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?

Views: 1324

Replies to This Discussion

so now we have a list:

free expression

free thought

rational thought


Greg - all sounds good to me :)

This thread has generated a lot of discussion, so please forgive me if someone else has already pointed this out:

When you ask the average person on the street what they think of atheists, you will likely get a negative response. Most people have been taught that Atheists are vile angry creatures that believe in nothing, have no morals and would eat their own babies if they could get away with it. We are constantly confused with nihilists and anarchists when this is rarely the case.

When we attack people for having irrational beliefs or failing to approach questions with critical thinking, we reinforce the negative stereotype of "The Angry Atheist" and are dismissed as being bitter with god because someone wronged us in church.

Simply drawing the battle lines and stating the facts will not win most people over if they are trapped in an irrational mindset and fail to see the flaw in circular logic. Directly questioning someones cognitive capacity is the quickest way to make someone stop listening to you. All the logic and reason in the world will fall on deaf ears at that point.

So, how do I respond to irrational thinking? It depends on the individual and the circumstance. Sometimes it even means keeping my big mouth shut. But I am always respectful and try to remember that we all get it wrong sometimes.

Jason - some good points - there are many in the atheist movement who believe that we need to be aggressive in our approach because being passive isn't addressing the harm caused by religion.

Some of us aren't very aggressive, though... Passive inquiry can be compelling where aggression evokes aggression in turn. I think a bit of both, set in a strategic and skilled manner, will eke the best results. It's a mean beastie, religion. It has so many in its grips and like a drug addiction, those affected must be the ones to decide and climb their way out.

The more direct the strike, the better the grace and talent needed. We saw this with Christopher Hitchens in so many debates. Were I to mimic, to even try and mimic his style, I would fail before I start. I may rely on reason and do my best to instill it in myself, but by my very nature, I am empathic and pacificist. I come up as the peacemaker on various psychological tests... For me, the open-armed and receptive sounding board, with apt-timed inquiry--that is the more appropriate approach.

My brothers, one jewish, one agnostic deist, have their own ideas about the grand scheme of things. My oldest brother has his own ideas about how other faiths and atheism fit into 'god's plan.' He does not seem too receptive to leaving behind religion. My other brother has difficulty accepting a world that came about without divine guidance of some sort. At the same time, he doesn't really care about religion and has many issues with immorality in christianity. With the rest of our family being fundamentalists, by a majority, I can see why they both would not take the step to rid religion or god entirely from their lives. Still, I feel freer to converse with them about issues, empathize with their position, and hopefully shed some light on major points of interest.

I don't see my oldest brother and I agreeing regarding circumcision/(male) genital mutilation. He's really embraced judaism, and all that comes (or goes) with it.

TL;DR You need to know when to pick your battles.

Nerdlass - sure - we all have our strengths and we need to play to them - I still think that atheism is a movement and a movement needs movers - slow, fast, big and small...

Alice, I'm sure you know this but you didn't say it: between aggressive and passive there's assertive.

I understand assertive to mean being able to say I like something, I dislike something, and to set limits.

Hm-m, it's too long for a bumper sticker, "Aggressive and Passive are so Binary".

Tom - LOL - yes sure - I've been having quite a few conversations about this with others on facebook - about aggressive angry atheists and their role - and abusive behaviour expressed at religious groups and socially acceptable behaviour within atheists circles.  Brought up issues such as Dawkins ridiculing, skep chick lift saga, greta's list of reasons we are angry, the privilege of being able to insult people in a politically correct way etc...

Jason Fleming

But I am always respectful and try to remember that we all get it wrong sometimes

We all are wrong sometimes is indisputable, but what Alice is refering to in this thread is habitual irrational thinking. At least, that is what I suppose. Alice?

Madhukar - I suppose I have a few questions regarding this topic.

1. Do we as atheists need to be more considerate of treating others with kindness when they are aiming to become free thinkers?

2. Do we as atheists have reason to promote rational thinking in all circles?

3. Do we as atheists have a need to be more aggressive in our promotion of rational thinking with those of faith?

4. What are our moral responsibilities when speaking to people of faith?

In fact I'm going to start a new discussion on this....

Hi Alice,

The thoughts we have in irrational thinking may be wrong, but I don't think it is wrong to think irrationally. For example: My 7 year old nephew explained to me how we see. Nothing he said was based on any evidence what-so-ever. Everything he thought up was based only on what he conjured up in his own mind. He was totally wrong in his explanation, but I was happy he was actually thinking about how we see and trying to explain how we see. 

Irrational thinking is a starting point. What happens next is the interesting part. Do we decide to look for verifiability of our thoughts, do we talk to others about our thoughts and try to get an even better understand of our thoughts? 

What happened to you at the Bright's chat room, is an example of irrational thinking on the part of the Bright's. Regardless of whether a 7 year old or an adult is irrational in their thoughts, should we just ridicule anybody whose opinion we dislike or consider irrational? I prefer to encourage people to think for themselves. Put, what I personally consider to be evidence and proof in front of them and let them make their own decision. And if they have a different opinion, I'm more than happy to listen to it, and read any proof they have. But ridicule? I think it is a lazy way out of a debate.

In debates there are two options: 


Option one: Ridicule, but if you ridicule others, all that happens is you get better and better at ridiculing others.

Option two: Showing evidence, but if you start showing evidence for your opinions every time you enter a debate, all that happens is you get better and better at showing evidence every time you enter a debate. 


In my mind ridicule is irrational. 


I agree with everything you have written. And I hope others outside Atheist Nexus also think about this type of thing. 





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