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How to make atheism matter - Comments

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 1 by Mark Jones

Jason Rosenhouse analysed this rather daft piece already, which may be of interest.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 16:36:25 UTC | #901396

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 2 by Steve Zara

The intellectual crisis of atheism

There's an intellectual crisis of atheism? I can't see one. It might be rather annoying to those who insist atheism must be a refined and sophisticated point of view to see all these people just coming out and saying "I don't believe in gods" with absolutely no academic citations or literary references, but I'm afraid that is just what we have to put up with when ideas escape to the public domain. Sad, but true.

Atheism will simply remain a movement of overheated malcontents lamenting their great civic misfortune.

Just like the gays in the 90s, with all their ranting about lack of rights. And look what came of that!

Honestly, what a silly piece.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 16:39:03 UTC | #901398

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 3 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

I think the word the author is looking for is "secularism"!

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 16:39:32 UTC | #901399

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 4 by Cartomancer

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Accommodationist claptrap again.

First she assumes that the windbag Hoffman has anything worthwhile to say. Then she doesn't cite any evidence at all for any of her half-formed opinions. Then she blatantly contradicts herself. Which is it, Berlinerblau, should American atheists be doing more to represent those who fall short of describing themselves with the label of atheist (but still fall within the 15% or more in the polls), or should they only be counting among their movement those who do?

2/10. Must try harder.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 16:40:30 UTC | #901400

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 5 by Peter Grant

How to make atheism matter

But I don't want atheism to matter.

Pop atheists have certainly made atheism a small idea.

Good, atheism is not even a small idea, it's just the absence of one enormously stupid idea. What would be great is if atheism became so popular that it no longer mattered at all.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 16:43:26 UTC | #901402

massEntropy's Avatar Comment 6 by massEntropy

I love it when theist tell atheist what they need to do. It seems the universal, unanimously agreed upon strategy for atheist is working. Thanks Mark Jones for the Jason Rosenhouse piece. Spot on.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 16:50:04 UTC | #901405

Metamag's Avatar Comment 7 by Metamag

I am continually surprised by the stupidity, vacuity, and banality of purported serious people who are supposed to be atheists themselves or serious "agnostic" scholars.

It really seems like this can only be explained by childish jealousy.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 16:52:07 UTC | #901407

Jay G's Avatar Comment 8 by Jay G

Atheism, as I understand it, is a lack of belief in God. Beyond that, what an atheist would "want" is not dictated by his lack of belief in the god of theism. I don't understand what the point of this essay is.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:01:10 UTC | #901411

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 9 by irate_atheist

Comment 8 by Jay G -

Atheism, as I understand it, is a lack of belief in God. Beyond that, what an atheist would "want" is not dictated by his lack of belief in the god of theism.

I want my dinner.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:02:42 UTC | #901412

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 10 by crookedshoes

Metamag, Jealousy of what? The fact that you believe in a fairy tale and allow your life to be governed by that belief? You are a sheep. You have been told what to think and there you go.... a self fulfilling prophecy... You think you are thinking. Try this on on for size; One, just one piece of evidence for the existence of a god.

Just. one. piece. Offer it up here. Show all us "stupid, vacuous, and banal" atheists once and for all. You can do it, can't you?????? ONE PIECE. Certainly you have this evidence and can offer it up in a way that all the "stupid, vacuous, and banal" people here (many who I think are world class intellects) can understand it?

We want to believe. REALLY. I want to believe. Please? SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE and I'll convert on the spot. That's all i need one piece of evidence.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:07:49 UTC | #901413

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 11 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

Alongside that school there exists some truly excellent scholarly research about nonbelief.

Berlinerblau sounds like a "sophisticated" theologian in atheist clothing.

All this drivel about academics who have so much deeper understanding of atheism, an understanding apparently shared only by atheists of antiquity.

Are you sure you're not Karen Armstrong in disguise?!!!

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:17:28 UTC | #901416

Hendrix is my gOD's Avatar Comment 12 by Hendrix is my gOD

As head atheist in charge...

I had no idea that there was someone in charge of my not believing in someone else's religion.

The real priority for American atheism concerns its political future, its ability to shape policy agendas so as to represent the interests of its constituency. The key question, then, is: What do atheists want? If what they want is to abolish religion...

This is a secular democracy not an atheistic dictatorship. Atheists are a disenfranchised minority whose constitutional rights are ignored by those in political power. Atheists want the same thing as gays, racial minorities, women, etc. wanted before us: enforcement of the existing constitutional rights that were supposed to have been granted us all along. Why would we want to abolish the rights of those who have them now?

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:21:55 UTC | #901417

AsylumWarden's Avatar Comment 13 by AsylumWarden

          [Comment 2](/articles/644293-how-to-make-atheism-matter/comments?page=1#comment_901398) by  [Steve Zara](/profiles/29392)          :


                 > The intellectual crisis of atheism> There's an intellectual crisis of atheism?  I can't see one.  It might be rather annoying to those who insist atheism must be a refined and sophisticated point of view to see all these people just coming out and saying "I don't believe in gods" *with absolutely no academic citations or literary references*, but I'm afraid that is just what we have to put up with when ideas escape to the public domain.  Sad, but true.> Atheism will simply remain a movement of overheated malcontents lamenting their great civic misfortune.> Just like the gays in the 90s, with all their ranting about lack of rights.  And look what came of that!Honestly, what a silly piece.

Quite Steve. Or the blacks in their civil rights movements for another example. Or the anti-slavery protests maybe. Perhaps the 'Votes for Women' movement in the early 1900's be included?

Basically the removing of shackles, stigma and discrimnation come from when the target group are passionate enough to rattle the cages and driven enough not to give up or take no for an answer.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:29:20 UTC | #901420

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 14 by aquilacane

The only intellectual crisis atheism is facing is the complete lack of anyone, other than atheists, to have an intellectual conversation with.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:29:54 UTC | #901421

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 15 by Jos Gibbons

How to make articles matter
If I were in charge of critiquing Jacques Berlinerblau – which I’m not, but then again who is? – I’d ask myself the following questions: Why does he pretend church/state separation dates to the mid 20th century rather than the late 18th? By what criteria did he decide for the rest of us that Hoffmann’s recent work was “important”? What makes him think big ideas, defined as those defended with scholarly rather than widely comprehensible arguments, get better success in the media? (Contrast the response to The God Delusion with what was then or is now known to the populace of Bertrand Russell.)
The real priority for articles about atheism concerns their political accuracy, their ability to describe policy agendas so as to represent the interests of the atheist constituency. The key question, then, is: What do atheists want? If what they want is to abolish religion – a new atheist theme with deep success in Europe and especially Scandinavia – then there is more political future than for an antireligious movement not genuinely present in any secularist efforts. The misrepresentation of theism will simply remain a movement of overheated malcontents lamenting their great factual misfortune.
My guess, however, is that the majority of American nonbelievers are most certainly bent on abolishing ideas that made Berlinerblau feel it necessary to point out they seek freedom from but not the abolition of religion. Their (legitimate) gripe is nonetheless with all forms of religion. If permitted to find their voice (despite being approached by many life–sucking journalists) I think they would express a desire for Berlinerblau’s nonsense to disappear.
Therein, I think, lies the future of Articles About Atheism and to this end leadership might consider the following:
Freedom of and freedom from religion are not mutually exclusive. A clever writing leadership would realise that this means atheist billboards can exist in symbiosis with their religious predecessors. The key word is freedom. People of one opinion, after all, want no more to have to tiptoe around “offending” those of another than vice versa.
Why must the admission price to authoring articles about atheism be total nonbelief in an accurate definition thereof? Can’t the writers, at the very least, understand the difference? Why can’t those who don’t fit either a valid or a journalistic definition of atheism be recognised as part of the problem that needs to be fought by those in the lamentably small tent? In short, freedom within ostensibly liberal nations should not require numbers. Journalists need ideas, accurate ideas. . .
Journalistic ideologues routinely assume that atheists are a less inclusive group than simply the nonbelievers to which “nones” refers and hence conclude that they represent much less than 15 percent of the American population. The mistake is not only baffling, especially for a cohort that is legally required to pretend it prizes itself on empirical precision, but disastrous to the strategic vision of articles about atheism. After all, how effective would the journalistic activism of Jacques Berlinerblau be if he started from the premise that there being 110 million American Jews was a good comparison to the views he disparages?
And while we are at it, why can’t journalists make common cause with the moderately deceptive? In its first decade of operations the characterisation of some atheism as “new” has virtually assured its factual irrelevance by acerbically shunning the very irreligious folks who are waging their own pitched battles alongside old arguments. Mild and moderate Dawkins has worked with moderates on many occasions.
Journalists, it bears noting, achieved many of their greatest intellectual embarrassments by entering into co–stupidity with theocrats on issues like abortion, gay marriage, religion in public schools, etc. In other words, authorship put aside integrity to achieve pragmatic sales goals.
In so doing, the Christian right successfully managed to curtail both freedom from criticism and freedom of criticism for countless media. The time has come for a strategic journalistic defense of both these virtues.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:34:18 UTC | #901426

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 16 by Steve Zara

comment 9 by irate_atheist

I want my dinner.

How dare you come out with such a simplistic statement. How can you possibly know you are hungry unless you have read the great literature on cuisine? Unless you can express your desire for sustenance in the language of High Table, you cannot possibly be taken seriously. Which part of roast swan do you desire (answer in Latin, please)? Which particular genus of lobster will do (with or without claws?) Which five species of mollusc can be combined into one dish? Can you pick the right dozen fresh herbs to go with what you choose? Which wines should go with your four courses? Which cheese biscuits?

It's no wonder the hungry are so detested, when they are so lacking in taste.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:36:48 UTC | #901427

Narvi's Avatar Comment 17 by Narvi

@crookedshoes: by "stupidity, vacuity, and banality" Metamag is referring to Berlinerblau. You're attacking an ally (easy mistake to make, I've done it myself more than once).

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:37:44 UTC | #901428

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 18 by crookedshoes

Sorry metamag..... Thanks Narvi, now that I reread it I thinkyou are correct. Bad form on my part and I apologize. jim

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:40:09 UTC | #901429

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 19 by Stephen of Wimbledon

Claptrap.

On the other hand; a great article for demonstrating that we atheists continue to be as difficult to herd as cats. The article also exposes the reasons why:

"The intellectual crisis of atheism ... "

What on Earth is Berlinerblau talking about?! By what possible measure does one have to be an intellectual to see that not believing in the supernatural is a slam dunk?

Pop atheists have certainly made atheism a small idea.

Atheism isn't an idea - it's the rejection of an idea.

Berlinerblau then redeems himself somewhat by actually putting forward some sensible, practical, atheist political goals.

Why must the admission price to American atheism be total non-belief in God and hatred of all religion? Can’t the movement, at the very least, split the difference?

  1. Why would we take a stand, then decide we don't want to defend our position?

  2. Hatred: That's a very emotive word. I don't hate. I do despair, hunger and desire.

  3. Berlinerblau's obvious agenda here is: Compromise means you achieve something rather than nothing. I am not convinced we're in that much of a tight spot. Not yet.

Berlinerblau then goes off on a tangent - complaining about misreadings of statistics, but never explaining what those misreadings are ...

Finally he makes a (unsupported by his run-up) appeal for accommodationism.

He claims to be an atheist. Yeah, right.

Note to the Mods: Please can we not be exposed to any more pseudo-intellectualising.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:51:27 UTC | #901431

helena!'s Avatar Comment 20 by helena!

Ah yes the tone police on patrol again. You can't herd cats. There is no movement or atheist leaders. There are simply great atheist professors and intellectuals shining their lights of example through their books and lectures and works. Inspiring and unafraid to be strident and rational in this irrational world.

I suspect another case of I'm an atheist but...

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 18:05:22 UTC | #901435

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 21 by Schrodinger's Cat

I think before we make atheism matter we should get priorities right and make a-philately matter too. I mean, the world must be full of people who don't collect stamps......there are far more of us than atheists. Yet nobody takes us seriously !

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 18:07:42 UTC | #901436

Nordic11's Avatar Comment 22 by Nordic11

Ok. I'll take a risk a make a comment even though no one seems to like the content of this article.

Just a couple of things:

The only intellectual crisis atheism is facing is the complete lack of anyone, other than atheists, to have an intellectual conversation with.

Even though I am a Christian, I can understand the appeal of atheism. It explains this broken world without any apparent contradiction, and it appeals to my raw rational side. Atheism is an easy belief system to adhere to. Even so, I disagree with my atheist friends and acquaintances, but I try to never mock or belittle them (although I'm sure I've failed at this at times). I respect their thinking and find it logical in many ways. In my experience, I have not experienced the same respect in return. Richard Dawkins and members on this site habitually mock and ridicule my Christianity in general and my personal faith making a cordial discussion difficult (although there have been several members who have been more than kind). Extreme, fanatical "Christians" are always chosen for article topics and not the reasonable people I know who are out there doing a lot of good for this world. There are many good reasons that I have chosen Christianity over atheism, but my reasoning is immediately dismissed as infantile, morally corrupt, psychologically deficient and worse. It is difficult to carry on an intellectual conversation in the face of such rancor.

We want to believe. REALLY. I want to believe. Please? SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE and I'll convert on the spot. That's all i need one piece of evidence.

Miracles have happened in my life, events that cannot be explained away by coincidence, random chance or "firing neurons" in my brain. I would love to share these experiences with you, but you would dismiss them out of hand as unreliable personable experiences. Unfortunately, the evidences of my faith do not conform to the scientific method, something atheists insist must be the only standard by which we measure any event even though many events obviously fall outside of the boundaries of science such as the origin of the Big Bang, verifying the content of someone's dreams or providing undeniable proof that a person has a mind's eye.

So then atheists make statements such as

The fact that you believe in a fairy tale and allow your life to be governed by that belief? You are a sheep. You have been told what to think and there you go.... a self fulfilling prophecy

and we think, well whatever. Nothing I say will make a difference.

These are my thoughts on the topic for better or worse.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 18:09:20 UTC | #901437

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 23 by crookedshoes

Nordic11, I am flattered. You took two sentences from my rant and elevated them into your writing. Thanks.

When these miracles occurred, why didn't you have them verified? I mean, it would be a beautiful thing to shove evidence into my face and make me the fool, wouldn't it? The fact of the matter is, you THINK a miracle happened. Whether it did or not would be wonderful fodder for an OP.... Give it a shot.

BTW, I support your right to be christian and would be glad to speak with you cordially, and without rancor. I only bite when i am provoked.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 18:15:18 UTC | #901439

gr8hands's Avatar Comment 24 by gr8hands

Nordic11, just remember:

Allegations are not evidence.
Hearsay is not evidence.
Unsubstantiated claims are not evidence.
Personal revelation is not evidence.
Anecdotes are not evidence.
Rumors are not evidence.
Wild speculation is not evidence.
Wishful thinking is not evidence.
Illogical conclusions are not evidence.
Disproved statements are not evidence.
Logical fallacies are not evidence.
Poorly designed/executed experiments are not evidence.
Experiments with inconclusive results are not evidence.
Experiments that are not and cannot be duplicated by others are not evidence.
Dreams are not evidence.
Hallucinations/delusions are not evidence.
Experiments whose methodology is not open for scrutiny are not evidence.
Data that requires a certain belief is not evidence.
Information that is only knowable by a privileged few is not evidence.
Information that cannot be falsified is not evidence.
Information that cannot be verified is not evidence.
Information that is ambiguous is not evidence.

Hope that clears things up for you.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 18:30:45 UTC | #901444

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 25 by Steven Mading

Comment 22 by Nordic11 :

Ok. I'll take a risk a make a comment even though no one seems to like the content of this article.

Just a couple of things:

The only intellectual crisis atheism is facing is the complete lack of anyone, other than atheists, to have an intellectual conversation with.

Even though I am a Christian, I can understand the appeal of atheism. It explains this broken world without any apparent contradiction, and it appeals to my raw rational side. Atheism is an easy belief system to adhere to. Even so, I disagree with my atheist friends and acquaintances, but I try to never mock or belittle them (although I'm sure I've failed at this at times). I respect their thinking and find it logical in many ways. In my experience, I have not experienced the same respect in return. Richard Dawkins and members on this site habitually mock and ridicule my Christianity in general and my personal faith making a cordial discussion difficult (although there have been several members who have been more than kind). Extreme, fanatical "Christians" are always chosen for article topics and not the reasonable people I know who are out there doing a lot of good for this world. There are many good reasons that I have chosen Christianity over atheism, but my reasoning is immediately dismissed as infantile, morally corrupt, psychologically deficient and worse. It is difficult to carry on an intellectual conversation in the face of such rancor.

Please stop repeating the lie that being cordial and bieng reasonable are the same thing. They are not. Politeness has nothing to do with reason. You can be un-reasoned and polite. You can be reasoned and rude.

I really hate this mis-use of the word "reasonable" that is so common in the English langauge. Using reason and bieng polite are NOT synonymous.

Sometimes being rude to people who are refusing to use reason is justified. Being rude does not make someone unreasonable. Refusing to use reason does. Everyone who says "you have to have faith" is being unreasonable, quite literally, no matter how politely they say it.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 18:41:55 UTC | #901447

potteryshard's Avatar Comment 26 by potteryshard

Of course atheism matters; it has intrinsic worth independent of its importance as a philosophy or as a movement. It matters because it summarizes the counterpoint to the notion that theism matters.

What do atheists want? We want the theists to stop demanding our tolerance and our blackmailed support; we simply want them to play in their own sandbox.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 18:45:11 UTC | #901449

Nordic11's Avatar Comment 27 by Nordic11

Hi crookedshoes

BTW, I support your right to be christian and would be glad to speak with you cordially, and without rancor. I only bite when i am provoked.

Thank you very much. I'll try not to provoke.

Here's one of the miracles. It's not walking on water, but it is very convincing for me. Please let me know what you think.

On January 1, 2007, my family was still asleep, and I sat down to read the Bible, as is my habit in the morning. I had been working my way through Matthew, but for some reason, I chose John 14-17 (the last supper dialogues of Jesus). The Scriptures frequently inspire and move me, but something was different that morning. The verses almost seemed alive, and as I read the passage, three verses in particular stood out to me in the strongest way. It almost seemed like they were on fire on the page (though they were not literally on fire).

After finishing the passage, I immediately heard a voice inside my head. This is the first time I had ever heard an audible voice in my head. The voice said, "Call Judy!" Judy is my wife's best friend who lives across the continent. I had not spoken to her in three years, and I never call her, but the voice was so powerful and insistent that I did not hesitate, and I called her immediately. I got her voice mail and suddenly realized I had no idea what I was suppose to say. I made a feeble apology about the weirdness of this call and said, "God really impressed these three verses upon me this morning, so I'm going to just read them into your voice mail and forgive me if this makes no sense to you."

A couple of hours later, Judy called me. She had pulled over on the freeway and was sobbing. When I asked what was wrong, she said she had been feeling very depressed the night before because it was the first holiday she had not spent with her daughter (she was going though a divorce and her ex-husband had her daughter that evening). She asked advice of her pastor who recommended she read John 14-17. While reading the passage, she felt God impressing two verses upon her, and those were two of the verses I had quoted over the phone.

Unlike Christmas, Christians have no common Scriptures that they read for New Years. There are 32,000 verses in the Bible, and probably half of them could be used to comfort others. To me, the timing and events of this story skyrocket far above coincidence, but I'm anxious to hear your opinion about the story. It would be nice if comments were made about what actually happened instead of "what God could have or should have done."

I may be away from my computer for quite some time, but I will check in again tonight or tomorrow.

Thanks for your consideration crookedshoes.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 18:51:20 UTC | #901452

Nordic11's Avatar Comment 28 by Nordic11

@ Steven Mading

Sometimes being rude to people who are refusing to use reason is justified

I totally disagree. And it's not just rudeness; it is ridicule and mockery at their worst. "Reasonable" is how you define it. This is the problem I was talking about. Anything that does not fit your definition of reasonable becomes unreasonable and hence invalid, which brings all fruitful discussion to an abrupt stop.

@gr8hands

I think this is the point I was trying to make. All events cannot be measured by the scientific method, which is what your list is describing. By this same measure, the Big Bang never started, people do not really dream, and no one has a mind's eye.

I hope that clears things up for you..

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 18:58:42 UTC | #901455

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 29 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

Comment 22 by Nordic11

Even so, I disagree with my atheist friends and acquaintances, but I try to never mock or belittle them (although I'm sure I've failed at this at times). I respect their thinking and find it logical in many ways. In my experience, I have not experienced the same respect in return. Richard Dawkins and members on this site habitually mock and ridicule my Christianity in general and my personal faith making a cordial discussion difficult (although there have been several members who have been more than kind).

If someone finds your ideas ridiculous, they should be free to say so. To pretend that they don't consider something to be ridiculous is to be intellectually dishonest. The fact that the thing they consider to be ridiculous may be Christianity or any other religion is irrelevant. Why should religion get a special exemption? The reason why this is so important has been born out by history. It has been taboo to criticise religion, or at least to criticise it strongly, and this has allowed all sorts of abuses of power and privilege to take place, and still take place today. If nobody ever strongly ridicules religion, then it creates an impression that we all respect it - this gives religion a further status of respectability that it has no right to enjoy.

I appreciate the fact that you may respect atheist views, but if I find Christianity to be ridiculous and harmful then I'm not going to deny that just to be polite in return.

Extreme, fanatical "Christians" are always chosen for article topics and not the reasonable people I know who are out there doing a lot of good for this world.

Of course there are many people who identify themselves as Christians doing many good things. But, to use Christopher Hitchens' challenge, what good works are they doing that aren't being done by non-Christians? The fact that they are Christians is irrelevant to any purely humanitarian work that they may be doing. Undoubtedly, many of them are Aquarians, Jazz lovers, or Swiss; none of that is worth mentioning either!

There are many good reasons that Ii have chosen Christianity over atheism, but my reasoning is immediately dismissed as infantile, morally corrupt, psychologically deficient and worse. It is difficult to carry on an intellectual conversation in the face of such rancour.

Just to underline the point, if anyone thinks you views are infantile, morally corrupt, psychologically deficient, etc, they should be able to say so. Playing the "hurt card" should not excuse you from criticism.

I hope you consider my answer sufficiently civilised!

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 19:01:53 UTC | #901456

SomersetJohn's Avatar Comment 30 by SomersetJohn

Comment 22 by Nordic11 :

Atheism is an easy belief system to adhere to.

This is why we atheists sometimes get a bit hot under the collar with theists. It doesn't matter how many times we tell you what Atheism is, you insist on calling it something else. This is why I call you "Liars for Jesus"

Atheism IS NOT A BELIEF SYSTEM. It is a lack of belief. Atheists have no belief in any god or gods. THAT'S IT. Anything else is in addition to this lack of belief. We can be left wing, right wing, centrist, authoritarian, libertarian, wise, foolish, intelligent, stupid, in fact anything any other human being can be. We just don't have any belief in any kind of deity.

Until you stop lying about the non-existent "Atheist Belief System" I will continue to call you "Liar for Jesus"

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 19:20:33 UTC | #901461