Journal Entry # 203
September 26th, 2010
During a conversation that I had with some atheists today I realized something important. Are we really looking for solutions or are we just showing how right we all are? This applies to me as well. If I say that I am being a realist in my position that “we all need to work together even though we have different beliefs for the good of all humanity” am I pandering to the faithful? Am I compromising my principals? What is the best way to accomplish the goal of positive change for humanity while still maintaining your value system? Is it to admit that you might be wrong? Should I respect the ideals of others no matter how crazy or harmful they are? Who decides what is a valid belief and not harmful? I see righteousness from all positions. The problems are fairly easy to identify or you would think they would be but what are the solutions?
The following is a conversation which will clarify my position on these questions. Although we seemed to be wide apart on the issues in the end we found agreement and understanding. I have left the thank you comments out that were at the end . My intent is for you to follow the conversation to see the positions presented. The entire conversation is not presented but I think the relevant parts are here.
Atheist # 1……… I do love it when the religious try this game of equating scientific understanding and knowledge with faith. It is so illuminating with respect to the level of intellectual dishonesty or cognitive dissonance to most 3rd party readers. Your …mental gymnastics are the greatest deterrent to religious thinking I could ever ask for. Those people not already submerged in your ideology, particularly those in the middle are strongly swayed by recognizing this kind of dishonesty.
Are you honestly unable to distinguish an idea supported by evidence and an idea supported only by assertion(ancient bronze age texts are no more than assertion)? Do you really not understand that hearsay and third hand accounts of events do not meet the standard of evidence in the slightest? Not just in legal terms but scientific terms. Stories are stories, not evidence. Data, measurements, observations that are repeatable and verifiable qualify.
Faith is the mechanism people use to ‘believe’ things that make them feel good, in spite of the evidence, often in direct contradiction to evidence. There are a great number of things in science that don’t make me feel good or comfortable that I recognize as scientific truths because they are supported by the evidence. Truth doesn’t care about our feelings or what we want. Faith does not fit into scientific thinking nor the scientific method, only repeatable and verifiable observations or data.
Faith is that virtue you invoke in describing yourself and faith is that pejorative you invoke to deride others. Even when it’s not there. Yes, we are all laughing at your failure to understand this.
Gary David Currie ….I am not laughing at their supposed failure to see this. You demonstrate the same qualities you accuse them of righteousness. The idea is not to battle but to reach a mutual ground of understanding and respect. you can’t change a person’s mind only they can and while I agree with your assessment of faith I very much disagree with your last statement. The faithful are not going anywhere this is not a debate you are going to win. The goal for me is to reach a place where we can set aside all the nasty stuff religions represent and this will not happen by antagonizing in my opinion. I am not a moderate just a realist.
( Atheist #2) Gary “If people are really about positive change it will not be accomplished with battle lines only with respect at its core. You don’t have to respect the thought but respect the right of the thought and the process it represents.”
No. Wrong. Sorry. If someone is insisting to me, in the face of all evidence, that the earth is 6000 years old and human beings coexisted with dinosaurs and even rode on their backs, because T. Rex ate coconuts, then telling me I have to “respect” the “process” that thought “represents” is telling me I have to “respect” rank stupidity. It’s no use trying to equivocate by saying “nothing can be proven 100% true,” as if this meant cranks deserve an equal place setting as legitimate expert knowledge at the banquet of ideas. Someone can believe all he wants that he will fly if he jumps off a tall building. Should I respect that idea too, on the bizarre notion that doing so somehow lends itself to “positive change”? When exactly am I allowed to call a stupid idea stupid, or is it the case that tender feelings always matter more than truth?
Gary David Currie … that is not what I am saying. You guys on the show realize that when dealing with righteousness and ridiculous ideas nothing will be accomplished but there are those out there that in spit of the ridiculous believes from my perspective really want to spread love and peace.
Look I agree with what you are saying as I have said it myself many times.
You missed the part about people really being about positive change , people you are referring to are not about that and frankly I have no time for them as well.
You can call an idea stupid anytime you want to I have no problem with that. I believe that we can offend no one only ourselves. I am the last one who generally cares about hurting feelings because I believe I cannot do this.
I never said to respect all ideas I said to respect the process. But it is your right to chose what you will listen to and like I said I am looking for those who are willing to talk and bring about positive change. I am still trying to define what that is.
(Atheist #3) The accommodations supported by atheists like Gary and Phil Plait has simply never been shown to bring about the “positive change” Gary speaks of. If anything, it makes religionists more comfortable in their worldview, a worldview that is… demonstrably false and even potentially harmful.
Many atheists who were once Christians or Muslims or whatever religion will tell you that the ridicule or uncompromising criticism they were exposed to by other atheists/freethinkers contributed immensely to their departure from religion and theism. Accommodationists, on the other hand, represent the atheistic equivalent of religious moderates. Sam Harris has written extensively on the problems with religious moderation/liberalism, and I argue that the same points applies to atheist accommodationists. You are of course free to pursue this method, but as Chris pointed out, you are playing by the theist’s rules. No change will come about in this way.
Of course, I would definitely prefer a world in which all religionists and theists were of the liberal or moderate variety. But the fact that there exists a significant contingent of die-hard fundamentalists and extremists renders playing the accommodationist completely fruitless, because then such fundamentalist/extremist views are perpetually propped up on a playing field where they do not belong. Religious moderates are not speaking out against the fundamentalist contingent (else they would not have earned the label of “moderates”). That job has fallen to the non-religious skeptics who are not afraid to appear cynical and unforgiving in their scrutiny. The non-religious accommodationists, on the other hand, take a cue from the religious moderate, in which the two of them can chill over coffee and chide us “mean, arrogant atheists” for criticizing beliefs without evidence.
How does “positive change” come out of such an method?
Gary David Currie @ Atheist #3….Well said .. Now offer me an alternative.. I try and build bridges realizing this world is the way it is. What do you propose? To draw lines. I have every intent of pursuing the fact that I believe that lies are the cause of most of our problems.. You know I always hear about the problems while I very rarely see solutions to the problems. Do you think that continuing to draw absolute lines will be beneficial? All things can take on a religious nature. If I am wrong I am wrong but I am about solutions as well as identifying the problems. Can I not work with people at the same time as promoting that I think what they believe is not true. Have you watched Collision with Hitchens. I see this happening in this movie.
I believe that engaging in talking like we are doing and shows like AE are doing are the first steps. If you have read any of my blog you will see I do not condone acting on lies and I believe religion to be at the top of the list but I feel I must act and telling people negative things does not seem constructive to me.
I am all ears for ideas about promoting positive change. Do you think 1.6 billion Muslims are going to just agree with you? Look you can present all the facts you want to someone but if they are not listening then what is the point. I am sick and tires of humans fighting all the time and everyone’s thinking they are right so I look for alternatives.
Atheist #2…. Gary (What is your overall goal? Mine is towards peace for all.”)
Mine is towards ensuring that the things I believe always comply with what is demonstrably true, and that I have a firm grasp of the distinction between fantasy and reality. Lots of people have tried to heal the world before, Gary, and it rarely worked out well for them. Focus on your own little corner of it.
Atheist #1……I respect that you are working on how to solve these issues. Great, it’s an admirable goal that I encourage you to do. I am doing the same. I don’t make any truth claims. I think education is a large portion, but yes there will always be an element that will prefer primitivism, superstition, magical thinking, feel-good theology over reality. The goal isn’t to eliminate that, but relegate it to a minority position so that those detrimental ideas have minimal to no impact on our lives.
I still maintain that I am persuadable, but have not encountered any reasonable or strong ideas from the theist side. I present the best evidence for my views as I can. It’s there for scrutiny. I guess the closest I could come to ‘winning’ is simply having my current views re-verified.
So how do we overcome these very large hurdles? I would love to hear any constructive suggestions to reach these goals from all concerned. This is a problem for us all as what we are doing is not working so far.
Seek the truth always
Gary David Currie