Atheism no longer an unquestioned pejorative

A blogger writes earlier this week, “I like your spirited, historically based analysis of the need for public school education … Continued

A blogger writes earlier this week, “I like your spirited, historically based analysis of the need for public school education and the risks inherent in state-sponsored madrassahs (Christian or otherwise). However, I hate to think that most Christians who do not agree would have stopped reading this article (or simply dismissed it after reading) due to your identification as an atheist.” I have no idea whether this comment was meant to imply that I ought to give up being an atheist in order to be taken seriously about education or whether it was expressing sincere regret about the close-mindedness of some Christians.

I don’t, however, think that “most” Christians–unless one defines all Christians as intellectually challenged bigots–are likely to reject commentaries on everything from medicine to education simply because they come from an atheist. The first strong, publicly voiced objections to sectarian teachings in what were then called common schools came from Virginia Baptists in the 18th century. Should I dismiss what they had to say because the objections arose from a concern for religious liberty rather than a desire to spread atheism throughout the new republic?

This is not to say that some Americans from the more antedeluvian precincts of religion would not dismiss anything written by an atheist–on topics ranging from footwear fashions to smoking–as a godless conspiracy. Once, in leaner economic times, I was the ghostwriter (with a podiatrist) for a book titled Your Feet Don’t Have To Hurt, that dealt mainly with the foolishness of four-inch heels with pointed toes. Why, if anyone had known that the ghost was an atheist, the book would surely have been a flop! After all, Adam and Eve didn’t have shoes in the Garden of Eden, and doesn’t everyone know that God’s second punishment for Eve (after “in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children”) was, “In torment and blisters shalt thou walk the earth in Manolos and Jimmy Choos.”

There is no doubt that atheist (and secularist) are still pejoratives in American culture. Listen to Newt Gingrich talking about “secular socialism”–and explicitly comparing it to Stalinism and Nazism–and the power of this kind of label in an idiocracy becomes clear. But the word “atheist” does not have anything like the negative force it had when I was growing up 50 years ago, or even a decade ago. This shift is due to two factors.

First, there are simply more atheists, and people who may not be atheists but have little interest in religion, than there were in the past. It is not surprising that this trend coincides with a profound sense of embattlement on the part of the minority (albeit a large minority of somewhere between 20-30 percent of Americans) that makes up the Christian right. But that perception of embattlement, while it may mean that an avowed atheist will never be elected to the presidency, can no longer deny atheists a hearing in the public square.

Second, a variety of writers–most notably, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins–have brought atheism out of the closet during the past decade. Harris’s The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and The Future of Reason was published in 2004. I consider it highly unlikely that his book, as well as Dawkins’s The God Delusion and Hitchens’s God Is Not Great, would have attracted such a large readership 25 years or even a decade earlier. In fact, no one (including Harris’s first publisher) had any idea that his book would be so successful. The End of Faithwas initially dismissed as “simplistic and misguided” by the trade journal Publisher’s Weekly, a barometer of conventional commercial wisdom. What is truly misguided is the notion, frequently expressed by outraged religious right conspiracy theorists on this blog, that writers who identify themselves as atheists are doing it to make money. If you want to make infinitely more money than any of the best-known atheist writers, direct your talents to novels that rely on the credulity of those who believe in historically cockeyed supernatural events (Dan Brown), self-help books rooted in mushy New Age spirituality (Deepak Chopra), or, above all, warnings that The End Is Near (the Left Behind series). If recent books by atheists have done better than expected in the marketplace, their success is attributable to a pent-up hunger for reason that was, until recently, vastly underestimated by American publishers.

This is not to say that atheism confers special authority in speaking about subjects (including shoes, schools, and America’s military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan) that have little to do with whether one believes in God. What atheism does do–and this is a positive, not a negative–is provide a perspective on a number of issues that differs from, and does not exist in, the works (whether fiction or nonfiction) whose basic assumptions include belief in a deity who directs human affairs and a quest for the validation of convictions that contradict the laws of nature.

I never write about atheism per se except on this blog, but there is no question that atheism is one influence–an important one–on my approach to other historical and social questions. In this respect, the atheist thinker is hardly unique. The difference today–and I do think we have Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins et al. to thank–is that religion is no longer universally considered the normative perspective, with atheists having to defend themselves from attacks by those who believe in everything from floating consciousness that survives the end of our brains to the idea that we will one day be judged by a man-god who rose from the dead some 2,000 years ago.

My next book, titled Never Say Die: The Myth And Marketing of The New Old Age, will be published in early 2011 and is a critique of the wishful baby boomer delusion–fueled by hucksters of longevity–that if we only “live right,” we can “defy” old age and make “90 the new 50.” On one level, this book has little to do with atheism–except, for rather obvious reasons, in a chapter on death and dying. On a deeper level, though, my views have a good deal to do with atheism and reason, in that I consider eternal health and youth a fantasy that has nothing more to do with evidence than belief in eternal life. Will Christians stop reading this book because of my identification as an atheist? I suspect that even some atheists may stop reading it if they have substituted faith in good behavior as the way to remain “forever young” for faith in God as the guarantor of eternal life. But I can only say, to paraphrase Darwin, that there is grandeur in a view of life that accepts aging and death as part of the natural order, even as one hopes that human reason will find a way to ameliorate the worst consequences of the degeneration that precedes our inevitable end.

There really is no such thing as The New Atheism. There is only an old atheism that now dares to speak its name and is descended from a long line of thinkers who have always maintained that to be human is enough, and that becoming a good human is a lofty and difficult enough goal, to give meaning to the finite number of our days.

Susan Jacoby
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  • Elohist

    The real issue is not whether believers will take seriously the opinion of an atheist but whether an atheist will take seriously the opinion of a believer. Hitchens, et al. are among the most close-minded celebrities in the public eye today. Bad models to cite.

  • Secular

    Elohist:This is one of the silliest arguments I have ever heard. It is like claiming a mathematician as closed minded because he does not pretend to listen to your claims that “Pi” is rational number = 22/7. The same goes for me, Susan Jacoby, Hitchens, Harris, & Dawkins. The foundational axioms of all religions have long been destroyed by the knowledge and reason, just like body of speculation called al-chemistry. Based on the current knowledge and power of reason all religion should have been relegated to dust heap of history. But also not, because of people like you by the billions are wedded to superstition and are credulous to believe anything that came from antiquity or well packaged idiocy of the likes of Deepak Chopra.

  • WmarkW

    The end of European communism followed a decade later by 9/11 showed people that atheist philosophy is not the greatest threat to our survival.Also, the Religious Right of the 80s was in large part a rebellion by Southern whites against the end of the world as they knew it, brought about by desegregation and the entrance of the baby boomers into young adulthood with their new attitudes toward sex and recreational substances. Since the older generation couldn’t articulate a rational reason that blacks should live as under-class citizens and young adults shouldn’t have the right to party, they fell back on tradition and the Word of God as justification for their pre-conceptions.After the South started modernizing its economy and the baby boomers got married and had their own kids, the nostalgia for the old ways lost its imperative.

  • ShorinBJ

    @ ELOHIST:”The real issue is not whether believers will take seriously the opinion of an atheist but whether an atheist will take seriously the opinion of a believer. Hitchens, et al. are among the most close-minded celebrities in the public eye today. Bad models to cite.”There’s an old joke in journalism: “As Mr. Hitler would say….” It’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to journalists taking objectivity to an extreme, i.e. if you represent the anti-Holocaust point of view you have to represent the pro-Holocaust point of view. Which is of course ridiculous.Bringing this back to your statement, all that believers have on their side is an old book, plus claims that they can “feel” God or some such. A book is a book, and if the rest of us don’t share that feeling, you’ve got no serious argument for the existence of God. Whereas logic and reason suggests, if not that there is no God, at least there is no reason to think there is.I accept that the Christian god MIGHT, though probably doesn’t, exist. But that doesn’t mean that I should consider both sides equally valid.

  • timmy2

    Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett.These names will go down in history as those who broke the taboo and gave all of us atheists permission to be vocal and proud of our rationality. It really is time for humanity to shed it’s ancient and primitive superstitions. Perhaps they once served their purpose, but their time in the mainstream is coming to an end. The books of these 4 authors as well as a few others mark the end of a long long era of human ignorance.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    Susan,I read the blogger you quote as concerned that your piece would meet with the ready dismissal not uncharacteristic of religionists when perusing the words of “outsiders.” To him/her, however, I would say that atheists can be as guilty of closed-and-narrow mindedness as their religionist counterparts.Nor is the problem exclusive to topics religious. One sees the same close-mindedness among liberals and conservatives, democrats and republicans, on every topic from BP to Barnes & Noble vs. Amazon to New Balance vs. Adidas. (Non)heaven help the woman or man who finds the gray area in the seemingly black and white, or who takes position excepted by his/her camp.As for the topic under discussion I think your argument would have been stronger had you identified the “combatants” as religionists (NOT believers) vs. secularists (NOT necessarily atheists, or even agnostics).As you noted in a past piece, secularism does make strange bedfellows; however, to those Christians on the right, I would say the same of religionism.For me, a pertinent question was voiced by a blogger on Stevens-Arroyo’s previous thread:”I am not a Roman Catholic. I have never been a Roman Catholic, and I will never be a Roman Catholic. Why should this institution’s dogma apply to me when I actively and consciously reject it?”Why should any religion’s dogma legislate for any of us?Once this begins, it is not only secularism that suffers. Freedom of religion, effectively ends.

  • jedrothwell1

    Are there really more atheists now than there used to be? Or is it only that people are more willing to admit they are atheists? I don’t know, and I do not think anyone can establish this with certainty. Furthermore, I can cite an expert! My late mother was the Director of Public Opinion Research at the U.S. Census Bureau and she often told me that people responding to public opinion surveys on complex issues such as this will often: “say whatever damn thing pops into their heads.”Seriously, she cautioned that the error bars are large and the reasons for changes and trends in such studies are complex and obscure, so you have to be careful when interpreting them.My guess — which is as good as anyone’s and probably better than most . . . my guess is that there has been a moderate increase in atheism, but most of the apparent change is people coming out of the closet and admitting they are atheists. They are not longer afraid. In other words, the increase is for the same reasons as the increase in overt homosexuality. People are not more inclined to be homosexual than they used to be. That ratio is surely fixed by nature. They are less likely to hide their sexuality because they are no longer fired from their jobs or attacked on the streets because of it. It is part of a decades-long trend of people putting aside fear and standing for who they are and what they believe. It began in the 1940s with the black population, and spread from there to women’s liberation, and to other minorities and groups outside the mainstream.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    jedrothwell1: With all do respect to Bob Altemeyer of U. Manitoba, I disagree. Further, social scientists can do far more than identify “trends,” thank Non.The fact is that “liberals” in whose camp most of my positions place me not only dogmatize endlessly (and boringly), but also blind themselves to facts, militantly.My body is a case in point. Liberal white Christian guilt has been conveniently displaced onto Jewish Israel. In Liberal Dogma, bad guys are white (for the most part) and good guys are black (for the most part), possibly brown. Therefore, all Israelis (and Jews, whether Israeli or Simple. We do not exist. Any more than the Yemeni Jews exist. And while we cannot blame all Muslims for murdering 80 Muslims in Pakistan within the last few hours, or for luring a little Jewish boy into a deserted spot, and pasting his remains onto the walls of a cave, we can blame all Jews for Israel, the Demon State.Can we blame all Muslims for exiling three million Jews from their homelands? It never happened. Zionist propaganda. And if it did happen, it was Israel’s fault.Except when it comes to liberal Christian behinds. Why, then, we need to protect this country from the Muslim hoards.The left. Of course, this was an absolute lie, among several he told, but for the left, it never occurred. Never happened. Nada. Niente. And I, a leftist, who did bring it up, was a racist.I was also a racist for championing Paul Krugman’s prediction that Candidate Obama’s position on health care would make reform into a nightmare.There is a reason why a well-respected Duke University professor stomped to the podium and lambasted “political correctness.” It is INCORRECT. A surrender of thought.The left is losing ground. Unless it stops and takes a good, hard look at itself, come, next election, we will swear in President Palin.Word to Bob Altmeyer, U of Manitoba, “conservatism” and “liberalism” are historic terms. Both conservative and liberal are freighted identities.

  • JedRothwell

    FARNAZ_MANSOURI2 wrote:”The fact is that ‘liberals’ in whose camp most of my positions place me not only dogmatize endlessly (and boringly), but also blind themselves to facts, militantly.”Altemeyer describes a general trend, not a specific issue, and not a specific individual person or group. In other words, your observation may well be true for this particular issue because of history or party platforms. But in general, for most issues, liberals will tend to be less dogmatic than conservatives. There are bound to be many exceptions.This is similar to the statement that in general, American men tend to be larger and stronger than Japanese women. I am probably stronger than ~90% of Japanese women. However, the professional Japanese woman wrestler “Dumptruck” Matsumoto could easily pick me up, tie me in a knot, and heave me across the room.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    JedRothwell1:The problems your post demonstrates prevail among social scientists of the numbers crunching kind.Even when one can pile up issue after issue, had one but world enough and time, the numbers crunchers remain unable to heed. Why is that? Theirs is not to reason why, but to quantify and die. The same is true with respect to reasoning how.You’re post confuses methodology with fact, one reason, among several, btw., for the closing of sociology departments here in years past. Thankfully, the discipline has made some progress in recent years.

  • JedRothwell

    ELOHIST wrote that “Hitchens, et al. are among the most close-minded celebrities in the public eye today. Bad models to cite.”I think there is some truth this. They are noisy, in-your-face people. This is characteristic of the leaders in early stages of a social “liberation” movement. The early gay rights advocates who rioted at Stonewall in New York City were angry people who weren’t going to take it anymore. Nowadays, gay rights advocates tend to look like IBM salesmen. In the mid-1960s the militant black power people were confrontational, the way Rev. Wright sometimes is. Decades later civil rights leaders tend to be Harvard law school people elected to high office.Decades from now, assuming that atheists win their fight for social acceptance, they are elected to office, and their rights are respected, then the early ones such as Hitchens will seem anachronistic.However, even if this happens, I do not expect your wish will be fulfilled. There is no chance that “an atheist will take seriously the opinion of a believer.” This is like expecting Obama to take seriously the opinions of the KKK or the Tea Party extremists. The best you can hope for is that atheists will ignore believers or patronize them with a pat them on the head saying: “believe whatever you like; there is no harm in believing fairy tales.” You can expect sullen peace, as between Israel and Egypt, but no friendship for the next several decades. The harm done to atheists and other dissenters in centuries past is too great for that.Individual friendships across the gap will always thrive, just as there will be Israeli and Egyptian friends.Actually, today most high ranking, highly successful atheists are scientists or other technical experts, or people in Europe where belief (or feigned belief) in religion is not needed to succeed in public life. Such people are not confrontational but there is no chance they will seriously entertain religious ideas. I know hundreds of scientists. (I edit their papers.) They never discuss the matter, and one or two do go to church, but the others I am sure think of religion as ancient superstition. They would no more believe in it than they would believe in voodoo, alchemy or creationism.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    JedRothwell1:Addendum:”And the problems in your post demonstrate what happens when people rely on their own limited anecdotal experiences relating to one specific and unusual issue, or one group of people, instead of looking at a broad range of issues.”The denial of Jews’ “multi-racial” identity is hardly a uniquely personal experience. (Nor was my post strictly personal.) Both in the US and in Israel (now in Europe), this peculiarly twisted “political” denial among the gentiles has made its way into scholarly journals. The displacement, murder, etc., of three million Middle Eastern Jews, is not a “limited anecdotal experience.” Nor are the Yemeni Jews. Etc. Also in attempting to diminish the substance of my point, you accuse me of limiting my focus to “one group of people.” In so doing, however, you make my point.As for the Obama affairs, they, too, affected one people (all Americans), so I’m not sure they will count with you. However, they did not gain when leftist fogging obscured substantive issues, whose examination, particularly, in the case of health care, would have been salutary.Per my last post, it’s your move.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    Final addendum:Altemeyer is the one who has piled up issue after issue, looking at huge range of people in the U.S. and Canada. He has asked thousands of people how they characterize themselves (as liberal or conservative) and how they view a broad range of issues, political, social and moral. Still, I will check out his web site. Hope springs eternal….

  • JedRothwell

    FARNAZ_MANSOURI2″The displacement, murder, etc., of three million Middle Eastern Jews, is not a ‘limited anecdotal experience.’ Nor are the Yemeni Jews. Etc.”You are confused. The “limited anecdotal experience” experience I refer to is YOUR experience talking to liberals. Based on this you have reached a conclusion that they are dogmatic, or closed minded. You have probably not talked to a large sample of liberals, and you may not have talked to many conservatives at all, so you cannot tell if liberals are more dogmatic, or less dogmatic. Also in this example you have only reference this one topic. You would have to interview hundreds of liberals and hundreds of conservatives about many different topics, and write down their answers, before concluding that one group or the other is markedly dogmatic. You would also have to confirm that the people you are talking to consider themselves liberals (or conservatives).I do not think you have done all of this.Regarding your assertions about Obama and his promise to bring back jobs from overseas, you are making bold assertions about future events. History is not over yet. Obama’s term in office is not finished, yet. Jobs are, in fact, starting to come back to the U.S. You cannot say with certainty that more jobs will not come back. I suggest you turn down your certainty level several notches regarding this and other subjects.You mentioned that you will have a look at Altemeyer’s site. Good! Before you express opinions about research, I think it is always a good idea to first learn something about it. It might even be considered dogmatic to pontificate about a subject you know nothing about, and you wouldn’t want to appear dogmatic, would you?You were asking me for additional examples . . . you will see there are hundreds of examples in Altemeyer’s book, from him and from other, from decades of research.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    “The displacement, murder, etc., of three million Middle Eastern Jews, is not a ‘limited anecdotal experience.’ Nor are the Yemeni Jews. Etc.”You are confused. The “limited anecdotal experience” experience I refer to is YOUR experience talking to liberals. Based on this you have reached a conclusion that they are dogmatic, or closed minded. You have probably not talked to a large sample of liberals, and you may not have talked to many conservatives at all, so you cannot tell if liberals are more dogmatic, or less dogmatic. Also in this example you have only reference this one topic. You would have to interview hundreds of liberals and hundreds of conservatives about many different topics, and write down their answers, before concluding that one group or the other is markedly dogmatic. You would also have to confirm that the people you are talking to consider themselves liberals (or conservatives).I do not think you have done all of this.Regarding your assertions about Obama and his promise to bring back jobs from overseas, you are making bold assertions about future events. History is not over yet. Obama’s term in office is not finished, yet. Jobs are, in fact, starting to come back to the U.S. You cannot say with certainty that more jobs will not come back. I suggest you turn down your certainty level several notches regarding this and other subjects.Muddled and desperate. You make my point again and again. Too bad!

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    jedrothwell:You were asking me for additional examples . . . you will see there are hundreds of examples in Altemeyer’s book, from him and from other, from decades of research.As for me, I hate to burst your provincial bubble, but, though brown, I have published five articles on “neoliberalism” in well-respected refereed journals and have attempted to blog on it here. I work in a very large college and have taught in four countries. I have taught and visited at several universities in the United States. My world is not quite so limited as you imagine.Btw., I noticed you have not brought up ten issues the better to make your point.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    Jedrothwell:”You are confused. The “limited anecdotal experience” experience I refer to is YOUR experience talking to liberals. Based on this you have reached a conclusion that they are dogmatic, or closed minded.”

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    JedRothwell:A closing thought. Your posts bring to mind that tome of surveys, interviews, etc., of women after delivery. Social scientized to the max. Hours after delivery, days after delivery, etc. Findings: No significant pain or pain forgotten due to wonder and bliss of it all.And this was accepted “fact.” Until the 1980s that is. Yet, there was nothing amiss with the methodology. The only problem was that the work revealed nothing except its own historic limitations.

  • JedRothwell

    FARNAZ_MANSOURI2 wrote:”As for me, I hate to burst your provincial bubble, but, though brown, I have published five articles on ‘neoliberalism’ in well-respected refereed journals and have attempted to blog on it here.”Did you? Bully for you! I hope you first took the trouble to read about the subjects of your articles before publishing. You seemed ready to judge Altemeyer without reading his site or knowing anything about him, so I fear you may be prone to jump to conclusions.Also, it seems you still confuse your experience talking to liberals (anecdotal evidence) with the experience of “the displacement, murder, etc., of three million Middle Eastern Jews . . .” (historic facts). The two have nothing REMOTELY to do with one another.I hope the editors at these well-respected refereed journals check your work carefully.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    jedrothwell:Also, it seems you still confuse your experience talking to liberals (anecdotal evidence) with the experience of “the displacement, murder, etc., of three million Middle Eastern Jews . . .” (historic facts). The two have nothing REMOTELY to do with one another.I hope the editors at these well-respected refereed journals check your work carefully.It is you, not I, who are confusing the conversations with liberals you invented for me with the plight of three million Jews. How you have managed (a) to do this and (b) to maintain your muddled state is a matter for Altmeyer or your self-elevated self to decide.As for the refereed journals checking my work, look up “referee” and be careful to select the right sense.Btw., you have variously missed and misrepresented my points, that is, when notIn every way possible on this board, you have made my case. Pity the poor liberal cause.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    JedRothwell:A closing thought. Your posts bring to mind that tome of surveys, interviews, etc., of women after delivery. Social scientized to the max. Hours after delivery, days after delivery, etc. Findings: No significant pain or pain forgotten due to wonder and bliss of it all.And this was accepted “fact.” Until the 1980s that is.Yet, there was nothing amiss with the methodology. The only problem was that the work revealed nothing except its own historic limitations.

  • Chops2

    As someone who has lived in Australia, Europe, the U.S. and Japan, I can tell u that “athiest” only seems to be a perjorative in highly religious societies like the US and the Middle East.No one else could care less

  • spidermean2

    What’s the point of being an atheist if the reason they are talking about is MYTHICAL.There are THREE valid reasons why evolution is false. I hope all evolutionists read this so I don’t keep on repeating myself.Reason no. 1 — it is impossible that a single-celled bacteria can become or transform into a two-celled bacteria or into a multiple-celled organism. There is no available science to explain such a fairy tale. This is the myth of evolution.Reason no. 2 – soil and water existed before any living thing existed. It is impossible that those brainless substances (soil and water) can form by themselves a very complex matter called plants and animals. There is no available science to explain that such a transformation is possible. This is the myth of evolution.Reason no. 3 — Science is the study of nature. Engineering is part of that kind of science. Engineers took many years to extract energy from sunlight and even at this moment they are still scratching their heads how plant leaves has been doing it for eons already. The level of intelligence nature demonstrates is just beyond human intelligence. The only probable explanation is the existence of a Supremely Intelligent Creator. With these THREE valid reasons, I don’t think I mentioned faith or religion. EVOLUTION IS A MYTH BASED ON REASON.

  • whiteflame128

    Ms. Jacoby, my objection is not to your Atheism. It’s to the rather scornful way you talk about people of other faiths. I consider Atheism a religion, the same as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, or any other. After all, you have a set of beliefs that guide you and inform your spiritual, emotional, and rational assumptions. And you even proselytize (look at Hitchens for a prime example)!But your diction is not respectful. Terms like “mushy” are patronizing and belittling. Furthermore, you suggest that the only rational outlook is the atheist one. Really? I know a lot of very religious professors, both professionally at the university where I work as a graduate assistant, and at the church I attend; this includes a wide array of faiths and academic fields. Will you tell me that these people are not rational? Or, to put it another way, there are many viable approaches in academics. None is considered less rational than others. A literature scholar might take a Marxist reading of a novel, while another might give it a feminist treatment, and another a Freudian, and another a formalist, and so on. Which of these is the most rational scholar? Why should religion be any different? All logic depends on the axioms on which you start. If you start with the axiom that there might be more to the universe than can be empirically observed (something scientists are looking at with quantum theory), then believing in spiritual beings (gods, angels, fairies, what have you) seems a reasonable corrolary. If you start with the axiom that what you observe is all there is, then Atheism is the reasonable corrolary. And I ask you, Ms. Jacoby, what do you make of the concept of “rational religion”–which dates back to the Greek philosophers, and was made popular in the “age of reason” among european thinkers. That is, the concept of proving the existence of a “Prime Cause”–essentially, using a logic proof to demonstrate that there is a God and it is a single, undefinable, ineffable being. Is this “superstition” as well? I’m glad that people are allowed to openly express doubt, and openly live whatever level of belief or doubt they have. But it is not polite or precise to accuse any other position than your own of irrationality.

  • Counterww

    “Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett.These names will go down in history as those who broke the taboo and gave all of us atheists permission to be vocal and proud of our rationality”More like Timmy- they will be long forgotten twenty years ago.Atheism will always take a backseat to the number of believers in the world. Always. People have common sense- intuition, whatever you want to call it, and know that a creator is out there. It is the atheist that is so sadly mistaken. You have alot of gumption, but it is so poorly placed and out sync with what is happening out there in the world. Christianity is growing- fast- especially in those that understand that God loves them. You miss it all the time.

  • Chops2

    COUNTERWW:I just wish people had the intellectual honesty to say they dont know if a creator exists or not. Why you assume its some mystical, etheral being does not seem like common sense to me. A creator could be an alien, who knows. But the age old question of who created the creator is where your theory (and supposed logic) falls apart. Athiests will take a backseat to religion becuase religion has been there since early man. God was mans first idea of how the earth came about and many havent moved on from it. It is only in the last few hundred years people have been able to openly question without fear of death. When jesus doesnt return in another few hundred years, people will start to get the drift that its a scam.It is you sir who are mistaken for believing virgins can have babies etc etc. It is you sir who are mistaken for thinking the bible has all the answers. Scientists and athiests do not claim to know everything, it is the relgious who do and then call others arrogant. To suggest the bible holds all the answers is just moronic. It represents the infancy of mankind. Lets move on from it.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    Counterww:You mention the Christian God’s love in your post. What of the Christians? Do they love their fellow human, as well? I’m thinking of your post to me on Jim Wallis’s thread. I replied hours ago. Just would like to get the view of the Christians, in whose name you frequently speak, Counter.Btw., have been wondering about your moniker. Counter William Wordsworth? Woodrow Wilson?

  • hunter340

    Religion is a force for “good” which essentially opposes the Liberal ideology.

  • edbyronadams

    “But I can only say, to paraphrase Darwin, that there is grandeur in a view of life that accepts aging and death as part of the natural order, even as one hopes that human reason will find a way to ameliorate the worst consequences of the degeneration that precedes our inevitable end.”________________________________________In quoting Darwin, you have touched on three of the four sufferings of mankind that that drove Siddartha out of his palace in his quest for understanding. Frankly, it is Buddhist thoughts on these matters that has risen in the West, rather than secularism, although the counterweight that though action we can completely deny the inevitability of old age, sickness and death has risen as well. I would tie the latter more to secularism, a faith in the power of science since that is the fount of knowledge of omega 3 fatty acids and other such nostrums.It certainly is difficult to tie the rise of environmentalism to any western tradition. Fifty years ago, if you mentioned the word “karma”, you would receive mostly blank stares in response. Certainly an effort to live in harmony with the rhythm of the universe naturally leads to a life of moderation, a healthy situation while not denying the inevitability of the turning of the wheel.

  • frodot

    People will believe anything in order to try to make sense of the world. For many, they cannot make sense of it except through magic and ritual and some kind of ideology that involves the supernatural. It’s just a fact about te world. Others have decided that it is easier to believe what can be demonstrated rather than what is, literally, orthodoxy. Too much blood has been shed, too many have suffered too much in service to too many zealots each believing that their own views reflect their version of what some god or other prescribes. The only force as deadly to humanity as religion is nationalism.

  • edbyronadams

    “Why should any religion’s dogma legislate for any of us?”In this country it does not but the idea of divorcing the legislative process, rooted in the will of the people, from their fundamental beliefs in morality is a strange notion. Currently that strange view is mostly put forward by people who believe that previous legislators wrote into the Constitution the right to an abortion or gay marriage.

  • JFredMugs

    My reading of the Bible says the jews killed Jesus. What’s your’s?

  • jailkkhosla

    While it is true that traditional, monotheist religions/cults, especially Islam, are an insult to God, it is not scientific to dismiss God. In my lifetime I believe I have experienced God through regular meditation which with practice allows you to become one with the Divine force that is definitely out there. Once you get good at it a few minutes of meditation brings true peace and bliss and clarity of mind, which I believe is union with God.People like Susan Jacoby, who insist they are atheists should investigate this meditative journey and see if there is something there before declaring that there is no God.On the other hand her exposes of the traditional religions/cults should be relentless especially that of the cult called Islam founded by Muhammad which is a true danger to democracy and secular societies ruled by secular laws.Christianity was defanged a while ago by Christians themselves. I do not see that happening to Islam because Muslims expose Islam and defang it it. The overwhelming majority still believe that Muhammad went to the cave and the Arabic idol Allah gave him messages.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    “Why should any religion’s dogma legislate for any of us?”edbyronadams:I do not recall the Constitution banning either abortion or same-sex marriage.

  • jaxas70

    Anytime anyone is asked a question about God or religion, what comes out of their mouths is likely a self censoring lie. Indeed, atheists have been far more scorned in our society than murderers, pedophiles or necrophiliacs.I have to smirk when I hear about this poll or that poll indicating that upwards of 70% of people say they believe in God. I can’t prove it but I would bet that the vast majority of that 70% feel compelled to state that belief on pain of disfellowship with their neighbors and ostracization from their society.Most people–I would wafer–harbor deep and abiding doubts about the possibility that such a Being could ever have existed let along be singularly responsible for the Creation of all that we see in the Cosmos. Indeed, with our fabulous gains in the ability to see into the innermost workings of the Cosmos, we can now see planets, suns, even entire solar systems in the act of being created by the natural processes of electro-magneticism,, chemicals interacting at the most elemental level and the force of gravity to hold it all together. No anthropomorophic hand is visible in this process.

  • JedRothwell

    JAXAS70 wrote:”I can’t prove it but I would bet that the vast majority of that 70% feel compelled to state that belief on pain of disfellowship with their neighbors and ostracization from their society.”Probably not. Most polls of this nature are anonymous. Your friends and family never know your responses.

  • IGiveup1

    whiteflame28:Rationality is not an all-or-nothing trait. I know at least one Mensan who refuses to walk under a ladder, and another with a fear of domestic cats. I would happily deal with any of your professors within their field, but would always find their theological philosophies lacking.

  • coocoo4coco1

    Why do god-worshippers think we atheists believe what we do simply because we haven’t given religion a chance? That is insulting in such an obvious way it’s bizarre. I’ve asked and asked for proof gods exist, but to no avail. I can’t count the times I’ve heard god-nuts say”you scientists don’t know nothin'”. I always say-“OK. Turn off your TV and computer, and go out in the yard and play in the dirt. ‘god’ made that.” Sorry, but I don’t know nuthin’ else to help them.

  • tarquinis1

    The bible with merit, and in my view the only one, is the Jefferson bible.Deists deeply respected what we can perceive of the moral teachings of Jesua of Nazareth bar Joseph. Thomas Jefferson summed them up, and firmly rejected with appropriate derision all the fantasy crap about dead men coming back to float up in the sky, walking on water, having the personal power as personally devine to raise the dead to life, pigs getting the devils driven into them and all jumping into the sea, births the father of which were ghosts, if holy ones, etc. It has always seems most utter nonsense to assert that some divine creator of the whole Cosmos sent his beloved and devine son to be tortured to death, which pleased him so that in this act, with proper invocation, all our sins are forgiven. No matter who and no matter what. What moral rubbish. Human religions, all of them, are wishful projections based upon the fears of our mortality. If I asserted great faith in Luna, the moon fairy, would not all say I am crazy because there is absolutely zero evidence of this outside of my deep faith in her? Jesua was a moral prophet, one of many. I revere him, am sorry for my moral failings, and try to do my best accordingly. But human beings are not, and have never been, and never will be Gods, personally divine. And I think we all really know this.

  • JedRothwell

    TARQUINIS1 wrote:”But human beings are not, and have never been, and never will be Gods, personally divine. And I think we all really know this.”If we all really knew that, there would be no debate. I do not think you should question the sincerity if people who believe in religion. Some religious people say that atheists secretly believe but they will not admit it, which I find irritating.I would not classify Jefferson’s bible as religion. It is ethics, or philosophy.IGIVEUP1 wrote:”Rationality is not an all-or-nothing trait.”That is true, and important. Everyone has irrational views about some subjects. THAT is a good example of a superstition that came about for good reasons. You should never walk under a ladder. It is dangerous. A paint can or hammer may fall, or the ladder may slip out. Carpenters know this. The knowledge has passed to the rest of us as superstition. Many other superstitions are similarly grounded in reality. If you ever find yourself in a primitive or alien society, or a situation you know nothing about, such as harvesting oranges in rural Yamaguchi Japan, and someone tells you: “don’t do that; it’s bad luck” you would be well advised not to do it. Whether you are superstitious or not there is a probably a good reason why people came to think it is bad luck.

  • jprfrog

    Why do some believers get so upset when someone else does not agree with them? If I do not believe (as I do not) that there is a God that spoke through a burning bush, or that became human and died for a few days, or dictated to a man in a cave, and you do, must you malign me, insist that I can’t be a moral person (I’ve done all right so far) and/or will burn in Hell forever? If your God is so powerful (and so petty!) don’t you think he can take care of me as he sees fit without your support and endorsement? Of course, some of you will profess concern for the fate of my immortal soul, but to those I ask why you can’t let me be concerned with that, and tend to your own? We’re all grownups here, aren’t we? (or ARE we?) That personal responsibility thing, ya know? I’ll take mine and you can take yours. That will also promote some little peace in the world that we are now living in, which must be a good thing according to all the religions that I know of.But then there are those that fear that the example of an atheist living a fulfilled life may “corrupt” their children. I say to them, fear not my quiet faith in reason and good will, but fear much more the hypocrisy and moral depravity of those who claim to speak in God’s name but commit acts of thievery, deception and the violation of children, then blame it on an (equally non-existent) Devil. As a great man (but not a God) said “By their fruits shall ye know them.” Then those who claim that we humans have always believed in God, say instead in Gods…hundreds if not thousands of deities have been worshiped and then abandoned. What makes your version of God so much more compelling? Because according to a book, he said so himself? And of what use is counting numbers? Millions believed for centuries that the Earth was flat. Or that the Sun revolved around the Earth. or that evil spirits caused disease. Yet all the time the Earth was a sphere and orbited the Sun and disease was and is caused by entities too small to be seen by ordinary vision. (If you don’t believe that, don’t take an antibiotic the next time you get really sick. And good luck to you.)I suspect strongly that those who must foist their own faith on others and who get very upset (and even violent) when resisted are actually not so secure in that faith. I can marvel at the mysteries of existence and enjoy what I have of it (still) without feeling anxiety or anguish that I can’t solve them. I do believe that the world would be a better place if more of my fellows shared that attitude…but I can’t force them to do so, and I wish they would leave me alone about theirs. And that they would take a good hard look at Matthew 6.

  • solsticebelle

    So why is an article about atheism in the “On Faith” section? Why is “faith” the default position?There is more proof that UFOs exist than that God does. And yet I wouldn’t care if people believed in God as long as they wouldn’t continually try to force their beliefs down everyone’s throats.

  • aquarius-age

    ……….

  • squier13

    Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason” was a fairly brutal attack on religion, and Christianity in particular, but no one ever called him a “new” atheist, he was just a heretic.

  • Bios

    If the marketing vein of being “forever young” is linked to religion and exploited as such, then we can assume that we will definitely see religion sticking around longer in our society.

  • sherm1

    Everyone is a heretic. Atheist are simply heretics visa vi all religions, whereas the true believers are heretics visa vi all religions but their own.I don’t think the history of humanity indicates that their is a special fondness for believers in religions, other than ones own, simply because they are believers. Is there really that much difference between those who don’t believe in the right God, and those who don’t believe in any God.Suppose that a religion came along that believed that there is a God, but its only interaction with the universe was to set off the Big Bang (BBG for short) – no dogma, no historical text, no grading system for behavior, and certainly no means of communication between BBG and human beings. BBG might appeal to atheists because of these factors, and lead them to declare that they are no longer atheists – now BBG’rs. Would that quell the hostility to their beliefs?

  • abowen32

    Just one suggestion for all atheist; since you will not embrace the scientific support or Christian proofs provided by the Bible may I suggest you read the book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” by N. Geisler & F. Turek. This will give you the basis for a “real” intelligent discussion on atheism. Also, there are hundreds of other books by leading scientist and astrophysicists who are turning to Christianity just because of their discoveries.

  • therev1

    While not believing in a god, atheists have developed -and continue to develop – a religion which – in many manifestations -highly resembles the worst aspects of God centered religions. Rather than leave everyone to believe what they will, many atheists insist on (well, evangelizing’s not the right word here) demanding that all believe as they do. It’s rather a non-sequitar in their thinking.

  • Ombudsman1

    When you speak of the Athiest next door, do you think they, on average, tend to leave the drapes open more frequently as they dress, and are they in any way attractive?Before you dismiss what I’m saying as obvious nonsense, just keep in mind that I’m trying to keep up with the spirit of a Susan Jacoby editorial, who obsesses more over religion than any religious nut I know.

  • jrovari

    Science is important. I like sound science; it helps me understand the nature of space, the planet, and my existence as a part of it all. I know that evolution is sound science. I know that there’s mountains more hard evidence to support evolution then there is that Scott Person killed his wife. While the atheists have the same argument with believers over and over again, they ignore the big gaping hole in science. If we went back 2,000 or more years I would still be able to understand that I’m a part of it all. I wouldn’t have the benefit of current science, but I would still have a basic understanding. We’re all just trying to answer the same questions. The scientific knowledge gained so far is still grossly incomplete. To insist that society think ‘nothing’ until science has approved a thought is just as Big Brother as organized religion and it creates a big gaping hole. Why are scientists the only ones deemed qualified to interpret the data? It goes against the very nature of human beings to ask them not to interpret their own existence. Evolution is science at its most brilliant, for me; to interpret that evolution could be an intelligent design is just me being human. I can also muse that the ‘intelligence’ in evolution comes from within, that it lives alongside our cells making nothing random or chance. I’m doing what humans have been doing since the birth of consciousness, filling the hole. Science can’t measure the things it needs to measure in order to take it to that level. As a human being I’ve had too many psychic dreams, too many lucky coincidences, too many aha moments to let either of the Big Brothers be the sole interpreter of my experiences. Science doesn’t know me beyond my biology. Am I off topic? Sorry, it was the Deepak Chopra reference. Not everything in the New Age Bin is equal, Like any other category at the book store, some of it’s ridiculous, some is strictly for profit, some of it’s is authentic. Deepak Chopra is the real deal. (I’ve stolen the words ‘Intelligent Design’ from but not used it with the ID people; I don’t like their interpretation I just like the connotation of the words in their pure form.)

  • Coruscator

    I am an avowed Atheist but I salivate over women in high heels, especially with great legs!

  • JFredMugs

    If God actually spoke to Moses he would haveSince Moses didn’t mention any of these things,So, Moses was a liar.

  • aquarius-age

    Someone said, “Making Profit” (instead of Prophet) is NOt Righteous anymore??Interesting. As We was passing by on bikes, This past Sunday.May.22 around 3pm, We found ourselves at the steps of ST. JOHN THE DIVINE (Cathedral) off 110th St, N.Y.C. i must admitt it’s Beautiful Architecture (Built since 1870.)At the time, before 2,000+ folks Therein (i did not hear it), via KUNDUN presence, The holy? VAJ-RAYANA or Dalai Lamba Freudianly slipped and said, Please see Photos of the Dalai (Guru/Teacher) Lama (Ocean) ,Actors Richard Gear et al: Interestingly. Around 5:20Pm i started to do “Exit-Opinions” from the guests as they was leaving. i asked the folks, WHAT DO YOU THINK, IS HE HOLY OR JUST A (plain) MAN?” Answers: “Yes, he is Holy like”, “He was his usual Himself”, “It was O.K.”, “No, he’s not holy..” etc.. Then around 6Pm we watched his Caravan of Police/Agents leave, from the Driveway further back, in several shuffled black cars.So now, the MONKS-ARMY & CO., are uniting Forces globally to promote diluted Communism or is it a lighter form of Maoism?.___* MAOIST Marxists Vow To Kill as many Indian Nationals as Possible; And their goal is take-over INDIA by 2049.Please see:

  • modernman1

    For many, modern science and the Enlightenment (and particularly things like the American Civil War) exposed the absurdity of God and traditional religion. Yet America remains a particularly religious nation, in comparison to the rest of the West. Although so many people profess faith in God, I have a hard time believing them. I cannot help but suspect that claims of faith are mere words that modern people repeat perfunctorily. ‘Faith’ has become almost entirely politicized. It is now something that people use to get power. It does not mean the same thing that it once did.

  • aquarius-age

    continued: On, “i’m a MARXIST”Note: Even though All “ABRAHAMic”s & All “VEDic”s faiths/beliefs/Religions Systems (businesses) are NOT MADE IN AMERICA; According to the “Aquarius-Age” vamping-out of the “Pisces-Age” THAT; The United States of America, needs to create a Beware The Al TAQIYAH Thanks YO!

  • dataflunky

    Given that modern housing developments are not the same thing as traditional neighborhoods, one is not likely to anything about the person next door, including whether or not he or she is an atheist.

  • Coruscator

    In fact, one of the few times I allow even the remotest possibility that there could be some divinity in charge of the universe is when I see an attractive, shapely legged, woman walking this earth in fashionable high heeled footwear!

  • rascal222

    Dear Ms. Jacoby,

  • Coruscator

    What a look at the origins and histories of the religions surviving into the present era will reveal is that most of them have been classical models of evolution in that they are parasites or memes that have had to change and bend to avoid being thrown off the backs of their, often brutally, exploited adherents. Even as the faith-based power networks tried mercilessly to suppressed science and its indispensable counterpart – unfettered human thought – their inevitable products that escaped into the public domain were so eagerly accepted and adopted that the churches could not recall them and had to modify their dogmas to include them. The masters of religion themselves often immediately turned them to their advantage. (Printing press, improved travel and communications, sanitation even in the Vatican!, etc.)The most potent irony is that the Kristocrites and other right wing religiosos have evolved so far in deference to and outright defense of their perceived material rights that they are in conflict with the few noble paradigms that somehow agglomerated into their liturgies.

  • abowen32

    In answer to ST50TAW question; “What scientific support?” If you are serious about this question and want to learn the truth, go to this web site;

  • Secular

    All religions are bogus. They were an admixture of early, early attempt at explaining the world around us. In the days of almost absolute ignorance. Only thing they seem to have gotten right (at a very, very high, level) is that sex theory of reproduction. Almost universally, religion had become one consolidated subject covering physical, biological sciences, and soft sciences such as sociology, ethics and morals. Not only that religions have muddled every thing by non-overlapping domains (not to be mistaken for Gould’s NOMA). As these religions were born out of near ignorance, each ones explanations are in such great variance from each other, and simultaneously all of them were absolutely wrong in almost all the areas of physical and biological sciences, for which we have scientific explanations.The utter idiocy of the religious explanations of natural phenomenon ranges from a) Bodiless monsters head try to devour the moon, & the sun as explanations for eclipses, b) restlessness of the giant under mount Etna causing volcanoes. Such explanations leave us with no shadow of doubt that these were born out of nothing but near total ignorance. These two are not solitary examples but replete with them.Now coming to ethics, all scriptures from Hinduism the oldest to Mormonism one of the recent ones are full of most vilest of vile morals and in-group morality. These are all proven beyond any shadow of the doubt.In light of these know facts, it is really disingenuous of anyone to say that the atheists are closed minded. All we ask is for you theists to submit your self to the scrutiny of evidence and observation. We are skeptical of your claims. For this you cast aspersions on us that we are closed minded, you got to be kidding. You demand that we show deference to your silly delusions, how dare you. Its bad enough that we have to put up with constant onslaught of religious delusional drivel, everywhere but to be accused of closed mindedness is quite a piece of work on your part.I challenge any of you theists to show where i am wrong. I pity you and loathe the charlatans amongst you who sell the snake oil of salvation to the remaining more credulous.

  • barferio

    So you’re a christian. You grew up in a christian home, your neighbors were christian, the people you admired were chrstian, you’re told you live in a christian country.How could you, an average modern peasant, be expected to know any better?All those other people, born in jewish or muslim or hindu or buddhist homes, surround by the religious personnel of their religion … believing just as fervently as you in their gods, dogman, doctrine.It’s funny how you say you can feel your god when you talk to him … so can these other people. They make the same claims about their gods.But you know for sure, o christian, that they are just living in a delusion. They must be talking themselves into believing this nonsense.Really, why should anybody believe you, any more than you believe them? Are you so limited in your experience that you can’t see this?Or do you just refuse?

  • icurhuman2

    If there is a god, and I’m open to debate at all hours, then HE, SHE or IT has a perverse way of blessing HIS, HER or IT’s most faithful. Looking at the slow death of the Gulf of Mexico, I suggest GOD either does’t exist or IT’s idea of testing the faith of IT’s followers is overdone, just a tad. Or, maybe GOD just isn’t that keen on Southerners, no matter what their religion. You know what? I don’t think there’s going to be any southerners soon, those that don’t flee the area because there’s no reason to be there will die-off from contamination… If this so-called GOD had eyes then they’d look a lot like the eyes of all the dying creatures in their oil-soaked death throws in the Gulf of Mexico… pleading… crying… accusing…

  • apspa1

    “All logic depends on the axioms on which you start. If you start with the axiom that there might be more to the universe than can be empirically observed (something scientists are looking at with quantum theory), then believing in spiritual beings (gods, angels, fairies, what have you) seems a reasonable corrolary. If you start with the axiom that what you observe is all there is, then Atheism is the reasonable corrolary.”The above is the result of a religious mind at work.Logic is the RESULT of the application of ESTABLISHED axioms.Imagine astronauts agreeing to climb aboard a contraption that was constructed by a bunch of engineers each of whom worked out their design with math that was based on whatever the engineer thought it should be.And even if those dauntless explorers gave those designers the benefit of a doubt I hardly think they would be too confident about the trip itself if the math people used a “pin the tail on the donkey” technique to decide stuff like thrust, weight ratios, gravity, escape velocity, fuel, oxygen needs, etc, etc, etc.It is the very fact that axioms are established law of science that logic is defined as the science of the formal principles of reasoning.If axioms could be modeled like clay logic would sound like the Tower of Babel. And our poor astronauts would very likely die of suffocation soon after being sealed up in their spacesuits.The writer of the above quote is a prisoner of his belief that faith is an axiom! He is rendered helpless by it.And one other thing. No atheist worth their salt would ever say “what you observe is all there is.” This is another of the writer’s straw-men he/she creates only to then knock down.

  • thebump

    All genuine atheists are dead. If you are certain life is meaningless, it is the height of irrationality to go on living.

  • StanKlein

    Most atheist explanations reject a distinctly Christian conception of God. Within Judaism, and especially the non-Orthodox movements, there is a wide range of acceptable conceptions of God. Even within Orthodoxy, God has limited powers, can be argued with, and can make mistakes and be sorry for them. For example, God can create wheat but can’t make bread — only people can do that. Jewish tradition talks about Man being God’s necessary partner in creation. To be a Jewish atheist requires identifying all the acceptable conceptions of God in all their diverse personal and impersonal forms, examining each, and rejecting them one-by-one.For an overview of this issue, look at the chapter titled “Thinking About Thinking About God” in a book by Rabbi Reeve Brenner. It can be found at

  • paulco

    Like Jefferson I have trouble only with believers in miracles. Believe what you will, but don’t ask me to accept impossible undocumentable unrepeatable events. That anyone believes them worries me about the future of a country which depends on informed debate.

  • spidermean2

    What’s the point of being an atheist if the reason they are talking about is MYTHICAL.There are THREE valid reasons why evolution is false. I hope all evolutionists read this so I don’t keep on repeating myself.Reason no. 1 — it is impossible that a single-celled bacteria can become or transform into a two-celled bacteria or into a multiple-celled organism. There is no available science to explain such a fairy tale. This is the myth of evolution.Reason no. 2 – soil and water existed before any living thing existed. It is impossible that those brainless substances (soil and water) can form by themselves a very complex matter called plants and animals. There is no available science to explain that such a transformation is possible. This is the myth of evolution.Reason no. 3 — Science is the study of nature. Engineering is part of that kind of science. Engineers took many years to extract energy from sunlight and even at this moment they are still scratching their heads how plant leaves has been doing it for eons already. The level of intelligence nature demonstrates is just beyond human intelligence. The only probable explanation is the existence of a Supremely Intelligent Creator. With these THREE valid reasons, I don’t think I mentioned faith or religion. EVOLUTION IS A MYTH BASED ON REASON.

  • spidermean2

    paulco wrote “Like Jefferson I have trouble only with believers in miracles.”Yup, and your brain evolved from a bacteria. No wonder you think like one.

  • barferio

    Religion is a myth based on juvenile fantasies and cowardice about our inevitable conclusion.And why is it your god that is this supremely intelligent creator, why not any of the thousands of other gods humanity has also invented?You are a truly diseased mind spidermean. You are proof of the damage that religious belief, that delusional construct called faith in gods can do to a mind.Perhaps you’re just a nut, no matter which set of god fantasies are consuming you. Certainly you make our point better for us than any other poster on the forum.

  • PSolus

    “Yup, and your brain evolved from a bacteria. No wonder you think like one.”As your comment illustrates, you do not sufficiently understand the theory to criticize it, or others who do understand it.

  • timmy2

    “Rather than leave everyone to believe what they will, many atheists insist on (well, evangelizing’s not the right word here) demanding that all believe as they do”Well then you should have no problem citing just one example of just one atheist insisting that all believe as they do. Just one example please. The problem you are suffering from is a common one amongst the religious. You think that other people giving their opinions amounts to them telling you what to do or what to believe. Of course I could easily be proven wrong here. All you have to do is give one example of one atheist “insisting that all believe as they do”.

  • timmy2

    Counter”Atheism will always take a backseat to the number of believers in the world”Here you show just how much faith you put behind wishful thinking.”People have common sense- intuition, whatever you want to call it, and know that a creator is out there”Atheists are not people? More wishful thinking?”You have alot of gumption, but it is so poorly placed and out sync with what is happening out there in the world”Please note that you are on the website of a major newspaper who now have a blog called “On Faith” which only appeared after the emergence of so may best selling atheist authors. Also note how there are more atheists posting on this site than there are believers. One of is out of synch with what is happening in the world, but it is not me. “Christianity is growing- fast”The fastest growing demographic in the world used to be Muslim. As of about three years ago that changed to “non religious” which remains today the fastest growing demographic in the world. “Especially in those that understand that God loves them. You miss it all the time”God loves babies so much he gives some of them cancer and has many of them born with horrible birth defects. Or is that our fault because we upset God? Does God love muslims and atheists as much as he loves Christians? Be careful with your answer. You might reveal something you do not want to reveal.

  • timmy2

    THE BUMP”All genuine atheists are dead. If you are certain life is meaningless, it is the height of irrationality to go on living”Atheists are people who do not believe in God, not people who think that life is meaningless. My atheist life has plenty of meaning thank you very much. I think I’ll stick around and enjoy it to the end. My favorite comment from the religious about atheism is when they say that if they thought that this was the only life we have then they would not want to continue living. How absurd.

  • timmy2

    It would be nice of the world “atheist” were not a pejorative. Our numbers would be more clearly known. As tit stands, most atheists refer to themselves as agnostics and not as “atheists” not realizing that they are both. One can not be an agnostic and not be an atheist. The only way to not be an atheist is to believe in a particular God. If you believe in a particular God then you can not be agnostic. And if you do not believe in a particular God then you are by definition, an atheist. All agnostics are also atheists who are simply unclear as to the definitions of those words or simply refuse to call themselves atheists because they think it means you are certain that no God of any kind exists. It does not mean that, and if you are an agnostic, you are also an atheist. There’s no way around it. That being said, one can be an atheist and not be an agnostic.

  • PSolus

    “Atheist” is the ultimate Humpty* word; it means exactly what the person using it wants it to mean.*”When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

  • timmy2

    Psolus,””Atheist” is the ultimate Humpty* word; it means exactly what the person using it wants it to mean”There’s no such thing as a “Humpty” word. All words can mean anything the person using the word wants it to mean if the person using the world chooses to ignore dictionary definitions and make up their own. But for those who go by dictionary definitions, if one can not name the God they believe in, they are an atheist. And if one can name the God that they believe in, then they can not be an agnostic. I am not one who makes words mean what I want them to mean. For clarity sake, I always go with one of the accepted dictionary definitions.

  • PSolus

    “But for those who go by dictionary definitions, if one can not name the God they believe in, they are an atheist. And if one can name the God that they believe in, then they can not be an agnostic.”Is there a dictionary police that can enforce the above?”I am not one who makes words mean what I want them to mean. For clarity sake, I always go with one of the accepted dictionary definitions.”Are you volunteering for dictionary police duty?

  • timmy2

    Psolus”Is there a dictionary police that can enforce the above?”No. Nor is there dictionary police that can enforce the proper use of any word, “Humpty” or otherwise. But this does not mean that there is not a proper use of the word. There is. and I will continue to correct people who use words incorrectly as I would hope others would do for me should I use words incorrectly. For the purposes of clarity of communication, we all play word police when we see people misusing words. It’s a good thing to do if we want conversations to have any meaning.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    StanKlein:An interesting post. Judaism has neither the gigantic faith commitment of Christianity nor the commitment to proselytize. It neither gains nor loses strength in numbers. “Belief” simply doesn’t exist in Judaism as it does in some other religions. Concept, perhaps….

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    StanKlein:AddendumOn the notion of concept: For Levinas, the Messiah, both by definition and in the advent, is a concept.

  • PSolus

    “No. Nor is there dictionary police that can enforce the proper use of any word, “Humpty” or otherwise.”Sorry, ma’am.”But this does not mean that there is not a proper use of the word.”Yes, ma’am”There is.”You are so right, ma’am.”and I will continue to correct people who use words incorrectly as I would hope others would do for me should I use words incorrectly.”Thank you, ma’am.We do, ma’am?”It’s a good thing to do if we want conversations to have any meaning.”But of course, ma’am.

  • ShorinBJ

    “All genuine atheists are dead. If you are certain life is meaningless, it is the height of irrationality to go on living.”You have it absolutely backwards. To be an atheist is not to believe that life is meaningless. If there is no life but this one, then it becomes all the more precious.What insane logic tells you that life is not worth living if there is no supernatural? If this is all I get, I’m clinging to it tooth and nail.

  • timmy2

    Psolus,When you have no counter to an argument, sarcasm such as “yes ma’am” is an excellent distraction. Good on you.

  • PSolus

    “When you have no counter to an argument, sarcasm such as “yes ma’am” is an excellent distraction. Good on you.”Why, thank you, ma’am.

  • timmy2

    Anyhoo, back to making a cogent point,Where was I? Oh yeah, the number of atheists in this world also includes all of the people who call themselves agnostics. Every single one of them is an atheist wether they know the meaning of that word or not. The truth is, they probably don’t care what the actual definition of that word is. It is still enough of a pejorative that many people who are atheists by definition do not want to use it to describe themselves.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    StanKlein:Followed your link to R. Brenner. Enjoyed the chapter! Thanks for the link!

  • thebump

    SHORINBJ writes: “If this is all I get, I’m clinging to it tooth and nail.”Why?

  • thebump

    Timmy2 writes: “The only way to not be an atheist is to believe in a particular God.”By that criterion, G-d is an atheist, because G-d cannot be merely a particular god. (Perhaps classifying G-d as an atheist offers us an elegant compromise.)Timmy2 further writes: “Atheists are people who do not believe in God, not people who think that life is meaningless.”An atheist is one who does not acknowledge G-d. If you believe life has meaning, then you do believe in G-d, whether or not you choose to acknowledge it.

  • mrbradwii

    […]With these THREE valid reasons, I don’t think I mentioned faith or religion. EVOLUTION IS A MYTH BASED ON REASON.Spidey’s 3 reasons are merely 3 non-sequiturs. And it is important to note how intellectually incomplete and lacking in rigor his/her/its argument is.None of his observations are actually factual and, even if they were true, his application of them falsifies no actual hypothesis that is part of any “theory of evolution”. Going even further, he then pulls out the notion that a SIC must have done it right out of thin air. Not merely a leap of faith, but a leap of logic extraordinaire.An absolute inability to connect any dots or even look for dots to connect is troubling. It is a wider symptom that our educational institutions be they public or private are either failing us — or that our culture has degraded the gene pool to a point that the ability reason is no longer required for survival….and that no amount of education can stick to brains ill-suited to even casual usage.

  • timmy2

    The Bump,”By that criterion, G-d is an atheist”People who are afraid to write “God” in full are my favorite. But you are correct I left out one important piece of criteria for being an atheist. One must also be real and not imaginary. This now excludes God from being an atheist. “An atheist is one who does not acknowledge G-d”Another one who needs to look up the word “atheist” in the dictionary. The word “acknowledge” is not in there anywhere. There is a good reason for this.”If you believe life has meaning, then you do believe in G-d”Again, someone who needs a dictionary so that they might converse with other english speaking individuals.

  • thebump

    Timmy, do you really mean no fictional characters can be atheists?In any case, as for the requirement that an atheist must be “real”, G-d is the ultimate reality, so that base is covered.You’re perfectly free to attach any label to yourself that you’d like. But if you believe your life has meaning, G-d is the source and object of that belief, because that is who G-d is.

  • timmy2

    Bump”Timmy, do you really mean no fictional characters can be atheists?”Fictional characters can be written as atheists. These are called fictional atheists. But they can not be actual atheists unless they are actual people. Get it?”In any case, as for the requirement that an atheist must be “real”, G-d is the ultimate reality, so that base is covered”Only in your mind. “But if you believe your life has meaning, G-d is the source and object of that belief, because that is who G-d is”I don’t believe you because you have no evidence or data to back this up. Also, I have never heard of G-d. Do you mean “God?” Why not just say God? Will the one who has ultimate love for you punish you for spelling his name out in full? Is that how it works in your cult?

  • thebump

    Why do you believe your life has meaning? From where does that belief come? How did it arise?

  • timmy2

    “Why do you believe your life has meaning?”Because it’s probably the only one I life I’ll ever have. That gives it plenty of meaning to me.

  • thebump

    You beg the question. Having only one of nothing is still nothing. There must be some intrinsic value or meaning for that one instance to be anything other than nothing.

  • timmy2

    “Having only one of nothing is still nothing”I don’t have one of nothing. I have one life. It’s intrinsic value is life. Life is something. It is better than no life from the perspective of the living. I have a life, and it means something to me. It also means something to others around me, especially my loved ones, as their lives also mean something to me.

  • thebump

    Why is life better than no life? You have the freedom to believe otherwise — to believe anything. You have the freedom to end your life. Why not? Is staying alive a rational choice, just because life means “something”? (Since you’re a stickler for precise definitions, what does that even mean, to “mean something”?) Is it rational to give rise to new life? Why? Why does your life mean something special to loved ones, and why do theirs mean something special to you? Why choose to love? Is it a rationally defensible choice?These are sincere questions. I’m truly baffled that some people — I’m not saying you, but some people — can blithely assert that their existence has meaning when it’s obvious they never seriously have examined that exceedingly non-rational belief.

  • thebump

    You do have a lot of chutzpah calling anybody else deluded, Timmy.

  • edbyronadams

    farnaz wroteI do not recall the Constitution banning either abortion or same-sex marriage.”All legislator’s actions are subject to periodic review by the people in their district. So, while religion may not provide a prescription for public morality, summed in aggregate by the voters whose moral influence include religion of all descriptions, certainly religion has a strong influence. That is the way it should be.I don’t believe the Constitution speaks to either abortion or same sex marriages. Those issues should be left to the will of the people, not black robed kings.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    Edbyronadams:don’t believe the Constitution speaks to either abortion or same sex marriages. Those issues should be left to the will of the people, not black robed kings.The matter of gays’ rights to marry falls into that category and will be decided by the Supreme Court.That is unfortunate given the makeup of the Court, which recently sold us out to foreign donors, but that is the Court that we have.I am embarrassed to call myself American so long as this matter of gay rights hovers over us. It is an international embarrassment as you must know.

  • daniel12

    Atheism would appeal to me a bit more easily if atheists were a bit more humble. It seems too many of them hold that existence minus religion equals a self-evidently more reasonable view of life. But there are evident problems with atheism from the standpoint of reason–namely how reason can exist in the first place if life rests on precisely no foundation which can be described as intelligence.That religion has problems of logic such as how God can be good when he created everything–including of course evil–is of course obvious. It should also be obvious that if life has no religion we are not automatically in some sort of more coherent view of existence. All grand views of existence have problems with respect to coherence and sense. Atheists too often act however if as if their view has no such problems of coherence. They seem as dogmatic as the religious in their own way. They enjoy poking fun at the evident problems of logic of religion but then defend their view as if it makes perfect sense and all science has to do is fill in the minor issues. As for philosophy, that is evidently finished according to atheists. They consider themselves philosophy. No further metaphysical speculation necessary. God does not exist, end of story.If atheists would have the integrity to state that their view is not perfectly logical they would go much further as to influence. The fact is man seems to make sense of only partial aspects of existence, for example stating three laws of motion. But when one gets more ambitious and tries to tie up all of existence in an explanation things become problematical.Loose ends appear all too readily when trying for grand explanations. God exists? Then how explain evil? Man is responsible for evil and not God? How so when man was created by God? And so on when it comes to religion. But then we take existence as without God…then what source for reason and morality? What do we expect of man when he lives in a universe with no real hope for there is no God behind it? And so on when it comes to atheism.It seems to me the correct course is to just stand loose ends wherever they appear and not try to pretend they do not exist. The good news for atheists is just accepting loose ends is more compatible with their view than the religious view. They lose nothing by stating this fundamental truth. I wish they would understand that. In fact I believe what I have been describing here is agnosticism, which of course is more compatible with if not almost atheism itself.

  • timmy2

    BumpWhat would happen if you wrote the word God in full?Do you have enough chutzpah to explain?

  • timmy2

    D12 Part two”In fact I believe what I have been describing here is agnosticism, which of course is more compatible with if not almost atheism itself”Agnosticism is the prime driver behind most atheism in my opinion. We are admitting that we do not have knowledge of the nature of existence, and we are offended at those who pretend to know it by divine revelation, and we are frustrated with those who still believe ancient claims of divine revelation that were made in times of ignorance. So we are vocal about it. But it is the agnosticism that we are certain of not the non-existence of God. “We don’t know and neither do you.” One could say my faith is that if anyone ever knows, it will be verifiable. This idea that it will not be verifiable is the oldest trick in the book and it is shocking that some humans are still falling for it.

  • timmy2

    D12 Part one”But then we take existence as without God.I do not take existence as “without God”. I take it as a mystery. It’s just that all of the God theories I’ve ever heard are superstitious ancient myths and don’t make any sense at all. And beyond these myths, there is no logical reason to posit a god. “then what source for reason and morality?”The only one we have. Ourselves. We each have our own personal subjective morality. And then there is the collective morality that comes in the form of the laws and social norms of society. “What do we expect of man when he lives in a universe with no real hope for there is no God behind it?”I don’t see how no God = no hope. “The good news for atheists is just accepting loose ends is more compatible with their view than the religious view”Most people are atheists because they are agnostic and see existence as a mystery rather than attributing this mystery to an imagined God. I am an atheist but if you read carefully you’ll see that I am not a militant atheist. I am a militant agnostic. My credo on the subject of existence is “I don’t know and neither do you”. “They lose nothing by stating this fundamental truth”You are correct. I lose nothing by admitting that existence is a mystery. There are some atheists who do not understand this and do act as though life is not a mystery because they think that if they do that the God argument will get a leg up. But I think that most atheists are agnostic and do not do this. But you are partially guilty of causing this problem when you act as though admitting that life is a mystery takes away an atheist’s right to have any credibility in criticizing belief in ancient superstitions and myths like the Abrahamic God. I do not have to answer how life came into existence to criticize the Abrahamic cult and you act as though I do need to answer the mysteries of life before I can criticize anyone else’s explanation for it.

  • thebump

    Timmy2 says he does not “need to answer the mysteries of life before I can criticize anyone else’s explanation for it.”Perhaps, but your criticism would be a lot more persuasive if you had something more interesting to offer. In any case, I don’t sense that you know enough about what you call the Abrahamic cult to be a very effective critic. Thank G-d at least you’re not militant about it.As for the spelling G-d, it’s just a whim. I’m fascinated that you attach such import to a symbol for a non-entity.

  • PSolus

    “Atheism would appeal to me a bit more easily if atheists were a bit more humble.”And, religion might appeal to people a bit more easily if religionists were a bit more humble.Go figure.

  • timmy2

    Bump.”but your criticism would be a lot more persuasive if you had something more interesting to offer”I could only do that if I made stuff up like your cult did. If it’s imagination you’re looking for, believe me, I can come up with something more interesting and more pleasant than a celestial dictator who has his followers so in fear of him that they can’t even spell out his name without offending him. “In any case, I don’t sense that you know enough about what you call the Abrahamic cult to be a very effective critic”Well you’d be wrong about that. I probably know more about the Bible than you. “As for the spelling G-d, it’s just a whim”Prove it. Put the “o” in just one time to show that it’s just a whim and not fear of offending him. It’s funny I’ve noticed others with this very same whim? Are you sure it’s a personal whim and not a cult doctrine?”I’m fascinated that you attach such import to a symbol for a non-entity”I do not attach any importance to it that’s why I can spell it any way I want to. But you are unable to insert the “o” because of the cult like importance that YOU place on it.But I must hand it to you. You are the first nut job in a long time to try and pull the old, “can you really say that your choice to continue to live is rational?” line. Now that takes chutzpah. lol.

  • thebump

    Timmy2, sorry, but judging from your comments you know nothing.

  • timmy2

    “And, religion might appeal to people a bit more easily if religionists were a bit more humble”Speak for yourself, Ma’am. Be it humble or cocky, superstitious nonsense will never appeal to me.

  • PSolus

    “Speak for yourself, Ma’am.”It was wrong of me to hurt your feelings, wasn’t it?

  • timmy2

    “It was wrong of me to hurt your feelings, wasn’t it?”If you say so, Ma’am.

  • PSolus

    “If you say so, Ma’am.”Time for your nap, timmy.And stop pulling on yourself – they’ll descend when they’re ready to descend.

  • timmy2

    “And stop pulling on yourself – they’ll descend when they’re ready to descend”Sorry, Ma’am. We’re all grateful for your life lessons, Ma’am.