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May 13, 2011

5

Why I Blog

by juju2112

One of my friends had some good feedback for the blog. Why do I care about criticizing religion so much? Why not just let bygones by bygones? Here’s his comment:

Man…seriously. The anit-Bible bullshit banter is starting to match the standard Bible bullshit banter these days. Personally, I’m a big fan of everyone chillin’ with a nice hot cup of shut the fuck up. Anyone with a brain can shred about any dogmatic system. To include dogmatic systems that like to shred dogmatic systems. See how that works. Eventually, all that shit is the same: people just talking; no matter what the fuck you are promoting/demoting.

I mean, don’t get me wrong here, man. I’m a big fan of anyone expressing their sentience, but how is dogging religion–especially Christianity–even a conversation piece anymore? I’ve got a pretty extensive history of just such activity, and I kinda ran out of shit to bitch about somewhere in the middle of my 10-year BA.

Most of the people who’ll be reading these kinds of things, I’d assume, already tend to agree, so why continue to restate the obvious/accepted? Dunno, man. Seems to be lacking in…uh…progress? Especially since it isn’t that hard making thumpers (or any other philosophical extremists) look like fuckin’ dupes. It’s like making fun of retarded kids.

What I hear you saying here is: Being an atheist is just as bad as being a fundamentalist Christian.

Let me see if I can list the reasons why you would possibly think this.

1) Having a strong opinion about something is bad.

This is obviously a straw man on my part, but I’m listing it to make a point. Feeling passionately about something is no way a bad thing. It’s true that atheists and theists both argue passionately about the same subject. However, that has no bearing on the merit of either side unless you just hate people who are passionate.

Also, just because you’ve staked your position on one side or the other, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically wrong. The right answer is not always “somewhere in the middle”. Sometimes, one side or the other is correct. See: Middle Ground Fallacy

2) People who talk a lot about the same thing are bad.

If your main problem with religion is that you’re tired of hearing about it, then it’s certainly true that atheists are “just as bad” as theists. Is that really the problem here? Because no one is forcing people to listen. It’s not like I’m knocking on people’s doors at 7:30am, or cold-calling them at 10:00pm. I blog about my thoughts. People who are interested can read it. Those who aren’t interested can read something else.

However, given the amount of problems religion is causing these days, I think it needs to be talked about.

Consider the following problems that religion has had a hand in causing:

  • Anti-gay sentiment
  • The fight to teach creationism in schools
  • The pro-life movement
  • Global-warming denialism
  • Abstinence-only education
  • Sexism
  • Hoping for the end of the world (See: Israel)

So, people with bad ideas are running rampant, but if I stand up and question them, I’m just as bad as the people with the bad ideas screwing everything up?

And I’m not even citing the bizarre corner issues here, like people praying over their kids instead of taking them to the doctor. I know they’re just words on a page, but I’m willing to bet that if you dug into each of these issues, you’d find real people affected by them. People’s ideas don’t just exist in a vacuum. They use their ideas as a reference when they’re making really important decisions. It’s very important to challenge bad ideas, lest they become bad actions in the future.

This was my friend’s response when I told him that “your beliefs inform your actions”.

Man, I’d like to go back to the “beliefs in form decisions” comment. This is really just timid armchair psychology. Sure, for some jokers beliefs *do* manifest themselves as decisions. But how fucking often does that even happen in real life? I believe in one God, and that Muhammad is his prophet…I should get the 2% milk. What the fuck. I believe that killing needlessly is fucking nuts. Killing *any* living thing. So, I should vote Republican this next round. Whatev, dude.

In the scenario where you’re purchasing milk, you do have beliefs that help inform your decision of what milk to buy. Maybe you think the chemicals they put in cow’s feed are harmful and you think only organic milk is safe? You might find yourself spending an extra dollar on milk. If you wanted to vote Republican, maybe it’s because you believe that fiscal responsibility is the only way to save the country?

They’re trite examples, but I’m not the one who picked them. And it’s not the case that we only ever make trite decisions. Sometimes, we make really important decisions. Go tell the kids trying to pray the gay away, who plan on never having sex again, that their beliefs don’t matter. The very idea that it doesn’t matter what you believe is just silly.

The statement, “Your beliefs inform your actions” is a blanket statement that applies to everything you believe, not just religion. It’s true that a single belief doesn’t inform every decision, but that’s not what the statement claims. It’s saying that beliefs and actions are intrinsically linked. The repercussions of this are that the idea that, “Your beliefs don’t matter” is ridiculous, because they do matter.

3) It’s a pointless discussion, because no one will ever change their mind.

This certainly feels true when you’re arguing with someone, but it’s definitely not. It can take a person years to deconvert, but planting the seed of doubt is sometimes all it takes to set someone down that road. I have seen it happen. Take this video as anecdotal evidence. Or, if you like a more rational take, consider that according to the American Religious Identification Survey, the number of people claiming no religion has nearly doubled in the US in the past 20 years. In 1990, it was 8%; in 2008, it was 15% (Source). Are all the religious people just dropping dead, or are people changing their minds?

4) Atheism is a dogma.

There’s a big difference between basing your opinion on emotion and faith versus basing your opinion on rationality and logic. If a god appeared in front of me and started performing miracles, I would believe. It’s true, I would want to know how God works. What is he made up of? Can you look at him under a microscope? Where does he go when he disappears? How does he bend the laws of physics? If I could be shown these things, and after I’d recovered from the shock, I would personally write on this blog, “Holy Shit, I Was Wrong”.

That’s the beauty of basing your opinions on evidence. It means your beliefs can be changed when the evidence points somewhere else. It’s also the exact opposite of dogma.

5) It’s not okay to question religion.

This is the idea that I have the biggest problem with. In fact, I am against this idea so much that I’ve made it a personal mission break this rule as often as possible. I believe that ideas are made stronger when they are subjected to open criticism.

One of the main reasons religion persists so much is the aura of unquestioning respect people give it. Whenever you talk to religious person about why they believe, it’s very obvious that most of them haven’t ever had their beliefs questioned before. When you counter their arguments, they have often times never heard the counter-arguments before. This isn’t true for all theists, of course, but it is true for a lot of them. For a lot of churches, it’s part of their culture: Don’t ask questions. Shun the non-believer!

I consider hitting these people upside the head with a clue-stick to be a community service. And I also think that people who perpetuate the idea that you shouldn’t criticize religion own some of the blame when fundamentalists start screwing stuff up.

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. JD
    May 20 2011

    State Sponsored Atheism;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_atheism

    Yep, just as bad as fundamentalism.

    Worse, in fact.

    Reply
    • May 20 2011

      I’d be against that, actually. The government shouldn’t be dictating what people believe. I’m for a secular government, meaning the government doesn’t take sides at all.

      I don’t actually know any atheists that are for State-sponsored atheism. But I know a lot of theists who think the government should publicly endorse Christianity.

  2. JD
    May 20 2011

    Actually, there must a number of atheists who believe it, because there are still Officially Atheistic Goverments extant.

    Moreover, I have met atheists at the local KC Freethinkers group in Kansas City who would like to see an Officially Atheistic Government.

    Yep, I am afraid they are out there.

    But it would not make sense for them to generally admit it before the fact.

    Reply
  3. articulett
    May 20 2011

    xkcd had a good comic about those who imagine atheism to be on par with fundamentalism.

    http://xkcd.com/774/

    It made me giggle.

    I think somebody is trying to tell you to “shut up” when a better option might be if they stick to reading stuff they want to read about.

    The facts are on your side: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-do-americans-still-dislike-atheists/2011/02/18/AFqgnwGF_story.html ;-) The whiners are free to spread their anti-atheist bigotry on their own blogs. Some atheists still have a knee-jerk reaction to defend faith. (They’re referred to as “accommodationists” or “faitheists”… they have what Dennett calls “belief in belief”.) Oddly, they aren’t telling the fundamentalists to shut up. They just avoid them. I think they ought to do the same with any of your articles that annoy them. Aren’t you expected to ignore religious opining all the time and everywhere?

    Reply
    • juju2112
      May 20 2011

      I hadn’t thought of that. Well said!

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