Something horribly disturbing that I am starting to notice among fellow atheists

First of all, hey guys! I haven't been on for awhile!

I just wanted to pop back in to my good old atheist community to express some concern over two trends I am noticing in some atheists.

The first is dogmatic atheism. I've gone 5 years never having to encounter a dogmatic atheist and suddenly I've met a couple recently. Atheism is NOT and can NOT be a positive claim. People claiming that there is definitely no god (apparently they exist) need to be confronted whenever possible. I am working very hard to try to secularize the world, but it is extremely important that religion is not replaced with nontheistic dogma.
If atheism is an emotionally held position rather than a rational one, first of all the theists are right. In this scenario the atheist is no better than the most indoctrinated theist. Second of all, with the broad and promising reach of secularization, it forebodes a possible future when religious oppression is not eliminated but simply turned against the religious.

This brings me to my second issue: Hostility. When being hostile to theists, you have to stop and think about your intentions. Being hostile to a theist achieves nothing more than blowing off steam for your own selfish interests. I suppose this is fine if you can't deal with not having the release or don't care about the image of atheism, but again if we are to spread at all as a rational position rather a emotional/dogmatic one, personal attacks should really stop. They're usually excused by some rendition of "they started it" or "theists do it so much worse!" But come now... it is intellectually dishonest to justify such behavior this way. Adults behaving like children will be dismissed like children. Just think about how well those "atheists hate god" people affect your opinion. Nobody is forcing you to stay and talk with an idiot. If you can't stand what they're saying, most likely they won't be convincing any moderates anyway. Leave them to someone else who can handle their terrible arguments without getting hostile.
Keep in mind that nobody thinks that they are evil or stupid. People draw lines and expect in some sense to be respected. Don't give them certain respects that they don't deserve naturally but for a rational, non-emotinal position, civil discourse is always a minimum respect. An overwhelming majority of theists have no idea what atheism is. They've been lied to by their religious figures and their community which supports the urban legends. People don't need to be stupid in order to be brainwashed. They have extremely good reasons to fear us. Their churches spread propaganda and there are enough atheists confirming that we're "angry, hateful people" to  block all critical thought.

"We shall have to repent in this generation, not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."-MLK

""First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice"

This goes both ways. The atheist moderates need to be heard over the dogmatic ones. The theist moderates need to be considered when trash talking the extremist ones. The leading social activists in history have all realized the importance of the moderates.

Theists are not stupid. They're not playing fantasy. The only requirement is belief in god. We can't get so caught up in our own opinion that we create our own pseudo-religion and demonize the theist moderate.

We need the help every theist moderate that we can get. They are our most powerful tool for social change. They are the ones who will spread the word to the theist community that we're not monsters. They will make more atheists and atheist sympathizers than any one of us ever possibly could.

Please consider this next time you choose to debate a bigot. Your actions affect much more than just you and the other participant. If we don't remove the emotional blocks to reason, we can't expect reason from anybody.

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Comment by Alice on April 30, 2011 at 7:43pm

I appreciate your sentiment.


I think that desperate people lead to desperate measures… if you go for determinism we don’t have any choice – those of us who do end up acting like fanatics or dogmatic…


The other thing I wanted to point out is that there is no rational part of the brain – as pointed out in Sam Harris’ book – The Moral Landscape – Neuroscientist.  He tells us that our reasoning faith, belief and rationality are all in the same part of the brain – we believe what we do not based on facts but based on values…


And so I can see that you want people to see atheists as having good values – or good morals even… and therefore the hateful imagine isn’t attractive.


It’s tough – because who is going to be publicised amongst theists circles?  The ones who are kind and caring or the ones who fit the prejudice description of heathens?


I think it worth developing values or morals as atheists that we can promote to other atheists and theists alike.  See my group Compassionate Communication for more on that…



Comment by Johnny on April 29, 2011 at 11:28am
If you are able to defend your position to a theist without resorting to aforementioned intellectually dishonest emotional-type strategies then I'll have little problem with it.
I've only started to debate this viewpoint somewhat reasonably and of the 7-10 ppl I've talked to, the best response I've gotten to prove the impossibility of Descartes' hypothetical god is that "he made it up, therefore it can not exist." with the only clarification being a couple rails about how stupid I am and how agnosticism is bullshit (with a clear misunderstanding of the term.)

My less idiotic friend said he'd never actually openly claim the impossibility of a god (unless its traits logically contradict) but rejects god in general on the basis that nobody has been able to agree upon a definition therefore it's a useless concept to compartmentalize and disagree upon.
That's an interesting take and I can see certain merits of it although as he said it doesn't really make up a hard claim.

I'll try to pop back in just for the interest of hearing the position defended in an honest way. Between 3 papers and 4 tests for next week I'll just be popping in for breaks.
Comment by Johnny on April 29, 2011 at 11:21am
Hitchens has also recently railed on how disgusted he is by cultlike atheists emailing him and asking him to do things like officiate weddings.
Comment by Johnny on April 29, 2011 at 9:13am

@John D

LOL right it wasn't a metaphor but gimme a break it's early and I haven't had my coffee yet.

Again, I'm in no way advocating low resistance. The gay march was a bad example because it doesn't demonstrate anything that I'm against. Still with this new post I agree with most of what you say.
Broad whom-it-may-concern marches are not the same as individual dialogue. One's purpose is exposure and the other's is getting through the intricacies.

“You claim it is ALWAYS right to be polite.”
You’re right that I over generalized. I’ll refine it to polite discussion as opposed to polite exposure. Hostile billboards are sometimes reasonable, Marches will probably be reasonable. Speeches can sometimes be reasonable. I post arguably “hostile” (depending on what extent we’re talking about) Facebook statuses.

However once you attract the individuals to talk to you using these tactics, I see no place for it in one-on-one discussion in a public forum. Hostility tends to polarize when you’re getting into the logistics of your position. I’ll say things like “discussion with you is useless if you continue to dodge points” but beyond that I see no reason to be. Emotional appeal is certainly useful for emotional positions (we’re oppressed, we want to be heard, etc) but it is not good in the context of discussion where I see it most often.

“Since I have screamed at the bigot showing a dead and bloody fetus at our local street fair I have not seen him again.”
This seems to work into my appropriate place for emotional appeal. It is still one on one but it is not really discussing fundamental issues of personal worldviews.

And contrary to what you might possibly think about my position, I think that it is very important to get angry and express it openly. Can we agree that there are times that it is completely inappropriate even if there are times where it is appropriate?
For example, hostility paired with not addressing points is counterproductive. I’ve been seeing more of that recently than I ever have. Hostility at the expense of clouding one’s analysis of another’s argument, hostility at the expense of breaking up your logic and making it hard to get through from another’s perspective, etc.

Comment by Johnny on April 29, 2011 at 8:10am

"remember that their sock puppet father God can not stomach the prospect of decorum with any of us except to convert us to HIS worship."

Talking to too many fundies. I agree that the Bible says that but if Christians read their Bible there would probably be more of us anyway. Plenty of theists are perfectly willing to allow discourse. We have a regular evangelical in our Freethinkers group that likes us better because he can never flex his mind among his flock and likes to hear us talk though he doesn't agree.
This is the most important demographic to target (none of you have addressed that point yet) because these are the kinds of people who take words back to the churches and will actually be listened to. People seem to bash their heads on the fundies so often that they think that all dialogue with theists will be just as much of a waste of time.
I know testimonial isn't a great appeal, but I've noticed a very promising change in response since I've switched demographic targets and I've even deconverted a few moderates in the past year.


Comment by Johnny on April 29, 2011 at 8:04am

"You have fallen into a theist trap in referring to atheists as dogmatic."

I didn't call atheists as a whole anything. I'm referring to things I've seen lately. Dismissal of points, ad homenim, and all the things theists use to shut people out when they have a dissenting opinion.
Hasn't happened this thread yet but on other forums it has been obnoxiously bad.

"God is not a fifty/fifty proposition."
Whoah there. Nowhere close to claiming this. That is indeed a rediculous position. I think the notion of a god is rediculous. I'm just not dismissive of all possible gods (especially those that I have not even been exposed to) but only those that I'm aware of and can find a logical impossibility between their claimed traits. The rest are extremely improbable IMO.

"You have set up a false dichotomy in asserting atheist are either rational or emotional."
I don't think I did. Perhaps I worded something badly? Everyone is emotionally driven. Some just display it more than others and let it cloud a larger portion of their posts than others.
Comment by Johnny on April 29, 2011 at 7:47am

I will agree that certain models of god (including many creator models and especially the Abrahamic one) are completely impossible. Hard atheism tends to fail as a complete overarching claim though unless you restrict the definition of god into a sort of confirmation bias which only allows for disprovable models.

"I think the more important aspect is whether your words are fair and truthful."
I can see that POV. Theists tend to think emotionally though. Throwing out a perfectly rational defense paired with an ad homenim will consistently draw their attention to namecalling. I won't reserve that exclusively for theists because hostility towards anyone is more likely to get them to ignore the good points and waste truthful words.

"insulting a Christian by saying that they are ignorant and believe in ridiculous crap is perfectly acceptable because it's true."

If truth was that simple to get across there wouldn't be any theists. You didn't really give a defense of this so I'll just direct your attention to a comparison between hostile and non-hostile theists. Which is interesting to talk to? Which makes you think? The one calling you a blind idiot will make you tired of them even if they make reasonable points.
Comment by Johnny on April 29, 2011 at 7:31am

Hope I'm not slippery sloping this since I'm running up against finals week but I'll give it a go.

@John D

"Lots of people said "Gee wizz - these gays are not helping win over moderates with this outrageous behavior.  They should behave well, so we can like them more."

Bad metaphor. I never advocated being closet. There's nothing hostile about being open and proud.

"Descarte's evil god is self contradictory... so I am not convinced."

Maybe later. For now we'll keep the focus on hostility.

"No evidence for behavior"
What exactly does this have to do with anything? I appealed to the moderate.  If that is not you, evidence does not apply.
Since you started a rebuttal anyway though, you'll have to explain the usefulness of your actions. I agree to some extent that hostile defiance is better than none at all, but it does nearly as much harm as good.
Do you dispute the fact that it does harm, think civil discussion does more harm, think that incivility is more productive, or disagree on the basis that you think my position is that you are useless?

"Was polite"
Broad testamonial. Just because you're polite does not mean you're effective. Being quiet is worse than being hostile. It all depends on how you were being polite.

I actually find the atheist march a good idea, but no person-to-person or person-to-group hostility is required for that as I said. Open and proud is not the same thing as calling someone an idiot, etc.

Comment by Clarence Dember on April 28, 2011 at 8:30pm
As long as we're talking about theists being allies towards the greater good of rationality we must remember that their sock puppet father God can not stomach the prospect of decorum with any of us except to convert us to HIS worship. Unless and until those scales fall off of the minds and eyes of the beholden it's best not to waste our precious breath on their mysticism.
Comment by Frankie Dapper on April 28, 2011 at 7:22pm


You have fallen into a theist trap in referring to atheists as dogmatic. Allen Dershowitz portrays atheism on one end of the dogma spectrum and orthodoxy on the other. His position is nonsense. God is not a fifty/fifty proposition. Whether the naysayer is utterly certain that the bullshitter is bullshitting or nearly certain is immaterial. The naysayer has a rational basis for his opinion. The theist has no rational basis.

You have set up a false dichotomy in asserting atheist are either rational or emotional. Unless you are an automoton you cannot divorce yourself from emotion. If you never get angry perhaps you do not understand all of the issues. Emotion is biological. In terms of the efficacy of the soft versus hard atheism, none of us really know. It probably differs with demographics.


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