Among the Nonbelievers: Part II

Atheist activists in Orlando talk John Locke, religious toleration, presidential politics, and Don't Ask, But Do Tell.

Organized atheism as represented by the Moving Secularism Forward conference sponsored by the Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism is relentless, at least with regard to holding meetings. I must confess that I missed the opening panel on activism on the second day of the conference (read all about the first day here). This was particularly regrettable because among the panelists was Jessica Ahlquist, the Rhode Island high school student who was a plaintiff in the recent case Ahlquist v. Cranston in which she sued her public school over displaying a gigantic banner emblazoned with what was a Christian prayer. The school tried to counter that it wasn’t really a “prayer” because it had hung there for 40 years or so and therefore represented part of the “history” of the school. In any case, Jessica sued and won. She has been vilified by many in her Rhode Island community, but clearly was a hero to the atheists (and to me) assembled at the Orlando conference. During the course of the conference, several mentioned that they hoped that she would one day run for president. But as I say, I am sorry that I largely missed that panel.

Over lunch, philosopher Russell Blackford gave an intriguing talk in which he argued that we moderns could learn a lesson or two for the 21st century from 17th century British philosopher John Locke, specifically from his "A Letter Concerning Toleration." Locke’s letter was written when much of Europe was embroiled in various religious wars. In Blackford’s gloss, Locke made a distinction between what government is good at and what the church is good at. “The commonwealth seems to me to be a society of men constituted only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing their own civil interests,” asserted Locke. He went on to note that in the secular realm civil magistrates by equal application of the law protects “civil interests” which Locke identified as “life, liberty, health, and indolency of body; and the possession of outward things, such as money, lands, houses, furniture, and the like.” With regard to the spiritual realm, Locke argued, “The end of a religious society is the public worship of God and, by means thereof, the acquisition of eternal life. All discipline ought, therefore, to tend to that end, and all ecclesiastical laws to be thereunto confined.” Russell pointed out that Locke’s views on religious toleration have triumphed in Western countries since most polls find that the majority of Christians agree with the notion of separation between church and state. (I can’t resist pointing out the 1864 Syllabus of Errors issued by Pope Pius XI did not accept such a notion of religious toleration.)

In his talk, Russell however reminded us that Locke did argue that three groups could be persecuted—atheists, Muslims, and Roman Catholics. The first because their lack of belief meant that they would not fear to break their oaths. Locke worried that society would fall apart if people no longer felt bound to fulfill their promises. The second and third because of their allegiance to foreign powers. Blackford thinks that Locke would take contemporary empirical evidence into account and would argue that these groups should now be included within the ambit of religious toleration.

Interestingly, Blackford brought in Locke on the current brouhaha over the Obama administration’s health insurance contraception mandate. In Blackford’s reading, Locke argues that enforcing mutual generally applicable laws that would apply to all groups is not religious intolerance. But is that quite right? Locke did argue that the “magistrate” is not required to tolerate the religious sacrifice of infants. Why? “These things are not lawful in the ordinary course of life, nor in any private house; and therefore neither are they so in the worship of God, or in any religious meeting,” asserts Locke. Blackford’s interpretation is that the state has good secular reasons to impose the mandate that all employers buy health insurance that covers contraceptive services; therefore Locke would not deem it persecution when applied even to religiously affiliated organizations. However, it seems a long stretch to get from prohibiting human sacrifice to mandating contraceptive services. To see how persuasively Blackford makes his case of this interpretation of Locke, see his new book, Freedom of Religion and the Secular State.

Answering questions after his talk, Blackford noted that his argument (and Locke’s) for religious toleration would “fall flat” in societies in which religion cannot be criticized, e.g., Saudi Arabia. In response to a question about France’s more aggressive notions of secularism (laïcité), Blackford said that he is against laws such as those banning the wearing of burqas in public. “I’m not for getting religion out of the public; I am for getting it out of politics,” he said. Blackford further asserted that many supposedly “secular” arguments against issues like human embryonic stem cell research and gay and lesbian marriage are actually smokescreens for religious claims.

Participants on the next panel, "Does Secular Humanism Have A Political Agenda?," included geneticist Razib Khan (conservative), anthropologist Greg Laden (liberal), former Colorado Rep. Pat Schroeder (progressive), and me (libertarian). I went first and my (shocking) conclusion was that the political agenda of organized secular humanism is basically indistinguishable from the standard issue left-wing egalitarian agenda. More on that at another time.

Next up was Razib Khan who calls himself as an atheist conservative and runs the website SecularRight.org. Khan is a happy intellectual warrior who seems to have become “conservative” on the realization that rationality is not all that there is to human flourishing. People are embedded in and derive meaning from their families and communities. He is quite clear that he sees himself as defending Western civilization and the notion of freedom of religion that is distinctive to the United States.

The designated liberal on the panel, biological anthropologist Greg Laden, noted that the political stances of the two major parties might have evolved differently than they have. For example, the Republicans under Teddy Roosevelt were conservationists and favored various Progressive regulatory schemes. Although Laden didn’t note it, Roosevelt launched the agency that has evolved into the Food and Drug Administration which now regulates about one-third of our economy. Conversely, Laden observed that when he volunteered for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party in Minnesota, he found that most of its union members were socially conservative and “all were anti-abortion”—yet they voted DFL. There is a kind of cultural path-dependence in the formation of political parties. In his talk Laden correctly remarked, “You must accept science even if it makes you uncomfortable.” Here’s looking at you anti-biotech crop crusaders. On the other hand, he also declared, “Nobody should be a Republican unless they make more than $250,000 per year and are religious.” Laden thinks that secular humanism has an agenda and it’s left wing egalitarianism.

Former Congressperson Pat Schroeder was billed as the progressive on the panel. Perhaps. Basically, Schroeder spent most of her time urging the assembled seculars to get out and vote this November. And she wasn’t shy about which party secular humanists should support, repeating the bumper sticker slogan: “Voting is like driving: Choose "R" to Go Backward, Choose "D" to Go Forward.” Schroeder properly sneered at Newt Gingrich’s incoherent assertion (and that’s putting it charitably) at the Cornerstone Church in Texas that he fears that unless he is elected that his grandchildren will live “in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.” Secular atheist and radical Islamist? Schroeder also drolly noted that several earlier Republican presidential hopefuls, e.g., Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, had claimed God’s blessing for their candidacy. If that was so, she asked, does that mean that they were removed from the campaign by God? So does secular humanism have a political agenda? At the end we all concurred that as currently constituted that it did and that it amounted to a suite of policies that further the goals of left-wing egalitarianism.

The banquet stemwinder was by Tufts University philosopher and one of the Four Horsemen of the New Atheism Daniel Dennett. His talk was entitled, "Who Isn’t an Atheist?: Don’t Ask, Do Tell." Dennett began by suggesting that hostility toward atheists is the result of fear. “When we see hostility, then we know that they are more afraid of us than we are of them,” said Dennett. He added that when folks are experiencing deep visceral fear “there is no way to talk calmly and reasonably to people who are that scared.” So why are they so scared?

Dennett likened the situation to one in which aliens land on our planet and the young folks begin adopting their culture and mores. From the point of view of the adults the aliens are leading the kids around like Pied Pipers; they abandon their churches, universities, tell the folks that evolution is cool, etc. In fact, more and more Americans are loosening their attachments to religion. From the point of view of faithful parents, “it’s as if we [atheists] came from outer space,” said Dennett. The reason for the fear, according to Dennett, is the speed of culturally disorienting change over the past 20 to 30 years. Religion has changed more in the 20th century than it did in the preceding two millennia. Explaining what he meant by “don’t ask,” Dennett equated religionists asked by secularists to justify their beliefs to frightened raccoons trapped in a barn. His advice, don’t block the barn door.

Dennett then explored what people might mean when they claim they are believers. He opened by suggesting that talking about religious belief raises the problem of radical translation. Imagine an anthropologist landing among a new group of people and she must learn their language—there will be many confusions along the way—and how can the anthropologist really know that she understands what the native speaker means? Dennett cited philosopher W.V.O Quine’s ideas about the web of belief in which the meaning of assertions depends upon deeply embedded background assumptions. If an observer doesn’t grok the assumptions, he will have a hard time discerning the meaning of some statements. Religious statements are much like that. A Catholic believer is required to profess certain doctrines, but how well does each believer understand their meaning?

Dennett puckishly asked: Is the Pope an atheist? Dennett suggested that the Pope doesn’t really know himself; that he is no more an authority on what he believes about God than anyone else. What does Dennett mean by “do tell?” Dennett cited the recent ruckus in Canada where an education official in Alberta asserted that homeschoolers could not teach their children that homosexuality is a sin because that would violate Canadian non-discrimination laws. This is confronting a trapped raccoon. Instead of confrontation, Dennett advised when silly claims made by religionists come up, that secularists gently expose people, especially children, to mountains of fact that undermine certain assertions. The world was created 6,000 years ago? Mention that scientists have discovered that dinosaur fossils are millions of years old.

Dennett suggested that religion is much like the Santa Claus myth. It’s mutual knowledge among adults that Santa Claus doesn’t exist; everybody knows that everybody knows that it’s a myth, but they go along with it for the sake of entertaining young children.

The final session on Sunday morning asked: What are our objectives as secular humanists? The panel featured Free Inquiry columnist Ophelia Benson, Director of CFI’s international programs Bill Cooke, U.S. Executive Director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science R. Elisabeth Cornwell, evolutionary biologist P.Z. Myers, physicist Victor Stenger, and religious studies scholar Anthony Pinn.

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  • shrike||

    Ayn Rand was the epitome of a secular humanist.

    And I hope Bailey enjoys spring break in Florida and maybe chases a little tail while there.

  • ||

    Nobody sane goes to Orlando for spring break. No beach.

  • ||

    Plus, didn't Daytona townies decide they didn't want undesirables there? My understanding is that PCB and Miami are the current tolerant beaches, but that might have been several years ago now.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Funny how shrike would say anything nice about Rand, given his hero-worship of dangerous multi-billionaires.

  • Realist||

    The only tail Bailey will be chasing is his own.

  • ||

    Jessica Ahlquist, the Rhode Island high school student who was a plaintiff in the recent case Ahlquist v. Cranston in which she sued her public school over displaying a gigantic banner emblazoned with what was a Christian prayer. The school tried to counter that it wasn’t really a “prayer” because it had hung there for 40 years or so and therefore represented part of the “history” of the school. In any case, Jessica sued and won. She has been vilified by many in her Rhode Island community, but clearly was a hero to the atheists (and to me) assembled at the Orlando conference. During the course of the conference, several mentioned that they hoped that she would one day run for president.

    Nothing says "hero" like being offended at words on a sign. Your Liberty ends where my offense begins? Pathetic.

  • Tonio||

    Establishment clause, Marshall. You lose.

  • Zeb||

    I think "hero" is a bit much. But her offense at the sign is neither here nor there. Government institutions should not be promoting any particular religion (or religion in general) and that is just what hanging up a banner with a Christian prayer on it does.

  • o3||

    but but but intelligent design...mumble mumble....teh CHULD RENZ!1!!1

  • Sparky||

    You know, there's no reason you can't both be right.

    Was it wrong for the school to have a huge banner with a prayer? Yes.
    Was Jessica an ass for going out of her way to be offended and suing the school? Yes.

    I'm an atheist too, but I'm one of the ones who wouldn't give a shit if every tree was decorated and every street corner had a nativity scene for Christmas. It just doesn't cause me any harm.

  • ||

    Agreed. It barely generates a "meh" on my part. This probably wasn't even her idea anyway, but something her parents cooked up.

    People need to understand that it's not really what you believe that is the problem, but rather if the intensity of that belief makes you annoying or dangerous to be around.

  • ||

    I ... wouldn't give a shit if every tree was decorated and every street corner had a nativity scene for Christmas. It just doesn't cause me any harm.

    Amen! ^^This^^.

    OTOH, I do get a little pissed off at little rituals like "Silent Moments" (or whatever name they're given) which are moments designed to put peer pressure on non-believers.

  • Sparky||

    When I played baseball in high school, our team would do a little prayer at the beginning of every game. I just put my hand in with everyone else then just stood there looking around until they were all done.

  • RBS||

    I still do this at family gatherings like thaksgiving etc. and office functions. I like to see who is actually praying who is just waiting for it to be over.

  • ||

    Yeah, who doesn't? I go to funerals, including my own parents, and I bow my head, and stand when the priest says to, etc. If you don't, you're an asshole. The public sphere is a different matter. Personally, I am not offended by silent moments, or creches in parks. You know, I don't really think that anybody is. But, when it's pointed out, and somebody pretends they are offended, courts have to act.

  • Ryan||

    Well, since the government already acts based upon religion in a number of ways, it's not like we're fighting to maintain a separated church and state.

    However, removing the pretense that the separation exists (not that that'll ever happen (hopefully)) would be problematic.

  • DarrenM.||

    You are confusing (and conflating) church with religion.

  • ||

    I am the same Sparky, but you have to keep an eye on those bible-totin' sons of bitches. As long as they arent trying to shove your nose in it, they are ok.

    However, if you give them half an inch.....

  • Zeb||

    Who says she was even offended? She might just really care about separation of church and state. Why should anyone care what her motivation was?

  • Sparky||

    Unless the banner was raping students as they entered the school, why should anyone care what the motivation for putting it up was? If the banner had been there for 40 years why was it suddenly a threat to somebody's sensibilities?

  • Zeb||

    What I am saying is that maybe is wasn't a threat to anyone's sensibilities. Maybe she just did it to make a point.

  • BigT||

    What if the sign had said: "Whites only" and had been there 60 years? I think we would all see that as offensive and inappropriate.

    A wise principal would find a reason to take it down and file it in the archives - so it wouldn't be ruined.

  • ||

    We might have to use it again.

  • Sparky||

    What if the sign had said: "Whites only" and had been there 60 years? I think we would all see that as offensive and inappropriate.

    I don't think that's a valid comparison. I have doubts that the prayer banner was exclusive of any particular group.

  • Old Man With Candy||

    Except Jews, atheists, Buddhists...

  • Sparky||

    You could be right. I guess IMO the only point she made is that she's a douche.

  • ||

    What if the banner said "Oh, Y*hw*h, I thank you that I am neither a gentile dog nor a woman, but that Thou hast blessed me with manhood"? Would that be okay?

  • Sparky||

    Except Jews, atheists, Buddhists...

    So you think the sign said "Christians Only"?

    "Oh, Y*hw*h, I thank you that I am neither a gentile dog nor a woman, but that Thou hast blessed me with manhood"

    Nowhere does it say "Jews Only" so I'd be fine with it staying up.

  • MJ||

    That's heavily implied by "neither a gentile dog".

  • wjv||

    The prayer would have mentioned Jesus, in all likelihood, or at least the judeo-Christian God or Kingdom of heaven etc. In any of these cases it is privileging the beliefs of some group of people over another. Worshipers of Odin or Osiris would have felt left out.

  • ||

    If a public school is located what was formerly a religious building and prayers are carved in stone on the walls that would be quaint and historic. But a banner hanging for 40 years? Not faded? Not decayed by sunlight? I am skeptical. Too many times I have seen the religious crowd lie for what they believe to be the greater good....same shit as the progressives do. End justifies the means crap.

  • Ashlyn||

    I find her pretty impressive, actually. Most sixteen year old girls have a hard enough time standing up to the little everyday pressures of teenage social life. This kid put up with harassment, death threats, and a general atmosphere of "I hope Satan rapes you in hell, atheist scum." Sticking to your guns in the face of so much Christian love and agape seems pretty heroic to me.

  • ||

    C'mon Ashlyn. She's got the whole secular media, the courts, her parents, and all her friends that thinks it's cool to fight the principal on her side. It's not throwing mudballs at Hitler.

  • I.E.||

    Yeah! Because every teenager values the opinions of federal judges more than their peers.

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    public school

    Get it now? Of course this is just another example of how public schools are the real problem. No issue if this was a private school.

  • Tonio||

    Ron, do you have any figures on how atheists break down politically? I've been looking on teh webs but can't find any.

    Progressivism seems to be the hugely predominant political affiliation of atheists with libertarianism making up the next biggest block.

  • ||

    do you have any figures on how atheists break down politically?

    Merely watching politics is enough to make just about anyone break down.

  • Tonio||

    Aresen, that's the kind of punk-ass answer I'd give. Respect, dude.

  • ||

    I know a dozen or so locally, and myself. We are all libertarians with a conservative bent.....all of us consider progressives to be abhorrent. All of the ones I have met from out of state are progressives *gag*.

  • Tman||

    That's not my experience. Most of the atheists I know are pretty liberal, if not complete Obamabots.

    Most of the agnostics I know (myself included) are probably libertarians but they don't realize it, it's the militant atheists who are unanimously liberals.

    I don't think it's a coincidence.

  • ||

    You are onto something there. I am as solid an atheist as anyone can get, but not militant by any means. In fact I have some respect for xianity because of it's cultural influences. I am not sure it would be a good idea for it to go away. All the atheists I know are the same, but they are all locals and we share a common micro-culture.

    Perhaps the culture one grows up in influences what kind of atheist they become.

  • ||

    Perhaps the culture one grows up in influences what kind of atheist they become.

    Exactly. If your reason for being an atheist is to not be like Bible-totin' redneck dittoheads, then you were probably a leftist to begin with.

    I came to atheism out of anti-authoritarianism. Which doesn't lead to worshiping the state as a God-proxy.

  • Tman||

    That's the appeal of agnosticism to me. The main religions don't really answer the questions I have about life in a way that satisfies me, but I'm not here to say those answers are wrong for everyone. It is and should be a personal internal conversation.

    But I don't have the answers either, and honestly I think the atheist answer is just lame. It's not "nothing". It's something, I just don't know what it is, and frankly I'm not sure my brain is qualified to fully understand the answer- thus agnosticism defines me well.

    Apply those attitudes to politics and you can probably see what the affiliations break down in to.

  • ||

    Believing that an individual is not a means to anyone's end but their own is not believing in nothing, Tman.

    Not believing in supernatural explanations doesn't make someone a nihilist.

  • Sparky||

    Not believing in supernatural explanations doesn't make someone a nihilist.

    That's a very common misconception by non-atheists, I've found. It run along the same lines as "if you don't want government to do it then you don't want it done".

  • Tman||

    Believing that an individual is not a means to anyone's end but their own is not believing in nothing

    I agree. I think that statement applies to both agnostics and atheists equally. Where I get off the bus with atheism is the rejection of the idea that there is a greater force behind the universe that had a hand in its creation/evolution.

    I prefer to answer that question with "I don't know, and frankly science doesn't know either." Considering we can't see what's on the other side of our universe or whether or not there even IS another side of it says to me that it could be something or it could be nothing. Either way we don't know.

  • ||

    Frankly, I find the notion of a Supreme Being absurd. Absurd in the philosophical usage, but absurd nonetheless.

    But I'm really more of a trespass atheist in everyday life: I don't care what you believe as long as you keep it out of my yard.

  • Sparky||

    Absurd in the philosophical usage, but absurd nonetheless.

    You beat me to the punch. I'm perfectly fine with accepting that my experience of the universe is what it is because that's just the way it is. I've never really felt the need to believe that some higher being may have started it all.

  • Tman||

    I'm perfectly fine with accepting that my experience of the universe is what it is because that's just the way it is.

    My recent foray in to amateur astronomy has raised questions about the universe that to me aren't within the realm of our current intellectual capacities. In the short term that means that yes, "my experience of the universe is what it is because that's just the way it is" but in the long term I believe technology will allow us to increase our capacity for understanding these bigger questions.

    "As the area of our knowledge grows, so too does the perimeter of our ignorance."
    - Neil DeGrasse Tyson

  • Sparky||

    but in the long term I believe technology will allow us to increase our capacity for understanding these bigger questions.

    Maybe, and I hope you're right. More knowledge is always a good thing. And as more information becomes available I will have no problem adjusting my views to fit.

  • ||

    Tman: rejection of the idea that there is a greater force behind the universe that had a hand in its creation/evolution.

    Gravity?

  • Tman||

    Ron:

    Quantum Gravity?

  • Tman||

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_gravity

    Quantum gravity theory for the highest energy scales

    The general approach to deriving a quantum gravity theory that is valid at even the highest energy scales is to assume that such a theory will be simple and elegant and, accordingly, to study symmetries and other clues offered by current theories that might suggest ways to combine them into a comprehensive, unified theory. One problem with this approach is that it is unknown whether quantum gravity will actually conform to a simple and elegant theory, as it should resolve the dual conundrums of special relativity with regard to the uniformity of acceleration and gravity, and general relativity with regard to spacetime curvature.

    (continued....)

  • Tman||

    Such a theory is required in order to understand problems involving the combination of very high energy and very small dimensions of space, such as the behavior of black holes, and the origin of the universe.

  • RBS||

    Yeah, the girl I share an office with is pretty liberal and a militant type atheist. I'm libertarian and my wife is sort of a ron paul republican, minus the god stuff of course.

  • Ashlyn||

    "Militant" atheist is a pet peeve of mine. When religious fundamentalists get mad, they blow up buildings and shoot doctors. When atheist "fundamentalists" and "extremists" get mad, they write books and give lectures.

    Calling such people "militant" furthers the false equivalency, I think.

    This is not to say that atheists cannot be totally fucking obnoxious. Particularly the ones who think that their atheism makes them smarter than you.

  • Tman||

    Well, one could argue that the evils of communism were due in many ways to the state replacing religion as the focus of worship, which was an atheist way of looking at things.

    In that regards Atheists are just as culpable.

  • ||

    So, not true atheism since Lenin, Stalin and Mao were gods in all but name. Srsly.

  • Zeb||

    Um, no. Do you know what "unanimously" means?

  • Tman||

    Yeah, typo. Sorry. I meant predominantly.

  • ||

    The local atheist meetup group is predominantly progressive, but they aren't as hostile to non-progressives as, say, Pharyngula.

    Progressive voices predominate among self-identified atheists, with Penn Jilette being the notable famous exception.

  • ||

    Penn Jilette is the man. I saw penn and teller perform at the texas renaissance festival before they were famous. They were quite good. I have kept an eye on him ever since.

  • ||

    That's cool. I always wondered what Ren Fest P&T were like.

  • ||

    Progressivism is a Christian ideology because it substitutes government for God. the 2nd commandment, love your neighbor as yourself, becomes the governing philosophy. Young people need self esteem enhancement to love themselves enough to love others, while the rich must be progessively taxed in order to love others as much as they love themselves.

    of course, gov't must be expanded to enforce the 2nd commandment.

    Most atheists are still playing in the Christian sandbox, just under other names.

  • Tim||

    King Arthur: I am your king.
    Woman: Well I didn't vote for you.
    King Arthur: You don't vote for kings.
    Woman: Well how'd you become king then?
    [Angelic music plays... ]
    King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king.
    Dennis: [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

  • GroundTruth||

    Unfortunately, doesn't the conversation then turn to the "purpose of government being the redistribution of wealth"?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I see a certain tension between the following two parts of the article:

    "So does secular humanism have a political agenda? At the end we all concurred that as currently constituted that it did and that it amounted to a suite of policies that further the goals of left-wing egalitarianism."

    AND

    “The good news for secularists like me and those gathered in Orlando is that trends supporting secularism in the U.S. are positive.”

    It's *positive* that a movement dedicated to "further[ing] the goals of left-wing egalitarianism"
    is showing positive trends in the US?

    Is that because less-free countries have better population growth, while freer countries have, on average, rates below replacement levels?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I'm also interested in the casual assumption that there is no tension at all between Darwinian evolution and same-sex marriage. If you believe in pure Darwinism, presumably you will think of man/woman marriage as an evolutionary adaptation, not a conspiracy by antigay evildoers. And that messes with the narrative, doesn't it?

    And which is the "religious" position on SSM? Where I am, when there's an event promoting same-sex marriage, the event is likely to be held at a church like the UCC or the Unitarians.

    So why don't they see this as a battle between Darwinian supporters of traditional marriage, and religious supporters of SSM?

  • Sevo||

    Eduard van Haalen|3.8.12 @ 2:03PM|#
    "And that messes with the narrative, doesn't it?"
    Uh, what narrative would that be?

  • o3||

    not evolution.

    selective adaptation.

    und de GAYZ adapted

    comprende?

  • Sevo||

    o3|3.8.12 @ 2:08PM|#
    "comprende?"

    Nope. Lost my ignoramus decoder ring. Can you find someone to translate from ignoramus to English?

  • Sparky||

    I tried but the best I could come up with is this:

    1000010010 1000001010
    1000100010 0110010001
    1001111001 0110000010
    0000110010 1000100101

    Any better?

  • o3||

    u mean ur secret ovaltine decoder ring sevo?

  • Sevo||

    o3|3.8.12 @ 2:26PM|#
    "u mean ur secret ovaltine decoder ring sevo?"

    No, I meant something to decode what ignoramuses like you post.
    Comprende?

  • o3||

    "not evolution.

    selective adaptation."

    I'm so stupid I think they're different!

  • o3||

    so did darwin

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    The individuals in a gay marriage are still capable of passing on their genes quite easily. So are straight non married couples or asexual loners (one donation to sperm bank can make you very successful at it). There are many paths to Darwinian success in modern humans, in fact it's very difficult not to be.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The question why do we have a "heteronormative" definition of marriage? Is it because of evolution (a Darwinian explanation) or a consequence of a cruel conspiracy by evildoers trying to keep gay people down?

    The latter explanation is the one you hear in public debate, including in liberal churches.

  • o3||

    obviously heteronormative marrage is selectively adapting

  • Zeb||

    Who the fuck cares? People should be able to do what they want to. The question of how gayness and evolution/genetics are related may be an interesting scientific question, but it is completely irrelevant to questions about gay marriage and such.

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    I don't have a "heteronormative" definition of marriage (and I think that word is really annoying), so "we" is irrelevant to me.

    There is no "Darwinian explanation" for straight marriage at all. Darwinian success is based solely on you and your descendants ability to pass on their genes irrelevant of how or why it occurs. Evolution doesn't have values.

    Also, that is a false dichotomy, as there are numerous other explanations besides the two you listed.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    But the antigay explanation is so prevalent in the SSM side that it has become an essential part of their rhetoric.

    Rather than explain patiently why the government should recognize SSM and force private business to recognize it too, the SSM supporters simply claim a monopoly on basic morality and decency, explain that their opponents can only be motivated by hatred, and hope that this moral blackmail will be enough to short-circuit debate and get the result they desire.

    Without the hatred/conspiracy explanation, the SSM movement will have lost about 90% of its moral force.

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    Maybe but it has nothing at all to do with evolution. So you're going to have to come up with a better explanation for why people feel icky about gay people getting married.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    How do you think marriage in its traditional form evolved among human beings?

  • ||

    Marriage never "evolved" in any form in the biological sense. Marriage is a social/cultural construct devised to cement cross family/tribal/clan ties and create alliances between two unrelated groups. Also, marriage has always been variable depending upon culture. In fact polygamy was once very common.

    Biologically hetero monogamy is very uncommon. Even within the human species monogamy is oft not the norm. Furthermore there are gay dolphins, birds, apes and many other animals. Evolution doesn't care one bit. All that matters is survival of the species.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Here's another reason for the social evolution of marriage: Providing a good environment for children to grow up, prosper and hence spread their genes.

  • Zeb||

    Which seems like a good argument for same sex marriage. Gay people do have children.

  • MJ||

    Not with each other.

  • ||

    Eventually, people will get over the "feel icky" thing. When I was a kid, I was sort of anti-gay (but didn't harass them or anything). Now I really don't care what other people do. That's probably the long-term scenario.

  • ||

    Eddy, Eddy, Eddy...

    Well, the progressive atheists very much reject social darwinism. They have a huge disconnect about this and are very sensitive about it.

    Darwinism isn't always about passing on one's personal genetic material. Evolutionarily you're better off sacrificing yourself to save two siblings or three first cousins. So you don't have to reproduce to be beneficial to your immediate gene pool.

    I know plenty of gays who have had children the old-fashioned way, by impregnating women. This is a result of trying to fulfill society's expectations of us, and failing miserably. Trying to force gays into heterosexuality only leads to broken homes.

    UCC and Unitarians together have less than 2 million members worldwide, so those denominations aren't representative of mainstream religious or christian thought.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I am not familiar with any (non-marginal) person in the US who wants the government to force straightness on anyone. I presume that there are still people who wish to use social pressure to make their gay friends and relatives marry across the sex line, but I don't think they have govt support for this.

    The question is whether the govt should (a) give the benefits of marriage to SSM couples and (b) force private business to do the same.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    My point wasn't that UCC and unitarians are representative of religion, but that they are indeed religious and acting from religious motivations.

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    (a) Yes (though giving those benefits to nobody and abolishing government marriage would be better. (b) No

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    To my knowledge, none of the legislative bills, constititional amendments and judicial decisions on SSM have adopted the position you outline. Which doesn't make you wrong, of course, but the public discourse is proceeding on other lines, by which a and b are pretty much joined at the hip.

  • ||

    Eddy, to clarify my 2:42 I meant that families, those cornerstones of society, were the ones trying to force their expectations of heterosexuality on their kids.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Ah, well obviously that doesn't work for genuinely gay kids.

    Sometimes I get the idea that the SSM activists are trying to use the government to persuade their families: "Look! Our orientation/behavior is OK, the govt says it is!"

    An understandable impulse, if we accept that the govt's job is to enlighten the benighted about sex.

  • wjv||

    umm, if something is maladaptive from an evolutionary point of view, it does not justify making it illegal.

    Where would it end? Birth defects: illegal, mental illness: illegal, remaining a bachelor: illegal, not having kids: illegal.

    But this probably is the logic that the gay-marriage opposition follows. If its bad make it illegal. Unfortunately we can't legislate physics, if we could the first law to overturn would the 2nd law of thermodynamics without question.

  • ||

    Great article. The only bit that concerns me is the proliferation of biotech companies producing genetically modified organisms such as seeds that are drought resistant, weed resistant, etc. Because of their modified properties, it seems that these seeds being used for "good," i.e. to feed the population in the name of humanity, will eventually destroy natural seed biodiversity. Monsanto already has the ability to cast a small scale farmer into debt hell if they suspect a seed of theirs has grown on anything but their property, even if accidentally. Genetically Modified Organisms are the catalysts for monopolies, or the destruction of markets and liberty.

  • Sevo||

    Aaron|3.8.12 @ 2:06PM|#
    ..."Modified Organisms are the catalysts for monopolies, or the destruction of markets and liberty."

    Tin-foil hats, blue-light special, aisle 6.
    BTW, put the shiny side out.

  • Matrix||

    Monasto is famous for suing farmers who are not 'authorized' to use their seeds. Cross pollenization be damned!

    Also: terminator seeds

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    This is a problem with Monsato and Government crony capitalism not with modified organisms unless you think we are secretly controlled by a master race of corn.

  • Matrix||

    Agreed. It's very bullyish to go after poor farmers for growing seeds without authorization.

    Also, terminator seeds do not inspire any confidence from me.

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    Bullshit, genetically modified crops have arguably saved more lives than any other innovation in human history.

    will eventually destroy natural seed biodiversity

    Genetically modified crops are no less "natural" and just as much part of biodiversity as any other crop.

  • ||

    You can't use facts to argue with fundies.

  • ||

    Additionally, one or two generations out from the modified seed and it is back to its wild state. Geez. Aaron, try growing a pear tree from the seeds you get from a pear in the grocery store, see what you get.

  • Zeb||

    That varies a lot depending on what you are growing. And fruit trees are not a good example as they are pretty much never grown from seed, but are grafted.

  • T||

    What? Johnny Appleseed was a lie?

    My worldview is destroyed.

  • Zeb||

    If you every try to eat and apple from a feral tree that grew from seed, you will know why.

  • Zeb||

    Well, he almost has a point. There is a much smaller variety of crops grown today than was in the past. And a lot of cultivars are lost copletely. But it really doesn't have anythign to do with genetic modification per se, but with standardization of crops by large seed companies.
    I'm not saying this is an entirely bad thing. The new crops that have replaced the more diverse crops of the past are far more productive and make it possible to feed the world. But lack of genetic diversity does come with problems. Genetic engineering helps, but it is also a good thing to preserve natural (or "conventionally bred", you know what I mean) genetic diversity so you have more raw genetic materials to work with.

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    As we become more advanced with genetic engineering we will be even more capable of developing an endless amount of diversity in crops. A free market in biology and agriculture would also help let this loose as apposed to our crony capitalist model we have today.

  • ||

    "Genetically Modified Organisms are the catalysts for monopolies, or the destruction of markets and liberty."

    Please tell me this is a condemnation of crony capitalism.

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    Yeah, if a farmer is successfully sued because a Monsato seed got blown on to his farm by accident that is a problem with the law and the courts not with GMO.

  • ||

    Genetically Modified Organisms Intellectual property scams are the catalysts for monopolies, or the destruction of markets and liberty.

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    +1 Corn doesn't sue people.

  • o3||

    not evolution.

    selective adaptation.

    und de GAYZ adapted

    comprende?

  • o3||

    it ignores 2x posts

  • ||

    Organized atheism

    To me, this is missing almost the entire point.

  • Sparky||

    Why, where is the problem?

    You and I can get together and talk about our experiences from time to time. Maybe if we find enough like-minded people we could meet more often, say once a week. And if we get a large enough group we could find a nice building to hold our weekly meetings in...

    Oh, I think I see your point now.

  • Ryan||

    As I've said before, there are many reasons to organize but lack of a certain belief is a silly reason.

  • ||

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!

    My father invited me to join him in the Atheist club meeting in Houston, which he joined for the purpose of picking up women. I joked; " Atheist club? Arent these supposed to be individualist, free thinkers? Non-joiners? Non-team players? Do they have rules for the club? Are their rules similar to the charter for the anarchist organization? "

    As I suspected the club meeting turned out to be a total cluster-fuck.

  • ||

    I know exactly one person involved in an atheist "church." He's a bit sensitive and a friend of my wife, so I've never pinned him down on why he bothers. Baffles me, though.

    It's like a book club getting together every week to talk about how none of them want to read Harry Potter.

  • Tim||

    +1

  • Ice Nine||

    How'd he do?

  • Zeb||

    Organized Atheism

    Yeah, seems a little unnecessary. But I do find that atheists generally fall into two broad categories. There are the atheists who are specifically rebelling against the religion that they were brought up in, or just have a chip on their shoulder about religion for whatever reason. This type holds atheism as a central part of their worldview and is kind of an anti-religion. I imagine these are the types who would go to an atheist church. Then there are the people who just don't see any good reason to believe in God and leave it at that. If your worldview never included God, then not believing in God is no different from not believing in any other made up story.

  • Ashlyn||

    The idea of an atheist "church" is just stupid, especially when espoused by actual atheists. But organized atheism does not seem strange to me.

    If you lived in a society in which the majority of people believed in the literal existence of Santa Claus, where they donated billions of dollars to making sure every home had a chimney, where they tried to get flying reindeer biology taught in schools, where all kinds of harmless activities can get you put on the naughty list...

    You might want to hang out with a group of like-minded sane people once a week, too.

  • Eric||

    Agreed for the most part but there's a third group too: Those who have have rejected the notion of God after searching.
    I really wish that I believed in God but I can't make the logical leap to do so. People who genuinly Believe are lucky - they've got a loving caring, superbieng watching their back, and when they die, they truly believe that they're going to heaven.
    I'm a reluctant agnostic. I've attempted to have faith, and to believe, but I can't. And I won't do it just to make myself feel better.

  • Ashlyn||

    I felt that way for a few years - a little envious of people who ould believe in something that gave them such a strong sense of their place in the universe.

  • Ryan||

    I think 'faith' is more of a hope than a belief for most people (just a guess).

  • Sparky||

    As an atheist, that's roughly how I think of 'faith'. It's not belief in some higher guiding power, it's the understanding that given past experiences I can make reasonable guesses on what might happen in the future even though they might not be accurate.

  • ||

    Ryan and Sparky, the fact that you cant grasp the concept of faith is interesting to me. I cant either. We just arent wired that way but....you are wrong, they really do believe.

  • Sparky||

    I guess for my part I misread Ryan's post. I don't know why I interjected atheists in there. My response is solely my way of viewing the word faith as an atheist.

  • Ryan||

    I did say it was just a guess. I have limited experience with faithies, and from what I can tell most of them don't have what I would consider to be a belief. It's pretty much semantical, anyway.

  • Zeb||

    I am glad to hear some other people express my same confusion with the idea of religious faith. I really just don't get it. Religious people think I am making fun of them when I ask them about it, but I really just don't see how that works. Why would you believe one thing rather than another?

    My favorite question for religious people: Does it matter if what you believe is true?

  • Ice Nine||

    Step 1) Your parents believe the "one thing".
    Step 2) You have no imagination.

  • Zeb||

    Huh? 1)That's not a very good reason to believe anything after you are 10 years old. 2)I can imagine lots of things, but that doesn't give me any reason to believe one of them over another.

    What's your point?

  • Zeb||

    I think I completely misinterpreted your comment. My apologies if that is true.

  • Ice Nine||

    It was a sarcastic but accurate answer to this: "Why would you believe one thing rather than another?"

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, I figured that out. At first I thought #2 was directed at me.

  • Zeb||

    it's the understanding that given past experiences I can make reasonable guesses on what might happen in the future even though they might not be accurate.

    I think that is called "empiricism". Isn't that sort of the opposite of religious faith?

  • ||

    Empiricism generates faith. I have faith the sun is going to come up tomorrow. I have faith that if I throw my stapler at my brutish student employee it will obey the laws of gravity.

    I understand faith just fine, but faith in the unknown and unknowable is a different animal. It strikes me as believing as you're told. Received wisdom concerning the abstract never did sit right to me.

  • Sparky||

    ^This.

  • Zeb||

    Well, yeah. I find that faith is used in two quite different ways, which is why I try to specify "religious faith" when that is what I am talking about. Of course I understand faith in the sense that I do believe that gravity always works the same.

  • ||

    You have to be very clear when you post, Zeb. You are one of only two MNG Certified® Libertarians that post here. The rest of us are undercover Free Republic GOPers.

  • ||

    Three sentences? Fuck you.

  • Sparky||

    It's not MNG's fault that you don't make as much money as he does and are thus not as smart as he is.

  • Zeb||

    It's a heavy burden I must bear.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Faith is belief in the absence of evidence, you slut.

    I forget who said it, but proof of God's existence would destroy religion. If God could be measured, he would become just another object of study, and Theology would become a science.

  • ||

    I remember Asimov saying something similar about magic. Maybe it was him.

  • Sparky||

    Are you thinking of Robert Forward who said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"?

  • Sparky||

    Oops, I guess it was Arthur C Clarke who said it initially.

  • ||

    If you're talking to me, no. Asimov said something about how if magic was real, it would obey physical laws and thus not be magic at all.

  • MJ||

    Yes, this is obliquely suggested in Tolkien. The elves were described as being bemused when the hobbits described elven artifacts as "magic", it seemed that the Tolkien's elves regarded what they did as a type of technology, however fantastic it might seem in the real world.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Could be - I'm too lazy to do much Googling. Wittgenstein (who was a Christian) said something similar, but I couldn't find the phrasing I remembered.

  • ||

    You are the slut, slut.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Ha! My hermaphrodite lover only counts as one person. And the goat doesn't count.

  • ||

    The goat doesn't count because he's just running the video recorder

  • Gadianton||

    Faith is actually part of the progression towards knowledge. See Alma 32 in the Book of Mormon for a better description.

    http://www.lds.org/scriptures/.....2?lang=eng

  • T||

    PJ O'Rourke: I believe that which you can prove by reason and experiment, and I want to see your logic and your lab notes.

  • ||

    I've also found it odd that most atheists fall into the left side of the political spectrum.

    A friend of mine has a theory that human beings have a need to worship, and that atheists end up worshiping the state instead of God. While I don't necessarily agree with that, I think it may be close to the mark. I think it's related to authority. When one believes in a deity, the state automatically becomes a lesser authority. (Which is why so many states throughout history have promoted emperor worship, divine right of kings, etc).

  • ||

    How does your friends theory explain the huge over-lap between Christian and conservatives? They worship two masters quite reverently.

  • ||

    Render unto Ceasar has come a long way, baby!

  • ||

    They don't believe that the state has no authority, only that it has a lesser authority. They hope that the state will be in accord with God's authority, but when it's not they will happily side with God over the state.

    As to why they are not libertarian... the same reason hardly anyone of any religion or non-religion or agnostic tendencies is not libertarian. Libertarians are RARE.

  • Sparky||

    Does my willingness to leave gay people alone make me a progressive/lefty? Does my willingness to let people do drugs as long as they don't bother me also make me a progressive/lefty? It's not from worship of the state that I hold these positions, it's from belief in freedom and personal responsibility.

  • ||

    What about your willingness to eliminate government schools? Your willingness to stop sending oodles of government money to university? Libertarians will take those positions, but atheists in general take opposite.

  • Gadianton||

    When your willingness to leave people alone becomes a demand that I abandon my personal views and accede to your demand that the government give its stamp of approval to something I deem a moral wrong, THEN you're a lefty/progressive.

  • Ryan||

    I don't think there's much of a causal relationship between atheism and liberalism either way.

    I'd say there's more of a relationship between religious beliefs and conservatism (or fake conservatism) which just leaves atheists and everyone else in a group together.

  • ||

    Brandy, your friend is almost right. People are wired to be people-centric. We see people in everything around us. Our brains are specialized to socialize with each other; gauge other people by facial expression, body language, voice etc....guess motive and intent and future actions of others....etc etc.

  • ||

    that spills over to our understanding of everything else around us because that is how we are wired to think. The world must be the product of design, there is a motive and end to all that happens, and a mover behind it all...so on.

  • ||

    In the absence of a 'god', most atheists replace that entity with ....the state? Top men?

  • sarcasmic||

    In the absence of a 'god', most atheists replace that entity with ....the state?

    Why must that entity be replaced?

    Why not simply reject it?

  • anon||

    As I've said before, I've been an atheist for 20 years, and I still only worship myself

  • ||

    I dont have an answer for you sarcasmic. I simply reject it. I suspect virtually all libertarians do. perhaps that is how libertarians are created. Most atheists dont, and thus become progressives.

    I have postulated before that Libeertarianism is limited by the limited number of the kinds of people who can think a certain way. It hasnt made me very popular here, as most dream that libertarianism will eventually win the day.

  • ||

    Libeertarianism....now there is an interesting word. Especially the beer part. What time is it? almost three....hmm. Cracking a cold one here.

  • sarcasmic||

    Damn you. I can't go anywhere until my transmission is done, and even then I've got an hour drive home. So no beer for me until at least five thirty.

  • Ashlyn||

    Petition Congress to mandate that all auto service stations provide beer to their patrons.

    When they say no, pitch a fit about how authoritarian tee-totalers want to take away your access to alcohol.

  • sarcasmic||

    no?

  • Ashlyn||

    *shrug* It's what the cool kids are doing.

  • sarcasmic||

    *shrug* I've never given a shit about what the cool kids are doing.

  • anon||

    I'll add in defense of Suthenboy's view that Tocqueville felt nearly exactly the same way, and made a great argument for it. I just can't fucking remember what it was.

  • Zeb||

    It does seem odd to me too (I suppose most libertarian atheists must feel similarly). One thing might be that conservatives are not very likely to be atheists. Particularly social conservatives. And most people just foolishly accept that politics is divided into two halves and you pick one or the other. So atheists pick the one with less god stuff.
    Just idle speculation.

  • ||

    Why are we afraid of (these) atheists? Because of their barely-disguised universalism. Who cares that they don't believe in God? (Me neither!)

    I care that they expend so much energy worrying over what their neighbors believe. They betray that they aren't just atheist (believers in no god), but are active secularists who seek to marginalize those who disagree.

    I don't want Christians or followers of Islam using the machinery of state to run my life, but these guys seem to want "those people" excluded so that good secularists can use the machinery of the state to run our lives.

    Don't ask, don't care! If you want a state that controls who can himself "married" and to whom, you have to accept that sometimes that power will be used in ways you don't like.

  • Ryan||

    To be fair, religion has been the ostensible motivation for a lot of bullshit, and many atheists view religion as the source of that evil, rather than government. Many people grow up being exposed to two gods: the god of their church and the god which the government pretends to be. I suspect they tend to become disillusioned with the first god earlier and more easily, hardly realizing the existence, in their subconscious, of the latter.

  • Ashlyn||

    Atheists care about what other people believe quite simply because people tend to act on their beliefs. If you think that access to birth control is a good thing that gives people more choices and more control over their own lives, then yes you are going to argue in public against the Catholic Church's stance on birth control.

    I'm not condoning using the state to settle the argument. But is it really so surprising that atheists want to persuade people out of beliefs that they consider mistaken or harmful?

  • Ryan||

    It's not surprising, and part of the reason I come to the conclusion I do is that I remember the development of my own atheism. When I was a kid, I stopped believing in god but still had the same morals I'd always had. So naturally, I sought alternative methods of solving what I perceived to be society's problems.

    It took me several years to come to the conclusion that libertarianism is roughly my ideal philosophy.

  • Ashlyn||

    Sorry, that was directed more toward Colin. Threaded comments, how do they work?

    But you make a very good point about the lesser god that people sometimes turn to when they've become disillusioned with their church's god.

    Actually, this: "I sought alternative methods of solving what I perceived to be society's problems" reminded me of a quote I really love. It goes something like: "I was an idealist once, intent on making a better world rather than being a better man."

  • ||

    "I was an idealist once, intent on making a better world rather than being a better man."

    Excellent. Adding that to my repertoire. Any chance you know where it came from?

  • Ashlyn||

    I'm pretty sure it was a random commenter on a libertarian forum.

  • ||

    A gold star to them, and to you for remembering it. I already have someone in mind to whack over the head with that.

  • Zeb||

    Sounds about like my "journey" to being an atheist libertarian. Though I can't remember ever really believing in God.

  • Ryan||

    I didn't believe in a god either, but I considered its existence to be a possibility. My philosophical development is truly too much of a clusterfuck to articulate, but I never felt that a lack of belief necessitated an explanation.

  • ...---...||

    "Atheists care about what other people believe quite simply because people tend to act on their beliefs."

    And they're allowed to, even if they're Christians.

    "But is it really so surprising that atheists want to persuade people out of beliefs that they consider mistaken or harmful?"

    No more so that Christians doing the same.

    Which was kind of the point you just missed.

    And as an aside, your justifications suck.

  • Ashlyn||

    Of course they're allowed to. I'm not against Christians being Christian, nor am I against them evangelizing. I just think they're incorrect about the nature of the universe.

  • Billy Graham||

    But is it really so surprising that atheists want to persuade people out of beliefs that they consider mistaken or harmful?

    Preach it sister, spread the gospel! Minister to the heathens!!!

    WAIT A SECOND! You're an ATHEIST? What are you doing testifying?

    The funny thing is, you really have no intention of ever admitting that you're exactly like a Christian in everything but deity, despite openly admitting it right there.

    Let me level with you, MIND YOUR OWN FUCKING BUSINESS.

  • Ashlyn||

    Holy fucking spaghetti monster, you're right. We should shut down the marketplace of ideas right now. Get this fucking site off the web before it changes someone's mind, quick!

    "Exactly like a Christian in everything but deity..."

    Most Christians will tell you the deity part makes for a rather important distinction.

  • Ashlyn||

    ... Next time I'll pay more attention to the handle.

  • ||

    ^
    Bingo

  • ||

    You beat me to it Ashlyn. The Bingo was for you Ryan.

  • Ashlyn||

    I have the lightning fingers.

  • we||

    "With regard to future pandemics, it is very possible that Mother Nature could concoct a truly virulent bug, but the best way to counter future diseases is to unleash a robust biomedical industry."

    A superbug is much more likely to come out of a factory farm or an open-swer slum than a natural forest.

  • Tim||

    A rock may come out of deep space and clobber us too, but it won't care about politics or belief.

  • shut the fuck up||

    "A superbug is much more likely to come out of a factory farm or an open-swer slum than a natural forest."

    {{citation needed}}

  • ||

    Why do I get the feeling that after 'we' comes 'are the 99%'? Just a feeling mind you.

  • Sevo||

    Because your bullshit-detector is functioning very well.

  • ¢||

    If you believe in pure Darwinism, presumably you will think of man/woman marriage as an evolutionary adaptation, not a conspiracy by antigay evildoers. And that messes with the narrative, doesn't it?

    If you actually believe in evolution, not just "believe in evolution," yeah, probably.

    But you'd also probably note that both the push for and resistance to lawful gay marriage are exerting short-term selective/assortative pressures among regular breedin' folk—selection for conformity and extraversion (mostly) on the "pro" side and for independence and stability (mostly) on the "con" side.

    Then you'd shrug and go on thinking that people are animals.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Fair analysis. I see your distinction between believing in evolution and "believing in evolution." That strikes me as an excellent way to put it.

  • Matrix||

    If you believe in evolution, would it not make sense that you would be against egalitarianism? Survival of the fittest is not accomplished by such. Allowing the weakest amongst us to be picked off by the lions makes the species stronger in the end, right?

  • Tim||

    The lions would certainly agree.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Evolution *in itself* would not answer the moral question about egalitarianism, but it would put paid to conspiracy theories which say that humans are naturally egalitarian and are unequal only because of a conspiracy (preferably involving Koch Industries).

    I am sincerely interested in finding someone who actually believes in egalitarianism to the extent of rejecting any and all power relations. What I find instead are people who call themselves egalitarians and who are willing to have people in power use force to make people equal whether they like it or not. Which is not egalitarian, of course.

  • ||

    There's a difference between establishing a level playing field and tripping an athlete.

    Social darwinism, aka classical progressivism, tried to help evolution along by sterilizing those it felt unworthy and undesireable. Never let progressives forget their roots.

    Libertarians simply wish for government to leave people alone, trusting that the fit will prosper.

  • Tony||

    That's a load of crap, Tonio.

  • Zeb||

    I think "natural selection" is a better term than "evolution". Evolution implies progress towards an end. Which is not how it works. It is just whatever happens. Things happen because of a cause, not for a reason.

  • sarcasmic||

    Spontaneous order.

  • Zeb||

    That's a good one too, though it applies to a lot of other things as well.

  • ||

    Things happen because of a cause, not for a reason.

    I love this line.

  • ||

    The fallacy of entelechy is hard to shake off.

  • Fluffy||

    I think you are mistaking "believe in evolution" for "value evolution".

    Evolution takes place on time scales that are absolutely irrelevant to any possible values that can be experienced by an individual. And as Rand showed, that's all values.

    Evolution did its job in producing me and has no more function to play in my life, ever.

    I don't give a shit if homosexuality has an evolutionary value, or not. Who cares? Thinking that evolution produced humanity is not the same as giving a damn if anything you're doing at this exact moment has "positive evolutionary value".

  • Ashlyn||

    Thanks for articulating what my brain could not spit out.

  • Matrix||

    I was very religious while I was in college. Most of the people I hung out with from school, though, were atheists or agnostics. I liked them a lot better than other religious folks.

  • ||

    Finally found a breakdown of political / religious affiliation here.

    Notice the difference between the aggregated "unaffiliated" and atheists.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I notice that the highest percentage of "Don't Know/Refused" responses is from Jehovah's Witnesses.

    They either didn't want the pollsters to bother them at home, or they refused to answer questions unless the pollsters subscribed to the Watchtower.

  • Matrix||

    JWs usually shun politics for religious reasons

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    That was my guess, but I couldn't resist the obvious joke.

  • ||

    They just hate when some asshole knocks on their door to ask them questions...

  • ||

    Good catch, Eddy. I didn't see that. Fascinating.

    They...didn't want the pollsters to bother them at home

    Dude, you win the internets. All of them.

  • anon||

    tl;dr

  • sarcasmic||

    Work is hard. Producing wealth is hard.

    Plunder is easy. So is magic. You get something for nothing.

    The problem of course is that magic is not real.

    But that doesn't stop people from praying to God.

    Or government.

    A magical government that produces something from nothing, because when others plunder on your behalf, it appears to be magic.

  • ||

    Oh, how I wish Tony or his ilk were here to read that sarcasmic. I am saving that one.

  • sarcasmic||

    read != comprehend

  • Tim||

    Shouldn't you be on the OWS thread?

  • Tony||

    Government is no one's object of worship. It is a tool civilized human beings utilize to accomplish cooperative goals. It is funded by taxation, i.e., the user fee for civilization. You seem to think civilization happens by magic, or that you are entitled to enjoy its benefits without paying. You are the wannabe freeloader and the fantasy believer. You worship a thing, namely the capitalist marketplace. Your insistence that serious people worship government is both a convenient strawman and projection.

  • Fluffy||

    When the state does anything beyond preventing violence and fraud, it ceases to be "a tool civilized human beings utilize to accomplish cooperative goals" and becomes "a tool some human beings use to conquer and devour others, to a greater or lesser degree".

    Since a minarchist state would consist of "civilized human beings accomplishing cooperative goals", you really can't claim that minarchists don't believe in civilization. You just think "Hey, I think it would be good for me to seize control of the tool you've built to facilitate cooperation, and use it to rob people and generate a free living for the maggots who follow me!"

  • sarcasmic||

    People cannot accomplish anything without being directed by government.
    Government is the guiding hand that leads society.
    Government is god.

  • Neu Mejican (~_ರೃ)||

    When the state does anything beyond preventing violence and fraud, it ceases to be "a tool civilized human beings utilize to accomplish cooperative goals"

    Not really.

    and becomes "a tool some human beings use to conquer and devour others, to a greater or lesser degree".

    One possible cooperative goal, of course.

    Since a minarchist state would consist of "civilized human beings accomplishing cooperative goals", you really can't claim that minarchists don't believe in civilization.

    True. But the "worship the state" thing is a strawman.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Only to those who can't acknowledge their addiction to it, NM.

  • sarcasmic||

    C- spoof

  • ||

    And....he magically appears. Tony is a spoof.
    Fess' up, who is it? Someone here masquerades as TonyBaloney.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "Government is no one's object of worship"

    BWAHAHAHAAA

    Pull the other one, it has got bells on.

  • The Pointer-Outer||

    I think he really means it.

  • ||

    The story had a disappointing lack of PZ Myers flipping out on libertarians.

  • Jason Godesky ||

    The story had a disappointing lack of PZ Myers flipping out on libertariansDying IAF.

    White Indian fix that fo-fo you-you.

  • Ashlyn||

    Not enough cephalopods either.

  • ||

    If anyone here doubts that progressivism is a religion, or uses the same parts of the brain as religion does, watch this for as long as you can stand to. Note the look on the guy's face; it is the same face you see when you open the door to a missionary. Same tone of voice too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jsq-6LAeYKk

  • ||

    Yeah, he's got that creepy blissed-out look on his face. Like he wants us all to ascend to the comet with him.

  • ||

    Bingo Sugarfree. I am laughing my ass off and gagging at the same time.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    The horror... the horror...

  • sarcasmic||

    I have no doubts, so I won't bother to watch.

  • Admiral Ackbar||

    IT'S A TRAP!!!

  • ||

    That constant smirk is the creepiest part. You only see that from church people or liberals talking about Cuba.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    One can only imagine shrike or Tony's facial tics... in shrike's case, one eye blinking rapidly, with some twitching and the occasional muttering of "Christ-fag".

    Tony... I don't even wanna contemplate.

  • Admiral Ackbar||

    IT'S A TRAP!!!

  • ||

    I generally don't read stuff about atheism because I find it usually devolves nto smug self congratualtion that atheists are smarter and better than believers. I read this to see what it said about public schools, and had to wait to the last paragraph, and then a one-liner at that. But it was a good one-liner. Left/secularists have a belief system that is just as crazy, when the results are examined, as religious people. I pray, but bad shit still happens. I pray harder. I pay (make others pay usually) zillions for public education, schools till suck. I pay more money.

  • Admiral Ackbar||

    IT'S A... oh, hell, you know the meme.

  • np||

    I went first and my (shocking) conclusion was that the political agenda of organized secular humanism is basically indistinguishable from the standard issue left-wing egalitarian agenda. More on that at another time.

    I presume Ron is writing another article on this?

    WRT Locke and history, America provides better examples, filled with people with more ideal and principled attitudes towards religion: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Paine, Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, etc

    Despite their own beliefs and criticisms and severe dislike for certain things (see Jefferson and Paine) they still refuse to sanction or advocate any kind of restrictions on religion, worship, voluntary practice, including public participation thereof (Of course, by the same token they also refuse to bow down to any religious pressure)

  • ||

    np: Yes, you presume correctly. I plan to write up my talk at the conference as a separate column with additional observations.

  • Neu Mejican (~_ರೃ)||

    Hmmm....

  • Fluffy||

    Empiricism generates faith. I have faith the sun is going to come up tomorrow. I have faith that if I throw my stapler at my brutish student employee it will obey the laws of gravity.

    Our entire vocabulary of reason and faith is a little bit "off", largely because western civilization's progenitor cultures subscribed to Idealist notions of "truth".

    You can't "prove" that the sun will come up tomorrow morning in the same way you can "prove" the Pythagorean theorem. But that's not the appropriate way to look at the question of whether we can "know" by reason that the sun will come up tomorrow.

  • Fluffy||

    To me, you "know" the sun will come up in the morning if you undertake observation and then apply logic to your observations, and come to understand the way the solar system is set up and the way the earth spins. That's "reason", to me, and it's not philosophically appropriate to seek a great level of certainty to apply to our use of the word "know".

    We would "believe" the sun will come up tomorrow morning, by faith, if we never undertook any observation or analysis at all, but read it in a holy book or prayed about it and were informed of the sun's duty to rise in an ecstatic vision.

  • Fluffy||

    it's not philosophically appropriate to seek a greater level of certainty to apply to our use of the word "know".

    Sorry, my typo made the most important part of that sentence unclear.

  • ||

    "...to rise in an ecstatic vision."

    Noteworthy....faith always has lots of over-the-top emotional content.

  • DarrenM.||

  • MJ||

    "These things are not lawful in the ordinary course of life, nor in any private house; and therefore neither are they so in the worship of God, or in any religious meeting,” asserts Locke. Blackford’s interpretation is that the state has good secular reasons to impose the mandate that all employers buy health insurance that covers contraceptive services; therefore Locke would not deem it persecution when applied even to religiously affiliated organizations."

    I am not fully studied on Locke, but it would seem that he argued that laws barring infant sacrifice for religious reasons are because such a practice cannot be considered morally acceptable under any circumstance. Exactly how is not covering contraceptives without copays never morally acceptable?

  • MJ||

    What Blackford demonstrates is that atheism is no guarantee of an outlook that promotes non-interference by government. Blackford will accept much tyranny from government as long as the religious are not exempt.

    900 character limit is website security theater. The terrorists have won.

  • MJ||

    "Dennett began by suggesting that hostility toward atheists is the result of fear."

    It has nothing to do with public atheists most often being smug, self-righteous, intolerant assholes.

  • ||

    To be fair, the fringe on the other side acts the same way. But in both cases, it's a pack of people who feel angered and threatened whenever they see someone who doesn't provide validation for their own beliefs. Neither faction can tolerate dissenting views on the matter. He's like a guy explaining how gravity affects only people who disagree with him.

  • ||

    I think gatherings like this one explain perfectly why most normal people, whether religious or not, are bothered by the secular humanist movement. If anyone in attendance had any self awareness, they wouldn't need the help of an anthropologist to figure out why most of their countrymen appear to be so "afraid" of them. Maybe it's not because the rest of America are deeply religious mouth-breathing troglodytes, but rather because they aren't litigious, raving, pseudo-Marxist environmentalist wingnuts whose government hammer sees every individual as a nail. I can't help but picture this panel as Steve Martin's Navin R. Johnson holding a bullet-riddled can of oil and obliviously shouting "He hates these cans! Stay away from the cans!"

  • ||

    From a PR perspective, I might suggest to the gathered heathens that dropping the requirement of being a 1960's campus radical as a condition of acceptance into the irreligious community might do wonders for appealing to the vast non-observant populace that also happens not to be foaming-at-the-mouth statists.

    (fascist 900 character limit and all that)

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Where does the Church of the Sub-Genius fit into this argument?

  • ||

    Enjoying the slack while selling protest signs to both camps.

  • ||

    I'm fully supportive of preserving the seperation of church and state, but these articles seem as dedicated so simply attacking religion as they are to addressing the Constitutional problems regarding state imposed or supported religion. If I wanted that, I'd be spending more time at Common Dreams or Mother Jones. Perhaps Reason will hire Bill Maher as one of their valued contributers next...

  • Beth||

    My religion is the reason I am a libertarian, a libertarian government is the only form that guarentees freedom of religion, somehing that is necessary to have a truly just society.

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

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