Isolate me from a line-up, and call me an Atheist.

I recently commented on an entry titled “what is your purpose” at asl001’s Atheist blog. A Christian blogger named poppies–whom also responded to the entry in question–followed me to my blog propositioning me to continue/expound the discussion by creating an entry here for us to debate–long posts are the norm on my blog.

To address everything in this post alone, would make for a very long entry. For that reason, I will only tackle the issue of whether or not most Atheists are typically ‘powerful or aggressive’ in this segment, and if so, why. I will end with what will be the introduction of the next post–morality.

poppies wrote:
. . . an atheist worldview allows only for subjective morality typically dominated by powerful or aggressive individuals, but I’m open to the idea that I’m wrong.

First, I can guarantee that you would not be able to tell an Atheist from a believer if you saw them on the street and both were dressed in normal clothes. You certainly would not be able to tell that I am an Atheist if I sat next to you on a park bench.

If by ‘power’ you mean managerial positions, it depends on the type of degree a person has. If by ‘power’ you mean intellectual prestige such as undergraduate or graduate degrees . . . you may be partly correct in that regard, as the more advanced an individual’s education, the greater the likelihood of Atheist/Agnostic views.

On that note, if by ‘power’ you mean elected officials, or lawyers, judges, and so forth, it is important to note that due to the current political climate in North America for instance, you would not know they are Atheists. If you were to label these people aggressive, it would not be for their Atheism, as you would not know it exists in them. There is no evidence to suggest that Atheists are typically aggressive.

On the subject of aggression, I take it you are not suggesting violence, but rather a passion for making one’s views known. Christians make their views known to the world all the time. United States politicians speak of God at least once. You have numerous television channels dedicated to Religion where they speak passionately about God and spreading the message of Jesus. You have Churches with billboards advertising that Jesus is the way. If making one’s views known to anyone who will listen is synonymous with aggression, then there is a lot of Christian ‘aggression’ in the United States.

Now we have individuals like Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Dan Dennett and Richard Dawkins promoting Atheism awareness and it becomes obvious that Atheists are perceived as aggressive only because our silence has been mainly the norm. Our collective voice right now does not in any way equal the viral nature of the Religious, who think their rights to be vocal outweigh our own, or who suggest we can only be truly tolerant through silence whilst they can bask in the luxuries of tolerance by doing the reverse.

Until recently, Atheists were the least trusted/liked minority in the United States–it now appears Scientologists have the honour of that title. Richard Dawkins’ OUT Campaign encourages Atheists/Agnostics to be open about their disbelief, to make our presence known, to remind others that we have equal rights and encourage awareness as a whole–hence the reason for the Scarlet A on my blog.

When minorities are silent because of fear of persecution for an extended amount of time, when they suddenly do begin to speak, they are seen as intolerant and aggressive. It is similar to the feminist movement. Several decades ago, most men believed women lacked the intellect to hold positions of power. This was strictly sexist and clearly not based on evidence but passed down through a patriarchal tradition.

Today, we still have Religious individuals claiming that we lack the morality necessary to hold positions of power. There is zero evidence to suggest this. We do hold positions of power, win humanitarian awards, and our morally is never doubted until we reveal ourselves as Atheists/Agnostics. It plainly illustrates the fact that because many religious individuals cannot fathom how we can be moral without a God(s), does not mean their lack of proper understanding/vision makes it correct.

There are no studies that prove when Atheists/Agnostics are rounded up, followed around for a week at least, and analyzed by their capacity to perform good acts on other humans or be moved by the suffering of others, that they perform worse than their Religious counterparts. You can bet if this is ever proven through multiple studies and the results were the same again and again, that the Religious would not hesitate to wave the studies in the air as ‘proof.’

We are considered morally bankrupt/inferior because of tradition passed down by individuals who would not have profited from saying Religion was not likely to make you any more moral than no Religion. If this were so, their converted-to-be would have asked, then why be Religious?! In the same fashion, those already Religious would have asked, why remain so?

Advertisements

3 responses to “Isolate me from a line-up, and call me an Atheist.

  1. You’ve radically misunderstood me. I’m not claiming that Atheists in the world we inhabit (reality) are typically powerful, aggressive or less moral than religious individuals. Some may be, but I find that these attributes are more or less equally distributed among Theists and Atheists. Accordingly, I find all the targeted hatred and discrimination toward Atheists to be disgusting, and wildly hypocritical when found in those who claim to be disciples of Jesus.

    What I *am* claiming is that if the Atheist hypothesis were true, we would find that rights would be arbitrarily distributed according to the whims of those powerful or aggressive enough to subjugate individuals to their dictates. That sounds like very negative language, but these dictates may very well spread harmony and be benevolent, just as a slave may have a kindly, gentle master. I think the Atheist hypothesis is not true, and that our world shows evidence of not being organized in this way, but this is the logical end of Atheism.

    Often Atheists respond to this line of reasoning by saying that rights do come from man, but they are a reflection of naturally occurring societal functions which allow humans to survive, and thus aren’t arbitrary. “Goodness” in this case is that which contributes to humans surviving, and “evil” is that which hurts chances for survival.

    The problem with this idea is that it leads to so-called Social Darwinism. Such a view dictates that it can be acceptable and even encouraged to kill elderly, mentally-handicapped people; they are an unnecessary drain on resources, and clearly can’t contribute anything to humanity which would aid in the survival of our species. Slowly the threshold for acceptance into the circle of validity would rise until all who were left would be healthy, intelligent and fecund, perfect for ensuring the survival of our species; unfortunately, many of us wouldn’t make the cut.

    Upon hearing this, Atheists often claim that scientific studies show that this is not the natural state of man, that cooperation or “reciprocal altruism” assists survival more effectively than does vicious competition. The studies referenced typically involve game theory experiments performed under very controlled conditions, creating severe problems for anyone attempting to extrapolate their findings toward naturalistic altruism explanations. Proponents of these ideas also ignore that there are clear and abundant examples of vicious competition aiding survival far more effectively than reciprocal altruism. Also ignored are the countless examples of truly disinterested altruism, which have no survival value at all and would theoretically be selected against, yet are a commonly noted mark of “good” people.

    It’s entirely possible that there are arguments which bolster these fundamental weaknesses I see in the Atheist framework, but I have yet to hear them, so I’m hoping you can provide some fresh ideas.

  2. First, I detailed for informative purposes, what the most likely causes behind the misconception that Atheists are aggressive and/or powerful are. If you as a Christian do not believe this, it neither invalidates my points not does it make stating them superfluous. It creates a framework from which to proceed, so that we do not end up talking about the same thing without even knowing it.

    I do not represent Atheists, nor do I believe you represent Christians, thereby bearing responsibility for the actions of each group. So, for me, this is not an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ fight with a tally board. As I said in my blog, I speak to raise Atheism awareness and because I prefer seeking truth through debate.

    I do it for the intellectual exercise and enjoyment. The process matters more than the conclusion. I see nothing useful to gain from sticking by an original belief if the other party leads me to change my mind. When this happens, it presents the opportunity for the discussion to take a different turn, to evolve, and in so, continue with the primary goal of learning and truth seeking.

    I say this to minimize misunderstanding, and because to understand what I am, it can be equally important to know what I am not.

    poppies wrote:
    I’m not claiming that Atheists in the world we inhabit (reality) are typically powerful, aggressive or less moral than religious individuals.

    What did you mean then, when you stated ‘typically dominated by powerful or aggressive individuals’ if you believe Atheists are inherently no more powerful and aggressive than believers? What are we typically dominated by based on our morality and how would you characterize ‘power’ and ‘aggression’ if not in the way I used them?

    poppies wrote:
    What I *am* claiming is that if the Atheist hypothesis were true, we would find that rights would be arbitrarily distributed according to the whims of those powerful or aggressive enough to subjugate individuals to their dictates.

    That does not sound like a democracy. It sounds like a dictatorship and/or theocracy. You can see this taking place in theocracies in the Muslim world. They arbitrarily impose their rules on the populace claiming they are mandated by God. When you take into account how terrible the Koran is in its literal interpretation, it is very easy to see why it would be so. Worse, the less literal their interpretation of their sacred book, the more arbitrary it gets.

    Why?

    Because it is being interpreted by humankind with varying belief systems. They pick and choose based on their inherent value systems. This is no different from Christianity. The very existence of its denominations is proof that morality does not come from God. Take the patriarchal Catholicism, where women are not moral enough or intellectual enough to preach to congregations. If this is because God wants it that way, then he/she/it is sexist. What is the most likely explanation? That these texts were written by men living in a patriarchal society. Therefore, they superimposed their patriarchal views on the texts as they wrote them.

    Why do Christians who believe in equal gender rights choose Anglicanism? They are guided by their internal morality. Why choose Catholicism, Anglicanism, or anything else? Why do they sinfully choose to arbitrarily act on their arbitrary interpretations of God? If one takes a step back and asks, “What do all these people have in common?” the answer is that they all have an internal morality that did not come from God.

    If most humans have a similar basic internal morality, why do all these people differ in action and belief? Because they cannot decide what passages have more truth than others, which should be ignored because they are ‘clearly symbolical’ and the list goes on. All of these interpretations are subjective, making their morality subjective because they continue to believe the texts are the word of God.

    When you take away that belief, you are left to necessarily deciding what is good or bad based on evidence. When you operate on evidence, there is less ambiguity. Evidence necessarily appeals to and relies on the moral universality of humans. This is why if even though Atheists vary in beliefs (such as political inclinations), you will be hard pressed to find individuals who believe that homosexuality is wrong, female mutilation is right, dousing your raped female loved one with petrol and setting them on fire means you are helping them, think some people are of inferior race and therefore perfectly acceptable to gas them . . . and so forth.

    poppies wrote:
    That sounds like very negative language, but these dictates may very well spread harmony and be benevolent, just as a slave may have a kindly, gentle master.

    I do not see how your analogy applies. You will be hard pressed to find an Atheist that thinks slavery is okay. In an Atheistic government, which would be the United States when it was founded, Church and State are separate. Equality is its foundation. With that kind of constitution, slavery of any kind is unacceptable. It is unfortunate that it took the collective so long to catch up to the constitution on the issue of slavery. From a current events perspective, it is disturbing individuals are choosing to forgo equality and weaken the separation of Church and State.

    poppies wrote:
    Such a view dictates that it can be acceptable and even encouraged to kill elderly, mentally-handicapped people; they are an unnecessary drain on resources, and clearly can’t contribute anything to humanity which would aid in the survival of our species.

    It should be noted that most Atheists/Agnostics would not condone such behaviour. You can make the case that since believing in God is the ultimate truth, way of life and so forth, that it is perfectly acceptable to kill the infidels and it would not matter if they are great scientists researching the cure for cancer or not. The number of people that think this acceptable percentage wise, far outnumber the Atheists that think killing handicapped people or the elderly are okay. Any Atheist who takes matters into their own hands and begins exterminating the handicapped/elderly would be deemed a sociopath. Ironically, a believer who kills infidels is praised for their courage and morality.

    Now, what are the chances that those few Atheists sociopaths would sneak into powerful positions, outnumber the Atheists/Agnostics/Theists of healthy minds, then begin their extermination, have no one protest, and then they go on to rule the nation and next the world? One need only look at the Muslim world for numerous examples of powerful Religious sociopath leaders, with access to nuclear weapons to grasp the sheer improbability.

    poppies wrote:
    Upon hearing this, Atheists often claim that scientific studies show that this is not the natural state of man, that cooperation or “reciprocal altruism” assists survival more effectively than does vicious competition.

    Goodness is not just that which contributes to our survival. Furthermore, the studies confuse you because you are not looking at them on a grander scale. Violence is effective as a means of survival when there are few people around. This is very clear when we look back into our history. When humans lived in caves, violence was common. When they began to live in larger groups, growing crops and so forth, going around and bashing prospective mates over the head, impaling others because they took your stash of berries, raping left and right . . . was no longer a good formula for survival.

    For a modern example, look at a crowd of thousands running for cancer and compare an angry crowd equal in numbers to understand that if that type of violence kept spreading, we would go extinct in a short time. It goes without saying then, that the greater the number of humans, the more important promoting happiness instead of suffering becomes.

  3. I don’t mean to be offensive or sound haughty, but there are so many misunderstandings, oversimplifications, and unreasonable extrapolations in your response that it’s difficult to meet your statements and challenges in a post that would be less rambling than that to which it responds. I suppose I’ll try to respond generally to the grossest errors, and maybe we can focus the discussion more from there.

    First off, though, as a clarification: I was being quoted grossly out of context regarding the “powerful/aggressive” issue. I simply meant that in a world without objective morality, which I believe evidence shows to be the only possible type of world without assuming Theism, morality would end up dictated by those who were most effective at imposing their will on others, be that will beneficent or selfish. This statement has no bearing on the world in which we live, it says nothing about Atheist’s personalities or approaches, it’s simply a statement of the logical outcome of a hypothetical worldview put forth to show the untenableness of that view. If someone says that “if the earth were flat, it would be dangerous to sail very far”, they’re not saying that people who believe in a flat earth are dangerous, right? Hopefully that’s clear.

    This misunderstanding seems to be symptomatic of a tendency you have (from what I’ve seen in my limited exposure) to grab on to a statement and respond to it outside of the context in which it came, causing needless diffusion of the flow of the discussion. I’ve already spoken about the “powerful/aggressive” misunderstanding, another example is the slavery analogy. I was simply using the analogy as a picture of how surface impressions can obscure underlying improprieties. I would never expect an Atheist to find slavery acceptable, and the statement has nothing to do with slavery at all, really. There are several other examples of this procedural issue in your response, such as replying that my description of the logical outcome of Atheism doesn’t sound like a democracy, which is a non sequitur. I hope you won’t read any condescension into these points, none is meant; I simply would like to aim for more productivity in our discussion by avoiding the need to chase down tangential items.

    Moving on:

    – It seems you have a significant problem with the way nominally Theistic morality is typically implemented. As I do also, we agree fully on that point and needn’t touch on it further.

    – It further appears that you feel the concept of Theistic morality is undermined by the plurality of nominal expressions thereof. Morality finds multiple expressions among Atheists, also, and you seemingly see this as no argument against the possibility of non-Theistically based morality. I’d like to point out that the truth of a proposition doesn’t depend on the homogeny, consistency, likability or even intelligence of it’s proponents, so hopefully we can move on from borderline ad hominem arguments and appeals to emotion in order to deal with evidence specifically. To that end:

    – If goodness is not *just* that which contributes to survival, what, in your opinion, further defines it objectively?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s