I came to the understanding that I was an atheist about 5 years ago, when I was 30 years old.  I'd had a lot of time to develop my irrational thinking over that 30 year period.

It was then that I came across a Bright's chat group - wow, what a shock - I was notified clearly and succinctly that my comments were ridiculous, out of this world and plain nonsense - that I had probably been mistaken in arriving in the chat room to start with - followed by ridicule, dismissals and general boredom.

I went off the idea of being an atheist for a few months - then due to thirst for human interaction on the rational level - I persevered and found the Naturalists - 


Here I received a very different response.  One of compassion, understanding, kindness and education.  Many thanks to Tom Clark, Ken Batts, Stephen and others for their above listed qualities.

It was in a Naturalism Yahoo Group that I was educated about rational thinking - but mainly about causality, the causal web and determinism.  Not everyone agrees regarding this view of reality - but I find this approach to be way more beneficial to well being and the promotion of education regarding rational thought than the afore mentioned experience afforded me in the Bights forum.

A recent blog post (http://www.atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/are-atheists-smarter-tha... ) and subsequent comments led me to the following question:

What is our responsibility as atheists, in promoting rational thinking?

None of us are able to maintain rational thought all of the time - we all transgress into irrational thinking at times.  It takes practice and mindfulness to maintain rational thought.

I think we can be more kind to ourselves, our fellow atheists and the outside community when it comes to promoting rational thought.  Indeed I believe it our responsibility.

I hope that Matt doesn't mind my posting his comment from the blog discussion below in order to demonstrate another frustration that would also benefit from us having more integrity as a community in how we maintain and promote our rational thinking - in a way that is effect in terms of education - which I would argue would include understanding, compassion and kindness.

Comment by Matt VDB on Wednesday

What I mean is that it's easy to say that you're a rationalist and that they have reason on their side - everyone thinks of themselves as rational and with reason on their side. Even creationists think of themselves as rational and intellectually honest. What ultimately determines if you're rational isn't whether or not you say that you are. It's in your day-to-day attitude of checking sources, having respect for the opinions of experts, etcetera...

What is your response to none rational thinking?

What are your thoughts about what we need to do as a community to effectively promote rational thought?

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Replies to This Discussion

I mean that IMO he encomposed contradictory elements - because I found his approach aggressive - perhaps it was how he was portrayed in the media also - that he had 'attacked' Princess Diana and Mother Teresa - I think a lot of people had a primitive flight/fight reaction to some of his talks - whether he went on to prove his point or not.

Like Greta says - atheism needs a good cop / bad cop strategies to make progress - extremists as well as diplomats.

I admire Hitchen's greatly - and have decided to come out to my own family, friends and community in honour to his life and death - I admire his courage and his determination to make himself heard on matters of injustice and morality.

I heard enough of Hitchens, years ago, to decide that he was a genius with an urge to destroy himself. He put a lot of effort into reaching his goal. He succeeded.

I was, for several years during the 1970s, a member of Mensa in the two large cities I lived in. I went to meetings in both cities and decided that too many Mensans, while smart, were socially retarded. A woman member who shared my view told me the Mensa men she'd met had very clever ways to hurt people. I soon quit.

Decades of research have been done on intelligence. Soon after I quit, I asked a college professor about that research. He summarized his view with "IQ is the number you get after you take an IQ test."

The books "Emotional Intelligence" and "Social Intelligence" report some of that research.

Tom - I think I've read the EQ book - as intelligence is way more than recognising patterns - it's also about recognising pain in another persons face and your ability to respond to that with loving care... 

By the way re Hitchen's - his death may have been one of those highly influenced by genetic factors - as his father died of the same thing around the same age - I've heard that genes have much to do with what kills you and when - environment may only have a small baring - perhaps a matter of a few years... depending of course how far you take it.....

Maruli - I agree with you - I'm wondering though if we have a choice about how we withdrawn from such an argument - do we take the abusive track of name calling, ridicule etc, or do we take the high road of chivalry - and leave our own and their honour in tact?

Alice, after I took a community college course in assertive communication, I found that conversations sometimes allowed me to joke, "I grew up a boy in America; I learned how to aggress."

That course described assertiveness as the ability:

1. To say "I like....",

2. To say "I don't like....", and

3. To say "No, thanks."

Would one of these help you withdraw from an argument?

BTW, I took the course after I met people who aggressed more effectively than I.

Tom - great tips - lol re meeting one who could agress more effectively than yourself.  I think that there are many white males (to be stereotypical about it), who haven't yet met that one that can agress more effectively yet and so propound their own theories with vigour and despise the weakness they perceive in others - not realising that valor and chivalry are a much better way to go on all counts - including finding a mate.... :)

But yes, your 3 points are useful and I would be wise to remain mindful of them :)

Though they may often be confused, there is certainly a difference between chivalry and chauvinism.  The former considers honour as a measure of one's own behaviour, while the latter mistakes honour for a measure of the opinions of others. 

You know, all this talk of Compassion, Valour, Honour, and such reminds me of the Ultima series.  I really think that contemplation of the virtue system from 'Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar' in my formative years had a big impact on my ethical development. 

Start with three principles: Truth, Love, and Courage.
From those, eight virtues are derived:

  1. Honesty is the seeking and practise of Truth.
  2. Compassion is the most essential expression of Love.
  3. Valour is the Courage to face and oppose that which is wrong in one's world and in oneself.
  4. Justice is impartial Truth tempered by the mercy of Love.
  5. Sacrifice of the self requires Courage to give in the name of Love.
  6. Honour is accorded to the Courage and Truth in one's behaviour.
  7. Spirituality* is the combination of all three principles practised in the seeking to understand and embody ethics and virtue.
  8. Humility is the null set, in that it is not directly made from the principles, but it's the outer circle that binds the rest together, so without it all the other virtues inevitably fall apart. 

*It doesn't mean 'spirit' in the supernatural religious sense, some of the Ultima games criticize religion rather sharply. http://www.digitpress.com/forum/showthread.php?t=150396 


Kevin - do you think perhaps I should get this game for my Minecraft obsessed 10 year old - so as to develop his character? :)

Minecraft is essentially virtual Legos, right?  I don't see a problem in encouraging creativity. 
Ultima IV came out in '85, and while there are free copies you can download online, you may have trouble getting him to play it.  There are people who have come up with fan-driven projects to re-create the games in more modern formats, though. 
Then again, who knows... if he likes the blocky 'retro' look of Minecraft, maybe he'll actually play a real retro game. 


thanks Kevin - I'll pass it on.... :)

Kevin - LOL




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