Don’t preach about atheism if you’ve no idea what it is. (Part 1)

I know it’s really exhausting most of the time, but if you’re going to mock or denigrate another person’s worldview, it would be very, I don’t know, helpful/considerate/smart, to try to understand it. And once you’ve done that, and you’re still going to tear it down, the next step would be to explain why it’s wrong. Especially if you’re a “news outlet.” Just a thought.

I ran across this article: Atheism – Part I: Authority. Honestly, I can’t wait to read the rest of this series from the El Dorado Hills [California] Telegraph. I’m not familiar with this publication, so maybe this is par for the course for them. I’m not going to explore any further, because I have enough to deal with from this one page. I’m just going to take all the lovely author’s comments in order. Let’s start with:

Allegedly there is “strong” atheism, “weak” atheism, “explicit” atheism and “implicit” atheism, “positive” atheists, “negative” atheists, “skeptics”, anti-theists and more. Atheist apologists will take full advantage of the situation, usually taking a position whereby they can hold that the possibility of God’s existence is so remote and untenable that it is worthy of the most severe ridicule, yet leave a door open to the possibility just wide enough to claim that they are still “open-minded”, avoiding accusations of absolutism (being “absolutely certain” of something’s non-existence is logically untenable, so they avoid this trap).

Well, I’ve mentioned before that I can only speak for myself, because – as the author so kindly pointed out – there are many different views related to atheism. But in my experience, a wide majority of atheists genuinely don’t belive with 100% certainty that there is no god, because there is no empirical evidence that confirms or denies an existence conclusively. The atheist’s position is typically a result of looking at the evidence presented for the case of god and finding unsatisfactory. So, while the author isn’t entirely inaccurate that atheists won’t generally lean toward absolutism, it is not an artifact intended to create some facade of fairness, or hedging our bets if you will. It is born from reason and a true willingness to be wrong. This is not something to be derided. It actually should be a model anyone of any belief should consider.

Some atheists even go beyond confusion to absurdity by claiming that theists are in fact “atheists” too – to all the false gods that they don’t believe in (i.e., Thor, Zeus, etc. “Atheists just go one God further” is the cute quip).

Sorry, but aside from reducing it to a “cute quip,” why is this argument absurd?Are you, in fact, not an azeusist or an athorist? It’s actually meant to offer a little insight to people who believe in a particular god and not all of them. Apparently, that was lost on you. But by all means, dismiss it as absurd.

Few will ever tell you exactly what they believe.

Well, I don’t know all the atheists in the world, but I do know very few who won’t express their ideas openly when asked. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’d wager you simply aren’t listening, or just aren’t hearing what you want to hear. But that’s just a guess.

Atheism is not so much about the existence or non-existence of the supernatural (note that a recent study found that atheists were actually MORE likely to believe in pseudo-scientific things like horology, astrology, crystals, etc. than were fundamentalist Christians, believe it or not!); rather, Atheism is – at its root – a rejection of moral authority.

Well, you blew my going-in-order plan right out of the water, didn’t ya? Because right in the middle of this outrageous sentence, you inserted some study without any clue as to where to find it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to deny it. Atheism, at its core, is only the refutation of the existence of any god. It doesn’t preclude belief in other supernatural elements. Though, many atheists arrive at the position on the existence of god(s) based on reason and a lack of evidence, so it very often follows the lack of evidence for other pseudoscience would play a role, too. That’s just my hypothesis; I have no evidence for it. But you’re not playing fair when you mention this ephemeral study and won’t let me learn more about its methodology or its conclusions. So, pony up or leave it out.

Now, I’ve already described a mechanism through which most atheists I know (including myself) arrived at calling themselves atheists. I have very little doubt that there are atheists who are interested solely in a “rejection of moral authority.” There are probably people of any faith interested in that, statistically speaking. But here’s the deal: evolution drives a moral authority. Society drives a moral authority. Conscience drives a moral authority. A human’s deepest instincts say that if they’re not nice to that human over there, that other human will punish them for it, or at least won’t be nice back. That’s the ethic of reciprocity. Today, we know it as the Golden Rule, because that’s what Christians called it when they repackaged it as their own idea. I talk more about this on my Common Atheist Myths  page. There’s a link to it here somewhere, go check it out. Really. Because this is a common argument, and it’s simply not true. You’ve not broken some new ground here, you’re just [again] not hearing the answer that’s been given time and time again.

A bald demonstration of this is found in Ben Stein’s excellent movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”…

Er, proving my point for me – this movie has been pretty thoroughly discredited, so clearly you’re not interested in hearing the other side. Oh, sorry – continue.

 Stein rightly points out the hypocrisy of Dawkins’ view that practically any wacky theory of how life might have begun on our planet can be seriously entertained by him – including through “the backs of crystals” or by “space aliens” – yet the far more plausible idea creation by an intelligent Creator is “insane” and “wicked” to him. But what is the difference between “space aliens” and God? Why is it that Dawkins can allow a “space alien” theory, but not a God theory? What is the difference?

Um, you could hear Dawkins talking in that piece, right? I’ve blocked that farce of a movie from my mind in the interest of maintaining sanity, but I’m pretty sure I don’t remember Dawkins saying anything like, “You know, Benny boy, by Jove, you’re right!”

The difference is that scientists have actually found evidence that could potentially support a panspermia model. And the evidence is remarkably overwhelming for evolution, I don’t even know which site to link you to. There are so many reputable universities and researchers sharing information online, just do a little bit of research on it. Try actually paying attention to the huge consensus trying to show the world why they shouldn’t just be believed, but what the geologic history is practically screaming at us.

It is AUTHORITY. If it were indeed space aliens that got life going here on earth, we would thank them perhaps, wouldn’t we – but we wouldn’t owe them any obedience, would we?

Sorry, but you’re the one being downright absurd now. Is that really what you thought he meant, or are you being egregiously facetious to make your point? Watch the movie again. Try REALLY LISTENING to Dawkins like a serious person, not someone who’s predisposed to your own opinion and mocking every different one that comes along.

There is also sociological evidence that issues with authority – and specifically one’s relationship to their father – underlay one’s decision to become an atheist, not rational thought. In his book “Faith of the Fatherless”, psychologist Dr. Paul Vitz chronicles the lives of over 12 prominent atheists and compares to prominent theists in contemporaneous situations. In every case, the theists had good relationships with their fathers, while the atheists had relationships that were described as turbulent, abusive or absentee.

Okay. What the hell does that have to do with anything? How did he choose the people he studied? Was it some random sample of prominent atheists, or the the ones who fit the mold he was trying to portray? It’s not “evidence” if there wasn’t some scientific method applied to acquiring and interpreting it. And now you’ve mentioned some correlation, but done nothing to make it meaningful or interpretive. Some weird form of poisoning the well, I think.

For the record, I never knew my father. But I had a very kind, caring father figure in my life with whom I had a loving and healthy relationship. So in your correlation, does that mean that I should be a theist or an atheist? See, nothing’s so black and white.

We’ll see what atheists mean by “morality” in “Part II: Morality”, tomorrow.

Can’t wait. Sure I’ll see you then.

No one’s mistaking Cochran as pro-gay, don’t worry.

So, I read this article about teens protesting a school’s decision to allow a gay couple to attend prom, and it renders me completely inarticulate. Seriously. All I’ve been able to say about it for 3 days is, “Wha-?” “Huh?” “But -”

I may rant here, but in general, I try to conduct a reasoned, relatively even-keeled argument regarding my position on any given topic. Unfortunately, it’s taken me 3 days to get past this particular thought:

“IT’S TWENTY-FUCKING-TEN, PEOPLE!”

Okay, so, I had to get that out of my system. There you go. Now, I can express an intelligent opinion. (Thanks for bearing with me through that).

1. A school board should not be deciding who its students take to the prom. The prom, or any school dance/event, is an event for all students. Are there other reasons students are excluded? I mean, besides having not bought a ticket? I mean, it’s not even like an extracurricular activity, where if you’re failing a class you can’t participate. How is this a matter for the board AT ALL? That said, kudos to the board for making a reasonable decision in the end.

2. I believe firmly in letting go of regrets and not reliving stupid things said, but I really hope someday high school senior Keith Bowman Jr. and local businessman John Smith look back on their words in print here with regret and some level of enlightenment. They are truly ignorant and bigoted:

“We knew Derrick was gay,” said Keith Bowman Jr., a high school senior who showed up at the rally. “They don’t want (Cochran) to be known as a pro gay town.”

“People who don’t know the area will think it reflects on everybody,” said John Smith, a grandfather who owns an air-conditioning business in Cochran.

In other words, they project their own insecurity and outstanding bigotry on everyone in any other town who might have even just one gay person, and now people might think the same way of them. Here’s a news flash: In twenty-fucking-ten, most people don’t give a damn about a town’s gay population. Too many people still do, unfortunately, but I gotta say, you’re worrying about a shrinking majority. It’s too bad you’re still in it, guys.

3. This is the really kicker that I can’t wrap my head around:

“I don’t believe in going up there and dancing with gay guys like that,” she said. “It’s also not just him bringing a boy. It was bringing all this attention to it.” ~The rally’s organizer, Amber Duskin.

This is how I read that quote: “Um, so, yeah… [chomps gum] I’m totally against that whole gay thing ’cause it’s wrong and stuff. But don’t write that down, ’cause I’m telling people it’s about all this media attention the school board’s decision has drawn, and I totally can’t get the irony of throwing a party – er, I mean protest – to show how bad all that attention is. Oh, a picture? Here, my right’s my best side.”

Yeah, okay, I’m indulging a bit of judgment on my part, too, but goddammit, seriously? What did you think would happen when you showed up at the courthouse? LESS media attention? What the fuck?

Alright, and also, who is asking you to dance with the gay guy? He seems to be handling this whole ordeal with an enormous amount of class, so even if you begged, he’d probably give you a dance or two. I’d personally push you to the dance floor and dance all over you. But that’s just me.

Here’s what you have to learn at some point, Amber, darling: at some point in your life, you’re going to be in a room with someone who doesn’t think exactly as you do. When you grow up and get a job, you’re going to sit in a conference room with someone who doesn’t share your perspective on life, or probably even on your job. The people who sign your paycheck will expect you to suck it up and settle disagreements with reason and equity. Consider this prom practice for life. With dancing and a decent meal.

Or don’t. It would probably be more pleasant without you.

4. Speaking of the class of Derrick Martin (the guy this whirlwind of attention is focused on), can I just ask where the heck he learned it from? Because apparently his parents aren’t exactly on the same level. They’ve kicked him out of the house.

As a result of the media attention, Martin’s parents have kicked him out of their home, and he’s staying with a friend in Cochran.

It takes a special kind of hate to kick a 17-year-old kid out of a place that should be a secure, safe haven for him.

5. High school students and citizens alike seem to be rubbing their hands and plotting ways to get around the school’s decision:

Martin said talk at school Thursday was that the prom committee may do away with the traditional “walk through” when students and their dates are announced as they enter the prom.

He’s also heard some students are trying to have a separate prom.

Oh, and Ms. Duskin’s preferred method:

The senior said she asked her high school to return her prom ticket money and does not plan to attend because of Martin.

I don’t know what the response is/will be, but if I were in charge of selling tickets for this thing, I’d tell her that hate and bigotry are not sufficient reasons for a refund. Sorry. Guess you’ll have to choose between your wallet and your precious beliefs. Oh, the horror.

Okay, I can hear some of you detractors who think I’m wrong and being a bit harsh. This girl and this town haven’t done anything to incite violence towards Derrick Martin; they’re simply standing up for their beliefs. Here’s what I say to that:

It isn’t possible to use words too harsh with people who encourage the isolation of another law-abiding human being because they aren’t the same. Even if you believe homosexuality is a lifestyle choice (it isn’t), what right do you have to exclude anyone based on it? Your religion is a lifestyle choice, believe it or not. You’re not excluded from society based on it because you’re in a majority. Even if you weren’t the majority, it would be wrong to treat you this way, as tempting as it would be.

The truth is that homosexuality is not a choice, any more than heterosexuality is. Any more than the sex assigned to you based on the genitals you’re born with is. Any more than your height or eye color is. The fact that this is in the news is as absurd as it would be to read tomorrow that all hazel-eyed people need are only allowed to drive white cars, because we know how bad they are about running red lights, and we can give white cars a wide berth.