The intolerance of diversity

Hopefully we won’t have to worry about militant atheists again until Easter. Their religion is really creepy.

This is an open thread

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56 Responses to The intolerance of diversity

  1. yttik says:

    I agree, some people have turned atheism into a religion. I also think some people are so obsessed with their own right to free speech that they believe that means they now have the right to be rude to others. Calling people “delusional, stupid, brainwashed, idiotic,” is just rude. Posting signs in front of a nativity set, like they did at our state capitol, is just rude.

  2. Spot on analysis of OWS. It’s a couple months old, so it was written when there still was an OWS, but still worth a read. Quite funny.

    At this moment, a whole lot of people, most of them 15 to 20 years younger than me, are protesting in every major city. What are they angry about? A lot of things, some of which are partially my fault.

    See, I’m a part of Generation X, the post-Baby Boom era kids who grew up on a mental diet of Beavis and Butthead and Alice in Chains. We wrote poems about how angry we were at our fathers, wore goatees like weapons and made panties burst into flames by playing Pearl Jam’s Black on our acoustic guitars. We were a bridge from the Baby Boomers to all you guys who are in high school and college now. And I’m pretty sure we fucked up that handoff pretty badly.

    This is not a sarcastic apology, I’m not a big enough dick to write all of this as a backhanded insult about how lazy and entitled you are. Because you’re not.

    I’m honestly apologizing for …

    Read it, it’s funny. And I think spot on about the psychology of people wanting what others have.

  3. DeniseVB says:

    As for me, a recovering/non-practicing Catholic, I worship at the altar of George Carlin 😉

  4. 1539days says:

    I have two atheists where I work. I’m sure they both get the most joy when they “shock” people by telling them they’re atheists. The young atheist brought up the infamous Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    Here’s the irony. The science obsessed atheists worship Charles Darwin. But they claim to worship him in a secular way, so it’s not religious at all. When they talk about the spaghetti monster, they are actually mocking theism. It’s roughly equivalent to a Christian mocking Mohammed, minus the fatwa.

    When Christopher Hitchens died recently, I didn’t see a lot of religious people condemn him to hell. Mostly, I saw them confident in the knowledge that he was meeting his maker, something that Hitchens was not prepared for, but entertained the possibility of. I have seen too much broad contempt for people who believe in God, as if it took something away from their lives.

    • crawdad says:

      Steve Martin used to have a routine where he asked “What if when you die you go to heaven just like you learned in Sunday school, with angels with wings sitting on clouds and playing harps? Wouldn’t that be really weird?”

  5. Three Wickets says:

    Most political atheists seem to have a personal grudge against a particular religion. And they condemn/despise religious people at least as much as the religious institution/doctrines. Which never makes sense to me as a lifelong non-religious person who’s always been around religious people.

    Carlin is right about religion having killed millions throughout history. But the atheist dictatorships of Stalin, H!tler, Mao killed hundreds of millions in a few decades.

    • DandyTiger says:

      Hitler was a Christian and promoted “positive Christianity” in is writings and was some of the basis of being against Jews.

      • 1539days says:

        He was also part Jewish.

        Christianity was the original source for “free” schools and hospitals for the poor until governments eventually figured out the trick themselves. Religious wars can usually be traced back to resource or territory conflicts. On balance, I would say religion has been neutral if not positive to the human experience.

        There’s an episode of South Park called “Go God, Go” that speculates when all religion is purged from society, atheists will just go to war over something else.

  6. lorac says:

    I think you guys are really generalizing about atheists and agnostics. As with any other people, there is a wide diversity. My guess is that most people who are atheists and agnostics you don’t even realize, because they’ve learned to be quiet to avoid proselytizing or being judged, etc.

    And “religion” and “worship” seems very much misnomers when applied to atheists and agnostics. A religion is very involved, it has soem god figure, and probably a (patriarchal) hierarchy of lesser god figures, it has a book of rules and stories, it says what will happen if you are bad, and what will happen if you are good, it may say what religion your child is allowed to be raised in (if it allows mixed marriages), it has assigned meeting places… And “worship” – well that really needs a deity

    Perhaps you guys have met some young, energetic kids. Perhaps they are new converts, and just as new converts to anything become very outspoken and zealous. But I am an agnostic, and I know lots of atheists and agnostics, and I don’t know anyone who matches the descriptions you guys are giving…

    • Three Wickets says:

      Guess I call myself agnostic now. Used to call myself atheist until I realized atheism meant taking on a political agenda. In terms of animosities relating to religion, I’ve seen a lot on the blogs…definitely including TC thru the schism(s). Experienced more atheism proselytizing there than all the religion proselytizing I was exposed to my whole life in the real world. And I’ve been around religion. 🙂

      • DandyTiger says:

        I think the definition of atheism is just that you don’t believe in a theistic god. And not just that you don’t believe, but that you’re sure there isn’t one. Whereas agnostic is that you’re not sure one way or the other. Politics or attitude or feeling towards people of different beliefs is orthogonal I think.

        • Three Wickets says:

          No, I’m very sure about my beliefs and non-beliefs. Agnostic for me simply means I choose not to judge others.

        • DandyTiger says:

          That’s kind of my approach too. But I still call that being an atheist. Eh, whatever. It’s all good. 🙂

    • DandyTiger says:

      Good point.

      I think a lot of atheists simply give no thought to religions. To many, the whole idea of a god or gods just doesn’t make any sense. It’s like asking if they believe in a invisible flying dragon. Such a question just doesn’t make sense. Many have no feelings about religions one way or the other.

      I think what’s being talked about here are the atheists that have strong negative feelings about religions. So strong that they feel they need to proselytize to help eradicate religions. I’d guess that’s a very, very small percentage of atheists. But perhaps that’s the most vocal group of atheists.

    • myiq2xu says:

      I’m pretty much an agnostic. I don’t think the universe was an accident but I don’t believe any religion so far has figured out whodunnit.

    • 1539days says:

      Penn Jillette says there are no agnostics.

      • DandyTiger says:

        Penn Jillette is an asshole. But there are still some things I like about his BS show and some things he says.

    • gxm17 says:

      Thank you, lorac. Generalizing about atheists is just the same as generalizing about the Tea Party. If there was one thing I learned in 2008, it’s that generalizing will bite you in the ass. Hard.

  7. lorac says:

    Carlin is right about religion having killed millions throughout history. But the atheist dictatorships of Stalin, H!tler, Mao killed hundreds of millions in a few decades.

    But in the first example, they were killing *in the name of* their religion. Non-religious dictators weren’t killing *in the name of* their atheism – they had some other reason – not that it was a good one. If one is killing for religion, and one is killing for a non-religious reason, it seems like apples and oranges to me. But if people keep seeing atheism/agnosticm as some kind of religion, then I guess that is going to make them compare the two types of killlings. Why aren’t religious killers ever compared to mass murderers, or to drug-crazed killers, or to serial rapists/murderers? Because for some people, they like to compare a religion with the *absence* of a religion – as if they’re parallel concepts.

    • myiq2xu says:

      Just because they blamed God doesn’t mean God was to blame.

    • Three Wickets says:

      Think atheist dictators, in the absence of a deity, proclaim themselves the deity for all practical purposes. At least the worst of the bunch. Guess the point is (and this is obviously an opinion) that atheism does not necessarily make a society less likely to kill or behave worse than animals. Genocides on the scale of millions of human lives is really a 20th century invention.

      • DandyTiger says:

        All the best dictators thought of themselves as a god. I mean really, who wants a dictator who doesn’t think he’s a god. What a wimp that would be. 🙂

  8. DandyTiger says:

    My theory about the issues and anger coming from some atheists and agnostics is more about their own psychological issues, perhaps from some difficult time they had with religion, and not from the fact that they don’t believe in some god or gods.

    My approach to life is to be fascinated by religions and philosophies and see the beauty in their stories and what they’re trying to say, and to be fascinated and intrigued by the ugly side of them as well. And to see what’s common among them much as Joseph Campbell did as he studied and explored such topics. He saw them as an immensely important expression of human existence and dreams and fears, and critical to understanding us and how we think and work. From that point of view, to hate religions is to hate humans.

    I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

    — Ecclesiastes 3:18-21 (New International Version)

  9. Three Wickets says:

    We like to go to the local church around this time of year, to listen to music, to rest and meditate, to say hello to the community. We have a wonderful lesbian minister who we’ve known for a while. My wife and I are both agnostic.

    • myiq2xu says:

      How many religions provide musical entertainment?

      • DandyTiger says:

        All the good ones. 🙂

        • Jadzia says:

          That’s my least favorite part of being Catholic: the music sucks. Our St. Cecilia Day mass, featuring the stylings of the community band, was actually painful to the ears. (Secondo to me: “Mama, make it stop.”) I want to find a Catholic church with a Baptist choir. Such a church does not seem to exist.

  10. elliesmom says:

    I don’t believe in a supernatural being. I don’t care if you do. Pray for me all you want. I talk to myself, too. Realize that trying to scare me with an eternity in damnation has about as much weight as trying to scare me with the bogeyman. If you invite me to your church as part of one of life’s celebrations, I’ll come, and I will know what the expected behavior is and will behave accordingly. Don’t expect it to cause to me to experience an epiphany. Put nativity scenes up anywhere you want. Many of them are quite beautiful. If I want to put a tree up in my living room every December absent a religious belief in Christmas, it’s none of your business. I don’t feel the need to defend my atheism unless someone says that a belief in a god is a prerequisite for moral and ethical behavior. Because it isn’t.

  11. yttik says:

    I think intolerance and bullying is creepy, no matter what label it hides behind. People of all faiths and no faith can hold a holier then thou attitude. It’s that attitude that I can’t stand, whether it’s Obots bullying people or Newt claiming he is so much smarter than the supreme court.

    I also think we’ve lost our ability to understand what a holier then thou, bullying attitude, really is. People try to claim that breaking windows is non violent protest or that banning something “for people’s own good” is not authoritarianism.

  12. foxyladi14 says:

    live and let live!!!!!!! :mrgreen:

  13. Benny says:

    As a christian, this ain’t strange. The strain of anti-christian, anti-israeli (ofcourse they don’t use that terminology) has been growing in the democratic movement. They claim to be atheists or agnostics, but are s*it scared bout antogonizing the jews and the muslims. Hey, I believe what I believe, period. Atheists or agnostics, if you wanna criticize religions, then condemn them equally. But you rarely find a dem who can criticize Islam equally as he/she denigrates Christianity.

    • Three Wickets says:

      This is true. There are many political atheists who denigrate Christians and Jews but pussyfoot around Islam. They are usually Chomsky followers. Christopher Hitchens, who I never liked much, was not selective or hypocritical about his atheism. I give hin credit for that. I really can’t stand Chomsky koolaid types. Wherever Chomsky goes, visceral anti-semitism seems to follow. He spreads bigotry.

  14. Benny says:

    Hey, I’m sorry if I came on a bit strong. Just thought that I had the freedom to articulate my reasoning. And myiq, I envy the dude. He can’t be labelled. He calls himself a liberal. Well so am I, a Clinton liberal.

    • It’s all good. Tolerance is good. The lack of it we see in some groups is sad. For example, I’ve never seen so much hate towards women that I saw from the new Dem party in the ’08 primaries. Amazing. Which opened my eyes to other bigotry among esp. limousine liberals. I’ve seen a lot of bigotry from Repubs for years, but I was blind to the same on the other side. It’s good to be awake now though.

  15. votermom says:

    I am pretty sure it’s human to believe in something and as it turns out, science backs me up. Check this article out:

    Humans Are Religious By Nature, Says Study
    We humans have a “predisposition” to believe in some kind of divine being and in the afterlife; to be religious. Such beliefs are, indeed, part of what makes us human and are innate rather than learned, says an international project, The Cognition, Religion and Theology Project, based at Oxford University academics.

    For over three years, 57 researchers conducted over 40 separate studies (both empirical and analytical/interpretative) in 20 countries representing a diverse range of cultures, says Science Daily. Humans, they found, are predisposed to believe in both gods and an afterlife, and “both theology and atheism are reasoned responses to what is a basic impulse of the human mind.”

    The point of the project was not to prove that “some divine power” exists, but to get a better sense about “whether concepts such as gods and an afterlife appear to be entirely taught or basic expressions of human nature” — whether such concepts are the result of nurture or are innate. Science Daily describes two other findings by the Cognition, Religion and Theology Project concerning whether young children believe in some sort of “superhuman properties,” and whether such beliefs extend across cultures:

    Studies by Emily Reed Burdett and Justin Barrett, from the University of Oxford, suggest that children below the age of five find it easier to believe in some superhuman properties than to understand similar human limitations. Children were asked whether their mother would know the contents of a box in which she could not see. Children aged three believed that their mother and God would always know the contents, but by the age of four, children start to understand that their mothers are not all-seeing and all knowing.* However, children may continue to believe in all-seeing, all-knowing supernatural agents, such as a god or gods.

    Experiments involving adults, conducted by Jing Zhu from Tsinghua University (China), and Natalie Emmons and Jesse Bering from The Queen’s University, Belfast, suggest that people across many different cultures instinctively believe that some part of their mind, soul or spirit lives on after-death. The studies demonstrate that people are natural ‘dualists’ finding it easy to conceive of the separation of the mind and the body.

    There’s a potential political application to the project: Efforts to repress a religion are “likely to be short-lived as human thought seems to be rooted to religious concepts,” says Project Co-Director Professor Roger Trigg, from the University of Oxford’s Ian Ramsey Centre. Religion is a “common fact of human nature across different societies.”

    I’m teaching mythology in the fall and will be mentioning the project’s findings to my students. One of the first assignments I like to give my students is to research the cosmology — the account of the creation of the world — from a different culture or religion. As varied as the gods, narratives, names and other aspects of cosmological myths (from the ancient Greeks to the ancient Norse to Native Americans to the Mayans) are, one thing that draws them all together is that so many people from so many cultures at so many different times in the history of the world, have believed in some “power higher than themselves,” in supernatural forces, in some kind of existence after death.

    As for why people hold such believes: It’s simply part of being human.

    Read more:

    *I remember when my 1st kid was in preschool I found out that she thought I knew everything that she did in preschool even though I was not there. Now she’s 15 and she is sure I know nothing.

    • DandyTiger says:

      What’s really amazing is when you see all that’s in common in mythology among disconnected, diverse groups of people around the world. Right down to very similar creation mythologies, virgin birth mythologies, etc., etc. It sort of makes sense that there is some primitive wiring or need to develop these stories and beliefs to help explain the world and to cope with things. Perhaps there is some deep level authority gene that makes tribal behavior work. And perhaps those of us that don’t believe are missing that authority gene. Who knows. It’s damn interesting though.

    • foxyladi14 says:

      they all do at that age. 🙂

    • gxm17 says:

      I don’t think it’s that the humans have an inherent need for religion/god. I think it’s more of a need for stories. And god, or divine, stories are some of the most powerful narratives in human culture because they are believed to originate outside of the physical world. Why are the stories so similar? Well, for one thing, we all came from the same place. We didn’t simultaneously appear all over the globe. We spread out slowly, and although our stories may have adapted to myriad environments, they were once one. Another reason our stories are similar is because, across race and ethnicity, our brains are the same. And, ultimately, our minds experience the world through categorization and language. It only makes sense that the god stories share similarities. And, for me, it is these similarities—the gods who look like humans and/or the anthropomorphic animals—that convince me that religion tells us more about homo sapiens than it tells us about that which created our universe.

      And, IMO, what religion tells us about humans is endlessly fascinating. As an atheist, I have been much more interested in the work of Pascal Boyer. Dawkins, not so much.

  16. Benny says:

    Both the repubs and dems don’t believe that a woman can be an effective and strong president. Speaker of the house? Oh yes… National security advisor? But ofcourse. Leader of the free world?…oh noes, they can’t be addled with that much responsibility, and they ain’t capable of it and we can’t trust them. Saw this attitude with hillary, and then again palin, and was disgusted with both parties. The third world had strong women who were heads of state, and even today, we can’t get a woman president. Thats just awful, whether left or right.

    • Stunning, isn’t it. I was naive enough to think each of our parties could handle that and were past that crap. Sadly I couldn’t have been more wrong. We’re in the frick’in dark ages.

  17. guest says:

    No atheist is knocking on your door asking you to believe in the Lord and go to their church but the Christians do. I routinely get handwritten letters in the mail telling me about Jesus. I feel violated every time I see such letters or see them at the door. I am quite rude when they show up at my door — how dare they! Recently someone left a message on my answering machine saying that they will be in such and such church and will see us there. So they have our mailing address, our phone number and know where we live. You don’t have atheists hounding you like this.

    • guest says:

      And they are all invisible (letters, messages) — who do you take your anger out on?

    • DandyTiger says:

      This is where some of the anger coming from some atheists comes from as well. Being an atheist can get you harassed and worse as we know from history.

      Jewish friends of mine talk about getting the very same harassment from Christians too. So don’t feel bad, it’s not just you. 🙂

    • myiq2xu says:

      When religious types bother me I tell them I am late for a goat sacrifice and invite them to join me. If that doesn’t do it I add the words “It’s clothing optional.”

      The Jeehova’s Witnesses don’t even come down my street anymore.

  18. timothy says:

    I grew up Catholic. Never confirmed as my parents gave us that choice. Always thought of myself as an atheist until I endured the devastating loss of a small child in a senseless accident. I was so angry at that god I didn’t believe in for a very long time. Such a waste.

    I still don’t know what I do or do not believe, but I am grateful for the foundation I got from my parents and my education.
    I hear people scream all of the time about how Catholicism instills guilt. Guilt is not a bad thing. It is often confused with shame which is a devastating emotion and serves only to ruin lives. not a biblical scholar but I now of nothing in the New Testament which advocates shame.

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