What Do People Know About What They Pretend to Discuss?

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Tiassa, Nov 15, 2017.

  1. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member


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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    So, I think it would be easier if theists defined the gods they tell us they believe in, rather than expecting the atheists to guess at how they define them.

    You think I'm wrong? If so, I'm quite happy to discuss it in more detail.

    I'm not denying that a lot more can be said on the subject of secular morality. If there's something specific you'd like to discuss, I'm up for a discussion.

    My suggestion above was that maybe if the theists who come here were less political about their theism, maybe they'd get some more measured responses from some of our more strident atheists. You speak as if all the fault lies on one side of the debate, here.

    Oh, and the other point is that the "battle" between entrenched theism and "revolutionary" atheism is inherently a political one. It's a fight for power, among other things.

    Atheism is an identity issue, so it's hardly surprising in this age of identity politics that there are groups of atheists banding together. Theists have always had various identities. Until recently, most of their ire was directed at people of the "wrong" religious denomination. Now different denominations have at least one common enemy.

    I agree.

    Such is the way of revolutions.

    Although, let's put this in perspective. In the United States, non-believers make up perhaps 20% of the population. Of those, only a fraction self-identify as atheist. There's a long way to go before atheists become a politically powerful majority, if that ever happens.

    Why is this all about me, all of a sudden?

    I might make the general observation that I reply to many more threads here than I start. Necessarily, that involves replying to an agenda set by somebody else (usually in the opening post of the thread). That is not to say that I don't occasionally start threads on topics that interest me. Sometimes, other discussions even inspire me to start threads, to get at a specific matter that would be tangential in those other discussions.

    Your accusation that I don't think for myself is just your opinion, and a rather typical kind of back-handed insult that you like to hand out to people. It really doesn't require a response. My posts speak for themselves on that matter, and readers don't need your help to form their own opinions.

    I disagree. Maybe you just tend to read that particular subset of threads, so that is your focus and your complaint.

    So what will you do? Give it up as a lost cause?

    In Australia, every time Australia Day rolls around we have similar arguments about whether we are really celebrating Invasion Day of the British colonialists, and what should be done about that. The British settlers here didn't even deign to officially acknowledge that the country they were settling was previous occupied for 40,000 to 60,000 years before their ships pulled up on the shores.
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  5. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Because it's your post I'm responding to?

    Honestly, I would expect you capable of figuring that out; sorry to treat you so poorly in that regard.

    No, really: Look at the topic title. You chose to respond. You chose to offer your thoughts. Why is this about you? Because it's your post. "All of a sudden"? Okay, then; whatever you say, James.

    Anecdotally: The other day I happened to be talking to a friend who said this weird bit about the oughts of educated people being able to talk about something without getting triggered, and while I admit what stood out in the moment was this guy who always pretends that he isn't this or that manner of politic, but seemingly can't fail to read off antithetical screeds as if by rote; it was easy to focus on the word trigger, since he really was. But something else stands out as I recall it, an intersecting vector I know exists as a potential: Ostensibly educated people, without a known language limitation or facultative reason accounting certain miscommunication, utterly failing to grasp the obvious. I have long borrowed Spock's analysis, that they are either unable or unwilling. In the long history of things, sure, some behavior becomes habitual and just is, and sometimes it looks very much, to the point that Ockham and LaPlace aren't just drinking but competing, like a willful effort suggestive, over the course of years, of dysfunction—i.e., an appearance of psychological inability resulting from habituation of deliberate will, including ego defense and the ossification thereof.

    To the one, it's perfectly human behavior. To the other is the question of how to address the circumstance when confronted with such behavior. We might wonder what constitutes a pretty mystery.

    Why is it about you? Because it's your post. Because it's a strange, gloss post. Because the point at hand, that you still let theists lead you around by the nose, is actually relevant. To wit, I just searched the term, anti-identification, under my own, and not only can I see the term emerge in my posts in late 2001, and in 2002 I explicitly used the term in reference to atheistic discourse at Sciforums; it's a classic tumbleweed or cricket moment.

    A little over fourteen years ago↗, you can find me pitching a version of your line:

    • I do wonder about the [atheistic] anti-identification at that point. Something suggests it's not worth putting up with Christian arrogance and anti-communication. But religious issues quite obviously still insert themselves into otherwise-rational considerations of the human endeavor, and tend to screw things up. Atheists have a vested interest in understanding the religions nearest them, yet find no help from the faithful in that quest.​

    The difference 'twixt then and now is a certain lack of difference. Consider:

    Anti-identification seems to be all anyone has left in these discussions. If the question is what we know about what we (pretend to) discuss, the answer seems to be, approximately, that we discuss it.

    There is, of course, inherent comparison in the underlying question, but we also see outright rejection of knowledge, information, evidence, or however we might go about it: "What's all this esoteric knowledge that's supposed to make a shit-ton of difference to the basic question?" asks one of our neighbors↑, and sure, people liked that point, but there are a couple vagaries to resolve. What, for instance, is the basic question; and from there we might simply point out that, sure, some of the historical record is esoteric, but not all of it.

    The question of the basic question stands out. We do get some definition on that point, and also a hint after what this all really comes down to. Again, see #9↑ above; this time our neighbor makes an important point: "There is nothing about rejecting the idea of God that prevents sexist, racism, or knee-jerk irrational tribalism."

    One thing that happens in rational discourse is that affirmative arguments are subject to scrutiny, while anti-identification flees such consideration. The rejection of the idea of God is what it is, and if that is all there is then no wonder people don't know how to discuss religion except as a political—and, therefore, class—struggle. Uninformed class struggle is prejudice, and obstinate or intolerant devotion thereunto is, pretty much by definition, bigotry.

    Rejection of the idea of God. Good for them.

    Last year I botched the Nativity; I wasn't paying close enough attention when rattling off an annoyed line. That was embarrassing. Not long ago, one of our neighbors fired off an easy line that says what it says by its colloquial formulation, but would be principally read, according to its words, as asserting or acknowledging the historicity of a particular person, which would be a tremendous change compared to the current resolution of the historical record. Whoops. Those bits, subjected to scrutiny, fell apart for the easy point that the historical record we have is the historical record we have, which in turn is as axiomatic and tautological as it is useless, but it is actually a fact. The record I have informs me I was reading the fandom into the original script; our neighbor knows well we would have heard about it if the record turned up actual proof of a particular individual.

    But if we return to what the one said, that nothing about rejecting the idea of God prevents sexist, racism, or knee-jerk irrational tribalism, this is really, really important. One need not be Anarchist to want to break certain historical cycles; failing to learn just means repeating the disaster. But if the point of the revolution is just to play King of the Hill, as such, then, no, nothing is going to get better.

    Looking back fourteen years, we see an inquiry that becomes, over time, a description of amorphous neurotic conflict, i.e., fear.


    Certain word games I have encountered recently only reinforce notions of tribalism. Again, that another is wrong does not mean one is right, so we might consider an example of A being wrong because of B, but B itself being wrong as well. Insisting on a modern definition of an English-language word, neither of which existed at the time a record was originally recorded, in order to skip past defining themes cultural and linguistic, is not an exercise conducive to rational thought or discourse. Nor is rational discourse the purpose of these word games. That much, generally speaking, is obvious. One recent version went with cynical insistence on an English-language result insisting on a politically-framed definition of a Greek rendering of a phrase long-known in two other languages in the same damn book, and since-used without anybody really having any trouble understanding what it meant; the question wasn't really much for an inquiry, but it sure did depict religious people as really, really stupid, and, well, y'know, that is, by Ockham, the most likely explanation of purpose.

    The problem is that affirmative argument requires having a modicum of a clue, and some people just can't be bothered with such distractions from purpose. After all, what about theists, or, y'know, whatever.


    One of the longtime ways of looking at the question is according to the prospect of conversion, e.g., #18↑ above. Over the course of years, here, the prospect of converting a religious person to atheism has generally been a what-if; the greater purpose seems to be complaint, condemnation, and denigration.

    A little over fourteen years, maybe, but how about a little over eight↗?

    • A question that I sometimes put before atheists: If you were to witness the conversion of a Christian away from faith, what moral structures could you advise him toward in order to fill the void where God once existed? After all, to turn one's back on God is to forsake the linchpin of a moral configuration. How does one replace that structure? How does one define moral priorities, or arrange moral components? What is the foundation for understanding the difference between right and wrong, once God's say-so is no longer valid?

    One would think the question would be easy enough to recognize. True, it's a tough one to answer. But I've encountered surprising resistance from my atheistic neighbors to even acknowledging the question. It's almost as if their response to, "Because God says so," is, "Because I say so."​

    And it is a tough one to answer. Basic acknowledgment can be found in the record, and even here in this thread, but if the larger effect we might observe is the state of atheistic discourse at Sciforums, it is unfair to say things haven't changed over the years; they've gone downhill. But Hitchens is gone, Dawkins is, well, Dawkins, and Sullivan has been busy elsewise; the number of publicity stunt videos worth reposting is its own question; the dearth of original study and thought stands out. By the time we get to asking theists to say something so you can tell them they're wrong, your identity politic apparently needs them. One does not think for self when proposing another say what one should think in order that one might protest by rote. It's a tough answer, which is why they flee and hurl stones.
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  7. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Before I address the paragraph above...

    Your response to James regarding why you are personal in your reply would seem to me to be disingenuous. You say that your responses were personal because he personally posted a question.

    Everyone "personally" posts their questions. James was obviously implying that you weren't answering his question but were making personal (negative) comments toward him.

    Regarding your paragraph above, I can answer on the merits or I can mention that your posts are too long and wordy and frequently unclear due to an unduly complicated sentence structure intended to boost your ego rather than to simply communicate your point. Your posts are frequently needlessly hysterical and the fact that you have been doing this for 17 years at a forum this "lame" also says a lot about you.

    So, you see, this is me being "personal" in my response to you. It's uncalled for even though you "personally" posted a question.

    Regarding your "moral structure" question. I would suggest to someone that had been "following" God for their moral compass that they had really just been following their own moral compass all along.

    If they now lack a belief in God, then it follows that their moral compass was in control all along.

    If that's not a satisfactory answer, if they need outside direction, the self-help section of the bookstore is there to help them. There is philosophy, history, it's a wide world out there.

    I would say that much of what they considered to make up their moral compass still applies. No one disagrees with love your fellow neighbor, do not kill, etc.

    It's the use of religion to marginalize women, gays, other races, etc. that is one problem with religion. The other problem is just simply that it isn't "real" with all the problems that entails.

    This really isn't a hard scenario in reality. The 10 commandments isn't largely what religion is about in most people's lives and what to replace it with isn't the big issue that one would be faced with.

    What some seem to be faced with is being ostracized from their community, family, feeling a need to join something else, feeling betrayed by a lie, feeling bad about themselves.

    For many people it isn't this dramatic. Many people weren't that heavily invested in the first place and therefore aren't really facing much of a dilemma by leaving "religion".
  8. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    Are you a theist?

    I love you James R!
  9. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Just a note on what "we can" do: Part of the reason for this thread is precisely the lack of proper anything about the discourse. There is always something people "can" discuss, but never seem to get around to. As I noted in my prior post, to James R, this is actually a years-long question and issue, and if you look back to the beginning of this thread, we can even find people answering the question by asserting they don't need to know.

    You recently opened a strange thread about flatearthers↗ that managed to swing after low-hanging fruit and miss. And your own behavior↗ made it quite clear↗ you weren't really on about any proper debate or discourse.

    So spare us the patronizing bit about what "we can" do.

    Still, though, let us take a moment to consider your thread: You require a latter-day, political definition of a seventeenth-century English-language translation of ... what? A first-century Greek word rendering a Hebrew phrase in circulation at least in the late eighth century BCE? When we look back to the available record from that period, we should remember that the general notion of four corners had been inherited into the Christian experience; that seventeenth-century English Christians chose the phrase is unsurprising. Indeed, between Irenaeus on the four Gospels (Adversus Haereses, III.11.8, ca. 180 CE), the Revelation (ca. 96 CE), Isaiah (8th-6th c. BCE), which corresponds to the emergence of Rosh Hashanah, which in turn transforms "Assyria" and "Egypt", per Isa. 27.13, to what comes to us these centuries later as the four corners of the earth, nobody else had any real problem understanding the phrase until, it seems, some atheists a little over forty years ago, or some such; the apologism that climbed its way to the top of the search result isn't really updated compared to the original publication from which it was derived.

    There are better approaches to the relationship between γωνία [gōnia] and כָּנָף [kanaph] than your word game requires.

    And in the question of what people are willing to discuss, it's not simply what you brought last week; it's also that I happened to see the same kind of word game last month. And it's true, in that case someone was willing to discuss storytelling in form and theory per the historical record, but, strangely, in support of ahistorical redefinition. The whole point was to justify a developmentally stunted two-bit zinger.
  10. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Well, James can be a little oversensitive in certain ways; this is one of them.

    Let's work through this part: The question, "Why is this all about me, all of a sudden?" (#122↑) is, if not disingenuous, then weirdly detached; it responds to the question, "All these years later, and you still let 'theists' lead you around by the nose. I don't know, James, is it easier than thinking for yourself?" (#118↑) That question, in turn, considers posts reviving this thread after nearly a year (#111-112↑).

    A couple things to note from #118 are the term "anti-identification", and the point that James and I have been around each other at this site for seventeen years. The latter is pretty straightforward: He ought to know better than to gloss over like he did in #111-112.

    And as to the bit about anti-identifications, look at the list preceding the point about letting theists lead him around by the nose.

    Consider, then, #111-112. Responding to the actual question of what an atheist knows about the gods and religions criticized, the answer is that atheists are better informed than religious believers, and "often run rings around the self-proclaimed theists". Observing the complaint about behavior, there is a request for examples, despite some being included in the thread, which tells us a little about the effort going into these responses. The retort to an assertion about what passes for argument by an atheist would attempt to blame theists: "This sounds like a plea for a better educated brand of theist to visit sciforums".

    Do you understand? The consistent outcome of this weird rubber-glue insistence is that how an atheist behaves depends on theists.

    Such as the point about atheists believing themselves smarter being truncated to avoid the question (see #1↑) so that the reply might turn once again to blame theists: "The quality of religious debate we tend to get from occasional theistic visitors is often low. In part this is because, for some reason, we tend to attract American Christian fundamentalists who come here to pick a fight, or else merely to preach or proselytise."

    The response to a description of problematic behavior would seem to blame theists as the setup for its gloss: "It's worth bearing in mind that religion has been in the ascendency historically for a long time." And like I said, gloss. Seventeen years? This is what the smart people are coming up with?

    The second of those posts? "Trying to get a straight answer from theists is similarly difficult, I find." Or, "Worse than that, they often seem to want to reserve the right to change their definition to suit the argument at hand." And, well ... Yeahyeahyeah, we know. And?

    Maybe, "For the atheist, the problem is that usually you're talking to a particular theist, and you get told constantly that, as an atheist, you're not working with the 'correct' definition of the theist's personal idea of God." Well, yes, much of that is how religious people, or, really, any generally empowered majority, behaves; Huxley wrote ninety-five years ago, prosperous, successful societies have less need for history. What that has nothing to do with, though, is an atheist's behavior. Actually, that's not fair, but neither of the justifications actually justify, either eye for eye or, as such, the atheist he describes simply isn't capable. "But when you ask the theist to describe their God it gets all vague and non-specific again." Again, sure, whatever. And? What does that really have to do with how the atheist behaves? "The theist reserves the right to tell the atheist that they don't know the 'real' God and can't discuss him, but the theist also refuses to introduce the 'real' God to the atheist." At this point, it just sounds petulant. "I think this is mostly a self-protection mechanism for the theist." Yep. "I find that a lot of discussions with theists on sciforums involve their trying to present the smallest possible target for their beliefs, so that substantive criticisms of their articles of faith become more difficult to make." Sure. Now, what all does that have to do with why it was so difficult for smart people to understand the idea of God they were supposedly talking about? I don't know, actually, but it seems worth noting that the atheist's behavior is being described as utterly subordinate to theists.

    There are five paragraphs that don't quite answer the inquiry, but at least the mentions of evolutionary adaptation and secular humanism count for something. But, still, "there is some evidence to suggest that atheists are more moral than religious people, on average", as James R notes, and generally speaking the whole point is a contrast against religion.

    In the end even a straightforward statement regarding the a point near the heart of the issue cannot be left without the anti-identification: "Atheism does not exist in isolation from other ideas, any more than theism does."

    Throughout, the atheist answers issues ostensibly about self or the behavior of atheists by pointing to theists.

    And the idea that he doesn't appreciate my critique, that the suggestion he isn't thinking for himself when everything hinges on other people like that? Okay. I don't find it a particularly praiseworthy condition or circumstance, so, yeah, if he is dismayed by that, well, does the day end in -y? Regardless of how he feels whenever criticized, or even about this particular criticism, the question, "Why is this all about me, all of a sudden?" is just plain stupid. "All of a sudden"? What does that even mean? And why is this about him?

    Like, if you were to quote this post and ask why I was talking about James R all of a sudden, I would probably say sometihng like, "Because you asked."

    Or, as I have suggested before, the zinger here is that the enlightened should occasionally act like it.

    But that's the sort of pettiness is just how↗ you↗ roll↗. I'm sorry you are offended by things you cannot understand, but that doesn't excuse you.

    If this was about "the use of religion to marginalize women, gays, other races, etc. that is one problem with religion", then the discourse would reflect that, but that's not really how you roll.
  11. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    I'm not offended by "things I cannot understand". I have no problem "understanding". Regarding the original question, that I answered, let's not worry about "how I roll". I'm also not "offended".

    I answered the question. It's didn't take several pages of rambling to do so.

    The main issue here, is that most "atheists" here aren't really that interested in the subject. You seem to wish that they were or you seem to think that they are.

    Sure, you can find plenty of petty arguments (of mine or of anyone else). Sciforums is hard to take seriously and therefore that is what you get.
  12. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Depending on what subject you are referring to, I might actually agree.
  13. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Religion. Most people who pop into the religion threads aren't really here because of an extreme interest in religion. This is a very limited site in general. There aren't many people here. Most of the subjects are "nutty". I think many people just pop in from time to time to see if there is anything interesting to discuss. Usually the answer is "no".

    When there is a halfway interesting topic they stay around for a while and then when it reverts back to the (sciforum) norm they leave again for a while. I'm largely talking about myself here but I just don't think anyone other than Jan is that into religion (maybe you?).

    Sometimes there might be a current political topic going on and then there is the majority of topics that just aren't worth clicking...flatearth, how does gravity work, ghosts, etc.
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    This thread started with you having a general gripe about the standard of discourse by atheists in general on sciforums.

    I didn't notice that it was almost a year old when I replied. I replied when I did because you linked me explicitly to this thread in another post yours directed to me (I think it was in the Moderators' forum). It seemed like you wanted a reply to this thread from me, so I posted one.

    In response to my reply, responding to your opening post here, on the general issue of the standard of discourse of atheists on sciforums, your entire post is framed in personal terms. In a few instances, you name me specifically, and in particular there is the quote from you above, where you state that I, James, do not think for myself.

    I suppose it's open for you to equivocate and tell me that, no, you weren't really referring to me, personally, in any of that, and that when you kept referring to what I wrote and saying saying "you" you actually were referring to an impersonal "you" meant to encompass the entire class of "atheists on sciforums".

    I would suggest that, if you don't want people to think you're attacking them personally, you ought not to frame your posts in a way that criticises them individually by name, closely followed by words like "you" or "yourself".

    I will be very happy to accept your confirmation that, no, your comments about not thinking for myself were only generically aimed at me as a member of a class of poster you are addressing, rather than being specifically and personally aimed at criticising me. Even better would be an apology for the specific (or generic, if that's what you say it is) insult, though I really don't expect I'll see anything like that from you.

    Now, how am I to interpret this? It's not theists leading "them" (generic atheist posters on sciforums) around by the nose, is it? No, it's personal - theists leading "him" (i.e. me, James) around by the nose. Which really just confirms that my assessment of your intent and your addressee in that quote was correct the first time, and is not altered by your later claim that it somehow wasn't about me after all, adding the further insult that I'm "oversensitive", for good measure.

    My point was that, in a debate between atheists and theists, how the atheists behave inevitably depends, in part, on how the theists behave, and vice versa. Demanding that atheists always take the high road when theists so often choose the low road, is an optimistic but unrealistic expectation.

    I responded explicitly to that point. It's not clear what important point you believe I "truncated" there. You were whining about atheists being smart-arses when it come to religion. I noted that it is not unusual to find that atheists are better acquainted with the relevant texts than the theists are. More discussion and elaboration on similar themes could be had, of course, if you want to take the conversation in that direction.

    So now your complaint is that I didn't dive deeply enough into the whys and wherefores for your liking?

    That was me agreeing with what you wrote, and pointing out that similar problems occur on the flip side of that coin. What more do you want? If we're in agreement already, do you really need an essay from me about how right you are?

    It is relevant because the typical pattern involves the theist interrupting the flow of a conversation to demand of the atheist his definition of God. If and when the atheist responds, the theist reserves the right to tell the atheist that the definition is insufficient, with the implication that nothing the atheist has said applies to the theist's God. The atheist then says something like "Okay, tell me what your understanding/definition of your God is, then we can discuss that." Then the theist either refuses to define his God, or else defines it in such a vague way that he can shift the goalposts around in every post, or else the theist merely claims that to really know what God is you have to be a theist (which automatically disqualifies the atheist from saying anything about the God).

    The upshot of this is that entire threads can be wasted if the atheist gets sucked into the theist trap of demanding of the atheist a precise definition of God that the theist will accept, because the theist knows in advance that he has no intention of accepting any definition the atheist might put up for consideration. As a result, all the time and effort is spent arguing the spurious question of "what is God", instead of whatever the ostensible thread topic.

    Another way to put it is that atheist behaviour on internet forums often has little choice than to meet the challenges thrown up by theist behaviour on internet forums. In an ideal world, both theists and atheists would be able to argue in good faith on internet forums. The behavioural patterns seen on other forums might be different, but my own observation is that fundamentalist theists who are attracted to posting on science forums can tend to be more interested in having a fight against science and rationality than they are in having an honest and open exchange of views.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    You see what you want to see, I guess. Your thesis in this thread seems to be that atheists think they are smarty-pantses who know religion better than the theists, but it is the theists who set the terms of the conversations. Some people might think it's the other way around: the theists think they are the smart ones who have special access to God and knowledge about God, but the atheists constantly bring them back (against their wills) to having to try to justify their claims, thus setting the terms of the conversation.

    It also could be that neither side is really "subordinate" to the other. If they were, one might ask why these kinds of conversations keep happening at all. There must be a perception on both sides that they are winning the battles, or at least not obviously losing them.

    Atheism is a contrast to religion (theism). What else are you going to contrast it with? It's the opposite end of the same spectrum.

    As Jan Ardena is fond of pointing out, though in a political way that is incorrect, atheism is inevitably about anti-identification with theism. "a-theist" implies "not theist". It is defined by the absence of belief in theistic notions.

    As I wrote previously, there are add-ons that are common among "practicing" atheists, such as the idea that secular moral systems are valid or superior substitutes for the moral commandments of religious dogma. But these are not central to atheism itself, even if they are considered important in certain "atheist communities".

    If your complaint is that you think that atheists spend too much of their time being religion nay-sayers (on sciforums) and posting on identity issues, so as to make it clear that they are not theists, then fine. That's a point of view you're welcome to. For my own part, I'm not sure that our resident theists are any more high-principled than our atheist rabble (if you want to call it that). In a way, I suppose, it's encouraging that you want to hold the atheists to a higher standard than you expect of the theists. It suggests you expect more from the atheists than you expect from the theists, which possibly suggests you think that atheism as a belief system is more defensible than theism.

    Because when you started the thread, it wasn't about me. At least, if it was, I got the impression that it was about me only an individual in a larger group. But in that post, the focus shifted to how I was supposedly be manipulated by theists, how I don't think for myself. That post wasn't about the anti-identificationism of all atheists on sciforums; it was about my supposed anti-identificationism. And now it's about how I'm "oversensitive", apparently.

    If you want to get back to talking about atheists in general, or atheists on sciforums, by all means go ahead. Of course, it will still be about you, even if you lay off the personal bullshit. The difference between us is that I don't need to explicitly point to what your posts in this thread are saying about you. They do that just fine on their own.

    Oh, and thanks for adding the new insult about my "stupidity", as if you hadn't put in enough of that kind of bullshit already.

    A common-enough caricature of atheists is that they tend to be smug white men who think they have all the answers. With any caricature there's usually a reason it exists, and this one is no different. It's a perception that certain elements of the atheist "community" (myself included) would like to see change, because it only reflects one face of the modern atheist "movement". I'm here to assure you: there are lots of humble black woman atheists out there, along with all the humble white male atheists and smug white woman atheists and ambivalent atheists who identify to various extents with different genders and/or racial or social groupings, and so on.

    One doesn't necessarily have to be "enlightened" or a saint to spot a bad argument.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019
  16. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    And just in case you get the wrong end of the stick...

    I agree.

    I agree.

    I agree.

    I agree.

    I agree.

    We've had that discussion a number of times on this forum and the question has, in the past, been both acknowledged and answered by the atheists here. You think you see a pattern; I'm not so sure on this one.

    Maybe it's because there isn't as much new blood here as there used to be. People weary of repeating the same things over and over again. The easy things take less effort to repeat than the hard ones, too.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019
  17. gmilam Valued Senior Member

    If you suddenly lost your faith, would you go on a spree of burning, raping and pillaging? I didn't think so.

    I mean, do you really need a god to tell you that some things are wrong?
  18. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Agree I don't think so either

    But there is a secular back up

    Law - general consensus of behaviour

    I would contend morals at a very basic level are more local

    The nextdoor neighbour telling you that what you are doing is wrong even though not unlawful

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  19. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I generally consider myself an agnostic, so that answers your question about knowing the gods. I don't possess knowledge of hypothetical transcendent realities and I'm doubtful that any human being does (or can). (That's so-called 'hard' agnosticism.) But I am inclined to think (personally and for myself) that the deities presented in the world's religious traditions probably don't exist and I live my life as if they don't. Deities play little or no role in my everyday life. So I'm probably best described as an atheist-agnostic.

    But having said that, I think that I probably know as much about Christian history, theology and about the philosophy of religion in general, as anyone else on Sciforums. (I have an MA that qualifies me to teach those world religions survey classes at community college.) I'm less up to speed on Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism than I am on Christianity, but I don't think that I'm totally ignorant of them either. My main personal focus is Theravada Buddhism, and I think that I've put more effort into studying the suttas, their commentaries, and the modern academic Buddhist Studies literature than anyone else here. (Wynn/Signal knew more than me perhaps, but she's sadly gone.)

    Your "all" is hyperbole. In many cases I think that it is true. And some of our most ignorant atheists have the loudest voices.

    Yes, a few of our recent threads do seem designed to get theists to stick their necks out, so that they can more easily be chopped off. That's why I occasionally post on behalf of our theists. I'd prefer to see our atheists struggle a little to get the head off. They need to be able to confront some of the more sophisticated theological arguments, not just the blatherings of the crazier street-corner fundie.

    I'm not sure that it's about understanding people. That's probably too touchy-feelie psychological for an anonymous message board. (One slowly comes to understand friends and lovers.) It's more about understanding their ideas and beliefs. So it helps if those ideas can be stated clearly.

    Sadly, I don't think that either side, our atheists or our theists, are very good at revealing what they believe and why they believe it. It isn't so much because they are disingenuous, though both sides are definitely playing games much of the time. It's because they really don't know what they think, until they generate an opinion in real time. Many of our beliefs are just kind of implicit in how we think. We approach issues in different ways that presuppose very different ontologies and epistemologies. For example, a strong sensory empiricism and a metaphysical physicalism are presupposed by a great deal of our atheists' preaching.

    People behave exactly the same way on the political fora. They aren't exactly welcoming places for Donald Trump supporters are they? Over there, a different lineup of self-styled righteous ones believe that they are on the side of the angels, right? Defending Good against Evil?

    Well, our atheists appear to feel the same way here on the religion fora. They believe that they are defending Reason against Superstitition.

    Quite frankly, I think that's the fatal defect of our post-60's baby-boomer dominated intellectual life. Everything has become moralized. Everything turns into a battle of Good vs Evil. So it becomes increasingly difficult to think intelligently and dispassionately. It becomes impossible to even listen to one's perceived enemies, let alone to consider their views. (One simply doesn't compromise with Evil, one seeks to destroy it.) History provides many examples of where excessive moralism can end up. It's just as dangerous as a-moralism. People get hurt.

    I think that the bottom line might be a fundamental principle of rhetoric.

    If one wants to convince somebody else of something the other person doesn't already believe, the one doing the convincing has to motivate the other person to listen. He or she has to motivate the other person to take the views being presented seriously. And then, he or she has to make the other person want to agree. It isn't always easy. It usually requires finding some shared common ground from which to begin. Insulting opponents, ridiculing them and reducing them to caricatures is almost guaranteed to fail in winning them over.

    It isn't rocket science.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019
    Seattle likes this.
  20. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    To the one, many people do lash out when their faith in whatever° collapses.

    To the other, yeah, sure, I get that, "Because God says so", isn't a good reason to treat those other people poorly, so what is anyone's excuse, and it's not so much a question of having a god to explain right and wrong, but, rather, a clue.

    Would you like a practical application? Consider the point one of our neighbors makes in #124↑ above, about "the use of religion to marginalize women, gays, other races, etc" being problematic. See also, #9↑, when another explained, fourteen months ago:

    There is nothing about rejecting the idea of God that prevents sexist, racism, or knee-jerk irrational tribalism. The atheist movement is currently being split up along those lines, with some saying that atheism and social justice go hand in hand, and others that subscribe to atheism as well as alt-right bigotry. Still others say that atheism should stand alone, that's it's a position on God and nothing more.

    More directly, at Sciforums, at least, it is unsurprising when an atheist also turns out to be some manner of supremacist, and the reason I say that is that it shows through in other discussions. Consider please: [Religion A] is the formal reason for [Prejudice β] in society. [Atheist ג] rejects [Religion A] because the proposition of God is irrational, but by other circumstances in society enjoys the benefit of [Prejudice β], and cannot rationally justify it.

    Maybe that atheist does need God in order to justify the prejudice; in the end, insistence in defense of the Prejudice only appeals to a nontheistic abstraction of ultimate authority.

    Such an outcome as the atheist enjoying the benefit of predjudice is not defining of atheism or atheists unless it somehow happens to turn out to be, but inasmuch as the phenomenon exists and can be observed the difference between the religious and atheistic "because" is essentially one of cutting out a proposed middleman, which in practical terms is somewhere between no difference and even worse.

    Wait, even worse? Well, whatever word games the religious want to play, they are at least somewhat contained to the point that rational people can eventually just pfft! away the noise. An atheist is not similarly doctrinally constrained; whether that point makes any particular effective difference depends, in the end, on the atheist and what one is saying.

    Every once in a while, I come up against a question of whether or not to give away the game plan, and here's the dilemma: To the one, it's not any real secret; to the other, ostensibly intelligent people apparently can't figure out the obvious. No, really, it's not even a proper game plan; it's just something really, really obvious.

    The dearth of human sympathy about your response is striking: One of the religious complaints about atheism is that old trope about no morality without God. The functionally true aspect about the trope is that there is no morality without a framework to assert the difference.

    As you say, right and wrong. Another notes, marginalization. And before that we can find a note about nothing to prevent other irrationality.

    "I mean, do you really need a god to tell you that some things are wrong?" Really? That would seem to miss the point. If we are the ones who bring someone to that crossroads of faith and comprehension, are you really so glib toward comprehension? What is the structure that goes in that place? Are right and wrong, then, right and wrong just because?

    It is not simply the lack of any necessarily divine godhead separating religiously-inspired, traditionalist chauvinism from its atheistic counterpart. An Abramist falling away from faith can find plenty of nontheistic iterations of familiar prejudices. To wit, how is one's masculine expectation and purpose in life—marriage, children, genes, legacy, &c.—feeling in any given week, because there is a spectrum of interloathing chauvinistic sympathies to choose from, be it simply gathering at the bar to complain, as men are wont to do, of wifely inadequacy; or advocating "men's rights"; or learning the art of the pickup; or disdaining all those in order to say he is smarter, and might be witnessed declaring he is better than needing women and thus going his own way; or deciding one has gotten over all that and calling himself incel. So, you know, great. A believer finally somehow becomes enlightened for having ditched his theistic morality, but what, really, is the practical improvement?

    Supremacism is supremacism; at some point the only real practical difference 'twixt the facts of supremacism shown by theist or atheist is quite simply that the latter won't call his make-believe justification God.

    More broadly, antisocial irrationality. The difference between antisocial irrationality in theistic or atheistic context is that the latter does not call its abstract justification God.

    But, yes, actually, given complaint of the socio- and psycho-moral failings of religious belief as a matter of theism, I would inherently expect smarter and better of atheistic opposition that considers and claims itself smarter and better. Functionally, it is my error to do so in certain environments; caveat emptor, as such.


    ° It seems worth noting, in re the word, "whatever", that I'm an American, and in this society some are shooting the place up precisely because their faith in some vital aspect of their expectations has collapsed. Say what we will of the Christianist bombings and burnings and shootings at medical facilities that have been going on for a while, but if I am relying on unknown religious status to predict whether or not this or that individual male is going to shoot the place up because he's not getting laid frequently or well enough by hot enough chicks, I would remind that the absence of belief in God is no prescription against bigotry and antisocial irrationalism. At least the Christian incel, for instance, can pretend something about what God wants.
    Michael 345 likes this.
  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    In the US the existence of sophisticated theological arguments somewhere is just cover for fundies. They have no particular relevance to the current intersections of science and religion, especially in the political arena.
  22. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    You post left a sour taste in the mouth.

    I don't even know what a word game is. Look at my posts and look at yours.
    Seattle likes this.
  23. gmilam Valued Senior Member

    The point is, there are decent theists and decent atheists. There are also scumbags on both fronts. Religious belief seems to have little to do with it.

    Google "chimp morality" and you will find many examples of our closest cousins displaying what appears to be concepts of fairness and morality.

    It's not a long jump from empathy to the golden rule.
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