I sometime read religious boards and it amazes and disappoints me how much religious zealots and atheist have in common – the absolute and righteous certainty that they at the exclusion of others possess knowledge/revelations that makes them the bearers of the truth.   

Recently on a different Atheist discussion board a lady that had just lost her young daughter wrote about her religious experience and of the comfort she receivers from her faith.  She politely shared her heart breaking story and even offered words of kindness.  The replies were predictably brutal and mocking, barely a shred of compassion for a mother that lost her child.  I made my best to present my atheist point of view to this lady but I did so with respect, compassion and understanding.  I also felt ashamed for my fellow atheists.

I see it here too at nexus, the same hubris and arrogance that at times is such that some individuals proclaim that their philosophies are “my own religion” while others are themselves “…my own religion” and their church is “my flesh and blood”.  Does this sound strangely familiar?  I suppose soon we will have Gods among us. 

Before we all get too heady from over indulging in the advantages of having the weight of evidence in our favor, we should remember that pointing out the irrationality of religion is as-easy-as- shooting-fish-in-a-barrel!  The real challenge is offering something better.

We are no better than those that dismiss us and demean us for being atheist if we dismiss and demean them for being believers. The belittling of others only diminishes us and at the very least makes us as misguided as we see theists to be.

It would serve us all well to remember that before presenting our carefully constructed arguments we could show something very simple – respect – and maybe even modesty.

If you believe that logic and reason offers superior guidance than mysticism and religion then BE the example.   

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There are times when I become a bit annoyed because I live in a place where religion is basically untouchable and revered above everything else, so I become jaded and hard hearted. But I do keep my mouth shut for the most part and I am respectful of the beliefs of those around me and most of those around me hold fast to the religions they were raised in.


We, as atheists, should believe as we believe as individuals and when it is time to come together we can be a group but a group of people with compassion for our fellows. We do not have to bash or demean others in their beliefs. The one and only time I become incensed is when religion interferes with reality and starts to influence public policy and education most importantly science education.

However, there is a fine line. To say nothing can be misconstrued as a message of support for a particular belief system. Yes, I agree that should someone be grieving for a lost loved one that is not the time to get on the soap box. But we cannot be completely silent either and we have to realize that there are going to be those of us who are not able to be diplomatic and will say some pretty insensitive things.

It is always good to remind ourselves that we are facing a giant when it comes to dealing with religion. It has been around a very long time and it is not going to go away soon. There are those among us who are in love with their religion so much so that they will kill themselves and others for it and that is something I am not willing to do for my beliefs.

We do not have to shout it out to be right about something, sometimes you just have to sit back and let people figure it out on their own. This site demonstrates this point, all one needs to do is read the stories of most of us who have come to the conclusion that there is a more rational way of thinking about the nature of our existence.
They want to shove it down our throats.

Only if you're a minor....
Only if you're a minor....

I'd say ESPECIALLY if you're a minor ... but adults aren't exempt. I've dealt with the door-to-door JW's myself (politely but firmly) and will likely have to do so again - they don't quit easily.
It was more of a pun in regards to priests, shoving in throats and minors, I guess it didn't work so well.

Jehova's Witnesses ... don't quit easily.

It is indeed difficult to make it absolutely clear to them that they need not try. From my experience it's best to make a statement regarding the absurdity of accepting the Bible as literal and inerrant, preferably in a mocking and derogatory manner.

When two JWs came to my house I asked how much it would cost me to buy their daughter and if they wanted me to get some stones to bludgeon to death a gay resident. Then I said that I was not interested, that I already had Bible study from JWs and that it had only affirmed that which I already knew.

I said goodbye and closed the door, I don't think they'll come back.

I used arrogance and rudeness deliberately because I am convinced that it's the only way in which to truly get rid of them. I tried being polite in the past, I even went so far as to take weekly Bible classes from them and had many a discussion.

If there is anything that I've learned from experience, it's that being arrogant is a way too close off a discussion completely, I haven't seen it been useful within a respectful discussion. Arrogance implies superiority and you can only discuss from an equal position.

Ignorance however, is something so ridiculous that when confronted with it, one is tempted to resort to arrogance to be simply rid of the blabbering nonsense by ending the discussion. To claim the (deliberate) ignorance of the opposing party in a discussion is considered to be arrogant even if it seems completely justified to do so.

I once listened to a (radio)debate between PZ Myers and some schmuck who displayed such ignorance that I would have been an arrogant prick during half of the debate. Might not be useful for society as a whole but I would have felt a lot better because of it.

Arrogance has some good and bad uses, I'd like to keep it in my arsenal to be used for comical effect or emergencies of utter ignorance.
It is very similar to some of the strategies I have heard of for dealing with telemarketers.
1. Keep them talking for x amount of time.
2. Sell them sometime
3. Propose marriage (bonus points if they accept)
4. Get their personal phone number
Thank you Fred for your story. I don't know what I would have done in the situation. 5 years ago I would have just quietly participated. Now... I don't know.
Anyone who attempts to forcibly push a lit candle into my hand will discover how fast they can lose the function in their fingers if not their wrist, presuming they wish to push the issue.

Religionists too often presume that they can get away with this manner of behavior as a matter of course. Fred's situation is an unfortunate and somewhat extreme example of this, and the real tragedy is that that priest could not see past his own biases and recognize that there was another point of view in play.
I completely concur. Heinlein said that sometimes you have to step on their toes until THEY apologize. Under these circumstances, I see that quote as being wholly appropriate.
A final thought

The replies to my original comment can be succinctly summed as either of three types:
1. They do it too
2. They did if first
3. I don’t care

These are the arguments made by an obstinate child - not the arguments made by adults whose self-proclaimed reasoning and logic make them superior to theists.

Granted few individuals actually replied to my post and as it often happens with calls for civility, it is the truculent minority that responds most vigorously. I wonder where were the older and wiser atheists?

This episode helps to strengthen my belief that there is no moral imperative to knowledge. “To know the good is to do the good” is an absurdly naïve idea – sorry Socrates and Kant.

Without a guiding ethic, reason and logic become nothing more than another means of self-aggrandizement and of diminishing others no different from even the most irrational ideologies.

An ecologist I once worked with said it best “knowledge is like money, it can be put to good use, wasted away, or used for destructive means.” Sadly, he was referring to fellow ecologists whose work on endangered species become nothing more than a tool for professional advancement rather than an earnest desire to save species from extinction. Friends in medical research have the same experience. Lives are lost in the name of carrier advancement.

My point here is to emphasize the importance of a guiding ethic and what I tried to do with my post was to begin a dialogue about the simplest of values of any ethic – respect and empathy.

It’s sad that it failed so measurably.
Though I respect your intentions, I feel rather insulted that you can compile all of the discussion replies into the three categories that you have declared. As I have seen a wide range of replies that branch in many ways. True, many folks are a bit jaded. Alas, I think it might be the older, wiser ones who are more jaded than myself. I think a lot of people who go out and face the world do so feeling isolated and as a minority group. Especially in some of the larger centers. I remember one high school I went to, we shared a bus, half going to the public school and the other half going to a Christian school. Still, even the majority of those going to the public school were still Christian. It just saved the public school system money by sharing the bus. Alas, my brother being the only outspoken atheist at the time has always enjoyed debating the merits of religion.

One day he was talking to a girl and I guess the conversation got a little too heated. I don't know exactly what transpired during the conversation however the girl ended up in tears. I guess he pushed her a bit too far. Was he in the wrong? I don't know. I know he would cause trouble if he ended up in a country with blasphemy laws. I can be thankful Canada only has hate speech laws.

But, a lot of people do feel persecuted. I can only imagine in the United States were you have a president who makes declarations that atheists should not be treated as citizens. Even if the number of atheists are growing, they are still concentrated and isolated in pockets of rationality. Which seem to be on the outer boarders. Maybe it is the increased contact with other countries that helps, who knows. But, I can understand that the longer who are trying to be vocal, the more jaded and deterred you will be from being civil. I am not about to condone being insensitive and outright vicious, physically or with speech. But, understanding is important in creating a dialogue.

So, don't give up. Try and try again. I look forward to your wisdom.
It was Bush senior who was quoted that one. I don't know of any official declarations by Bush Jr. However, I would not be surprised. Either way, there were enough Christian's who declared that Bush Jr. was made president by God so they could have their "holy" war. I am honestly thankful to be living in Canada knowing that information about my lovely neighbor. But yes, the current American President, Obama, has a much different view and I am happy he is declaring outright that America was not founded as, nor currently is, a Christian country. Back to the good old days that way.
"pompous ass" my oh my Phil, I didn't know I was about to tangle with such masters of rhetoric. Every time most people reply to must post you only help to make my point all the more clear and I presume that is exactly why you make the comments that you do. Can't wait to read more from such a brilliant mind.

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