Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Post on the FCOS Forum

I wanted to post this here in case it doesn't get posted on the FCOS forum. I am still waiting for my username to be approved, so this whole process may take a while. Anyway, here is what I intend to submit on the "Expelled" thread once I have been (if I am) approved:


If I may join in on this discussion:

1) I do not regard all atheists as being followers of Dawkins. Nor everyone who posts on his website. However I do think that there are some who act as though they are his followers. Indeed one of the strange things about RD net is just how sychophantic it is.

I would like to reply to you in detail about this. First of all, I would like to say that I think the lens you are viewing the situation from is a bit clouded by your personal conflicts with Richard Dawkins. Please hear me out. It would be easy for you to project this sense of sycophantism onto the posters at RD.net simply because you have a general distaste for Richard himself and by association, you have a distaste for those who agree with him (although, those who agree with him on some points, disagree on other points). That being said, I think that you are mistaking simple appreciation for being sycophantic. Most people in the world are affiliated with a religion of some sort. Among those that don’t identify with any religion, many still believe in a god or supernatural being of some sort. Atheists are a minority. Fortunately, we are a growing minority, but that is beside the point. The point is that many people who are atheists feel somewhat isolated by their atheism depending on the situation and the religiosity of the people who surround them. There are tons and tons of books about Christianity and other religions, but only a small number of books (comparatively speaking) about atheism or to do with atheism. So when someone like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Michael Shermer, etc comes out with a book about atheism, what I and I assume many other atheists feel is appreciation that someone has spoken out about our positions (even if all atheists don’t agree on everything, which they don’t) and that we have a small, yet powerful representation in the sea of representation for the religious. Perhaps we are simply happy not to be isolated any longer.

To make an additional point, this is the definition of sycophant from the American Heritage Dictionary: n. A servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people. So what makes you think that anyone on RD.net or who happens to agree with Richard is a sycophant? It is a fairly strong word to use when it implies that we are agreeing with Richard in a self-serving manner. Who’s to say that we can’t agree with Richard? Why does agreeing with Richard mean that we are doing it blindly? I know that when I agree with Richard, it is after deep contemplation on the matter, not just because I’m a “follower”. Also, I post on RD.net because I enjoy reading the articles and the discourse, not because I’m hoping Richard will recognize me in some manner.

2) …Dawkins in his letter wants to make out that atheism had NOTHING to do with Hitler and the holocaust…

I am usually pretty good at figuring out emotional responses and I think that your entire number two is an emotional response. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that the reason you are upset and had an emotional response to Richard’s statements about Hitler and the Holocaust is because you feel that he is attempting to shift the blame from the atheists to the Christians. This is where I diverge from Richard a bit (as I do and have on many other issues, as well). There is no denying that Hitler manipulated the Church for his agenda, but this is the biggest game of “hot potato” I’ve ever seen a bunch of adults play (I’m assuming the children in the UK play hot potato?). I have said before and I will say again, Hitler’s statements on Christianity and atheism cannot reveal anything to us about Hitler except that he was dishonest. No one can know for certain whether Hitler was an atheist or a Christian except Hitler himself because he was largely inconsistent on the matter in his general conversations as well as published writings, so there is no conclusive evidence in either direction. What we do know is that he was either an atheist lying about being a Christian in public or a Christian lying about being an atheist in private. Unfortunately for everyone involved with Hitler and the Holocaust, he lied to and manipulated a lot of people and the events that transpired because of him were more horrific than can be described. Might I suggest that the reason Richard is trying to distance atheism from Hitler and the Holocaust is not to shift the blame onto Christians, but simply to show that people who are atheists are not (generally) evil persons (as there are evil persons in every demographic). It is a reaction to people of the religious variety continually beating atheists over the head with “Hitler was an atheist”. It is tiresome because I along with (I would venture to say) everyone on RD.net and most of the atheists in the general population are disgusted with the Holocaust and don’t want to be wrongly associated with that kind of evil any more than you and other Christians do. That is why Expelled has received such a vehement response from many atheists; one of its main premises (from what I have read) is to peg atheists as Darwinists and then to blame Darwinism for Hitler and the Holocaust. If this is indeed the case, how would that make you feel? How does it make anyone feel?

Sorry for the lengthy first post. Feel free to chop it into two posts if you would like.

The other posts appear here: http://www.fcosonline.org/index.php?topic=26.msg296#new

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Churches and Atheism

I've just read an article on RD.net entitled "If God Is Dead, Who Gets His House". I wrote a short comment on the site about the article, but I feel the need to expound on my feelings here. First of all, I will take issue with the title of the article. God isn't dead because there never was one. It's really annoying when people associate atheists with hating God or thinking that he's dead. All of the atheists that I know including me don't believe that there is or ever was any god to hate or think is dead. This is simply ridiculous. Unfortunately, however, many theists (Christians, in my experience) associate atheism with hating God as was demonstrated by navyjake95 on another RD.net thread yesterday. I believe the term he used was something like "God-hating commie Athiest(sic) Jihad bastards". I commented that this was the epitome of all oxymorons. Last time I checked, it was pretty hard to hate something that one doesn't believe to be in existence, but maybe I'm wrong. It happens every once in a while. Also, if one were an atheist, I'm pretty certain that you couldn't be a Jihadi as well, as that would require belief in Allah and the tenets of Islam. Then, of course, there's the "commie" part. I'm assuming this is coming from the tired old Argumentum ad Stalinium/Pol Potium (Stalin and Pol Pot were atheists so therefore all communists are atheists). This is the stupidest part, so I'm not even going to bother with a refutation as this argument has been refuted ad nauseum in various other places.

And after that tangent, now on to the meat of this post. The subject and thesis of the article are basically that supposedly many atheists have some sort of void in their lives once the sense of community that they felt from the church is removed from their lives. Perhaps it's that I am biased as a result of my personal experiences with church in childhood (being that I was brought up in the Lutheran Church), but I think that my story is similar to a lot of my peers and spurred the mass rejection of religion (and perhaps God) that we see in the current young generation (as demonstrated by the Pew poll that said that 25% of 19-29 year olds did not affiliate themselves with any religion).

Growing up, I was always involved in a lot of things. I was a brownie/girl scout for a couple of years, I danced (ballet, jazz, modern mostly), I played the piano and the violin (in high school), I was a cheerleader, I was in chorus, I always did well in school, etc. So as you can see, I was a busy girl. I've always had a lot on my plate, so to be forced by my parents to add something else to the equation that was no fun and caused me to have to get up early on my only day to sleep in, I was understandably not overjoyed. Not only was church not just no fun, but it was also terribly boring. Sunday school required getting up even earlier than regular service did and so any fun that I may have had there was negated by the fact that I had to get up extra early and church service itself was incredibly boring. It was basically an hour of silence, standing up and sitting down, kneeling, mumbling some words that I said so many times I didn't think about them, and finding something to do or think about while the pastor gave the sermon for 10 to 15 minutes. Then there was the constant scrutiny that I was under from my step-dad to sit still and not put my feet on the "kneelers" under the pew in front of me. He paid more attention to what I was doing than he ever did to the service. I also had to go through several weeks of preparation for my "first communion" which required that I do homework. Any school-age child being told to do more homework that they don't receive any real credit for will obviously not be overjoyed. I was also forced to go through Catechism which consisted of two years of going to stupid classes every few Wednesday nights during the school-year which also required extra homework (which I never did). The first year was taught by Pat who was our Youth Director. Her name was Pat and she looked just like "It's Pat" from SNL. Needless to say, no one took her very seriously. The second year was taught by our no-nonsense pastor who didn't like my questions about whether or not non-Christians could go to heaven and that it wasn't fair for God not to have chosen everyone to be a Christian.

The only pleasant experiences I can recall from church were singing in the youth choir for a few years, doing the crafts at Bible School (until the year that I ate a cashew which caused me to go into anaphylaxis and both of my lungs collapsed which almost caused me to die...I didn't like Bible School after that), and the couple of ski trips that I went on in high school with other churches (since my church was too lame to do their own trip). I did attend a program called "Young Life" in high school that was fun. We played games, sang songs, and the "leaders" performed skits for us for an hour every Monday night. The boring part was at the end when one of the "leaders" would talk about Jesus. I always zoned out during that part.

Anyway, the point of all of the gibberish above is that most people my age were involved in numerous activities and church was just a chore to them. Indeed, my closest friends from the time are not religious (even if they aren't necessarily atheists). We found senses of community all over the place in the various activities that I listed above among many others. Perhaps generations older than mine only had a sense of community from church as there weren't as many options for extra-curricular activities in the past, but such was not the case for me and is not the case for future generations. Kids now are involved in even more things than I was involved with and I'm sure the options will only continue to grow, so this whole nonsense about needing a "church for atheists" seems outdated to me. There are many groups for adults to join as well. I participate in a cycling group and a running group. We even have shirts that say so. I also go to the gym where I see certain people regularly. There are many many options and if atheists think that they need some sort of church to replace the feelings of community they lost when they left the church, they aren't paying attention to the plethora of communities surrounding them. Personally, I relish my one day to sleep in.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Strange Happenings and New Trends

Lately on Richard Dawkins' website, www.richarddawkins.net , there has been an over abundance of theists just popping over. There used to be only one or two a week and now there are at least several a day. I'm wondering what has caused this surge in their efforts. They might be coming about as a result of all of the things Richard has been involved in lately. With the release of the paperback version of TGD, he's been making a lot of appearance in the Western World. David Robertson has also caused quite a stir about several things in Britain, so maybe that has something to do with it as well. Whatever the cause, it's been a bit irritating to me, at least because rather than having intelligent, useful discussion among ourselves, it seems that the atheists there have been wasting their breath (or typing skills) refuting the same arguments over and over and over and over and over again. I haven't been posting anything there lately because I've been quite busy and when I post, I want to engage in some intelligent debate about something other than the nonsense that the theists believe. When there are a group of people discussing something who've all gotten past that, the discussion generally proceeds at a higher level (most of the time, occasionally there's discussion of beer, tea, etc). At any rate, I'd rather that they go away. They are simply taking up bandwidth and nothing that any atheist says to them there is going to change their minds.

Another trend that I've noted with the theists is that they continually accuse the people on RD.net of not engaging in intelligent discussion. It seems that this is the new form of the old argument "well, you're just as bad as we are". If they had bothered to read any of the thread discussions that had taken place before the masses of theists began flooding the site, they would have seen that there was plenty of very intelligent discussion that sometimes is even over my head (I know, can you believe there's anything that's over my head? ;-), but that would just be too much to ask. They can't even be bothered to read the entire Bible, so why would we expect them to read older threads?

Anyway, my proposal if anyone is listening is to begin ignoring the theists until they have shown that they have actually done their homework. Until then, don't expect to be answered and don't whine about it, either.

In other news, someone with whom I used to be friends and still maintain some contact with recently sent me a link to a Christian radio website. At first I just laughed at how ridiculous it was to try to send something like that to me of all people, but then I started thinking about it and it started to irritate me. First of all, the person in question is someone who has avoided taking responsibility for things in their life for as long as I've known this person. At first, after recent developments, I felt sorry for the person and on some level, understood the person's decision to turn to Christianity for comfort, but on further contemplation on the subject, I realized that this was just the same old thing after all. This person was/is using "God's will" as an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for not having their life together. So now I'm just annoyed because I always maintain some smidgen of hope that this person (who is very intelligent and has the capacity to be a great person) will snap out of it and come to their senses and I realize that this is only more of the same. I'm also annoyed because if this particular person wants to turn to Christianity and not accept responsibility for their life, that's not my decision, but I'd prefer if I weren't a target for conversion. A general annoyance brought up by the whole situation is that perhaps if religion didn't exist anymore, people would have to take responsibility for their actions rather than being able to cop out. Maybe that's why some people are clinging to it so desperately; without it, they'd have to admit that they'd screwed up their own lives and perhaps others, too.

Completely unrelated: I ran my first 10K the first weekend of April and it was a blast. There were about 30,000 people in the race, so it was really cool to be running with all of those people. I was about 30 seconds short of my goal. I ran it in an hour and 21 seconds. And guess what? I did it all by myself. I did all of the training. No god(s) had any part in my success! Yay me!