Saturday, December 6, 2008

obviously, atheists can be jerks too


basically, some atheists put up a sign next to a nativity scene. the sign reads:

"At this season of the winter solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds"

they then acted surprised when the sign was found to have been taken from the site and chucked into a ditch. yeah, big surprise.

i agree with the contents of the sign but the approach here is all wrong. the last sentence in particular is bad. it goes from stating a given worldview (a naturalist one) to attacking everyone who doesnt believe in that worldview.

"Religion is but myth and superstition" implies that if you believe in it, you are stupid.
"that hardens hearts and enslaves minds" there is no room there for religion to be doing anything beneficial.

this is not the way we should be going. we cant afford to attack religious people, especially the good ones, because such attacks will provoke defensive responses. for people claiming to be putting forward the rational argument, where is the benefit in provoking a primal/defensive response?

you dont need major changes to the sign to achieve the same goals without falling into pretentious traps. "Religion is full of myth and superstition that can harden hearts and enslave minds". there. same message, only now the reader isnt an enslaved, hardened idiot.

the first step towards gaining acceptance and legitimacy is to prove that atheists can actually be good people. words like "godless" and "heathen" still have extremely negative connotations in american society. people think atheists can not be morally good people. they're wrong of course, this is like any other prejudicial stereotype, but sentences like "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds" don't go far in winning them over.

many people think they need god and religion to be morally good people. often these people were brought up in such a manner that morallity and religion were always tied together and so its hard for them to imagine one without the other. the first step for atheists is to show that that does not have to be the case. and going the crusades route doesnt usually end well. if you end up in a "but thats a perversion of my belief system" argument, you cant get out easily. the religious person is personally invested, and trying to make rational arguments will again provoke irrational and defensive responses. its not a good way to go.

instead, we need to show that we dont need god or religion to be good people. we can do it just by ourselves. then, since we are just ordinary people like anyone else, nobody really needs god or religion to be morally good.

if you can get a theistic person to admit the above, you've won. they've admitted they dont need god or religion to be a good person. now you can launch in with the mind enslaving, genocide-inducing aspects of religion. once you've shown that its not needed for good, and that it can cause horrendous evil, you have the extremely powerful question: "so why should we keep it?" let them mull that one over. and dont just reject any answer they come up with out of hand

thats the way to go. the sign skips the first step, and that first step is completely necessary, so they aren't doing us any favors. how is the golden rule "myth and superstition"? mother theresa, martin luther king, were their hearts hardened and minds enslaved? religion is a deeply human phenomenon and insulting people for buying into it is like insulting them for falling into one of the various logical fallicies human brains are hard-wired to fall into.