What Can Churches Teach Atheists?


So life has been quite busy for us lately. I have been working and trying to get some writing edited. Withteeth has been testing out a job as well. As such, it has been difficult for us to find time to publish posts. However, I do have some Bible posts that I’ve been working on. I’ll start publishing those in a few days.

But first I want to talk about the conference we were at this weekend. Gateway to Reason was a first time conference that took place this weekend in St. Louis, Missouri. It was probably the best organized conference that we have been to. I would definitely recommend looking into this conference next year if you are able to make your way to St. Louis for it. It was fairly cheep as far as secular/skeptic conferences are concerned and it had a large number of speakers. Russell Glasser, Matt Dillihunty, Aron Ra, Vyckie Garrison, and David Fitzgerald are just a few of the many speakers who presented a talk.

But it’s Hemant Mehta’s talk that I want to really discuss. His talk took place this afternoon. Hemant’s talk was about how atheists are failing to attract members and convince people to give up their religion. He said that there are a number of things that churches do better than atheist groups: First, churches really do give their members a sense of purpose. They send people on mission trips, they encourage people to volunteer, and they get people thinking about how to solve real world issues that affect the members of the church. Atheist groups don’t do these things. As such, we can’t get people to join us. People want to feel as though their local group is for something. They want to feel as though their is a purpose in attending that group. So how do we give people that purpose? Second, Churches offer community. Atheist groups do offer community, but our communities are makeshift. Christians will take care of their people. If someone loses their job, Christian groups will help that person until they are back on their feet. Atheist groups don’t do that kind of thing. This means that asking someone to leave their church is asking them to leave their safety net. Why would they do that? How can we better protect each other and offer that safety net? Third, the church is very good at death. They have a good story. A comforting story. We don’t have that. We don’t offer the same inspiration. So how can we inspire people to not fear death? Fourth, Christians have great messengers. They have a terrible message, but their messengers are great. Atheists have terrible messengers. Our messengers insult and offend the people they are trying to deconvert. Our messengers ignore emotion and aren’t very good storytellers. The strength of our message is irrelevant if we can’t catch the peoples attention to share it. So how do we improve our messengers? Hement’s point is that we need to fix the way that atheists bring people in. So how do we do this? Is Hement right or is he completely off base? Does it matter?

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117 responses to “What Can Churches Teach Atheists?

  • DataHeart

    I think the more interesting question is, what can atheists teach churches about ethics and morality?

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    • hessianwithteeth

      That’s not really the point of the discussion.

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      • DataHeart

        Sorry if I sounded off topic. But I never heard of evangelical atheists going around actively trying to get people to give up their religion. Nor have I ever hear of atheist churches as you described them. I have heard of atheists who explain themselves and why they don’t believe in God. From an historical perspective there have been fewer atrocities committed by atheists that by members of a religion. They mostly seem to be pacifists, so maybe there is something we can learn from them.

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        • equippedcat

          You ought to spend more time on forums. Many atheists don’t “preach”. But there are some who do; making a serious effort to convince theists that they have wrong beliefs. Often using tactics no better than those used by the most “enthusiastic” of the religious evangelicals.

          There have certainly been atrocities committed by groups of theists. Even some by those who claim to follow Jesus. But there have also been atrocities committed by atheists. I have a suspicion that religious atrocities are more often committed by groups, and atheistic atrocities are more often committed by individuals.

          But figuring out whether theists or atheists commit more atrocities may be a challenge. Starting with what is considered to be an atrocity.

          Liked by 1 person

    • hessianwithteeth

      I’d rather ask ethicists. I know of too many atheists with morals as questionable as the religious albeit those morals are typically disguised better.

      Liked by 1 person

  • widemargin

    If you had some really wonderful news, wouldn’t you want to share it? Christians have passion because they’ve found something – or rather someone – wonderful. Passion is attractive. When you meet someone who is passionate, whatever it is about, it draws your attention. How can you get passionate about atheism? Don’t get offended with Christians who want to share their faith. They are just one beggar showing another beggar where to get something to eat. They’ve found it’s good and want to share it.

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    • Sha'Tara

      If I wanted to write something apocalyptic – some doomsday scenario – I’d write about “passionate” people who actually still believe this stuff and push it by whatever means, legal or not, on others who just want to live their lives and deal with their daily nitty-gritty without having this alien belief added to their pile of troubles. The “passion” is all about selling a product, just like Mel Gibson’s disgustingly gory movie. To that I say, “Believe what you will, but don’t believe it here!” When normal people allow this invasion of their privacy and violation of their choice to believe or not, they become the victims of another bureaucratic institution. Once such institutions gain supreme political power, well, one only needs remember the Crusades; the Inquisition; the Thirty Years War; the burning of witches and now Islamic State to see where it goes. I’ve been through the Christian born again movement and turned out to have been much more difficult to get out than to get in. Once you’re in you’re no longer allowed to reason the why’s and wherefores. You are now “in the faith” and can no longer trust your own mind, make your own choices or disagree with the leadership’s interpretation of the Bible in relation to current events. Doubt becomes the enemy. It’s a sick place but its tradition runs deep and as P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • widemargin

        Thanks for replying. I’m really sorry you’ve had such an unpleasant experience. I can only tell you that I don’t regret the life choices I’ve made, in spite of all the ups and downs of life. I wish you well.

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    • DataHeart

      I have met many good individuals of faith, but I have yet to see most churches or religions act in ways consistent with the teachings of their faith. The business of religion is all too human.

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  • Steven Hoyt

    I must confess, I’m an ignostic, agnostic, atheist, theist, christian and am so without contradiction.

    until we can own to resolve these into one, a human concern, through reason, through discovery and mystery, within ourselves, the people holding perhaps only one of the labels is to himself and closed off, at least to the whole human tribe.

    our communities, without labels, become what they should. if we share the same goals, we have to realize we’re acting from the drivers of belief. the goals will become the drivers of belief.

    when we tire of being divided, we will have discovered the vacancy in our beliefs and we will all move toward new ones that bind.

    maybe let’s look for moments, when we’re tired, where their may be rest, no matter the encampment.

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    • equippedcat

      How can you be both an atheist and a theist? They are contradictory belief systems. You can move from one to the other, and possibly back over time, but by the very nature of beliefs you can’t be both at the same time.

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      • Steven Hoyt

        if atheism is the rejection of propositions about god, then I am that. I have an impression something like a god exists, but that “thing”, because it transcends, is incomprehensible. so, I’m a theist, but I realize all things we say about god are comprehensible and so we must be talking about ourselves instead; this makes me ignostic. as an agnostic, no one can know if there’s a god or not or if there was, what it’d be like.

        the question of god’s existence is a moot point. all that can matter is what we make of the question.

        make sense?

        Liked by 1 person

        • equippedcat

          Well it would, if your definition of atheist and theist were accurate. But they are actually statements of “belief”. A “theist” believes that there is a God or gods in existence. An Atheist does not; they can have no beliefs about God (sometimes called a “weak atheist” or “agnostic”), or can have the belief that there is no God or gods existing. Thus, both at the same time is impossible. You can, however, be an Agnostic, Ignostic and Atheist all at the same time. As soon as you believe that a God or gods exist, you are not eligible to be an Agnostic, Ignostic or Atheist.

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          • Steven Hoyt

            certainly you can think there may be a god and claim he’s unknowable (agnostic), and certainly because this, one can say it’s incoherent to say meaningful things about something that has no meaning literally (ignostic), and certainly one can reject assertions there are gods (given assertions claim a true state of affairs) because metaphysical propositions are not capable of being true or false (atheist) yet all the while, still thinking there may be a god (theist).

            what is epistemologically incorrect is to say atheists have no beliefs about god. correctly, atheists have no belief in god. belief in philosophy an psychology being an “attitudinal disposition toward a state of affairs” and not withholding judgment, atheists certainly have; aside from the fact some atheists too, say there may be a god, but just don’t “think so”. and that is the only difference between one and me.

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          • equippedcat

            Theism and Atheism are statements of belief. “Thinking there may be” is not a belief, therefore, does not and can not qualify as “theism”. It is a statement of “non-belief”, so can qualify for “atheism” and for Agnostic/Ignostic.

            Some atheists “believe” there is no god. Sometimes they are referred to as “strong atheists” or “gnostic atheists”. Some atheists do not have any beliefs about God or gods, but think there may be, or think there may not be or even have no idea what to think.

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          • Steven Hoyt

            this is why i ask you about your personal theory on belief is. I’d have to ask what difference there is in thinking something is true versus believing something is true.

            since i think a discussion is about to break out, that’d be a great place to start.

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          • equippedcat

            A belief is any “knowledge” which you cannot prove to be true, but treat as true until it is proven to be not true.

            If I think that something is true, I am considering a possibility, not knowledge. Generally, thinking something does not cause action; action can result, but only if said action can be justified by some other “knowledge”. If I believe something is true, then I am considering it “knowledge”, and any action resulting is based solely (or mostly) on the belief.

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          • Steven Hoyt

            have you any background in psychology or epistemology, and if the unanimously disagreed with you, would you change your mind?

            though belief and knowledge are hard to pin down, unanimously, the starting point is that all knowledge entails beliefs of a certain kind; justified beliefs. and in general, it is agreed on the whole, belief is an attitudinal disposition toward a state of affairs.

            the act of thinking is evaluative. to “think that” is exactly to “believe that” … in other words, “i think that x”, “i believe that x”, and “i know that x”, all express the same thing, “the case with x” and how we stand in relation to accepting that is in fact “the case with x”.

            the only thing we’re expressing differently is our certainty, the extent we identify with and affirm the asserted “case with x”. it’s merely a way to express how sure we are.

            i know you’re expressing your personal view of belief, but i’m inviting you to the problems it entails that others have long sense settled.

            thoughts?

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          • equippedcat

            No formal background in psychology or epistemology, although I’ve been exposed to both through living in the company of other people.

            Just because “every” psychologist or epistemologist disagreed with me would not cause me to change my thoughts, although it might encourage me to investigate further. If I could be shown reasonable proof and/or valid logical argument, then I’m likely to change my thoughts.

            I agree that thinking, believing and knowing are all the same CLASS of things, but reflect degrees of certainty. If I know something, then that is unshakeable, If I believe something, then I can consider the possibility it is not so, and accept evidence or logical argument to the contrary. If I think something, then I’m only considering the possibility, with the realization that whatever it is has little reliability.

            People sometimes “settle things” for their own benefit or view of self. Thus this in itself is not useful to me (unless they agree with me, of course 🙂 ), and if my having an opposing view causes them disturbance, that is not something I am concerned about. They are welcome to provide evidence and/or logical argument for analysis, but whining that they are right and I am wrong doesn’t do any of us any good.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Steven Hoyt

            i’m not suggesting you change your mind because of group-think, but because of what the two fields have uncovered based on identifying problems in different views, objective research in some cases, and that there is indeed reason for their unified agreement, not just the fact they agree. after all, there’s nothing compelling about the simple fact groups of people think some conspiracy exists, or that there are bigfoots, or alien humanoids.

            so, i’m not whining at all. i’m suggesting, and have been inviting you to, look belief up. read a bit. then see what you think afterward. you may or may not change your mind, but most definitely, that i’ve been very much in line talking about belief as i have, given i’m using, or regurgitating rather, the thoughts from those two fields.

            still with me?

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          • equippedcat

            Not really. What viewpoint have I expressed which you are suggesting needs more consideration?

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          • Steven Hoyt

            the idea that knowledge is something other than justified belief.

            gettier in a two page paper solidified many mistakes entailed by previous views. it’s online and freely available. “gettier cases” will probably get you right there, if you’re interested.

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          • Steven Hoyt

            their atheist believe is about the verity of the proposition “there are gods”, not having beliefs about the content of the assertion in particular. that is, if were being fregean using the binary, truth-value model of belief; where as russell says in his “theory of knowledge”, disbelief is a belief.

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          • hessianwithteeth

            I don’t necessarily agree that metaphysical propositions can’t be true our false. Like if we call all thing into question in a hard line skeptical maneuver sure, but somethings are not logically possible. That includes of metaphysical hypothesis I’m sure.

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          • Steven Hoyt

            it depends of course on a theory of truth, what sense it would make to say a metaphysical sentence is true or false, the problem inherent in justifying either, etc.

            of course for any proposition, we naturally think there is either “that” case or not, but more formally, we only act on our beliefs about “that” case outside of any analyzable system, except perhaps a doxastic one.

            in other words, if a statement like that (eg “p is not provable under F” where F is a formal system) fits metaphysical propositions, the naturally an epistemologist will deny that it is truth-bearing. that’s essentially because in the godelian sense, it’s incomplete. insofar as F is consistent, p is incomplete and p only derives meaning from outside such systems rather than the determining nature of an F system which given “true” and “false” their meaning.

            does that make sense?

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          • hessianwithteeth

            no worries I’ll digest your comment and get back to you on my interpretations.

            Liked by 1 person

          • hessianwithteeth

            Well you can be an agnostic theist. gnosticism means you claim knowledge. Agnosticism is that you do not claim knowledge that you remain convinced or unsure. You can beilive something without knowledge, and that includes a deity.

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          • Steven Hoyt

            not at all. that’s conflating the common use of “agnostic” with the formal meaning of “gnostic”. what’s proper to say is that 1) I believe knowledge of the gods is impossible, AND 2) I believe something like a god exists. “agnostic” is improperly used as a signifier of psychological certainty about the formal position taken (ie “agnostic” atheist, “agnostic” theist, et. al.).

            so, it is true that I do not claim knowledge about gods, but what makes me an agnostic is that I do claim such knowledge is impossible.

            now given that, clearly I am agnostic AND a theist. but given the fact of agnosticism, I must also see all god-talk as having no referent, and as such, god-talk is incoherent. now to my list of personal descriptors, we add “ignostic”.

            what’s left but atheism and being Christian?

            given ignosticism and agnosticism, I must reject any knowledge claims about god, because both positions see those claims as 1) impossible, and 2) incoherent. I can reject (and do) such claims as untrue because they are literal nonsense (agreeing here with a.j. ayer in LTL, for example). so again, if atheism has at least one definition that entails rejection of belief in gods, then I think i’m entitled to carry such a label while still believing there may be a god more than doubting there is one.

            indeed, there is: “By ‘atheist,’ I mean precisely what the word has always been understood to mean — a principled and informed decision to reject belief in God” (McGrath 2004: 175)

            we can fuss over belief “in god” and what that entails, but for me and many other atheists, it is not rejecting the possibility of gods but is instead, rejecting beliefs about gods in particular.

            “People are said to believe in God, or to disbelieve in Adam and Eve. But in such cases what is believed or disbelieved is that there is an entity answering a certain description. This, which can be believed or disbelieved is quite different from the actual entity (if any) which does answer the description.”

            Bertrand Russell, On the Nature of Acquaintance: Neutral Monism, 1914.

            so, with Christianity, there’s no real essential problem in holding that label, given that there are no fundamental beliefs in it other than in Christ, we find final salvation … which is doctrinally loaded, but which you and I can merely take as a translation from the gospel of john or as an anthropological assessment, which is about a way to be in the world with respect to human well-being:

            “The ancient ideas about salvation … do not in themselves place us under any critique, except in so far as, in their own way, they posit the criterion of Jesus as final source of salvation. Anyone who fails to see this distinction is proposing not Jesus Christ but one particular bit of religious culture as the norm of Christian faith — and ceases to be faith in Jesus of Nazareth … In him we find final salvation, well-being. This is the fundamental creed of primitive Christianity.”

            Edward Schillebeeckx, Jesus: An Experiment In Christology, pg. 23.

            starting at john 1:1 jesus is “the way” (manner, strong’s 3598) we all “ought to be” (truth, strong’s 255, aletheia), and the life (mode, strong’s 2222, zoe) as god intended all along (logos, strong’s 3056).

            and this is my view of Christianity; likewise, the existence of gods or jesus himself, has very little to do with it, as far as i’m concerned.

            I hope that at least makes sense and clarifies some things.

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          • Steven Hoyt

            LOL. well, you’re still awesome in my book. =)

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      • Steven Hoyt

        towards the end, spong hints at what I’ve tried to flesh out just above. it’s a good read and not for the specific “ground of all being” topic, but how we approach the question “what is god, if god is”, and then, what are the implications.

        if believe, as philosopher’s suggest, is at heart, only behavior (ideas that we act upon), and if we do not anthropomorphize god, then looking at Christ, for me the christian, becomes about things that can be acted upon.

        for instance, what does it matter if Jesus was born of a virgin, walked on water, raised the dead and was himself raised from the dead? oddly, those are for some, necessary christian beliefs. but why! we cannot act on them, so are they as essential to Christianity as some suggest? well, maybe for binding a community of christians who can see life more clearly through that lens.

        so in spong asking if being a Christian is compatible with being a non theist, I’d agree with him that the answer must be yes. that’s given that the only beliefs we can act on (which epistemological like Russell, Quine, Peirce, Rorty and others tell us are the only kind there really are) are very simple.

        do the good, repent, forgive, and love; transform the inner man by participating in and celebrating the good wherever you find it; focus on what’s down in the well, because it always comes up in the bucket.

        indeed, you know as well as I do, atheists are often more like Christ than we christians. I’m not so sure you or I fussing over the other christian “beliefs” matters … because they are technically not beliefs at all!

        I laugh thinking if how many non beliefs christians do have, under that idea of belief. then I laugh a bit more that James 14-18 is the articulation of modern epistemology; “you say you have faith and I, works. show me your faith without works, and I’ll show you my faith with works” (one of these actually matters).

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        • equippedcat

          I disagree with Sprong’s thesis. If you are a non theist, then, sorry, you cannot be a Christian. Christianity is a religion, based on a particular view of God. If a person doesn’t believe in (that) God, then how can they claim to be a Christian with a straight face? That would be like me claiming to be the President of the United States.

          “what does it matter if Jesus was born of a virgin, walked on water, raised the dead and was himself raised from the dead?”. As you say, we cannot emulate those (without technological tricks), but it still is critical to the concept of Christianity. The basis of Christianity is found in the New Testament of the Bible, and it states those aspects of Jesus as facts, with no chance that they are not intended to be literal statments. If they are NOT so, then everything else about the religion is subject to doubt.

          Belief (or knowledge) has no intrinsic requirement for action. If I believe that the moon is made of cheese, I am not required to even attempt to go there and munch down. However, some beliefs include such a requirement as part of the belief. If I believe that if I don’t throw a corncob at every full moon my hair will all fall out, that does require action. So, just because some beliefs about Jesus require action, not all of them do, or have to. That does not mean such beliefs are without importance.

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          • Steven Hoyt

            no. no, those aren’t critical beliefs to the whole of Christianity. that’s just a matter of histoy.

            so, what theory of belief do you hold to? frege, probablism, existential … because your view is not uncommon among laymen, but nearly wholly rejected in epistemology.

            as to how you define Christianity, well, not every christian agrees with you.

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          • equippedcat

            Yes, there is an annoyingly wide range of definitions of what is it to be a Christian. All the ones which have any claim to validity must be able to show how the New Testament supports them, because that claimed scripture is the basis of Christianity.

            If it is proven to have lied about those “facts”, then nothing else in it can be given any credibility since it’s claim to be “scripture” is disproven
            .

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          • Steven Hoyt

            well, that’s a lot to do with how you read it. for instance, in a blog of mine, folks take the gospel of john to be claiming the divinity of Christ, but the greek and the platonic and particularly cicerian stoic philosophies enjoined in john say nothing of the sort; logos, hodos, alethea, and zoe are about intended ways to be, not about gatekeepers and cosmic debt payers, for example.

            there are dozens of theories of atonement. they all have scriptural support. they’re all different. the fact of the matter is the reason for that is jesus spoke on how to live, not what to believe.

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          • Steven Hoyt

            and, i didn’t at all suggest trickery.

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          • equippedcat

            I am not suggesting that any trickery was involved in Jesus’ history, I made a statement that we could not emulate it, and had to add the proviso that in order for us to do so, WE would have to resort to “trickery”
            .

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          • Steven Hoyt

            ah. i don’t think even then that trickery is needed. we have a jewish and stoic type of moral construct in jesus. most theologians have typically not denied other prohibitions on means to god, be that another religion or areligion and state that the belief of the christian is that jesus is the supreme means to some end, however we define salvation or atonement, for example.

            some schemes are just that and i take calvin as one of those in particular. others are good, coherent ideas, like abelard, for one.

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          • Steven Hoyt

            too, though i have ways i think about god, i don’t hold any view as something which can be true or false. i reject any view asserted true, including mine.

            it doesn’t matter if god exists or if Jesus didn’t exist either, because beliefs about either exist, and as an atheist, you must agree; that’s obviously true there are beliefs in god and god doesn’t exist.

            the same is true of me. i don’t care if there’s a god because we can’t know and what we believe has no signified but us; given belief exists, god may not exist, and god’s incomprehensible and the beliefs are not.

            what i’m saying is that under a certain view of what belief is ontologically, what does mean to say you believe “the moon is made of cheese” when that’s only a speech act? would you act on it? and if there isn’t any possible way to act on “jesus is the son of god”, in what way can we say it’s a belief, much less essential to soteriology, atonement, eschatology, or christology?

            and if we act toward the good, our views of god and jesus can be totally at odds (our non actable “beliefs” may be at odds, or the atheist completely lacks any) but be following christ none the less … because again, the beliefs we can act on, we agree to the ends we’re acting toward.

            make sense?

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          • equippedcat

            I agree, as anyone with even the most tenuous grasp of reality must, that there are beliefs in God or gods (lots and lots of beliefs). I’m not an atheist now, and even when I was one, I could not agree that it is “obviously” true that God does not exist. At one time I could agree that it is “possibly” true that He does not exist, but now I believe He exists. Now if your statement meant that “obviously it is true that beliefs that God does not exist, exists”, then that I do agree with.

            The problem is, what defines “good”? Yes, it is possible for a person who believes in a particular God and one who does not to have essentially the same definition of good, but very often that is not the case.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Steven Hoyt

            right. i just mean it’s a brute fact belief in gods exist and god is literally not a fact of the matter but ultimately an impression about the world we then try to flesh out, and depending on how it’s fleshed out, hopefully experience in the world as well.

            theology has traditionally started with “there is a god, and we are like him”; Abrahamic tradition anyway.

            so, how do we know what is good? well, because as ibn rushd suggests in fitrah, maimonides in participatory pedagogy, aquinas in natural theory, or even dante in his fictions, we are like harp strings and something about us resonates with something which is good; and the most genuinely human thing to do is not only be drawn to it but seek it out, and participate in it.

            so, why are we good? for a non believer, it’s a brute fact of being a social animal that can also reason against or for our natural moral instincts. for the believer, this too can be the “how”, but the reason a believer would ask is more for the “why” response abrahamic thinkers offer as well as others such as from the tao, for instance.

            the fact is, there are no moral absolutes but none the less, because we are all too similarly human, were going to in large part objectively agree on what the good is; though as hume notes, that’s entirely contingent to “place”, “problem”, and “property” and inequality as to what means we’ll deem moral though our goals, our ends, may be in some cases, ubiquitous.

            with me?

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          • equippedcat

            “Good” is so nebulous, and depends absolutely on context. Many of us try to be “good”, but often we can’t really know how successful we are at it.

            Let us say I have enough money for two meals. Walking down the street, I meet two people who say they are hungry, and I give them each enough for a meal. Is that good? I am likely to think I have done good, possibly until I am hungry and don’t have money for a meal. One of the two really was just on the edge, and that meal was enough to tip him over into a return to self-sufficiency. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would not agree that was “good” for that person and for the society. The other person was actually an alcoholic who either was not really hungry, or was so because he spends every cent he gets on booze. I’m sure he thinks it was good that he got enough for his next drink or three, but to support his sickness is not good for him or the society. Yet, unless I follow both of these people (and also all the people they interact with) to the ends of their life, I don’t know for sure if I’ve really done “good” or perhaps even caused harm.

            And some people do NOT attempt to be good, or at least only consider good with regards to themselves. One wonders what this says about the theories of Aquinus, et. al.

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          • Steven Hoyt

            right. always exceptions. but it would be, as jesus offered, it is for those “sick” that we have doctors, not the well. aquinas, as well as most others, explain those exceptions, but none would suggest anyone who knew better and could genuinely do better, would not, if they were well. that of course rolls up into other tautology, but these function for you and me to help really pinpoint the principles of morality that we’d work from. that’s no different for an atheist than for a theist and really, being “good” is hard work and most are reactive. focus is required, and forethought.

            is it good to give a homeless person money? i don’t know. is it? theoretically, we’d have to say yes, at least in your scenario, and it would be for the same reason we can’t discern whether or not there is a god, and if there is, whether or not he intervenes; freedom.

            i know jesus is purported to have said give money to anyone who asks it of you without any expectations. that’s the only choice we have. what they do with it is theirs. should i have not given the alcoholic the money and had he not binged because of it, it may have prolonged his reaching his epiphanic “rock bottom” and he’d have had maybe years more of non sobriety. we can what-if the variables all “just so”, but our only culpability is for identifying a need and not responding to it. for the alcoholic, use whatever you have to get him help. food and money are not where his needs lay; much like a woman at the well wanting water, no?

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          • equippedcat

            I would have to say that usually, giving money to the “poor” is NOT good. Poor people are not poor because they don’t have enough money; most are poor because they don’t intelligently use the resources they have or have had. For these people, any money provided them will likely be just as misused, and worse, they will be encouraged to think that they “deserve” such handouts. The effective way to help the poor is to determine what their real problem is and address that in a fashion which is difficult to misuse or perceive as a handout.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Steven Hoyt

            i agree, absolutely! to see the need, that to me is the good, when we act on it. to ignore it, including just giving them money, cannot be the good, in principle.

            Like

          • Sha'Tara

            That is not a properly developed thought. Some “poor” people in rich, welfare state countries would fit your category, but not all. Certainly, the poor in exploited and oppressed nations, or where drought has become endemic (in certain African nations for example) do not come under your assertion. They are poor through no fault of their own; they have no resources to manage. Same for poor people running away from war and genocide. Bottom line your comment re: poor people only applies to a very small percentage of the global population of impoverished people.

            Like

          • equippedcat

            I disagree. Go ahead, pick one of these places where there are “no resources” and find a person there to give the equivalent of a year’s wages to. What do you think the result will be? Not right away, but in a year. Or even 6 months. Very likely they will be worse off.

            Money is almost never an effective, efficient solution to a problem. Especially since it very often is thrown at symptoms, not causes. This thought is no different whether the poor person has a house, car and TV, or a cardboard box baking in the sun and the “tax collector” at the box flap to collect the 95% tax.

            There is always some component of self in being “poor”. No matter how things are, there are always things a person can do by themselves or with “everyone else” in that environment. Most every person alive has SOME resources, even if it is just their mind, their will and their body. But just like physical resources, these can be squandered, wasted, misused or allowed to spoil.

            You talk about “exploited and oppressed nations”. Those are indeed bad things (those doing the exploiting and oppressing might disagree). But nations don’t become exploited or oppressed without the “consent” of the people of the nation. Some will support it because they perceive it to be of benefit to themselves, most of the rest will ignore it until it is “too late” and refuse to work to prevent it or reverse it because the “cost is too high”. Leaving too few to effectively work against it.

            On the other hand, drought is a problem which cannot be blamed on those affected by it. But droughts happen, and always have, so living in such a way that a drought can be dealt with is wisdom. Few people do.

            People tend towards those things which they perceive as good for themselves “now”, not that which is good for the community or even themselves at some future date. This is why the worst “poorness” is inflicted on those who are the least able to deal with it; the kids. In my mind, if a person has a kid or kids which they cannot reasonably expect to be able to support, that is a form of child abuse deserving of punishment.

            Like

          • Sha'Tara

            It seems you have a whole lot of “thoughts” on the subject of poverty and it seems to me that these thoughts are beliefs, not based on real personal involvement or deep experience with actual poverty. I have, and I do. I also know from that same personal experience how easy it is for those who intellectualize the problem of endemic global poverty to blame the poor for their condition. It’s the final excuse for self-justification and doing nothing.
            This is not my blog and I don’t want to fill a couple of pages responding to your “challenges” if only because I know it wouldn’t do any good or change anything. But just for the hell of it, do yourself a favour and take in the following documentary on the current situation concerning the people of Afghanistan as victims of the pseudo “war on terror” waged against them by the US and its “coalition” troops. Keep in mind this is just one nation’s example. You can think back to Viet Nam and you can project to Palestine, to Syria, to Malaysia, to wherever the corporate/internationalist globalist agenda is de-stabilizing, destroying, dis-enfranchising, dispossessing, starving, maiming and killing helpless populations. These are the real hunger games.

            http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/rethink-afghanistan/

            Liked by 2 people

          • equippedcat

            I’m not sure what you are disagreeing with. I’m pretty sure we both agree that being poor is really terrible, and that such people need help. Perhaps we both agree that the poorness can have been encouraged by others or by natural disaster or just plain bad luck. Or do you insist that being poor is completely out of the control of the person?

            I’m pretty sure you will disagree with at least some of these:

            1) The only effective way to help poor people is to determine WHY they are poor and help THEM to overcome that.

            2) Giving money to poor people almost always does no good and often makes things worse.

            3) Treating the symptoms of the poorness (hunger, homelessness and such) is a short term solution and when the treatment is done, more often than not the situation quickly regresses.

            4) Some (not all, not most if you look at the whole world) poor people are poor because of their own decisions and actions. Many poor people are poor because they were born to parents who knew they could not support the children but had them anyway, “accidentally” or even deliberately.

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          • Sha'Tara

            I’m replying to you interlinearly so my “answers” will hopefully make some sense. Thanks for the discussion also.

            (you) I’m not sure what you are disagreeing with. I’m pretty sure we both agree that being poor is really terrible, and that such people need help. Perhaps we both agree that the poorness can have been encouraged by others or by natural disaster or just plain bad luck. Or do you insist that being poor is completely out of the control of the person?

            (me) I see the problem now: a lack of definition of what is meant by the term, “poor” in this discussion. I’ve always seen poverty as a globally endemic problem rooted in human “civilized” societies, like a disease that clings to them, eats them and destroys them. That said, I’ve always seen “the poor” as a particular aspect of my local outreach. Sort of like, think globally, act locally, or, charity begins at home, and defining “charity” not as reluctantly dropping coins in a hat but getting involved with individuals, families, interacting and sharing resources. I don’t “help” people, I supply resources I have an excess of and they don’t happen to have, but need. I also refuse to work with registered, bureaucratic institutional charitable organizations. Nor do I solicit or accept “donations” from anyone. Choice and self-empowerment.

            (you) I’m pretty sure you will disagree with at least some of these:

            1) The only effective way to help poor people is to determine WHY they are poor and help THEM to overcome that.

            (me) Agree, and if you’ve taken the time to watch the video I suggested, the way to help those poor people is to recall all US and allied military presence in that area. Let them sort it out for themselves as they’ve done for millennia. That then falls upon Americans to resolve

            2) Giving money to poor people almost always does no good and often makes things worse.

            (me) Can’t agree unless “poor people” is defined. This cannot be made into a generic statement, or claim. Needs a great deal of discernment and that only comes from personal involvement in the lives of said poor people.

            3) Treating the symptoms of the poorness (hunger, homelessness and such) is a short term solution and when the treatment is done, more often than not the situation quickly regresses.

            (me) Right, of course. What needs addressing is the source of the problem. That can be oppression and it can be self-induced, as in “poor” people doing drugs or booze. There are cases where no amount of “help” however well-intended or well-funded can do any good. I’ve encountered too many homeless who are there because they are addicts. Choice. I have no time for those people since they are not willing to help themselves and that, to me, is just as compassionate as prolonging their agony with more money thrown at them, or temporary stints in institutions.

            4) Some (not all, not most if you look at the whole world) poor people are poor because of their own decisions and actions. Many poor people are poor because they were born to parents who knew they could not support the children but had them anyway, “accidentally” or even deliberately.

            (me) That is a “Western” style of thought about poverty. In rural areas children are wealth. They provide labour not affordable any other way and I know this as having been there myself. Particularly true in Afghanistan and other “Stans” around. Think normal situation where every family has its plot of land or its home-based business, not city slums, not war and refugee camps. It is unfair to equate endemic poverty with having children although it is a fact, for me, that Earthians have exceeded their limits to growth long ago and are now doomed to much global horror because of this. It’s not cut and dry. It’s not all the rich – greed – causing poverty though there’s a lot of that. It’s a general lack of understanding of finiteness of resources and an unwillingness, from the richest to the poorest, to take responsibility for one’s actions. If one’s to blame the poor, one must equally, or more, blame the rich. But blame is useless. A thing is what it is and it isn’t something else.

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          • equippedcat

            There are two views of poverty.

            One is relational. In most any society, there is a hierarchy, with those who have the most at the top and those who have the least at the bottom. Those at the bottom are considered “poor”. This view has no intrinsic implication of risk for those deemed poor. Say we look at one neighborhood. Each member of the richest family has their own Porsche, Lamborghini and Mercedes. Each member of the poorest family has just one car, a Chevy or Ford or Toyota. The only downside of this case of “poor” is appearance (that is, everybody has at least one car, which is all that a person can drive at one time); the difference is, some of the people not only have a cooler car, but a choice of cooler cars.

            A more useful view of “poor” is what percentage of the necessities of life they have. Someone who has 10,000% is fairly rich. Someone who has 105% is fairly poor. Someone who has 70% is critically poor, and by definition, if nothing changes, is on a path to early death.

            You “don’t help people”, you “provide resources”? I don’t think you intended to say that “helping people” is a bad thing, right? I would be curious to find out, of the people you provided resources to, what percentage of them are more self sufficient than when you came along?

            Statement 2 is not universal, of course, but it is probably true in 95% or more of all cases. Nobody is “poor” because they don’t have enough money; lack of money is a SYMPTOM, not a cause. Giving such a person money without addressing why they don’t have enough money may have a short term benefit, but as soon as that money is used up, they are right back where they were before, or even worse. And in some cases (such as cases of addiction), there won’t even be a short term benefit. We won’t even get into the implications on a person’s psyche from being “given stuff”.

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          • Sha'Tara

            I’m afraid you’ve lost me. Sometimes I read hints of Ayn Rand philosophy; sometimes I feel you’re trying to say/teach some viewpoint but won’t spit it out. Sometimes I read a very condescending approach to the excruciating problem of poverty. Where do you hope to go with this discussion? What are you trying to say? Where do you stand? Are you poor; have you been poor – meaning not enough food on the table and no idea where tomorrow’s is going to come from? Do you know what you are talking about or are you on an intellectual quest, an academic exercise? If you have a clear cut solution to some aspect of poverty, let’s hear it. I don’t follow your percentages either. 100% is the whole, any %age less than 100 being less than a whole, any %age more than 100 being meaningless. What do you mean by “helping people”? Example? Obviously implied that my sharing resources means “helping” but without the put-down implied in “helping”. To be able to say what “percentage” of people I’ve “provided resources for” have become more self-sufficient” would mean I keep track – I deliberately do not remember who they were, nor what I did for them because I am not looking for kudos, nor payback. No self-gratification or any guilt assuaging either. It’s a personal power thing, a choice that defies the System. What I do, I do for me; a discipline, a training if you will, that proves to me that the System is not only completely wrong but that those who rely on it to solve their (social) problems are equally deluded. It has never worked; it will never work. Replace all of that with compassion. Not love, I don’t talk about love, but compassion: you can’t fake that.

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          • equippedcat

            I’m not sure what you are looking for, but I’ll attempt to answer the parts I understood.

            Where do I want to go with the discussion? To provide my thinking which might be of value to others or conversely to find out any errors in my thinking.

            No, I have not been poor enough that my next meal is inadequate, but I have had some opportunities to be that poor that I managed to avoid.

            No, I don’t have a clear cut answer to any aspect of poverty, because there is no universally valid and effective answer. Each answer must be based on an individual case, and even then some cases have no acceptable answer.

            A percentage greater than 100% is not meaningless. It indicates “excess”, which since we are talking about “necessities of life”, means opportunity for “luxuries”.

            What possible put down could there be to “helping”?

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          • Sha'Tara

            I’m not sure what you are looking for, but I’ll attempt to answer the parts I understood.

            Where do I want to go with the discussion? To provide my thinking which might be of value to others or conversely to find out any errors in my thinking.

            (me) or to find and exploit “weaknesses” in another’s presentation, and finding none, to argue against them anyway?

            No, I have not been poor enough that my next meal is inadequate, but I have had some opportunities to be that poor that I managed to avoid.

            (me) Fine. In managing to avoid poverty, was that entirely your doing or were the resources available for you to do so, i.e., was there a system surrounding you that provided you with an escape, a system others put in place and paid for, or set up so they could profit from, i.e., employment? Otherwise stated, are you taking credit for someone else’s efforts?

            No, I don’t have a clear cut answer to any aspect of poverty, because there is no universally valid and effective answer. Each answer must be based on an individual case, and even then some cases have no acceptable answer.

            (me) I’ll take that as an honest answer, and I’ll totally agree with it. Hence why I said that my involvement in “combatting” poverty is done on a personal level, always. No institutions, no “universal” cure offered. Just common sense and commitment by choice.

            A percentage greater than 100% is not meaningless. It indicates “excess”, which since we are talking about “necessities of life”, means opportunity for “luxuries”.

            (me) I still think that it’s “illegal” to use it this way, i.e., it violates the bounds of meaning and it’s never necessary unless one wishes to indulge in hyperbole and dissimulation. In following your arguments on child tax credit, that doesn’t seem to fit your approach. No friend, “luxuries” must be included in the whole to make sense of the argument. It’s too easy to slip off the hook if excesses are allowed to flourish outside the whole because then they don’t matter, do they. Then they become “extras” and having them doesn’t mean they’ve been extorted from the poor, not being a part of the whole, of the “necessities of life.” In a finite order there is no allowance for excess: it’s called greed, pure and simple, and some child dies for every increment added to that excess. UN stats show this. Over 40,000 (year 2000 stats if memory serves) innocent, helpless victims, mostly mothers and small children, die daily of preventable causes because of inequitable distribution of resources. Inequitable equals greed. Greed equals murder. The kind mentioned here is global, endemic and beyond tragic since no one needs the kind of excess that results in these murders.

            What possible put down could there be to “helping”?

            (me) The kind that is institutional; the ostentatious; the kind that is done to “please god” for example; the kind done to get recognition; the kind that says, “I’m helping these poor people because I’m a good person.” The kind that looks down on those being “helped” or gets to use them in some way, like the Sally Ann org. is noted for doing. The kind that degrades, demeans and disempowers the recipients of such help. But if you discover that your neighbour (or anyone) requires help with something, and you offer quietly to put in with no strings attached, that help is the kind that changes the world. You don’t have to see it in government stats or on a billboard, you just know it inside and that is all the “recognition” you need. By recognition here I mean the self-empowerment that motivates you to continue doing this. It’s not a sport, an election or a profit chart. It’s not a win-loose-draw condition. It’s a sharing of life, person to person. The determinant factor is life and how you choose to express that life while you enjoy the privilege of participating in it.

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          • equippedcat

            (you) or to find and exploit “weaknesses” in another’s presentation, and finding none, to argue against them anyway?

            (me) exploiting “weaknesses” in another’s presentation is a part of debating. The goal (or at least my goal) is not to cause people to feel bad, but to ensure they have the most accurate view of their own position as practical, and if they determine their position has problems, to move to a better position. Argue with presentations which have no flaws? I don’t intend to, but perhaps I have, in which case I apologize, since that is not of value to anyone’s understanding.

            (you) In managing to avoid poverty, was that entirely your doing or were the resources available for you to do so, i.e., was there a system surrounding you that provided you with an escape, a system others put in place and paid for, or set up so they could profit from, i.e., employment? Otherwise stated, are you taking credit for someone else’s efforts?

            (me) It seemed like mostly my own doing, as in each case I was faced with a decision, one path of which was “pushed”, but would have led to poverty, and one path which was “unpopular” but kept me from poverty. It is unlikely that I made the “right” decisions out of thin air; I had the training and education and motivation to make the decisions that way. So, in a way, I am taking credit for the upbringing by my parents and the environment I grew up in.

            (you) I still think that it’s “illegal” to use it (> 100%) this way, i.e., it violates the bounds of meaning and it’s never necessary unless one wishes to indulge in hyperbole and dissimulation… … In a finite order there is no allowance for excess: it’s called greed, pure and simple, and some child dies for every increment added to that excess. UN stats show this. Over 40,000 (year 2000 stats if memory serves) innocent, helpless victims, mostly mothers and small children, die daily of preventable causes because of inequitable distribution of resources. Inequitable equals greed. Greed equals murder. The kind mentioned here is global, endemic and beyond tragic since no one needs the kind of excess that results in these murders.

            (me) In my math training, we used values greater than 100% all the time; it has a very specific meaning. Admittedly, it is less than fully applicable to the evaluation of resources, since what is “necessary” for one person is not necessary for another… … In a finite order, yes, excess is a problem. However, our economic structure is not a finite order. If “I” get one more dollar, “you” do not automatically get one less. Greed is a real problem and does often result in harm to others, but greed is not universal, nor does it have a one-to-one correspondence to tragic results. Where problems and greed approach equality is when there IS a finite order, such as when dealing with non-renewable resources.

            “inequitable distribution of resources” is a slippery concept. It is attractive to think that “everyone should have the same amount”, but it ignores the critical facet of “deserve”. A person who works for 12 hours “deserves” more than another person doing the same work for only 2 hours (or only produces 1/6th the work). A person who does work which took 8 years of intense education and training to learn “deserves” more for an hour of work than another person who has no training is given for an hour of unskilled work. If everybody gets the same, where is the incentive to strive for higher levels? Or even to excel?

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          • hessianwithteeth

            Ya that is a gross generlization, yes it is true that the poor are less likely to effectely use what little money they have, but this often doesn’t take the form of willful, or even basic ignorance. In North America we have systems which such as payday loans, the way many banks nickle and dime, and the simple fact that wages have not risen with inflation since the 70’s that now the working poor similar have to work harder, and be smarter then your average middle class person, with half the time since your working two jobs, just to stay afloat. To dig yourself out of poverty is generally more to do with luck then anything. Desperation makes people do foolish things (see payday loans) but the simple fact is that many of the poorest among us did nothing wrong they simply got delt a few bad hands in a row and didn’t have a safety net capable of handling a few thousand dollars of unforeseeable costs. Liek what happens when you’re poorely educated because of your upbringing, you loss your gainful employment because the bussniess downsizes and now your stuck working dead end jobs becuase you couldn’t find anything better at the time, but now your constantly exhusted becuase your barely getting by that to find work is extreamly diffcult, andbecuase or your upbringing you don’t have much in the way of connections, so job hunting is this game of change where you can send out dozens of resumes and knock on doors and still get nothing, but if your had just known one guy you met a little better you’d have a job.

            Now I’d agree, just giving a poor person a hundred bucks isn’t going to solve any problem, but you make sure people our housed and and feed themselves, you take desperation our of the mix then the poor actually have a chance. Will some people abuse that? Yes, but most people want a better station in life and will work to improve their lot. Saying otherwise is simply counter factual given that socialist state don’t see massive declines in employment, minor one yes, but the are some very good reasons for someone not being employed for a while. Such as mental health, injury, family care, or they want to start there own business and for awhile the effectively mean in the eye of those around you your unemployed.

            The simple fact is I think the rhetoric your repeating about people thinking they they deserve things that they don’t, I feel is unfounded. Sure some people think they deserve things they don’t ,but those people typically already think that way. An surprising amount lot of the poorest people refuse so called handouts because of pride or at least they try to until they get desperate.

            Yes we need to determent what the real problems are, and that include raising the minimum wage to a living wage. Banding payday loans, removing regressive taxation and gambling taxes as a primary source of income for local governments. Provide housing for the homeless so they have a chance to get a job. Make sure schools are well funded and people have access to the information and services they need to have a fair chance to succeed. Perhaps instate a guaranteed minimum income which was highly successful trials in Manitoba Canada in the 70’s. The trick as I see it is to make sure people aren’t making decisions out of desperation, and that we are all fed, clothed and sheltered. If you want a new Computer and a TV that isn’t 20 years old you’ll need to work for it, or live an even more frugal life style to be able to save for it.

            So yes while I agree just throwing money at the poor doesn’t do anything (unless of course it’s a whole lot of money) A couple hundred or a thousand is going to get pissed away, because they either need it to solve an immediate problem, or it’s so small that they end up spending it all of little things because a few thousand dollars doesn’t really go very far especially when you’re not use to having it. Not to ponce on you, but I think you’re doing more victim blaming in your analysis of the poor then pointing out real problems.

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          • equippedcat

            The “minimum wage” is a two edged sword. On the one hand, it does guarantee a minimum income (which is too small to fully cover a family). On the other hand, it places an artificial value on humanity, and mostly eliminates a “normal” progression of wages (which mostly does not exist any more these days anyway). Let us say the minimum wage is “X per hour”. Anybody looking to hire someone for a low skilled job is encouraged to offer “X”. So does the place across the street and that other place which is hiring as well. No incentive for the business owner to offer anything higher at the beginning or offer increases to better employees, since “everybody knows” that is what labor is worth.

            I’m sure it is not universal, but I’ve personally experienced people who you give something to, who then get bent out of shape when you don’t give them more. Or you try give them something they say they need money for and they gripe because you didn’t give them the money instead.

            No, I am not pointing out problems (you’ve listed some good ones). I am trying to point out the lack of effectiveness of much of the attempts to aid the poor.

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          • hessianwithteeth

            Well what the alternative, let companies dictate any wages they like? That sounds like a good way of taking even more advantage of the desperate. Perhaps minimum wage is double edged, but it seems not having one is at least as dangerous if not more so.

            Liked by 1 person

          • equippedcat

            That is true. I can envision a better system, but given human nature and the pervasiveness of the minimum wage concept, it is unlikely to succeed.

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          • hessianwithteeth

            What other system would you have in mind?

            Like

          • equippedcat

            If there were no intrinsic value on human labor, then company A needs some work done and so does company B. A decides to offer $5 an hour and B, seeing that, offers $7. The smart people will go to B to get hired. Now if A wants to compete, they have to offer $7 (or more), or settle for lessor employees. As time goes on, B will need to increase wages for their best people or some other company will offer more. Supply and demand. And yes, I see the problems when supply exceeds demand, and also the opportunities for the unscrupulous to “game” the system.

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          • hessianwithteeth

            Yes, but how do we create such a system where people have enough access to information where they know which companies offer the better wages. That’s already an issues right now, and we know that there is a minimum wage. I don’t see how removing the minimum wages would actually change any of the dynamics other then companies could under charge labor. Al I see it you end up giving more power to those holding most of the means of production, while not really doing anything for those providing the labour.

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          • equippedcat

            No, the minimum wage can’t be removed. Even if it were removed from law, it is so ingrained that it would be decades before another system would work, if even then.

            Require posting wages on an online site perhaps? As long as there is more work than workers, then the worker can always go to a higher paying place if the place they are at is not paying “market” price. If there is a surplus of workers, then wage deflation is likely.

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          • hessianwithteeth

            “too, though i have ways i think about god, i don’t hold any view as something which can be true or false. i reject any view asserted true, including mine.”

            An interesting if challenging position to hold. What’s some of the underlying philosophy going on behind that statement if you’re willing to share?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Steven Hoyt

            you could take russell’s “present king of france” or huck finn as analogous, or feeling you’re about to get ambushed, i suppose. or like ayer, the literal significance is by way of symbols and signifiers, but not from them having a signified. it’d have no other literal significance in the fregean sense, to fiat there is a present king of france in order to then say all that follows from that fact has meaning or truth because of that fact.

            in other words, god is a meaningless proposition on its own; the signified, being incomprehensible, can have no signifiers. we are entitled then, to say they are false when asserted, but not entitled ever say they are true; only doxastically meaningful.

            with me?

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  • trotter387

    You’ll be pleased to know I’ve unfollowed your blog – one point is really important when being critical of the faith and beliefs of others it is to remain objective, recently your posts have become more a justification of your approach.
    It would help if you looked at what is really taught not all Christian Religions believe or teach the same things – you tar them with the same brush.

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  • A Friendlier Message | Amusing Nonsense

    […] This post over at Hessian and Withteeth’s blog referenced a talk given by Hemant Mehta at the Gateway to Reason conference in St. Louis, Missouri. In that talk, Mr. Mehta referenced four ways that Christians get their message across better than Atheists. The first three reasons involved Christianity giving its members purpose, community, and coping with death. Because atheism doesn’t inherently deal with these things, and because secular humanism offers more support for those concepts, I’m not really going to get into them. […]

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  • AlbertineQ

    Why should there even BE a sense of purpose linked to atheism? I am not atheist but agnostic and it has nothing to do with having a point or direction, just seeing the things from the position of an agnostic. I don’t need someone ELSE to tell me what my choices should and have to be, this is why I have a brain… and religion mostly takes the role of “let me tell you what you should think and do”, which… yeah, too much kindergarten experience for my liking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hessianwithteeth

      The point isn’t to say “all atheists should take X as the purpose of their life,” the point is to make it clear that being an atheist doesn’t mean having a purposeless life.

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      • AlbertineQ

        My question still stands… what has atheism or personal belief has anything to do with having a purpose… for me there is no aspect in which the two things should/have to connect.

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        • hessianwithteeth

          Atheism informs my other beliefs. It may not be a world view in and of itself, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum either. My atheism is the reason I’m also a skeptic and a humanist. That means that atheism actually does have a pretty big impact on what I take as my purpose.
          Can you honestly say that your identifying as an agnostic has no impact on what you view as right or wrong, or why you do what you do? Because you’ve already made it clear that you hold critical thinking and independence as personal values. Does your agnosticism have no impact on that? Can you say you’d hold them in the same regard if you were a Christian? Or a Buddhist?

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  • Ros

    I’ve been thinking about this some more and I’m wondering if comparing atheism with the church is really a very helpful comparison? After all, Christianity is much more than just theism. It also includes an ethical value system. So perhaps a more useful comparison would be between churches and humanist groups, since humanism places a greater emphasis on ethics and human welfare. In other words, humanism champions something other than just the non-existence of a god or gods. Since humanist groups have been involved in both justice-seeking and charitable work, providing community and purpose is certainly something they can be good at. And since they can provide a forum to talk about life, presumably they can also provide a forum to talk about death. For some folks, this is going to be as attractive as religious groups are to other folks. In other words, it would be realistic to imagine people moving from one group to another as their beliefs about the supernatural changed. At the same time, there will continue to be folks who would rather spend their time white water rafting (or something) than be a part of either kind of group…

    Liked by 2 people

  • Lacey Higgins

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cc8wPOHksYs You should check this out! It is a conversation with a lesbian in church

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  • J.B. Whitmore

    Look at all these wonderful comments. Many have already said what I was going to say, only better.

    Atheism isn’t a religion, and so why is there any concern about conversion? If atheists are right, no need to do anything but wait for time and understanding to bring truth.

    With or without God, universe, and we, are miraculous. Here we are on a rock in the middle of nowhere, in an envelope of air, water, heat, chemicals, magic, whatever — who knows? — that created us. It is mind-boggling.

    Why fear death? We have a survival instinct, which triggers that fear, but once recognized for what it is, it’s easier to cope with. Except for this tiny sliver of now, for eternity we did not, and will not exist. So, isn’t it amazing that we are here, loving, laughing, scratching our heads at our own mysterious existence? That’s enough to inspire me to help others, to care about the environment and to be at peace with my impending end.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Swarn Gill

      “With or without God, universe, and we, are miraculous. Here we are on a rock in the middle of nowhere, in an envelope of air, water, heat, chemicals, magic, whatever — who knows? — that created us. It is mind-boggling.”

      Wonderfully said! The story of what we actually are is just as amazing, if not more so than great floods and arks carrying animals.
      “Why fear death? We have a survival instinct, which triggers that fear, but once recognized for what it is, it’s easier to cope with. Except for this tiny sliver of now, for eternity we did not, and will not exist. So, isn’t it amazing that we are here, loving, laughing, scratching our heads at our own mysterious existence? That’s enough to inspire me to help others, to care about the environment and to be at peace with my impending end.”

      Beautiful. Personally I feel that since I only know for sure about one plane of existence, the one that I’m on, I better appreciate it and try to make it better than worry about any possible futures after I die. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  • Kit

    I think there’s value in self organizing, and in examining the ways that religious communities do that efficiently. The problem with getting the same effect amongst atheism is that our contributions are invisible. I’m reasonably involved – I volunteer for local charities. Participate in community events. But I’m not doing it under the banner of “Local Atheists 114” or whatever. Because my lack of belief in god isn’t a worldview that inspires me to organize with others. It isn’t an active belief system in the same way as being Lutheran or Eastern Orthodox. I’m not really interested in being in an atheist-only club … it sounds a bit boring, frankly. I’m not sure that a lack of belief in god is enough of a commonality for me to have real fellowship with a random collection of people.

    Liked by 1 person

  • xandrad

    What can churches teach this atheist? Absolutely nothing – that’s precisely why I turned my back in the first place; because nobody offered proof for an invisble man in the sky.

    What sense of purpose do churches give people? Pie in the sky in the sweet by-and-by when you die? My purpose is to make life better for all in this, the only life they will ever have.

    “They send people on mission trips, they encourage people to volunteer, and they get people thinking about how to solve real world issues that affect the members of the church.”

    How many? Out of the 1.09 Billion adherents of Christianity, just how many are missionaries? How many volunteer? How many think about real world issues? Oh, I’m sure that they will think about those that affect the members of the church, now how about the rest of humanity? Sorry, but in my experience when it is anything beyond their own community, most churches batten down the hatches.

    Just recently here in Scotland the Trussell Trust, which runs food banks for the poor, came under extreme criticism for advertising for a food bank manager, stipulating that they must be a practising Christian, despite nothing in the job description requiring them to be so. Therefore this ‘good Christian’ organisation may have just condemned a capable manager to the breadline, purely because they are not a Christian. They’re taking care of their own and – literally – to Hell with everyone else.

    And of course, there are atheists who go out all around the world to help the poor and hungry. Medicines sans Frontiers takes medical staff of all types and sends them out to developing countries. How many of these medical staff do you reckon are believers in God(s)? Very few.

    And what do most Christians do – the ones who do more than trundle along to church on Sunday while being judgemental towards everyone else the rest of the week? They go out on the streets or turn up at your door being a bloody nuisance by trying to shove their beliefs down your throat. They are spouting bile and hate towards the LGBTQI community, towards those of other faiths, even other Christian denominations, and basically anyone who does not pigeonhole neatly into their narrow-minded worldview.

    Atheists by and large by comparison do not preach or prosletyse to others, they do not judge or condemn, and they don’t try to convert others to their views. They not only do not, they actually cannot for three very good reasons;

    1; atheism is not a religion and as such has no set tenets or dogma.
    2; because it has no set dogma, atheism makes no judgements upon others upon any grounds.
    3; every atheist rejects religion through personal circumstances with no two being alike.

    I personally think that atheist groups are a daft idea because of these points. Apart from which I would never want to ram my atheism down the throats of others. In fact, as much as I disagree with theists, I would be first to stand up for their human right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Therefore, if there are atheists trying to ‘deconvert’ those of faith, then they need to take a good long look at themselves. If you don’t like people preaching to you, then don’t do likewise.

    But then, maybe that’s one thing churches can teach atheists – although it is much, much older than Christianity – the Golden Rule; treat others as you would be treated yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • equippedcat

      Ok, let us consider the Trussell Trust, a Christian organization. They wish to hire an employee. Hiring an employee is not a trivial undertaking; if a mistake is made, it can have extensive repercussions. In their view (as it is for most employers), the best odds of getting a compatible employee would be a person who shares their outlook as closely as possible. And what group of people would have the greatest chance of having that outlook? A practicing Christian.

      So yes, there IS one job requirement which is more likely to be satisfied by a practicing Christian than someone who is not. Is this a guarantee that a practicing Christian is right for the job? Nope, just like it is not a guarantee that someone who is not a practicing Christian is not right. It is just a way to improve the odds.

      And no, they are not “condemning a capable manager to the breadline, purely because they are not a Christian”. They are actually condemning 100’s of capable managers to the breadline, some Christian, some not, only because they only need and can only afford one.

      I don’t think anyone believes that atheists are never helpful. The point of the lecture was that when atheists do good, they tend to do it as individuals. “I’m Fred, and here’s a well for you” as opposed to “I’m from the Smith Church, and here’s a well for you. Let me tell you about Jesus”.

      Do “churches” spout bile and hate towards the LGBTQI community or anyone else? A few do, but most don’t. Just to be clear, saying “God says Gay sex is wrong” or “I think Gay sex is wrong” is not spewing bile and/or hate; it is expressing an opinion. Bile and/or hate would have to be directed at the person, not the action. Do church members spew bile and hate? Unfortunately, some do, but I’m pretty sure a majority does not.

      I would say that smaller percentage of atheists preach than do theists. But there are definitely some; and a few of those who do with a “religious fervor”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • xandrad

        I can only take it you are not in a member of the LGBTQI community, or you would know just how prevelant religious hate towards us there is. I am telling you we get it from every denomination going.

        And no, saying “God says Gay sex is wrong” or “I think Gay sex is wrong” is not an opinion, it is homophobic hate speech, with the homophobe in question attempting to hide behind the Bible. And even if it were an opinion, what kind of sex people’s do is nobody’s business but their own, so those espousing those ‘opinions’ need to keep them to themselves instead of shoving it in the faces of others, and hurting people in the process.

        I can also only take it that, unlike me, you do not have the actual job description for the Dundee Food Bank manager’s post in front of you. If you did, you would realise they have failed to present a clear General Occupational Requirement for the post.

        Nobody’s asking for the Trussell Trust to take on anyone purely because they are not a Christian – that would be equally unfair. Nor does anyone expect them to take everyone on. We merely ask that they adhere to employment law, which they have yet to clearly demonstrate they are doing.

        As for your claim that a Christian would best suit their outlook, that suggests that only Christians can be compassionate. Having suffered bigotry of all kinds from them, I would suggest to you the opposite is the truth.

        Like

        • equippedcat

          Thank you for not calling ME “dear” 🙂

          No, I am not a member of the LGBTQI community, but I have family and friends who are. And yes, there are occasions when they are subject to actual hate. It is my opinion that much of what some people perceive as hate is not hate.

          I presume that you are a member of the community. And if you think that “i think gay sex is wrong” is hateful, or homophobic, then perhaps you need to look at yourself, not the person saying that. If they say something about you or do something damaging to you, then perhaps there could be hate involved. But just disagreeing with your point of view is not, by itself, hatred or hate speech. Good thing, or 90% of the country would be in jail (most people disagree with someone about something). Check it out: to say “a person who says ‘gay sex is wrong’ is hate speech and homophobic” is hate speech and Christianphobic would be pretty silly, wouldn’t it? How is it not exactly the same?

          I said nothing about compassion; hopefully anyone involved with a service organization has loads of compassion. All I said was that a practicing Christian is most likely to have the most similar worldview as a Christian organization. No, I don’t have the job description in front of me, but I think you admitted that one of the job functions was to at least have the ability to preach, and only a practicing Christian could reliably be expected to preach a message which would be acceptable to the Christian organization.

          I don’t get why you are so intent on this situation. Are you (one of) the non-Christians “sent to the bread line” by this organization?

          Like

    • Ros

      ‘Just recently here in Scotland the Trussell Trust, which runs food banks for the poor, came under extreme criticism for advertising for a food bank manager, stipulating that they must be a practising Christian, despite nothing in the job description requiring them to be so.’

      Just to say that this is not strictly true:

      ‘Ewan Gurr, Scotland Network Manager for the Trussell Trust and former Dundee Foodbank manager, said: “In my experience, the role of a Trussell Trust foodbank manager necessitates the delivery of duties such as leading church services, speaking to a number of church groups, working with predominantly church-based stakeholders and, in some cases, leading prayers.

      “To be expected to carry out these responsibilities without being open and transparent about the need for them could be deemed to be equally as, if not even more, inappropriate than appointing someone to a position in which they feel uncomfortable or are expected to deliver in areas that may conflict with their own values. I expect Dundee Foodbank would not wish to put any employee in such a position, which is why the advertisement has been very clear about their desire that the successful applicant be a person of Christian faith.

      “However, the foodbank continues to welcome the support and involvement of people from all backgrounds in its work to alleviate hunger for people in crisis.”

      There is, of course, still the question as whether the Trussell Trust should have been set up as a Christian organisation or whether its work could have been done just as effectively by a secular organisation. However, if you look into its beginnings, you will find that it was started by a fairly ordinary church member with a vision. And that vision grew because said church member had a church community that chose to support him… and other churches followed suit. At the end of the day, there was and is nothing to stop non-Christians from setting up food banks – or indeed any other work amongst the poor. The only advantage the churches had in starting such a work was a ready-made community of people willing to help. Knock it if you like, but the fact remains that such food banks have provided food and a future to a lot of people in need of those things. Can the same be said of the Scottish Secular Society (who made the criticism)?

      Liked by 1 person

      • xandrad

        Just to say, dear, I have the actual job description right here in front of me, and there is nothing in it which would make being an active Christian absolutely necessary. The job description states that the post “would / could” involve leading church services. That is not an obligation to do so. Besides which, can a lay member even lead a church service, and if not, should Dundee Food Bank not be looking for a member of clergy?

        Just to say, church food banks make up only 40% of such across the UK.

        I am not for one moment deriding the good work that the Trussell Trust do for a great many people. But when they advertise a job for Christians only, then fail to give a clear General Occupational Requirement (GOR) for doing so, then I shall immediately cry foul. As I said before, they may very well have put a non-Christian on the breadline by doing so.

        Like

        • Ros

          ‘I have the actual job description right here in front of me, and there is nothing in it which would make being an active Christian absolutely necessary. The job description states that the post “would / could” involve leading church services.’

          Then it looks as if the job description could have been better worded. That is, if the former manager is right about what is actually involved.

          I do think the question as to whether the role of a food bank manager *should* involve leading worship is a valid one. However, I also know enough about Christian based charities to know that there can be problems when non-Christians are put in positions of leadership. I won’t go into details, but the kind of problems I mean are the same as those you might expect if you put someone who is not a secular humanist in charge of a secular humanist organisation. I fully accept that a food bank does not have to be Christian based. So, in that sense, there is no need for a food bank manager to be Christian. However, where it *is* Christian based, there may well be something in the charitable constitution about ‘Advancing the Christian religion’. In my experience, that’s where the problems usually start when non-Christians become involved in the leadership of Christian based charities. There are aspects of the work that they aren’t comfortable with, but which the Christians see as vital.

          I will add that, personally, I think ‘advancing the Christian religion’ is terrible wording for precisely the reason you point to in your post. I don’t want to ram it down people’s throats. However, legally, it’s the wording we are stuck with. Also, as the prime mover behind the setting up of a (non Trussell Trust) food bank in my home town, these are issues I considered in some depth. And it’s because of just such difficulties that I would happily have set the thing up as a secular charity, without the Christian basis. However, others felt very strongly that it should be Christian based, so that’s how it was eventually set up. Nonetheless, we now have several volunteers and a trustee who are not Christians. We do not have any paid employees.

          ‘Besides which, can a lay member even lead a church service…?’

          Yes, in many churches. I have done so – including services which had the food bank as a central concern.

          ‘Just to say, church food banks make up only 40% of such across the UK.’

          I’d be very interested to hear where you have got that figure from.

          Liked by 1 person

  • equippedcat

    I find it interesting that the atheist community admitted here that its goal is to “convert” people. That would seem to contradict the usual claim that it is not a “religion”.

    Certainly, providing information to those with interest is reasonable and even worthwhile, but to aggressively go after those who have contradictory beliefs would seem to be problematical. Sounds a bit like missionary activity, no?

    Why are (some) atheists so eager to win people away from religion?

    – Perhaps there is a sense that they are “saving” people, and in some cases where the people are being victimized by their religion, this might even be true. The problem is, not everyone in a religion is worse off; their lives and impact on society may have been improved because of the religion.

    – On the other hand, some might see it as “self-defense”, since the religious person may claim that some activity the atheist is performing is “wrong” based on the teaching of that religion. If a religious person works to damage those who engage in the activity, then this is a problem, and trying to talk the person out of their actions is not an effective or reliable solution. On the other hand, if the religious person merely attempts to restrict the activity, then how are they different for those who support the activity?

    – And of course, there is pride and fear. “If I believe X, then it MUST be right, and anyone who disagrees must be fixed” and “if a conflicting belief is allowed to persist, then I am at risk of being shown to be *shudder* wrong and that cannot be allowed”. This is (or should be) a problem (only) for the person who has these feelings.

    Like

    • equippedcat

      Oh, I forgot one

      – Some people LIKE to argue.

      Any others?

      Like

    • siriusbizinus

      I’m confused, EC.

      Which members of the atheist community here claimed that its goal was to convert people? Are you actually trying to assert that atheism is a religion?

      Liked by 1 person

      • paidiske

        The blog post refers to attracting members, bringing people in to atheist community, and convincing them to give up their religion. Sounds like conversion to me…?

        Liked by 1 person

        • siriusbizinus

          If you want to use it in the sense of changing someone’s religious beliefs, you can. The problem with referring to it this broadly is that any change in religious beliefs becomes a “conversion.” It also means that when a person renounces the existence of any deities outside one’s faith, that’s a conversion to atheism.

          Like

          • paidiske

            Well, at its most basic “to convert” is just to change; so even if one denies the possibility of converting to atheism (if atheism is not something to which one can convert, in a positive sense), abandoning one’s former religion is a conversion of sorts.

            I’m not sure I follow your last sentence.

            Liked by 1 person

          • siriusbizinus

            My last sentence refers to the idea that not having a belief in other deities constitutes atheism with regards to those deities. So, for example, a Christian that rejects the existence of Zoroaster and has no belief in Zoroaster could be called an atheist in that regards. While technically correct, calling a Christian an atheist isn’t very accurate.

            Likewise, calling it conversion isn’t accurate in how the word is frequently used. Of course, it’s incredibly nitpicky, but the main reason for that is the above charge, “That would seem to contradict the usual claim that it is not a [‘]religion[.’]” Essentially the reasoning being used is that if one can use a word typically associated with religion in regards to atheism, then it tends to prove or show that atheism is a religion itself.

            I apologize if I’m not making much sense. It’s a bit early where I’m at.

            Like

          • equippedcat

            Atheism in its most extreme form is the belief that no gods exist. In the most general form, it is the lack of belief in any god. So no person who believes in any God or gods can in any sense be considered an atheist.

            I don’t know that there is a term to describe a belief that a particular God does not exist, or lack of belief in a particular God’s existence.

            Liked by 1 person

      • equippedcat

        That seemed to be the basis of the lecture described in the blog. That the atheist community “was not having enough success converting people from religion” because “churches do X and the atheist community does not”.

        No, I’m not saying that atheism is a religion. Just that some atheists act like members of a religion.

        Like

  • clubschadenfreude

    the problem is that Christian groups don’t often do all of the things they claim. That’s a nice fiction, and I am sure it keeps believers in place because they do hope it is true.

    In any group, that isn’t inculcated with fear, the community is indeed variable. No one feels that they can’t leave because they’ll be damned or shunned. Religion needs a “comforting story” because their other stories are all horror. It’s not an “inspiration”, it’s “I’m terrified so I’m going to toe the line and kiss the ring of the mafia boss”.

    Like

  • paidiske

    I think Hement is mostly right (I agree with Ros that we have a great message but crap messengers).

    Interestingly, I was at a conference recently in which one of the things we discussed was why Islam was doing better at attracting converts than Christianity is (where I live, anyway). We felt that Islam offered something – a discipline, perhaps – which Christianity had given away sometime in the last few centuries, and which people genuinely wanted to help them integrate their faith with their way of life.

    I am not sure whether there’s anything to take from that for atheists, except that praxis matters, and I am not sure whether atheism has an identifiable praxis in any sense, or even can (given that it is fundamentally about an absence).

    Like

  • dfxc

    A wild Comte appears! He uses The Catechism of Positive Religion! It’s super unpopular…

    Like

  • Godless Cranium

    I agree on the community and helping aspects. I think we could do s better job there. I’m extremely uncomfortable with the missionary angle, since it’s one aspect of Christianity I think that targets the vulnerable.

    I think atheism has better arguments and reason will eventually come out on too if people are allowed to talk freely and aren’t put in jail for blasphemy.

    Like

    • dfxc

      Speaking of going to jail for blasphemy… If you’re unfamiliar with Commonwealth v. Kneeland, you might find it worth checking out. It’s kinda wild how recently the “wall of separation” had MASSIVE holes in it…

      Like

      • Sha'Tara

        Now I’m truly thankful I’m not an atheist: I thought atheism was a philosophy, not an institution. Christianity and I suppose all main-line religions exist as corporations. They are registered institutions and in order to maintain that status they have to perform certain technicalities to satisfy the “charitable institution” status and keep the tax-man at bay. They also need to develop “programs” to keep their constituents entertained in the churches, however cheap the entertainment. If Christian institutions were taxed as businesses and if they did not entertain their clients, they’d soon become just little groups of die-hard believers, completely irrelevant to their surroundings; preaching only to the converted; without lands, buildings, brainwash institutions (seminaries which we used to jokingly call “cemetaries”) and over-paid, poorly educated and often quite ignorant preachers. Is this what “atheism” wants to emulate? To become another brainwash institution, running and funding politicians to further its own goals, investing money, buying lands and etc.? If you add up the number$ you can easily see that most of what Christian institutions rake in remains in Christian corporate hands and do not easily move into helpful social works, or even into missionary efforts – and I add, “thankfully” to that. Now, why would an intelligent person who has seen through the farce that is Christianity (or any institutionalized religion) allow herself to be taken in by another similar ORGANIZATION which, of necessity, must become a successfully growing institution or remain forever in the margins of society?

        Like

        • hessianwithteeth

          I’d just jump in to remind your that no single atheist represents the whole. Rather I am growing to understand there are some major classifications of atheism which are more popular then I thought possible, and many of which are just as problematically dogmatic and ideological as many religious communities.

          Now I’m of the stance the Athism is a simple beileif, that either God don’t exist, or that that I have no good reason to think they exist and will work under the assumption they don’t until such time I have reason to think otherwise.

          However, some people attempt to wrap a whole bunch of ideas and philosophies together and then call it atheism. I’m not a fan of that as they you can’t tell what they are really going on about until then go into detail.

          Although that’s not really what we where attempting to offer here. We where suggesting less about atheism, and more about humanism how to build engaging communities around those ideas we think religious communities get that. Such thing as when tragedy strike communities will band together and help those who are affected.
          Lost your job? Well the community will network for you, someone bound to know of a job you could do.
          You’re partner is in the hospital? We a few member will help babysit your kids and prepare meals for you while your at the hospital, or have less time to deal.
          You want a some one to talk too? We as a community pay for this community center and staff, but rather then paying for a priest we have a trained social worker who serves our community.

          You can learn valuable lesson even from those things which we do not like or agree with over all, and when we take those lesson we do not need to take all ideology with us as well. We can pick and choose and If we don’t want the dogma (which I think we can both agree we don’t want) we don’t need to take it.

          Hopefully that makes more sense.

          Like

      • Sha'Tara

        Sorry, that reply was supposed to go under “godless cranium” – not “dfxc”

        Like

  • What Can Churches Teach Atheists? | Christians Anonymous

    […] Source: What Can Churches Teach Atheists? […]

    Like

  • Ros

    As a Christian, I don’t know much about atheist groups. However, I think he is probably right about the first three. Christians can provide purpose and community and they do have a story that inspires people in the face of death. However, I’m not so sure about his fourth point – about messengers.

    The reason Christians are often good at the first three is because all three are central to the Christian message. In that sense, the message is not a ‘terrible’ one. If you have a message that encourages people to take care of one another, you will build community. And the Christian message does that. The Atheist message does not. It’s primarily about intellectual belief – whether or not Gods exist – rather than about how we are to live.

    Now it could be argued – and frequently is – that Christians don’t actually live their message. They are intolerant. They start wars. Their religion causes more problems than it solves. And, for that reason, I’d say that Christianity has had some very poor messengers – and still does. When I look at the blogosphere, I can’t help feeling that Christians and atheists are pretty much evens on how bad their messengers are. Both have messengers who are rude and intolerant. Both have messengers that fail to listen to the other. Both have messengers that make inaccurate assumptions about the other.

    For example, I have previously been accused in these blog comments for making an assumption about atheists. As it happens, I hadn’t actually made that assumption, but it is such a common assumption among US Christians that what I said was interpreted that way. So Christians make assumptions. Similarly, in Swarn Gill’s comment on this post, we have, ‘Christians are… better liars.’ Well, thanks very much. That really makes me feel good. And ‘It’s just as tangible as the way in which Christian missionaries feel they are having an impact when they convert a group of villagers who will pretty much trade whatever belief system they have for guaranteed food and shiny toys. Religions exploit the weak…’ Well, all i can say is that, if atheists are having such an impact, it’s nothing to be proud of. As a Christian, I would be horrified to think this represented true conversion. I’m equally horrified at the assumption that all that really matters to the group of villagers is shiny toys. And when it comes to exploiting the weak, it’s clear to me that *all* of us in the developed world are guilty of that. We are doing it right now. And, as a Christian, that breaks my heart. So it’s not ‘religions’ that exploit the weak. It’s people – some of them atheist, some of them agnostic and some religious.

    Assumptions. Assumptions. Assumptions. As long as we continue to make them about each other, we will continue to be poor messengers, atheist and Christian alike.

    Meanwhile, does it matter that atheists aren’t good at providing people with purpose or community? Is it even true? I don’t know. Only you can answer that. But I will say that I think true community is the reason why Jesus came. Because true community is the only answer to hatred, torture, war, abuse, exploitation and all that horrible stuff (i.e. sin). Those things cannot exist in true community and true community cannot exist without the kind of forgiveness, healing and transformation that Jesus and his followers taught. And that’s why I think Hement is wrong when he says Christians have a ‘terrible’ message. I think Christians have the best message there is. It’s just so damned hard for most of us to believe. And I don’t just mean the God bit. I mean world peace. Seriously?!

    Liked by 2 people

  • Swarn Gill

    These are great questions. I agree with Sirius above with his points however. To add to that, I would say that conversion is not our goal. Teaching people to ask questions and encouraging curiosity and exposing people to diversity and points of view is our goal. I don’t want to make anyone atheist. I want them to see that is the most reasonable way to be. The fact that secularity is growing in the U.S., just in the same way it grew earlier in Europe means that we are having an impact. It’s just as tangible as the way in which Christian missionaries feel they are having an impact when they convert a group of villagers who will pretty much trade whatever belief system they have for guaranteed food and shiny toys. Religions exploit the weak, where as an atheist I wish to make people strong.

    In regards to the community support for things like job loss, etc. I agree that is an issue. Atheists tend to be more individualistic and getting them to organize is a bit like herding cats. But we do have a drive for community, it is just that we are not willing to sacrifice our intellectual freedom for that community. I would also argue that I think atheist communities can be very supportive in areas which are more tolerant to secular views. But if you are a secular thinking person in a religious area it can be hard for an atheist community to flourish and it can be hard to even self-identify as an atheist. If you really need help, it might be emotionally easier to give the church another try, than be in dire need of help and face the scorn of a community who judges you for not believing what they do.

    I think a lot of problems take care of themselves as long as atheists are vigilant about maintaining separation of church and state and keeping the domination of one religion from schools and trying to increase education standards.

    In terms of the better story tellers, I would disagree. I think I can be a great story teller, I’m just careful to let people know that it’s a story. Christians aren’t better story tellers, they are better liars. Because they believe what they are selling. I think there are a lot of great stories about how the world works that are fascinating. Many of them require more learning to try and appreciate. In terms of stories for small children, I think there are lots of great things to learn from simple stories, even the biblical ones, but those moral lessons can be extracted the same way we can extract them from Aesop’s fables, because we call them fables. The biblical stories are fables too, but children are told that they really happen. If atheists wanted to lie to children to make them atheists, I’m sure we could, but I’d like to think that atheists adhere to a higher moral standard than that.

    Liked by 1 person

  • siriusbizinus

    The short answer I have for this is that I don’t think atheists need missionaries. Part of the sales pitch of Christianity is belief without reason. There are emotional crutches that are used (conflating sin with unwanted character flaws, approaching people who are emotionally upset with themselves, relying on appeals to the gaps in human knowledge, etc.). Supposing atheists did similar things, we’d just get atheists who simply don’t believe in gods for no other reason than someone told them it was true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dfxc

      Though making this point feels increasingly like I’m following Sisyphus, just for the record: There *is* a branch of Christianity that pitches faith and reason as necessary complements, and it is one of the oldest continuous religious traditions that lays claim to the name “Christian”. So, you know, #notallChristians …

      Like

    • entropy

      Don’t forget ‘fear for hell’…

      Liked by 1 person

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