I just got 200 comments and counting on my local atheist group when I posted this:

"On a matter of self reflection as a group I would like to discuss the idea of us calling anyone inferior or superior based on religion, race, gender, sexual orientation - as there all share the same medal of racism.

I realise that XXX may see this as the promotion of political correctness. I don't support political correctness as a means to an end. I do support freedom of speech. And I like the idea that we are free here to discuss opening about our attitudes.

What concerns me is that in the atheist community (on the many forums and you tubes that I've seen) I have observed what looked to me like, arrogance, prejudice, superiority and dismissive attitudes. 

I realise that we all have our own nature - but I do support the idea that we can all try to act on science and reason - and not perpetrate racism or other harmful attitudes based on false beliefs about superiority. And think it important that we become more self aware of these issues and come up with effective methods that deal with it.

Preferably compassionate - based on the principles of Naturalism, rather than regressive aggression against it."

Is this a very contentious issue?

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Replies to This Discussion

Greg, I agree with your statements, "So many people thank their god when it was human action" and "Their gods were non-participants and should garner none of the credit."

To these people, I feel responsible to remind them of the tremendous human effort it has taken to accomplish great skill. I don't let this slide.

I have lived 8 1/2 years longer than my mother and both my grandmothers who all died of heart disease after long, painful suffering until death. They did not receive the heart surgery that I had, and I feel fit, eager to do projects, happy when debating, gardening, cooking, and playing with my great-grandchildren. They had large groups of family and friends praying for them and I received the extra 8 1/2 years. 

I'd say that regarding religion atheists can be pretty arrogant, prejudiced and dismissive, although it seems that those who partake in that particular strain of neo-atheism tend to come from secular backgrounds or were raised fundamentalist and now take the opportunity to snub all religions equally. I'm totally guilty of eye-rolling or snorting whenever a Christian opens their mouth, but you have to admit that it's pretty hard not to deride the religious when they say really idiotic things. Sometimes the only thing you can do is scoff, but neither can you carry on a serious conversation with a religious person when they bring insoluble "evidence" (i.e., faith) to the table. However, atheism does have a bit of a PR problem in terms of projecting a positive image, and while we're certainly working on it, we can definitely take steps to be more civil and engaging.

However, as to the rest, I have met plenty of atheist males who are chauvinists. I've yet to meet any atheists who are racists or who are anti-gay.

I think it's more a matter of learning to pick our battles more carefully, or maybe just not allowing ourselves to be drawn into every debate with a theist. Perhaps just shutting down a discussion when they start thumping on their bibles or saying things like, "Well, god says ___." You can't have a discussion with that. Of course, when you have people like Rick Perry and Rick Santorum trying to legislate their Christian beliefs, then that's a war we should readily go to with gusto; but at the same time we should learn to recognize the truly dangerous Christian apologists from the majority of idiots (in all due respect).

At the same time, I love what Douglas Adams said about religion: "Here is an idea or notion that you're not allowed to say anything bad about; you're just not. Why not? Because you're not." I totally agree with we've gotten way too PC about religion, and while it's important to stay civil and polite (after all, no one wants to listen to someone who is rudely attacking their cherished beliefs), we can probably speak out a bit more.

Ah, try having a family of fundamentalist believers sometime! (Unfortunately I've had to cut off relations with them. It comes to that sometimes.) I'm preaching to myself here, but I think at a certain point we just have to walk away and not sink to their baiting. My personal approach is to be as neutral as possible. However, if a theist deigns to attempt to convert me, I've earned the right to shred him (or her) and his/her cherished beliefs to pieces.

David, I agree, sometimes the only thing to do is cut off relationships with them. To my surprise, over time, the fundamentalist come to me for guidance that they normally would go to their church community. It seems that believing in the unbelievable is hard to do when it doesn't work. 

having read the book by Rosenberg about expressing ourselves compassionately - and reading Harris' book about telling the truth - what about asking yourself what it is about Christian perspectives that causes that reaction?  What do you feel about it?  What do you think about it?

Perhaps you think it ludicrous - and then go on to make a judgement of them as being 'stupid' or 'gullible' - the value judgment is an expression of violence (according to Rosenberg)

what if you are mistaken in those judgements?

what if like you and I - they too are fully caused in their thoughts, words and actions?

what if their supernatural belief isn't anything to do with them being 'stupid' or 'gullible'?

what if it's to do with luck or accident of birth - fully caused of course.

If this is the case - does it have different implications to your value judgements of them?

What are they now?

Perhaps now they are unfortunate and unlucky.

In this new scenario - do you have a different feeling about their situation?

Perhaps a new honest approach would be different.

Being arrogant, prejudiced and dismissive, are not atheist, neo-atheist, fundamentalist or christian characteristics. They are personal behaviors that are unpleasant to be around and may be part of a particular family or group’s attitudes. After all, these are learned behaviors.  


I, too, am “totally guilty of eye-rolling or snorting whenever a Christian opens their mouth, but you have to admit that it's pretty hard not to deride the religious when they say really idiotic things.”


Talking with people about religion, economics and politics is like talking to an alcoholic … there is nothing coming back but gibberish. Have you ever tried to follow the reasoning of a Jerry Falwell, Alan Greenspan, Mitt Romney, or someone under the influence of drugs? Yes, “scoffing” is about the only response I can muster.


Yes, we atheists can hone our skills, but for some of us, we have so much pent up anger and pain caused by religious dogma, we cannot push it down, project on someone else, repress it, or deny it. There is that period of time when the poison needs to be purged and the best purge I know if is ranting. That done, we can get on to being civil.


I agree with your statement, “I've yet to meet any atheists who are racists or who are anti-gay.”

I also find it hard when theists talk to me in theistic terms - I think that they can make the effort to leave the terms behind if they understand my world view better.  Otherwise it would be quite confusing and frustrating - if they come up with religious terms all the time.

Joan Denoo

What you say is theoretically true about personal characteristics, but should education not make any difference? If education should make a difference then a good ability to think should make even more difference. Atheists are supposed to have this ability, without which they could not have become atheists. I have had some encounters with atheists here and have always wondered why atheists should behave in this manner. What is more, some people appear to notice what they call my "tongue lashing" but never seem to notice why it was cuused in the first place? One recent intolerable experiance one good lady here had and which I witnessed,  made me think that some times it is good to give back more than what we receive. It is possible that some people are looked upon as underdogs and then they have to show that they are not.

I had my 4th yearly exam today after my heart surgery and all is well. I feel great, do everything I want to do, still love old fashioned debate. I have lived 9 years more than mother did and she and my 2 grandmothers died very hard deaths from heart disease. Without science, technology, skilled and dedicated professionals, I probably would have started a very long, drawn-out decline to death. No thank you; My doctors have a "do no resuscitate order"  for me and my refrigerator holds one for everyone, so they know my intentions. 

Now it is time to get my seeds ready for next summer's harvest. We had another couple inches of snow, and the ground is warming up ... it won't be long. 

So pleased to hear it! :)

Joan Denoo

Glad to know that all is well with you. I have always seen you as a good human but one thought that always comes to my mind is that you must be a wonderful mother, grandmother and a great grandmother too to your family. I too am an old man and I feel that being like you for a family is more than anything else in our lives, so, for the sake of your family and for you, wish a very happy long life.

I think you have just turned 76, so this delayed greeting.




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