My son lives in Brooklyn and I was visting from Texas. He suggested we spend the morning book shopping at the Strand on Broadway at 12th Street and the afternoon in Queens taking in the Museum of the Moving Image (we are both film buffs), then dinner at the Seva Indian Restaurant. On the L train going back (the long way around since New York pisses off its subway customers by shutting down certain trains on weekends for repair, so we could not take the G train), as we stepped into the car and made out way to a vacant spot in the middle, a young man got out of his seat and asked me, "Would you like to sit?" I did and thanked him. He was bald but had a big unkempt beard. The woman sitting next to him had a burka, but I did not know they were married until, during our short conversation, he introduced her as his wife.
The conversation revealed that he had served in the army and was stationed at Fort Hood, near Killeen, Texas, my home state. He did not like Killeen, because it "had nothing to do" (the soldiers on leave go to San Antonio), and because of the drug culture there. (Without asking, I suspected the drug of choice was methamphetamine, which no intelligent person should touch.) The conversation was what Fritz Perls would have characterized as mostly bullshit (not the weather and such, which Perls called "chickenshit" nor the Einstein and Cabala he termed "elephant shit"), as those would be out of bounds except for casual acquaintances and fellow academics. it was more along the lines of comparisons between Texas and New York.
When we left them at a change of trains, I had a sharp pang of remorse. Here I was lambasting Muslims and anyone religious weekly on this site, Facebook, and Twitter, and the only person on the metro who offered me a seat was an Islamist. Yes, I know the caveat that not all believers are "bad" and that even fools can be nice now and then. But my self-examination was more along the lines of the thought that one might better simply argue the atheist point of view without humiliating believers by putting them in the same boat, not turning away the very people who should be given food for thought and logical reasons why they should abjure. I realized that all too often I demean believers in ways that so upset them they go away thinking, if that is what free-thinking is all about, I want no part of it. I think this notion is very much in keeping with the site administrators' wish that we tone down our rhetoric so that people curious about atheism, people who are, perhaps a little agnostic to begin with, do not turn off when they see hyper-pejorative things on the site. I promised myself to be a bit more lenient and tactful.
Of course, when I got back to Brooklyn and on my son's Mac, I saw a Facebook entry asking, "Should an atheist marry a religious person," and my reply was, "By all means an atheist should marry a believer, and after the honeymoon, beat the bejesus out of them."
Hey, to err is human.
Hi James, I think of it this way, every country has its military don't they? They are disciplined, ready for war and if its one thing that the military has, but citizens do not often have is they keep themselves alert. They are a necessary part of any country's defenses.
The new word I have heard lately to define anyone 'militant' or 'aggressive' is anti-theist. Frankly I think we are being misunderstood. I don't going looking for trouble, but when trouble finds me, it can't handle me. I'm ready for it. I think religions are using this new word because there have been those who do look for trouble, But then again religion has also been aggressive and sought trouble. They have a dark history. And this goes back to the middle ages That is the reality we live in.
I've also seen people invited by churches to talk about atheism in a cool conversational manner. To me those people are more diplomatic. I think that is just fine. As long as its not me. While I don't have an issue with anyone who is an atheist and who is 'nice' to religious people, or that they decide to marry a person who is religious, I have my guard up. And I see absolutely no reason to bring it down. Just like anyone from the military or say TSA were to stop someone from coming into this country because they need a passport, if someone religious want's to come in to my turf, they are going to be met with hostility. I am just that way.
Just because a religious person gave me a sandwich it doesn't mean that their 'religion' is any different than the way I felt about them before. It just means that there are positive people in the world. And that is the main reason why I am an atheist. I believe I can be positive, have morals and make a better life for myself and my family, without a deity. .
I never understood the combustible-to-the-touch culture of militant atheists. When I think of the problem of religion I think back to the contrast between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X and who ultimately won that war as a leader. Malcolm X made much more sense to me but it was Martin Luther King, Jr. who changed the heart of the United States and many peoples outside our borders. He also did it without sacrificing Black identity. If anything, he strengthened it and encouraged people who weren't Black to support that culture as well.
Hi James. Before I start into those who are religious and actually think sometimes, my step-daughter lives in lower Manhattan literally (I use the word as it is meant) right across the street from the NY Stock Exchange. She loves it. And even though my wife and I live out in the middle of nowhere in the central mountains of New Mexico, I find the lure of New York very strong.
Anyway, we have a neighbor who is very "christian" in her beliefs. She is very well aware of mine and my wife's thoughts on religion and does not try to argue with us. We do not try to persuade her from her beliefs. She is a wonderful neighbor. When my mother died she offered me the fervent prayer that her Abba watch over me and give me peace. I asked if she was now praying to a Swedish rock band. She laughed and told me I was a "smarty-pants" and to look Abba up.
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003
I reminded her of my atheist views. She told me she did not ask me to pray, she told me she prayed for me. She called me a "godless ass," hugged the stuffing out of me, and then walked back to her home. I love my neighbor! Not all christians are mindless jerks.
By the way, without naming names, she is part of the group that established the Native American Museum that is now open in New York, not far from where my step-daughter lives.
I consider my self somewhat militant, but not an anti-theist. To me the distinction hinges on separating the worth of the believer from the value of that belief. I condemn a host of religious-based behaviors, considering many the paradigm of moral depravity, but not the innate worth of human beings deluded into behaving this way. In particular, humiliating believers repels me.
I consider myself the reverse of you, Ruth. I view myself as anti-theist but not militant. But I point out the same distinction in myself as you do. I try not to belittle the religious person, just their beliefs. After all, I was in their shoes, maybe to a lesser degree, at one point in the distant past. I just get extremely frustrated when those persons are not able to let go of the obviously irrational and absurd beliefs they hold.
But there is a minority group of just plain horrible, religious human beings who will always be that way and are using religion as a cloak to justify their behavior. Those are the people that I have no problem going beyond just ridiculing the belief to humiliating the person. These are the people who are cut from the same cloth as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ann Coulter, Michele Bachmann, etc.
As an aside regarding militarism, some may say (both in and out of the atheist community) for example that David Silverman, president of American Atheists, is a militant atheist. I don't view him or his actions that way. His strategy for us atheists is two-fold: to give atheists the equal respect and influence as any other group, and to lessen the overly influential and privileged status that religion unfairly enjoys in our society. I have seen nothing militant in his actions in pursuing that goal.
"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." Steven Weinberg
I don't think your experience and what you've expressed, or Weinberg's sentiment, are mutually exclusive. I can't help but wonder how the conversation between you and the unquestionably polite and considerate Muslim would have gone had the topic of religion been brought up. I have a colleague - another attorney - who is an ordained minister, with whom I work quite frequently. He knows, beyond any doubt, I'm an atheist. We get along quite well, refer cases to each other, consult with each other, and occasionally joke around during lulls in Court proceedings. Nevertheless, the "theological rift" (if you will) is still there.
The other day, when he stated he would not perform a civil union ceremony, I retorted with something to the effect that, "I'm not surprised." He started up about how there is no homosexuality in nature, to which I promptly corrected him and told him to actually open a book and read about how over 1,000 different mammalian species engage in homosexual behavior. He then stated that he knows I'm an "evolutionist," to which I again corrected him and stated that I am a "rationalist" and not a "superstitionist."
He is a normally moral person who does well for his clients, has a family, and is a junior league football coach. He also holds fast to all the bigotries that religion instills in people. And, I presume, will act on those bigotries for religious reasons, the same as the gentlemen who gave his seat to you on a crowded subway train.
Pat, this is what we need more of: counter-punching, not letting the other person get away with his or her unsupported statements. As you observe, he may be a decent person in other respects, but that does not earn him a pass on his bigotry. That he attempts to justify his prejudice in the supposed fact that "there is no homosexuality in nature" reflects both his bias and his ignorance of reality.
If we refuse to let this kind of attitude stand unchallenged, if we continue to counter-punch, rebut, and refute these mistaken attitudes, it's just possible that we may wake a few people up to the bullshit represented by the religions these people hold so dear ... and MAYBE get them to start questioning them.
I actually pulled something kind of crappy on the attorney/minister yesterday in Court. Not quite sure how the subject came about, but I asked him to give me a concrete definition of exactly what the noun "blessing" is defined as. I told him since I'm an atheist, I figured I'd go to him as an expert for the answer. He started out telling me it was something that made him personally feel good. I told him that hot sex and a cigarette afterwards did the same thing for me. What I wanted to know is what corporeal and identifiable thing a "blessing" is. And don't give the definition in terms of a verb. That's just incantations.
For those of you old enough to remember Jackie Gleason's character "Ralph Cramden" on the TV show, The Honeymooners, he sounded like Gleason's character when confused.
"Homana, homana, homana, homana...." It's one of those rare moments of pleasure I get as a felony public defender in between methamphetamine and burglary cases.
James, it's possible for a person to be well-mannered and courteous on one level and still maintain anachronistic and bigoted beliefs at the same time. It's a form of compartmentalization, perhaps one of the more subtle varieties. Certainly, the young man deserves a nod for offering you his seat, though he might have insisted that his cloaked wife relinquish hers as an extreme example. That he exercised good manners still doesn't excuse treating his wife as property, as evinced by the burqa she wore.
Personally, I remain both an atheist and an anti-theist, and . when I look at the collective perfidies committed by Christians, Jews and Muslims, I feel fully justified in those positions. If an individual who espouses one of the above faiths treats with me in an equitable manner, I have no problem in appreciating that treatment and returning it in kind. However, I cannot look at the hypocrisies of Christianity or the endorsement of taqiyya in Islam and remain indifferent to those practices.
I have said many times that I have precisely ZERO RESPECT for religion in any form, but also that I am willing to respect its practitioners ... to the degree that they respect me.
I am anti-theistic but not militant. As long as someone's religious views are not interfering with my life I don't care if they believe in any deities whatsoever.
If someone comes up to me as yesterday and starts in on evangelising, then they are the ones who are militant, and in any withering response I give I will take no prisoners nor show mercy.
I wrote a letter to the paper a couple days ago. The local paper ran an article about a local family whose three-year-old son has a condition known as Doose Syndrome, a particularly nasty form of childhood epilepsy that is nearly always fatal and for those that it isn't ofttimes destroys the intellect.
Some yahoo wrote saying they needed to accept Jesus into their lives and he would watch over them.
Fair game for me. Inserting your religion into such a family's pain, where the only other person in the area with epilepsy is me is fair game for a blistering retort. I fired a letter to the editor (which will run tomorrow) pointing out that for all the prayer and conversion in the world nary a single documented case of epilepsy has been cured. There is zero support for epilepsy here, the local pharmacy has to special-order my medications.
On the other hand, science has done wonderful things with medications and surgeries. I can even drive thanks to scientific advances in medications. Given the choice of scientific endeavour or Bronze Age ritual, the family in seeking top neurologists and local support are doing the right thing.
I signed with my titles: retired-disabled US Navy Petty Officer (yes there are atheists in foxholes, or at least on aircraft carriers) and as a village trustee. (I also extended an offer to the family for help in researching Doose if they needed assistance.)
It is rare that I pop off against the religious, but twice in two days now (the other being the evangelists that showed up at my house yesterday). Normally I don't care what they think nor do.
Excellent, James. I'll be interested in hearing if there is any fallout from your rebuttal.