littlek
 
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 02:23 pm
I know there are other threads about atheism, but they tend to be focused somewhat specifically to some argument or subtopic. I'd like this thread to be open for constructive conversation, sharing of ideas and resources, etc.

One big issue that some friends and I feel is weird is that religious people seem to feel that we are persecuting them. I can't see how that could be given that we represent such a small minority of any population. If anything, it is we who are persecuted.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 96 • Views: 585,046 • Replies: 13,322

 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 02:23 pm
@littlek,

Last night I was hanging with a couple of friends and atheism came up. I am a straight up atheist. One friend (M) was raised (and I imagine still identifies as) Jewish, but he has passed through ardent atheism to atheistic Buddhism. The other (T) was raised Catholic, but doesn't believe in organized religion. I'm not sure if she believes in a supreme being. We had a great conversation about religion and atheism.

I have recently joined a local, online group of atheists. I listened to their postings and chats and found them to be shrill, in my opinion. M was quite vociferous about atheism for a year or two. Now the Buddhism has quieted that in him. T feels like religion should not be dictating what anyone can and can't do and seeing women in burqas really makes her mad.

Over the years M has shown me a bunch of youtube videos on the subject. First off we watched Dawkins videos. One series is made by Pat Condell from England. And another series comes from a young Romanian woman. Her user name is ZOMGitsCriss.

While these videos can get a bit shrill and angry, mostly they are logical and eloquent. T and I felt that they would help us better express our own feelings on the subject.
Robert Gentel
 
  9  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 02:50 pm
@littlek,
littlek wrote:
One big issue that some friends and I feel is weird is that religious people seem to feel that we are persecuting them. I can't see how that could be given that we represent such a small minority of any population. If anything, it is we who are persecuted.


The Christian narrative is very strong on the "persecution" thing. Come one, the whole thing is born when a dude gets tortured and nailed to a cross, then they try to kill his followers and one of the main persecutors converts. What with the being fed to lions stories and all it's a big part of their history.

The cult I grew up in used the "persecution" card to explain away all their criticism. Social services takes away hundreds of their kids in coordinated raids in multiple countries? Well see that's persecution. Just like Waco and Ruby Ridge were. Thing is, incidents like those two ones really help fuel the persecution complex for these more isolated Christians. Those two incidents were horribly bungled, even criminally so in my opinion. They fueled years of fundamentalist Christian claims of persecution.

And on the milder end, I think the beliefs are inherently antagonistic. If you are a Christian your Bible says I will burn forever for not being one. That's harsh. And if I'm an atheist it's a bit like thinking the Christians are a bit crazy with invisible friends. And the increasing secularization of society and advancement of science really has threatened a lot of their beliefs. Things like believing in literal, 7-day creation really is becoming a harder gig in todays world.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 02:53 pm
@littlek,
littlek wrote:
I have recently joined a local, online group of atheists. I listened to their postings and chats and found them to be shrill, in my opinion.


That is a recurring experience for me. The zealous atheist. Kinda defeats the point about being atheist to me, but I also get their desire to reduce some of the pernicious influences of religion.
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 03:06 pm
Ok, so bad turn of phrase. I know that this history is where the persecution stems from. But it's been a couple of thousand years since then.
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  2  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 03:10 pm
In 2006, the university of Minnesota did a poll (http://atheism.about.com/od/atheistbigotryprejudice/a/AtheitsHated.htm ).

Some results:
This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society...

Atheist: 39.6%
Muslims: 26.3%
Homosexuals: 22.6%
Hispanics: 20%
Conservative Christians: 13.5%
Recent Immigrants: 12.5%
Jews: 7.6%


I would disapprove if my child wanted to marry a member of this group....

Atheist: 47.6%
Muslim: 33.5%
African-American 27.2%
Asian-Americans: 18.5%
Hispanics: 18.5%
Jews: 11.8%
Conservative Christians: 6.9%
Whites: 2.3%
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 03:41 pm
A Christiam preaches persecution because it heightens the immediacy, setting them on guard and more focussed on following blindly rather than through thoughtful consideration.

Shrill, militant atheists are as ridiculous as that against which they struggle. They appear to be mostly against than for anything. One of my favorite atheistic books is An Essay on Morals, by Phillip Wylie. He came on as a bit militant at times, but his underlying concepts are in my view pretty sound.
farmerman
 
  7  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 03:57 pm
@edgarblythe,
I always look at Ridhard DAwkins as an obstructionist atheist. Id like to put the Evangelicals in a room with the Dawkins kinds of atheists and let em wear each other out.

I dont really mind the posting of the ten commandments on a corthouse entry or some religious statements on our money. I think of them as good rules of the road, no matter what the source.

I just find it ludicrous that, in the US ANYWAY, IN order to be elected for high public office, even the private agnostics or atheists must lie publically that they believe in the sky pilot and heaven and hell.

littlek
 
  2  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 04:02 pm
@farmerman,
What Fman said. I feel I can't be open about my atheism at my workplace. And we say the pledge of allegiance every morning (with patriotic songs on Monday!). I avoid being in a room full of students when I can, but say the pledge (not saying the "under one god" part) when I can't avoid it. This makes me uncomfortable and false.

It also pisses me off when laws are enacted that infringe upon my life and sensibilities. Of course abortion laws (those that are based on religious belief) are one obvious point in case. But other faith-based laws, like no alcohol sales on Sunday, tick me off too.
edgarblythe
 
  3  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 04:10 pm
My boss assumes we all are Christians at the apartments, so she makes little pronouncements from time to time, but she is not preachy, so I humor her.
0 Replies
 
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 04:25 pm
I'm a pretty simple atheist, I don't make a point of my beliefs but neither do I avoid them. I almost always try to limit my atheism to conversational level and only become argumentative when confronted with hostile in my face religionists (pretty rare). Last week 2 mormons came to my door and I simply noted that I was surprised because I didn't seen any bicycles. They laughed and I went on to say "no sale here, I am an atheist" they just smiled politely and left as I called out "have a nice day." On the other hand when a religionist gets in my face I often snarl back something along the lines that this is a free county in spite of religion and not because of it. most of my friends are mild/moderate religionists/agnostics and it's not unknown to have conversations re religion but in my home there will be no preaching.
djjd62
 
  2  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 04:25 pm
i refuse to belong any group that would have me as a member
0 Replies
 
BorisKitten
 
  3  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 04:28 pm
@littlek,
I like Thunderf00t, myself, on YouTube. Reasoned and sensible (in my opinion) and never shrill. (Or maybe I'm just fond of his accent.)

Still, I've been an Atheist for as long as I can remember. I've never felt a need to criticize religion, since I believe it serves an important social/moral function. I only have a problem when folks criticize me for not having religious beliefs.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  0  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 04:37 pm
@farmerman,
Quote:
find it ludicrous that, in the US ANYWAY, IN order to be elected for high public office, even the private agnostics or atheists must lie publically that they believe in the sky pilot and heaven and hell.


I find it more insane that anyone could be elected to any office who state openly that he or she belief in a fairy tale.
littlek
 
  2  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 04:45 pm
Glad I'm not alone, folks. Will look into thunderfoot.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 04:46 pm
@farmerman,
Second note, Jefferson was more then open about his disbeliefs in the Christian fairy tales and he were elected President and even have his picture on our money.

Not bad at all for an open nonbeliever I would say.

Of course, it help that most Americans know almost zero history and what they do know about it happen for the most part to not to be true.

littlek
 
  2  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 04:52 pm
One point about being quietly happy with ourselves. One interesting point that is brought up in that University of Minnesota paper (referenced page 1) is about why atheists are mistrusted more than any other group. Over the last 20-30 years, there has been a movement to accept various groups (since the civil rights movement began). Even after 9/11, Muslims are more trusted than atheists (not that they shouldn't be trusted). The reason that the article gives is that we are quietly happy with ourselves, basically. We aren't in confrontations with religious people, we hide our beliefs because they're unpopular, and we have small numbers.

People out there have no idea what atheism really looks like. They think we're all prostitutes, criminals and drug addicts - untrustworthy people. I know this not to be true, so do you all. But, many people here in America and elsewhere think it is. So, should we not be more vocal?
edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 05:00 pm
Every time you speak up as an atheist you get shot down. I once nearly became engaged to a girl who discovered I was an atheist. She said that for her to marry me, I would have to attend church every Sunday. Her friends went hog wild over it. Then, my first wife knew me to be an atheist, but, when we divorced, she said my atheism was one of her problems with me. This despite the fact I never tried to tell her what to think and she never cracked a Bible or mentioned wanting to go to church. It's very hard to be heard, once they know you don't believe.
Thomas
 
  4  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 05:17 pm
@littlek,
littlek wrote:
One big issue that some friends and I feel is weird is that religious people seem to feel that we are persecuting them. I can't see how that could be given that we represent such a small minority of any population. If anything, it is we who are persecuted.

I think this goes to a broader point that we atheists -- and even theologically liberal believers -- find hard to grasp. When people read the Bible, the Qur'an, or whatever holy scripture it is they're reading, many of them actually believe this stuff! They hold it to be factually true. As Sam Harris points out somewhere, believing should have very serious consequences. Once you accept the belief as factually correct, the rest is common sense: All reasonable persons would have to support even the most hideous prosecutions of atheists, if prevailing religious beliefs were true.

For a specific example, put yourself into the position of a religious parent, who also happens to be a neighbor of yours. According to your faith, whose doctrines you accept as true, disbelief in god will condemn your child to spending the rest of eternity under excruciating torture. (See Dante for some juicy details.) Then from your perspective, this atheist next door, littlek, is much, much worse than the child rapist next door. She's worse than the terrorist sleeper next door. So of course you'll ask your child not to talk to littlek. It's the least you should do as a responsible parent.

Indeed, it's a monument to your tolerance that you're not demanding more. Given what you take to be the facts of the matter, and given how society treats terrorists and child rapists, what you really ought to be demanding is: stiff prison sentences for atheists (segregated from the rest of the prisoners, so as not to condemn them to an afterlife of torture); laws shutting down atheist publications similarly to NAMBLA publications; a national atheist registry where you can look up people like littlek to avoid moving into her neighborhood; and at the very least, electronic shackles to keep track of her, if crazy Cambridge liberals must let her ilk roam freely.

Sure, that's persecution. But given "the facts", it's only a reasonable protection. You can't have everyone be tortured eternally just so a dangerous few can abuse their freedom of expression. The constitution is not a suicide pact. You and your family are very tolerant indeed to settle for shunning littlek and her kind.

---

Obviously, this isn't what I believe, but this is what we're up against.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 05:47 pm
@BillRM,
You seem to have more knowledge about Jefferson than I. I knew that Jefferson was quite private about his own beliefs in that he was raised AQnglican but later, with help of Joseph Priestly and Richard Price, he "came out" with several papers re the denial of divinity of Christ (sort of a Unitarian kinda guy).
He was accused of being an atheist which was central in the bitter conflict between Federalists and Republicans before his ultimate election. ALso electors were allowed to vote for two candidates and Jefferson eaked out a win over Adams for a second term mostly because Jefferson tried one of the first "dirty tricks" campaigns against Adams.


Quote:
Jefferson was always reluctant to reveal his religious beliefs to the public, but at times he would speak to and reflect upon the public dimension of religion. He was raised as an Anglican, but was influenced by English deists such as Bolingbroke and Shaftesbury. Thus in the spirit of the Enlightenment, he made the following recommendation to his nephew Peter Carr in 1787: "Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear." In Query XVII of Notes on the State of Virginia, he clearly outlines the views which led him to play a leading role in the campaign to separate church and state and which culminated in the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom: "The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg . . . . Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error." Jefferson's religious views became a major public issue during the bitter party conflict between Federalists and Republicans in the late 1790s when Jefferson was often accused of being an atheist.



BESIDES, If you looked very carefully at my post, I was not talking about being elected 211 years ago in a totally different process. Im concentrating on the present tense, as in TODAY's politics.


 

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