I am uncivil. In other news, the sun rises in the east


I am engaged in a discussion over at Attempts of Rational Behavior where an asshat theist commented in a condescending and arrogant manner that the blog owner should get to know god the way he knows god before condemning religion. This was in response to a piece about the significance of 9/11 and how it influenced her emotional journey away from religion. I chimed in and, in my usual charming way, managed to offend the commenter, who called me “violent, unreasonable, uncivil, and inappropriate”. Go read the comments for the whole story. It’s a fun ride. He ends up by suggesting that I am going to strap explosives to myself and blow up a cathedral.

But that isn’t what I want to talk about. The exchange mentioned above led to an interesting conversation IRL (yes, I do actually speak to people in real life. Just not to you). This person I was speaking with was someone who knows me well and had a completely different take on what the asshat was saying. She felt that the commenter had some valid points and that I came across as extremely rude and offensive. Which kinda was my intent, but be that as it may, it upset her to think that people would read my comments and, not knowing anything else about me, think I was basically a giant asshole.

I made a valiant effort to explain the source of my anger and my loss of patience with the condescending treatment of atheists by theists. Unfortunately, I tend towards incoherent babble when trying to speak extemporaneously, and so I didn’t convey my points very well. So I’m going to babble about them here, hopefully more coherently.

My first point was that I interpreted the comments as being extremely condescending and arrogant and that I felt he was basically telling the blogger that they were doing it wrong, that she should just get to know god. As an atheist, we hear this crap all the time. One of the most basic techniques of the theists is to tell the non-believer that they just didn’t have enough faith, or that they didn’t really want jebus to come into their hearts, or that they went to the wrong church or listened to the wrong preacher on TV. Anything to turn the problem around and make it the atheists fault for not believing, rather than face the fact that they’ve provided absolutely no evidence to support their belief or to convince others to believe. This particular commenter couched this with all kinds of philosophical crap and intellectual-sounding lines, but the bottom line was that the lack of belief was the bloggers’ own fault. I get tired of that shit, and am going to smack it down whenever I run into it, probably quite uncivilly. ‘Cause that’s the way I roll, bitches.

My second point was that, in the real-life discussion, I felt that my right to anger was being questioned. I have lived my entire life unwittingly experiencing the benefits of privilege. I am a white upper-middle class male who, for most of his upbringing, identified as a WASP. Coming out as an atheist has introduced me to a whole world of discrimination and being treated as a second-class citizen that I’ve never directly experienced before. I am beginning to have a deeper understanding of what it is like to be part of a marginalized community. And I now realise that one necessary voice from those marginalized communities is the “angry” voice. Greta Christina expresses this much better than I can:

Because anger has driven every major movement for social change in this country, and probably in the world. The labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the modern feminist movement, the gay rights movement, the anti-war movement in the Sixties, the anti-war movement today, you name it… all of them have had, as a major driving force, a tremendous amount of anger. Anger over injustice, anger over mistreatment and brutality, anger over helplessness.

She goes on to explain why telling the marginalized not to be angry is effectively participating in the marginalization of that group:

So when you tell an atheist (or for that matter, a woman or a queer or a person of color or whatever) not to be so angry, you are, in essence, telling us to disempower ourselves. You’re telling us to lay down one of the single most powerful tools we have at our disposal. You’re telling us to lay down a tool that no social change movement has ever been able to do without. You’re telling us to be polite and diplomatic, when history shows that polite diplomacy in a social change movement works far, far better when it’s coupled with passionate anger. In a battle between David and Goliath, you’re telling David to put down his slingshot and just… I don’t know. Gnaw Goliath on the ankles or something.

My efforts to explain the similarities of the atheist movement with other communities wasn’t an attempt to portray myself as a martyr. Rather it was an effort to highlight the fact that atheists are a marginalized community and that it takes a certain amount of effort and energy to overcome the inertia of centuries and bring the issue to the forefront of public consciousness so that something can be done about it. Expressing our anger is a valuable tool in accomplishing that.

In addition, my verbal sparring partner also suggested that, by expressing anger the way I do, I was not helping the cause, that I was just reinforcing the true believer’s ideas about atheists. PZ Myers took on this trope a little while ago. In response to the opposition to the comparisons between the atheist movement and the feminist movement:

Try reading the literature of the feminist pioneers. They weren’t just rude, they were howling at injustice, they were breaking deep social mores, and they were abused, despised, and imprisoned for it — and they still are. Jebus. You think all women had to do to get recognition of their basic rights was to be polite? You think they got the right to vote by asking nicely? That soft voices and meekness are the answers?

I take it back. I should be embarrassed for us atheists. When I look at the history of feminism, I see a ferocity and a record of sacrifice that puts us tame godless people to shame. Maybe we need to get more outraged and outrageous.

I wholeheartedly agree. Twisted Sister had it right when they sang, “We’re not gonna take it!” It may be uncomfortable, it may be rude, it may even be aggressive, but it has to be out there. Otherwise we let them continue the status quo and keep us marginalized.

Here is some further reading by some bloggers who are much more coherent than I:

We aim to misbehave

Atheists and Anger

Atheists and Anger: A reply to the hurricane

Atheism and the “Shut up, that’s why!” Arguments

Why do atheists have to talk about atheism?

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  1. #1 by Dan J on September 14, 2009 - 8:03 pm

    "(yes, I do actually speak to people in real life. Just not to you)"

    Now I feel hurt.

    The asshat in question over at the Rational Behavior blog has his own blogging space. He's a jewish freemason who seems to be troubled by us loud-mouthed uncivil god-haters. He's another one who just doesn't get it. He cannot comprehend that any one of us could be rational and still not believe in his god. People like him piss me off on a regular basis. He hasn't begun to see uncivil. I, myself, have been known to be uncivil once in a while.

  2. #2 by 47th Problem of Euclid on September 14, 2009 - 4:04 pm

    Practice critical reading skills. I am an intelligent person who knows what words mean, and uses them according to their meaning. Even if that’s not true, pretend it is true for the purpose of argument’s sake. There’s nothing in my first two posts that would set you off like this. Nothing. Reread what I wrote if you think I’m lying.

    The sad thing about this is that I’m probably friends with you, or someone almost exactly like you. Reading your website, we share the same interests (except for atheism), and except for one point, we’re pretty similar.

    You claim to hold reason in the highest regard. That’s either true, or total bullshit. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and trust you on this. Reread critically my what I wrote on “Attempts at Rational Behavior”. I never disparaged atheism. Among the people I love are atheists, and I would never tell them, or you, what to believe. I never told anyone to believe in God. My only point was that the email reads differently to a person of faith. I accused her of not understanding how it reads to a person of faith. I did not insult her or belittle her. I never judged anyone except you, and I judged you on your behavior rather than on your beliefs.

    I’m a Jew. Trust me, you don’t want to convert to Judaism, even the liberal Renewal denomination I belong to. It’s a lot of rules, and it would just piss you off. But as a Jew, I know what it’s like to be outnumbered by Christian Fundamentalists. I know what it’s like to be distrusted for not being Christian. I don’t hate Christians, but I’m sure not one of them.

    I get angry too, the same way you do. I lost my temper with you in the third post because you stopped listening to me, and abandoned reason, your own highest value, in order to accuse me of something I didn’t do. You’re an adult. You can stop using the word “asshat”.

    Tolerance is really hard to inculcate in yourself, especially when you feel like you’re surrounded by hostiles. But you can’t abandon your fundamental values just because you feel infringed upon. Show some integrity. Adhere to your core principles. If I can steal your composure, anyone can. Be better than that. Your dignity is too important to throw away.

    • #3 by CyberLizard on September 14, 2009 - 8:54 pm

      There's nothing in my first two posts that would set you off like this. Nothing. Reread what I wrote if you think I'm lying.

      Given the fact that I have been "set off", I'd say that statement is fallacious. Clearly I have a strong opinion about what you wrote, so that means that there is something. And btw, no one's accused you of lying.

      I did not insult her or belittle her.

      Not in so many words, but what you wrote was condescending and essentially said that her opinions about that piece of shit email were invalid because she's not a great thinker like you and doesn't know your god. The fact that you don't recognize that about yourself tells as much about you as what you wrote. As I mentioned in my post, this is typical theistard condescension and it pisses me off.

      As far as the content of the email goes (something I'd love to blog about when I get time), if that is inspiring for believers, then I think that is pathetic and sad. Practice your critical reading skills and take a look at that email again and perhaps you'll see where I'm coming from.

      I never disparaged atheism. Among the people I love are atheists, and I would never tell them, or you, what to believe.

      Through your arrogance you can't even see how your attitudes might be offensive to atheists who don't accept that your god (or any gods) exist and therefore don't need to be told that we just need to get to know your version of god for true understanding. "Among the people I love are atheists" That sounds awfully close to "Some of my best friends are black". That is typically used by a racist to protest that he's not a racist. No one's ever questioned your relationships with atheists. I know many theists, but that has nothing to do with this conversation.

      You're an adult. You can stop using the word "asshat".

      If the asshat fits… Yes, I enjoy calling asshats asshats. It's a fun word that conveys so much meaning. It's also really fun to say now because I know it bothers you. I also enjoy calling out fucktards, dipshits, morons and arrogant bastards. Yes, I am an adult, but that doesn't mean I can't have fun or giggle when someone says "penis"

      *snicker*

      Lighten up, Francis.

      Tolerance is really hard to inculcate in yourself, especially when you feel like you're surrounded by hostiles. But you can't abandon your fundamental values just because you feel infringed upon. Show some integrity. Adhere to your core principles. If I can steal your composure, anyone can. Be better than that. Your dignity is too important to throw away.

      I didn't abandon anything and "integrity" is my middle name (so is "good lay" but that's neither here nor there). You didn't steal anything from me. If you think that's me losing my composure… well, let's just say you ain't seen nothing yet, if that's not too cliche. When someone's being a dick (see, I didn't use asshat) I call them on it. That's not losing composure, that's just not putting up with your shit.

  3. #4 by Dan J on September 14, 2009 - 10:32 pm

    Jeremy writes:

    There's nothing in my first two posts that would set you off like this. Nothing. Reread what I wrote if you think I'm lying.

    What was it that you wrote that might piss people off?

    Let's start off with something that basically tells the world that Stalin did what he did because he was an atheist.

    Why did GULAGs happen? The monsters who perpetrated this crime were insane enough to believe that no Supreme Being existed, and that pure reason and science, in a world purged of all religion, endorsed their ghastly behavior.

    Bullshit. If you honestly believe you are correct, you should read a bit about the history of those times. Soviet rulership under Stalin was as dogmatic as any religion, and certainly not based on sound reasoning. Your later statement, "I never disparaged atheism.", falls on deaf ears after the first statement.

    Let's move on to asinine statements that make actual people of reason laugh with derision.

    The God I believe in loves reason, and encourages humans to follow reason above superstition.

    If your "god™" encourages you to follow reason over superstition, then why the fuck do you believe in a god at all? The cognitive dissonance in your brain has got to be deafening.

    In other places, you are simply mistaken, which does not rouse my ire, but lessens my impression of your knowledge or research.

    Suicide bombing as a tactic was invented by Tamil nationalists, many of whom were secular and atheist.

    Read "Small Sea Travel Diaries" by Yu Yonghe. Dutch soldiers fighting for control of Taiwan in 1661 against Koxinga's forces were known to use gunpowder to blow up both themselves and their opponents rather than be taken prisoner. If you're interested in its use as more of a political tool, you can take a look at the assassination of Czar Alexander II of Russia in 1881.

    You're an adult. You can stop using the word "asshat".

    Strange, this one. I use all sorts of words like that when I have conversations with CyberLizard. I like the terms "fuckwad", "asshat", "dipshit", "numbnuts", "whakaloon", "pedantic bastard", "shit-for-brains", and many others besides. I've never seen any reason to actually desire to reduce my vocabulary. Goes against all reason in my book.

    • #5 by CyberLizard on September 14, 2009 - 10:59 pm

      This guy's got a real hard-on about commies, eh? If you read his Open Letter to Atheists, the first half of it sounds reasonable, but then he launches into inaccurate tirades against the godless commies and finishes up with the paranoid delusion that, by trying to promote the separation of church from state, we atheists are somehow stealing his right to practice whatever religion he wants. Got some issues, that one.

  4. #6 by Jason Thibeault on September 14, 2009 - 11:58 pm

    Oh man. I hope he comes back so I get a crack at him too. I just love that "Stalin's atrocities were done because he disbelieved in God" / "I've never disparaged atheists" tactic.

  5. #7 by Ryan Cook on September 15, 2009 - 2:52 am

    …the fact that atheists are a marginalized community…

    EVERYONE is part of a marginalized community because no community is ever perfectly aligned and cohesive. It doesn't matter if you're theistic, atheistic, black, white, male, female, a software engineer, or an executive, there will always be something about you that makes you marginalized.

    I agree with you that it's not right and makes no sense for theists (of any religion) to criticize or look down on others for just not "getting it" as though they're privy to some sort of high and holy information that everyone else just needs to wake up and realize. At the same time though, I'll bet it's fairly irritating for a theist to be criticized by an atheist for just "not getting it". In fact, I know both are true because I've been on all sides of those arguments.

    Irregardless of what buttons were pushed and when, it's the sign of a bigger man to be able to harness anger and do something productive with it. That's why Martin Luther King Jr was much more productive than the Black Panthers, why the modern feminist movement is nuts compared to the previous waves, and why there are all sorts of people who flip out at the most minor perceived slight, no matter if it's real or imagined.

    Take your anger, write something down, and then make sure you're not just ranting incoherently. If you just push out whatever pops into your head, then you make yourself out to be just another angry atheist or angry individual without a real cause, and it makes it that much easier for other to think "how sad; if only he'd found God."

    Of course, having said that, it would be much easier if everyone would just stop being idiots and think the same way I do, because I'm obviously much better than everyone else. I mean, really, you guys just need to wake up or something.

    • #8 by CyberLizard on September 15, 2009 - 4:29 am

      If everyone is part of a marginalized community, then no one would be marginalized because there would be no margins to marginalize people against. Woah, does that even make sense? ;-)

      I agree with Jason down below, marginalized doesn't merely mean "not mainstream". It doesn't even mean part of the minority.

      That's why Martin Luther King Jr was much more productive than the Black Panthers, why the modern feminist movement is nuts compared to the previous waves

      I strongly disagree with this statement. First of all, there is no empirical way to even begin to justify that statement. It's impossible to strip out the effects of one group of people during, say, the civil rights movement, and determine that one group was more effective. And I think it's pretty marginalizing to make a statement like that about the Black Panthers or the third wave feminists. It plays right into the anger issue that I mentioned. It's a subject that I honestly had no clear idea about prior to my coming out and I pretty much felt like you do. It's very easy to dismiss the anger and pedantically explain to people why they should just communicate differently, but by doing that you are reinforcing the marginalization (there's that word again. I need a thesaurus).

      Take your anger, write something down, and then make sure you're not just ranting incoherently. If you just push out whatever pops into your head, then you make yourself out to be just another angry atheist or angry individual without a real cause,

      Um, what do you think I'm doing with this blog? I am perfectly capable of ranting incoherently with the best of them, but this time I think I'm actually making a point. Just because the point is angry or uncivil or I call people asshats doesn't lessen its validity.

      What you're saying comes awfully close to the "shut up and sit down" argument, IMO. It is generally frowned upon to come from a position of privilege and in a superior manner tell someone from an oppressed group that they just need to stop sounding so angry and to communicate more like you wish they would. I ashamedly admit that I, myself, used to think that way about other issues like race and gender. It is extremely difficult to see past the privilege and recognise the institutionalized bigotry that we unwittingly buy into when we're in the middle of it.

      Personally, I don't think it makes a fucks difference what I say or how I say it; theistards are going to think "how sad; if only he'd found god" irregardless*.

      *That was for you, Jason ;-)

      • #9 by Jason Thibeault on September 15, 2009 - 4:36 am

        Curse your threaded comments. And curse your irregardless! And stay off my lawn!

      • #10 by Ryan Cook on September 15, 2009 - 4:12 pm

        I agree that marginalized doesn't simply mean "not mainstream." It also means that someone or some group is actively attempting to push those being marginalized to the edges and then make them fall off. All I'm saying is that it's important to realize that everyone is being marginalized – or given the choice between the edge or conformity – by someone, in some way. It might not be as open or vocal as the religious against the non-religious, or racists against whoever they hate at the moment, but it does exist, and it's important to be aware of.

        You have the right to be angry, and you have the right to use free speech to show off that anger. But it's incredibly important to realize that you might, on purpose or not, end up doing exactly the same thing to other people that you are having done to you; that is, marginalizing a group of people. Again, I'm not saying don't be angry or don't show it off. Rant, rave, piss people off, make your point however it is you want to make it. But be aware that, depending on how you make your points, you really just might be doing the same thing to others.

        Here's an example: one of the things I find irritating about many prominent atheists is that it seems like they want to rage against theists for looking down their noses at atheists for not having enough (or any) faith or not being able to find god, but end up doing the exact same thing to theists in believing that theists don't have enough (or any) logic.

        I agree that there's no purely empirical way to justify someone's productivity over someone else's, but if we always had to empirically and factually show proof for statements then there would be no such thing as opinion polls, etc. When you take a look around though, it sure seems (at least to me, and maybe I haven't looked into it enough) that Dr King has had a much bigger influence on the Civil Rights movement than the Black Panthers and the previous feminist waves have had a much bigger influence than today's feminists.

        Here's where I'm coming from though: it seems (again, to me) that the difference in method has a whole lot to do with the amount of success that one has in fighting for a cause. By using peaceful methods, such as rallies, Dr King was able to show that the violent black man stereotype was wrong and bring the issue of civil rights to the front of the nation through television and radio. In contrast, the Black Panthers or Black Power movements did a whole lot to reinforce that stereotype and hurt the work of Dr King.

        Go ahead and be angry. Use your blog – that's what it's here for, like you said. But when you're directly responding and commenting to someone, that's when you sound like an asshat and fuck over your whole point. You can't just expect someone to read past the asshat (or fucktard) statements and agree with your point, no mater how valid it is. People just don't work that way. It may not lessen the validity of the point, but it does lessen how willing people are to be receptive to that point.

        Take, for example, an anonymous software engineer who has a project that needs to be done, but it gets shut down by management because it's going to take too many hours. On one hand, the engineer could go to the managers and describe his points and explain why the project would be a good thing to do in a calm and reasonable manner. On the other, he could go to the managers and explain why the project should be done, but punctuating his presentation with words like "asshat" and "fucktard." Which one do you think is going to get his project done? :) Neither, really, because managers are just idiots and don't listen to smart software engineers.

        There's no reason to sit down and shut up. Get up, be angry, and tell people what's on your mind. Theists, and everyone else, need people to call them out when they do stupid things, or say stupid things. But so do you. And it's much better to have a dialogue and show that you're not just an angry atheist if you can be expected to give a calm, rational argument most of the time, anyway.

        Post-Comments:

        Speaking of margins, you might want to add some padding to the sides of your comments in your WordPress theme, so that the text doesn't go all the way to the margin. Not a big deal, just a personal pet peeve as a UI guy.

        From my perspective as a rational theist, "finding god" doesn't make you a better person. It's not supposed to – but that's a discussion for another time.

        Jason, irregardless of the fact that you think irregardless isn't a word, it's on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irregardless), and if I've learn anything from Stephen Colbert, being on Wikipedia makes it true.

        • #11 by Jason Thibeault on September 15, 2009 - 4:55 pm

          You have the right to be angry, and you have the right to use free speech to show off that anger. But it's incredibly important to realize that you might, on purpose or not, end up doing exactly the same thing to other people that you are having done to you; that is, marginalizing a group of people. Again, I'm not saying don't be angry or don't show it off. Rant, rave, piss people off, make your point however it is you want to make it. But be aware that, depending on how you make your points, you really just might be doing the same thing to others.

          So… blacks must be careful not to marginalize the racists that are in the position of privilege that allows them to oppress? Women must be careful not to accidentally subvert the natural order of men oppressing women? Gays must take care not to turn the tables on homophobes? I'd frankly consider the qualities of homophobia, racism, sexism and dogmatic belief (which tends heavily toward codifying the former three) to be negative qualities that are worth marginalizing — worth hammering out of their hosts, without doing anything to harm the hosts themselves.

          Consider all of the above to be like parasites that can replicate from host to host. In order to eradicate the ill behaviour you have to take especial care to not damage the host of the parasite any more than is necessary to eliminate the parasite itself. Some damage might be inevitable if the host has integrated the parasite to any great degree into their personhood (how does a sexist feel on first realization that their sexism is overt and detrimental to society, when they thought they weren't being sexist at all?). I do not mourn for the damage done to those that are "too far gone", but I do mourn for the people themselves.

          (And yes, I feel the "parasite" idea is merited — religion itself had an evolutionary advantage of providing structure to people who otherwise didn't understand the world and needed a social hierarchy imposed on them. That parasite thrived in that environment, but in the sunlight of science is withering and fighting back against what it perceives to be its enemy. Science naturally must either bring the fight to that parasite, or die in the counterattack.)

          You can't just expect someone to read past the asshat (or fucktard) statements and agree with your point, no mater how valid it is.

          As an adult I have a reasonable expectation that I can use all the words at my disposal, including those words that are generally considered crass or impolite. When dealing with pernicious self-perpetuating mind-parasites like religion itself, which exploit our mental "bugs" much like computer viruses exploit badly designed code (take that, intelligent design!), sometimes being crass is necessary. It took Malcolm X to normalize Martin Luther King. Maybe Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirschenbaum will be our ambassadors while Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers will be our rabble-rousers. It takes all kinds to build a proper equality movement, and a proper movement is what's necessary after centuries of being told we are not fully people or not fully citizens by the people in power.

          And I'm disturbed by the frequent and repeated mention of the Black Panthers as though that's equivalent to those of us on the blogosphere who don't censor our colorful language, who refuse to sit down and shut up when people tell us to do so (e.g. "it's okay to be gay, just don't get all in my face about it by… holding hands, or kissing, anywhere where others can see" — do you not see the parallels?). I know you agree with this idea, but telling us to temper our anger lest we be seen as "just angry" is equivalent to telling us to shut up and sit down. It's not helping, it's concern-trolling.

          Hilariously, Wikipedia says: "Irregardless is a term meaning in spite of or anyway, that has caused controversy since it first appeared in the early twentieth century. It is generally listed in dictionaries as "incorrect" or "nonstandard"." So even Wiki-reality has it in for the non-word.

          • #12 by Ryan Cook on September 15, 2009 - 5:39 pm

            So… blacks must be careful not to marginalize the racists that are in the position of privilege that allows them to oppress? Women must be careful not to accidentally subvert the natural order of men oppressing women? Gays must take care not to turn the tables on homophobes?

            Yes and no. Black don't need to be careful about marginalizing racism, but need to be careful about marginalizing individuals based on race. The same goes for feminists and gender or gays and sexual orientation.

            I can't really argue with you about the parasite metaphor, because I agree with you that some forms of religion tend to be parasitic( I'm not referring to a specific belief system, but instead to individuals who make their religion parasitic). Personally, I don't think religion ought to be something that overwhelms others; rather, I think that an individual's belief system, while obviously having an effect on their thought patterns and life, should be something personal to that individual. You shouldn't force someone to convert to your religion or non-religion or anything in between. You can let them know your choice, but then just leave them alone about it.

            As an adult I have a reasonable expectation that I can use all the words at my disposal, including those words that are generally considered crass or impolite.

            You're right, you can use whatever words you want and say however you feel in dealing with any subject, and that sometimes it's necessary to be crass and help normalize a movement. But you can't expect that everyone around you will respond to your crassness and understand it in the same way you do. You have to tailor your arguments to your audience, and I think Cyberlizard's conversation with his wife or whoever illustrates that different people see the same words differently, and that just because this occurs doesn't mean that your "right to be angry" is being questioned. I want you guys to get your points across, I really do. I like hearing what people who are different from me think about different issues. I just don't think that being crass about it and then expecting everyone to listen to what you have to say is an effective way of doing it.

            Again, I'm not saying "sit down and shut up," and I'm not telling you to temper your anger, I'm asking you to focus it. It's easier to get other to see your point if you make the other person look like a fool and yourself intelligent than it is to just get angry and insult them while trying to make a point. If you're seen as "just angry" then, for many people, you don't have a valid point to make – you're just raging for no reason.

            Use Richard Dawkins and PZ Meyers, but use them intelligently. If they become the face of the atheist movement (and, to many, they are) then it's much harder to get your points across to those who might be sympathetic with you.

          • #13 by CyberLizard on September 15, 2009 - 7:10 pm

            Use Richard Dawkins and PZ Meyers, but use them intelligently. If they become the face of the atheist movement (and, to many, they are) then it's much harder to get your points across to those who might be sympathetic with you.

            I'm quite proud to have incredibly intelligent and personable people such as Dawkins and PZ be the face of the atheist movement. They're right on target. You seem to be missing the point. You are, in fact, telling us to sit down and shut up. You're telling us that we are doing it wrong and that we need to put a civil tongue in our mouths if we want anyone to listen to us. They said the same thing to the blacks. And the gays. And the women. Guess what? Those movements didn't succeed because their participants were quiet and polite and respected masta. It's a perfectly valid role to be loud and proud and angry. Most of the time calls to civility are used to silence the oppressed.

          • #14 by Ryan Cook on September 15, 2009 - 9:51 pm

            You're not listening.

            I'm not telling to sit down and shut up, no matter how much you want to think that. I'm proposing that you keep saying what you're saying, but in a way that plays to your audience and makes you not sound like an ignorant fuckwit whose only goal in life is to get revenge against some mean people who pushed you down in first grade. Not that that's true, but damnit, that's what things like PZ's cracker controversy make it look like to someone from the outside.

            You do whatever you want, it's not my debate and I don't really care.

          • #15 by CyberLizard on September 15, 2009 - 10:18 pm

            Actually, I am listening. I know that you don't think that's what you're saying, but history and copious examples demonstrate that what you're saying is the typical position from those in a position of privilege, and whether you meant it that way or not, the effect it has is to tell people to shut up; that they have to communicate in the tone and the manner that privilege dictates. If you had entered a civil rights or womans rights discussion and made the arguments your making, you would be in for a hell of a lot rougher ride.

            I would suggest than I am, in fact, speaking intelligently to my audience and that the only one coming across as an ignorant fuckwit is yourself. I don't know how the cracker incident got brought into it, but I know quite a few people on the outside who don't view what PZ did as trying to get back at mean people. To characterize it as such dispareges (sp?) the noble purpose that he engaged in. In his desire to protect students, all students, not just his own, he deliberately inserted himself between Webster and the theistard psychos who were sending him death threats and doing their damndest to get him kicked out of school. I don't hear any condemnation of the violent and insane behaviour of the catholic league and other fundamentalist wingnuts, just a bunch of BAWWWWWing that mean old PZ hurt a cracker.

            When the violent actions of theists like that are decried as vehemently as PZ was attacked, then maybe some of our atheist anger will be deminished, as it will demonstrate that reason is prevailing. After all, it was just a fracking cracker.

          • #16 by Jason Thibeault on September 15, 2009 - 7:43 pm

            See, I don't even see Dawkins / Myers as particularly bad role models. They are irreverent, sure, but they're not advocating violence or hatred by the mere act of treating an unleavened cracker like what it is, instead of kowtowing to the belief systems of someone who came to those beliefs irrationally. Likewise, I don't see McDonalds as an anti-Hindu organization, despite their emphasis on preparing and offering for consumption beef in direct contravention of the Hindu proscriptions against harming cows. The only difference in the two is that Myers knows that some people think the cracker is actually a piece of their god.

            Just because both of these "faces of atheism", these "New Atheists", are irreverent of others' beliefs, does not make them equal to people who go out and attack people physically and preemptively, as the Black Panthers did. There's a vast gulf of difference, again, between a rabble rouser and a radical. And I'd honestly appreciate it if you take back the comparison, as you haven't yet.

          • #17 by Ryan Cook on September 15, 2009 - 10:03 pm

            You're right, they're not equal to physical violence, etc. I'll take back the comparison, because it wasn't even really a comparison, just an example.

            The problem with Dawkins/Myers is that sometimes irreverence makes you look like an asshole, and if you don't moderate it, then that's all people see. Take the cracker controversy as as example. I'm not Catholic, and I don't really understand the whole belief around it, but Myer's actions really made him out to be an ass. It doesn't matter if it's against someone who you think it irrational, it's important to have some damn respect for something that others consider important – even if you don't.

            It'd be the same thing if someone had their grandmother's ashes in an urn, and I came and broke it and pissed in the ashes to show them that it's not their grandmother – it's just ashes. It doesn't matter if it's true or not, you just don't do that and expect people to see you as anything except a vengeful jackass.

            You're right, they're not advocating violence or hatred, but they're not necessarily helping with these actions either. They're both extremely intelligent people, and both have done a whole lot to help the study of evolution and biology and so on. But you can destroy such a reputation with comments and actions very easily. Sometimes such comments and actions are necessary, but, I think, overall, they hurt more than they help, especially when you (atheists) are trying to be seen as a legitimate movement (which you are).

            There's a time and a place for crassness, irreverence, and intellectual debate, and all I'm suggesting is that you take a step back and think about what the right times for those are.

          • #18 by Dan_J on September 15, 2009 - 10:37 pm

            Thanks for the conversation, Ryan. I'm glad it's more of conversation than simply ranting back and forth.

            It doesn't matter if it's against someone who you think it irrational, it's important to have some damn respect for something that others consider important – even if you don't.

            Oh, no. I have to totally disagree with that one. In that case (as in others) it was an idea that they held as being sacrosanct. Ideas don't deserve my respect, particularly ideas that run counter to observable reality.

            It'd be the same thing if someone had their grandmother's ashes in an urn, and I came and broke it and pissed in the ashes to show them that it's not their grandmother – it's just ashes. It doesn't matter if it's true or not, you just don't do that and expect people to see you as anything except a vengeful jackass.

            No, no, no. That would be both hateful and illegal. That urn with the woman's ashes is someone's personal property, and a memorial to an arguably real person whom they knew and loved.

            We really need to draw distinctions between attacks that are personal in nature, and attacks against religion as an institution or as an idea. The difficulty that I've found is that many people who are very devout are unable to separate themselves from their religious ideas in any way. For many people, their religion is their life. I find that to be quite sad, actually.

          • #19 by CyberLizard on September 15, 2009 - 10:47 pm

            I don't mean to beat a dead horse, nor do I really want to stir up more crap, but saying that desecrating a communion wafer, a foodstuff that was freely given, is in any way analogous to violating what is essentially another persons personal property (grandmothers ashes, in this case) is so full of shit as to be laughable. It's an attempt to place the incident on the same level as criminal behaviour, and that's just fucking stupid. Your not seeing the forest for the trees, you're so caught up in how (gasp!) offensive his act was.

            There is a time and place for crassness and it's whenever the fuck I say it is. My blog, remember? My words, my way and fuck it if they hurt your feelings. You are clearly not grasping the very basic premise of this whole discussion so I don't expect you to understand this.

  6. #20 by Jason Thibeault on September 15, 2009 - 3:40 am

    Marginalized doesn't merely mean "not mainstream". And there's a huge gulf of difference between an atheist that's willing to admit in public that they're an atheist and willing to stand up for their rights against vocal and oppressive theists, and someone that goes out and beats people up and destroys property.

    Also, I fucking hate the non-word irregardless.

  7. #21 by 47th Problem of Euclid on September 15, 2009 - 8:22 am

    Short answer: atheism does not equal antitheism. I have no problem with atheism. Antitheism is intolerant, and I oppose it to the extent that it spreads intolerance.

    A friend sent me to the blog “Attempts At Rational Behavior”, which I’d never seen before. I read a post about a woman who lost her faith because of 9/11, and I commented on it. I was met with a response that surprised me. I tried to clarify, and was met with a much nastier response. I admit I lost my temper in my third response, and some of my arguments were unsound. I guess Cyberlizard’s own reaction to my comment upset him, and he went to a friend to console him, and instead she called him out for it. Freaked out, he launched into a defense of his anger. I find that a narcissistic love of anger with respect to a political stance is usually a sign of fanaticism.

    On this blog, the arguments against what I have written do not refer to my actual words, except to cut out the pieces they can argue with, out of context. I sometimes use a rhetorical device of two sentences of opposite slant juxtaposed together to prove a point. Quoting the first sentence without the second is disingenuous at best, lying at worst. What happened to that reason you claim to uphold? Or do you abandon reason whenever you feel threatened? Or is “reason” just an empty phrase you use to make yourself feel good about your intolerance?

    I’m stupid for getting into an argument with people who use the word “theistards”. My guess is that it’s a portmanteau word composed of theist and retard, short for mentally retarded, but with that level of childishness, I can’t really be sure.

    There seems to be an operative axiom at work here, that belief in God and ability to reason are mutually exclusive. It is a false axiom. Newton believed in God. Newton could reason. Quod Erat Non Demonstratum. Ditto Leibniz, ditto Pascal, ditto Galileo (who didn’t lose his faith even though he faced religious oppression), ditto many others too numerous to mention.

    I don’t equate atheism with Communism. Having explored both paths, I understand that Communism has atheism as an axiom, but that atheism doesn’t have to be communistic. But Communism is the most successful atheistic movement that ever existed in the history of the world. No other atheistic movement has ever had political power, even though there are Republicans in power that follow Ayn Rand, but are a tiny minority of that party. Communism is not your best foot forward, but it is your only foot forward. I don’t believe that atheism = communism, but I do warn that angry antitheism historically leads in a similar direction, because there are no examples of peaceful antitheism in history. Antitheism forces its will on the unwilling. There is no compassion in antitheism, no recognition of the humanity of the other, and when your opponents lack humanity, you can do anything to them with impunity.

    I have no problem with atheism. You are not defending atheism when you argue with me because we both believe that atheism is a social good. You are defending antitheism, which is a small subset of atheism. If you continue to claim to be defending atheism when you defend antitheism, you are going to piss off the vast majority of atheists who do not believe in antitheism. I’ll leave them to deal with you.

    Without compassion, people become monsters, God or no god. Belief or unbelief is almost totally irrelevant except internally. My criticism of Cyberlizard has never been about his atheism. Much better people than Cyberlizard or me are atheists. I criticize how his antitheism has influenced his behavior.

    Atheism is a force for social good in this world (when you quote me to criticize my arguments, please include this; I’ve said it twice). Intolerance is a force for social evil in this world. Insisting that everyone believe the same way you do, and then getting very angry when they don’t, and then glorifying your anger as if it were virtuous is pathetic and childish. I’m talking about you, Cyberlizard.

    Getting a group of people to revel in self-righteous anger because all of you insist that everyone believe what you believe is the genesis of every mob atrocity. Does that mean you have committed a mob atrocity? Of course not. It just means you are in the spot where mob violence starts. It’s a rush. It feels good, but it’s unwholesome.

    • #22 by Dan J on September 15, 2009 - 2:01 pm

      Jeremy; I (for one) am not angry with you for being religious, and I will fight tooth and nail for your right to practice any religion or none, to the extent that your religion does not interfere with the rights of others.

      I do feel the need to take issue with some of the points that you've made.

      I don't equate atheism with Communism. Having explored both paths, I understand that Communism has atheism as an axiom, but that atheism doesn't have to be communistic. But Communism is the most successful atheistic movement that ever existed in the history of the world.

      Hell, the Soviet Union was Communist only because the Supreme Soviet said so. Communism has nothing to do with religion or the lack thereof. The Soviet Union was officially an atheist state from 1928 to 1939. This does not mean that the citizens did not practice religion. So let's get rid of this atheism/communism connection. It was never there in the first place, and continuing to bring it up isn't going to change that fact.

      Quoting the first sentence without the second is disingenuous at best, lying at worst.

      You want the whole thing? Fine, here it is, but it sure doesn't help your cause any:

      While it's true that the 19 monsters who perpetrated this crime were insane enough to believe that a Supreme Being endorsed their ghastly behavior, it's also true that men and women ran into the buildings as they collapsed on fire because the were insane enough to believe that a Supreme Being endorsed their behavior.

      Why did GULAGs happen? The monsters who perpetrated this crime were insane enough to believe that no Supreme Being existed, and that pure reason and science, in a world purged of all religion, endorsed their ghastly behavior. Who survived and endured and even kept a shred of their humanity in those horrible death camps? Men and women who were insane enough to believe that no Supreme Being existed, and that pure reason and science, in a world purged of all religion, endorsed their behavior.

      You refer to people who believe in a god, but not in the way that you do, and you call them insane for this. You refer to people who do not believe in a god, and you call them insane for this. Thus, anyone who doesn't believe exactly the way you do is insane. Yes, I realize that is not what you intended to imply, but that's how it comes across to many of us.

      Getting a group of people to revel in self-righteous anger because all of you insist that everyone believe what you believe is the genesis of every mob atrocity. Does that mean you have committed a mob atrocity? Of course not. It just means you are in the spot where mob violence starts. It's a rush. It feels good, but it's unwholesome.

      Do we insist that everyone believe (or disbelieve) the way we do? No. We want people to know that it's okay not to believe. We want it to actually be okay to not believe. That includes being free from death threats, being fired, being treated as second-class people, being told we have no morals, being told we can't hold public office, etc.

      We want religion kept out of our secular government. That is probably the biggest point for me.

      Getting a group of people to revel in self-righteous anger because all of you insist that everyone believe what you believe is the genesis of every mob atrocity. Does that mean you have committed a mob atrocity? Of course not. It just means you are in the spot where mob violence starts. It's a rush. It feels good, but it's unwholesome.

      We're not insisting that everyone believe what we believe. We are insisting that religion be kept out of public schools and out of government. We are insisting that religion not be treated as science because it is not science.

      Unwholesome or not, if the religious right (no, I don't consider you to be part of the "religious right") continues to push their agenda into areas where it truly does not belong, then there will be mob violence.

      I don't want it to go to that extreme, but if left unchecked, it will get there. People like Fred Phelps and his ilk are not alone. They're the most vocal, but there are countless others who feel the same way about the same things. Let Glenn Beck continue to tell them that they should be afraid of the government (and that black man in charge) coming to take their country away from them long enough and they will believe him. They will be the mob, not us.

      (Sorry if this has gotten too long and rambling. Too many issues and too little time.)

      • #23 by CyberLizard on September 15, 2009 - 3:36 pm

        No apologies necessary. Euclid's Freemason doesn't know the meaning of the word "brevity".

    • #24 by CyberLizard on September 15, 2009 - 3:17 pm

      Dude, who the fuck are you arguing with? Cause it sure seems like the only one you're hearing is yourself. You don't directly address any of the points brought up and instead engage in lame attempts at psychoanalyzing me

      I guess Cyberlizard's own reaction to my comment upset him, and he went to a friend to console him, and instead she called him out for it. Freaked out, he launched into a defense of his anger. I find that a narcissistic love of anger with respect to a political stance is usually a sign of fanaticism.

      First of all, reading comprehension FAIL. No one called anyone out. We had a discussion in which she had a different interpretation of your words than I (and others) had. We discussed it. It opened into larger discussions about marginalized communities and the role of anger. But somehow you twist that into me being narcissistic and fanatical. Project much?

      On this blog, the arguments against what I have written do not refer to my actual words, except to cut out the pieces they can argue with, out of context. I sometimes use a rhetorical device of two sentences of opposite slant juxtaposed together to prove a point. Quoting the first sentence without the second is disingenuous at best, lying at worst.

      Evidence, please. In the interest of brevity (a concept you are apparently unfamiliar with) I sometimes pick and choose which things to quote in order to respond to them. I try to pick a segment that is representative of your argument and appropriate to my response. If quoting anything less than your long-winded diatribes is cherry-picking, then call me a picker.

      I'm stupid for getting into an argument with people who use the word "theistards". My guess is that it's a portmanteau word composed of theist and retard, short for mentally retarded, but with that level of childishness, I can't really be sure.

      Boy, you sure are a sharp one to have decoded that piece of linguistic sophistication. Can't get anything past you!

      I don't equate atheism with Communism. Having explored both paths, I understand that Communism has atheism as an axiom, but that atheism doesn't have to be communistic. But Communism is the most successful atheistic movement that ever existed in the history of the world

      You just contradicted yourself there. Your obsession with communism is quite apparent in your rantings. It seems to be impossible for you to discuss a topic without bringing up teh GODLESS COMMUNISTS. It get's old. It's inaccurate, a poor argument and really is just boring. Let it go.

      Fuck it. There really isn't much point in continuing to deconstruct your ravings point by point. They don't actually address the discussion at hand. This discussion has never actually been about my defense of atheism nor has it been about us angry atheists trying to destroy religion as you claim in your Open Letter to Atheists. I have never once reveled in self-righteous anger and insisted that everyone believe what I believe. That's either you lying or just being paranoidally delusional (is paranoidally a word? I don't think it's a word. But it should be. I hereby declare it a word and it shall be permissible in tournament games of Scrabble (So is irregardless, just because it drives the resident Canuckistanian crazy (Nested parenthetical remarks FTW!))).

      What this discussion originally was about was your asshattery in your arrogant and condescending comments over on Julia's blog. When I brought it over here, I tried to change the focus to my thoughts and feelings on marginalized communities and the role that anger plays in those communities, specifically as to how it applies to the atheist community. No one has ever accused me of making myself very clear or of writing coherently, but, in this case, it seemed pretty obvious. But you, however, keep insisting on making this discussion about you. You're using this as a platform for your delusions about the evil atheists plot to destroy religion and as a platform for your obsession with commies.

      Do try to stick to the topic and actually make sense and we'll be more than happy to listen. Or we might just be childish and call you a theistard asshat douchecocknozzel. Either way, it's all about the lulz.

      • #25 by Dan J on September 15, 2009 - 3:51 pm

        theistard asshat douchecocknozzel

        Oooohhhhhh… I do like that one.

      • #26 by Jason Thibeault on September 15, 2009 - 5:11 pm

        That's either you lying or just being paranoidally delusional (is paranoidally a word? I don't think it's a word. But it should be. I hereby declare it a word and it shall be permissible in tournament games of Scrabble (So is irregardless, just because it drives the resident Canuckistanian crazy (Nested parenthetical remarks FTW!))).

        I was desperately hoping you'd forget to close parentheses. Sadly, this parses.

        Atheism is a force for social good in this world (when you quote me to criticize my arguments, please include this; I've said it twice). Intolerance is a force for social evil in this world. Insisting that everyone believe the same way you do, and then getting very angry when they don't, and then glorifying your anger as if it were virtuous is pathetic and childish. I'm talking about you, Cyberlizard.

        Getting a group of people to revel in self-righteous anger because all of you insist that everyone believe what you believe is the genesis of every mob atrocity. Does that mean you have committed a mob atrocity? Of course not. It just means you are in the spot where mob violence starts. It's a rush. It feels good, but it's unwholesome.

        Dude, seriously. The intolerance is aimed at us, not aimed by us at religious people. We here, all three of us at least, have nothing against the people that are infected by the mind-parasite that is religion. Especially not you. If you detect any animus in our words just by virtue of us using curses now and then, maybe you'd be well advised to merely chalk the curses up to anger, to barks from wounded dogs that are just now starting to fight back. I have a lot of theist friends, but I have no qualms with telling them to get into the fight or get out of our way.

        This whole "antitheism is intolerance" thing is like "antihomophobia is intolerance", or "antiracism is intolerance". It doesn't parse, unlike CyberLizard's horrid sentence-code above. Being against a pernicious and hate-filled piece of mental programming, trying to install reason in as many brains as possible as a form of antivirus software, is no more intolerant than its analogue in computers is intolerance of computer viruses.

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