. If they were just feeling alone they’d say so in ads: “Atheists, for company, call 1-800-bullshit. Or see our website.”

    They are trying to be controversial.

    “Edwords said the purpose isn’t to argue that God doesn’t exist or change minds about a deity, although “we are trying to plant a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people’s minds.” [YEAH, SURE, ANYBODY WHO ISN’T AN ATHEIST ISN’T USING RATIONAL THOUGHT AND CRITICAL THINKING. ]

    “The group defines humanism as “a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.” [BASICALLY, BE “GOOD”–GOOD AS DEFINED BY WE PROGRESSIVES–BECAUSE WE SAID SO.]

    I’ll discuss anything, rationally, just don’t try to blow smoke up my ass. How about we try again. I’ll buy that they are being argumentative because they want to get attention so more poor, poor atheists won’t feel alone. But if we are all masses of meat who are gonna die, why do they care what other animals think or feel? Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. It does not make rational sense to give a shit about other pieces of meat that you never met.

    Perhaps I’m just too rational. You believe in “doing good”, and making others feel better, and “happy.” If I were an atheist I’d say who gives a shit about them? And my way of thinking makes more sense. Why waste a precious minute here on earth? If this is all there is, make the most of it and let strangers fend for themselves…

  3. We bother because of the bigotry and discrimination we face from Christians. We bother because we want to leave the world a better place for our children. We bother because we care about our neighbors. We bother because we recognize the dangers of religion and other irrational beliefs.

  4. Oh boofreakin who. Go see the atheist kooks on reddit if you want to see bigotry and discrimination.

    We “care” about our neighbors? Why???? They are globs of flesh, no different than flys and mosquitoes, according to atheists. Steal their stuff. Be nice to their faces but rob them blind, and kill them if they resist. They are just animals anyway. And we’ll all be dead in 70 some odd years, and nobody is going to judge our actions when we are dead. So what does it really matter whether we “care” for our neighbors. And if we steal enough of other peoples’ money, the world will be better for our children.

    Irrational? Believing that life just sprang to life in the primordial ooze billions of years ago is what is truly irrational…

  5. 1-We bother because we are rational human beings.
    2-We bother because there are other rational human beings out there who feel isolated and alone due to how “nice” you religionists treat people who are not of your cabal.
    3-We bother so that you religionists will have more difficulty believing that we are non-existent.
    4- We bother because your characterization of our position, where you imply that we consider people to be nothing ore than “meat”, is a bald-faced, typical, religionist lie.
    5-We bother because we want people to know that being concerned for people; for their well-being, their difficulties, their confusion, their need to escape the idea that they are nothing more than “objects whose purpose is to abjectly and humbly worship some deity”, is a large part of those of us who are sickened by religion.
    6-We bother so that we can know that we can, and are doing every little bit that we can do to counter the lying propaganda that religionists put out about us and our lack of belief. NOT our “belief” – our LACK of “belief”.
    7-We bother so that the stench of religious dogma can be countered, in some small measure, by the fresh air of reason.
    8-In short we bother because we WILL NOT let you “believers” contaminate the entire world with your stupid, unreasoning, blind, dogmas and continue to lead us into war after war against those of other dogmas.
    9-We bother because children are being damaged and sometimes killed in the name of religion; not just in undeveloped countries but right here in North America!
    10-We bother because we care about people – not about gods.

  6. Atheists face discrimination from many sections of our so called liberal and tolerant society. As this blog adequately proves, that comes mostly from theists.

    Here are a few reasons why atheists may wish to promte their worldview to others in favour of religion:

    Religion is not a naturalistic worldview, as it is based on superstition, deities and other irrational objects.

    Religion is granted special favours in law (it is afforded special discrimination rights, and it is able to contravene animal welfare legislation by inflicting cruel Halal and Kosher slaughter methods – to name a few examples).

    Religion wants to indoctrinate and brainwash our most impressionable young minds by subverting the school curriculum, and teach religion alongside science.

    Religion reinforces lazy thinking by lecturing us that we already have all the answers, and thus crushing many a young mind’s wonder and imagination.

    Religion is irrational as it is not based on any form of evidence whatsover, and is therefore anti-scientific.

    Religion spreads fear, ignorance and prejudice.

    I could go on, but I am sure you get my point.

  7. This is addressed to both scribbler and Dom: Perhaps if you atheists didn’t go around considering yourselves the only “rational” people on earth you wouldn’t face discrimination from “theists.” I mean, really, Dom, read the crap that you just wrote. WHO in their right mind would want to be a part of that, if what you said was true. But it isn’t.

    Dom, you come on here and start insulting and acting like a little prick, and then wonder why you are mistreated? Go re-read my post. I NEVER said one insulting thing towards atheists. Who left the insults? “lying propagandists, brainwash, crushing imagination, ours is the fresh air of reason, yours in the stench of dogma” etc. ad nauseum.

    You dickwads want to just get into an insulting contest, go ahead. I can insult with the best of them. But if you want to discuss this issue rationally, let’s have at it. Either way, the choice is yours. But so far all you have done is mouth personal opinions and weakly attempted to compile a strawman. “Ohhh, those Christians are bad people! They went on the Crusades centuries ago! [As the godless heathen have killed tens of millions in our fathers’ lifetimes, see e.g., Russia, China, Cambodia, etc et al.]

  8. @scribblerlarry, I wish I could rate your comment up more than once, because what you said is exactly what needs to be said and recognized by theists everywhere.

    I don’t understand why some theists think that atheists automatically consider every other human being just a gob of flesh, or a meat-bag, not worthy of respect or dignity and humane treatment. Religion doesn’t automatically give other people the right to respect and all that, and lack of it doesn’t imply the opposite either.

    Atheists are not the narcissistic, cynical solipsists that some theists imagine us to be. And that’s why we care. We just want to be treated with the same degree of respect as everyone else, to not have our dignity stepped upon by theists who think we do not deserve any. We want the misconceptions about us to be resolved.

  9. OK, River, no insults, you tried to make a point, and you seemed polite. I can work with you.

    WHY don’t you consider other humans globs of flesh? A human is a monkey is a rat is a fly is an omeba, isn’t it? We all are gonna die, and return to dust. A lion doesn’t sit around caring about its next meal, why should we? You can say that you just don’t consider them globs of flesh, but let’s hear your “rational” reasons. All you said is that you don’t consider them globs, but you didn’t say why not.

    And Oh, by the way, you aren’t speaking for every atheist because people such as Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao certainly treated humans as globs of flesh.

  10. “WHY don’t you consider other humans globs of flesh?”
    Humans possess emergent properties that differentiate them, while alive, from mere gobs of flesh. As I value my pleasures, I recognize this fact.

    “A human is a monkey is a rat is a fly is an omeba [sic], isn’t it?”
    A diamond is quartz is coal is gravel, isn’t it? Want to trade my piece of gravel for your diamond? That kind of question doesn’t reflect well on you.

    “We all are gonna die, and return to dust.”
    Yes. So what? I watch movies even though they are going to end. And re-watch them, as well — how you get somewhere can be interesting.

    “A lion doesn’t sit around caring about its next meal, why should we?”
    In so far as a lion cares about much, I’m sure that the next meal ranks up there with sleep and sex.

    “You can say that you just don’t consider them globs of flesh, but let’s hear your “rational” reasons.”
    See the first answer above. Everyone adopting a sociopathic outlook is not an evolutionarily stable strategy. Gobs of meat aren’t sexually attractive (to me at least, your mileage may vary), they do not communicate, dream, plan, comfort, anger, etc. etc. Gobs of meat do not need to cooperate or gain benefits for cooperation.

    “All you said is that you don’t consider them globs, but you didn’t say why not.”
    Mostly because asserting that humans are _merely_ globs of meat is idiotic, and a complete strawman argument for even the strongest behavioralist arguments.

  11. PLEASE don’t go away Bill. I am so curious to continue this conversation. So far, all the atheists have been hit and run, apparently too cowardly to engage in an actual discussion. I value your input. I want an actual give and take, I axe questions, you answer, and vice versa, etc. I could spend days on each of your “answers” and really learn a lot. I’m serious.

    Please, indulge my “ignorance.” Let’s explore your answers a little, shall we? [I’m not patronizing you, I’m seriously interested.]

    “emergent properties”? Yeah, my wife’s chiwowwow (pretty sure spelling is incorrect) has some entertaining qualities about him, too. But if that little sucker was worth a few thousand I’d sacrifice him in a nanosecond. How much are humans of value to you, those whom you don’t know and don’t care about?

    The difference between a quartz and a diamond is what humans assess their value at. Hitler didn’t assess the value of jews and queers very highly. Stalin didn’t assess the value of Russians very highly. I’ll trade you three Russians and a Ukrainian for thirty pieces of gold. Gold has no intrinsic value; it is worth what you can get somebody else to pay you for it at a particular point in time. Is that how you value humans? What a particular person will pay you for them at a particular point in time?

    Ahhh, sex. I KNEW sooner or later the conversation would turn to sex. But you didn’t make much of a point in that paragraph.

    Sociopathic is just a term. To me, they are just following your line of thinking to the logical conclusion. The only reason to avoid killing people is that you may get caught. Why kill, when it might mean getting locked up for the rest of your life, and your life is all there is? But that “logic” necessarily means that IF you can get away murder, then there is no other reason not to do it! Hey, if a baby seal is between you and a thousand bucks, you’d hit it, wouldn’t you? Likewise, if some dude was between you and a thousand bucks, and you could get away with it, you’d hit him, too, right? Come on, man, follow your own philosphy to its logical conclusion. Not for a thousand? How about a million? [Oooops. Now we are just negotiating over your price.]

    Hypothetical [hey, I’m a lawyer, that’s what we do!]: Imagine some dude whom you despise. You could kill the sucker, and you have no risk to get caught. Do you? If not, why not? Ok, he’s not a glob of flesh. Why do you not kill him? It won’t hurt you–you won’t get caught. Allowing him to live doesn’t give you any benefit. You hate him, remember. Why do you treat this despicable person any differently than that fly who is buzzing around your house???

  12. While I was at work, it looks like Bill answered for me — and in pretty much the same way I would have answered. However, I will answer this question further:

    “All you said is that you don’t consider them globs, but you didn’t say why not.”
    I don’t consider other humans to be gobs of flesh because it is inhumane to do so. We are not just gobs of flesh — we are capable of thought, creativity, originality, love, hate, reason, superstition, etc. We recognize that one day, we will end. We cherish what we have now (or don’t depending on who you are) because we know that one day, we will no longer be here.

    Humans are very different from gobs of flesh because of this. If I throw coffee on someone, slap them, then stomp on their foot, it elicits a reaction: anger, a wtf moment, maybe a sense of betrayal if I know this person. If I smile at someone who is having a bad day, their day becomes brighter. When a small child walks up to me, smiles and tells me I have a pretty smile, I feel warm inside. My day has been brightened.

    We all feel pain, love, anger, betrayal, vengeance, guilt, shame, joy, sadness, nostalgia, passion.

    There is a difference between atheism and solipsism. All humans matter in atheism, we are a collective of peoples regardless of what each individual believes.

    This world would be a pretty damned lonely place if I was the only person I considered to be real, worthy of respect and dignity. And if every atheist truly thought that way, there wouldn’t be an atheist movement. We wouldn’t care that other atheists were struggling to be recognized. After all, why would we?

    I wouldn’t be here, writing this passionate argument about why I think you’re so very wrong about atheists.

    I, for one, truly believe that every single human being is worthy of respect, love, recognition, and dignity because all of us are here for such a short time and then it’s over. We have nothing but what we have now — and this thought drives me to make life the best it possibly can be, to make it wonderful, brilliant, worth living. It makes me want to make our world a better place so that those who come after me have a beautiful place where they can thrive.

  13. I wrote a longer response on my own blog at psygeek.com (linked with my name as well). I basically expanded upon my comment a lot — but I felt that it was, and is, important to get my point across in a very clear way.

    Thank you for providing me with much brain fodder this evening.

  14. ““emergent properties”?
    Yes, emergent properties. Missing this one is why so many atheists “hit and run” — if you don’t get this one, there isn’t sufficient common ground between us for a decent discussion. We are not _just_ meat, we are evolved meat. Meat that has evolved (in the case of humans) through selection pressures acting through genetic and memetic mechanisms. Read Dennett’s “Consciousness Explained” and Dawkins’s “The Selfish Gene” for further information on genes, memes, emergent properties, consciousness and evolutionarily stable survival strategies.

    Humans, as River and I have pointed out, are obviously not “just” gobs of meat, and I know of no atheist (nor any other person) who actually holds that position, having not met a true sociopath. You have set up a false, theoretical atheist position as a rhetorical trick, and if you continue to cling to that trick this will be my last comment here.

    As a lawyer, your position within the justice system is to use tricks on behalf of your client. The truth is irrelevant, the truth (facts) are for the jury is to decide. Most atheists I know care very deeply about their positions matching observable reality as closely as possible. We have a thing for truth (as in the concordance between our positions and observable reality, with the ever present problem of the number of things that can distort a human’s perception.)

    Sophistry is fine as long as it has the goal of increasing understanding, and I can’t decide yet if understanding is indeed a goal of yours.

    “Yeah, my wife’s chiwowwow (pretty sure spelling is incorrect) has some entertaining qualities about him, too. But if that little sucker was worth a few thousand I’d sacrifice him in a nanosecond.”

    As you pointed out elsewhere, value is relative and contextual. The point is that there IS a value. Part of our evolutionary programming is that some things are more valuable than others. The fact that value is relative doesn’t invalidate the concept of value, it is merely an expression of truth, since there is no absolute value.

    “How much are humans of value to you, those whom you don’t know and don’t care about?”

    Humans I don’t know are worth more than humans I don’t care about, most humans I know are worth more than those I don’t know, and humans I care about are worth more than any of the other categories. Since we both agree that value is relative (although you never seem to talk about value in other than monetary terms), anything more specific would require specific circumstances. The ability to define value in a circumstance is one of those emergent properties I mentioned earlier.

    “The difference between a quartz and a diamond is what humans assess their value at.”
    That’s the point. Humans assess value.

    “Hitler didn’t assess the value of jews and queers very highly. Stalin didn’t assess the value of Russians very highly.”
    True. Mother Teresa of Calcutta pretty much thought that everybody except her should suffer. So?

    “I’ll trade you three Russians and a Ukrainian for thirty pieces of gold. Gold has no intrinsic value; it is worth what you can get somebody else to pay you for it at a particular point in time.”
    Stuck on monetary value again. We both agree that value is relative and not intrinsic. You seem to think that relativity renders the concept of value worthless. It doesn’t.

    Since you are torturing and raping your Russians and your Ukrainian on a daily basis, and since I’m well off financially, I will indeed trade 30 pieces of gold for them.

    “Is that how you value humans? What a particular person will pay you for them at a particular point in time?”
    Of course not. Now you are the one being insulting, just as you are the one who hasn’t admitted that there are values other than monetary values. As a lawyer I’m sure you are aware that there are professionals who specialize in assigning a monetary value to a human life, but that doesn’t mean that particular legal definition is the only definition in use. Since we agree that value is contextualized and variable, asking me to give an absolute definition of value is disingenuous.

    “Ahhh, sex. I KNEW sooner or later the conversation would turn to sex. But you didn’t make much of a point in that paragraph.”

    Yes, I did, you just missed it. It is not an evolutionarily stable strategy to have a predator such as a lion not care about getting its next meal. Your comment that the lion doesn’t “care” (and I’m using “care” in the sense of devoting attention and resources) is factually wrong, an animal version of “people are just meat,” something that is demonstrably not true. As being demonstrably untrue, your statement falls into the category of useless rhetorical trick.

    “Sociopathic is just a term.”
    Sociopathic is a definition based on empirical observation. As such, it is not “just” a term, but a term that reflects something quite real.

    “To me, they are just following your line of thinking to the logical conclusion. The only reason to avoid killing people is that you may get caught. Why kill, when it might mean getting locked up for the rest of your life, and your life is all there is?”
    Avoiding being caught and punished is certainly one reason not to kill. There are other memetic and genetic reasons why people don’t kill under most circumstances.

    “But that “logic” necessarily means that IF you can get away murder, then there is no other reason not to do it!”
    Not true. I am a human being, with the emergent properties of consciousness and a conscience instilled through evolution both genetic and memetic.

    I have personally been in two major violent situations. In one case my life was actually at risk (I was attacked by someone with a knife). Taken by surprise, there was really no conscious thought going on in my head, and what I did was first place myself between the knife wielder and the employee that was with me, and then I took the knife away and he took off.

    I should have killed him. I could have gotten away with it. But my actions, stripped of conscious thought, were rooted in protection, in removing the threat with, apparently, a minimum amount of force. I do not intellectually or emotionally agree with my actions, but there is no doubt that they were indeed MY actions. As such we can argue about how those actions came to occur, but you cannot say there is no “reason” not to kill someone when you can get away with it when, in fact, there are cases where you can get away with it yet don’t.

    “Hey, if a baby seal is between you and a thousand bucks, you’d hit it, wouldn’t you?”
    No. I don’t, at this time, need the money. And you really don’t need to keep repeating the same irrelevant rhetorical trick– yes, we agree that value is relative!

    “Likewise, if some dude was between you and a thousand bucks, and you could get away with it, you’d hit him, too, right? ”
    See the seal answer.

    “Come on, man, follow your own philosphy to its logical conclusion.”
    I do follow my philosophy to its logical conclusions. I don’t, on the other hand, follow your false version of my philosophy.

    “Not for a thousand? How about a million? [Oooops. Now we are just negotiating over your price.]”
    Of course we’re just negotiating over “price.” It would take some extraordinary circumstances to make my price be money. If the price was to protect my family from harm I’d certainly pay it. I’d probably even pay it to protect you. To protect a fly? Not unless there was something really special about the fly.

    “Hypothetical [hey, I’m a lawyer, that’s what we do!]: Imagine some dude whom you despise. You could kill the sucker, and you have no risk to get caught.”

    Hypothetically I don’t believe you. I’m risk averse, I can think of no guarantees I wouldn’t get caught that you can give me that I would find valid. I’m somewhat anti-authoritarian as well, so Milgram can shove his dials up his ass, I don’t blindly act because someone in a lab coat told me to do so.

    “Do you? If not, why not? Ok, he’s not a glob of flesh. Why do you not kill him? It won’t hurt you–you won’t get caught. Allowing him to live doesn’t give you any benefit. You hate him, remember. Why do you treat this despicable person any differently than that fly who is buzzing around your house???”

    Again, don’t believe you on the getting caught thing. Much easier to make a case that I wouldn’t get punished.

    But that is a totally different question than the once again irritating rhetorical trick at the end: we have established that flies are not humans, you’ve got to drop that fallacy, it detracts from the really valuable question in the earlier part of the question: why don’t I do it?

    There are some people that would. Having twice been in a position where I could reasonably have expected to evade punishment (rather than evading being caught), this is a subject that I’ve mulled quite a bit.

    Read “The Selfish Gene” or some other reasonably good work on evolutionary survival strategies. One of the things that distinguish humans and other animals from lower orders is the social element that we have evolved. In humans, who can easily transmit memes, this social element is explosive, even compared to other social animals. Looked at from the viewpoint of the gene or the meme, if all other factors are equal, killing because you can is not an evolutionarily stable survival strategy. Natural selection, both in genetics and in social imprinting, does not favor senseless killing.

    Now true, humans are really, really good at making up reasons to kill and dominate and be violent. And so we almost all carry the capacity for violence, if only as a method to deal with evolutionary process called “cheating.” (Hence police and punishment and armies and hierarchies.)

    Cooperation has, so far, proven to be evolutionarily advantageous. One of the ways cooperation works is through the capacity for empathy, and the assumption that others like you are actually like you. “Like,” in fact, is one of the most important concepts in human life: this is like that, this is not like that. We are not always correct in our judgements, nor is any specific benefit ever necessarily derived from any ability, but by and large treating humans differently than flies (when you yourself are human) is part of both our genetic and memetic background.

    The fact that we start off memetically in a tabula rasa state doesn’t change the fact that we are descended from creatures with certain genetic traits who lived long enough to pass those genes off. Nobody teaches us that “animals are cuter when their eyes are bigger in relation to their head” yet this is a very common trait — infants of most animal species have that condition.

    Men across the world, in multiple levels of industrialization and differing societies, routinely think women are attractive with a waist to hip ratio of about 7 to 10. While other factors apply (and there we’re dealing with social factors), the only universal human preference seems to be one that makes sense for passing on genes.

    We are not just bags of meat, we are genetically and memetically programmed bags of meat that interact with our environment, which includes others “like” us. (Even when the others aren’t. I graduated from college when I was 16, and I didn’t really understand that most people didn’t think like me, I thought people in class were being deliberately obtuse, just to be insulting to the prof, when they asked questions with answers that were obvious or that had already been gone over. In law school a female classmate started hitting me when we got out of our torts class for being so arrogant when people couldn’t answer questions, and that was the moment that allowed me to realize that thinking others are like you is not always the best fit with reality.)

    As bags of meat with backgrounds and emergent properties, it is logical to seek out ways to improve our condition. That’s about the only absolute that I’m willing to adhere to, a task which has as many answers as there are consciousnesses to imagine those answers.

    The theoretical extremes you favor as rhetorical tricks, which might only be found in very, very rare outliers in humanity, or which focus on value solely in terms of money, just aren’t very relevant to life as it actually exists.

    I am an atheist, I have been exposed to the scientific method and the stories of the Enlightenment and the Dark Ages and The Troubles and Sara Palin’s word salad speeches and the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series. I feel, I dream, I think, I love, I’ve even deliberately reproduced genetically despite an almost life long aversion to becoming a parent.

    Now THERE is an interesting topic — logically becoming a parent (and staying a parent) makes no sense. I did so as the only way to stay with my wife for the rest of our lives, it was a condition when we agreed to marry. Having children is a clear example of genetics triumphing over memetics.

  15. First, thanks for the detailed reply. Much to chew on.

    Second, the “globs of flesh” is not a “rhetorical trick.” I’m not trying to convince a jury, I’m trying to understand. I could give a shit what others think about atheists. I want to understand how they think. The purpose of me writing to you is to engage in dialogue towards that end. So know that I am not trying to piss you off. If I am wrong, it is because my “logic” is somehow wrong. To me, this makes sense: Men evolved from animals. Men ARE merely animals. Therefore, it is acceptable to treat men as animals. I get it that you disagree, personally, but can you at least see how others would follow that conclusion.

    And you keep throwing around this canard that only sociopaths come to that conclusion. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, communist Russia and China followed that “logic” to it’s logical conclusion. I get it that you disagree with them (thank God) but it is insulting to me to keep saying that I am setting up a straw man or employing a rhetorical device. NO, I am not. I am observing reality.

    And I do not accept the notion that everyone who kills is therefore by very definition a sociopath. In our area, we recently had a supposedly normal young man club three humans beings to death. His family loves him. He had a relatively normal life. Murders happen every day in America. I don’t consider them “outliers” for there seem to be far too many. To me, I’d say that actual murderers are just the tip of the iceberg–they do it because they think they can “get away with it” but that there are many, many others who don’t because like you they are afraid they will get caught.
    And the murderers seem to treat their victims as globs of flesh. So I’m not making these facts, I’m merely trying to understand what is going on.

    You seem to think you are defeating my point when you say that you can’t envision a time where you could get away with killing people. To me, that MAKES my point. You didn’t say you wouldn’t do it because it was “wrong”, you just didn’t accept the premise that you could ever be certain of getting away with it. Chairman Mao and Joseph Stalin, for instance, “got away with it.” Rather than debate the premise of whether you can ever be truly certain to get away with murder, will you consider answering a hypothetical? [Glad to hear you are a lawyer, too. Hope to learn more details someday.] If you were Mao or Stalin, then would you kill (or at least allow to be killed) millions? If not, why not?

    I’m still digesting much of what else you wrote, and may respond further later. Gotta go handle a little legal work. Cheers.

  16. Ha, I’m not a lawyer — I dropped out after my first year. I was old enough to enter the military with parental permission, and I couldn’t stand most of my classmates. (It was the mid-80s, half of them wanted to spend their vacations finding US atrocities in Nicaragua and the other half thought Reagan was God.)

    Anyway, one more try, and if we can’t come to agreement on this point then we aren’t really communicating, we’re just talking at each other.

    If you say, “Humans are animals,” then I’m 100% with you. H is a subset of A.

    If you say, “Humans are merely animals” then you a using rhetoric to imply that there are no subsets to A. No differentiation worth discussing between H and B and F and R and M. If that is truly your position then your arguments flow logically from that position, but I would say that the initial assumptions for your position are flawed.

    The animal kingdom, evolving from common ancestors, share many, many good tricks, but they do fall into observable types. Depending on what criteria you use, you can make up huge numbers of differentiators because life interacting with the environment is complex. Not to put Descartes before the horse, but the exchange that we are currently having is not something we are likely to see in an animal other than a human.

    So I see two options:
    1) Humans are animals. Humans either have no observable differences from other animals (no subsets to A), or the differences between humans and other animals are completely unimportant (subsets are only marginally distinguished). This is the “merely animals” argument.

    2) Humans are animals. While human tricks, by definition, are animal tricks, other animals do not share all human tricks. Observationally, the human only tricks (or human mostly tricks) make a difference in human interaction with the environment and each other.

    If you stick with 1), there’s nothing really I can say that I haven’t already said. If you can accept 2 then, of course, comes defining those emergent properties that are human only or human mostly. (And in that case I really do suggest reading those two books from my previous post.)

  17. I couldn’t stand most of my fellow law school students (mid 80s) either. Besides the types you mentioned, most of where I went were trust fund babies with III and IV after their names who all drove BMers.

    Not interested in reading a book. Can’t you condense and explain? I get things quickly, and don’t need 200 pages to understand a simple concept.

    OK, so if I understand your line of reasoning, humans are more evolved than other animals, or at least have certain qualities that none of the other species have, and some dude or other labeled those qualities as “emergent properties.”

    I assume that you and fellow like-minded atheists believe that these “emergent properties” distinguish humans qualitatively from other humans. My response would be yeah, so? I distinguish mice from deer from my pet dog, too, and I do not need a fancy phrase for it. My wife’s dog has “emergent properties” that I do not believe exist in the common house fly. Therefore I squash the bug and tolerate and even spoil the dog.

    I still feel that you are standing on the edge of an abyss with such thinking. The logical thought process, it occurs to me, would be OK, that keeps society from killing other humans who share these so-called emergent properties, but what about those who don’t? The Helen Kellers of the world, the two day old babies, the old and feeble?

    The reason it matters to me is because thoughts have consequences. If a person’s line of reasoning is messed up, eventually it will lead to bad actions. I know that those who espouse ideas are not responsible for the actions of those who take their ideas and run off on illogical tangents. However, it doesn’t seem as though my concern here is off on an illogical tangent, but is rather just a simple logical extension. So I’ll ask, how do you differentiate? Do you say that since the 1 day old baby or deaf and dumb mute is a member of an entire group that has emergent properties, they are therefore off limits? [And if so, it seems as though fetuses are off limits, too, and you should favor banning of abortions.]

    If babies and the old and infirm do not share emergent properties, what logical reason is there to NOT kill little babies or feeble old people? You and I might agree that would be abhorrent, because it feels so to us, but that is not a logical reason, that is just a feeling. I “feel” that it is abhorrent for women to have abortions, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from doing so. As we all know, others “feel” differently about things than we do.

    That was my gut reaction to River’s thoughts. She sounds like a splendid person, one whom I would enjoy being around; however, basing a life philosophy on feelings is weak. Feelings change. She loves people now, but what if she gets old and cranky and suddenly starts despising them? Should we all run for cover?

    I’m looking for the reasons behind why people do what they do. For me, it is simple. I believe God created all men equal, etc. (I won’t bore you with the details because this isn’t about my beliefs) and that I cannot kill another human absent certain very narrowly defined circumstances. Very cut and dried. Maybe the atheist position is equally cut and dried, but I’m not getting that yet.

    p.s. and you ignored my hypothetical. Would you kill a human if you were certain that you could get away with it? Or do you not dare to utter certain things?

  18. I cannot believe in a god who wants to be praised all the time

  19. As an atheist, I don’t think humans are “gobs of meat.” Humans create art and music; we write novels and poetry; we build hospitals. Most of us care about other human beings a great deal. It is true that we could be used for meat and occasionally are, usually in desperate circumstances, but we are much more than that. I have never killed anyone, nor to my knowledge have I ever physically injured anyone, except accidentally while playing football or hockey, and once or twice while defending myself in an adolescent fight. Things like that are socially acceptable within a certain peer group.

    One of the reasons atheists are so concerned with religion and particularly Christianity and Islam, is obvious: the harm religion has caused, justified, or covered for over the centuries. The Old Testament is full of genocide ordered or abetted by Yahweh, the history of Europe is largely the history of religious conflict and warfare between Catholics and Protestants, Jews were oppressed and persecuted because of a few verses in the New Testament, heretical Catholics were tortured and killed for 600 years, starting with the Cathars in 1231, and women were kept down until the feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s. These are obvious reasons, but others are less so. Few Christians, for example, are aware of the blood libel, the belief held by Christians for centuries that Jews used the blood of Christian children in their religious rituals or that Jews were scapegoats, punished for any local disaster. Got disease? Kill the Jews; they must have poisoned the well. Kill them because they killed Christ. Some Popes insisted that Jews be left alone because they served as good examples of what happens to god-killers, so they put them in ghettos. Women. Adultery? Kill them. They didn’t bleed on the wedding night? Kill them. (Many female virgins do not bleed for a variety of reasons.) She looked at your cow funny and it’s milk soured? Kill the witch. The European witch craze lasted over 300 years. Most people know about Salem, but don’t realize that the Salem trials came near the end of the witch craze. Most people know about the Spanish Inquisition, but don’t realize that inquisitions began with the killing of over a million Arian Christians and didn’t end until the last public auto da fe (act of faith, code for torture and murder of heretics) in Mexico in 1864. Religion has held back knowledge. People who argue today, for example, that evolution is false and creation “science” should be taught in schools have forgotten that creation “science” was taught in schools for centuries and was eventually removed, like astrology, alchemy, and phrenology, because it isn’t scientific. Many Christians are against abortion because of their belief in the soul and want to control women’s bodies based on their own religion, even though the existence of the soul cannot be shown. Not even the morning after pill helped alleviate the controversy because of religious fanaticism. Religions held back medical research in other areas, as well. Belief in a physical resurrection of the body prevent the study of anatomy from using cadavers until well into the 20th century. The average doctor in 1900 knew less about anatomy than an ancient Egyptian mortician. Christianity prevented bathing for centuries because ancient Greece and Rome had “immoral” public baths, though they also had healthier populations. Muslims conquered Arabia, the Middle East, and North Africa by the end of the 7th century, then went on to Spain. If they hadn’t been turned back in the field at Poitiers, France by Charles (the Hammer) Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, they would have conquered Europe.

    This list could go on and on, and it is all historically verifiable. On the other side, we are told about Hitler, Stalin Mao, and Pol Pot. Hitler was a Catholic; he was baptized in the Church, raised in the Church, said frequently that he would always be a Catholic, and never left the Church, just as the Church never left him, holding special masses on his birthday and never excommunicating even to this day. (The only Nazi excommunicated was Goebbels, for marrying a Protestant.) Hitler may not have been a particularly good Catholic. He disliked the papal power structure and wanted to incorporate both Catholic and Lutheran churches into the Party, but he was a Catholic.) Stalin was an atheist, but he became one in seminary. He was also a published poet, robber, and a murderer. He attacked the Church just as he attacked all of his political rivals. His violence was committed in the name of the Revolution and later as a means to consolidate power, but not in the name of atheism. As WW II approached, he had no trouble invoking the name of Holy Mother Russia in the struggle against the German invaders. Mao, too, was an atheist who killed millions, but he, too, pushed the ideology of the Revolution and the Party. Pol Pot hated modernism, cities, and the West, and tried to return Cambodia to what he saw as a golden age of rural values. I have no doubt that faith sometimes helps people cope with tragedy and pain. Not at all. But the OT brought in a new wrinkle. Gods in the ancient world were not believed to be omnipotent. The Hebrews believed in Yahweh because they thought he had chosen them and because they thought he was the strongest god out there. In the books of Judges and Kings, most likely written down in the late 7th century BCE, the power of Yahweh is enhanced as the Hebrews come to believe that every disaster that befalls them is caused by Yahweh. So when the northern Jewish kingdom, Israel, is conquered by the Assyrians, it is because Yahweh sent them to punish Israel. When the southern Jewish kingdom, Judah, is conquered by the Babylonians, it is Yahweh’s doing, again to punish Israel. This idea leads modern Christian extremists to think that disaster in America are caused by God to punish America. Why? Fred Phelps thinks it’s because we tolerate gays. Others think it’s because we allow abortions. Pat Robertson thinks it’s because of feminism and the ACLU. Of course, if we just do what these whack jobs think God wants us to do, all will be well. As always, Christians want control, just as Muslims do in their world.

    Atheists I know want a world in which human beings can live lives of freedom, good health, dignity, and happiness. Freedom means free thought as well as other kinds of freedom–even freedom to believe in God and go to church. Good health means, among other things, sound medical research unencumbered by religious control. Dignity would include not being marginalized or persecuted because of, say, sexual orientation or lack of faith. Happiness means different things to different people.

    We atheists have been through many years of being defined, at least in America, by Christians and their leaders. We are told what we really want, what we really believe, and what’s wrong with us. We are told that science is all wrong, often by people who don’t have a clue. We are told the fear of God is what keeps people from murdering and raping, yet we, who have no fear of God, have the lowest crime rates of any group. We are told that we are fools by people who by any reasonable standard would be seen as ignorant, illiterate, and not very bright. We are told by people who trust their lives daily to scientific advances such as antibiotics, surgery, vaccinations, airliners, etc., that faith is the only source of knowledge. Christian leaders lie to us about history every chance they get.belittle education and knowledge. We are told by people who are blue in the face from shouting that we are angry. We are told by preachers who are later revealed to be gay that homosexuality is an abomination, but that they are fine now because a few friends prayed for them. We are told that there is no such thing as climate change and that God will provide. We are told by people who quite clearly have never read the Bible what it means and what God wants us to do. We are told that the death penalty is just because God said “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” even though Christ, in Matthew 5:37-38, specifically abrogated that law. (There are many examples of Christian cherry-picking.) We are told by Christians, who all together make up about 80% of the American population, control our governments, our school boards, and our media, that they are being persecuted. In a society in which media commentators can openly advocate the killing of abortion providers, we are told that we should sit down and shut up. We are even told that one political party has a lock on God. This list could go on for a long time, too.

    We are not evil people. Most of us don’t care if others need an imaginary friend in their lives. We just don’t want that imaginary friend controlling us, our government, or our environment. If Christianity and Islam were, like Judaism, non-evangelical, there wouldn’t be nearly as much fuss. Some Christians might be perfectly nice people, and I know many who are. But look at the way their leaders argue. Name calling, vitriol, lies, ad hominem attacks. Then look at the way Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and yes, even Christopher Hitchens, comport themselves in public debate. They absorb insults and sit quietly through spurious arguments, faulty logic, and even lies.

    We are not angry. But we’re starting to get a little tired of it all.

  20. Sheesh, try writing a novel. Firstly, thanks for commenting. I literally could not read the entire comment (too long), but I get your gist: Christians and Muslims are equally bad, and atheists (at least you and the ones you know) are pure as the driven snow. I got it. But you need to get out more if that is the extent of what you are saying.

    Here’s a history lesson, bub, since you obviously skipped that class. Christians killed a few tens of thousands in the name of Christ. So-called Christians, because any true believer in Christ does not kill unless in self-defense. There are two options open to Christians: pacifism, and Just War (defense of self or other innocents who are being attacked). Every other war or other act by so-called Christians is them acting against the will of God.

    By very definition, when a “Christian” fucks up and does something that is forbidden, he is acting in an un-Christian manner. He does not rape, murder and plunder because he is a Christian, but rather because he is acting in an un-Christian manner. And in case you have not noticed, wars have not been fought over Christianity in hundreds of years.

  21. Muslims, on the other hand, rape murder and plunder BECAUSE they are obeying what their religion teaches them. The so-called “moderates” among the so-called “religion of peace” are those who do not take their religion as seriously as the fanatics do. Fanatical Christians are the pacifists–they take literally Christ’s command to “turn the other cheek” and refuse to defend themselves or their neighbors when they are attacked. Moderate Christians rationalize and say, well, it’s okay to turn the other cheek to a slap, but that does not mean you need to let yourself be killed, or worse, to stand idly by while your “neighbor” is being killed. Letting someone murder your neighbor violates Christ’s command to “love thy neighbor.” So what you are missing is that some so-called Christians do bad things despite the fact that they claim to be Christians, while Muslims do bad things precisely BECAUSE they claim to be Muslims.

  22. Finally, as to atheists, the most human deaths BY FAR are attributable to atheists. The Crusades litterally killed a few thousand. Likewise The Inquisitions (which happened hundreds of years ago). But atheists, in the name of Communism, killed over a hundred million less than a century ago.

    So, while I welcome you here, always glad to debate issues, I’ll leave you with a paraphrase of the old maxim: While you are free to form your own conclusions, you are not free to make up your own facts. Cheers

  23. Didn’t mean to overtax your brain. You didn’t get the gist of it at all. When you simplify history that much, you inevitably distort it. Some sixty million people died in WW II. Most of the Germans doing the killing were Christians. Even in Russia, where Stalin actually was an atheist, most people were still Russian Orthodox. Mao was an atheist, but he and his followers were willing to kill anyone in the name of the Revolution. Same for Pol Pot and other dictators. Going back a few in history a bit, the Crusades resulted in perhaps a million casualties. The Inquisitions killed hundreds of thousands–more than a million in Southern France alone–as did 400 years of the “witch craze.” In the Americas, perhaps 90% of the indigenous peoples died or were enslaved the the name of Christianity. In Africa, Alice Nkwemi and her forces were Christians, as are Joseph Konny and his, who are kidnapping children to fight for them in Uganda so they can set up a Christian nation governed by the Ten Commandments. The genocide in Rwanda was aided and abetted by the Catholic churches in Rwanda.

    Organized, mass slaughter requires an ideology, an idea considered by believers to be more important than human life. Atheism has no ideology, consisting instead of a rejection of God-based ideologies due to lack of evidence. I have often heard the argument that without belief in God, people would quickly become murderers and rapists. Nonsense. With God, all things are possible, even genocide.

    By the way, I didn’t skip history class. I took many history classes, and have continued to study history over the years. You, apparently, think all history was covered in only one class. It was probably all you could absorb.

  24. You evidently flunked those history courses, or you are a liar. There were not “hundreds of thousands–more than a million in southern France alone” killed by the inquistions. You can’t just make up facts out of thin air to support your ideology. Funny, you don’t believe in God for “lack of proof” but you make up facts out of thin air and believe them wholeheartedly. You claim the Catholic Church “aided and abetted” the Rwandan massacre. If you said that about an individual, you could be sued for slander. In non-technical terms it’s called making shit up that ain’t true.

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