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.

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Ted, your thoughtful post demands a response from me. First, I did not criticize this site; I observed that it is a social site, not a site for bloodless intellectual discussion. There was no criticism inherent to that observation. As you say, I was noting that the sky is blue, not criticizing the sky for being blue. And I certainly never wrote "that the foundation underlying how we got here is invalid".

The thrust of my post is that I was looking for a site for intellectual discussion, and this is primarily a social site. There's nothing wrong with social sites; the success of Facebook powerfully demonstrates the importance of social interaction via the Web. I came here with expectations that this site doesn't meet. OK, so I have to look elsewhere.

Perhaps the strongest evidence in support of my claim that this is fundamentally a social site is provided by the rancorous response my post has triggered. In a purely intellectual site, such response makes no sense at all; in a social site, it makes perfect sense, because by refusing to identify myself with the social group, I make myself an outsider who doesn't belong here.

It would indeed be fun to engage in discussions of complicated issues, but such discussions antagonize too many people who are here for social reasons. Many people are here because they need support for their atheism. A truly confident atheist can happily discuss all manner of issues questionable to atheism, but this site exists for and attracts people who still need some social support for their atheism. That's why I don't belong here.

Best wishes,

Chris

Chris:

I'd disagree that you don't belong here.  Yes, this is primarily a social site with emphasis on supporting a set of ideas that are largely unsupported or denigrated elsewhere.  As such, dissenting views are approached with suspicion, and yes, that's a tribal thing.  If your posts were unimportant, they wouldn't elicit the strong replies that they have.  If you were summarily ignored, then I might agree that you have no relevance here.  Obviously that's not the case.  I tend to agree with you that we could use some reasoned criticism, and the fact that your posts have engendered the response that they have would seem to mean that others are at least interested in what you have to say.

 

}}}}

Chris:

Personally I wouldn't mind you staying. This may primarily be a social site, but I love a good debate.

OK, let's put it to a vote. I don't want this to be a vote on "Am I (the voter) mean enough to ostracize somebody?" Instead, I propose that the vote be about the past. Specifically:

"Have CC's past contributions to this discussion been, in all, desirable or undesirable?"

Let's give people 24 hours to respond. I would especially like to see the votes of some of the people who've made less-than-friendly comments here.

Chris:

"Have CC's past contributions to this discussion been, in all, desirable or undesirable?"

I don't know if I'd call them desirable, but I will say they are interesting, thought provoking, and good fodder for discussion.

But this is not a popularity contest. You must admit that, if only in a slight way, your comments that make you seem to feel that you are superior to the rest of us, would be insulting to us, as some have indicated.

You say you walk a solitary path. I remind you of the old saying: No man is an island.

Chris:

"OK, let's put it to a vote."

Whether you want to stay or not, or whether you can stay or not depends on your own choice, and on whether enough members make a complaint against you to the administrator of Atheist Nexus, who would then decide himself whether you should be banned.

Speaking for myself, I have made no complaints to the administrator. I don't know if any others have or not, but I tend to doubt it. As far as I'm concerned you're quite welcome to stay. You need to have a thick skin, because it is inevitable that some people will disagree with your point of view, and that's okay. You have the same right to disagree with others points of view.

A few here have given me a bit of a dressing down for my strong atheism, but I have a thick skin and look at it as constructive criticism.

Erm, if you want to leave, leave. 

No reason to go out whining. I'm sure some will miss you. I don't believe we have personally interacted. Perhaps we could have been friends. Who knows? But simply from reading this post, it's not likely. Those who view themselves as intellectually superior to their fellows rarely make lasting friendships. 

Enjoy your lonely path. May you never find the need to cry out for aid or companionship from us unwashed masses. However if you do, I'm sure you will find the help you need. 

Chris, I disagreed with you on two interpretations you hold forth about the values of Christian teachings. In each case you posited opinions that were not supportable. In the process I as several other Nexus members have suggested believe that you are essentially and Xtian troll or to be more civil a Christian Apologist. Well, if the shoe fits.

In any case, I didn't see any post where people were over the top or horribly rude. You just don't like it people that disagree with your often trite apologist assertions and use of Christian based philosophers as definitive proof that your beliefs are ultimately true.

Your walking alone statements are really more akin to a child that takes the ball and leaves the game.

Here is some self evident truth. All religion is predicated on at best fairy tales. There is no god, no afterlife, no omniscient being that intervenes in our lives by invoking it or by sheer whim of the all powerful being. Therefore, as Gore Vidal once said if a pot of soup is bad a single spoonful is sufficient to confirm that. Debating over the value of Christian ethics, dogma or philosophy is simply slurping down lousy soup.

So, I bid you farewell as you roam the vast reaches of the Internet in search of people to swallow bad beliefs to satisfy your own ego.

Christian Soldier:

"Here is some self evident truth. All religion is predicated on at best fairy tales. There is no god, no afterlife, no omniscient being that intervenes in our lives by invoking it or by sheer whim of the all powerful being. Therefore, as Gore Vidal once said if a pot of soup is bad a single spoonful is sufficient to confirm that. Debating over the value of Christian ethics, dogma or philosophy is simply slurping down lousy soup".

And in regards to Chris' discussion Appreciating the wisdom of religion, I'd like to know what wisdom he refers to ? The wisdom of talking snakes or donkeys; the wisdom of drowning all life on earth including innocent children of all ages, including those still in the womb; the wisdom of cutting pregnant woman open and pulling out their unborn babies and dashing them against stony ground; or all the ridiculous and irrational beliefs of any number of other non-Christian religions ?

Mr. Jordan, it's easy to cite lots of idiotic things associated with religion; I'd cite the superstitions attached to holy relics as a good example. But you forget that I clearly declared that religion has all sorts of idiocy associated with it; my point concerned what grains of wheat could be extracted from all the superstitious chaff. 

I'll give you a specific example: the latter third of The Praise of Folly, by Erasmus. The first two-thirds of the book are a ferocious satire of all the evil in the Christian world of the time. Erasmus earned the lifelong enmity of the monks because he satirized the faults that everybody knew existed. The book goes on like this for two-thirds of the way, then stealthily shifts gears to talk about the role of folly in happiness. He presents an extended and subtle examination of the role that folly plays in permitting us to cope with the ravages of the world. All the follies he makes fun of in the first portion of the book turn out to be the forces that permit us to survive in a cruel world. 

Then he really goes deep. He presents the notion that folly, taken to an extreme, becomes the same thing as ecstasy. In fact, ecstasy can only be achieved through personal folly. It's a very subtle concept, and this brief summary cannot possibly do it justice. 

I'll warn you that Erasmus is tough slogging. If you're not very familiar with the situation when he wrote it, most of his better jabs will slip right by you. Moreover, he wrote in a truly elegant Latin that just doesn't translate well; his writings are laced with clever puns and innuendos. Most modern readers find him boring, but if you have a solid background in the times, he's quite fascinating.

In any event, I think it best that we abandon the vote I proposed earlier; it's obvious from the nasty tone of some of the comments that open, honest, robust discussion would not be possible. I've already been written off by many participants here as a Bad Guy Theist or Apologist for Religion, even though I have made my beliefs clear in several places. The important thing is that the Tribe has closed ranks, so there really is no point in continuation. Again, best wishes; I'll not be following any further discussion.

Aw-w, I got here too late.

That Chris knew of Roger Bacon's existence almost persuaded me of his Roman Catholicism. That I too once held onto Catholicism with a grip tight enough to metaphorically turn my knuckles white completed the persuasion. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge he presented; it was like I was debating a long-ago me. I'm gonna miss his arrogance; it was so much like mine once was, and a few say still is.

I once lived in Cincinnati, where boys who went to Catholic grade schools on the city's west side went to Roger Bacon High School. I lived on the city's east side and would have gone to Purcell High School if I hadn't instead gone to the college prep St. Xavier High School.

Here's a bit of Wikipedia's introduction to Roger Bacon:

He is sometimes credited, mainly starting in the 19th century, as one of the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method inspired by Aristotle and later Arabic scholars, such as those of Muslim scientist Alhazen.[2] However, more recent reevaluations emphasize that he was essentially a medieval thinker, with much of his "experimental" knowledge obtained from books, in the scholastic tradition.

Fare thee well Chris; most of us here hardly knew ye.

Atheism = no god.

All the rest is just human interaction. 

 

As for you:

1. You have personally thought up a set of rules you think all atheist should abide by. Then because we don't abide by your rules we are all suddenly 'guilty'. 

 

2.  "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."

You could have turned this sentence into an interesting topic to be discussed. But instead you are using it to attack everybody here. 

3. "I do not share that need; I am an individual in every sense of the word."

Then why come here in the first place.

4. "But group-think is a fundamental component of every tribal group."

A lot can be done through tribalism. Buildings, bridges, roads, steam engines, pyramids, churches and mosques are all build by way of tribalism. 

But

that doesn't mean everything done by way of tribalism is religious. 

5. "Perhaps I was naive to hope that I might find in others the fanatic dedication to intellectual integrity that drives me."

This is pure self righteous hypocrisy.

If you wish to continue your search please try the AFA website:

http://atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/

It's usually best if you introduce yourself first before participating in any forums.

Good luck.

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