No, Atheists Don't Have to Show "Respect" for Religion

Discussion in 'Soap Box' started by Bob26003, Feb 8, 2011.

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  1. Bob26003

    Bob26003 Well-Known Member

    Progressive believers often ignore religious differences in the name of tolerance. But this ecumenicalism promotes anti-atheist hostility and shows a disregard for the truth.
    January 19, 2011 |

    "Can't we all just get along?"

    Among progressive and moderate religious believers, ecumenicalism is a big deal. For many of these believers, being respectful of religious beliefs that are different from theirs is a central guiding principle. In this view, different religions are seen as a beautifully varied tapestry of faith: each strand with its own truths, each with its own unique perspective on God and its own unique way of worshipping him. Her. It. Them. Whatever. Respecting other people's religious beliefs is a cornerstone of this worldview... to the point where criticizing or even questioning anyone else's religious belief is seen as rude and offensive at best, bigoted and intolerant at worst.

    And this ecumenical approach to religion drives many atheists up a tree.

    Including me.


    Don't atheists want a world where everyone's right to their own religious views -- including no religious views -- is universally acknowledged? Don't we want a world with no religious wars or hatreds? Don't we want a world where a diversity of perspectives on religion is accepted and even embraced? Why would atheists have any objections at all to the principles of religious ecumenicalism?

    Oh, let's see. Where shall I begin?

    Well, for starters: It's bullshit.

    Progressive and moderate religious believers absolutely have objections to religious beliefs that are different from theirs. Serious, passionate objections. They object to the Religious Right; they object to Al Qaeda. They object to right-wing fundamentalists preaching homophobic hatred, to Muslim extremists executing women for adultery, to the Catholic Church trying to stop condom distribution in AIDS-riddled Africa, to religious extremists all over the Middle East trying to bomb each other back to the Stone Age. Etc., etc., etc. Even when they share the same nominal faith as these believers, they are clearly appalled at the connection: they fervently reject being seen as having anything in common with them, and often go to great lengths to distance themselves from them.

    And they should. I'm not saying they shouldn't. In fact, one of my main critiques of progressive believers is that their opposition to hateful religious extremists isn't vehement enough.

    But it's disingenuous at best, hypocritical at worst, to say that criticism of other religious beliefs is inherently bigoted and offensive... and then make an exception for beliefs that are opposed to your own. You don't get to speak out about how hard-line extremists are clearly getting Christ's message wrong (or Mohammad's, or Moses', or Buddha's, or whoever) -- and then squawk about religious intolerance when others say you're the one getting it wrong. That's just not playing fair.

    And, of course, it's ridiculously hypocritical to engage in fervent political and cultural discourse -- as so many progressive ecumenical believers do -- and then expect religion to get a free pass. It's absurd to accept and even welcome vigorous public debate over politics, science, medicine, economics, gender, sexuality, education, the role of government, etc... and then get appalled and insulted when religion is treated as just another hypothesis about the world, one that can be debated and criticized like any other.

    However, if ecumenicalism were just hypocritical bullshit, I probably wouldn't care very much. Hypocritical bullshit is all over the human race like a cheap suit. I'm not going to get worked up into a lather every time I see another example of it. So why does this bug me so much?

    Well, it also bugs me because -- in an irony that would be hilarious if it weren't so screwed-up -- a commitment to ecumenicalism all too often leads to intolerance and hostility toward atheists.

    I've been in a lot of debates with religious believers over the years. And some of the ugliest, nastiest, most bigoted anti-atheist rhetoric I've heard has come from progressive and moderate believers espousing the supposedly tolerant principles of ecumenicalism. I've been called a fascist, a zealot, a missionary; I've been called hateful, intolerant, close-minded, dogmatic; I've been compared to Glenn Beck and Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler more times than I can count. All by progressive and moderate believers, who were outraged at the very notion of atheists pointing out the flaws in religious ideas and making an argument that these ideas are probably not true. Progressive and moderate believers who normally are passionate advocates for free expression of ideas will get equally passionate about demanding that atheists shut the hell up. Progressive and moderate believers who normally are all over the idea of diversity and multiculturalism will get intensely defensive of homogeny when one of the voices in the rich cultural tapestry is saying, "I don't think God exists, and here's why."

  2. Lovecraft

    Lovecraft Well-Known Member

    I'm all for carte blanche on talking and criticizing religion (and anything else, too) but I cannot in good conscience say that someone should not have a right to be wrong, do drugs or believe in things that are not conclusively proven or disproven.

    I just want that shit out of politics and schools.
  3. Zurkhardo

    Zurkhardo Well-Known Member

    I believe strongly in civility and dialectics - discourse that is meant to present, test, and ultimately finds truth. With that said, I would never intentionally insult or defame a religious individual. But I certainly agree that the taboo of discussing religion in a frank and open manner is both absurd and intellectual stagnant.
  4. Isabel

    Isabel Staff Alumni

    And I am fed up with the whole religious brouhaha going on at SF for the past weeks. Is this really the place? Ecumenicalism is about an effort to get along. For the most part, its about finding common ground. In my experience, atheists rarely agree to disagree and look rabidly for the next believer to pick a fight with. This thread is just another example of that. If they don't believe in anything, what the heck does it matter to them that others people believe in something? Do they need that much validation? Most of the Western world political institutions are secular. So, what more is there to gain? They are beating a dead horse. My advice, live and let live! There are plenty of debates which can lead somewhere: peak oil, climate change, globalization etc...But, no, lets just waste our time splitting hair trying to solve a question which is unsolvable. Wake up! Theism is not falsifiable! Goshh I wish more people had a clue of the scientific method and had read their Karl Popper.
  5. Issaccs

    Issaccs Well-Known Member

    I do question why we need three or four threads debating the same shit.
  6. Isabel

    Isabel Staff Alumni

  7. Deleted SKU

    Deleted SKU Well-Known Member

    Sorry, but i'm going to have to pull you up on one or two things here.

    Firstly, on a personal note, i have come across far more often those who consider themselves religious trying to 'save' those who aren't, and attempt to convert them, than atheists trying to convert people away from religion. Saying that, i don't assume that to be the case of all those who do believe in religion, the same way that all atheists aren't the same.

    However, again from observation, there doesn't tend to be the same level of anger from atheists or agnostics (or from wider society), when someone tries to convert them to religion, than from those who are religious when someone tries to convert them away from religion (again, talking very much in generalisations, which i hate to do, but i want to put the alternate point across).

    But the major point i want to bring up, and one i personally do get angry about when people say, is that atheists believe in nothing. It riles me up no end, because it both tries to dismiss the right of those who are not religious from talking about religion, as well as implies a negative slur on those who are not religious, as somehow lacking. Atheists can have a spiritual belief, a moral or ethical belief, a philosophical belief... or more simply, their own beliefs on any and all issues.

    I thinkthough, is this is where some athiests fall down, and might be where you are coming from with this post. It's that mentality, that because the belief is based on religion, that it has to be challenged, and to challenge those for particular beliefs they do not have (based on what they 'should' have, according to their religion). It is that assumption which is made, because someone defines themselves by a particular religious label, that you can automatically attribute to them every single belief that can be stemmed from that religion, whether or not they have expressed as such. You can challenge the belief, if it's there. You can challenge religion from an academic point of view. But if you challenge the belief, based on the religion, and not on whether it is right or wrong, it causes the sort of problems we have had on here recently. But, as importantly, those who are religious can't make the same attribution of particular values to atheists or agnostics, which aren't expressed (such as the one you have made that to be an atheist is to have no belief).

    As for the original question, i think the best way i can put this is that, no, an atheist doesn't have to show respect for religion, but has to respect that others do believe in it, and that a belief can be valid, regardless of where it came from. But something anyone looking to debate this, or anything else in fact, must do is show respect to the individuals they are debating with. Both 'sides' have been throwing around derogatory names and comments, some more overtly than others, based on their opinions of the concepts of atheism and religion, rather than the individual they are talking to.
  8. Isabel

    Isabel Staff Alumni

    Point taken, I should have specified that atheists do not believe in God and restrict my argument to it. So will have to stick to monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) when we refer to the word believer.

    I am just wondering what part of Theism is not falsifiable! people don't get.

    I personally don't discuss religion not because it is taboo, but it is utterly pointless and just aggravates everybody in the end.

    And round, and round, and round in circle we go...

    By its very definition, an atheist does not believe in god. Lets not muddle the water here. He can believe in UFO, in crystals, in astrology, in the bill or rights, it has no bearing on the topic.

    Believing in god or not believing in god is a matter of Faith. Both positions cant be proven scientifically. Read Popper. Any logical discussion which goes anywhere assumes that there is a common starting point, a postulate. That's logic 101. A postulate is a proposition that is not proved but considered to be self-evident. Therefore, its truth is taken for granted, and serves as a starting point for deducing and inferring other truths. In this case, the starting postulates are opposite and unprovable, one way or the other. End of debate.

    Believers and atheists have absolutely nothing to discuss about once they agree to disagree and respect each others, since as guaranteed by human rights, we have freedom of religion. Anything more is absolutely futile as both positions are irreconcilable. So why are we still talking about this?
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 9, 2011
  9. TimmyP

    TimmyP Well-Known Member

    i have to agree with everything you say. but there may be something left to debate. theism is not falsifiable, but does it have a 50/50 chance of being correct?
  10. Deleted SKU

    Deleted SKU Well-Known Member

    You did not say an atheist doesn't believe in god, or a god, or anything of the sort. You said an atheist does not believe in anything. If that wasn't what you meant to say, then fair enough, but please don't accuse me of muddying the water, if it was based on your miscommunication.

    Religion is a matter of faith, but lack of religious beliefs does not follow as a matter of faith too. I'm sure if you are discussing logic, you are aware of logical positivism, the idea of observation, evidence, and rejection of anything which relies on faith. Due to lack of verifiability of the proposition that there is a god, or other higher power, the statement is simply considered meaningless, and rejected thusly, without needing to have faith in the idea that there is no god.

    Religion itself can be falsifiable, if the claims it makes as a basis for that religion, can be proven false. The existance of a god itself is more difficult, and again is usually falsified based on claims made of that god's capabilities. The statement however that 'god exists' given no other information, isn't falsifiable.

    Which actually leads nicely from the point i was making. Attributing beliefs to people is where there are often arguments, on both sides. 'I believe that god exists' is unfalsifiable, and therefore there is no point in arguing, i agree with that. 'I believe that god created the world' is falsifiable, if evidence can show it was created in a different way, and is therefore open to debate.

    Finally, there are different interpretations in almost all religions of what exactly the basis of those religions means (usually religious texts). This means that someone with religious beliefs can be wrong by their own standards, and change their mind on aspects of their belief. An athiest isn't so bound to a particular body of beliefs, except those they choose, and therefore can also change their mind on aspects of their belief. This means that debate and discussion isn't a waste of time, as long as it is done with the right parameters, and done in the right way. And that is why we are still talking about it.
  11. Isabel

    Isabel Staff Alumni

    Absolutely, and I edited my post accordingly. But for my defense, by the title of the thread, it was implied that believers meant "in god". more time for "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" discussion.
  12. Kaos General

    Kaos General Well-Known Member

    Ok before i say anything i know what im about to say is going to be contrued as hypocritical because i myself have started a thread on the subject but anyway, do we really need another thread on atheism vs religion? I mean seriously, why couldnt this go on one of the many other threads on the same subject? Just seems a bit silly seeing as all we seem to be arguing and debating in here now seems to be just religion. Surely their must be something else we can come up with?

    As for the title of this thread, no they dont have to respect religion but we do have to respect the person who believes in their views even if we dont agree with them
  13. Iron Halo

    Iron Halo Active Member

    I agree, we do have far too many threads for this sort of thing *he says after posting in four different threads not moments before this one*

    As for the topic, well, respect for religion is kind of a broad statement. I don't respect anything THAT broad and no thinking person should. Saying I have respect for humanity and then calling me a hypocrite because I don't respect the asshole who keeps slashing my tires and taking my newspaper in the morning is frankly kind of silly and more of a mistake on my part than anything else. I don't even respect SPECIFIC religions and again, no one else should. Beliefs are so varied and so personal (and this goes for atheists too) that we should respect INDIVIDUALS and INDIVIDUAL BELIEFS on a case-by-case basis. Christianity isn't inherently evil, it teaches some pretty nasty things but there are a LOT of very nice Christians who have no problem practicing their own religion on their own or with friends without trying to bugger science of government about it. What's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing, perfectly respectable.

    I can't say I abide the silly myths that people believe because of their religions and it DOES irk me when people claim to know things they not only can't know because they weren't there, but can't know because it's just flat-out false. However I don't have to care about it if they're not trying to stick their beliefs in places they don't belong. Just be nice to people, I don't care what religion they are because unless they're spreading bigotry or terrible lies that stunt societal and technological progress then let them dance to the beat of whatever quirky drum they want. Like I said, case by case. Let's make sure we're always nice and specific so we're not lumping nice people in with nuts.

    And don't let that thinking trick you into thinking there's some kind of shortage of nuts and you'll be out of a hobby, because believe me: you and I will have plenty of top-notch disrespecting to do now and into the future.
  14. itmahanh

    itmahanh Senior Member & Antiquities Friend

    Gotta say......amen!
  15. titanic

    titanic Well-Known Member

    Majority of them started by non-believers / athiests - that's what gets me! They can't leave the subject alone!! :mortdesinos:
  16. titanic

    titanic Well-Known Member

    WHAT IF you're all wrong though? That there is NO God? Have you even considered that there might be?

    Don't get me wrong, religion causes all sorts of problems as does the new atheist movement. Religion is mans excuse for going to war. But, I'm not talking about religion, and I'm not religious.

    A faith-filled atheist?

    A step of faith isn't unique to Christianity. Every religion, theory, or system of belief that attempts to explain the world requires faith - believing in something that can't fully be proven. At first glance, you may think an atheist is exempt from this rule, but that's not true. An athiest has faith, all right - not in a divine God, but in the belief that God doesn't exist.

    Christianity’s not a religion?

    An expression that has become popular over the past 30 years is “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.” The notion that Christianity is not a religion may seem perplexing or even ridiculous to many. If you think of religion as referring to a belief system about God and the world around you, then Christianity most certainly does match that definition. But Christians who speak this phrase are referring to a popular understanding of religion that means a set of rules that one has to follow to gain approval from God. In this sense, people may consider Christianity an anti-religion, because by nature, Christianity affirms that humans can’t do anything to be approved by God. Instead, it’s only by his grace that people are saved.

    Jesus spoke against this notion of an earn-your way religion to the people of his day. Instead, he talked of faith as an intimate relationship with him and his Father in heaven.

    From Christianity for Dummies, Richard Wagner.

    A must-read: Mere Christianity

    In the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist - in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless - I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality - my idea of justice - was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. "Dark" would be without meaning.

    C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity.
    Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis is a witty, persuasive, common sense-based account of the basics of Christian doctrine and the logic of the faith. Lewis was an atheist and set out to disprove Christianity, only to become a Christian in the process. Early in my Christian walk, I often wrestled with intellectual doubts about my faith: more than anything else, Mere Christianity was the means that transformed my faith into a rock solid belief system.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 14, 2011
  17. titanic

    titanic Well-Known Member

    Yes, many generalisations in your post. If you read most blogs, websites, utube, read the Dawkins book etc you will see that many are angry, aggressive atheists. I have engaged in quite a bit of debate and come across the most abusive, fowl language EVER! Respect does not cost anything!

    Unless you're sitting on the other side of the fence your probably blind to the fact that the majority of the time it is Christians that are persecuted rather than athiests.

    Christians should be adhering to Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself

    Open Doors - Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide:
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 14, 2011
  18. bhawk

    bhawk Well-Known Member

    I dont believe in fairies and werewolves....doesnt mean i have "faith" that they dont exist. atheists dont rely on faith, they rely on evidence based reason. There has been no evidence for a god so we dont believe in him, its nothing to do with faith.
    P.s Please stop your copy/paste habit, its actually really annoying
  19. bhawk

    bhawk Well-Known Member

    False, statistics show that atheists are the most persecuted for their beliefs... i did post a link earlier but you obviously didnt read it!
  20. Lovecraft

    Lovecraft Well-Known Member

    In the US the boy scouts are able to OPENLY state that they will not accept atheist members. What if they said 'no Protestants!'? There would be a shitstorm of epic proportions.
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