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

To me it depends, who was the person starting the situation leading to disagreements about belief.  

I consider churches as museums with lots of art to look at.   When I enter a church, I am the guest and inside the church I have no right to hurt the feelings of the believers or to provoke anybody.  

But when religious people initiate the argument, then they get my full condescension.

Jim - well all you have to do is mention Spinoza and I'm all yours....

But you had me before you mentioned him anyway - I really like your approach and would like to foster more of that for my own way of being, as well as promote it as an idea for rational thinkers generally.

I'd like to look up those two also - James Randi and Michael Shermer - can you recommend any You Tubes?

I'm interested also to unpack Hitchen's way of enlightening others....  some are quite offended by him - but I can only see that his way is shocking, but to the point - with brilliant analogies that highlight the irrationality of that which he seeks to discredit.

I haven't had time to do the research myself - but I am very curious as to whether you could call Hitchen's methods abusive?  In that, does he name call, or use any of the 38 ways to win an argument - that could be considered immoral in terms of Sam Harris - or is he just brilliant with lots of adroit answers to irrational thought?

Jim - thanks - I've run out of time today - but I must come back to these and make sure I follow up on them.....

shemer at ted - he's a funny guy....

love the song at the end.

Greg - I find him a bit abusive....

Good point that people acting nonrationally often claim to have reason on their side.

One of the hosts of the Reasonable Doubts podcast is a psychologist, and he mentioned some findings that indicate that's more of a universal bias.  Most people attribute their own beliefs and actions to reason, while attributing those of others to emotion.  It's something to keep in mind.

Most people attribute their own beliefs and actions to reason, while attributing those of others to emotion.

I suspect that people's basic attitudes and choice of beliefs etc. are determined by their individual differences in experiencing dishomeostasis caused by subconscious instincts.   

Breeding is an example:   People with a strong urge to procreate derive their reasons against abortion logically from the premises of the purpose of humans being the survival of their genes.

For the childfree, who are void of the instinctive urge to breed, claiming the right to abortion is also logically derived from their innate preference to avoid breeding and experiencing themselves as individuals and not as bearer of genes.  

A god, who gives live as a gift, is then the logical backup-belief for the breeders.   For non-breeders, a god's demand to breed is one more reason to discard the belief in a god, that denies the own inclinations.  

But the basic difference between the presense or absence of a specific urge is something, that cannot be used to measure what is right for everybody.  

No matter, how much I personally consider it as absurd to raise children, the urge of those, who do so is as real and appropriate for them.    There is basically no right or wrong between people's needs, unless there is harm done to others.   (Letting aside political consideration of the eath's overpopulation.)

Maruli, I experience you as writing clearly while accurately finding the challenge.  You wrote, "people's basic attitudes and choice of beliefs etc. are determined by their individual differences in experiencing" and when we find the beliefs don't bring healthy relationships, we start looking for answers.  Thinking one is born to breed is one of those beliefs that I created in response to my life-experiences and found it was not the answer.  I learned from my tradition that obedience was necessary for a good life ... and when that turned out to be damaging, I believed I could create a family life that would bring children into a world of love ... that turned out to be a delusion.  So, divorce from parents, husband, family, church, and community seemed to be the way to go.  

That is not the way to go ... we are created as social animals and need tools to develop affirming interpersonal relationships.  These tools are learned, no mystery, no magic, no supernatural events;  just learn skills for personal and interpersonal relationships. 

You wrote, "There is basically no right or wrong between people's needs" (and I would add within an individual's needs) "unless there is harm done to others."

My focus is not just on experiencing, but on experiencing dishomeostasis, which is then consciously experienced as some attitude.   If someone consciously decides to have children for whatever reason, subconsciously this is an urge of the procreation instinct.

When someone consciously decides to get an abortion for any reason or excuse pretending only to pospone having children, the subconscious instinct is dishomeostasis of the need for self-preservation, while the procreation instinct is absent.  

I think that whatever people believe in, think, value, can be ultimately explained by the subconscious dishomeostasis of any combination of mainly the procreation instinct, sexual instinct, ingroup-outgroup instinct, hierarchy instinct and gregarious instinct.   It can of course be modified by culture, brainwashing and social pressure.  

But I doubt that people would do much, unless there is either some dishomeostasis or a stimulation of the pleasure center of the brain.  

Maruli - I agree - and think that much more should be made of this in scientific thinking... sometimes I find scientific thinking to be very black and white and presume that a scientist for example can have rational thinking 100% of the time - or so it seems - when listening to educated professors I do find them very self aware of their own limitations...  but there is a trend in conversations on AN to generalisations that lead to black and white thinking....

About black-and-white thinking.

During the 1960s, a California semanticist published a book in which he said black-and-white thinking is a result of stress. I paid attention because I had just quit Catholicism and his words explained to me what I was still experiencing.

He became the president of California State University in San Francisco and was later elected to the U.S. Senate, where he achieved fame for listening to debate with his eyes closed. He insisted that he wasn't sleeping.

His name was Sam Hayakawa and he may have been related to the WW2-era actor of Japanese descent, Sessue Hayakawa.




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