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Go to: Questions for my Los Angeles talk

godskesen's Avatar Jump to comment 84 by godskesen

Given all the debate about what and how atheists should argue in public, our discussion and rejection of religious beliefs and our "tone", can you outline your position on the question of what is the most effective, rational, considerate and moral way to engage in public debates about science, religion, and superstition. Which of those values (effectiveness, rationality, considerateness, and morality) should take precedence if they happen to be incommensurable in a particular case and why? For instance, under which specific circumstances is anger warranted in argumentation and why? And when isn't it? To me, this question is motivated by the ongoing debate which has thus far been characterised by a lot of imprecision and blanket statements and in which you are often singled out as a bad example even though your own "strident and shrill" words are rarely cited. The discussion about tone needs a great deal of clarification if it is to be of any use. It seems to me that the perception of your incivility is based more on a myth or preconceived notion about what you have been saying and how you have said it than anything else. This is a good opportunity to describe the principles by which you decide what to argue when on how.

Oh, and also, congratulations on the award!

Sat, 02 Oct 2010 23:32:46 UTC | #528274

Go to: More than 10,000 people take to the streets to protest against pope

godskesen's Avatar Jump to comment 108 by godskesen

Comment 94 by spmccullagh :

@godseken - the issue here is separation of Catholicism and the Catholic hierarchy. Yes, we take direction from the Magisterium, but there is nothing within the Magisterium I disagree with - and that's why I'm Catholic and always will be.

Catholic priests are men, with all their faults and failings, and yes they are in a position of trust and if they commit crimes they should be punished under law. Do mistakes within the Church lessen my faith in God - absolutely not.

Yes, in that case I will take Catholicism to be a set of factual and moral propositions and as such these are either true or untrue and good or evil. That does mean that they do not have to be defended against the moral failings of the priests or the Vatican. They do, however, have to be defended from challenges on epistemic and scientific grounds. Why on Earth is it reasonable to accept these propositions? You were taught to believe them as a child, I assume, but if instead you were only told about them yesterday would you really find them even remotely believable, knowing what you know about history and science? Care to defend your beliefs?

The people who happen to hold the upper positions of the Catholic Hierarchy, on the other hand, should at the very least live up to the morality they themselves preach, completely inadequate as it is. And yes, the hierarchy is only as good as the people enacting it. Sadly, they have lived up to it some cases (ie. consistently condemning condom use, abortion rights, and stem cell research) and sadly, they haven't in some other cases (ie. protecting victims of abuse and bringing abusers to justice). You have already admitted that some of these are failings on the hierarchy's part - but to you somehow that doesn't show its members to be unfit as your god's representatives here on Earth. How can that be? Instead of complaining about the language of protesters you could have been a conscientious believer without formal denomination who joined in repudiating the Pope for his crimes and inadequacy as a (human substitute for a divine) moral authority. Of course, the authority of the Catholic Hierarchy presupposes the truth and goodness of the propositions of the Catholic Magisterium so you should start by defending those. I'm sure you have studied and understood our challenges of them to the umpteenth degree. (How else could you say that you believe in the Magisterium and will never lose faith in it?)

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 05:54:22 UTC | #523155

Go to: More than 10,000 people take to the streets to protest against pope

godskesen's Avatar Jump to comment 92 by godskesen

Comment 91 by spmccullagh : @Ignorant Amos - Not a generalisation at all - merely a warning on my part about being careful how you express yourselves based upon how it will be perceived.

It's funny how the advice relgious people give to atheists always happens to be of kind that, if followed, would benefit the religious. I wonder why that is.

Instead of giving advice on tone and language you might consider addressing the actual issues. For instance, do you think the church ought to cooperate with the police in investigations of alleged child abuse?(Something it hasn't done.) If not, why? And how do you justify lending your support to an organisation that hasn't cooperated with the police in this way, has put its reputation before the well-being of the children under its "care" and the risk of future abuse? Really, how do you justify lending your support to an organisation that does any of the things Richard Dawkins mentioned in his speech? The present and future quality of life of much of humanity is at stake.

Instead of engaging with the issue of whether the church should assist in bringing its abusive priests to justice (in the judicial system), you have focused on excommunication and added the obvious qualification that priests should be assumed innocent until proven otherwise. Of course! I personally don't really care whether pedophiles are allowed the title of priesthood since I don't consider that to be any kind of authority or badge of honour. What I care about is protecting children and for that reason pedophile should not be allowed any position in which they are responsible for children. That includes priesthood. Another thing I care about is how ordinary Catholics can justify their continued association with and support of the Catholic church when it has shown itself to be utterly morally bankrupt and a danger to children by its complacency towards abuse. I expect my follow human beings to reflect on and be able to justify their actions and non-actions morally, and if unable to do so satisfactorily, to change their behaviour. Outright rejection of the church and the Pope would become Catholics very well. It seems only reasonable to me. I have seen very few serious attempts to do this by any religious group and your personal contributions have, so far, completely ignored this issue.

If you want to "keep your mind active", as you say, how about considering these questions instead of worrying about how other people express their views? I am personally able to do that for myself without your help.

Tue, 21 Sep 2010 11:04:40 UTC | #522570

Go to: More than 10,000 people take to the streets to protest against pope

godskesen's Avatar Jump to comment 68 by godskesen

Comment 67 by Ignorant Amos :

Why are we surprised that this Catholics views fall into line with his sick and twisted religious heroes....they are all suffering from brain rot and don't have what a normal civilised human being has to be able to see what is endemically wrong with his "fucked" up position. Which is the ability to look at the evidence...and come to a rational conclusion.

Are we surprised? :-)

I'd say that the disordering of value priorities of the kind spmccullagh displays is a good example of why children should not be taught to be afraid of their own thoughts and feelings. Clerics take everything a human being could possibly hold dear hostage by telling the wee ones that they can only have happy and worthwhile lives with friends and loved ones if they believe what they're told and repress all their questions and critical thinking. It's sad. Like, really sad.

But good on you, Ignorant Amos, for calling spmccullagh on his bullshit use of the Orange Order. It wasn't until after the edit-window had closed that It occurred to me that it was possibly an instance of the Catholic persecution complex and definitely a threatened ad hominem by association... and so I decided to let it slide. I guess my Catholic-Bullshit detection device must be off today.

Mon, 20 Sep 2010 18:41:25 UTC | #522121

Go to: More than 10,000 people take to the streets to protest against pope

godskesen's Avatar Jump to comment 63 by godskesen

@ spmccullagh:

"Fuck the Pope, not children" is a good slogan, crude as it is.

Am I reading this right, or is this some kind of mistake you'll no doubt retract?

Yes, you're reading it right, and no, I won't.

The issue here is that statements like that are not those of someone intellectual - language of that nature is not helpful. If you are claiming to come from a rational stance you need to demonstrate that in your demeanour. The only other people I've ever heard chant "Fuck the Pope" are Orange Order and associates around July 12th - and by acting in the same manner you risk being tarred with the same brush.

What a weird position you hold. Being intellectual isn't a matter of not using swear words. It's a matter of reasoning well and communicating one's thoughts honestly. Not being British I know very little about the Orange Order but I think I'll risk you considering me (or atheists in general) "tarred". Religious people tend to give lousy advice to atheists (and women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, people of other races, political opponents, and so on) and anyway, I can see nothing wrong with what I actually wrote.

You have to admit though, chanting what was being chanted is not the mark of an intellectual crowd. I get that there's negative emotion, and when it comes to those who have experienced abuse at the hands of Catholic Priests I completely understand it. But not everyone there was the victim of abuse.

No, I don't have to admit that. An intellectual crowd might chant whatever. The reasoning it uses to reach a position of either approval or disapproval is what makes it intellectual, not words it uses to express the views in question. Further, are you saying that people who have not been abused should not feel or express negative emotion, or only very little emotion? That's awfully close to trivialising the abuse of children, I would say. I express the feelings I do towards religious leaders because of the sympathy I feel for the victims of very serious abuse and oppression. You, on the other hand seem more concerned with profane language - just words.

Are you implying that those with beliefs have no intellectual ability? Further who are you to decide on the beliefs of others? You are perfectly entitled to have no beliefs regarding God.

No, I'm not, and neither am I trying decide anything of the kind. I'm saying that on intellectual (or rational, philosophical, or scientific or whatever) grounds religious beliefs are extremely likely to be wrong and quite a few particular religious beliefs can be shown beyond any doubt to be false. All people ought (in an epistemic sense) to recognise this.

Mon, 20 Sep 2010 14:54:07 UTC | #521989

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