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← The first time I spoke out in defense of atheism in public.

The first time I spoke out in defense of atheism in public. - Comments

VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 1 by VrijVlinder

Very good ! You have rights too.

I find that many atheists do not speak out because we were taught to respect religious views. It is false respect they do not deserve solely on the merit of being christian or whatever.

It should be pointed out how irrational it is to hold those beliefs when being a scientist and knowing better. She changed the subject because she knew you were right. She was afraid he beliefs would be shattered by the truth. It being that there is no proof as she herself said.

In order to approach science in an honest way, one must be totally impartial to the results. It is wrong for scientists to inject their religious agenda into teaching in a classroom. Specially science.

We atheists have permission to speak up. We do not need to wait for it to be given to us. It is not disrespectful to point out that un evidenced claims are not facts. This should make her try to find another approach other than to tell folks their dead loved one is with Jesus. After all what if the people she is trying to comfort are atheist!

Maybe in finding other ways to deal with grief she might find there is no god after all. Waking up to reality means we who are awake must help wake up the others too. What you did is an example of what we all should do. Stand up for the truth.

Sun, 03 Jun 2012 20:16:41 UTC | #945339

Grimace's Avatar Comment 2 by Grimace

I commend you for speaking out DMR88.

A word of warning though, I worked for a Student Guild (union) for a few years while I was at university and a part of my job was doing academic appeals. I'd advise you to beware of the wrath of an academic who believes they've been wronged.

It was my experience that some academics could be extrordinarily petty and malicious towards a person who they believed had wronged them, even if that "wrong" was petty or minor.

Mon, 04 Jun 2012 00:43:53 UTC | #945375

Ted Foureagles's Avatar Comment 3 by Ted Foureagles

Standing up for reason is important, and I applaud you for handling this situation as you did. However, in the context of grief counseling, quiet discretion is usually best. My wife and I ran a hospice in our home some years back, and so we frequently dealt with the grief of those who were dying and their loved ones. Then was not the time to challenge beliefs that may have been their main comfort, but instead a chance to provide support. I would never outright lie to someone looking to me for spiritual confirmation, but neither would I confront them with my view of their belief.

Perhaps the most difficult of my challenges during that time came when a lovely old lady I'd come to know during her time with us was minutes from death. She clenched my hand and asked, "Is that you Jesus?" (some physical resemblance to the popular western image, at least back then). I could have more honestly said, "No, it's just me, Ted". Instead, I held her hand and said, "I'm here". Her (agnostic) daughter was with us when the old lady died, and she later said, "I can't tell you how glad I am that when Mother passed she thought that Jesus had her hand".

Was what I did a lie? Well, yes. But at the time it was not about me. These scenarios in more or lesser shades of drama play out in everyday life. I live in Upstate South Carolina, where almost everyone is deeply religious, and very often frightened of those who don't share their particular beliefs. For me to hold forth on a rant about how ridiculous those beliefs are while at their table would just be uncivil. At a bar, or in my backyard -- different matter.

One of my dearest friends, and posessor of one of the finest minds I've yet known, inexplicably became a fundamentalist Christian in middle age. We do challenge one another regularly but, sadly, those discussions seldom go far. His religiosity and my atheism form a wall between us that seems unbreachable, and it makes us both sad, We can still befriend one another in superficial ways, but the depth is gone. When he posts something gratuitous on facebook about the power of prayer, I'll jump all over his ass, but when he recently lost his home to foreclosure I certainly didn't pipe up to add to his distress.

We're profoundly social critters, and the road we follow in common is anything but straight. And I wouldn't want it straightened. I'd love to see our species mature toward reason, but do not want to be reason's Prophet. They nail ya' to boards for that!

}}}}

Mon, 04 Jun 2012 01:04:28 UTC | #945378

Jessica Wise's Avatar Comment 4 by Jessica Wise

Ted, that's a beautiful story. I agree that there is a time and a place for these discussions... Having been raised in a fundamentalist sect (read: cult) myself, I agree that sometimes, even though the depth of the friendship(s) may be lost, compassion dictates that we remain silent even in the face of nonsense. I like to use everyday moments to open doors. For example, I am a piano teacher, and even small children understand that we have hands that resemble other primates. References to evolution can sometimes be a pedagogical tool, even when helping them learn how to play a scale!

Mon, 04 Jun 2012 12:33:39 UTC | #945458

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 5 by Alan4discussion

Comment 4 by Jessica Wise

For example, I am a piano teacher, and even small children understand that we have hands that resemble other primates. References to evolution can sometimes be a pedagogical tool, even when helping them learn how to play a scale!

More info on this here:- http://richarddawkins.net/discussions/645960-the-common-hand-by-carl-zimmer-illustration-by-bryan-christie-national-geographic

Mon, 04 Jun 2012 15:27:58 UTC | #945487

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Comment 6 by HardNosedSkeptic

I admire you for doing that DMRA88. As VrijVlinder says, it is quite wrong for teachers to be “injecting their religious agenda” into science classes. Whenever that happens it should always be challenged, and I’m glad that you’ve resolved to do that from now on.

I’m quite proud of my brother (who is also an atheist) in this regard. When he was an A Level student at a college in Wales, he had a lecturer who insisted on bringing his christian religion into the physics lessons. My brother often challenged him on this point, reminding him that there is no evidence that God played any part in setting the laws of physics, or even that he exists at all for that matter. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in his classroom!

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 22:59:37 UTC | #945773

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Comment 7 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 2 by Grimace :

I commend you for speaking out DMR88. A word of warning though, I worked for a Student Guild (union) for a few years while I was at university and a part of my job was doing academic appeals. I'd advise you to beware of the wrath of an academic who believes they've been wronged.

It was my experience that some academics could be extrordinarily petty and malicious towards a person who they believed had wronged them, even if that "wrong" was petty or minor.

Tell me about it. I was an academic in the eighties and nineties. During that time, I met some of the finest people I have ever known – and also some of the worst.

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 23:05:53 UTC | #945774

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 8 by ccw95005

If you are comforting someone at a time of crisis, your duty is to make it as easy as possible for the patient or family members to get through the experience with a minimum of pain. It that involves bending the truth as you see it to conform with what the patient or family believes, more power to you. If you are more concerned in that situation with being right than in being kind, you should turn over the duty to a nicer, more empathetic person.

No harm in discussing what you believe with your teacher, but never forget that your duty in a situation requiring comforting is to your patient and his or her family, not to the God of reason. On the other hand, if the patient is an atheist or agnostic, a rational discussion as to the reality of death could be comforting.

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 23:42:44 UTC | #945780

DMRA88's Avatar Comment 9 by DMRA88

Thank you all for your comments and insights. Ted, thanks for sharing that. I agree with all of you that in a situation of someone passing on, the only thing that matters is the patient, not my beliefs or anything of my concern. I know that when the time comes that I have to help someone pass on, the only thing on my mind will be to make it the less traumatic for them as I could. Who I am interested in changing their minds about religion, are the people that still have time in this planet. People who can tell others about how everything makes more sense when you see the world through the eyes of science and medicine through the eyes of evolution. It saddens me that in a scientific carrier, there are so many people that don’t understand the true message of science. I have debated my argument a few times since then and it’s kind of become my thing.

Before I found out about Richard Dawkins I was an agnostic and before that I was a Christian (because of my upbringing). I didn’t use to read anything that wasn’t for academic purpose, but since I bought and read The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins), I was hungry for more of this kind of knowledge. Since then I’ve read; The Origins of Species (Charles Darwin), Why We Get Sick (Randolph Nesse and George Williams), A Universe from Nothing (Lawrence Krauss), This Will Make You Smarter (John Brockman), The Portable Atheist (Christopher Hitchens), The Tell-Tale Brain (V. S. Ramachandran). These are all great books and have changed my life in one way or another. I guess what I’m trying to say is that for me, becoming an Atheist has been one of the most positive experiences of my life, and I want to share it with everybody, but specially my fellow medical students, for this is a lifestyle that promotes scientific research and hunger for knowledge and that is something very useful in the field of medicine.

Wed, 06 Jun 2012 02:04:47 UTC | #945793

Quine's Avatar Comment 10 by Quine

Here is a related blog post about saying "Atheist" as in the OP:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/12307896

Wed, 06 Jun 2012 16:46:50 UTC | #945911

VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 11 by VrijVlinder

@DMRA

It is disconcerting to think that academics would lash out negatively over being called on when it comes to theistic personal believes intermixing with scientific content.

Did not occur to me that there would be repercussions to honesty and the pursuit of unadulterated truth.

Who I am interested in changing their minds about religion, are the people that still have time in this planet. People who can tell others about how everything makes more sense when you see the world through the eyes of science and medicine through the eyes of evolution. It saddens me that in a scientific carrier, there are so many people that don’t understand the true message of science. I have debated my argument a few times since then and it’s kind of become my thing.

Yes that also saddens me. Not sure if it is pity though, I am sad for them not for myself. If I was to go to a doctor and he or she demonstrated any subjection to religious beliefs I would find another doctor.

There are doctors who promote their practice to the communities they want to serve. They will advertise themselves as christian doctors. I am not sure how much more trust that would generate. But assuming the way things are, people do respond to godvertising.

I find it highly unethical to mix personal religious beliefs with medicine or any other science for that matter. It makes me wonder what they study more, the bible or actual medicine content?

If it was not for people such as yourself through the ages, we would be in a much worse position now. It is imperative to have a voice of reason in the fields of science. Someone has to keep them honest !!

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 04:12:50 UTC | #946038

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 12 by ccw95005

When I met with my orthopedist before he performed rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder a few years ago, he asked if it would be okay with me if he said a prayer. He knelt beside me and spoke to God. I didn't object, although to my credit I didn't say "Amen", either.

I felt then, and feel now, that his belief in Christianity did not mean that he wasn't competent at his work.

The surgery went well, and the shoulder is fine now.

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 05:21:31 UTC | #946048

VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 13 by VrijVlinder

@ ccw

Yes I thought about you when I posted that . I remember you posting that elsewhere and thought to my self, if I was in your position I would pray too.

Christianity did not mean that he wasn't competent at his work.

Does not make me any more at ease if he has to pray before surgery. I would rather not know he prayed or needs to. You are braver than I am to go under the knife of a doctor with such mentality. But that may be just bias on my part. There is a surgeon on another thread about being invited to a commencement speech at a neuroscience university and this surgeon is a creationist. If I had a brain tumor and he was they best they had and no one else could do the procedure, I might accommodate it. But it would be hard to accept. It goes against so many principles.

I made sure my surgeon was not a man of faith as I was getting rolled into the ER for an emergency appendectomy in a Catholic Hospital called Saint Jude !!

I would not have gone under voluntarily it seemed important to me the man had a clear mind if he was going to mess with my insides. Also requested a picture of the appendage after it was removed since pathology would not allow me to take it home with me like tonsils.

He did comply and gave me a polaroid of my appendix it looked like something disagreeable more so than what I expected. I could see that this doctor was a critical thinker. I trusted him totally.

Could he not be a good surgeon on account of no faith? Maybe not, as you say. What matters is the result and skill level. As long as the incision is made with actual surgical tools and not the hand of god, I suppose it would be ok. I would draw the line at kneeling to pray along though.

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 07:37:29 UTC | #946064

lawrence of arabia's Avatar Comment 14 by lawrence of arabia

Jessica: "For example, I am a piano teacher, and even small children understand that we have hands that resemble other primates." We resemble primates therefore we are (just) a primate? Is that good science?

Sat, 09 Jun 2012 08:09:20 UTC | #946523

VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 15 by VrijVlinder

Comment 14 by lawrence of arabia: We resemble primates therefore we are (just) a primate? Is that good science?

Well, we can always take the meaning of a sentence and make it sound childish when even a child can understand we are not just primates we only resemble them highly based on 99.99999 of their DNA compared to ours. The difference/similarities appearing in chromosomes 1 to 9

If a child or adult wants to understand this association they only need to look at text books or access the info on the internet. Nobody with understanding of evolution thinks we are just primates. However some humans resemble primate limited understanding of science. I can't blame the primate for this.

Sun, 10 Jun 2012 23:16:31 UTC | #946790

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 16 by Alan4discussion

Comment 14 by lawrence of arabia

Jessica: "For example, I am a piano teacher, and even small children understand that we have hands that resemble other primates.

" We resemble primates therefore we are (just) a primate? Is that good science?

No it is a simple statement about primate hands.

Should you wish to learn good science about primate hands, I would suggest you look at the link on comment 5 which you seem to have missed!

Mon, 11 Jun 2012 10:01:26 UTC | #946841