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Posts Tagged ‘secular humanism’

Passive-aggressive Christianity

Posted by Skeptigator on December 8, 2008

Flag of the Episcopal Church

Flag of the Episcopal Church

I occasionally peruse a local afternoon newspapers website for interesting local interest articles and I stumbled upon Kevin Leininger’s recent column, Viewing Episcopal split through historical lens, discussing the split within the Anglican Church over the issue of homosexuality.

I thought it was a good article and I usually enjoy his articles, I don’t often agree with him, but I appreciate them nonetheless.

What struck me however was the very last sentence,

And don’t tell me all of this just illustrates how silly and dangerous organized religion is. The record of organized atheism – Nazism, Communism, etc. – makes the Inquisition look tame.*

My first thought was, “What? What does that have to do with his article”. Since we are editorializing here, let me do my own. Why does the author feel its necessary to include this? On it’s face the comment really had nothing to do with the article which was specifically about a doctrinal division of a specific denomination and how it is coming to grips with living in the modern world.  But with a little further thought I think this textbook passive-aggressive swipe at an entire block of people betrays a certain doubt within the author himself. As an atheist, I’m reading this article with some interest but I never thought to myself, “This is why atheism is better” since I know atheism says *nothing* about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality (or anything for that matter).

I think that this little swipe also offers a bit of an insight into (at least) one believer’s mind and his belief that the *entire world* is shaded by those who believe in a god and those that do not. It’s the same boring Us vs. Them mentality. What this bit of lazy journalism exposes is the fact that there is a fundamental lack of perspective by the author. It is an implicit (or inferred?) approval of a black and white world and not the much more complicated grey world we actually live in, you know the Real World.

"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend the basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life" - Adolf Hitler, Feb. 1st, 1933.

"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend the basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life" - Adolf Hitler, Feb. 1st, 1933.

The author’s wife’s church, Catholic, was so grossly complicit in the Nazi regime that it should be an well-known embarrassment. And don’t get me started on the Catholic radio host, Charles Coughlin. Communism and particularly the Stalinist brand is a textbook example of ideology that exerts an enormous amount of control over people. I dare say that Stalin’s suppression of all religious activity had little to do with his disbelief in a god but more to do with the threat to his absolute control that the Church could wield. 

Any ideology that suppresses Free Inquiry should be fought, for if a belief is to be found to be true and good it should always and constantly be subjected to questioning. What many within “organized atheist movements” such as Secular Humanism have a problem with is the fact that Political and Economic ideologies are constantly argued over however any kind of critical examination of religious Ideology seems to be considered at best “bad form”.

Look at how many of the faithful simply demonize the dissenting opinions. Lienenger mentions specifically the Inquisition as if this is the only egregious example of  religious tyranny and that the truth or falsity of something is tied directly to its body count. Perhaps he meant to end it with the following:

And don’t tell me all of this just illustrates how silly and dangerous organized religious is. The record of organized atheism – Nazism, Communism, etc. – makes the Inquisition, the Crusades, Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, The Troubles in Ireland, the witch hunts of the 17th/18th century, Jonestown Massacre, Heaven’s Gate, 80% of all conflict in the Middle East and Apartheid look tame

If your religion is worth believing in, it should be open to examination. It will then be found to be deserving of it’s following or found to be lacking. The split within the Episcopal Church highlights exactly that process because many within that particular sect have found it’s doctrines to be lacking and I personally think the Episcopal Church should be applauded for even having the discussion.

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* This statement is riddled with logical fallacies making the statement almost a joke. It’s most obvious is one called Tu quoque (you too). It’s a fancy way of saying, “Because there is an example of wrong on the other side of an argument, I am therefore allowed to engage in it as well” or “Because you have no evidence I therefore need none as well”. This fallacy is almost always accompanied by a straw man logical fallacy in which the “wrong” attributed to the other side of an argument is not an actual example of the other sides arguments.

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Posted in FreeThought, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Do it for the kids

Posted by Skeptigator on July 29, 2008

Last week I gave my response to theo’s post on Atheist Evangelism. In it I made specific recommendations for what we as freethinkers can do today to bring about our Utopia now. My recommendations centered around starting, participating in and promoting a local freethought group however that is not the single most important thing I can do.

“I find the great thing in this world is, not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In fact, I deliberately didn’t state the single most important thing I think you can do because I myself have yet to do it. I think it would be hypocritical for me to tell you what you should do when I haven’t. So at the time I felt pretty good about my post and I still stand by it. But the post bothers me immensely because of what I did not say.

So without being coy anymore, the single biggest thing you can do is Come Out. Stop hiding the fact that you are a non-theist (atheist, agnostic, rationalist, secular humanist, whatever). I suppose I should take a moment to state why doing this is perhaps the best thing you can do,

  • It certainly removes many restrictions you may have for joining, participating or promoting a local freethought group (remember it’s the second biggest thing).
  • It adds one more member to a growing and largely silent population of non-believers (particularly in the States).
  • I believe it creates a self-regulating atmosphere that doesn’t allow the religious fanatics as much leeway in the public realm if they believe there are more non-theists who will be willing to stand up to them.
  • Personally I think you will feel better. You won’t feel so self-censored and all the anxiety that that can bring with

Now having said that, the Internet and it’s relative anonymity has helped many non-theists connect with other like-minded individuals. This has certainly created an outlet for many people including myself. Maybe someone could argue that it’s created a pressure-release that would have otherwise resulted in more outspoken non-theists (I don’t think it would be very good one).

“So… um… yea..  that’s.. obviously that’s the downside” – Mr. Deity (Episode 2)

But enough about the pros, what about the downsides. I list them because I believe each of us works through them eventually. Some of these don’t apply to everyone nor is exhaustive but it’s a decent sampling.

  • Probably the number one issue would family pressure. I’m a born and bred Fort Wayner and so is my family. To understate it, they are religious. Like Benny-Hinn-Join-a-Y2K-compound religious. Like Jesus Camp religious, you get the point*.
  • Some of us have job or career fears. Not an issue for me. Sure the company picnics/potlucks start with a prayer but half of my co-workers are staring at their shoes or smirking at the 145-year-old blue-hair who feels compelled to say grace ( When will she retire already!? ).
  • For others it may be their children. Or more importantly an obligation to protect their children from harassment. If you become a vocal proponent of athiesm, non-theism or secular humanism in this community I would have serious fear for my children.

Clearly my job doesn’t present a problem. I don’t work for religious fanatics (although I have) so this isn’t an issue. Although to be honest my personal life in this regards has no reason to bleed into work, it’s not like I’m handing out atheist chick tracts. My point is that if were to become widely known it cause me any problems.

I have recently realized that hiding the fact that I’m an atheist (or more accurately a Secular Humanist) from my family is tiresome and so I’ve stopped overtly hiding from them. Such as ignoring their friend requests on Facebook (maybe they won’t know it’s me, ha).

“Do it for the kids!” – Anonymous

So bottom line, it comes down to my kids. I fear for my kids. I’m certainly not conspiratorial or think someone will outright hurt my children (although maybe I think that a little) but at a minimum I wouldn’t like my kids to get messed with. Maybe if they were older like in their teens they would be able to handle things better but my two boys being on either side of 10 I’m not sure how they would handle it.

I’ve already had a 6-year-old friend of my 6-year-old son tell him that if they don’t believe in God then they will go to Hell where “they shoot you in the stomach forever and ever”. This is the one thing that a 6-year-old felt compelled to convey to my kids about their religion. Not Jesus love, fear of Hell. Fast-forward this kid 15 years and now we have a problem. I know that’s an oversimplification and anecdotal at best but it goes to my state of mind, your honor.

“What’s wrong, McFly. Chicken?” – Biff Tannen

I haven’t overcome this last obstacle yet. I’m just not sure. I’m at the point where it depends on the day. Today I feel compelled to just be Out! but that’s not to say tomorrow I won’t regret even posting on the topic. But then again only a year ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of Friending my family on Facebook where they will see all the heathenistic blogs, pages, groups and evil atheist friends that I congregate with.

So the greatest thing you could do is to come out. Let me know how that works out for you, I’ll just… umm… you know… sit here and watch.

* I’m not joking

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Posted in FreeThought, Philosophy | Tagged: , , | 14 Comments »

The Affirmations of Secular Humanism – A Series

Posted by mikebftw on June 27, 2008

During the question and answer period following John Loftus’ presentation last month, an astute believer in attendance noted that it’s much easier to critique or tear down than to create or build up. His particular point was that if you eliminate the Bible, what are you offering in its place as a literary work or a moral guide?

Regardless of this gentleman’s ulterior motive to catch John in a “gotcha” moment on grounds that he never sought to occupy, he does make a valid point that we freethinkers should consider, if only as a matter of public image. That is, we’re generally pretty skilled at finding fault in the various religious systems, but shouldn’t we at least try to articulate what we do believe? What guides our objective morality? This is not to say that we need to write a “new” bible. We don’t need a rulebook. However, I believe that the better we’re able to communicate our shared positive beliefs, the more effectively we can engage believers in meaningful discussions on morality.

Luckily, we don’t have to start from scratch when it comes to putting our beliefs into words. While they’re not perfect, and they’re subject to the same scrutiny and skepticism we apply to any and all ideas, the 21 affirmations put forth by Paul Kurtz and the Council for Secular Humanism are a great place to start when considering the values we freethinkers tend to share. These affirmations can be found on the inside cover of every issue of Free Inquiry magazine, or on the Council for Secular Humanism website here.

Today I’m starting a series of posts, one each Friday, considering each of the 21 affirmations of secular humanism. As you read, please bear in mind the following:

  1. The affirmations are not meant as rules, imposed from the top down. Rather, they are articulations of the beliefs upon which most freethinkers tend to agree.
  2. The affirmations are meant to withstand the same skepticism and scrutiny we apply to all ideas.
  3. Ultimately, I speak only for myself in my analysis of the affirmations. The conversation only stands to gain from new perspectives, personal experiences, and other input that may differ from what I have to offer.

Posted in FreeThought, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »