An interesting letter to an editor

Published - Monday, December 22, 2008

Respect the rights of atheists, too
By PHILLIP BERRY | La Crosse

This is a response to Sally Oswalt’s letter to the editor titled “They can’t prove there is no God.” I can agree we atheists may not be able to prove there is no god; however, we are not the ones making the claim.

If I started telling everyone that I believed that there is a one-ton diamond buried in my backyard, and that my family and I enjoy digging for that diamond on Sundays together, people would ask for proof that it exists.
When instead of offering proof, I tell them that I simply have “faith” that it is there; everyone would, presumably, look at me as if I were mad. Yet, somehow religion has found its way beyond the boundaries of rational discussion because everyone is taught to respect others’ beliefs (presumably by not asking questions).

The problem is that we should be questioning others’ beliefs because these beliefs are killing and segregating our people. Basing recent state and national governmental legislation regarding topics ranging from stem cell research to homosexual marriage on viewpoints from an outdated book is irrational.

So to tell us atheists to mind our own business about beliefs, when your beliefs are ever more encroaching into legislative policies for everyone is hypocritical.

You surely can believe what you want; but don’t be surprised when you’re asked for evidence for your beliefs, and when you have none to offer, you are simply laughed in the face.

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Comment by MJ on January 11, 2009 at 10:59pm
Thanks! I appreciate the information. I will look those up.
Comment by Chrys Stevenson on January 11, 2009 at 10:37pm
Google: Sam Harris "The End of Faith" and "Letter to a Christian Nation"

Both 'must reads' for the aspiring atheist. Start with "Letter to a Christian Nation" - it's small, cheap and you can read it in a day. Follow up with "The End of Faith" which is uncompromising on its attack on religion.
Comment by MJ on January 11, 2009 at 9:35pm
I am still pretty new on here, and I am not aware of Sam Harris... (still learning).
Thanks for the comments...
I am only copying the letter to post, since I liked the premise...
Next time I'll write my own.. ;-)
Comment by Chrys Stevenson on January 11, 2009 at 4:51pm
The "diamond in the backyard" argument is lifted from Sam Harris. I think an "as Sam Harris argues" might have been a nice acknowledgment rather than presenting the analogy as the original idea of the writer. Otherwise, good letter.
Comment by Richard Healy on January 11, 2009 at 2:54pm
May I be so bold as to suggest a minor correction, but keeping the same point?

Rather than using a real-life object that actually exists like a diamond (even a big one which theoretically *might*) why not make the comparison to something which for which there is clearly no evidence, and for which their is very low probability of being likely to be found but which is treated by some as if it were real?

For example unicorns. (bonus points for pointing out if the bible is literally true, then believers believe unicorns existed. Job 39:9–12)

I'm just thinking aloud: but do you think that might make your argument stronger? It's just by comparing like claims for like, I wondering if this affords their god the possibility of existing by forming the analogy with doesn't prompt the reader to step outside of their beliefs to see god as not merely unlikely almost certainly not real.

My 2cents. And good luck submitting it.
Comment by Knowledge Is Power on January 11, 2009 at 2:25pm
I'm incapable of opening up a person's skull to find out what their beliefs are. So the fact that I know what someone believes means they communicated it to me in some way. If people insist on communicating their beliefs to me then I feel entitled to communicate my disapproval or incredulity. If you don't want people to comment about your beliefs then keep them to yourself. If you make your beliefs public then you are welcoming criticism. If you still persist then you either need to grow thicker skin or start thinking rationally.

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