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 personally find it extremely frustrating the irrationality of the religious, but as I found, it is sometimes moderated by the discover that at least in some cases the individuals do not have that capacity. They function very well in there day to day lives but when it comes to understanding abstract thought, there is something lacking. It is my thinking that it is in poor taste to take offense where none is intended. So I try not to trouble such people, to ask of them something they are not equipped to do--is both folly and rude.   

James, help me understand your meaning of "abstract."

From my perspective an abstract thought is a god, or something, creates the world, or god creates man out of dust and uses a rib to create a woman, or god creates man to have dominion over all the swims, crawls and flies, or that god stopped the sun from traveling across the sky, or god created a son who didn't die and who went to heaven on a beam, and god created man to sacrifice himself in imitation of a crucified Christ, and god has his eyes on a sparrow, and god answers prayers, and God set up a system of rewards and punishment for those who obey. 

Am I missing something? 

I think creationists are protecting their beliefs, which is a quite rational goal.

Protecting irrationality can be rational? It sounds like protecting poverty from the rich.

Do you mean in the sense that the Buddha was protected from viewing poverty?


Gautam Buddha was prevented from seeing poverty by others. The creationists are deliberately protecting their beliefs, mainly from science. This is what I mean.

MK, I'm sorry to have taken this long to reply. You are a potent reasoner; to prevail here I needed to think clearly.

First, your "Protecting irrationality can be rational?"

It can be. Let's define the word: rational - clearly, sensibly, logically.

It's as clear, sensible and logical for people with weak minds to protect themselves as it is for people with strong minds to do so.

1. Who doesn't have irrational beliefs? The content of these beliefs differ; their irrationality doesn't.

2. Believers might protect their irrational beliefs with flight; we non-believers might protect our irrational beliefs with fight, or argument.

Second, your "It sounds like protecting poverty from the rich."

Poverty is a condition; the rich are people. The two are unlikes.

Let's deal with likes: poverty and wealth, or poor people and rich people.

1. Protecting poor people from rich people is rational. Protecting rich people from poor people is rational. Will rich people take poverty from those who have it?

2. Protecting poverty from wealth seems irrational but people do it. Of the three ways I name below, the first is the least rational and the third is the most rational.

a. Poor people might despair, or give up hope.

b. Poor people might believe events are predetermined, as taught by some religions.

c. Poor people might protect poverty (the little they have) from the rich by not putting it into banks, who protect their rights with pages of legalisms in customer agreements.

Madhukar, thank you for providing me with an opportunity to take you on. I perhaps won this round because English is my native language. I know a bit of Spanish, less German, still less Russian, and none of your native language.

Tom Sarbeck

I am actually glad that you got an opportunity to take me on, I am taking this very positively. I want add a couple of points, first, kindly adress me as Madhukar and secondly, thanks very much for your complements. As for your long reply, I will have to take some time to read it.

Tom Sarbeck

First, your "Protecting irrationality can be rational?"

It can be. Let's define the word: rational - clearly, sensibly, logically.

There are two parts to the above question. One may commit irrationality, due to say some lack of knowledge and therefore his instinct may be wanting to defend the irrrationality. We may therefore say that this desire to defend irrationality is understandable but it can not be said to rational. We may use some other colloquial words baecause we are less particular about linguistic correctness but are more concerned about conveying a thought. Similarly, it is not rational even for a third person to defend another persons irrationality. When we discuss a point theoretically, I think what I say seems "rational" to me.

Now, as for the use of my words 'poor' and 'rich', it's is possible that I did not try to be very accurate because I did not know that they will be dissected. I have managed to convey what I wanted to say.


I grew up with the idea of reincarnation, souls, god, heaven, hell - I really wanted to believe them to be all true, but as I went through the ideas when I was about 18 and looked into myself - I could only get as far as Karma having some merit - it was nice to think that we get another body, or go to heaven with loved ones, but the idea was for me, always marred by doubt.  I couldn't fully enjoy the idea without feeling anxious that it wasn't actually the truth.

So when I started to face this fact at around 30 years old and started to engage with others of matters of science and reality I suffered a bit of depression, whilst processing the facts of death, no heaven, no new body, no reincarnation etc.  But once I had come to terms with the facts of science after about 9 months or so of feeling scared, concerned etc, a sort of grief - I then felt much better about life - and now because I now believe that my understanding of reality is much more grounded in fact - I can now reason and accept the reality I am in.  It gives me much more chance to make the most of what I have - and less superficial in my patching up fears with fantasy ideas of another chance in another life etc.

Alice, those impressions must have been very powerful if you grew up with them. Depression is terrible to experience, but so many people, me included, had to reach so far into our black existence that something else emerges that held far better and healthier thoughts. While searching for my own reason to live I went through a lot of different philosophies but each one just felt like casting off old chains for new ones. Buddhism gave me some wonderful tools for meditation but the reincarnation thing, and the mysticism that grew up around Buddha, yielded me no peace. 

I know from many personal experiences, when I am in a depression or have terrifying nightmares I am about to break through into something healthier than I am leaving behind. When depression and nightmares occur, I have no idea I have something bothering me ... but they always produce relief. 

My depression lifted when I started taking an iron supplement.  It was dietary.  Any environmental depression that I have had is about not getting my needs met and not knowing how to get them met.  This sort of depression lifts when you can learn how to recognise and meet your own needs.

My 5 year old suffers from night terrors - I believe it is due to some imbalance in his system - gut bacteria or too much wheat or sugar in his diet - it's nothing to do with his thinking or fears.

That makes good sense. I do hope you find the deficiency. How did you come to realize your lack of iron caused depression?




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