Atheists who make us look bad

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Atheists who make us look bad

Postby donnyton » Wed Sep 19, 2007 12:36 am

When people like Fred Phelps are mentioned to Christians, they seem to brush it off with the old "Oh they're not REAL Christians!" line that we all hear.

But what is to be done about the atheist side of the problem? Surely there are solipsists and nihilists who commit horrible crimes and declare that they are atheists and no law should hold them. There's also atheists who burn churches and kill muslims and jews in hate crimes.

Of course amongst rationalists it is easy to reconcile all this and provide an explanation, but when it comes to the general public, the stereotypes become much less forgiving. This is pointed out as "the lack of God causes chaos and decadence!" by the overzealous.

However, since an atheist is simply one without a belief in God, we can't shrug and say "They're not TRUE atheists!" Chances are that they are atheists as well, just not rational, moral, moderate atheists like the majority. What is to be done about them then?

It's much harder to divide atheism than something as vague as Christianity. The only really known "sects" include Buddhism, Taoism, Secular Humanism, semi-religions that are still very unknown to the general population.

Of course, movements like the Out campaign have helped, but progress like this results in the same attitude towards homosexuality today: tolerable, but still alien and just wrong in some say. How are we to deal with the "militant atheists" then?
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Postby Dust » Wed Sep 19, 2007 3:04 am

Atheists doing bad things, cannot use atheism to justify their immorality.

Atheism has no book, no rules, morals.

God not existing is not a reason to decide to kill someone. It's not a reason to refrain from killing someone. It has nothing to do with killing anyone!

If you followed the Bible, you would have plenty of justification for both options.

Joseph Stalin had no book of atheism to go by, so his justification must have been caused by other things.

Fred Phelps is pretty 'by the book' in his speeches.
Susan Smith can be easily justified by the Bible.
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Postby donnyton » Wed Sep 19, 2007 4:33 pm

Right, but how do rational atheists deal with them then? Sure we know what they're doing is wrong and their claim to atheism is irrelevant, but we can't explain this to EVERY theist out there (and unfortuntately it's the minority that poses the biggest threat).
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Postby Dust » Wed Sep 19, 2007 7:44 pm

I don't deal with them. Never felt inclined to. I always just point out that right and wrong, do not come from religion.

It doesn't become incumbent upon me to explain anyones wrongful doings simply because we share a common belief.

Hitler and I both liked the color green. I don't find myself having to explain it, because liking green has never once made me want to eradicate jews.
[That was an example, I don't know what Hitlers favorite color was]
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Postby Sans_Deity » Thu Sep 20, 2007 5:30 am

I'm sure there are atheists who think that I make atheists look bad. Michael Shermer seems to be teetering on the edge of claiming that Dawkins and others are doing that.

Antony Flew might have made us look bad, by leaping to theism in his old age...though he did tell Brian Carrier (I think) that he had been misled and no longer accepted the ID arguments.

If Falwell had, on his deathbed, admitted that he'd been a lifelong atheist - does that say anything at all about atheists? No. His actions and the motivations for those actions are what matter.

Thos atheists who aren't rational or aren't ethical or aren't stable...they're human. That's where the failure rests.

-Matt
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Postby Diagoras » Tue Sep 25, 2007 1:22 am

donnyton wrote:Right, but how do rational atheists deal with them then? Sure we know what they're doing is wrong and their claim to atheism is irrelevant, but we can't explain this to EVERY theist out there (and unfortuntately it's the minority that poses the biggest threat).

Well, you just have to kind of accept that you can't explain everything to every theist. If we could, theists wouldn't exist.

But I see where you're coming from. Atheism has a lot of extremely negative stereotypes attached to it, and occasionally rogue individuals come along who fit the stereotype and provide confirming examples for the religious mind that buys into it. What do we do about that?

In my opinion, we need to emphasize the positive aspects of our philosophical worldviews, and get the message out there that we're not just nihilists who don't believe in anything. We need to show that atheistic philosophies can be positive, life-affirming things, and they can also be negative, life-destroying things, just like the various theistic philosophical systems out there. The difference lies not in the belief or disbelief in any deity, but in the philosophical and moral maturity of the individual thinker.

If we can cram into the public understanding the idea that there exist atheists who are out there doing moral things, we might be able to overcome this stereotype. The best way to do that, I think, is just to be an openly atheist person who sets a good example for others. If we really outnumber the Jews in this country, then we have the numbers to reach that threshhold where most people have enough experience with atheists to know that the bad stereotypes about them are false, much like the Jews have done. Most Christians realize that you don't have to believe in Jesus Christ to be moral. We just have to do the same to God. While admittedly a harder challenge, I see no reason to think it unfeasible.

If you think atheists have it bad now, think about how far we've made it in the past 500 years, and be thankful you live in the 21st century. Heck, just look at Iran or Saudi Arabia and be thankful you don't live there. Believe it or not, we're making progress, and we have to just trudge forward.
Last edited by Diagoras on Tue Sep 25, 2007 1:45 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Postby Diagoras » Tue Sep 25, 2007 1:35 am

Dust wrote:I don't deal with them. Never felt inclined to. I always just point out that right and wrong, do not come from religion.

It doesn't become incumbent upon me to explain anyones wrongful doings simply because we share a common belief.

Hitler and I both liked the color green. I don't find myself having to explain it, because liking green has never once made me want to eradicate jews.
[That was an example, I don't know what Hitlers favorite color was]

An example I like to use is that Hitler was a vegetarian. Does that make me, a vegatarian, evil by association? Clearly neither Hitler's diet, nor his metaphysics, were the prime motivating factor in his fascism or his antisemitism.

I fear that if the public really buys into the idea that atheism or, as some creationists have claimed, evolution, was responsible for Hitler's tyranny, then we run a very serious risk of ignoring the dangers of that same tyranny when it comes with a Bible in its hand (again...Hitler was a Catholic, or at least claimed to be one).
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