I know this isn't a big deal for many people who actually consider themselves true agnostics or atheists, but I don't. However, I find it a little strange that this question is being asked on your personal profile to valdiate your "right" as a member. I know I am not the only one who isn't a clearcut atheist/agnostic here (there are some theists also I believe) and maybe these questions could be changed, perhaps removed?

I myself find it a little weird though as a pagan that I must press either atheist or agnostic as options or I theorically am not valid as a member here. I mean, we aren't THAT anal about it, right? I remember when this site was pretty new also there was a discussion about allowing theists who acted reasonable into our discussions and I still see no reason why not. I am not personally offended, I just find it strange.

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hehehe RAmen!
Well this is a pretty good idea. Can I change my vote funk Q?
Richard's always been a bit kinky. He still hasn't explained exactly how he caught the flu from Dan Barker in DC! ;-)
Well, that's food for thought ....
Funk, I didn't understand half of the things you were trying to say, what it is a vol au vent? ;)


And I am supposed to morph into what? It sounds pretty cool :o
Here ya go:
A Vol-au-vent (French for "windblown" to describe its lightness) is a small hollow case of puff pastry. A round opening is cut in the top and the pastry cut out for the opening is replaced as a lid after the case is filled. Vol-au-vents can accommodate various fillings, such as mushrooms, prawns, fruit, or cheese, but they are almost always savory
I'm relatively new here so just throwing out an opinion for what it's worth.

I'm not sure I see the point at all of having a second tier or a section devoted to the rational debate with theists. It's already clear that rational arguments have no effect whatsoever on them, and they have the additional side effect of making them think they are being taken seriously, and therefore that their arguments must have some merit. I have personally come to the conclusion that simply dismissing them with a round of laughter might possibly be the most effective way to reach most of them, especially those on the edges. When Hitchens throws out a dismissive barb at one of the very foundations of one faith or another, and an entire audience breaks into laughter, this just might have more of an effect than 2 hours of rational debate. Or when the Religulous trailer plays on TV, which simply dismisses these faiths as absurd on their face, again might just get more people thinking than all of Dawkins books combined. One shouldn't underestimate the power of large numbers of people simply dismissing ones ideology, just look at what it did for Christianity and Islam.

Not that I think it would be a good idea to invite them here simply for ridicule either. Even though I had reservations about keeping them out completely when I started reading this discussion, Kristy and others have convinced me it's probably for the best, which is ironic since it seems we have now switched positions :)
Sister site, same site... pretty irrelevant to my point really, and of course this was my oversight, not yours, so no apology necessary.
There is one problem with not taking the time to address the "logical" arguments many apologists use to support their faith. Many believers will think they have won by default. Most believers may not be convinced by a rational debate, but some (a few) will. The rest will find themselves having to fall back on "faith" and "just believing" without the added feeling of superiority and legitimacy an unanswered argument would lend them.

Laughter will often turn off many believers to anything you would have to say. What they believe is such an integral part of who they are, they feel that in mocking their beliefs you are mocking them. It will cause some to step back and seriously ponder their beliefs, but many will rally the troops, circle the wagons and fight back. The fact that believers are in the majority only makes things worse. If everyone around you believes and reinforces a particular idea, it is far more difficult to question what they believe (especially with our natural human desire to fit in, not make waves, etc.). Laugher won't get them thinking, it will get them angry and defensive.

I do agree with you generally though. A dismissive barb may be precisely the thing needed to get someone to realize how absurd certain ideas are. It is something I am pondering much more seriously.
Why is it always either or. Of course there is still a need to have rational polite debate, I'm certainly not suggesting otherwise. But Atheists better wise up to why we have a movement right now at all. Like I have said before there has been rational academic debate about religion for at least the last 250 years, and all it has really accomplished, is give them reason to think they have equally valid arguments. Would we sit down and debate someone who thought Elvis was still alive, or might this give them reason to think they might actually be on to something. Of course when there becomes 1 billion people who believe this, then yes we will have to sit down and debate and try to show them the errors of their ways, but if we also stop laughing at them, they really will have no reason to change. Religion has done it's job so well that even Atheists think it off limits to laugh at religious beliefs as we would any other silly belief, it's beyond me. If a friend came up to you and told you he believed in Thor, would you then enter into a serious debate with them? or would you first laugh and say you can't be serious. If someone at the accademy awards thanked Zeus for making it possible for them to win, would the audience not laugh. This is what stops beliefs like this from growing. When we treat religious belief differently than we would any other silly belief it simply gives it strength.

What changed the whole ball game four years ago for Atheists was that someone the world would have expected to just come out with another relatively obscure attack on religion, had big enough balls, and was just fed up enough after 911, to finally not worry about offending the other side, and publish a book called "The God Delusion". If anyone thinks this insult in the name had nothing to do with the incredible resurgence of the Atheist movement, they must live on another planet. He did what religion had hoped to keep off limits forever. He simply stated very simply what religion really is in a single sentence, a mental issue. Sure there are people who have said similar things with 10 pages of carefully constructed text designed not to offend. But he said what so many others only thought and he did it in the title. Everyone stood up and took notice. Here was someone breaking the rules, and not just anyone, a respected scientist was standing up and saying what so many others felt, but had been socialized by an overwhelming religious society to never attack someone else's religion. Really? Isn't Atheism, the most natural and reasoned ideology on the planet ridiculed daily in churches around the world daily and pumped into the minds of innocent children? Have Atheists not been ridiculed relentlessly on interviews on news programs, not been given a chance to speak etc. If any Anchor ever treated a religious person with the same lack of respect that they have Atheists, they would be out of a job by the end of the day. Only recently has this began to change.

And now we have Atheists who want to take us back to the days before this book. It's simply mind boggling. I guess Atheists have a similar lack of a foundational understanding of the historical relationship between religion and non believers, to that of most believers. It is an institution that likes to crush the free speech rights of all who oppose it. We have a really basic problem that the most repressive institution in our society, is itself protected by the same laws that are meant to protect the repressed. Nice trick. The one institution which hates homosexuals, seeks to repress women, attacks free speech and free press at every turn with hate mail, phone calls, boycots and death threats, cries foul when criticized itself, and we sit back and say OK we'll be good.

What difference does it make that rational argument has not worked for 250 years, lets just try it again, and let's ignore the heart of what Dawkin's accomplishment really was. Having the balls to speak plainly about the idiocy of religion, and encouraging others to do so. The engine that has kept this whole thing moving that last four years has been the subsequent books such as Hitchens "God Is Not Great - How Relgion Poisons Everything", more ridicule, Movies such a Religuous, more ridicule, and the laughs that the debaters get when they point out something particulary silly in their opponents religion, and makes these debates watchable. This is ridicule folks. Don't you get it. If you think these debaters should never use it, then we should simply fold up the tents and go home, and say hello to more of the same. Amazing.
I tend to take a more passive stance toward people with faith, because I feel that faith is a crutch. I think that all of us have shortcomings, faults and misgivings and deal with it in different ways. I prefer to avoid generalizations that constitute some contract of "us" versus "them" because there are so many shades that fade from a position of considered nonbelief to religious zealotry, elitist cynics to introspective proselytes. I am admittedly most bothered by those folks I think use their belief, whatever it is, as a ruler to measure themselves against others. I certainly think that atheism frequently becomes its own religion for some.

I was raised in a roughly Christian manner, taught all of the fire and brimstone, thou shalts and thou shalt nots, but it was never a part of me. The point in my late teens that I realized the concept of a deity just did not fit with my notion of the universe caused me years of quiet fear - was I going to hell because I could not believe? It wasn't until my mid-twenties that I had looked and listened long enough to the believing folks around me to realize that every single person using religion as a basis for condemnation was adopting a different ruler to measure their peers. I came to the conclusion that it was all so absurd I couldn't possibly judge my place in the world by it. For the first time I was able to accept my atheism as proper, meaningful and true. I share all of this because it took me time to process and develop my understanding, to make it truly mine. No amount of bludgeoning, verbal sparring or grand proclamations helped me get there; and I had my fair share of all of this and more.

Faithful people most certainly say some of the most outrageous things I think I've ever heard, and cannot be denied. Faith is the ultimate loophole to escape some piece of your world. The entire premise of why to believe is founded on completely unverifiable assertions, and people willing to accept this become unassailable and will challenge us again and again to dispute them. I humorously equate trying to persuade them with entertaining the musings of a psychotic - completely fictional and yet undeniable to a person living in their head with these things. Mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, electro-shock therapy, prefrontal lobotomy - I don't think we'll get 86% of the world to submit to these treatments. I think we have to let them get at least partway there on their own.

Fundamentally, I think this comes down to a choice: accept what is around you at face value and admit that you'll never understand it all, or try to fabricate a framework of faith that protects you from that loss of ego. I think most people are not emotionally equipped to find that we live in a universe of cause and effect, action and reaction, without any unified, underlying, human-conceivable order or intrinsic meaning. That bad things happen to good people for no other reason than simply because they can. I watch some of my more religious family members and friends and I think that without stamping some greater meaning on everything, they would just deflate like a balloon and lose all structure and purpose, because the idea that nothing is in control of this madhouse scares them terribly.

I am completely comfortable with my nonbelief now, and what others say or believe often has me curious or intrigued, occasionally offended, but I remain, without reservation, an atheist.

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