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Discussions with religious people
Posted: 13 January 2009 03:16 AM   [ Ignore ]
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When you are talking with religious people, how do you make them understand that the important topic is not atheism vs. theism, but irrationalism versus rationalism?  That rejecting the rational is rejecting our only guide to understanding the universe?  Had you ever had a success in at least explaining your point of view, or it is impossible?

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Posted: 13 January 2009 10:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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wandering - 13 January 2009 03:16 AM

When you are talking with religious people, how do you make them understand that the important topic is not atheism vs. theism, but irrationalism versus rationalism?  That rejecting the rational is rejecting our only guide to understanding the universe?  Had you ever had a success in at least explaining your point of view, or it is impossible?

I do not engage in discussions with religious people. I do not see it as my job in life to convince them of anything, nor is there any realistic likelihood that they will
be convinced. To any claim that “rejecting the rational is rejecting our only guide to the universe,” most deeply religious people would counter with: “I believe there is
another, more reliable guide to understanding the universe: the revealed word of Our Lord as found in the Holy Bible.” There really is no rational response one can make
to that kind of thinking, and so no basis for discussion.

Also, as someone living deep in the heart of Red America, I’m vastly outnumbered. wink

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Posted: 13 January 2009 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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wandering - 13 January 2009 03:16 AM

When you are talking with religious people, how do you make them understand that the important topic is not atheism vs. theism, but irrationalism versus rationalism?  That rejecting the rational is rejecting our only guide to understanding the universe?  Had you ever had a success in at least explaining your point of view, or it is impossible?

It’s an excellent question with an answer that most of us overlook in my opinion. Stay focused on the methods by which people attain knowledge, not the content of the knowledge theists claim to have. The appropriate question is not whether there is or isn’t a god, for example, but whether there is any reason to think there is.

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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: 13 January 2009 10:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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PLaClair - 13 January 2009 10:38 AM

Stay focused on the methods by which people attain knowledge, not the content of the knowledge theists claim to have.

Great answer and an excellent approach to most any topic.

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PC

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Posted: 13 January 2009 10:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I generally fail miserably and it all ends up in a battle of beliefs.  So, I don’t usually discuss much unless I know the person can stay rational about it and not go wack on me.

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 13 January 2009 11:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Like Steve, I don’t bother entering into discussions about religion with religious people.  They know I’m an atheist; I know they are theists and that’s the extent of it.

Occam

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Posted: 14 January 2009 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Occam - 13 January 2009 11:23 PM

Like Steve, I don’t bother entering into discussions about religion with religious people.  They know I’m an atheist; I know they are theists and that’s the extent of it.

Occam

This may be the most common strategy. The problem with it is that it closes the doors of communication on the content of religion. I don’t think that’s a tenable strategy in the long run. Frustrating as the alternatives are, I think we as a group need to find at least one that works reliably.

I’ve said in another context that we should focus on what we’re about and ignore the content of theism. That’s true in many contexts, but when someone insists on focusing on religion, the doors have to be open. It can be the only way to convey the information that leads to understanding.

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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: 14 January 2009 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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PLaClair - 14 January 2009 08:48 AM
Occam - 13 January 2009 11:23 PM

Like Steve, I don’t bother entering into discussions about religion with religious people.  They know I’m an atheist; I know they are theists and that’s the extent of it.

Occam

This may be the most common strategy. The problem with it is that it closes the doors of communication on the content of religion. I don’t think that’s a tenable strategy in the long run. Frustrating as the alternatives are, I think we as a group need to find at least one that works reliably.

Why?

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Posted: 14 January 2009 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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steveg144 - 14 January 2009 09:16 AM
PLaClair - 14 January 2009 08:48 AM
Occam - 13 January 2009 11:23 PM

Like Steve, I don’t bother entering into discussions about religion with religious people.  They know I’m an atheist; I know they are theists and that’s the extent of it.

Occam

This may be the most common strategy. The problem with it is that it closes the doors of communication on the content of religion. I don’t think that’s a tenable strategy in the long run. Frustrating as the alternatives are, I think we as a group need to find at least one that works reliably.

Why?

1. One of the biggest problems we face is non-acceptance, which is a product of the broader community misunderstanding us. If we don’t discuss religion with the community, those misunderstandings will persist.

2. One of the reasons people force their religion on others is that they do not understand the alternatives. If we cannot communicate with them, they are unlikely to gain understanding.

3. People are unlikely to want to join us if they don’t understand us. They won’t understand us if we’re not talking to them - at least I hope that’s a misunderstanding.

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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: 14 January 2009 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Paul, I have a suggestion for you: write up your ideas on atheism and print them on cheap newsprint in a publication you call “Clock Tower”. Then team up with another fellow, dress up nicely in a white shirt with conservative tie, and go door to door explaining to people the value of atheism. wink

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Posted: 14 January 2009 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Chris Crawford - 14 January 2009 09:35 AM

Paul, I have a suggestion for you: write up your ideas on atheism and print them on cheap newsprint in a publication you call “Clock Tower”. Then team up with another fellow, dress up nicely in a white shirt with conservative tie, and go door to door explaining to people the value of atheism. wink

And I have a suggestion for you. As a group we pride ourselves on approaching matters factually and objectively. So instead of putting words in my mouth, address what I’m actually saying. Your comments are obnoxious and uncalled for.

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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: 14 January 2009 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Sorry for offending you, Paul. So please clarify how you are differentiating your concept from an activist approach?

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Posted: 14 January 2009 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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My answer was probably not nuanced enough.  I’m always willing to explain the reasoning behind my atheism when asked, and I try to introduce young people to critical thinking ideas, usually using religous flaws as examples.  It’s just that I’ve found that arguing with people about theism usually polarizes them and makes them less rather than more willing to consider new ideas.

Occam

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Posted: 14 January 2009 10:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Well, as for me, I generally note that they came to their theism through thought, study and the need to find something valuable (even if they didn’t, I get to take the high ground).  I came to my atheism the same way.  I believe that to get them to seriously respect my views, I need to make the first move and respect theirs.

A conversation can procede from there.  And it does.  Many of my friends are deeply religious.  I enjoy learning about their beliefs and they enjoy learning about mine.  And, like the “safe” minority, I get them to see that what they learned in church is untrue.  I am moral, kind, respectful and, most importantly, happy.  I like my life.  And I do it without someone watching me or needing to follow some arbitrary rules. And feeling guilty if I break them!

It has lead to some serious “soul searching” (pun intended) for at least two of my friends.  They were taught that I was a bad person because I didn’t believe.  Obviously, my existence countered that argument.  So now they know that one aspect of their faith is wrong.  Not bad on my part!

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Posted: 14 January 2009 10:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Chris Crawford - 14 January 2009 09:56 AM

Sorry for offending you, Paul. So please clarify how you are differentiating your concept from an activist approach?

Apology accepted. It is activism, but unlike the image you suggested, we wouldn’t be gratuitously proselytizing. We would make our case to those who challenged our views or wanted to know more about them, if we thought such an approach might be useful. That would be in casual encounters. In more formal settings, we might seek the stage more often, such as on panels discussing religious questions and issues. Once our ideas gain a foothold, we might vary the approach.

Occam’s point is a good one: once we get into arguing, especially over religion, it rarely gets anywhere. (Although my path out of theism was influenced by people who had the patience to have those discussions with me. If they had not done that, I probably have continued in ignorance for a longer time.) Problem is, when we assume that others aren’t open to hearing us, we seal our own doom in advance. We have to give ourselves and others a chance.

[ Edited: 14 January 2009 10:28 AM by PLaClair ]
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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: 14 January 2009 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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PLaClair - 14 January 2009 09:25 AM
steveg144 - 14 January 2009 09:16 AM
PLaClair - 14 January 2009 08:48 AM
Occam - 13 January 2009 11:23 PM

Like Steve, I don’t bother entering into discussions about religion with religious people.  They know I’m an atheist; I know they are theists and that’s the extent of it.

Occam

This may be the most common strategy. The problem with it is that it closes the doors of communication on the content of religion. I don’t think that’s a tenable strategy in the long run. Frustrating as the alternatives are, I think we as a group need to find at least one that works reliably.

Why?

1. One of the biggest problems we face is non-acceptance, which is a product of the broader community misunderstanding us. If we don’t discuss religion with the community, those misunderstandings will persist.

2. One of the reasons people force their religion on others is that they do not understand the alternatives. If we cannot communicate with them, they are unlikely to gain understanding.

3. People are unlikely to want to join us if they don’t understand us. They won’t understand us if we’re not talking to them - at least I hope that’s a misunderstanding.

This is the same argument some of my gay friends make:
“We need to dialogue with these people, we need to let them get to know us, when they see that we’re just like them,
they’ll stop hating us and they’ll come around.”

It’s a dubious argument at best. I respond to my friends roughly as follows:
“See, you’re operating from a totally different conceptual framework than they are. You think that if they get to know every other thing about you they will somehow
magically stop believing their little book of myths that tell them that you’re an abomination in the sight of their imaginary bedouin sky-god. They don’t care about
all the other, ‘normal’ things about you. They cannot see past the one thing about you that their god tells them matters more than all the other stuff that you seem
to think should matter to them. What is that one thing? That your’e homosexuals.”

I’d argue the same problem with non-overlapping conceptual frameworks is in play and inevitably must always be in play in any discussion between atheists and
hard-core believers. No matter what other good things we may bring to the table, they will not see past the one thing that their god tells them matters the most:
the fact that we don’t believe in him. We are damned to an eternity of hellfire because of our atheism, just like homosexuals are damned because of their homosexuality.
What can one of the damned possibly have to offer one of the saved?

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