As the Protestant Reformation gathered steam, Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, perhaps the leading thinker of the times, found himself in an awkward position. He knew that the Church was deeply flawed and badly in need of reform. Yet at the same time he knew that outright schism would lead to religious violence. He therefore took an irenic position, trying to convince each side to appreciate the points made by the other. For his efforts, he was ferociously attacked by both sides and ran a real risk of being burned at the stake. 

Humans are innately tribal. We have about five million years of evolutionary history living in hunter-gatherer groups of a few dozen immediate relatives, belonging to tribes of a few hundred more distant kin. To this day, the vast majority of people have a deep-seated need to belong to a group of such a size that they know most of the other members.

This is one of the underlying reasons for the existence of organized religion. Religion itself arises from the need to understand the world in social terms (powerful people -- gods -- who can skew the world in one's favor if properly propitiated). But organized religion owes more to the need to belong to a group, which is why it appears only in civilized (city-based) civilizations.

In this regard, atheists are no different from religious believers; they have a compelling need to congregate and revel in their shared identity. This website satisfies that need.

I do not share that need; I am an individual in every sense of the word. When asked about his citizenship, Erasmus replied that he was a citizen of the world. In like fashion, I do not identify with any group; I walk a lonely path. In this I am driven by an intense sense of intellectual integrity: I vehemently reject any kind of groupthink. 

But groupthink is a fundamental component of every tribal group. I had hoped that atheists, having had the courage to resist social pressures towards religious affiliation, would themselves be less inclined to tribal prejudices. In this, I have been proven wrong. By raising difficult issues that I find intellectually challenging, I have antagonized a goodly number of people who give higher priority to group loyalty than to intellectual integrity. Perhaps I was naive to hope that I might find in others the fanatic dedication to intellectual integrity that drives me. But I refuse to abandon hope that somewhere out there are Homo Sapiens who have transcended the Pleistocene hunter-gatherer mentality. I shall therefore continue, Diogenes-like, my search elsewhere.

It would be rude of me to depart without hearing the angry rejoinders I am sure that this post will inspire. I'll read them without reaction; I have no interest in arguing. If, however, a reader presents an honest question -- not some contrived ploy -- I'll endeavor to answer it honestly.

Views: 349

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

There have been many many heated discussions on AN but that was no reason for anybody to depart from here unless you have a single viewpoint to present. You may think of many more topics for discussions in future and may find many people that may be in agreement with you. This is my own experience. Religion is a touchy subject and you appear to have rather unduly strong thoughts on that subject.

You are wrong about Nexus.  The purpose of Nexus, over any other purpose, is to provide a sense of community for nontheists, a safe place to share ourselves with each other as human beings in an often hostile and unfriendly world.  Your criticism of Nexus, is that it is a community.  Not fair, not logical, uninformed..  It's like criticising the sky for being blue.  You prejudged what you wanted from nexus, it wasn't there, and now you pass judgement.

In one of your posts you describe yourself as humble.  That is not at all how you have presented yourself in your posts.

The community of nexus provides a forum for diverse opinions.  You started out, in your first or one of your first posts, presenting yourself with a challenge and criticism of the people on Nexus.  It's like going to a wedding party and going to the microphone to tell the people there they are dysfunctional.  You need to get to know people.  Fine if you are a scholar and know more about your topic than anyone else - or think you do - but you also downplayed legitimate responses.

When you basically come into the group as a sort of anthropologist, presenting a challenge to the group, then claim "higher priority to group loyalty than to intellectual integrity", you display significant arrogance.  It's an insult.  This group includes people of widely diverse backgrounds, temperaments, thought processes, styles, and ages.  There is a sense of mutual respect that is not found in many other places.  Respect that you did not show, from the start.  

And as a scientist, your method is lacking.  If you are not a scientist, then you should not have used Nexus as human subjects for your experiment.  You tested the group, without informed consent, did not set forth a null hypothesis, nor is there a statistical analysis of your conclusion.

As someone who was insulting to all, with presentation in arrogant style (not say you are arrogant, but your style comes off that way), and complaining that the community is actually what it intends to be - a community - rather than what you wanted.  

I agree Sentient.  You put it way better than I could.  As you said, Nexus gives me a "sense of community .... in an often hostile and unfriendly world."  It's the only place I've found so far where I don't have to be annoyed with religious BS.  There are many places on the internet where one can discuss religion in a positive light, neutral light, or argue with religious people if that's what one wants.  

At this point in my life, I don't want.  In the 71 years I've been on this planet, 50 of which I was immersed in religion, I've heard just about all the arguments for, and defenses of religion.  I've had enough.  There is no evidence to support religion.  Any new argument I haven't heard before will be brought-up here and I will be made aware of it in a relatively sane environment.

In the extremely unlikely event there is any good scientific evidence for religious beliefs discovered, it will also be posted here I'm sure.  It's not that I'm closed-minded, it's just that I go with the odds.  Even if a few good arguments for, or pieces of good evidence were found to support religion, there are mountains of evidence and arguments against.  So the odds are strongly in favor of Atheism.  Very strongly.  Mount Everest strong.

As you and Madhukar have said, the community of nexus provides a forum for diverse opinions.  I've changed many of my opinions since becoming an Atheist, but I still see merit in some of my opinions.  

Some of those opinions have been challenged here, which is not comfortable for me because I’m not the best communicator.  However, I do consider opposing opinions, and there are places to go on Atheist Nexus where I can regain my calm, such as "Godless in the Garden", "Hang With friends", “Birding, Birders, and all things Birds”, “Music Lovers”, “Animation Fans”, and “Geek & Nerd Haven”.  

In my opinion, there is just about something for everyone here, unless one has an extreme fixation on one topic, or one is a religious person trying to convert atheists from their “wicked ways”.

I think it is to the detriment of atheism that we are not more of a community like the religious groups that are heaping abuses of every kind on this country and the wider global community.  I am a member of A/N not to vent my anger (although it does help,) not to reinforce my beliefs, not to make friends (although I certainly have and appreciate them very much,) but to hopefully find a way and do my part to rid the world of religion and its abuses.

Adios. 

I have no doubt that with your intellect, which you have not failed to let us know is vastly superior to the rest of us grunting tribal members, you got the joke.

I am totally agreed with every response made here to Chris' ostensibly arrogant farewell.

Please don't leave, Chris!!! 

You can find other people here who semi-agree with you.  Like me!!!

I don't think you are going to find some magically un-tribal place. 

I actually reported an ad-hominem comment that I saw against you.  You should report such comments too. 

A community of non-theists is not a form of tribalism. Before I found Atheist Nexus I was a solitary atheist, and I did not feel any different about religion then as I do now. Apparently Chris Crawford has swayed you Luara. He wanted to cause division and apparently in your case it worked. Let him go if he wants to go. This group is exclusively for non-theists to my understanding, after all they ask you when you join if you're a non-theist, and Chris strikes me as more of a theist than a non-theist.

A community of non-theists is not a form of tribalism.

Atheists can have their own prejudices that they organize around.

One point I made below, is that there are actually nontheists who are much more positive about religion - but they don't call themselves atheists!  They call themselves Unitarians or Zen Buddhists or perhaps very liberal Christians.  It would be very good for this site to be inclusive for such people.

I didn't see Chris Crawford saying anything unreasonable.  Maybe he said something unreasonable that I didn't read.

No, he hasn't swayed me in any way - he's simply said things that aren't much said here.

He wanted to cause division and apparently in your case it worked.

Chris Crawford can much better say what he wants than you can!

The subject he brought up, to ask what is wise in religion, is a very rich one and very important for us to consider.

A long time ago, I posted a discussion “a faith related to atheism”, which gets to the same very important question that Chris was raising. Can humanity get by on the bread of reason alone? Religion evolved because it was useful for societies, and we need to ask whether the good things it has done can be achieved in other ways.

Chris strikes me as more of a theist than a non-theist.

I haven't seen anything he's said that implied he's a theist.

No, it's a dismal thing to lose a dissident. We badly need our people who bring up uncomfortable questions.

I do see that Chris has said things that offend people. However, I've also seen things targeted at Chris, that would upset me if I were the target; and maybe he was upset by them.



ps Do you realize, if you take off when you say things that are different from the majority here, you are reinforcing tribalism and a certain way of thinking.  You're self-selecting yourself out of the group. 

Also, you are likely to find people who are more positive about religion, among groups like Unitarians and various flavors of very liberal Christian. 

I've often thought that some very liberal Christians are actually nontheists.  Certainly some Unitarians are.  People like John Dominic Crossan, who's written books about the historical Jesus etc., may be essentially atheists.  I don't see him maintaining anything miraculous. 

But then, around those people, I probably couldn't say that likely Jesus was similar to Jim Jones (who was often compared to Jesus, before he semi-murdered 900 people), only Jesus was crucified while he was still young and not yet seedy ...

Those nontheist very liberal Christians, who are essentially atheists and maybe could join forces with us - might feel unwelcome here. 

Chris: 

You say:

“…Humans are innately tribal. We have about five million years of evolutionary history living in hunter-gatherer groups of a few dozen immediate relatives, belonging to tribes of a few hundred more distant kin. To this day, the vast majority of people have a deep-seated need to belong to a group of such a size that they know most of the other members.

This is one of the underlying reasons for the existence of organized religion. Religion itself arises from the need to understand the world in social terms (powerful people -- gods -- who can skew the world in one's favor if properly propitiated). But organized religion owes more to the need to belong to a group, which is why it appears only in civilized (city-based) civilizations.

In this regard, atheists are no different from religious believers; they have a compelling need to congregate and revel in their shared identity. This website satisfies that need…”

This is a good point, but as Sentient Biped said, it’s like criticizing the sky for being blue.  We share a deep history of tribalism, and are just beginning our new experiment in civilization.  It’s not as though some binary switch was thrown distinguishing between two mutually exclusive positions in which one is absolutely right and the other absolutely wrong.  As nearly as I’ve been able to tell, absolutes don’t exist in nature.  This is not an argument for relativism.  Some ideas are a little or a lot better than others, and those tending toward civilization seem promising at this early stage.  But to assert that the foundation underlying how we got here is invalid is building pyramids in the air.  In other words, that a response is informed by what we were (and largely still are) is not a very good reason to dismiss it.  On such points, you and I seem to largely agree – it’s merely our value judgments that separate us, and make conversations interesting.

 

Re the ‘other thread’:

There have been some good things associated with religion, but I don't concede that they derive from religion.  True, many great minds have also been religious minds, and many scientists are also football fans.  Correlations are interesting, but not necessarily relevant.  Quite a few Biblical (at least new testament) ideas are pretty good, but they largely re-hash the golden rule, which is an ancient evolved response of social animals.  All it can be said to have to do with religion is that it may have shaped the impulse to create religion – probably not the other way around.

When we encounter good ideas I see no need to bring along with them any religious veneer that they may have acquired, except as context to help understand the background on which they are painted.  I see religion as an artifact resulting from basic impulses rather than a thing with intrinsic value (and of course, this is just my own value judgment, valid only as I understand and express it).  Fact is, religion has not yet been selected out and it may never be.  That may mean that it has or had some positive value, or it may mean that the cost of tossing it, even if it is harmful, is perceived as greater than any benefit so derived.  Or it may just persist because we’re too damn lazy or fearful to grapple realistically with life, and need a crutch to be able to walk at all.  Crutches are tools, and our self-definition as tool users generally makes them and their costs out to be worthwhile.  Focusing on benefit while ignoring cost is not reality based thinking.

 

Chris, I hope that you choose to continue to hang out and contribute here.  Your ideas and thoughtful posts clearly spark interest that I think we need to counter creeping complacency and recognize similarities in our prevailing dogma to that of those whom we criticize.

 

}}}}

RSS

Support Atheist Nexus

Donate Today

Donate

 

Help Nexus When You Buy From Amazon

Amazon

AJY

 

© 2014   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: Richard Haynes.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service