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Posts Tagged ‘atheists’

I don’t like to say “atheist” because I feel like atheists have that same chip on their shoulder that people who feel like their religion is the only right thing have. It’s to know something, to think you know something definitively that, I feel, we as mere mortal humans can’t possibly know. I think it’s just as obnoxious.

Sarah Silverman is right. Atheists are totally obnoxious.

You know who’s especially bad though? Anyone who refuses point-blank to even consider sacrificing their only child on the altar of an unknowable deity. I mean, it’s probably not something I’d do myself – in fact, murdering children because of religious beliefs is something of a bugbear of mine – but the people who claim to know with absolute certainty that it’s wrong? They can be equally annoying.

Also, does anyone else get a little freaked out when chemists keep talking about carbon and calcium and aluminium and so forth, and just presume that those are all actual things? They seem pretty damn sure about that big table with all those elements on it, don’t they? I’m not saying that whole “air, earth, fire, water” thing didn’t have its problems, or couldn’t use some updating, but the extent to which some modern extremists so totally dismiss it in favour of their new paradigm doesn’t sit right with me.

And hey, here’s another bunch who wind me up: heliocentrists. Not all of them, by any means, just the hardcore contingent who put me off wanting to identify with the term myself. Sure, I go along with the claim that the Sun’s at the centre of the solar system with the Earth revolving around it, but is it so hard to even admit that it might be the other way around? That maybe this infinite and incomprehensible universe is stranger than we mere mortal humans can comprehend? The arrogance with which some people just tell flat-earthers that they’re “flat-out” wrong really grates on my nerves.

As if that kind of certainty were really possible within the limits of our human perception. It just comes across as narrow-minded.

Classroom discussion questions

1. Can you think of any other completely one-sided debates where it might be fun to occupy a smug middle ground?

2. How reasonable might it actually be that some people have come to this sort of conclusion about atheists?

3. Is this webcomic ever going to stop being relevant?

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Why do atheists spend so much time attacking a god who they say doesn’t exist?

I wasn’t asked this one in the comments of my blog post soliciting questions a few days ago, but it came up in a Twitter discussion, and it is something a lot of theists seem to have trouble getting their head around. Just why do atheists care? If God’s not real, why do they get so angry with him, and go out of their way trying to prove he’s not there? If God isn’t real, how does he manage to bother them so much?

This is a very easy one. So easy that I’m baffled as to how any theist can keep asking it after hearing even the most cursory explanation, and yet they do seem to persist. I don’t imagine it’ll sink in for many of them with yet another iteration, but here goes anyway.

God doesn’t exist. Religion sure as hell does.

What many atheists oppose, and are angered by, isn’t God, but religion. It’s the massively popular worldwide belief systems, which require uncritical acceptance of implausible and unsupported claims, exacerbate and encourage failures of critical thinking, and relegate compassion and morality as secondary to obedience and monomaniacal worship.

The God of Islam doesn’t have to exist for the 9/11 hijackers to be motivated by thoughts of him, and to bring immense grief and suffering into the world as a direct result of their irrational beliefs. Whatever god you believe in probably has his fair share of crazy shit done in his name too, which has done real damage to real people in the world I live in.

I don’t hate God. I’m not angry with him. He’s just not there. But religion, I object to. The things that do exist and cause harm to people are worth fighting against, and the notion of God is often tied up in that.

I will admit that, if he existed, any god guilty of such dereliction of duty as to allow the kind of suffering evident in the world to continue unabated for millennia, without stepping in to help or offering any reason or excuse – let alone one that would permit such an infinite, unjustifiable evil as Hell – would unquestionably be my enemy. I would defy and despise such a being with all my strength, right up until the point where I started cowering in terror and doing every pitiful and obsequious thing I could not to piss the Supreme Fascist off and suffer the consequences. Which would probably be instantaneous, if I’m honest – I don’t imagine I’d have the courage of my convictions to actually stand up against an omnipotent tyrant of such casual malice.

In principle, though, I maintain my conviction that such a god would be an unimaginable bastard. But it’s much simpler, and hugely reassuring, to assume there’s no such bastard there. I’m no more angry with Yahweh than I am with Sauron.

And I think most people understand this, even those who keep asking the question, if they’d stop having fun scoring what feels like an easy point against atheists for long enough to actually think about it. Some of them have also decried terrorists acts by extremist Muslims, casting aspersions on the whole of the Islamic faith, even while the non-existence of Allah is just as obvious to them as it is to me.

I suspect, too, that there’s a non-trivial crossover between people who profess bemusement as to why atheists spend so much time attacking a god they don’t believe in, and people who are unconvinced by the argument of “If you don’t like abortions, don’t have one”. When it’s something you care about, it becomes obvious why your concern should stretch beyond your own immediate experience.

So, another brief and unhelpful rant accomplished. I’ve got a couple more brewing, at least one of which may be presented in an interestingly different format… Stay tuned.

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Oh hai internets. I’ve been and gone and pointed my face at YouTube again. This time I’m having a conversation with myself, through the magic of SPECIAL EFFECTS.

 

 

Again, it’s not the start of any regular trend, but these are still fun enough to make that I might do more, if I ever have another idea. Upvoting it and sharing it and whatnot would be most gracious of you, if it meets your approval.

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Actually, I don’t believe that there is such thing as an atheist because no respectable atheist would walk around with something in his pocket that said “In God We Trust.”

People are still saying things this moronic. Elected politicians, even.

Yes, people who’ve decided they aren’t convinced by any of this God business should revert to some kind of ancient barter system, so as to avoid having to come into contact with some vitally useful pieces of paper which happen to include an utterly irrelevant inscription. Otherwise they’re not being true to their principles.

Similarly, I can only presume that almost everybody in the English-speaking world is in fact a secret adherent of Germanic paganism, what with their continued insistence on acknowledging the existence of the days Tuesday through Friday.

PZ Myers also has a good one:

I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a Christian, because no respectable follower of Jesus would have any money at all — he or she would have handed it all over to the poor.

There you go. Now everyone’s happy. None of us really exist.

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Ask An Atheist

Also, it’s apparently National Ask An Atheist Day today.

I’m an atheist, and therefore eligible to be asked stuff. Feel free.

I don’t really suspect that this will entice anyone out of the woodwork who’s been following me but holding in their questions for the rest of the year, but I’ll throw it out there all the same.

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Why are you atheists so angry?

Greta Christina’s got 99 answers.

 

 

She answers a few more things about the book here. Knowing Greta, it’ll be well worth a look, either if you regularly find yourself dealing with the kind of religious idiots who ask why it matters so much to atheists what other people believe, or if you’re one of those idiots yourself.

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So, I’ve done another one of these.

 

 

The camera quality’s still so-so, and I’m still not exactly Cyriak, but I’m having fun.

Let me know if this is something you think it’s worth keeping up with.

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When talking about morality that doesn’t depend on religion, the amount of charity work done by atheists and non-believers is often brought up. The specific example I’ve seen cited most often is probably the list of teams in Kiva’s community. The most numerous and generous group on this charitable microloans site, by a substantial margin, is that of “Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious”.

It’s not as if the claim that non-theists have no motivation to act benevolently or altruistically to other people needed any more empirical data to dispel it, but this’ll certainly do.

However, once it’s established that caring about other human beings is possible, entirely independently of a subservience to an omnipotent deity, it also behooves us to take an interest in how much good we’re actually doing, besides how good a show we’re making of it. And this is where the usefulness of microfinance perhaps deserves to come under more scrutiny than is commonly the case.

Charity evaluator GiveWell has described some of the myths about microfinance, all of which are things that I probably would have assumed, given the way operations like Kiva are generally pictured. But as much as some of these foundational ideas – allowing people to expand their businesses through loans, greatly increasing the impact of a donation through re-lending, and so on – sound good in principle, the evidence for the impact these projects have doesn’t seem to support the hype around them.

It’s worth remembering what this doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that there can’t be some good to be achieved through organisations like Kiva, or that there aren’t numerous people working in microfinance who are sincerely motivated and working hard to get people out of poverty. It doesn’t mean we should get discouraged from trying to help wherever we can, and looking for more effective ways to make real change.

But it does mean we have to be open to questions about whether the efforts we’re all making right now are doing as much good as they could be, or whether we have a lot more to learn yet about what’s going to actually make the world better.

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I’m not sure how noticeable it’s been, but I’ve felt a shift in my own attitude in recent months, toward activism and online debate and whatnot. More and more, I’m steering away from using sarcasm and mockery as a first resort, and trying to find a way to sympathise and connect with people I find myself in disagreement with.

Sometimes it’s really, really hard. And it’s not always the best way to go. I’m not wading into the whole Don’t Be A Dick clusterfuffle again here, so don’t take this as a statement on how other people should be interacting. Taking the piss out of dangerous idiots absolutely has its place. I’ve just been trying to be a little softer in my own approach.

Maybe learning about rationality has helped with that, as I’ve figured out more about the ways people can be wrong, and how human it is for us to attach ourselves deeply to mistaken and illogical ideas. It doesn’t make the ideas themselves less deplorable, and it’s still important to combat ignorance and bigotry wherever we can. But even when people exhibit traits that sicken you, and act in ways that make you ashamed to be a part of their species, they’re still people. They got to where they are through entirely human processes of personal development, and even if we condemn everything they stand for, they deserve a sincere attempt to be respected.

Having said all that, some people just need to get the fuck over themselves.

After joking about the kinds of insipidly bland billboards that atheists might have to come up with to avoid pissing off any over-sensitive Christians with a persecution complex, the organisation American Atheists submitted an ad for which they wanted to buy space on the sides of some buses. The ad featured the name and website of American Atheists and the NEPA Freethought Society, and the slogan:

Atheists.

Yes, that’s it. It’s one word, it’s a description of a group of people, it just names an idea, it doesn’t say anything about anything, it is a joke how innocuous and inoffensive it’s possible to make a slogan.

And the transport authority rejected it.

Apparently mentioning atheists in a single word on the side of a bus is against their policy, on the grounds that it “could be deemed controversial or otherwise spark public debate”.

…Yeah. And refusing to permit the word even be seen publicly does neither of those things.

Firstly, these buses already run ads saying “God Bless America”. If you don’t think that is something which could “spark public debate”, if you think that is so uncontroversial it couldn’t possibly even provoke any sort of spirited discussion among anyone anywhere, then holy crap your Christian privilege is visible from Betelgeuse.

Second, if you think mentioning atheists in a public space – nothing more than acknowledging the existence of a group of people who have a different opinion from you – is so controversial, so frightening, so potentially damaging and traumatising to your nation’s poor children that you cannot morally endorse such a thing: Fuck you. Just fuck you.

American Atheists want this resolved without having to sue. They’ve requested the matter be corrected, without calling anyone a deranged, prejudiced fuckwit. They’re better at this sort of thing than I am.

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Another nobody

Well, this is a grand occasion indeed. PZ Myers has identified one of the greatest geniuses ever to walk the earth.

But you don’t have to take my or PZ’s word for it. Just listen to the prodigy himself:

Around 2007 upon arising from higher states I started awakening this strange innate ability for argumentation logic that I have which surpasses even Aristotle and William of Ockham.

My innate ability for argumentation logic is probably as high or higher than the innate ability that Euler or Ramanujan had for theorems and mathematics.

Clearly we are privileged even to be in the presence of such an ascended being.

Oh, and he really doesn’t like atheists.

It takes very little sniffing round the stench of his blog to realise that this guy’s nothing special, just another religious nut with a way more explicitly and unabashedly grandiose sense of self-worth than most. Perhaps it’d be wiser to just not get involved, but sometimes this is the kind of thing that it’s worth calling out, partly just to keep my eye in, and partly to make sure there is always a strong counter-opinion available to such hateful bilge.

Or maybe I’m rationalising because I’d already written a good chunk of this before realising just quite how far off the deep end he really is.

Anyway, here’s a comment I’ve just left on his ‘About Me’ page.


I’ll bite:

 

1. You claim:

My innate ability for argumentation logic is probably as high or higher than the innate ability that Euler or Ramanujan had for theorems and mathematics.

Since you also seem so fond of the principle sometimes known as “Ockham’s Razor”, I’m sure you’ll appreciate that, for someone who’s happened to wander onto your blog only recently, the truth of this assertion is a less parsimonious explanation than an alternative: for instance, that you greatly overestimate your own abilities. I’ve seen people do that all the time, but people more innately brilliant than Euler or Ramanujan seem much thinner on the ground that people too arrogant to know their own limits.

According to Wikipedia, Ramanujan “independently compiled nearly 3900 results (mostly identities and equations)”, the majority of which were true and original. He’s recognised as one of the great geniuses of the field, which of course is why you use him as a comparison. It would be a violation of Ockham’s Razor for us to accept your claim uncritically based on no evidence, so: how does your tally of publications in your own specialist field compare?

And, a follow-up: Ramanjuan died at the age of 32. You say you’re in college, so I’d guess you’re younger than that. How much do you expect to have changed the world by that age, and what evidence is there of your progress so far?

 

2. In defence of some of the accusations made against you, you say:

In the delusional atheist’s world:

“Newton was a crackpot, so Newton’s geometric proofs must be wrong”

“Ramanujan had no college education and flunked out of college more than once, so his theorems are wrong”

“Faraday had no education after the age of 13, so his experiments and ideas are useless”

As you imply, these would all be examples of ad hominem logical fallacies. Please point me to an instance of an atheist (ideally one in some way connected to the mainstream atheist movement) making any or all of the above claims.

 

3. You quote atheists as saying, among other things: “What’s wrong with being a Nazi?”

Please point me to an instance of an atheist sincerely asking this question, or making any of the relevant claims. I’m an atheist, I interact regularly with many atheists, and I’ve never heard any of them express the opinions you attribute to them and would be appalled were they to do so. The fact that your portrayal of atheists is so out of line with my own indicates to me that you don’t actually know what atheists or atheism are about that well. The fact that you actively assert they shouldn’t be treated as human beings – a more hateful, dehumanising, and frankly childish claim than anything I’ve heard from an atheist, or almost anybody else – further indicates to me that your characterisation of atheists as hateful doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.

 

4. You say of atheists here:

They are terrible people, there is none that opposes racism and none that will ever voice any opposition to racism.

Claiming that no atheists oppose racism, or will ever voice any opposition to racism, sounds like a testable hypothesis to me. How could it be falsified, and how much did you test its soundness before asserting it? Did you encounter blogs such as Daylight Atheism, Greta Christina, The Crommunist Manifesto, or The Friendly Atheist in your research?

 

5. You discuss Ockham’s Razor a number of times. This has been phrased by past philosophers as, for instance: “Whenever possible, substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities”, or “Plurality should not be posited without necessity”.

Your own “vastly superior” definition reads thus: “the conclusion drawn from making the least possible amount of assumptions”.

Your “vastly superior” definition does not take the form of a principle or a piece of advice, but rather a sentence fragment. What about the conclusion drawn from making the least possible amount (may I suggest “fewest possible” as a less clunky phrasing) of assumptions? Is it always true? Most commonly true? Do the relative plausibilities of the assumptions in question have any bearing on the principle? Is there any reason we should believe your phrasing actually is “vastly superior” than, say, Bertrand Russell’s, rather than that you just prefer to believe that because of your inflated sense of self-importance?

 

6. You recently disabled ratings for comments on your blog, after a lot of your own comments drew extremely negative ratings. You said:

…the rating (thumbs up or thumbs down) a comment gets is just an argumentum ad populum

The rating a comment gets is a reflection of how many people have rated it up or down, nothing more. An argumentum ad populum would be, for instance, if somebody were to claim that the truth or falsehood of statements made in a comment could be determined solely by examining their rating, regardless of the logical merit of the statements themselves.

Please show an instance of an atheist making such an argument.

 

7. Are you aware of what some might find ironic in the fact that you call atheists both “the lowest of the low, the worst people, the most disgusting form of life”, and also “the most hateful of all human beings” in the same sentence?

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