The Holy War On Religion

…by some scientists.

Even though I generally agree with them, I am as put off by atheistic evangelizing as I am by any other kind. This is not a productive strategy to promote either science, or secularism. And I’m interested to read Chris Mooney’s latest book. I enjoyed Storm World, and it looks like his views have evolved somewhat from this book, which I found overly polemical.

23 thoughts on “The Holy War On Religion”

  1. I’ve said it here before. When a Jehova’s Witness comes to my door I don’t take offense (even though I have no interest in his religon) because when you boil it down he’s trying to do me a favor: he’s trying to save my soul. In his eyes and mine he’s trying to do a positive thing.

    Whenever I’ve gotten into a discussion about my faith with an athiest (or audited any of a hundred hundred of them online) the attitude I’ve gotten has always been one of smug intellectual superiority: the person taking the antireligous point of view isn’t trying to share something positive with me; he’s trying to show poor stupid deluded me how much smarter and more “free” he is.

    To top it off, about half of them go on to claim that because of their beliefs, I should have no right to MY beliefs.

    On the whole, I’d rather be stuck in an elevator with a pack of Witnesses or Mormons.

  2. My own religious views fall pretty much in alignment with atheism although I prefer to describe myself as “one without faith”.

    If had to throw my lot in with the Christians I know or with atheists I know, I would honestly have to go with the Christians. The fundamental reason being that Christians tend to believe my rights as a human being are endowed upon me by the Creator and thus are sacrosanct. Not so with the atheists I know who generally believe my rights are what the government say the are or whatever the will of the majority says the are. I think our founding fathers, whether they be Christians, Deists or something else, in their wisdom, had it just about right.

  3. I agree. I’m an atheist. But this obsession on the part of atheists like Dawkins is obnoxious and unnecessary. I find atheistic evangelizing to be as irritating as any other kind.

  4. Indeed. I’m agnostic *because* I’m a scientist, and there is no scientific proof against it (it’s not possible to disprove). I really dislike evangelist atheists.

  5. I’ve always been of the opinion that the insufferable atheist (best typified by the public persona of the late Madelyn Murray O’Hair) is about as bad as the most insufferable religious proselytizer. But I’ve also been of the opinion that, at least with the atheist, it’s much more of an inaccurate stereotype – but the loudmouthed ones get the most attention.

    Mike Thompson: If had to throw my lot in with the Christians I know or with atheists I know, I would honestly have to go with the Christians. The fundamental reason being that Christians tend to believe my rights as a human being are endowed upon me by the Creator and thus are sacrosanct.

    Sounds like you know a pretty sorry lot of atheists. The Christians with whom I am most familiar (the small town holier than thou type that I grew up with, in the buckle of the Bible belt) didn’t even feel that way about other Christian denominations, let alone atheists. Catholics were almost as bad as atheists, in their view. I quickly learned to rub the proverbial blue mud in my navel and go along…

  6. As a smug intellectually superior atheist scientist, I can see a few extraneous factors that may be influencing your negative opinion of atheists.

    Jehova’s Witnesses come to your door, to politely ask you to give their faith a look. In face-to-face encounters that don’t involve violence, people tend to be much more polite than they would be over the internet or in written word. Impersonal modes of communication have a higher tendency to be untactful. I may have lived in the wrong places, or be to young to have experienced it yet, but I’ve never had an atheist come up to my door to talk to me about embracing free-thinking. The only atheism I’ve ever encountered I had to go looking for (or develop) myself, in a book, an article, or on the internet. We don’t tend to have weekly get-togethers in buildings for the purpose, to which we can invite others into our fold (we don’t really have a fold). I actually don’t personally know any atheists besides myself and my spouse (who is a default atheist and doesn’t really count as far as other people’s perceptions are concerned).

    The delta between the beliefs of a JW and yourself is much smaller than the delta between your belief and an atheist’s non-belief. As such you likely do not share a similar framework through which you can perceive the atheists intention in a debate to be “positive”.

    In explanation, in my case becoming an atheist was largely driven by realizing logical fallacies in my own thinking and actions. I tore away my unsupportable ideas, and created a clean foundation on which I could build upon with an objective philosophy.

    An atheist can’t be built upon a foundation of faith, so the arguments that some atheists make are often similar to “quit being dumb” – not the most effective strategy to get someone to open their mind. It can however work fairly well for persons that are already having doubts about their faith and are ready to question their beliefs, which is why I don’t dislike what Dawkins or Hitchens write in their books and articles. The people they pound over the head with their ideas are those who were willing to pick up the book in the first place. Personally I think Rand and Hayek (Friedman?) are more effective, as they show an alternate philosophy by which to live one’s life.

    I’ve never seen an atheist street preacher (granted I’ve never lived in NY or SanFran). Perhaps that isn’t fair to say since the existence street preachers may have more to do with sanity issues than religious belief, but the idea that I’m trying to convey is that you likely don’t know who around you is an atheist. I am an atheist, and as I said before I don’t really know any other atheists, and except for my parents and my best friend, no one else (probably not even my siblings with whom I am fairly close) knows that I am an atheist. The entire idea is really quite individualist. Your elevator ride with atheists would likely be boringly normal.

    on a side note:
    I can’t say it is encouraging, but it is nice to know that it doesn’t appear in your experience that atheists tend to be more tyrannical than the average U.S. citizen. A 50% disregard for liberty sadly maps pretty closely with our current electorate.

  7. Sounds like you know a pretty sorry lot of atheists.

    Well, I live in the SF Bay Area where it’s hard to separate ones opinions on religious matters from the leftism that pervades this area. The atheists I know are most obnoxious when they know that they are safely in the company of other atheists. Elitism runs amok. Talking about how the world would be best off if 2/3s of the rest of humanity would simply disappear — disease, war, famine doesn’t really matter to them. Judging one’s intelligence or worthiness by the lack of belief in God. Belief that religion has brought no good to mankind or Western civilization. I could go on.

    I’m not saying that the religious can’t be just as obnoxious in their views, but I tend to no run into them within my circle of acquaintances. My experience is the more religious one is the more they take a live and let live attitude.

  8. Well, let’s see:

    Atheists generally don’t blow people up for not being atheist – especially not by walking onto crowded public transport wearing a Semtex waistcoat.

    Atheists generally don’t expect the laws of a district (or country) to be in line with their ideas of ideal recreation on one day per week, or their ideas of what substances ought to be ingested by humans.

    Atheists generally don’t go around knocking on doors and forcing their beliefs on people who aren’t interested.

    Atheists generally don’t go on TV, having travelled there in a $100,000 car and wearing a $3,000 suit, to ask the already destitute to give as much as they can to the “cause”.

    Atheists generally don’t believe that they have the right to dictate what happens between humans in private, or to dictate what people (particularly women) may do with their own bodies.

    Atheists generally don’t feed their offspring mystical BS, completely out of line with the evidence, in lieu of education; they also don’t expect others to be forced to do the same on penalty of imprisonment or unemployment.

    Atheists generally don’t believe that the words in a 4000-year-old book, written by semi-literate Bronze Age pastoralists and badly translated several times, are the final word on either fact or morality.

    Given all this, I would prefer atheists to fundamentalists (of any stripe) EVERY TIME. Either to talk to, or to have my country run by.

  9. The believers fear being oppressed by the opinions of the non believers, if only the non believers were so lucky.

    The non believers are a very diverse comparatively low birth rate minority, and they are getting backed into a corner. Considering the evil that believers have been doing of late, is it unreasonable that they have taken offense?

    One of the reasons there are a significant number of “leftist” atheists is that they have traded the social support of religion for the social support of a democratic government (which they can at least vote on). Taking their government from them is a bit like taking religion from a believer, not that that would give the believers a moments pause. If the US managed its poor, unhealthy and uneducated masses in an efficient and professional manner, instead of a religious biased one, then I suspect they would be far less “leftist”. But then, with a more viable alternative, would religion be quite so compelling?

  10. I assume Fletcher is referring to moderate atheists in America. Atheists in places like the USSR, China, Korea, et. al. have been substantially less praiseworthy.

  11. I’m converting to a form of solipsism. I believe Rand made this post only to get me to make a comment. All the rest of you are imaginary context in my mind.

  12. You are right, Fletcher, in your analysis.

    Athiests have never ‘blown up’ anyone for being non-athiest, well except for Stalin, Pol Pot, Gang of four (but, hey, what’s a billion or so dead among us non-believers).

    You are correct that athiests never want to impose their secular beliefs as laws in districts (or nationally), well except for bans or religious signs in public areas, laws that curb ‘non-sanctioned’ speech, public money for all sorts of anti-religious “art”, etc.

    I’ve never had an athiest knock on my door, trying to get me to commit to their cause. No way that I get bothered by Greenpeace, NOW, fringe ‘environmental’ groups, etc, asking for money, signatures on petitions, and generally harassing anyone who doesn’t believe 100% in the crap they are spewing. No, not me.

    And you are right, there are NO groups on TV asking for contributions to fight ‘global warming’, stop the ‘creationalists’, save the ‘rain forest’, make drugs legal, etc. Never seen one.

    You are certainly right on when you say that athiests don’t want to mandate what others do in their own homes. Noone has ever said things like ‘Turn the lights off’, ‘Turn the thermostat down/up’, ‘Recycle or pay the fine’, ‘Don’t even talk remotely disrespectfully to a woman/minority/homosexual or you will get sued/fined/fired for harassment’, ‘No smoking in public places, outdoors, or even your own apartment’. Those athiests are really tolerant folks there.

    And noone has every been arrested because they don’t agree with you ‘enlightened’ athiests and all of your ‘superior’ beliefs. Not someone like millions of dissidents in Russia, China, etc (well, lots of them were just killed). Here in the US (and many European countries), there are no ‘hate crime’ laws that subject people to prison if they say or do something against one of the protected athiests.

    And while many folks read and believe the bible, along with any documents written during the Bronze Age and poorly translated, you great and all knowing athiests subscribe to the drug induced ramblings of those great ’60s philosophers. Nice choice!

    Given that, I’d rather have people who aren’t so smug and pretentious be my friends. But, hey, I’m sure you will come back and tell me why I’m wrong with that assertion as well, because you are really much smarter than I am, just ask you.

  13. “Science is limited to the empirical. The atheistic jihad is unwarranted.”

    Well, yes, but as scientific discoveries advance they leave fewer and fewer gaps in which a god can hide.

    As for TomW, you are stretching here. Stalin certainly did not kill millions because they weren’t atheists (though he presumably killed some as part of suppressing the Orthodox church) and atheism is not explicitly linked to beliefs in global warming advocacy, Greenpeace activism, etc. As any (good) scientist can tell you, correlation does not imply causation.

  14. Well, yes, but as scientific discoveries advance they leave fewer and fewer gaps in which a god can hide.
    Reputable theologians don’t believe that god is hiding behind a black hole or under a quark.

  15. Astra,
    I was merely stretching to the same degree that good old Fletcher was (Stalin did in fact kill millions due to their religious beliefs, at least in part).

    The majority of my post was tongue in cheek and a little poke at the “I know everything” kind of Athiest.

  16. I have to say that, to my cynical ears, TomW’s post sounded more “head in ass” than “tongue in cheek”… :-/

  17. Communists of that ilk may not have believed in the traditional God – but they most assuredly believed. They put the “total” in totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is necessarily a system of beliefs – a religion.

    Stalin did not kill millions of people for *their* beliefs, he killed them for *his* beliefs.

    When beliefs stop being negotiable, bad things happen.

  18. I’m sure it did, cth, as you are one of the prime examples of the ‘I know everything’ kind of Athiest. I wouldn’t expect you to understand humor.

  19. When beliefs stop being negotiable, bad things happen.

    Dawkins, and other militant atheists strike me as the non-negotiable sort of believer.


  20. Dawkins, and other militant atheists strike me as the non-negotiable sort of believer.

    Do you think that Dawkins has turned his back on science?

  21. Yes, Tom. And is Dr. Dawkins going to kill people for his beliefs? Or put them in jail?

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