The war of the words
Posted: 02 September 2013 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Well, here we are again, in another series of our endless discussions about whether secularists “should” use words like believe, faith, religion and spiritual. I put the word “should” in quotation marks because the fact that we are having these discussions at all is stunning, and silly. I would prefer not to use the term “word police” but it does come to mind.

Like it or not, these words still resonate in our culture. They are not going away. So our choice is how to respond to our environment, and make our way within that environment productively. We’re not all going to do it in the same way. That is one element that makes argument not to use certain words so hard to understand. As a group of people who value freethought and individual expression, what hubris it must take to tell other people how to speak and write!

Some people here claim that if we use these words, we will be misunderstood. I have yet to see a shred of evidence to support that claim. If you insist on making that claim, we have every right to do what you do when theists make claims: ask you for supporting evidence.

We can make a better case for faith, spirituality, religion, belief and even God than the old religions can. My model is Bill Clinton’s treatment of the term “family values” in the 1992 campaign. He could have said “those words have been corrupted, so I’m not going to use them.” Instead, being a brilliant political tactician, he took the words, made a better case for them than his opponents were making, and took ownership of them. And he did it in a way that was completely authentic and honest. We have opportunities to do the same thing, though not everywhere and probably not through the preacher model of the old religions. And of course, those who are not comfortable with these words shouldn’t try to use them. But let’s stop these silly categorical discussions that aren’t about the integrity of the language or effective communication at all; they’re about the visceral reaction that some people have to the words themselves. That approach is not just non-rational, it’s irrational.

Instead of rehashing the same unproductive arguments about whether we “should” use certain words, we should look for creative opportunities to reach people where they are. Whether we like it or not, the old language still resonates, broadly and deeply. We need to demonstrate that we have good, solid answers that resonate in the same dimensions.

So have at it. Only this time, if you insist that bad things will happen if we use certain words, provide some evidence to support your claims.

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Posted: 02 September 2013 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I used the same term-“Word Police” a week or so ago in a similar post.  That and “thought police”.
You are so right PlaClair. 
I’m comfortable using the English language and recognize the utility of a whole range of words like spirituality.
But then again I stopped caring a while ago whether people knew I was an atheist or not.

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Posted: 08 September 2013 09:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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OK, I didn’t think so. Obviously there is no evidence to support the claim that these words cause mass confusion.

So we shouldn’t see that argument any more, because obviously it isn’t true.

It’s just a shame that secularists who made this claim, then can’t back it up, don’t come forward and say “hey, you’re right. The evidence isn’t there, and I won’t make that claim any more.”

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Posted: 09 September 2013 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Somewhere in the dim mists of time I remember discussing this very topic and once again,IMO we have to shy away from restricting our vocabulary because we’re skeptics, atheists, humanists or whatever category we pigeon hole ourselves into; the religious don’t do it. In fact they often use those very words in arguments against us. how can one have a meaningful dialogue by not expressing our thoughts in detail? Should we also shy away from using non-English terms like “zeitgeist” or “esprit de Corps” because they may contain certain words expressing a religious tone? Once again, it depends on the context in which these words are used and who you are addressing. We as skeptics are free to use anything in our verbal toolbox to connote a thought and the richer our vocabulary, the easier it is to persuade others of our position.


Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 13 September 2013 06:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Acting in “faith” (choosing to believe something without evidence) is a critical component of human society.  This is the world in which we live.  We skeptics need to recognize this phenomena and learn to discriminate when having faith is functional and when it is dysfunctional.  Taking words out of our vocabulary will not help this process.  Using our words judiciously, might.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 16 September 2013 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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TimB - 13 September 2013 06:59 PM

Acting in “faith” (choosing to believe something without evidence) is a critical component of human society.  This is the world in which we live.  We skeptics need to recognize this phenomena and learn to discriminate when having faith is functional and when it is dysfunctional.  Taking words out of our vocabulary will not help this process.  Using our words judiciously, might.

And acting isn’t just believing. In fact, a person might act in faith without necessarily believing that a good result will come about. “I have nothing to lose by going forward, so I’ll go forward. I have a lot to gain if it works out.” That’s an example of faith where the main component is action, not belief. The only beliefs are that a good outcome is possible and that taking the shot is worth it.

Or as in the Nike commercial, “Just do it.”

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Posted: 18 September 2013 09:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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And acting isn’t just believing. In fact, a person might act in faith without necessarily believing that a good result will come about. “I have nothing to lose by going forward, so I’ll go forward. I have a lot to gain if it works out.” That’s an example of faith where the main component is action, not belief. The only beliefs are that a good outcome is possible and that taking the shot is worth it.

It has been shown that religion goes back in time before pottery. Do you think gambling does too? Maybe religion can be described as a form of gambling.

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Posted: 18 September 2013 01:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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MikeYohe - 18 September 2013 09:46 AM

Maybe religion can be described as a form of gambling.

Along with opening a business, spending money to get an education, spending time to do anything, dating, marrying, having sex, having children . . .

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Posted: 18 September 2013 01:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Your right, they all seem to have a reward.

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Posted: 18 September 2013 05:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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MikeYohe - 18 September 2013 01:21 PM

Your right, they all seem to have a reward.

Yes, and uncertainty and risk too.

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