What causes arguments?

Posted by on March 23, 2011 in Thoughts | 7 comments

My recent post about starting conversations with the religious in order to make headway has started a bit of a controversy, as I knew it would. I didn’t intend for people to think this was the only answer, all I intended was to put forward an idea that is not moderate in terms of my stance on the existence of God or gods, but to point out that constant yelling from one side aimed at the other can cause no progress.

I really do appreciate all the comments made, and I think each of you has a point, but my point is this: if we want to make change in the world, we cannot try to wipe out those who we oppose, and despising them only serves to make us as irrational as they are.

Sure we all have reasons to dislike what religion has done to people and society, and yes I see that religion’s usefulness has come to an end for most of us. I also understand the amount of emotion that goes into people’s ideals about religion and the religious. You are not alone in feeling strongly about it. You are not alone in your opinions about religion. You are right to be hurt by it, and you are right to be angry.

The post was merely one of many ideas, and to say that I have all the answers would be a lie. But we need to start somewhere, even if it is to expose the logical fallacies of religion in the form of public debates, with the hope that someone watching will see the irrationality for what it is.

What strikes me from the comments is that most of the people who vehemently oppose the idea of dialogue with eh religious are those who live in highly religious places. I am not one of them, and I think in Australia we have it pretty good compared to the USA. We have close to 25% non-religious according to the last census, and the upcoming one in August should show an increase in that number. For me, the answers on that post are all about personal perspective. As I don;t have to deal with religious nuts daily and that those I do encounter are generally religious by habit, by birth or by label, I see that these dialogues may actually be possible. If this ends up the case, then let Australia lead the way by example, as a test case for the rest of the world. But who knows what the future holds?

This comic was sent to me by my friend Matt, and to some degree I think we can all take something from it.

Know also that I appreciate the fact that, though controversial, you all took the time to read the blog, and to post your comments there. Thank you, and I hope any disagreements we have had on this subject will not stop you from reading my ideas. Remember, in order to make our opinions valuable, we need to keep our eyes on the sphere, or we have no argument to speak of. I say this not as a criticism of the opinions posted, just as a general reminder to those reading this.

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7 Comments

  1. Hi Martin ~ I will keep reading :)

    The cartoon isn’t a good analogy both camps do not have equally valid (but different) data. Faith heads have no data at all.

    So a flat versus oblate spheroid world better sums up the positions

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  2. I don’t think calling people “faith heads” helps….

    I do live in a very religious area (Kansas, in the center of the United States — the state of the Phelps family), but I suppose the adjective “very” may mean something quite different for me than it means for other people, such as those in heavily Southern Baptist areas. I’ve been an atheist for going on a decade, starting halfway through high school and going through college until now, and I’ve learned that keeping an adversarial attitude toward all religious people gets you very few friends and allies. It is positive reinforcement for developing an even more antisocial attitude in the future and becoming one of those bad, lonely, miserable people that many religious think all atheists must be by necessity. I still have plenty of anger and other negative feelings for certain things and people within religion, but I try not to be a bigot and feel the same toward everyone of that or any other religion simply because they are of that religion.

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    • Mark. Your opening comment is about my ‘faith head’ remark. I suppose that you may be implying that I’m a bigot later on in your post or are you only saying that you try not to be a bigot ?

      You portray “anger and other negative feelings for certain things and people within religion” as a bad thing. In many situations though anger & disgust too is the only appropriate response

      I notice that (in comparison to atheists) very few moderate Christians are posting condemnations of the extreme wing of their faith. Most Christians seem to be ignoring the problem of the nutters who want (for example) to have all gays killed (I can provide links) ~ why is that ? The same blindness exists among the ‘broad church’ of Muslims.

      Why are these religions not keeping their own houses in order ? On the other hand an atheist who calls for violent action against a religion or a religious practice is immediately publically condemned by the majority of other atheists.

      In that regard religion is too tolerant & we atheists are right not to be tolerant at all. I expect Christians/Muslims etc to police all their denominations (or at least speak out) & they generally do not do so. I have absolute contempt for this hypocrisy that permeates all shades of all religions

      ‘Faith heads’ is me being nice to these two-faced liars :)

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  3. Mike,

    Only the very first line of my post was directed at you. The rest was a response to the following, from this very blog post:

    “What strikes me from the comments is that most of the people who vehemently oppose the idea of dialogue with eh religious are those who live in highly religious places.”

    That was in response to several people in the comment thread referred to, so I felt the need to contrast my own views and behavior with said people’s, as I see myself as living in an area that may, at least to my mind, be labeled “highly religious”, though admittedly not as highly religious as other areas.

    I did not intend to portray “anger and other negative feelings for certain things and people within religion” as a bad thing. The bad thing is, as I tried to point out in the final portion of my statement, generalizing these negative attitudes and thoughts so that they get applied to everyone of a certain label, even if they have done no actual harm.

    I suspect, though it is a new and tentative opinion of mine, that the reason the religious don’t police their own ranks in the geographic areas most familiar to us is because of the freedom of thought we hold to be fundamental to our culture(s): If it is not important for the religious to present a united front (as it is in theocracies), and if many are content to let other people believe as they will and thus relinquish responsibility for others holding different beliefs, they may not feel any obligation to shoot down the opinions of those with different beliefs. If anything, I would say the wrongdoing of these people is not that they are abstaining from criticizing their fellow believers because they [i]are[/i] fellow believers, but that they don’t care enough about, or are completely ignorant of the harm perpetrated against, those who are hurt as a consequence of their fellow believers acting on their beliefs. But this is a “wrongdoing” that people of every group are guilty of.

    For one sect to criticize another for their doctrine-based actions would require disputes on matters of doctrine. It seems, in modern culture, that people would rather just form splinter sects (there is an unbelievably enormous number of Christian sects, already!) and let others believe as they will than resolve doctrinal disputes within a sect. When people are content not to be literalists (and the problem even exists for literalists, despite their objections), they don’t have a very solid basis upon which to criticize other non-literalist sects. This may be a reason behind the willingness to splinter off rather than dispute doctrine, as well as the reason you don’t find much policing of “their own” ranks.

    In short: Even though cultural and political secularism are our goals, cultural secularism and freedom of thought and conscience may be, ironically, what is causing the religious to act (or not act) in the way you criticize (i.e. not policing their ranks). This is an entirely different political and social climate than the ones in which these religions developed originally, or at least different from the setting in which these religions cemented.

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  4. I agree with what you say Mark…

    Except freedom of speech frees one sect to question the suppositions & outright bigotries of another sect & yet it-hardly-ever-happens-that-they-do-so-criticise. Moderate believers have perhaps not realised that by saying nothing they are actually tacitly supporting the extremists in their faith. If they have not realised this then we need to make them wake up

    If I open MikeDonalds Burgers tomorrow how long will I have to wait before the I’m lovin’ it crew are on my case ? Less than three months & I’m getting legal action up the kazoo

    Here’s the KKK backing away from the Westboro Baptist Church & yet over here in the UK the only people really talking about the loony Baptists are the atheists

    As you have yourself noticed religionists are two-faced liars. No sympathy or compromise with religion is possible ~ they are all in the game of making false claims & ignoring each others glaring faults. Evil, poisonous, disingenuous lying b**t*rds

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  5. In own of Heinlein’s juvenile SF books he had the hero win the discussion by not arguing or stating his position at all. Instead he used his knowledge to ask questions which pushed the discussion into the direction that shows the fallacy. No confrontation and the speaker is shown to be an idiot.
    It requires deep knowledge patience and skill. Being atheist does not give you any of those 3 skills so I always find its easier to call then bat-schite crazy.

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    • excellant

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