I agree Joan. It seems more often than not I feel a need to speak up when religious discussions occur, because often the discussion promotes an underlying bigotry (we = heaven bound, them= hell bound) and it promotes a community division based on non-members being less worthy and less dignified.
Also, as a minority view, I think it is very important to speak up. Have you seen the Solomon Asch studies on group conformity? They demonstrate (and have been replicated many, many times) that a person will ignore obvious facts (unconsciously even) in order to conform with the group, UNLESS one other person is willing to go against group opinion. Speaking up opens the way for others to evaluate facts and truly make up their own mind. Here are a couple 2 minute videos that demonstrate the results, and frankly, convinced me that speaking up is worth it. Enjoy!
Oh yes! The Asch studies reveal very important group dynamics and an individual's need to be aware of the phenomena.
If one links Asch's work with Stanley Milgram's studies on human obedience, and Phillip Zimbardo's prison studies on human authority and obedience, and Martin Seligman's work on learned helplessness, then one has a formula for how to make an individual obedient, submissive, and helpless.
These studies also give an individual clues about when one is falling into the traps of obedience to authority, submissiveness and helpless. Furthermore, they provide clues about how to prevent such behaviors in oneself.
That's fine Linda. Indeed I hope that most of us feel proud at being the freethinking atheists that we are---and happy at being so far removed from the caged mentality of most theists.
Your story evokes strong feelings in me, especially stress created by dogmatic beliefs and not being able to pull myself loose for far too long. Anyway, I feel as you describe, free, stable, secure and safe from imposed expectations. But the biggest thing for me is not having to be perfect; I make some incredibly bad judgments from time to time, but that has nothing to do with my character. My redeeming quality is the ability to learn better ways of thinking and taking better actions. Thanks for sharing.
I agree that there is no reason to be ashamed. But after years of thinking about this, I have concluded that we need to take it a step further. I would argue that we even have a duty to speak up. Here's why (there are two reasons, really).
Free thinking requires freedom of expression. History tells us that societies which do not guard a precious space for questioning authority and debating conventional views will eventually end up with authoritarian regimes.
Everytime I feel that urge to just be the polite person at a cocktail party, when that "God thing" is discussed, I think of all those dissenting Germans who kept quiet in the early 1930s because they didnt want to create an awkward social moment. And I find a way, even mildly, to raise my view.
I am not trying to be an alarmist, but cultural and political movements often grow and spread around dinner and coffee tables. Why not play our part in a new enlightenment age?
Though, it does seem that religious conflict is peeking recently. Where I live, for example, more women than before are wearing the Hijab, and this, without an increased number of Muslims. It just appears they have more need to make a religious statement. And in America the Religious right's outspoken nature is simply frightening. Ahtiests need to speak up against this silly nonsense.
Obviously, we dont need to brag or fight. Afterall, the goal is to be heard. My personal approach, when God is discussed or when religious based assumptions are made (as if there is only one immutable view in the world), is to simply raise a couple of questions which demonstrate the hypocracy or bigotry created by religion. Generally, people dont want to be hypocritical bigots and it opens the door for inquiry later.
All the more important (and this is my second reason) is to speak up if we are a minority among our peers and family.
I came to this conclusion after studying the Solomon Ashton experiments on group conformity (you can watch them on youtube). Based on these experiments, the number of persons who will see the facts ( see reality when the group view is different) rises dramatically when ONE other person is willing to stick out their neck and speak up against conventional views. For this reason alone, it is important for us to speak up.
Okay, I will get off my soap box now. Cheers! :)
Linda -- The Solomon Ash experiments I was referring to are linked below. They are funny! I have sent them to some religious friends who recognized the relationship between Religious group think and the experiments right away.
Funny you should mention kids, I have noticed the same tendancies to be natural rebels or followers. There is something inherent. Critical thinking does have to be learned sometimes. It will be interesting to see what neurology and genetics say about this. Especially in light of the new claims about free will.
I encounter anger sometimes as well, people seem to think you are attacking THEM if you attack their religion. Often though I hear "pity"--for me. As in, "If you cant see the beauty and love that God brings to the world, well then, I feel sorry for you." I love that one! And I call it like it is--a passive agressive attempt to dismiss my point. Not very humble to think only your religion has love!
Anger is tougher. And I think the reasons vary depending on the person. I reply by trying to understand where the anger is coming from. Sometimes it seems like it is from a personal fear of losing control of their world view (and by extension their life). And other times, it seems it is to protect "the life of the group". As if my questions will dissolve the whole existence of the group. This is why the religious "meme" theory makes some sense to me. Its as if the Religion itself is struggling to live by controlling the minds of people. Very odd to think of it that way.
@Mahatma Coat Please do not get off your "soap box"! We need your words now more than ever. It is hard for me to believe people do not know about these human behaviors and cultural influences and seem either bewildered when learning about them, or rejecting the principles out of hand. Just for convenience, I am listing a few other references here in addition to your citations on Solomon Asch's conformity experiments, if anyone wants to learn more.
Dr. Stanley Milgram’s Studies on Obedience (1963)
Studies looked at pigeons, mice, fish, octopus, prisoners of war and found each could learn to be helpless, "a condition of a human person or an animal in which it has learned to behave helplessly, even when the opportunity is restored for it to help itself by avoiding an unpleasant or harmful circumstance to which it has been subjected. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation. Organisms which have been ineffective and less sensitive in determining the consequences of their behavior are defined as having acquired learned helplessness."
(2) ^ Carlson, Neil R. (2010). Psychology the science of behaviour. Pearson Canada. pp. 409. ISBN 9780205699186.
Learned Helplessness Audiovisual Chapter Review
Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiments (1971)
The importance of questioning athority
Obedience to authority
Max Weber, (1904-05). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
Weber argued that Protestantism was one of the major “elective affinities” associated with the rise of capitalism, bureaucracy and the rational-legal nation-state.
Karl Popper, (1960). On the Sources of Knowledge and of Ignorance.
Milgram's Obedience to Authority Experiment of 1961. 2009 1/3
Great cites Joan! Thanks for sharing.
TEDtalk: Philip Zimbardo: Why ordinary people do evil ... or do good
7 Social Processes that grease the slippery slope of evil
1. Mindlessly taking the first small step.
2. Dehumanization of others.
3. De-individuation of self (anonymity).
4. Diffusion of personal responsibility.
5. Blind obedience to authority.
6. Uncritical conformity to group norms.
7. Passive tolerance of evil through inaction, or indifference.
Linda, not many people approach the concepts about life's mysteries the way I do; some follow different paths. I like that! Reading and talking to a lot of different people about the meaning of life or from where does authority come is my journey and yours will undoubtedly be very different. The incredible thing is, We are alive, we have sense organs, we can think and reason and solve problems. We are equipped with all this fine equipment and the pleasure comes in using them. What good is the sense of taste if we don't pay attention to different flavors? What good is the sense of sight if we don't notice those things that can be seen. What good is a brain if we don't think and reason and explore and experiment with thought.
I hope you will share your journey with me as I enjoy sharing mine with you.
My friend just told me about this site and I'm so glad to have joined! I feel so outnumbered everywhere I go and lately it has been really bothering me. The question crosses my mind more and more as the years pass How do people believe that shit?
I've noticed that the only people who find god are children, people with illnesses, and recovering drug addicts.Coincidence? I don't believe so. I am proud to be the minority in the situation of religion but it does get old having people constantly trying to convert me or get me to say I'm agnostic (which I am offended by because I KNOW the truth, it is nothing I will ever say I'm unsure of). Brings me to my next point, an atheism tattoo. I want to get the ambigram atheist tattooed on the inside of my arm but I don't want to have to deal with people talking about how great god is and their "proof" of his existance every time they see it; however I am a very prideful atheist. To ink or not to ink, That is my question.