General Question

sap82's avatar

If all atheists want is for people to quit pushing there faith on them then why use bumper stickers that specifically bash Christ.

Asked by sap82 (704points) July 10th, 2009

Atheists must want more than seperation of church in state otherwise they would’nt care. But since you do use bumper stickers to promote your lack a faith it makes it look like you are taking a side of faith. Which I have been told by many atheists it is not the case. A real atheist would’nt give it any thought at all. Whats the deal folks.

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69 Answers

seekingwolf's avatar

Some atheist (like fundamentalist Christians) believe in letting EVERYONE know about their beliefs. They have bumper stickers, talk about it, go to conventions, and bash what they don’t believe in.

Atheists, by definition, believe in no god. This doesn’t mean that they are (or should be) apathetic. They are vocal about their belief in a lack of god.

augustlan's avatar

I would just like to point out that I see far more bumper stickers espousing Christianity than I do atheism.

As a side note, why is it only Christians that feel it’s necessary to advertise their religion on their cars? When’s the last time anyone saw a star of David or a Sickle on a car? (Aside from those ‘coexist’ bumper stickers which try to include symbols all faiths).

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Free speech applies to bumper stickers too.

Phobia's avatar

Agreed with @seekingwolf. Just because they are atheist, doesn’t mean they want nothing to do with religion. They are like the others and want to spread their beliefs.

Why use stickers that specifically bash Christ? Correct me if I’m wrong, but maybe its because Christianity is the most followed religion. If you are going to find a group to bash, pick the biggest one for the biggest response.

syz's avatar

I’m sorry, but as an atheist, I don’t knock on your door on Saturday morning, leave pamphlets in your door and on your car, pay for billboards and television ads, and the myriad other ways that religion gets pushed. You’re upset about the occasional bumper sticker?

Saturated_Brain's avatar

Sigh…. Here we go again…..

brettvdb's avatar

My bumper sticker says “Pay Xenu his taxes or he will devour your soul.”

kevbo's avatar

I know this is tangential to the discussion, but the range of symbols allowed on national cemetary gravestones is kind of fascinating. The athiesm symbol looks like an atom icon.

Phobia's avatar

@Saturated_Brain the debate and arguments over religion will never end :\

Fyrius's avatar

Atheists are a diverse group. Sentences beginning with “atheists want” or “atheists are” almost invariably overextend their commonalities, and are true for some and false for other atheists.

So yeah. Some atheists don’t give a hoot about what other people believe at all, while others get completely freaking obsessed about it (guilty). But they’re not a homogeneous group that collectively want one thing or another.

marinelife's avatar

I think it may be a mistake to assume that people sporting anti-fish symbols are necessarily atheists.

They may just be mocking the original symbols.

They may dislike the “secret brotherhoodness” and exclusivity of it.

Just as I would not lump together all Christians as a single group, i would not lump together all non-Christians.

Phobia's avatar

@Fyrius The same can be said for Christians. Just google the list of different churches. Just like I may consider myself a Christian, but you’ll never see me fall into trying to spread my beliefs to others. I really don’t care what people believe as long as they leave me alone about it.

Let me add, I think its hard to say anything stereotypical or generalizing of a group of people. There are always many exceptions.

Fyrius's avatar

Granted, to some extent.
On the other hand, followers of any religion will still systematically have more in common than atheists, though – a religion is a set of beliefs, at least a significant subset of which is shared by all of its followers. Atheism is in principle nothing but the rejection of such sets of beliefs. What they believe instead is completely up to them.
Not that atheists do not tend to value the same things – rationality and scientific thinking, for example. Such tendencies exists because such things are what lead many atheists to atheism.

calvinette's avatar

Wait… which bumper sticker did you see specifically bashing Christ? I have not seen this.

I have seen the fish symbol with the feet, denoting a belief in evolution, and taking a little poke at the Christian fish symbol at the same time. Clever, funny, but not necessarily atheist or Christ-bashing. Be more specific, please.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

What about the very common “REAL MEN LOVE JESUS” sticker that shows up everywhere?

My ORGASMIC CHURCH OF EVELYN, HOME OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST DEITY is about a joke religion, and there are FSM stickers everywhere, I think whining about how people portray their sense of humor or beliefs on a bumper sticker is being a bit too sensitive. Lighten up, you’re just mad because you can’t burn heretics and apostates at the stake anymore. :-)

I have seen I FOUND JESUS, HE WAS IN THE TRUNK stickers a few times, and it is merely being clever on a common Xtian theme. Keep your sense of humor sharply tuned, you’re gonna need it in this world.

if you can’t take a joke, then take the bus

wenn's avatar

I am an atheist and do not bash other religions or have bumper stickers.

i keep what i believe, as far as religious matters, to myself. If someone asks what i believe or wants to spark up a debate ill play along until i get bored.

People, whether they christian, jewish, muslim, hindu, taoist, agnostic or atheist or whatever else, need to learn to believe what they want and just live their lives, keep it to themselves.

jsut for the record though, i have never come across an atheist handing out flyers on the streets or hassling people saying “oh man you gotta not believe in God”
Christians on the other hand, are freaking everywhere, of course they have a right to believe what they want by all means, jsut keep it to your freaking selves. i cant even count how many times someone has told me i “have to go to church and believe in God and jesus as my saviors or ill burn in hell” as i walk down the street to class.

please jsut believe what you wish to believe and keep to yourself, the world would a much more pleasant place for everyone

bythebay's avatar

I really don’t care what you believe or don’t believe in. I really don’t care what you have on a bumper sticker or a t-shirt. It’s much like everything else in this world, I don’t have to read it, watch it, participate in it, or even care. To each his/her own. Ahhh, the beauty of freedom.

cookieman's avatar

A Tale from an Alternate Universe

::knock knock::

Hello there fine sir and madame. I am from the non-existent church-temple-synagogue of atheism.

I was hoping to take up some your time this Sunday morning to say, ‘Have you thought about what will happen after you die?’ No? Well let me tell ya…is that the kids there? ‘Hey kids’.

Where was I? Oh yeah – ‘Nothing’. Nothing is what happens when you die. You basically cease to exist and your body begins to… ::SLAM::

Sir? Sir! If I could just have another minute of your time. (sound of sirens in the distance)

CMaz's avatar

Why do some people feel it is ok to pick their nose?
Now that would be a cool bumper sticker.

Harp's avatar

Seems to me that the atheist reaction to Christian symbolism is more about politics than about ideology. Stickers with anti-religious themes started appearing after evangelical Christianity became a unified political force. The ubiquitous “Jesus fish” came to be seen as synonymous with a particular political agenda, and so it became the target of those who oppose that agenda. You didn’t see Darwin fish before the Moral Majority came along.

This is tribalism at heart. We find comfort in identifying with a group, especially in politics, where numbers are everything. You may see putting a Jesus fish on your car as a profession of faith, but others will see it as a gang tat in the political turf war. Putting a Darwin fish on your bumper is less about promoting atheism than a way of saying “there may be a lot of you, but we’re out here too and we’re not just going to roll over”.

CMaz's avatar

It is that ego thing.

You put a fish of your car to show profession of your faith. There will always be people seeing it as an agenda. Not just a sigh of YOUR happiness.

Like the proud parent that has the honor student stickers on their car.
Then came out the ,“My child beat up your honor student.” bumper sticker.

brettvdb's avatar

Great answer @Harp !!

dexterious's avatar

Because at their core, atheists are fundamentalists. They say to religious types: You cannot prove there is a God, therefore he doesn’t exist. But what is their proof that God doesn’t exist? They have no proof, yet they purport to know the truth that God doesn’t exist.

Thus, they are not content simply to live and let live. They feel the need to impose their views on the rest of us in the same fashion that they see fundamentalist Christians and others trying to cram God down the rest of our throats.

brettvdb's avatar

@dexterious I don’t necessarily agree with you – I don’t think its the same to say that God not existing is as likely as God existing. The classic example is the giant invisible pink elephant in the room you’re sitting in right now. You can’t prove it’s not there, but does it make more sense to believe it is or believe it isn’t. Not that this is your position, but I find it ridiculous when the defense of religious folk against atheism is that they can’t prove God doesn’t exist. There are tons of things we don’t believe in that we can’t prove don’t exist.

I do agree though that most atheists are not simply just content to live and let live like you said, even though most of them say it, including me.

Anyways, there are an endless supply of topics on this matter, so I won’t waste more space in this thread!

marinelife's avatar

@dexterious A lot of projection there.

One cannot prove a negative.

Evangelicals are the ones who are not content to live in their faith without proselytizing and while saying publicly that anyone who does not believe as they do is doomed to everlasting pain.

calvinette's avatar

@sap82, I’m guessing by your silence that you are what the kids call a “troll”? Am I using that right? What is the point of starting these arguments if you’re not going to bother to engage?

CMaz's avatar

“without proselytizing and while saying publicly that anyone who does not believe as they do is doomed to everlasting pain.”

As popular an action that is. THAT is not being a good christian.

marinelife's avatar

@ChazMaz I agre, but it is a common stance.

“Throughout his rise, Pearson preached the fundamentals: Everyone is born a sinner. Everyone is going to hell & unless they accept Jesus Christ as lord.” Carlton Pearson

“The problem increases in complexity: how, as faithful Christians, are we
supposed to relate to our neighbors who do not share our Christian faith? Until
recently Christians related to non-Christians as if there were pagans – in the worst
sense of the word. Non-Christians were perceived as targets for conversion. In a
sense there is truth here. We do wish that all would come to the knowledge of the
love of God as manifested in Jesus Christ.
Yet, I doubt if anyone here assumes that a non-Christian neighbor is a savage.
Most often our new neighbors are kind, decent people who want to be good
neighbors and good citizens. Too often, although not all the time, Christians
relate condescendingly towards people of other faiths.” From a sermon.

“Gov. Rick Perry, after a God and country sermon attended by dozens of political candidates Sunday, said that he agreed with the minister that non-Christians will be condemned to hell. “In my faith, that’s what it says, and I’m a believer of that,” the governor said.

Throughout much of the 90-minute service at Cornerstone Church, Mr. Perry sat on the red-carpeted stage next to the Rev. John Hagee. Mr. Perry was among about 60 mostly Republican candidates who accepted the invitation to be introduced to the megachurch’s congregation of about 1,500, plus a radio and TV audience.

“If you live your life and don’t confess your sins to God almighty through the authority of Christ and his blood, I’m going to say this very plainly, you’re going straight to hell with a nonstop ticket,” Mr. Hagee said during a service interspersed with religious and patriotic videos.” The Governor of Texas

Jeruba's avatar

Are you under the impression that you can make a true statement about all atheists? It seems obvious to me that some atheists think one way and some think another. I hope this doesn’t come as a surprise.

MrKnowItAll's avatar

It depends upon what kind of God you don’t believe in.

Some atheists don’t believe in a Loving God, and some don’t believe in a Vengeful God. So if you don’t believe in a Vengeful God, you better be careful what you say about her.

Nially_Bob's avatar

Some people enjoy making their opinions public and some of these “some people” are, whether intentionally or not, disrespectful when doing so.
@Saturated_Brain Awww, here goes! <Kenan and Kel theme>
@augustlan Espousing. Good word.

Fyrius's avatar

“People (...) need to learn to believe what they want”
Despite being a fellow atheist, I am diametrically opposed to this point of view, and its ubiquity utterly pisses me off.
I think people should actually learn not to believe what they want, but what they think is true. I’m all for letting people make up their own minds, and I commend any thoughtful point of view on such matters, but this celebration of wishful thinking needs to stop. People willing to invest time in deciding what to believe should search for the truth, not for what fantasy they like best.

“You are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts.” – Anonymous

Ivan's avatar

It’s not quite fair to be generalizing about what atheists “want”.

wenn's avatar

@Fyrius ehhh i said

“People, whether they christian, jewish, muslim, hindu, taoist, agnostic or atheist or whatever else, need to learn to believe what they want and just live their lives, keep it to themselves.”

so if you had bothered to pay attention to what i wrote you would realize i was not talking about ‘learning to believe what they want.’ i was talking about learning to have their beliefs and not try and tell others what they should believe and why they are wrong and blah blah blah.

so, please dont stop reading half way through and then give me a bunch of crap

tiffyandthewall's avatar

the more appropriate question is, why do some people think there is a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ system for people who have one set of beliefs, but not another?

cwilbur's avatar

There are atheists who proselytize for their faith as passionately as the most dedicated Christian fundamentalists. And there are Christians who think that, as most people have heard the story of Jesus and have been told at least once that unless they believe in Him that they are going to Hell, that there is little value in being a nuisance about it.

I’m a Christian, but I don’t see the need to advertise it on my car. And if I did, it would be the shield of the Episcopal church, not the Jesus fish—because, as has been pointed out, the Jesus fish has been coopted to the point that it is really a statement of politics rather than faith.

Fyrius's avatar

Oh, I paid attention, all right. I know and knew it’s not your central point.
But that does not stop me from commenting on it. I think you’ll find you will often be held responsible for what you consider minor aspects of your posts. It’s a good way to learn to pay attention to what you say.
Anyway, you did say people “need to learn to believe what they want”. Whatever the context, this is like nails on a blackboard to me. If “believing what they want” is really not what you meant at all, then I ask you to please use a different formulation.

Another way to put it is that you happened to have the misfortune to accidentally address a major pet peeve of mine.

wenn's avatar

@Fyrius its not my problem you dislike the word want. my statement makes sense jsut fine, chopping it up like you did sure it sounds a little strange. but its completely different to the meaning as a whole. and that is your own doing. i know perfectly well what i wrote, thats why i wrote it.

like i said, if you dislike the use of “learn” or “want”, just rearrange, replace or disregard them in your head. and dont waste my time with your pet peeves.

watch, its reallllly easy, ......................

i just disregarded everything youve said without wasting peoples time over trivial matters.


brettvdb's avatar

@wenn no part of me agrees with what you’re saying. Did you even bother to read what the purpose of Fluther is?

Nially_Bob's avatar

@wenn Forgive me for interfering here as, though I find this discussion interesting, I have no intention of participating in any significant manner. I do however have a question. You have mentioned that you’re an atheist and that you’re a christian in seperate comments:
“I am an atheist and do not bash other religions or have bumper stickers”
“I’m a Christian, but I don’t see the need to advertise it on my car.”
Would you be so kind as to appease my curiosity by clarifying your theological beliefs?

cwilbur's avatar

@Nially_Bob: you need to pay attention to the username, rather than the avatar picture. Both @wenn and I have generic avatars, and you appear to be getting us confused.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@cwilbur Ack! My mistake sorry :)

Fyrius's avatar

No, your problem is that with formulations like this, you give people the wrong idea. And in doing so, you advocate a mind-set which at least in my personal ever so humble opinion is the cancer killing realistic rationality among the general public.

And I contend that such alleged trifles are not to be trifled with. Whether it’s your main point, a casual side note or even just an implication of what you said, if you say it, you say it, and people who disagree with it can address that disagreement. If what you say is not really what you mean, mind your tongue, or pen.
And yes, this is something you said yourself, not something I chopped up your post to say. I took that phrase from your post, only taking out your long list of people who should learn to believe what they want.

Your final advice has me even more confused. Certainly I could rearrange, replace or disregard elements of your post to make it say something other than what you actually said and that I like better, but what kind of sense would that make? And isn’t that exactly what you accused me of doing just now?
I could rearrange, replace and disregard parts of your post to make it say:

“just disregard everything i said, i know perfectly well i waste peoples time. your own doing makes sense jsut fine. cheers.”

And then I could nod and say you’re right.
Would that make you happy?

And yes, now we’re wasting even more time over this. You could end this by just owning up to having said something you didn’t mean.

mattbrowne's avatar

If someone shares his or her belief that God doesn’t exist, it makes other people think about the question whether God exists or not, which is a good thing. Making people think seriously is always a good thing. I like atheists who share their beliefs openly. Non-dogmatic atheists are very open minded. I sometimes take issue with atheists who create dogmas like the non-existence of God is a certain thing, or the only real Christians are the ones who believe in magic and who take the whole bible as one huge dogma, letter by letter. I still like some of those atheists as well, but debates can become tedious at time and it’s important to know when it’s time to quit.

Fyrius's avatar

I agree very much with you here. Except for your usage of the word “dogmatic”, which I contested elsewhere.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – Thanks. Yes, I’m aware that I’m a little behind in replying to all details of your well-written lengthy replies. What exactly is a dogma? To me it does not have to do with religion alone. Maybe this paragraph taken from Wikipedia helps:

“At the core of the dogma concept is absolutism, infallibility, irrefutability, unquestioned acceptance (among adherents) and anti-skepticism. These concepts typically invoke criticism from moderate and modulated conceptual approaches, and thus “dogma” is often colloquially used to indicate a doctrine which has the problem of claiming absolute truth, when other concepts may be superior.”

A few examples:

immaculate conception of Maria – a catholic dogma
papal infallibility – a catholic dogma
practice of the Mitzvot – an orthodox Jewish dogma
god does not exist – an atheist dogma
god is fiction, a human invention – an atheist dogma
science leads to atheism – an atheist dogma

A statement like ‘I believe God doesn’t exist” is not absolute and therefore non-dogmatic. Another example would be: “There is a theistic and an atheistic interpretation of the universe.”

I really wish that some atheists would not sound so absolute.

brettvdb's avatar

I would never ever sound absolute.

* grin *

Fyrius's avatar

Lol, okay, didn’t mean to push you. Take your time to reply.

Well, by that (more agreeable) definition, any proposition can be a dogma. “God does not exist” is not in itself an atheist dogma, it only is so for specific atheists. In the same way, “soap makes you clean” could be a dogma to some people. Or “I love her”, or “I trust him”.
In other words, being a dogma is not an inherent property of a proposition, but only a product of how it is believed by any specific person. It’s relative to the believer.

Catholic or Judaic or [insert religion here] dogmas can “officially” be dogmas if an organised religion decides they should be so for every follower. But since atheism is largely not organised (1), “god does not exist” can be a dogma only among a subgroup of atheists. And a well-considered and debatable view to another subgroup of atheists.

I suppose you are aware that “absolute truth does not exist” can also be a dogma, and indeed it is to many people who accuse others of dogmatism all the time. (I’ve been one of them, long ago.)

(1) Of course it can be organised, in belief systems such as Buddhism, or in many completely different conceivable ways. But mainstream atheism is not.
Atheism is a class of world views anyway, like all the religions taken together form the complementing other class. Atheism is everything except the religions.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – Instead of dogmatic and non-dogmatic atheism, Wikipedia speaks of antitheism,
secular humanism, metaphysical naturalism, weak and strong atheism, implicit and explicit atheism and New atheism.

The latter is characterized by seeing religion as not just factually false, but also destructive. This is contrasted with Victorian atheism, which mourned that belief was no longer possible. New atheism, like Nietzsche, celebrates freedom from God. It appears the term was coined by Wired magazine in their article “The Church of the Non-Believers.” (an organization of atheists?)

I think a lot of Flutherite atheists fall into the category of New atheists viewing religion as destructive. A New atheist leader (organizer?) is Richard Dawkins.

Do I appear destructive to you? Are Fluther moderators outraged by my comments?

Fyrius's avatar

Hang on. Those are points of view. Their distinction has nothing to do with dogma versus no dogma. None of them is dogmatic in itself, for the reasons I just realised and outlined above.

I for one find myself agreeing much with this view that considers religion dangerous and detrimental. But not dogmatically at all. I’d always be willing to have anyone try to talk me out of it, if they think they can.

I’m completely in the dark as to what your last line is supposed to mean. Of course not, but who said you were?
Is it because you’re religious, and you (rightly) think I believe religion is destructive? In that case, this has no relation to the idea that you personally would be a destructive person, let alone a controversial half-troll (which is something completely different yet again.) Arguably the system of religion is an inherently detrimental one that absolves personal responsibility and can easily lead people to commit atrocities, but of course that doesn’t mean every religious person does so every day.

As a final note on Dawkins, I wouldn’t want to call him a leader. An inspiration, rather, and a spokesperson and champion of militant atheism. But not someone who can tell other atheists what to do, save by modestly proposing a course of action they agree with..
Though he does seek to get atheism organised.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – If A then B and if B then C, we conclude if A then C.

If religion is destructive (dangerous, detrimental) and I am religious, then we can conclude that I am destructive (dangerous, detrimental ;-), so I should be banned from Fluther. A Christian misbehaving badly.

Have you ever gone to a church and met really evil people? And what about the religious people who hand out food to the homeless? Barack Obama is a religious person. After graduation he could have earned a lot of money in New York, instead he went to Chicago as a community organizer. Was this a very dangerous or detrimental act? Because the bible is full of rubbish?

Fyrius's avatar

Long post ahead. My apologies.

There is a flaw in your reasoning that I believe I already addressed in my previous post. I’ll expound on it a bit more explicitly.

If religion is destructive and you are religion, then yes, you are destructive. But you are not religion, you are religious. Just a follower of a flawed system. Thus your syllogism is more like “if A then B and if C then D, we conclude if A then D.” In which there is of course a link missing, since B and C – religion and religious people – are not the same entity.

Compare the following.
Cancer is lethal. John has cancer. Therefore John is lethal.

Because those to whom religion is detrimental includes people like you, the followers. Religion can (and often does, I believe) come at the price of one’s rationality, mental maturity and responsibility, not to mention that it has you believing things that are almost certainly not actually true.

As Steven Weinberg put it, with or without [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things, but for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
And I do believe many religious people are good people – either because religion fosters and encourages the good in people, or because religion manages to attract people who were already good people most easily, for their need to believe the world is fundamentally a nice place.

What I oppose are the religions themselves, and religions are systems of beliefs. Another way to look at a religion is as a memetic life form that inhabits the minds of its followers and has been shaped by natural selection to have all the traits needed to ensure its survival. I often compare religion to language – that too is a system, a memetic life form, that only exists in the minds of the speakers, is passed on to our progeny and depends on humans for its survival. (And many people would believe until heaven and earth come to their end that the version of the language they grew up with is the only right one.)
But while language is a symbiont that offers tangible benefits in exchange for its living space in our skulls, I think religion is more like a parasite that has to trick people into keeping it alive through manipulation and dirty tricks. It exploits our innate proclivities to irrationality, our curiosity, our guilt, our reluctance to take responsibility, our desire for comfort in a scary universe, anything to keep it alive.

And thus religion is detrimental while its followers are not necessarily so.

cwilbur's avatar

From an earlier quip: “At the core of the dogma concept is absolutism, infallibility, irrefutability, unquestioned acceptance (among adherents) and anti-skepticism. These concepts typically invoke criticism from moderate and modulated conceptual approaches, and thus “dogma” is often colloquially used to indicate a doctrine which has the problem of claiming absolute truth, when other concepts may be superior.”

I think “God does not exist” is atheist dogma according to that definition. It’s absolute—no room for nuance, for doubt, for skepticism. It’s also a basic tenet of the atheist faith: and I say “faith” intentionally, because I have yet to see proof of the impossibility of God’s existence, and so the idea “God does not exist,” in the absence of proof, must be accepted on faith.

“There is no objective evidence that God exists that cannot be explained by a simpler phenomenon,” by contrast, is a reasonable statement, and not dogma.

@Fyrius seems to object to the concept of atheist dogma because there’s no atheist hierarchy to impose it. That’s not an essential part of the definition, as I see it.

Fyrius's avatar

@cwilbur: “I think “God does not exist” is atheist dogma according to that definition. It’s absolute—no room for nuance, for doubt, for skepticism.”
Not necessarily at all. Certainly the idea that god does not exist can leave room for doubt and scepticism. It all depends on the person who believes it, and to what extent and in what way they believe it.
For example, I’m an agnostic atheist. I believe god does not exist. I’m not absolutely certain of it, no more certain than I am of the notion that my kidneys are not made of gold, but I do hold both these beliefs as true nonetheless.
Someone else might be a lot more stubbornly decided on the non-existence of god and might want to hear nothing against this idea, and for them it may be a dogma.
My point is that the absolutism, infallibility and irrefutibility aren’t (cannot be) inherent parts of the belief itself. Absolutism is a property that a holder gives a belief.

That is another thing I object to, and my main subject of objection.

The absence of an atheist pecking order is merely a remark upon the fact that religious dogmas can be officially declared to be so by a central authority, so that all the followers are expected to hold these beliefs dogmatically, whereas this has no atheist counterpart. If you perceived this as my main objection, I’m afraid you largely missed my point.

mattbrowne's avatar

Good choice of words: ‘the idea that god does not exist’ instead of ‘the fact hat god does not exist’.

Since you mentioned memetics, to me both dogmatic theists and dogmatic atheists reach the level of the blue meme (which includes beige, purple and red), while non-dogmatic atheists and non-dogmatic theists, for example postmodern Christians (see information below) depending on their maturity level can reach the orange, green, even the yellow or turquoise meme, see

Have you read Don Beck’s “Spiral Dynamics”? A wonderful and enlightening read!

From Wikipedia: Postmodern Christianity is an outlook of Christianity that is closely associated with the body of writings known as postmodern philosophy. Although it is a relatively recent development in the Christian religion, some Christian postmodernists assert that their style of thought has an affinity with foundational Christian thinkers such as Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, and famed Christian mystics such as Meister Eckhart and Angelus Silesius.

Liberal Christianity has an affinity with certain current forms of postmodern Christianity. Despite its name, liberal Christianity has always been thoroughly protean. The word “liberal” in liberal Christianity does not necessarily refer to a leftist political agenda but rather to insights developed during the Enlightenment. Generally speaking, Enlightenment-era liberalism held that man is a political creature and that liberty of thought and expression should be his highest value. The development of liberal Christianity owes much to the works of philosophers Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Schleiermacher. As a whole, liberal Christianity is a product of a continuing philosophical dialogue.

Christian existentialism places an emphasis on the undecidability of faith, individual passion, and the subjectivity of knowledge and relies on Kierkegaard’s understanding of Christianity, who argued that the universe is fundamentally paradoxical, and that the greatest paradox of all is the transcendent union of God and man in the person of Christ.

Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation theory. Contemporary or modern hermeneutics encompasses not just issues involving the written text, but everything in the interpretative process. This includes verbal and nonverbal forms of communication as well as prior aspects that impact communication, such as presuppositions, preunderstandings, the meaning and philosophy of language, and semiotics. Semiotics, also called semiotic studies or semiology, is the study of sign processes, or signification and communication, signs and symbols, both individually and grouped into sign systems. It includes the study of how meaning is constructed and understood.

There are several special literary aspects to look at when studying the bible, but the overarching theme is that each genre has a different set of rules that applies to it. Of the genres found in scripture, there are: narratives, histories, prophecies, apocalyptic writings, poetry, psalms and letters. In these, there are differing levels of allegory, figurative language, metaphors, similes and literal language. For instance, the apocalyptic writings and poetry have more figurative and allegorical language than does the narrative or historical writing. These must be addressed, and the genre recognized to gain a full understanding of the intended meaning. The hermeneutics of religion can be seen as another form of continental philosophical theology.

The system of hermeneutic interpretation developed by Paul Ricœur has heavily influenced the school of thought. A central theme in the hermeneutics of religion is that God exists outside the confines of the human imagination. Trajectory hermeneutics or redemptive-movement hermeneutics is a liberal teaching in postmodern Christianity that parts of the Bible can have progressive, different meanings as a culture unfolds, advances, and matures.

One teaching under this view is that homosexuality was once a sin, but has become acceptable due to cultural changes and advances in understanding of psychology and the social sciences. Proponents of trajectory hermeneutics may point to Romans 1:18–32 and explain that Paul has always been speaking to those who violate their sexual orientation, those that go against their natural desire. But a homosexual’s natural desire is for the same sex, which is now defended as natural.

Fyrius's avatar

“Good choice of words: ‘the idea that god does not exist’ instead of ‘the fact hat god does not exist’.”
Thanks, I chose those words on purpose. Apparently there’s something left in me after all of the guy who would never belittle a controversy by presenting it as already settled.

On the subject of coloured memes: this concept is completely alien to me. As far as I know (from reading Dawkins, who invented the concept), memes are not grouped into easily conceivable categories with preschoolesque colour labels like this.
And I have my sincere doubts about the scientific validity of this Spiral Dynamics framework; it seems more like a pseudoscientific hijacking of the meme concept than of an enrichment to the principle. At any rate, this is not a science book.
For crying out loud, “Spiral Dynamics” is a registered trademark.

Meanwhile, I believe I still haven’t been given any reason not to consider religion detrimental, or any reason not to consider the bible a load of rubbish. Nor do I follow why we’re suddenly talking about hermeneutics here while we were talking about the definition of the term “dogmatic”.

On the subject of copy-pasting stuff from Wikipedia: please do me a minor favour and put everything you quote in italics or something, and explicitly mention what is from which article. It would render posts like the above a lot easier to follow. Especially if you already posted the same text in another thread I follow.

mattbrowne's avatar

I didn’t say Spiral Dynamics is a science book. It’s a philosophy book. I see nothing wrong with using color labels and associating this with preschool sounds like a preschool thing to do. QCD uses the concept of color charge (primary colors of red, green, and blue) which is a property of quarks and gluons related to the particles’ strong interactions.

Hermeneutics is key to understand traditional and modern forms of Christianity. In general modern forms of Christianity are less dogmatic than traditional ones.

Fyrius's avatar

I’d like to leave this tangent, please.

“I see nothing wrong with using color labels and associating this with preschool sounds like a preschool thing to do.”
So saying memes are “blue” or “green” doesn’t remind you of kindergarten teachers telling you Wednesday is “the orange day” and Thursday “the purple day”? Just me, then.
Anyway, this colour code just strikes me as nonsensical. It would have been so much more sensible to call them “level one” and “level two”, if only because that would be straightforward and open-ended. There is no connection between the colour blue and the memes that are supposed to bear this colour.
That is all.

Why quantum chromodynamics are exempt from this criticism is because 1) what QCD describes is a physical phenomenon, as is colour, making the analogy a lot less far-fetched; 2) the colours concerned in QCD are analogies for three basic kinds of charges, making the colour associations systematic as a function of combination of the primary colours, whereas these coloured memes are a list of entities that are arbitrarily associated with colours for no tangible reason.

“Hermeneutics is key to understand traditional and modern forms of Christianity.”
I’m sure it is. But how does that bear on the things I have said about modern forms of Christianity? Let alone about religion at large?
Forgive me that I’m not going to study hermeneutics just to sustain this discussion. I’d rather rely on your expertise in this area.
So, at your convenience, please bring on the counterarguments this field of study provides you.

“In general modern forms of Christianity are less dogmatic than traditional ones.”
Have you heard nothing I said?
Why do you cleave to this notion that ideas in themselves are dogmatic or not, rather than the people that hold them? I realise it might be arrogant for me to believe I debunked this view on the matter a few posts back, but I would very much like to know why you decide I was wrong.

Now, can we return to the subject of religion being detrimental or not?
It’s a much more interesting topic. :/

mattbrowne's avatar

Any belief system, philosophy or ideology can become detrimental, if it’s forced onto people and if dissenters are repressed. History is full of examples and this includes various religions as well. Today the most detrimental religion is islamist extremism, although some say it’s rather a political ideology.

Fyrius's avatar

But some belief systems, philosophies and ideologies are inherently detrimental, of themselves, regardless of how they’re handled. For example, if they discourage curiosity and intellectual independence, and advocate stubbornly clinging to beliefs in the face of counterevidence as the greatest virtue ever.

I think most if not all religions qualify so. Your own religion tells that the reason why Jehovah turned the world into a dystopian mess where we work and fight and suffer to survive is because the two first humans wanted to understand the difference between good and evil. Countless other myths tell of people who got into terrible trouble because they wanted to emancipate and didn’t take some deity’s word for it.

They all convey the same message: becoming independent is scary.

In other words, they encourage people not to grow up. To cling to the skirts of a supernatural parent when your natural ones won’t let you any more. Religions – as well as many forms of superstition and pseudoscience and the like – are so good at comforting people because they tell you “the world out there is scary, but it’s okay, you’re not alone. Mommy and daddy are here.” (Replace mommy and daddy by a race of kind big brothers from outer space in some cases.)
And of course, mommy and daddy (/ the space brothers) know what’s best, and even though you know next to nothing about them, you should just trust them and not doubt their knowledge or motives.

If the very foundations of a belief system are grounded in that sort of mind-set, I think that qualifies the system as detrimental in itself.

Whether we like it or not, we’re in charge of this planet, and we’re the only ones who can solve our problems. Trusting someone who might not even exist to do it for us is a dangerous indulgence we cannot afford.

Aaand that was another long post. Mea culpa.

mattbrowne's avatar

Interesting, but your reasoning has one flaw: How do you explain that the Renaissance era, the rebirth of science and the Enlightenment era was mainly triggered by religious thinkers instead of atheists? According to your logic, the rebirth of science should not have happened because religious people were grounded in their detrimental mindset. Come to think of it, religious thinkers like Martin Luther King and his detrimental mindset should have been unable to inspire millions of people and drive change which eventually led to the election of Barack Obama.

Yes, we’re the only ones who can solve our problems, but in my belief system God created the orderly biophilic universe which is the basis for intelligent life to develop. Our species has the intelligence to solve the problems and I’m hopeful that we will. Scientists and engineers are key and it doesn’t matter whether they are theists or atheists. We will have to solve the energy and resource crisis and prepare our planet for the time when it will have to accommodate 9 billion people. Quite a challenge!

Fyrius's avatar

I think the reason why science as we know it was initiated mainly by religious people is because religious people greatly outnumbered atheists at the time, especially among those who could get their hands on a decent education.
A more interesting question would be whether the Enlightenment wouldn’t have happened centuries earlier if it weren’t for religion. For one thing, if it weren’t for religion, people wouldn’t have been so complacent about their understanding of the world for so long (the Dark Ages).
Anyway, whatever its origins, science is presently continued mainly by atheists and agnostics. Though that might mean that modern science leads to atheism more than atheism is an indication of suitability for the universities.

Granted, the sort of thing Martin Luther King achieved goes to show religion also has certain benevolent influences. I just wish people like him could draw their inspiration from any philosophy that has the same benevolent influences without the intellectual detriment. Certainly there are plenty of those.
The fact that you think Martin Luther King’s work is a counterargument to what I said implies that you find yourself unable to think of religion as anything but either completely beneficial or completely detrimental. In a more articulate representation, the presence of one beneficial aspect obviously does not negate the existence of another detrimental aspect.

And I already pointed out why I think it’s a major reach to call our universe biophilic. I think “not entirely lethal” would be a much more accurate qualifier. In the vast majority of the universe, nothing would survive for a second.

mattbrowne's avatar

In the US a majority of scientists seem to be atheists while in Europe it seems to be the other way round (with Sweden to be an exception).

However, even in the US the majority of atheists seem tolerant and open minded and don’t think that being religious and having faith is detrimental.

Here’s a recent Newsweek article on this subject.

Defenders of the Faith – Scientists who blast religion are hurting their own cause

(by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum)

As soon as Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian geneticist who headed up the pioneering Human Genome Project during the 1990s, was floated as the possible new director of the National Institutes of Health—he was officially named to the post on Wednesday—the criticisms began flying. Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, for one, said Collins is too public with his faith. Collins wrote a book called The Language of God, frequently talks about his religious conversion during medical school, and recently launched the BioLogos Foundation, which declares, “We believe that faith and science both lead to truth about God and creation.”

The critics, though, have it exactly backward: the United States needs more scientists like Collins—researchers who show by their prominence and their example that a good scientist can still retain religious beliefs. The stunning irony in the longstanding tension between science and religion in America is that many scientists who merely claim to be defending rationality from religious fundamentalism may actually be turning Americans off to science, doing more harm to their cause than good.

The poster boy for the so-called New Atheist movement today is biologist Richard Dawkins, author of the bestselling book, The God Delusion. He and other New Atheists attack faith without quarter, and insist that science and religion are fundamentally irreconcilable. In the process, they are helping to keep U.S. society polarized over science and likely helping to make it still harder for many religious believers to accept scientific findings in areas like evolution. Although the New Atheists are not so numerous, and much younger as a movement than their polar opposite—the Christian right—they’ve amassed a powerful following, especially online, and have sold millions of books by prosecuting a culture war in precisely the opposite direction from the one waged by Christian conservatives. Science is their watchword, but it has always been about much more than that. The New Atheist science blogger PZ Myers, for instance, has publicly desecrated a consecrated communion wafer, presumably taken from a Catholic mass, and put a picture of it, pierced by a rusty nail and thrown in the trash, on the Internet.

The New Atheists are unswerving in their conviction that irrational religion is the source of many of our ills—especially when it comes to the public’s poor understanding of science—and vociferous in their criticism of scientists who nevertheless retain religious belief, like Collins, even though Collins is himself a strong defender of evolution. But the truth is that religious scientists like Collins have the best chance of making religious Americans more accepting of modern science. Consider the survey evidence, which shows that while most Americans want to have both science and religion in their lives, they’ll only go so far to preserve the former at the expense of the latter. According to a 2006 Time magazine poll, for instance, 64 percent of Americans would hold on to a cherished religious belief even if science had disproved it. Many Americans who reject evolution—a stunning 46 percent, according to surveys—assuredly fall in this category.

The public’s willingness to reject science for religious reasons is certainly lamentable. But by arguing that science contradicts religion and makes it untenable, many atheists reinforce the very concerns that are keeping people from accepting science to begin with. Someone like Collins, by contrast, can convince those who think science conflicts with their beliefs that this needn’t be the case.

And Collins’s approach isn’t just good as a strategy to get the public to better appreciate science. The idea that science and religion can be compatible is strong on the intellectual merits as well. Granted, it depends how you define your terms: if your religion holds that Genesis must be read literally, then you are in direct conflict with scientific findings about the age of the Earth, the diversity of life on the planet, and so on. Yet if we consider religion more broadly—in its own considerable diversity—we find many sophisticated believers who’ve made a peace between their belief and the findings of modern science. It’s not just Collins; consider the words of the Dalai Lama: “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.”

Americans have serious problems with science, and religion is definitely part of the reason. But that doesn’t mean fighting religion, indiscriminately, is the answer. A far better approach is to work with religious believers to help them separate their personal religion from everybody’s shared science, and move toward a much needed middle ground. The New Atheists will hardly be pleased by the Collins choice, but that’s unpreventable and perhaps even to the good: science and atheism aren’t the same, and the former must always remain a broader, more inclusive category.

Mooney and Kirshenbaum, an atheist and an agnostic Jew, are the coauthors of the new book Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future.

When will you find your peace, my friend?

Fyrius's avatar

“In the US a majority of scientists seem to be atheists while in Europe it seems to be the other way round (with Sweden to be an exception).”
Is that so? I wasn’t aware.
Any references?

“When will you find your peace, my friend?”
I’m still looking for it.
Believe me, I am. I’ve been a very patient and tolerant person for years, based on a naive postmodernist agnostic world view where every view that’s seriously held by anyone must automatically be a sensible one. Now I’ve learned that sometimes people really are demonstrably completely wrong but still immovably stubborn about their untenable views (Creationists were my first example). I just hope one day to find that sort of serenity again within this or my next understanding of the world.

The thing is that I keep my wish for peace of mind separated from what I think is the best stance. I’m cautious not to end up looking for ways to belittle the conflict, as some people seem to do, as long as I see reasons to believe there really is a fundamental opposition between science and religion. Wishful thinking to aid cultural tolerance is still wishful thinking, and I’m not convinced that end justifies the means.

I consider the mind-set expressed in the article you copy-pasted, which would rather water down the scientific philosophy to make it sound a bit nicer to the religious peeps, to be guilty of precisely that error. Even if calling science compatible with religion will get more people to accept science, unless it’s actually true, I feel very ambivalent about spreading that view.

Needless to say, I would very much prefer for people who would reject science in favour of religion to just stop being irrationalist idiots. But I suppose that would be way too much to wish for.

By the way, do you still think religion is not detrimental, in the face of this demographic? So many people would reject demonstrable, factual truth in favour of the mythological superstitions they happened to grow up with. Is that not a frightening demonstration of the intellectual harm religion can do?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – I think I read about this in a Spiegel article a year ago or so. The conclusion was that wide-spread young-earth creationism in the US alienates more and more scientists from religion. Creationism almost doesn’t exist in Europe. But keep in mind atheism and agnosticism do overlap, same for theism and agnosticism. Scientifically I’m agnostic, spiritually I’m a theist. I believe in God, but I’m aware this can’t be proved scientifically. This seems to be the approach of most European scientists. In most countries they have a relatively positive view of the churches, because there are far less vocal jerks. Televangelism is a minor phenomenon in Europe. When I watched a few of those channels the first time in the US it almost made me vomit. This kind of religion is certainly detrimental. And I thought to myself, no wonder so many people become atheists over there. Some churches in America are actually hate groups and they would be illegal in Germany. We’ve got very strict laws around here for everything related to Nazism, racism and other perverse ideologies. But these kind of extreme churches are not the majority. At least not on a worldwide level. Have you never encountered a non-detrimental minister, rabbi or imam?

I said this before: There’s a difference between some belief of Christianity and Christianity. There is hard evidence that science has proved some belief of Christianity to be right (1) and some to be wrong (2) and some remain open (3).

Here are some examples:

(1) Our world has a beginning, nonviolent action can drive change (Sermon on the Mount)
(2) Eve is made from a rib of Adam, Methuselah died at age 969
(3) God exists, God created the orderly biophilic universe

Yes, as you pointed out, people who reject science in favor of religion (Eve is made from a rib of Adam) should stop being irrationalist idiots. But maybe you can build bridges by mentioning examples falling into category (1), like our world has a beginning. Most scientists in the early 20th century including Einstein pictured an eternal universe. And here’s the irony:

Georges Lemaître, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest proposed what became known as the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe!

Btw, are you Dutch or are you an American who lives in the Netherlands?

Fyrius's avatar

I’m aware that most Europeans (at least where I live) are very tolerant of religion, though I have the impression it’s rather a mind-set of thoughtless political correctness. People respect religion more than they respect anything else here, to a point where we’re prepared to adapt otherwise uncompromising rules if someone’s religion demands it. Nobody seems to think a lot about why we should respect the religious so much.
It’s just a fact of life here that we have become so intolerant of intolerance that we’re afraid not to seem tolerant enough of other cultures, even of intolerant ones.

“Have you never encountered a non-detrimental minister, rabbi or imam?”
Of course I have. I’ve mentioned a few times on this site and elsewhere that I think Dutch Christians are pretty cool. And generally admirably mild-mannered and tolerant, with the kind of peace of mind I would envy.
You still seem to miss a point of mine I’ve clarified a few times by now. Again, I don’t think religious people are detrimental, it’s the system they follow that I oppose. Religion itself I regard as detrimental, the people who follow it not necessarily.

As for getting religious people to acknowledge science by mentioning those parts of their religion that science has not disproved…
It would seem at least to my academic mind that if some parts of a certain model of the world are true while others are false, the model on the whole can’t be trusted. That’s one of the reasons why I do believe there is a fundamental conflict.
And you might be able to trick religious people into getting interested in science if you overemphasise the class (1) parts of science and belittle the class (2) parts, but it doesn’t seem very fair.

“Btw, are you Dutch or are you an American who lives in the Netherlands?”
Why would those be the only two options?
I’m a Dutchman by birth. I’m as involved in American culture as I am from practically living on the Anglophone internet since the age of sixteen or so.

mattbrowne's avatar

Ask almost any educated German and he or she will tell you that the Netherlands is the number one most tolerant country in Europe. I frequently traveled to Nijmegen. Three of my most important peer reviewers of my sci-fi novel live there, one is English, one is from New Zealand, and the third is from South Africa. And they all married Dutch women. We often took our bikes and rode along the Rhine river. Beautiful area. I also love Amsterdam. Charming city!

Why we should respect religions? For one, they offer time-tested guidelines for ethical living. Of course not all forms and you’re right their systems can sometimes be outright detrimental. But as you pointed out those forms are rare in the Netherlands and also in Germany. They are more common in the US and the most extreme forms exist in countries like Saudi-Arabia.

The whole model? The core of religions is not about natural science. It’s about how people can get along with each other, how to form communities and help each other. Rituals are one means of forming bonds in social groups. Fanatics like flat-earth creationists confuse the bible with a science book. But you have to admit that even modern science using scientific method can only come up with models containing parts that are true while others are false. This is the very nature of science. The job of scientists is to question everything.

Fyrius's avatar

As for time-tested guidelines for ethical living, I contend it’s easy to find moral guidelines that are equal or superior but don’t come with the baloney.

In addition I’d like to take the stance that secular morality, which is based on personal responsibility and consciously decided ethics, is morally superior to religious morality, which is (almost invariably) based on reward and punishment after death from someone else who just dictates how to behave. Religious morality is based on the dangerous concept of letting someone else decide how you live your life, and supported by the even more dangerous belief that their decisions are always the right ones even if you don’t understand them yourself. Secular systems of morality at least remain realistic about the fallibility of their authors.

As rare as suicide bombings, abortion doctor murders and other religious terrorism are around these parts, you may find few of these among religious people, but you’ll find none among atheists. It’s only the religious that are prepared to do terrible things for their religious point of view. As an atheist, you’re considered a militant bully if you put up a billboard saying not all atheists are bad people. That’s how low the bar is for atheist terrorism.

I think it’s time to discard the time-tested morality and adopt a brand new system that visibly works better.

“The core of religions is not about natural science. It’s about how people can get along with each other, how to form communities and help each other.”
If only.
It would be great if that were what religion is about, and if the religions would delimit themselves to that. But religion cannot be called religion if there isn’t also a strong and fundamental element of speculation about the nature of the universe involved. There’s almost invariably one or multiple gods, there’s almost invariably an afterlife, there’s almost invariably a holy essence inside all humans that makes us special and valuable. These are all beliefs about the universe, these are all inherently scientific ideas. They are also all probably wrong.
I wish you were right, Matt. But I don’t think you are.

“But you have to admit that even modern science using scientific method can only come up with models containing parts that are true while others are false.”
And those models are indeed recognised as ultimately not really reliable, though it’s presently our best bet. The job of science is to improve the model until it is completely true.
The difference is that science does not hold any model as absolutely true, and that permits it to make some wrong predictions. A scientific model is tentative, and everybody knows it to be tentative. A religious world view on the other hand is considered to be absolutely true.
Furthermore, another difference is that a scientific model is a coherent system that can be understood and evaluated for oneself, and each sub-part is extensively evaluated and proven, documented in publicly available journals. A religious world view is a collection of random ideas for which you can only take the religious authority’s word for it. For a scientific model the reliability of the source isn’t all that important, as you can judge the model yourself on its merits, but for a religious world view the reliability of the source is everything. And if a source that claims always to be right turns out to be wrong about one thing, that reliability is tainted.

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