Comments

1
Boy, talk about throwing out the baby with the (baptismal) water. This completely ignores all the good that has been done and is being done in the name of religion. Martin Luther King Jr. is but one example of someone who was motivated to make the world a better place precisely because of his religious beliefs.
2
Oh, this is a fun twist in the approved Leftist narrative:
Now that Islamic terror is on the march again (how many incidents since 9/11? Check Wiki if you want) the Stranger brain trust busts out the "End Religion" socialist nonsense.

Re-read your Plato: it's vital for non-philosophers to have a faith for family/community cohesion, and to help them cope with the inevitable sufferings of life.

Since not everyone can comprehend "The Void", Existentialism, quantum physics, or whatever else brings solace to intellectual nonbelievers, it's important, then, that the local faith be one of humility, peace, and forgiveness. I'm not a Christian, but as a rational person who values the safety of nonbelievers, skepticism, dissent, and modernity, I'd prefer to live in a country founded by followers of this faith, flawed as it was at the time.

3
is it possible to give hope to the oppressed and still kill Jihadis in the meantime?

the triumph of reason over superstition takes generations. in the meantime, guns and religion are clutched ever tighter, and must be dealt with now. Boko Haram isn't going to stop killing until they're dead or out of ammunition.

4
Pundit's fallacy. Everyone should always be suspicious of "this tragedy shows we should commit to this agenda I already wanted to commit to for largely independent reasons" arguments like this. Any serious attempt to understand political violence wouldn't or couldn't put religion at the center of it. It can aggravate intra-group ideologically driven conflict, but also occasionally mitigate it. On balance it probably makes things worse.

I appreciate you talking about discrediting religion rather than fighting it or diminishing it, but that gives away the game. The relevant social psychology literature tells us pretty clearly that "discrediting" deeply held is more likely to cause the believer to double down rather than abandon them (see: Nyhan et als experiment with the anti-vaxxers, which I believe was covered here).

If humans shift away from religion, it'll almost certainly be for poorly understood and largely uncontrolled reasons. There's no clever strategy to make it happen, and no plausible strategy to move the ball down that particular road has been discovered that is remotely consistent with respect for a free and open society. Furthermore, there's ample evidence that religion can be entirely consistent with the best and least violent approaches to live humans have yet discovered, and irreligious world-views consistent with all manner of mayhem. Making this all about the inherent evils of religion isn't taking it seriously, at the end of the day it's not qualitatively different than what anti-immigrant types are doing; using a tragedy to advance their pre-existing agenda. Don't be like them.
5
If you're going to bring up Reza Aslan I think his book "How to Win a Cosmic War" is the most relevant to current events (and probably his best.) The basic premise: If you let fundamentalists set the terms of the conflict then you've lost. Daesh wants the biggest war it can get. It wants refugees stuck at every border in the world. It wants America to declare that we're a Christian country and we'll fight for Christianity. Basically it wants what the Republicans will happily give it.
6
What about that pesky first amendment Sean?
7
@4
It's far better to have otherwise impulsive, aggressive people believing that the highest virtues are embodied by the sufferings of Christ, rather than some remnant of a medieval warrior ethos.

I still don't understand why Leftists would prefer that angry, intellectually incurious young men worship violent rap stars or athletes instead of the (albeit possibly fictional) personification of universal love and forgiveness. If it's all spectacle and image and fiction anyway, wouldn't it be better if the rowdier folks learned to sit respectfully (and introspectively) so that they could do better in school and, perhaps, think twice before harming others or themselves?
9
Atheism has nothing comparable to religion's "blasphemy." We don't behead people for disagreeing. If any progress is to be made it will necessarily start with someone as confrontational and gleefully, deliberately offensive as Bill Mahr.
10
@6
They're after the 1st and 2nd, both.
@0
While I'm sure no contemporary, Western atheist, borne out of a golden rule and forgiveness culture (thanks, Christianity!) would ever do these things, it's a fact that many brutal purges have been committed by ostensibly "socialist" regimes against religious people. Asia, mainly.
11
Here's the thing: Most people (outside of the crazies) regard their religion like they do their sports teams - you're a Catholic/protestant/etc because you're always been a Catholic/protestant/etc

And most people (outside fo the crazies) are pretty calm about their religion - until you get them riled up about it. Telling people they shouldn't be religious does absolutely nothing to eliminate the crazies, and just irks the other religious people. So you are essentially doing nothing but being self-aggrandizing, and telling people that you are smarter than they are, which is no way to win an argument.

Maybe what we really need to concentrate on are the governments that use religion as an excuse or a deflection for the crappy way their deal with their citizens.
12
@8: Obviously, I wrote "first" - that pretty unambiguous.
13
I kind of missed the "historic mobilization of the atheist movement that followed 9/11", but maybe you are talking about atheist trolls like Hitchens and Maher (and Dan Savage in a moment of mindless [parental?] fear) who used Islamophobia to boost their name recognition through Limbaugh style hate spreading. Not much "movement" there.

But, otherwise I agree with your arguments as a general proposition. The vast percentage of Anti-science and "reality is relative to what I want to believe" religious believers in the US is certainly a key factor in our supporting stupid illogical and horrible actions like the Iraq invasion that directly led to the birth of ISIS.

[Does Maher somehow believe he can't hold on to enough his primarily white audience without xenophobia to spice up his regular offerings? Maybe being a "liberal" made him feel "un-macho". And certainly Hitchens damaged his own legacy severly by going down this road.]
14
@11 nails it.
15
Here's a question: how many have died in the name of Marx/"the state"/"the people" vs. Jesus in the last 100 years? I think humans have certainly shown they don't need spiritualism for slaughter.
16
@13

Uh, totally agree with you about Bush and Neocons, but this arming of Syrian "rebels" disaster (and massive drone strikes) is on Obama (who should have known better?) and quite a number of Dems who voted in favor of the Iraq War. Yes, I know the flyover churchians are a fun target here on the coast, but they aren't calling the shots at the Pentagon.

Obama is the commander-in-chief.
17
@13 I do not believe relgious and spiritual believers are all anti-science or "reality is relative to what I want to believe" religious believers, and many are waay less so than me, but the belief one can have a alternate existance when this one ends certainly makes one more vulnerable to appeals to immediate short term emotions that may be contrary long term logical thinking focussed on family, humanity, and the real future.
18
How much Bill Maher do you people even watch? "Atheist Troll"? He's not the deepest thinker (perhaps he needs to re-read Plato), but he's also the only person on television who'll call himself an Atheist or even address the elephant in the room.
19
"but the belief one can have a alternate existance when this one ends certainly makes one more vulnerable to appeals to immediate short term emotions that may be contrary long term logical thinking focussed on family, humanity, and the real future."

The Left is all about instant gratification, so try again. The idea that people keep it in their pants to avoid disease, or limit their sexual affections to lifelong partners isn't something we can even consider anymore without being called "facsists".

The Left has midwifed (though misguided good intentions) the global atomization of families and communities. People have been turned into consumption machines devoid of long term thinking, but it's #awesome because now 13 year old girls can dress like Beyonce and we've stopped "hate" or whatever.
20
@16 Agree. On the other hand, Obama isn't an atheist, is he? That's snark. I know.

I'm not talking about Democrat or Republican. I'm talking about vulnerability to appeals that are illogical. The Democratic party is also heavily allied with and obedient too those at the top of the economic status quo which also drives a lot of war related policy because of the vast amounts of money to be made and shifted from other public uses, but they don't seem to be as crazy or illogical at the moment in the way they go about it. Also, individual Democrats may not be willing to act in what they see as the best way if it will put them in conflict with the short term beliefs and emotions of their constituents. Certainly, a lot of Republicans are in this situation right now, some of them even taking their own weird Republican high road out of office, knowing themselves unable to muster the level of crazy now required by their GOP constituency.
21
Glad to know that no one wants to acknowledge the complete horrors committed in the name of religion. Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
22
@20
It's a mess. I've abandoned both parties.
The Straussian Neocons are criminals, and yes it's very sad many of their former constituents are still hoowinked, but the Dems serve the same masters, ultimately.

You community is now global corporate property.
23
Please consider the concept of pathological dualism, wherein the world is divided between those who are unimpeachably good and those who are irredeemably bad as a justification for the former to eliminate the latter, and the ability of religion itself to confront and overturn that outlook. See the opinion by David Brooks in today's NYT on religion, respect and justice:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/17/opinio…
24
Atheism has nothing comparable to religion's "blasphemy."

Atheism per se, no. Secular/atheistic ideologies sure do, though, there were very clear secular equivalents of blasphemy in Stalinism, Maoism, Khmerism, etc, wtih similarly bloody consequences. Racist/ethnic murderous ideologies that have nothing to do with religion come up with similar concepts as well. Nothing unique here.
25
I kind of missed the "historic mobilization of the atheist movement that followed 9/11", but maybe you are talking about atheist trolls like Hitchens and Maher (and Dan Savage in a moment of mindless [parental?] fear) who used Islamophobia to boost their name recognition through Limbaugh style hate spreading. Not much "movement" there.

Yeah, what we had there was a string of books that flattered their readers into thinking they were the pinnacle of human history. What's striking about the new atheists is the way in which they so obviously and obliviously replicate the worst and most obnoxious aspects of religious groups--the arrogance, the insistence on turning one's theological worldview into the basis of a belligerent identity politics, etc.
26
I'm Jewish.
Of all the groups who have declared my faith and my people a threat to society and civilization and called for it to be removed from the Earth, I should not have thought I'd have to add modern atheists to the list.

My God informs me that I am to honor His creation by engaging in tikkun olam (literally "repairing the world") and to celebrate His gift of life by pursuing justice, standing as a shield against oppression, and welcoming the stranger and the downtrodden. Sorry about all that.
27
Careful Sean, another stranger writer might call you a racist for this post.
28
@26: and he commands the West Bank Settlers to do what they do, as well. aren't they "repairing" the West Bank?

again, we're having "No True Scotsman" arguments. obviously, Daesh aren't practicing Islam "correctly", but they are practicing.
29
This post exemplifies not reason, but xenophobic ideation ...which is, after all, the quintessential mark of human nature.
30
The majority of terrorist attacks in the US and abroad are not conducted in the name of any religion. (See http://www.start.umd.edu/sites/default/f… and http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/01/0…) The vast majority of either religious or non-religious people do not commit acts of terrorism. The problem is not religion. The problem is terrorism. I say all of this as an atheist.
31
@28 haha yeah, i love the way christians aren't following the bible yet they are citing the bible directly to justify their behavior.

Any one that doesn't think Jesus was cranky, angry, firebrand hasn't even read the king james bible let alone any of the other texts were he's actually killing people in some sort of koan lesson for the masses. That dude was an asshole.
32
"Glad to know that no one wants to acknowledge the complete horrors committed in the name of religion."

Oh, I think people acknowledge it. They just don't care. The justification they use is that was somebody else's religion. Or their religion, but it's different now.

And, to be fair, if religion hadn't caused the atrocities, something else would have. Humans are just sort of rotten when it comes to that.
33
If you want to make normal people do horrendous things, just tell them god is on their side.
34
It boils down to free will and whether the state should have control over that. Those who advocate that it should are our adversaries, whether they're extreme left or extreme right.
35
@26 "Of all the groups who have declared my faith and my people a threat to society and civilization and called for it to be removed from the Earth, I should not have thought I'd have to add modern atheists to the list."

Who did that? When did that happen? Did someone say you should all be killed? Or are you comparing getting your mind changed by a sustained education program to being murdered?
36
Cosigned with @11. Religion is used as a manipulative tool QUITE OFTEN but that seems like more of an issue than religious people or the existence of religion itself.
37
@35: Where did I say anything about being murdered?
38
@35: So how would a (rather chilling sounding) "sustained education program" reconcile with the University of Washington's (being a pubic University) religious studies curriculum?
39
@28: And in the USA, Republican-led state governments are making it hard for poor people and minorities to vote, all in the name of protecting democracy.
There's No True Scotsman, and then there's the explicit teachings of a way of thinking being subverted in no uncertain terms.
40
@39

You mean by requiring ID? Those heartless bastards. First they start with trying to enforce immigration laws, then they require citizens use a friggin' ID card to vote.
What's next for these fascist monsters?

Funny thing YOU NEED ID to do anything, and we have to get our junk groped at the airport because, sing it with me children, "one of these is not like the other".
41
Freud said it best, religion will always be with us as long as people fear death.
42
@2 - Presumes that humility, peace, and forgiveness are the lessons most Christians have taken from Christianity. One could argue that more censorious impulses and anxiety regarding the "other" have won out when it comes to contemporary religious expression.

As a religious practitioner who believes in no deity or afterlife, I agree, actually, that religion has a net-positive role to play in the way we understand the universe, and if I had a lot of time, I might get into that here ... except, by and large, the free exercise of religion (or, by extension, irreligion) is more threatened by anthropomorphic monotheists, or even by neo-Christian social constructivists like you, than by atheists.

@7 - I think celebrity worship, when it isn't simply honest admiration of artistic merit, is borne more of our lack of monarchy than lack of religion. We seem wired to desire an elevated caste, being a naturally hierarchical animal. And again, the notion that Christianity preaches love and forgiveness ignores that it elevates belief, which is not volitional, over works; that this forgiveness comes at the cost of accepting a definition of sin that offers no recourse to reason or negotiate its ethical chains of causation; and that the flip side of forgiveness is damnation.

@10 - Only shows that an atheocracy is just as dangerous as a theocracy. I support neither.

@19 - Please; in economic terms, the right is just as enamored of instant gratification as is the left. They just frame it in terms of property, where the left will tend to frame it in terms of pleasure. Both have their drawbacks and limitations, and I agree that we could all afford to think more deeply about consequences, but facile moralizing like yours, borne of finger-wagging school marms, is as much the enemy as licentious hedonism, as it draws a hard line between traditional strictures that can never serce everyone and thoughtless, amoral licentiousness, without any recourse to nuance, moderation, informed consent, or experimentation (without which my own nearly 20 year marriage would be awfully boring).
43
@39: we're discussing religion, not politics. regardless, I'd argue those republicans are practicing Conservatism correctly: from a place of fear.
44
I don't normally comment unless I have something valuable to add to a conversation, but in the face of so many negative responses, I just wanted to say that I agree with your well written article. I think our world would be a much nicer place with even a slight de-emphasis on religion.
45
@42
I'm no "finger wagging school marm" by any stretch, but if you want to get real about it: the right wingers encourage low IQ people to marry, have a couple kids, and hold down jobs. Boring and conforminst, maybe? It's certainly not for me.

The lefties tell low IQ people to f**k anything in sight (rock and roll! Jezebel! no slut shaming!) and demand that the unhip folks pick up the tab for their kids or HIV.

The problem is, once again, that freedom is nice if you can handle it, but expecting people to do the right thing (i.e. don't make expensive problems for the neighbors) without some sort of religion is far fetched. The average IQ hovers around 100.
46
@40 I'm genuinely curious... Are you a troll, or are you really that stupid?
47
After reading @45, I'm leaning towards stupid.
48
@47
You can do better than that.
If you really want to stick it to me, tell how badly we need prison reform and try it has nothing to do with absentee fathers, after calling me a "douche bro" or something. You can do it!
49
@47
You must be another lefty genius who'd prefer the village idiots form gangs and shoot each other after siring 20 kids each. Seems sustainable.
51
@47: He does seem like he's a contender for the title. Balio better step up his game if he wants to keep that crown......
52
I'm an atheist, but I don't agree with this at all. I believe religion is a crutch, but crutches are vital in certain circumstances--and for the vast majority of people who are believers religion is huge comfort when bad things happen. I see the problem as fear of people who are different and fear of the unknown--which seems to be hard wired in humans. I don't have any answer on how to deal with that.
53
@50
Is that some of that "Islamic Science" you guys keep going on about?
54
@53: Oh no, just regular science.

http://m.livescience.com/18132-intellige…
55
Nice link.
Unfortunately, I'm not a racist, just a realist.
56
@55: Just answering your question.

I'm afraid that having examined a cross section of your comments in the short time you have been with us that the evidence does not support your self assessment.
57
Well, unfortunately, there are much worse fates than being called "racist".

A few spring to mind: deluded liberal, cultural cuckold, childless ruiner of futures, kaffir (look that one up, brainiac!) or self-loathing Facebook xenophile.

At least the racists had a few decent flags, even if they were hopelessly stuck in the 19th century.
58
Ditching religion won't suddenly destroy racism. Lord knows how many racist atheists I know 😭
59
@58: A very good point indeed.
60
There's no way to combat religious extremism with "reason" -- those things don't correspond to each other in the slightest. But I'd argue it's not religion making terrorists so angry in the first place. Religion is the most convenient, most established and ready-to-wield, way for them to link up with each other under a common set of goals; even if you somehow magically managed to eradicate it, they'd just use some other tool for the same purpose. If it were just religion causing the violence, religious extremists would constitute the majority of humankind, not the minority. They clearly do not. (And, in fact religious extremists don't even make up the majority of terrorists, as @30 pointed out above.)

Instead of focusing on religion like it's something you can isolate and address singularly, it makes more sense to me to try to dig around for the REAL causes of this kind of violence and work to address those instead. In that regard, I think Nelson is right when he says we need to stop pretending "Big Shari'a is just some big monolith of Wrongness" and focus instead of the "extreme poverty, social injustice, and institutionalized racism" (among other things) that are actually to blame for a lot of what is going on. Those ARE things you can combat with "reason, love, and respect." But we can't do that until we get past this stupid block in our thinking that makes us think that somehow we just need to make people stop believing in the things that make sense to them and all will be well. As if we could. As if that's even remotely possible. As if "love and respect" play no part in that too. Being more aggressive as atheists won't do us any more good than being more aggressive as Muslims, Christians, or whatevers would -- none of these "belief systems" can play a role in fixing this in the first place, and the more we keep pretending they can, the worse this is going to get.
61
@57: I must say I am intrigued by your list and the peek into your psyche it affords us.
I have a few questions.
1.Is it your contention that to be the victim of a racial slur, in this example "kaffir", is more morally reprehensible than to be the person deploying said slur? Or that it is more painful to be the victim of racism than to be a racist?

2. In light of current climate science, and the detrimental effects of over population, can you explain how being childless, in your view, would have a negative effect, i.e. "ruin" the future? Unless you were referring to childless white people allowing brown people to get ahead in the numbers game? Be careful in your response. Remember, you're a realist, not a racist!

3. What, other than illiterative, is a cultural cuckold?

In conclusion, I agree that to be called delusional and self loathing must indeed sting, as I'm sure you know from copious personal experience.
62
@40: Here's how it works:
1. require that very certain forms of ID be presented in order to vote
2. charge a fee for those forms of ID, and have the issuing offices only open during the 9-5 M-F work week
3. close offices in majority-minority districts
4. ???
5. profit
There's a reason that courts have repeatedly struck down voter ID laws as unconstitutional, amounting in effect to poll taxes by imposing unreasonable burden on those trying to vote.
Say, aren't you guys the ones throwing a holy shit fit whenever someone suggests that people be required to show ID and have their background check clear before they're allowed to purchase a deadly weapon?

@45, 48, 49: Cute strawman, but most stores have already stopped selling harvest decorations.

@57: So are you calling anyone any of those names, or is anyone calling you them, or are you just here for Trivia Night?

@54: FUCKSAKE POST A REAL SOURCE
NOT THIS SCIENCE NEWS BULLSHIT
http://pss.sagepub.com/content/23/2/187.…
http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/23/6/454.…
63
@62: I beg your pardon, but dear god man! You're the scientist, and you weren't here!
64
@45 - My contention was less that you are a finger-wagging school marm than that you seem to believe that some people can only ever be saved by one - that you either buy into that line of reasoning or you support its use as a regulatory measure. Which is fine, if you limit its application to self-regulation or, where it's not demonstrably oppressive to children (like, say, subjecting them to aversion therapies to "cure" homosexuality or keep them from masturbating, or asking them to disavow their gay or lesbian parents for their apostasy in order to be accepted in the religious community), intra-familial regulation.

As someone married and holding down multiple jobs, I have no issue with wanting that for any loved one, of whatever IQ ... if the person in question is fundamentally capable of being happy in such a situation. But I don't think that contraception, STD testing, and such are beyond the median level of intelligence; nor do I think universal healthcare that includes access to family planning services and comprehensive sex education are unreasonable amenities for society to provide.
65
If fair Reason were here, she'd probably want to know how certain claims stack up against available Evidence.

In the bloody 20th century, dogmatically atheist ideologies accounted for more slaughter of innocents than all other causes put together ... where "all other causes" included ethnocultural turf battles, partisan and factional turf battles, colonial actions, wars of national liberation, ordinary revolutions (progessive or otherwise) and counterrevolutions, commercial turf battles (over narcotics, fossil fuels, timber, and other resources/opportunities), fringe/fantasist ideologies, personality cults, and individual grudges.
( see http://ourworldindata.org/data/war-peace… )

Some leading actors in the less bloody 21st century (so far) have expressed religious motivations ... but not to an extent that would allow a reasonable person to conclude religion itself is THE problem, even in this 15-year window.
66
@63: scholar.google.com
Use it. Love it. And if you see a science news article and want to find a real source for it, Google Scholar search the name of the author(s) and a keyword or two.
67
@66: Oooo thank you!
69
Liberal_Censorship, I honestly think you'd have better discussions here if your user name wasn't so "gadflyish." You've made a lot of good points, and much of what you say isn't racist or bigoted in any way (maybe slightly conservative, but so what? Conservatism isn't always a bad thing). I dare say that most reasonable people would agree with many of your comments and be able to have rational discussion on disagreements, if only your user name wasn't trolling their emotions.

Your user name makes most liberals here knee-jerk disagree with you before they've even read what you have to say. They automatically impose a bigoted spin on every comment. That's my only rationale for why some of your otherwise benign comments get such harsh reactions.
70
You can't have the good that religion brings without having the bad. There's a good piece about it here arguing that … I think the only way is education.
71
I am an atheist myself, but atheism is not a panacea. Secular ideologies such as communism and fascism have caused as much death and destruction as religion. Think Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, Mugabe, etc. Moreover, there can be no civilization without guns to defend it.
72
@69 - I suspect that Liberal_Censorship is, in fact, the artist formerly known as Mad_at_Dad, whose troll credentials need no vetting. I could be wrong; it really doesn't matter to my point. I have done him the immense kindness of addressing him as an equal, speaking to his points in some detail, and inviting him to speak to what strike me as contradictions and generalizations that undermine his points. There's nothing "harsh" in that.

The ball is in his court.
73
Really? You seriously want to talk about atheism and God? OK, fine.

I am not an atheist. I’m a Christian. But I think the Bible is fallible. It was written by people with imperfect perception and imperfect abilities to explain what they perceive imperfectly. What they were trying to do is explain God and in many instances they did so very poorly. But in other cases they did a pretty good job.

For instance: Matthew Chapter 25 which ends with, and I paraphrase Jesus talking: However you treat the least of your brothers, you treat me. He was referring to how people treat people they don't like. Jesus says, clothe them when they're naked and feed them when they're hungry and shelter them when they are homeless. It doesn't get more to the core of being Christian than that.

But there is another kind of “Christianity” called Christian Identity. Like all identity movements, it is more about group affiliation and an attachment of one’s identity to that of the group which supercedes anything having to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ. That’s what most American Christians are today. Timothy McVeigh was one. But, of course, not all Christians or even people given to Christian Identity are terrorists, right?

The politicians opposing giving shelter to Syrian refugees are self proclaimed Christians, but they aren’t really. They are members of the Christian Identity movement. Real Christians think these guys are assholes. But it's complicated trying to do something about it.

I think that's what real Muslims think of their assholes who, if they're not killing people, they're mouthing off, like chanting "Allahu Akbar" during a moment of silence for Paris at a football match in Turkey. They also have people who believe more in a Muslim Identity movement than in the teachings of Mohammad. And I think it's complicated for them to do something about it, maybe more complicated than it is for Christians.

Religion is a Rorshcach. If you bring peace to it, you get peace back. If you bring hate to it, you get hate back. I think maybe the same thing applies to atheism.

So I am not sure Jesus really existed. I hope so. But I don’t think that’s so important anyway. What I do think is important is what the Jesus story is trying to say. There is divinity in humanity. There is also a great deal of evil in humanity. That’s the devil story. Our default setting, alas, tends more toward hate, fear, anger, racism, selfishness … than love, generosity, grace, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, respect, trust. And these better angels of our nature’ as Lincoln called them are the way, I believe the only way, we as humans connect with God. Atheists must have a way to differentiate and get there as well. Logic, I guess. But it’s really hard to love your enemy using logic. Possible? Yup. Hard though.

So when people of a religion do hateful, horrible things, they aren’t actually being religious. They are simply following the base instincts, their animal impulses, they were born with and they are using religious identity — not religion itself — as a means to justify it. I don’t think it matters how you find a way to transcend those base impulses, but I will say that religion is one way to do it. There are many others. But they’re hard.

They’re all hard if you do them right. Most don’t bother.
74
@72, for sure not everyone here is fighting with him. I'm sorry I made it out to sound that way. I'm not familiar with Mad_at_Dad. I've only just recently started reading and commenting outside of Dan Savage's blog. But, man, it just seems to me that Lib_Cen has some interesting and smart takes on things, but he/she can't join in the discussion in any conducive way because of the unfortunate choice of user names.

I think that happens often with smaller sites. People get reputations, and some are popular and others are not, and it's not always earned or deserved either way.
75
@74: I think I can explain his choice of moniker, if you like.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Troll harassing Kelly O, but over the week end they were stinking up the joint and I had gone in and informed them that they were vile, I was flagging all their comments and if I had anything to do with it they’d be banned by Monday. It was at that point that L_C made their 1st appearance (sporting a screen name which I’m sure they felt was a clarion call but was more of an example of their own confirmation bias) accusing me, as a typical liberal, of censoring a “differing opinion”. I pointed out that accusing Ansel of being a whore and pedophile was not a differing opinion but abusive language which fell within the parameters laid down by Slog of reportable behavior.
Which was why I was reporting the troll and not him.
Loathe to let go of his preconceived notions he felt sure that I would soon be reporting him as well, but I assured him that if he stayed on topic and didn’t fling poo, that I most certainly would not. (I mean really why would I?)
He then declared Slog “weak”, since all we talked about here were buttholes, but couldn’t “handle a few raw posts”.
Lest us pause for a moment and note that he compared the contents of a sex advice column with accusing Ansel of raping Haitian children as deserving equal attention and consideration. 0_o

He then asked “who died and made me the recess monitor” to which I replied Sister Vagina Immaculata, and he retired for the evening.

So yes, now here he is, freely (despite his fears) expressing his differing opinions and stuck with a particular petulant screen name.
Quel dommage.
76
@74 - Intelligence and validity of talking points are pretty subjective outside of the hard sciences (though one can identify good or bad writing; Liberal_Censorship's is acceptably middling), so I won't argue as to the validity of his particular points. But I fail to see how this ...

"The lefties tell low IQ people to f**k anything in sight (rock and roll! Jezebel! no slut shaming!) and demand that the unhip folks pick up the tab for their kids or HIV."


... amounts to the sort of thing to which one can or should expect reasoned response. That I bother to offer him any is a matter of who I like to think I am, but I can't blame others for lacking similar aspirations.
77
For Christ's sake...
78
@77: Well, ya know. Freeze Peach and all that. :)
79
so here’s a question- is atheism an equivalent belief system to religion? It certainly sets itself up as an alternative, which suggests that it sees itself as, and maybe is actually, another belief system. If that's true, there is no ground to talk about how it's better than religion without being arrogant- it’s just another flavor. Even if atheism is provably better (is it circular to use reason to justify a rational system like atheism?) atheism won't avoid being arrogant, bigoted even, if it continues talking about how religion is invalid and needs to be replaced. even if it's better, it shouldn't seek to vilify the alternatives. this is precisely the same place where religions get their justification for murder.
Sean has identified an occurrence here (people made desperate, then doing desperate violent things) that he acknowledges has nothing to do with religion, but then points the finger at religion for….making it worse i guess? justifying what desperate people want to do anyway? am i wrong? he proposes doing more to alleviate human suffering, in the service of getting rid of religion. why is this the end goal? there are judgements here that aren't really supported. I don’t think its clear that religion is definitively evil; religion certainly has problems, and should change so it can't be used to excuse murder and cruelty, but it has good solutions too. Atheism also has problems, and intolerance is one of them, i’ve seen it over and over. In my opinion, Sean is confusing the fact that religion has problems, with religion being the problem.
it's more likely that human people are the problem- in this I agree with Sean, that people often make life intolerable for other people. i'm going to be kind of a jerk and point out that atheism when coupled with humanism requires faith in people, so when people are the problem and you are a humanist, you need to get serious about your faith and keep believing that people can figure it out, rather than blaming other belief systems. it's not humanist to only believe in the potential of atheists. nor to only believe in the potential for people to change their minds and become atheists, but not to believe in the potential of religious people.
I don’t deny that there is a religious foundation to isis terorism- the terrorists say so explicitly and use text to back it up. this is a problem with religion, the system should be made better so it can't be used this way, but it doesnt make the whole system invalid. Over the centuries religions have changed how they practice, the rules they prioritize, the interpretations of text, and i think it's possible we are living through islam's reformation/schism/enlightenment or something. We should do absolutely everything we can to prevent murder and cruelty, but expanding the battle of beliefs will not help. Let's not throw the atheist log on that fire by saying it's the answer, especially considering atheism has the same potential for bigotry as religion. Atheists are only human.
80
@79 - You ask an interesting question at the beginning. I would say that no, atheism isn't comparable to any given religion, since the question of deity is one of presupposition; religion comes at least a step after. Theism, atheism, pantheism, panentheism ... these are intuitive assumptions about how the universe works, all equally unprovable, and while they may be reasoned ex post facto, they tend to be foundations of later beliefs that one might call religious.

I basically agree with what you say, but I do wonder how one can escape abusing a system wherein a conscious, morally preoccupied deity hands down an ethical blueprint and demands belief (which isn't even a volitional act). I don't think you can create a sustainable system for moral reasoning that doesn't leave a margin for epistemic barriers to faith or disagreement with doctrine.
81
@37- You claimed that someone was threatening to remove your people. Unless you were claiming someone wanted to ship y'all to the off world colonies that don't exist, I'd have to assume you meant murder. You're getting bad venomlash. You never used to be this disingenuous.
82
Yes. Let's start talking seriously about Atheism. What is you "uncaused cause?" What came first? What caused whatever caused the Big Bang? Do you have enough faith to believe that this universe had no beginning?
83
@82 - Interesting questions, but not really so threatening to the atheistic worldview as theists seem to think (in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a pantheist with thoughts on the matter somewhere between Bruno and Spinoza with a dash of de Sade, so I'm really not speaking on behalf of my own beliefs). A good many so-called "soft" atheists would say that atheism, or at least their atheism, isn't a positive belief that there is/are no [G/g]od(s), but a lack of positive belief in deity, a default assumption that what cannot be made apparent through empiricism or deductive/inductive reason can safely be assumed not to exist until either evidence arises or a line of deductive/inductive reasoning comes into play that not allows for the possibility, but logically demands it.

There are theories which suggest a universe without beginning; I, for one, am happy to refrain from taking on any position of certainty on matters so rife with guesswork. I do feel safe enough saying that no answer, including "I just don't know," is any less satisfying than the notion of a conscious, morally preoccupied being, as clear as it seems that such attributes only arrived after millions, perhaps billions of years of evolution, and that these attributes are fundamentally inter-subjective (meaning that they only exists by way of the relationship of one organism to another, which suggests that a conscious deity could only develop consciousness or morality in the presence of another of the same ... which begins to suggest another lifeform, another universe, another set of rules, and then we're back to infinite regression).
84
@81: I'm not talking about the present; I'm talking about the future, as is Mr. Nelson. I'm talking about him calling my people's culture and identity "a threat to civilization" and calling for our assimilation and conversion. It's EXACTLY the same thing as what other proselytizing religions have done to us, except that (for now) we're not being threatened with force.
Atheists who proselytize are worse, in principle, than theists who proselytize, because they don't even have the excuse of scripture telling them to foist their ideology on others.

@43: But they don't claim it's to uphold conservatism; they're claiming to uphold democracy. Is democracy now fatally flawed because injustices that go directly against it have been committed in its name?
85
@82- It takes exactly zero faith to say "I'll wait for some evidence." The idea that the universe needs a creator is a persistent meme, but there is not a convincing argument. If the universe needs a creator, does the creator need a creator? If the creator doesn't need a creator, why should the universe need a creator?

@84- So what you're saying is if you think you have a good idea it is a bad idea to try to get other people to share your good idea? And that convincing other people to believe your good idea is morally equivalent to genocide?
86
@84- And also you are calling every secular Jew no longer a Jew. Which is surprisingly fundamentalist of you.
87
@85: Who's to say that your idea is good? Or that it's good for all people? That's the rationale behind all proselytizing. "We need to drag those backwards superstitious rubes into the light of the new age of reason" has essentially the same logic as "we need to convert the heathens so they'll be saved and go to Heaven, even if it means sending them there directly". Any evangelical Christian you speak to will say that their beliefs are the true and correct ones and should be accepted by all.
Forced cultural assimilation, by the way, IS the killing of a people without the killing of people.

@86: [citation needed] you drillbit.
88
Telling us that we need to get rid of "religion" is like saying we need to get rid of people. There is no such thing as "religion" apart from the people who practice it, and all societies since the beginning of time have had spiritual belief systems. Of course, all societies have included non-believers too, but it would be a mistake to conclude that the atheists were the ones using their reason while the believers were not--many religious people form their faith by exercising their reason, as even a superficial scan of spiritual literature will attest. It is plain that the religious impulse is deeply entrenched in human nature, and the idea that we could somehow erase it with arguments and persuasion is a pipe dream. (And as other commenters have mentioned, non-religious regimes have perpetrated plenty of violence, so absence of religion does not bring peace on earth.)

That's not to say all religions, and all followers of religion, are the same. There is a wide gulf between the Quaker who abhors all violence and the radical Islamist who straps on a suicide vest. The place for reason and persuasion is in that gulf, arguing for better beliefs (and laws) that benefit all, religious or not. These arguments can effect real change without having to dismantle people's faith. For instance, as a young Christian I believed that homosexuality was wrong; when I learned more about it I changed my view. We all must advocate for peace and justice no matter what our belief systems may be.
89
@87- So what you're saying is "Everyone should just keep their ideas to themselves."

What a terribly stagnant world that would be. I very much doubt you actually want that. You are just pissy about your ox getting gored. I do not believe anyone shouldn't share their ideas, and everyone is free to accept or reject them. Everyone needs to analyse their own ideas. Everyone is free to be irritated by the ideas of others.

As for citations: Grow up. You know what you're saying. You have implied that a Jew who stops believing in Jehovah is no longer a Jew because it would be "killing a people" to convince (no one has called for force, so please stop bringing that up) people to give up their religious beliefs.
90
@89: Are you really so thick that you can't tell the difference between "people shouldn't force their ideas on others" and "people shouldn't share their ideas with others"? I'll happily explain the beliefs and customs of my people to others but I'm not so arrogant as to insist that any other person, let alone the entire world, adopt them.
I've got no problem with atheists; it would be unreasonable and rude for me to expect them to take on my beliefs, and my Scripture teaches that being a good person is more important than making a show of piety. What I've got a problem with is atheists, like adherents to so many other religions, insisting that their belief system is the one true one and that all other belief systems must be purged. How very like that which you claim to reject.

As for growing up: show me some citations. I'm not going to be held intellectually responsible for your inability to distinguish what I actually said from what you read into it. Note also that when I mentioned "killing of a people" (and if you're going to make direct quotations, please actually quote what I wrote), I explicitly referred to the use of force.
Now, you're quite correct that Mr. Nelson has not called for forced conversions; in fact, he was very careful (similarly to how Kevin Swanson danced around calling for the killing of gays, one might argue) not to. Here's the thing though; he called religion, ALL RELIGION, including my own, a fundamental threat to civilization. If history is any guide, any movement that feels so strongly about this sort of ideological purity inevitably resorts to violence to enforce such purity. Put another way: countries that have called the Jews a threat to society have a track record of kicking us out.
91
Atheism is not a "belief system."
Like turning your TV off is a TV channel.

And Nelson is right:all theistic faiths ARE a threat to civilization.

Regardless of how you individually worship, Abrahamic Faith's in particular and in the aggregate historically trend towards hoarding power, sectarian friction, orthodoxy, and theocracy.

It requires a robust secular democratic state that is ever vigilant to accommodate them. These two concepts are forever at odds.

And only ONE builds civilization.
92
@91 -- Perfectly true ... unless facts matter.

Civilization and religion co-evolved. (See the closing chapters of Jared Diamond's World Before Yesterday for an accessible read. Civilization -- including the legitimacy of taxation and other standards of conduct beyond simple taboos -- was BUILT on organized religion.

Secular states are a recent innovation. And as noted above, the most dogmatically secular states in history exterminated more innocents than every other actor in history put together, and this within living memory of your elders.

The most recent major genocide (Rwanda) was nonreligious. The one before that? Pol Pot regime was dogmatically antireligious.

And Venomlash is correct on the essential facts. Of some 1,000 genocides in written and accessible proto-literate history, the most consistent common preface is the identification by influential voices of an out-group as a threat to "our way of life". Bloodletting comes later.

Ignore all this, and you are not pitching Reason. You are pitching Bigotry.

FWIW, I'm a nonbeliever ... but one who recognizes no truer mystic than the committed atheist.
93
@92 we're not talking about how civilization evolved. We're talking about where we want it to go.

Besides you obviously didn't read Diamond carefully. Religions interest in civilization was either selfish to expand its own power, or accidental. Where what we think of as humanistic reforms took place was most various sects attempting to secure rights outside a dominant faith. These only accidentally and tangentially expanded human rights.

And you're using a rather pedantic reductive idea of what we mean by civilization. The Bronze Age civilizations you speak of were still barbaric. We want more from the concept than that.

Had you read Diamond and every other historian carefully you'd understand the actual facts are organized religion fought tooth and nail nearly every thing we now think of as earmarks of modernity and civilization. Religion was dragged kicking and screaming into modernity.

I don't propose we oppress or suppress religion. The opposite. I propose we expose it. We tax churches. We force religion to be a responsible part of society rather than above it.

If people wish to entertain Bronze Age fairytales to give themselves meaning I could care less. We're going route civilization around them. They are a shrinking majority in the west and demographics are against them. But as they shrink, like any toxin, the worst parts of them become more dangerous and volatile.

94
I would also like to add that war and slavery were also crucial to the evolution of civilization. But like religion these barbaric throwbacks hold back progress. We need to move past these ideas if we want real modern civilization.
95
@93 -- Now you're dodging, ducking, and bluffing.

You completely misstate Diamond (and a host of related scholarship). You completely ignore the dominant role of nonreligious belief systems in the kind of atrocities that make religion a "threat" to civilization. And you dispense entirely with the common and scholarly meanings of "civilization", along with the entire past.

Your argument -- if it can even be called "argument" -- lands in the ashcan along with the pratings of those who insist government is the bane of civilization, and others who insist the world's gonna end tomorrow anyway.
96
@93: "Had you read Diamond and every other historian carefully you'd understand the actual facts are organized religion fought tooth and nail nearly every thing we now think of as earmarks of modernity and civilization. Religion was dragged kicking and screaming into modernity."
This is true in certain cases, but do not forget that organized religion has also promoted the rule of law (rather than might-makes-right) and spurred the production of countless works of art and lines of scientific inquiry. Like any human invention, religion has the capacity to be used for good or for evil.

"They are a shrinking majority in the west and demographics are against them. But as they shrink, like any toxin, the worst parts of them become more dangerous and volatile."
Not really true, I'm happy to say. Look at the history of my people; we carved out a nation-state and drove out the pagans, back in the day. But then came the destruction of the Temples and our rule by other nations, and we became a minority, and we adapted. The Book of Esther isn't about overthrowing our rulers and putting blasphemers to the sword; it's about attaining respect and prosperity in a pluralistic society and revenging ourselves on those who sought to exterminate us.
The real danger is a theocracy struggling to hold on to power, not the remnants of one that has already lost its position. Happily, this country was founded with a tradition of separating church and state, and so we never had the de jure theocracy that other countries had to wage bloody wars to free themselves from.

Please wait...

and remember to be decent to everyone
all of the time.

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