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: 1290

Replies to This Discussion

I've generally considered the biological aspect of the emotion to be 'empathy', but the exercise or practise thereof to be 'compassion'.  I guess it's a personal connotational difference. 

Anyway... I've heard of a study that showed that many CEOs of the most successful corporations have a lot of the traits of sociopathic personalities.  I don't know just how it was worded, and I haven't been able to find it myself.  it does make sense that there would be a sort of selection pressure against having empathy, and if someone weren't already prone to sociopathic thinking, learning to 'play the game' well would push them in that direction. 

Kevin - I think a person can have empathy - and a person can act compassionately - I suppose they are usually connected - but are separate things - 

I think it was middle management that were the sociopathic - also they were quite incompitent as compared to normal people.  But they did dominate those positions - 1% in general population compared to 24% or so in the management population.



"Truly, a senior leader's position is about service to others...."

Greg, as you know, some people reject that hypothesis. Yet, they do things or have abilities that persuade others to accept them as senior leaders.

Someone, hoping to open people's minds to the flaw in the hypothesis, devised the term "self-service".

Tom - I'm lost now - 

are you saying that self service is service to others - and wanting to educate others about the lack of evidence to support their religious beliefs is wrong and also self serving?

All who run for public office say they want to serve the people.

Many of them have abilities the people want leaders to have and they win election.

In public view, they do what leaders do. Out of public view, some of them do all they can to enrich themselves.

Critics say that these people, along with their desire to serve, have a greater desire to self-serve.

Alice, do you take part in politics? Do you know of any politicians who wanted to self-serve more than they wanted to serve?

Tom - I agree - self serving is what goes on....  although I am a member of the Australian Greens and I find them quite committed to integrity and principles such as social justice and I like that....

Joan Denoo

What do we need to do as a community to effectively promote rational thought?"

I think, free thought is most essental before we can acquire the quality of rational thought. There can be no rational thinking without free thinking.

Madhukar - good point - which is why I so strongly support freedom of expression with minimal value judgement - but maximum rational and compassionate response.

Joan, I agree and want to take another step. Since free thought allows people to make mistakes, even fatal mistakes, rational thought requires more than free thought.

The "more" includes a degree of health, some leisure time, low cost education...

Hm-m, progressivism.


All I need now is a car with a bumper.

Tom Sarbeck

What I have said is that we need free thought before rational thought. Ability for rational will be very ristricted without free thought.

madhukar - very good point - good observation

In order to have free thought, we need free expression. If one tells the truth about family violence, there are voices coming from everywhere, "We don't talk about such things!" "You always harp on that subject!" "You are a whiner!" "Just push the memories down and go on with your life!" "Act is if it didn't happen!" "Pretend you are not afraid!" "You reveal too much!"

These are all "killer phrases" that intend to silence the person. They are another way to get the complainer to deny their own reality. They prevent the necessary process of anger and grieving, and denial and going through the fog. 

It is lonely being alone and quiet with one's anger and grief and denial. 

I think what we need is a listener, many listeners who can see and hear the anger and recognize from where that emotional pain comes. When one grieves he/she needs a soft shoulder and strong supportive arms to hold and comfort. When one is in denial, there needs to be a person who can do reality checks;

Listening, seeing, empathizing are not enough. That is the first step. The healthy observer starts by exploring options; the abused do not see options or will state some of the "killer phrases". That provides an opportunity to point out the phrase and how they are a barbed wire fence holding them in a prison. The observer then terminates the subject and moves on, leaving the abused to ponder, think, reflect, explore, examine, 

Observers get tired of going through this process and have a choice to continue with the healing process or close the door and walk away from the issue. With 7,000,000,000 human beings on the planet, there surely are people who are more interesting and fun to be with. 

Is being a friend a stayer or a walker?




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