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Non-Believers and Anti-religious Activism
Posted: 19 December 2008 04:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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As those who borrow his call to action should know, Voltaire countered the Church and religious dogma of his time through the use of wit (he was himself, however, most likely a deist).  Perhaps that is the best course to take.

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Posted: 19 December 2008 10:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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PsyStat - 19 December 2008 09:45 AM

Ecrasez l’infame!: I’m ambivalent about your suggestions.  What I like is the idea of being somewhat more activist than I personally have been in the past, though by “activist” I may not mean the same thing as you or others.  In fact, I’m not really sure what I mean by “activist”, but what I’d like, essentially, is to do more to actively promote freethinking, skepticism, naturalism, and similar worldviews; I’d like to see more “non-believers” do more of these things.  I’m glad to see discussions about activism in some form, because I think it’ll encourage thinking and discussion that might help many of us arrive at a better idea of how we individually might be more involved and how we might collective pursue some common goals.  And I like the idea of To-Do lists that busy people can skim for ways they can do their part.

What I’m not so comfortable with is several of the particular tactics you’ve recommended.  Not only do several of them seem unlikely to be pursued by most “non-believers” (IMHO), but I’m not sure whether there’s EVIDENCE of these strategies’ being effective (perhaps due to my vast ignorance about such things).  Nevertheless, several of them seem worth considering for anyone who wants to think about what they’d like to accomplish, how this might be accomplished, and why certain strategies might be better than others.  Even some of your tactics I would never consider doing myself (and might discourage others from using) may be worth reflecting on, because they might guide us toward understanding WHY they’re not effective (or are counterproductive), which could help identify aspects of more effective tactics.  I’m also not entirely on board with the largely anti-religious goals you seem to be trying to attain, though I’m not sure exactly what these are; perhaps I should read more carefully.

Personally, I’d prefer to take a more scientific approach to activism, if that’s even feasible.  I’m not sure how to do this, and I don’t have time these days to spend as much time on it as I’d like.  But in an effort to do something rather than nothing I’ve started another thread on “evidence-based” activism where I hope—given sufficient time on my part and interest on others’ parts—to brainstorm about goals/aims and strategies.  It seems to me that a large community of people who value science and rational thought ought to be able to apply these powerful tools to identify and advance worthy causes.

As I said, I’m not suggesting that anyone should follow everything I’ve listed - or even anything I’ve listed.  If we use the words “be more active” rather than “activism” perhaps members would be more comfortable (especially some of our older members).  No one is coerced, bamboozled, steamrollered into to doing anything they don’t want to do or feel that they should not do, but it seems important that those who feel strongly enough about issues or actions by the right or by religions or by anyone for that matter should consider some kind of action - even if it just makes them feel better about themselves and changes nothing.  Most really involved action needs money to accomplish anything in our society (unless a true leader emerges who can get a good number of supporters behind them).  Glad to hear about your thread - I’ll certainly join it.

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Posted: 19 December 2008 10:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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even if it just makes them feel better about themselves and changes nothing.

I suspect that there may be more truth lurking in this statement than was intended by the author. How can one feel better about performing an action that accomplishes nothing? After some consideration (and re-writing this several times), I think that the answer lies in the expression of emotion. For example, a guy can say “I love you” to a gal. That may not accomplish anything in the physical sense but it’s undeniably successful as a communication. The same thing would go for giving her a rose.

In this case, the actions offered are all expressions of anger. They’re a way of saying “I’m angry at you” to other people. That changes nothing, but it certainly feels good. But there’s a bit more: it’s not just a calm statement of fact; it’s deliberately hurtful. If all you wanted to do was declare your anger, then you’d march into a church and say very politely “I’m angry at you.” But instead, the actions you propose are intended to hurt people’s feelings. They are a form of revenge, a way of wreaking your anger upon others. And one universal human truth is: if you wreak your anger upon others, they’ll wreak their anger upon you, or someone that they consider to be like you. Hence, if you wreak your anger upon theists in a manner that suggests that your motivation is atheistic, then they’ll wreak their anger on any atheists. I get mud thrown in my face because you threw mud at them. Thanks a bunch, guy.

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Posted: 19 December 2008 11:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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If you say so.

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Posted: 20 December 2008 07:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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PLaClair - 18 December 2008 10:18 PM
Ecrasez l’infame! - 18 December 2008 07:32 PM

Kyu, thanks for the detailed response to my first post.  I didn’t suggest that all of it should be followed; you should select what you want to do, and when to do it as far as I’m concerned.  Also, I’m glad to see that someone is involved in at least writing letters although this can be frustrating and needs some tenacity to get things published. 

The success of activism is evinced by the example of Madalyn Murray O’Hair (biography: Ann Rowe Seaman, “America’s Most Hated Woman”.)  Without her prayer in schools would be simply an accepted procedure, among other things.  Along with Ingersoll, “In the presence of death I affirm and reaffirm the truth of all that I have said against the superstitions of the world. I would say that much on the subject with my last breath.”  I would guess that she did more for the Atheist movement than anyone, and although I wouldn’t use the kind of foul language and confrontational attitude she used, I think that her example suggests that those who simply sit and wait, attain very little (or those who suggest that their opinions are always worth a response or that the pain of illness should be ignored to respond.)

That’s not true. Ellery Schempp had at least as much to do with getting mandatory prayer out of the schools as O’Hair. Without O’Hair, Schempp would have accomplished the same result on his own and without saddling us with the angry atheist reputation. I know Ellery, and he’s not like that at all.

I’m not deriding Ellery Schempp’s work at all, but his case began three years after O’Hair’s (O’Hair 1960, Schempp 1963) and was stimulated by O’Hair’s.  Your derision of O’Hair and belittlement of her three years of court work before Schempp even began, is simply an attempt to alter the historic facts and sequence of events.  Your opinion that Schempp would have accomplished the same results without O’Hair is simply that - an opinion - and worthless because that is just not the way it happened.  Come into the open as an O’Hair hater, but you must admit that she was successful whether you like it or not.  “O’Hair was the voice and face of atheism in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s and, therefore, was a highly controversial figure.” 

While I don’t condone her vulgarity and crudity, she was highly effective.  She didn’t saddle you with anything unless you choose it - but what she showed, quite clearly, was that atheist activism can be very successful.  She encouraged many silent atheists to come out of their closets and started an organization which is very active and productive today (http://www.atheists.org/).  What have you done?

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Posted: 20 December 2008 08:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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According to Wikipedia:

On November 26, 1956, Ellery staged a protest against the school requirement that each student read 10 Bible passages and the Lord’s Prayer each day during homeroom. Instead, Ellery brought a copy of the Qur’an and read from that. For this, he was sent to the Principal’s office. With the help of his father, Edward Schempp, and the American Civil Liberties Union, they sued the Abington School district over their policy of mandatory Bible readings.

In 1960, Murray filed a lawsuit (Murray v. Curlett) against the Baltimore City Public School System in which she asserted that it was unconstitutional for her son Bill to be required to participate in Bible readings at Baltimore public schools.

Schempp preceded O’Hair by three years.

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Posted: 20 December 2008 10:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Chris Crawford - 20 December 2008 08:50 PM

According to Wikipedia:

On November 26, 1956, Ellery staged a protest against the school requirement that each student read 10 Bible passages and the Lord’s Prayer each day during homeroom. Instead, Ellery brought a copy of the Qur’an and read from that. For this, he was sent to the Principal’s office. With the help of his father, Edward Schempp, and the American Civil Liberties Union, they sued the Abington School district over their policy of mandatory Bible readings.

In 1960, Murray filed a lawsuit (Murray v. Curlett) against the Baltimore City Public School System in which she asserted that it was unconstitutional for her son Bill to be required to participate in Bible readings at Baltimore public schools.

Schempp preceded O’Hair by three years.

I’m having trouble finding exact dates for Ellery’s original filing against Abingdon in Pennsylvania.  The Supreme Court filings are listed with oral and printed argument at: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1962/1962_142/.  If I’m mistaken about the dates, I apologize - the sequence of events does seem to prove me wrong. [Back again - found one of the dates: SCHOOL DISTRICT OF ABINGTON TOWNSHIP, PA., ET AL. v. SCHEMPP ET AL.  APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA. No. 297. Decided October 24, 1960.]

In reading further, it does seem that whoever came first, both of these cases added to a list of precedents that have provided material for further cases supporting atheist perspectives to be framed and won.  Also, each of the cases (Ellery and O’Hair) was equally notorious - the finding in the Ellery case was dubbed: “The day god was kicked out of school.”  Other cases are also worth citing - some before both Ellery and O’Hair (up to and including Engel) and others subsequent to them: Cantwell v. Connecticut, Everson v. Board of Education and McCollum v. Board of Education, Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962),  Wallace v. Jaffree (1985),  Lee v. Weisman (1992),  Santa Fe ISD v. Doe (2000)

From these, it seems clear that court cases are worth filing, framing and supporting, and that we should pursue them, if possible, as a process of action (activism).  I know that some atheist organizations keep a “war chest” for court cases.  That’s always the problem with justice - it costs money, a lot of money.

[ Edited: 20 December 2008 10:23 PM by Fat Man ]
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Posted: 21 December 2008 08:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I think it’s important to keep in mind that the vast majority of the US population doesn’t think too deeply about these issues.
Sure, if asked, most people have an opinion.  But I suspect there are a lot of lukewarm believers out there.  For the most part, people spend their time going to work, taking care of their kids, looking forward to their next vacation.  I think these folks are the most likely target for convincing of secular positions.  And, I just don’t see that happening with a bludgeon, like protesting church services.  I think you’d get more headway promoting some things that you’re for rather than vocal and showy protests.
Though I’m certainly not opposed to protests.  The Montgomery bus boycott and the march on Selma are great examples.  I just don’t see marching into a church service and chanting slogans is going to further the goals of secularism.

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Posted: 21 December 2008 11:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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O.K. And?

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Posted: 23 December 2008 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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I definately agree that we need to do a WHOLE lot more than sit around and discuss philosphical arguments for why the god-bots are wrong.  I can only take a paragraph or two of some of these discussions before my brain hurts and I want to turn off the computer!  However, we need a viable alternative for the hoi polloi—myself included—so that people know that we exist and what we are all about!  I don’t believe that most of the recommendations made at the beginning of the thread are the way to go—I feel you risk alienating not only those that disagree w/ you, but many of those that agree w/ you as well b/c of some of the more obnoxious suggestions!  I don’t think you need to spit your idealogy in other people’s faces, you just have to give them something better to associate with.  Living a peaceful, morally wholesome, but otherwise obscure life is fine and good, but I doubt it will ever change anything—certainly not in my lifetime.  I remember reading something about this large youth group in Russia that is growing in popularity that gives people of a like mind a place to hang out, do fun outdoor activities, meet each other, discuss there ideas, etc.  It happens that they had a very anti-Democratic idealogy as part of their philosopy, but despite this one glaring problem, it otherwise seemed like a pretty cool idea.  Why can we not do something like that?

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Posted: 23 December 2008 08:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Doppelganger - 23 December 2008 02:04 PM

I definately agree that we need to do a WHOLE lot more than sit around and discuss philosphical arguments for why the god-bots are wrong.  I can only take a paragraph or two of some of these discussions before my brain hurts and I want to turn off the computer!  However, we need a viable alternative for the hoi polloi—myself included—so that people know that we exist and what we are all about!  I don’t believe that most of the recommendations made at the beginning of the thread are the way to go—I feel you risk alienating not only those that disagree w/ you, but many of those that agree w/ you as well b/c of some of the more obnoxious suggestions!  I don’t think you need to spit your idealogy in other people’s faces, you just have to give them something better to associate with.  Living a peaceful, morally wholesome, but otherwise obscure life is fine and good, but I doubt it will ever change anything—certainly not in my lifetime.  I remember reading something about this large youth group in Russia that is growing in popularity that gives people of a like mind a place to hang out, do fun outdoor activities, meet each other, discuss there ideas, etc.  It happens that they had a very anti-Democratic idealogy as part of their philosopy, but despite this one glaring problem, it otherwise seemed like a pretty cool idea.  Why can we not do something like that?

No-one has to accept all my suggestions.  Or even some of them.  Or even one of them.  I’m just trying to get people thinking of what action they might take to get involved, as atheists, in spreading the word, opposing religious nonsense, exposing religious nonsense, or just having some fun as atheists instead of only talking.

What about getting your local atheist friends together and sending an offer (as atheists) to local churches to help them work to support the homeless in the region?  Let the local media know that you have done it (as atheists).

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Posted: 24 December 2008 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Ecrasez l’infame! - 20 December 2008 10:14 PM
Chris Crawford - 20 December 2008 08:50 PM

According to Wikipedia:

On November 26, 1956, Ellery staged a protest against the school requirement that each student read 10 Bible passages and the Lord’s Prayer each day during homeroom. Instead, Ellery brought a copy of the Qur’an and read from that. For this, he was sent to the Principal’s office. With the help of his father, Edward Schempp, and the American Civil Liberties Union, they sued the Abington School district over their policy of mandatory Bible readings.

In 1960, Murray filed a lawsuit (Murray v. Curlett) against the Baltimore City Public School System in which she asserted that it was unconstitutional for her son Bill to be required to participate in Bible readings at Baltimore public schools.

Schempp preceded O’Hair by three years.

I’m having trouble finding exact dates for Ellery’s original filing against Abingdon in Pennsylvania.  The Supreme Court filings are listed with oral and printed argument at: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1962/1962_142/.  If I’m mistaken about the dates, I apologize - the sequence of events does seem to prove me wrong. [Back again - found one of the dates: SCHOOL DISTRICT OF ABINGTON TOWNSHIP, PA., ET AL. v. SCHEMPP ET AL.  APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA. No. 297. Decided October 24, 1960.]

In reading further, it does seem that whoever came first, both of these cases added to a list of precedents that have provided material for further cases supporting atheist perspectives to be framed and won.  Also, each of the cases (Ellery and O’Hair) was equally notorious - the finding in the Ellery case was dubbed: “The day god was kicked out of school.”  Other cases are also worth citing - some before both Ellery and O’Hair (up to and including Engel) and others subsequent to them: Cantwell v. Connecticut, Everson v. Board of Education and McCollum v. Board of Education, Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962),  Wallace v. Jaffree (1985),  Lee v. Weisman (1992),  Santa Fe ISD v. Doe (2000)

From these, it seems clear that court cases are worth filing, framing and supporting, and that we should pursue them, if possible, as a process of action (activism).  I know that some atheist organizations keep a “war chest” for court cases.  That’s always the problem with justice - it costs money, a lot of money.

Ellery did his protest in 1956 when he was a junior in high school. Matthew (my son) and I know him personally and quite well, and the year sticks out in my mind because it was fifty years before Matthew called out his proselytizing history teacher.

The point is that standing up for a principle didn’t require the approach of the stereotypical angry atheist. It didn’t even require an atheist, which Ellery wasn’t at the time. In the end, Ellery Schempp’s story is more compelling than O’Hair’s because (1) it doesn’t get lost in the angry-atheist narrative and (2) Ellery’s kids didn’t publicly disown their upbringing.

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 24 December 2008 06:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Ecrasez l’infame! - 23 December 2008 08:07 PM

What about getting your local atheist friends together and sending an offer (as atheists) to local churches to help them work to support the homeless in the region?  Let the local media know that you have done it (as atheists).

Now you’re talking, but I wouldn’t contact the media. It’s more powerful if the community notices on its own what those wonderful people are doing (Hey, who are they?).

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 24 December 2008 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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PLaClair - 24 December 2008 06:28 AM
Ecrasez l’infame! - 23 December 2008 08:07 PM

What about getting your local atheist friends together and sending an offer (as atheists) to local churches to help them work to support the homeless in the region?  Let the local media know that you have done it (as atheists).

Now you’re talking, but I wouldn’t contact the media. It’s more powerful if the community notices on its own what those wonderful people are doing (Hey, who are they?).

O.K., perhaps we contact the media after the churches have refused to work with us!  (Just showing my cynical side).

Since you agree, will you do it? 

Will others agree to do it by leaving their simple statement of agreement on this system, please?

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Posted: 24 December 2008 02:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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A good example of that approach is a current press campaign by a Sikh and an interfaith group to shame Union Mission, a Roanoke, Virginia, Christian charity, after the charity’s receptionist and minister refused to let a Sikh potential donor enter its building unless he removed his turban.

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