Tag Archives: culture

In God We Trust?


I watched this documentary yesterday and I thought it would make for a great discussion. Since we have both Christians (and I’m sure some theists who are not Christian) and atheists following this blog, I thought it might be worthwhile to see what you lot have to say about this documentary.

If you have the time, please watch the documentary and tell us your thoughts on it in the comment section.

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Atheism 101: The Western Religions


Now that things have settled down and I’m feeling better, I think it’s about time to get back to the Atheism 101 posts. Since I talked about the Bible and Koran in the last two posts, I will now be talking about the Western religions as a whole.

The Western religions include many forms of Paganism (anything from western Europe and the Americas) and Judaism and Christianity (due to where the majority of their followers can be found). Scientology would also be included in this list. I will not discuss these religions separately here but as a whole.

So why don’t atheists agree with Western religion? Well, not all atheists don’t agree with the western religions. In fact, some atheists practice different forms of Paganism (actually, there are atheists who practice Christianity and Judaism too). Many of them do so because they enjoy the culture and the traditions even though they don’t believe in the gods. However, many of the atheists who have a problem with western religion have a problem because of the institutions involved. This isn’t so much the case with Paganism, since Pagans don’t really have any power in our society. However, a lot of religious institutions use their status as religious to unfairly regulate the actions of people, including those who aren’t a part of the religion. A number of religious institutions have also caused a lot of harm. Both Scientology and some forms of Christianity have been accused of holding people, generally children, against their will. Children have been abused and killed at the direction of those with power within a religion. People have been conned out of their money and been made to feel guilty for things that aren’t necessarily wrong. And religious institutions have created wars. Those things tend to make atheists uncomfortable with the power of religious institutions. Most atheists are less concerned with people simply holding to one of these belief systems, but we do view them as false. It is the fact that we believe religions (or rather, belief in gods) are false that cause a number of atheists to criticise believers, because they believe that the believers are either being conned into believing a falsehood or are willingly believing a falsehood (sound familiar?).

On a side note, it is the fact that atheists criticise believers for believing what we believe to be false that has led me to think of atheism as more than simply a lack of belief in gods. If we merely lacked a belief, then we wouldn’t care what others believed. However, if we also actively believed that gods don’t exist, then we have a reason to care what others believe. As such, I define atheism as the belief that there are no gods, not as a lack of belief in gods.

Back to the main article. As I have already stated, not all atheists disagree with western religions. We just disagree with the gods premises. Some atheists like religion. Some atheists are religious. Some atheists wish they could be religious. Some merely don’t care about religion. Others feel annoyed at the power of religion. Some feel annoyed at the people who are religious. And others believe that religion should be gotten rid of. It all depends on the atheist.


I’m So Tired of These So-Called Skeptics


I can’t help but think that there needs to be a test before one can call themself a skeptic. It’s amazing how many people call themselves skeptics while having no critical thinking skills once so ever. This is the biggest reason I don’t really identify as a skeptic.

Today I received a reply to a comment I wrote on YouTube. The person considered themself a skeptic, but they couldn’t be bothered to supply any evidence to support their claim that masculinity and femininity are biological despite the fact that different cultures around the world hold to different ideas about what is masculine and what is feminine. Skeptics are supposed to be critical of all claims, and they are supposed to look at the evidence before they decide what is true, but so few actually do that. So many skeptics ignore the evidence and determine what they believe to be true on what society accepts, or who they hero-worship, or what they simply feel to be right. But that isn’t being skeptical.

Skepticism is a fine line to walk. It isn’t easy. But it also isn’t that difficult. Somebody says the sky is blue? Look up. Does the sky look blue? If yes, then do you have any reason to believe you are being deceived? No? Then the sky is blue. Obviously not everything is this simple, but it follows the same pattern. Someone says god exists? Can you see god? No? Then what other ways can we know something using our senses? Can we feel god? No? Can we smell god? No? Can we taste god? No? Can we hear god? No? Then how else can we find out if this claim is true? What evidence does the person making the claim have to offer? Can that evidence be verified? If not, then what does this say about the claim? If you can’t verify something using your own senses, and the evidence offered by the person making the claim isn’t verifiable, then the person’s claim can be dismissed.

But skeptics don’t generally have an issue applying this method to gods. It’s other things, more mundane things that skeptics want to be true, where they have difficulty applying their skepticism. But applying skepticism to one area does not a skeptic make. So where do skeptics fail?

Skeptics fail at applying skepticism to claims about sex and gender. It’s widely accepted that men are stronger than women. But how do we know if this is true? Can you see a man lift something that a woman can’t? Probably. But this is one man and one woman. So how do you turn the “this man can lift something that that woman can’t” claim into a “men are stronger than women” claim? First you need a lot of men and a lot of women. Then you need to compensate for weight difference. What do the results show? Obviously the average person doesn’t have time to do all of these experiments to determine what they should believe. Luckily scientists have done much of the research for us. So what have scientists found when they have done these studies? Are there studies that contradict each other? Does one debunk the other one? Are there meta-studies that explain why one is more accurate than the other? And are you sure your sources are good (ie. can you follow the source back to original research?)? Once you’ve done all that, you can be reasonably sure that your belief is accurate. However, to be a good skeptic, you can not say that you are a 100% certain that your belief is true. There is always a chance that you are wrong, and a true skeptic understands this. The problem with most so-called skeptics is they do not understand this.

So do you need to use the process given above to determine if your believes are true if you want to be a good skeptic? Yes. But it is not as daunting as it sounds. We all do the process to a certain degree, but most people don’t look at both sides of an argument, and they aren’t often open to changing their mind. The research doesn’t have to be done all at once. It can be done over the course of months or years, but both sides need to be considered, and you need to be open to changing your mind. That’s how we learn and grow.

So please, if you call yourself a skeptic, please make sure that you are as willing to apply your skepticism equally to all of your beliefs. And please make sure that you are willing to accept that you might be wrong. Because as soon as you say “I know x for certain” you cease being a skeptic. And as soon as you fail to apply the rigorous research needed to accept a belief you cease to be a good skeptic.


Just Thought I Should Remind You All About My Surveys


I haven’t done an update on my surveys in a while, so here it is. For those of you who don’t know about my surveys, I am trying to do a couple of independent studies for some future blog posts. The first study will be on Religious discrimination, and I will be focusing on how people view discrimination aimed at atheists vs. how they view it aimed at Christians. The second study will be on feminism’s reputation. Namely on how people perceive it’s reputation. Please help me out by doing and sharing my survey. It will be greatly appreciated. And for those of you who have already done my survey, please share it wherever you can. I would like to write those blog posts this summer.

Here is how I’m doing so far:
Religion Surveys:
This survey deals with various situations that may be considered discrimination towards Atheists:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=vvaqodd0equ2y21474850 – 4% complete
This survey deals with various situations that may be considered discrimination towards Christians:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=pi387nzvmo8dklc474867 – 2% complete
This survey looks at whether or not the respondent feels they have been discriminated against for their religion:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=3zolzpi3k1lwc7s470898 – 8% complete
This survey looks at whether or not people feel that Atheists are discriminated against:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=t2k9uo23mlnmklk470896 – 7% complete
This survey looks at whether or not people feel that Christians are discriminated against:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=85koff95iqwpme3470893 – 7% complete
Feminism Surveys:
Situations that may or may not be considered Feminist issues:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=xxiz033c05yo72v472614 – 3% complete
Are various Feminist causes helpful or hurtful for the Feminist movement?
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=i8d3kq6z73ems49471695 – 7% complete
How do you perceive Feminism?
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=4p48z0rwjwooxpf471689 – 7% complete
Does Feminist have a bad reputation?
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=r4t8nurh0tyxvqt470762 – 11% complete
Please help me out by doing my surveys, if you haven’t already, so that I can write my posts on the responses. And please share my surveys as well.


I’m Offended


I recently watched this video by Seth Andrews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQJymMD1zRM. In it he discusses the idea of offense, namely where religion is concerned. I decided to use the video on a post about what offends me. Personally, I don’t think offending people is an inherently bad thing. Everybody gets offended, and everything probably offends someone. However, I do not agree with people who go out of their way to offend others for no other reason to cause offense. A lot of people complain that we have become “too PC,” and I don’t entirely disagree with that. However, a number of the people who make this claim turn around and act offensive for no other reason that to act offensively (or possibly to complain about people being too PC). So let’s talk about offense.

I’m offended by people who feel they have the right to walk up to me in the street and criticize my wardrobe. If you don’t like what I’m wearing, don’t wear it, but don’t tell me how to dress.

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I’m offended by people telling me that I’m confused and don’t understand when I make it clear that I don’t agree with them. My not agreeing with you does not mean that I’m confused, it means that I don’t agree. Can we get passed this patronizing bullshit and have an actual conversation? Maybe then we’ll both learn something.

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I’m offended when people make assumptions about my gender without asking me, and I’m offended when people ask me what my gender is as a means to insult and mock me. Not knowing how to address me is not a bad thing, but don’t be an ass about it.

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I’m offended when people refer to others as “unwomen” or “not men” as a way to differentiate them from “those good men and women.” Who are you to tell someone what their gender is? Yes, real men do rape. Rather than trying to pretend they don’t, how about we deal with the issues that lead those men to rape. Oh, you don’t like feminism? And you think that insulting feminists by calling them “unwomen” is going to win you any points? Congratulations on destroying any possible credibility your opinions could have otherwise had.

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I’m offended when people use the “well you have privilege too” line to try and invalidate some criticism aimed at them. We all have some level of privilege. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need to evaluate your own privilege in order to understand why what you said was inappropriate. The other person having privilege doesn’t mean that you get to ignore yours.

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I am offended when people say that it is okay to doubt that a rape victim was raped because everybody else who is the victim of a crime is treated that way too. Really? So if I call the police and tell them my house was broken into, they are going to assume I’m lying until I prove that my house actually was broken into? Because every time my house actually has been broken into, the police took my word for it, took my statement, and said they’d let us know when they learned anything. Should I have been asked what I was wearing when the robbery took place? Or what I did to provoke the thieves? Maybe I should have been blamed for living in a house that would get broken into?

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I’m offended when I’m compared to a murderer. Or, even worse, Hitler. You want to tell me I deserve to go to jail because I made a legal decision that I felt was best for my future and my family? And your going to try and say that you have the right to be offended because people don’t want to see your disgusting pictures everywhere? Attacking me and then playing the “free speech” card is not how you win support.

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I’m offended when people tell me that I can’t be a good person and I deserve to be tortured because I don’t believe in their god.

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I’m offended that it has become easier to spread lies and misinformation than it is to spread scientific understanding and actual facts.

I’m offended that people will accuse me of tainting the groups that I’m apart of because of who I am.

I am offended that my very existence offends people. I’m offended that they feel they have the right to insult me and to try and change me simply because I exist.

I’m offended that people will try and invalidate my experiences by telling me that it’s just my opinion or they haven’t seen what I’m saying happens happen. Skepticism is well and good, but there is a point where your “skepticism” becomes willful ignorance. We cannot know everything with 100% accuracy, in fact, I would argue that we can’t know anything with 100% accuracy, and we can’t ignore things until we know them with 100% accuracy. That’s ridiculous. Let’s try some moderation. If you can accept that the big bang happened without seeing it, you can accept that women get harassed by men when you don’t see it. It’s not like I’m saying god did it.

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I’m offended when people tell me that I will one day know the truth. Again, don’t patronize me. Just because you believe you’re right and I’m wrong doesn’t mean you actually are right. You can still be wrong. Treat me like a human being equal to yourself, not a bumbling lunatic, and maybe we can both learn something.

I’m offended when people accuse all atheists of being offensive because some atheists are offensive (and some people are offended by the very existence of atheists) but then turn around and defend the offensive things that the members of their own group says. If it’s okay for you to offend people by saying “hate the sin, not the sinner,” why is it wrong for me to offend people by saying that the Bible says offensive things? And why are all atheists demonized because some have said that religion should be destroyed, but all Christians aren’t demonized because some have said that gay people should be put to death?

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I’m offended when people try to tell me that if I don’t like being judged based on the words of some of the loudest members of my group, then I should stop them from saying stupid things. Really? You think Richard Dawkins and Thunderf00t give a flying fuck what I have to say? You think that, if I had that kind of power, I wouldn’t be among those voices making my opinions heard? You think that numerous other atheists haven’t already criticized those who make the most noise and say bigoted things? And why does this demand only apply to the groups that you’re not apart of? Why don’t you have the same obligation to police the outspoken bigots in your group? Why can’t I judge you based on what they have said?

As you can see, I’m offended about a large number of things. But I don’t think I have the right to not be offended. I don’t think anyone does. What I do have is the right to call people out for being bigoted assholes. I have the right to tell people why I disagree with them. I have the right to tell people they are bigoted and offensive. I have the right to try and educate them and others. I don’t have the right to shut them up, but they can’t shut me up either.

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How Are My Surveys Going?


I haven’t done an update on my surveys in a while. Here is how I’m doing so far:
Religion Surveys:
This survey deals with various situations that may be considered discrimination towards Atheists:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=vvaqodd0equ2y21474850 – 2%
This survey deals with various situations that may be considered discrimination towards Christians:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=pi387nzvmo8dklc474867 – 2%
This survey looks at whether or not the respondent feels they have been discriminated against for their religion:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=3zolzpi3k1lwc7s470898 – 8%
This survey looks at whether or not people feel that Atheists are discriminated against:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=t2k9uo23mlnmklk470896 – 7%
This survey looks at whether or not people feel that Christians are discriminated against:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=85koff95iqwpme3470893 – 6%
Feminism Surveys:
Situations that may or may not be considered Feminist issues:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=xxiz033c05yo72v472614 – 2%
Are various Feminist causes helpful or hurtful for the Feminist movement?
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=i8d3kq6z73ems49471695 – 7%
How do you perceive Feminism?
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=4p48z0rwjwooxpf471689 – 6%
Does Feminist have a bad reputation?
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=r4t8nurh0tyxvqt470762 – 11%
Please help me out by doing my surveys, if you haven’t already, so that I can write my posts on the responses. And please share my surveys as well.


Are We Actually Speaking the Same Language?


A few years ago I took a class on the Old Testament. In the class there were about 4 Jewish students, 3 Muslim students, 10 Christian students, and me. As the class was meant to be taken from an academic standpoint, it was not about whether what we read was true, but rather what the Old Testament can tell us about the people of the time. However, it seemed as though my classmates weren’t interested in anything other than having their beliefs confirmed, so they talked a lot about their faith and their thoughts from their religious perspectives. As I listened to their interpretations of the reading that we had all done, I couldn’t help but feel as though we were not, in fact, reading the same book. In many ways, it was like were weren’t even speaking the same language.

In the years since that class, that thought process has only been confirmed. When I talk to theists, especially when discussing religious texts, it’s like we’re not speaking the same language. I can’t help but think that this is what has caused a good deal of miscommunication between theists and non-theists. When we speak, we use different words, or we use the same words differently. When we discuss scripture or holy writ, the non-theist (or nonbeliever) does not interpret it the same way that the believer does. We see it differently. This makes it very difficult to come to an understanding. It leads to frustration and anger. And I think that it is important to try and realize that this miscommunication is occurring in order to prevent that frustration and anger. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure how to avoid this miscommunication because it is not always obvious when a word is being used differently.

Some of the words that I’ve noticed as being used differently:

Faith:
To a non-theist, this means belief without evidence.
Theists, in my experience, use this word differently depending on a number of factors, but two interpretations that I’ve noticed are trust and their relationship with their deity.

Belief:
A lot of non-theists don’t like this word. Many feel that it implies faith. To me, a belief is just something that one holds true whether it is or not.
I’ve noticed that a lot of theists use this to mean truth.

Truth:
When non-theists say something is true, we mean that it is supported by evidence.
Theists tend to have two interpretations of this word. The first is the capital-T truth, which seems to me to mean the words written in their particular holy book. The second is small-t truth, which seems to be defined as true facts.

Christian:
When a non-theist says this, we generally mean someone who identifies as a Christian.
When a Christian says this, they can mean a number of things. They can agree with the non-theist, they can mean someone who has been saved, and they can even mean someone from their denomination only. It can be difficult to determine what is meant when someone says this.

Atheist:
When an atheist says this, they mean someone who believes that gods don’t exist.
When a theist says this, they often mean someone who asserts that there are no gods, or they may try to differentiate between the above claim and not believing in any gods.

Scripture:
When I hear a Christian say this I hear “the Bible,” but it seems that they often mean “the Gospels.” I’m not really to sure about other religions , but I generally just take “scripture” to mean “holy book.”

Worldview:
When non-theists say this, we generally mean a series of beliefs that inform a person’s view of the world.
When theists use worldview, it seems as though they often mean a single belief, or a few beliefs, where religion is concerned, and only where religion is concerned.

Evidence:
When non-theists say “give me evidence,” we mean tangible evidence. We mean “give me something I can see, touch, and accept.” We want something that will convince us, which means that we need to be able to confirm it.
Theists tend to use “evidence” more loosely. They often conflate personal experience with evidence, and they often try to show their holy book to be true using that holy book.

Argument:
This one I think is generally a matter of whether or not one has had philosophical training, but there is still some difference between theists and non-theists.
Non-theists tend to mean a series of claims meant to support a conclusion.
Theists often mean getting into a shouting match.

This is not an all inclusive list, but it includes the words that I have noticed getting used differently the most. And it includes some of the most common usages that I have noticed. Also, while I say theist vs. non-theist, I’ve noticed this mostly between members of the Abrahamic religions and atheists/agnostics (I don’t have much dealings with people within the Eastern religions, and I haven’t noticed Pagan’s using words that I use differently. Well, not enough to comment on anyway).

What other words get used differently between theists and non-theists? What do these words mean to you?


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