Sisyphus: This is a guest post written by one of my good friends and a regular commenter, Schevus.
One of the biggest problems that arises when a non-theist and a theist (Christian for the purposes of this post) debate religion is the different position that each side is coming from. For an example, let’s take the common situation of a non-theist presenting biblical contradictions and fallacies as an argument against Christianity.
The non-theist believes the Bible is an aggregated collection of works written by men with no divine influence. The theist usually believes the Bible is the divine work of god, or at least that the authors were divinely inspired. The non-theist will probably point out the negative aspects of the Bible – slavery, murder, homophobia, sexism, etc, as arguments that Christianity is not a religion of love, and that it can be manipulated to perpetuate evil works or does so directly. The problem with this is that since the theist believes the Bible to be the work of god, attacking the Bible is attacking god himself and the theist will become defensive. Theists do not have the objective view of the Bible that non-theists have. They are, generally, very close to and emotional about it, and are thus unable to debate parts of it on their merits alone.
Sometimes I think non-theists, especially vocal strong atheists, allow their arrogance to get the better of them, which results in them trying to deconvert religious people simply to feel accomplished in doing so. I see no gain for society from someone who is a good person that happens to be religious becoming not religious. If they are not hurting anyone, it is not your duty to “enlighten” them and free them from their “stupidity”.
The reasonable argument against religion is to prevent it from being used as a rationale or guise for evil, immoral, or intolerant acts. I personally feel that debating the merits of religion itself is a poor avenue for this achievement. I think it is much more effective to work through our supposedly secular government to limit or prohibit things such as intolerance, religiously motivated violence, etc. If we cannot make the necessary changes through government, changing it so that we can should be the focus.
It’s very unlikely that fundamentalist or strong theists are going to be swayed away from their religion by logic, and thus there is little justification for trying to do so, other than self-aggrandizement as I mentioned. Theists who are less firm in their beliefs are most likely to be swayed away from religion by societal acceptance, so as more people are open about their non-theism more weak theists will be drawn away with little commotion.
Note: Sisyphus has been bugging me for some time to guest post for him, and I’ve finally relented. More from me may be coming.
In last few years there have been a lot of instances reported in the news about children dying because their parents chose prayer in lieu of penicillin. The problem here isn’t that the parents prayed, but that they did this as a substitute for real medical attention and it caused the child harm. How anyone could not find this disgusting and a travesty perplexes me to no end.
Often these children could have been easily saved by simple medical procedures and instead they lay in pain for days, slowly dying while their parents praise the great pumpkin. I find it incredibly deplorable that these parents are willing to sacrifice their children to protect their own salvation. What I consider to be even more sickening is that many states in the U.S. actually protect these zealous idiots from legal action. That in itself is a testament to how stupid our lawmakers can be when religious convictions come into play.
I’m all for religious freedoms but I think there is a marked difference between a competent adult deciding to forego medical treatment for themselves and the same adult making this kind of decision on behalf of a child. We pull children out of abusive homes all the time. How is this any different?
Some important questions to answer in this area are: at which point does a parent’s actions become negligent? Should children be taken out of a home when the parent is refusing to vaccinate the child from deadly diseases or should it only be things more severe? Should the parent be able to regain custody of the child after it becomes well again? Should other children be removed from the home as well? What kinds of punishment should be dealt to these parents?
The water surrounding this issue is murky but I think we’re doing children a disservice thus far.
The Pope(Nazi) thinks I’m responsible for environmental destruction. That’s funny, because I think he’s responsible for further spreading of AIDS in Africa.
I wonder who is more likely to be right?
This is a “poem” of sorts with some pretty powerful points. I really think everyone should see it, thus I’ve put it here.
It amazes me how often I see fellow atheists write about being shunned and ostracized by their family over their deconversion. People who claimed to love them so much seem so ready to throw them in the trash the second their opinions deviate from one another. I see this as being similar to libertarian parents throwing out their child for deciding they are a socialist.
I’ve really lucked out as an atheist. I haven’t lost any family and only a few friends over my lack of belief. It’s hard for me to imagine a loving parent being able to do such a thing over religious beliefs. My family is pretty much entirely Christian and more than anything they’ve just been curious about what I do believe. We’ve had hours of talks on things like the god of the gaps and the atrocities in the Bible. The most strained relationship I have with any family member is with my Evangelical sister-in-law, and her approach is more of a “let’s just not discuss this subject” than anything else.
I’ve always been told that Christianity preaches unconditional love, but I rarely see that in practice when it’s needed the most. Deconverting is a painful process for atheists even without the pressures added by an intolerant and bigoted family. The outside world is already going to treat this person like less of a human and the only place they seek solace is amongst family and friends.
If there is a Christian out there reading this who would do that to their child/family member: Please think about what you’re doing, this sort of thing can rarely be undone. Do you really think your god would approve of abandoning a child over a philosophical disagreement? Unconditional love does not mean “as long as you’re a Christian/Muslim/Hindu/Etc.” it means “no matter what, without condition”.
If you’re willing to disown your family over religious deconversion alone then you don’t deserve them.
My primary motivating factor in being an anonymous blogger is so that my political and religious opinions do not affect potential job opportunities. There is a difference between someone who has “atheist” listed on their Facebook profile and someone who has a blog devoted to it to an employer looking over resumes. I don’t want to not be hired for a job because I’m an anti-theist or for the fact that I’m politically left of Gandhi. However, I constantly struggle with defining exactly what I’m willing to disclose about myself via my pseudonym.
For instance, I was recently emailed an offer by a publishing company to receive an advance review copy (hard cover) of a new atheism-related book coming out soon. I had to turn the offer down because I would have had to disclose my real address. That really sucked to have to do. It is really flattering to be offered an opportunity like that as a small-time blogger. I’ve also wanted to start a local atheist group in Belleville, but that would undoubtedly cause a bridge between me and my blogger self because I thoughtlessly wrote a post about it here before thinking things through.
Another example could be the fact that I’m getting married. We had some minor bumps finding an officiant and venue for the wedding because of my differing religious position to that of my fiancé(atheist – Christian). Exactly how much information can I disclose about my wedding without giving too much?
I’m starting college soon and I’ve already mentioned the specific school on my Twitter(McKendree University). Now If I mention too much about an event concerning a class or classmate that is another potential avenue for trouble. However that trouble has less to do with jobs and more to do with the potential for violence. My fiancé wants me to stay anonymous because she’s afraid someone would try to hurt me. I’m not highly concerned with that but it is something to consider none-the-less.
Right now, my blog’s traffic is pretty dead, but a few months back I got nearly thirty-two thousand views in one month. That was a huge jump up from two thousand. Not everyone who came by agreed with what I had to say.
How much information is too much? At which point have I mentioned enough personal things that someone can figure out who I am? Should I unmask myself to avoid this? Am I even important enough to worry about being deliberately unmasked? I want to share my personal life on this blog, but much of it has to be held back.