Tag Archives: atheism

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along, Or At Least Strive For Some Common Goals?

I just ran across an excellent article in Geez Magazine, discussing death bed conversions along with the way believers and atheists alike seem to prefer throwing stones across an intellectual void, rather than having useful discussions about the immediate and well-known real world, its problems, and what to do about them.

That is so close to my own feelings that, were I an atheist, I’d be wishing I’d written the piece myself.  Since, however, I don’t claim that degree of certainty about issues no one can claim really to know, I don’t consider myself a part of that debate.

My own position is that there is much good and much bad on the believers’ side, and much wasted rhetoric and no little lack of compassion on both.  I have virtually no interest in the position of anyone regarding a god or gods, simply because I don’t believe it’s possible to come up with a coherent definition of such “beings” that would make discussion possible.  My interest in your beliefs begins and ends with whether or not they interfere with the lives of those who don’t agree with you.  More to the point: what did you do today to make the world a better place for everyone?

Atheists claim to be bringing reason into a world of superstition.  I suggest that continuing to try to do so, in the face of many decades showing that believers are not amenable to those arguments, constitutes a sort of superstition as well.  To bring the whole thing down to a vulgar plane, they’re spitting into the wind, or, as they say in the 12-Step rooms, doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.  That sort of behavior, it seems to me, requires at least a subconscious belief in magic.

The reality is that people believe what makes them comfortable, and always exhibit a remarkable ability to substantiate those beliefs with a variety of underpinnings, of whatever solidity.  It’s what’s necessary for them to function comfortably in the world and — like all addicts — it takes a great deal to shake their tree.  In the case of the atheists, the motivation seems to be a sort of intellectual superiority and a desire to show people the way, dressed up as the “voice of reason” in a world gone mad, and similar protestations.  Among the believers, much the same, aggravated by belief in something they aver, but can never prove to a disinterested observer.  Both sides are in much the same boat, both are paddling against the current, generating much wasted effort, and no good is likely to come of it.

A cynic might say that both factions are prodded on by folks who stand to make some money out of the controversy, or from achieving more adherents, or from confirming for people their feelings of superiority, but there are no cynics around here.  Hardly.

The thing is, nonbelievers simply don’t “get” the idea of faith.  Nor do they seem to comprehend that changing the mind of someone who wants to believe is infinitely more difficult than they would like to imagine.  Both sides end up preaching to their respective choirs, and little or nothing gets done in the vast arena between the camps, which is desperately in need of attention.

That brings us back to the most excellent article I mentioned earlier.  Check it out.

Scrambling for high ground on both sides of the deathbed | Geez Magazine.

Atheists Reach Out — Just Don’t Call It Proselytizing

Late next month, atheists, humanists, freethinkers, secularists — in short, nonbelievers of every description — will gather in dozens of cities to mark the holiday they call HumanLight.

Whether by singing from a Humanist Hymnal, decorating a winter wreath or lighting candles dedicated to personal heroes, they’ll celebrate what has been an exhilarating ride for the faithless — a surge in recognition that has many convinced they’re on the brink of making a mark on mainstream America.

During the past three years, membership has grown in local and national associations of nonbelievers. Books attacking faith as a delusion shot up best-seller lists. For the first time, the faithless even raised enough funds to hire a congressional lobbyist.

Building on that momentum, nonbelievers have begun a very public campaign to win broad acceptance. On billboards and bus ads, radio commercials and the Internet, atheists are coming forward to declare, quite simply: We’re here. And we’re just like you….

Atheists Reach Out — Just Don’t Call It Proselytizing – WSJ.com

A religion in every sense that matters: beliefs; obsession with God; obsession with getting their message across and making converts; ritual; community; dogma; us v. them; promise of reward (freedom from delusion) — the whole magilla.  And these people want to be thought of as non-religious.

A 180° turn, as I’ve said here many times, still leaves you in the same old ruts.  New paths, by their very nature, diverge.  This wouldn’t bother me if it didn’t involve a lot of committed, reasonably intelligent people using their efforts and talents for beating their heads against the wall.  It wouldn’t even bother me if it had a chance of accomplishing anything useful, but it doesn’t.  Religion is the defining factor for billions of people, and that’s not going to change, whether here or among the !Kung.  There’s important work to be done, folks!