I came to the understanding that I was an atheist about 5 years ago, when I was 30 years old. I'd had a lot of time to develop my irrational thinking over that 30 year period.
It was then that I came across a Bright's chat group - wow, what a shock - I was notified clearly and succinctly that my comments were ridiculous, out of this world and plain nonsense - that I had probably been mistaken in arriving in the chat room to start with - followed by ridicule, dismissals and general boredom.
I went off the idea of being an atheist for a few months - then due to thirst for human interaction on the rational level - I persevered and found the Naturalists -
Here I received a very different response. One of compassion, understanding, kindness and education. Many thanks to Tom Clark, Ken Batts, Stephen and others for their above listed qualities.
It was in a Naturalism Yahoo Group that I was educated about rational thinking - but mainly about causality, the causal web and determinism. Not everyone agrees regarding this view of reality - but I find this approach to be way more beneficial to well being and the promotion of education regarding rational thought than the afore mentioned experience afforded me in the Bights forum.
A recent blog post (http://www.atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/are-atheists-smarter-tha... ) and subsequent comments led me to the following question:
What is our responsibility as atheists, in promoting rational thinking?
None of us are able to maintain rational thought all of the time - we all transgress into irrational thinking at times. It takes practice and mindfulness to maintain rational thought.
I think we can be more kind to ourselves, our fellow atheists and the outside community when it comes to promoting rational thought. Indeed I believe it our responsibility.
I hope that Matt doesn't mind my posting his comment from the blog discussion below in order to demonstrate another frustration that would also benefit from us having more integrity as a community in how we maintain and promote our rational thinking - in a way that is effect in terms of education - which I would argue would include understanding, compassion and kindness.
Comment by Matt VDB on Wednesday
What I mean is that it's easy to say that you're a rationalist and that they have reason on their side - everyone thinks of themselves as rational and with reason on their side. Even creationists think of themselves as rational and intellectually honest. What ultimately determines if you're rational isn't whether or not you say that you are. It's in your day-to-day attitude of checking sources, having respect for the opinions of experts, etcetera...
What is your response to none rational thinking?
What are your thoughts about what we need to do as a community to effectively promote rational thought?
For a start I think that all Western dictionaries were written by Christian believers. This has unfairly distorted the definitions of some words that are important to us.
We certainly need to introduce truly unbiased definitions. This could lead to a useful mini dictionary of a few hundred words.
have referred to myself in the past as a Heathen - when talking to Christian friends - in the context - 'I don't know how you put up with your heathen friends!' or 'no, us heathens don't go to church'. I have a black sense of humour - and it always draws a laugh.
Alice, when I'm talking with xians who know I've kicked religion, I too sometimes refer to myself as a heathen. I like the sound of "infidel".
And by the way, I can see "Us heathens...." getting chuckles when "We heathens...." won't.
i don't view other atheists as being inherently intellectually superior to others in our society. Remember Atheists are just people without a belief in a deity or deities. You don't need to a superior intellect to determine God doesn't exist just a lack of evidence. You could describe yourself as a freethinker to convey the point that you think rationally when pondering or arguing a point among other things.
oracle - I'm new to the terms freethinker, rationalist, skeptic etc.... I should read up on them and see if I fit one of those categories.
I agree with you - we are victims of causality - we were born atheist or theist and it didn't have much to do with intelligence and much more to do with circumstance. I've only taken this path on here due to my dad sharing his science based understanding of the world - otherwise all other influences in my life are super-natural in nature.
I'm new to the terms freethinker, rationalist, skeptic etc.... I should read up on them and see if I fit one of those categories.
Alice, are you trying to be modest?
Madhukar - LOL - I'm what you might call a natural learner - I haven't done a lot of academic reading on these matters.
I've also read a few books of science:
The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris and The Greatest show on Earth by Dawkins - I have other books, but haven't got through them all yet - mostly just read the first few pages or chapters. I've also read lots of posts here, and been involved in the Naturalism group in discussions for about 5 years - as well as in the last 8 months I've had access to You Tubes of lectures by Krauss, Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and Hitchens - all of which I found very interesting, inspiring, informative and I do feel passionately about such things. I have to thank my Dad also, as he explained to me about the big bang and evolution when I was around 9 years old, after reading some of Dawkins and Hawking's books himself.
My experience is that it is very difficult to become an atheist. It needs moral strength and better intellectual qualities to arrive at atheism. Without adequate and without adequate thinking abilities, atheism is not possible.
Alice, some months ago I started visiting atheist sites and making a Favorites list. With so many sites to visit, I did not visit the Brights. I asked myself, "Are they snobs?" I felt no need to find out.
Upon reading your post above, I visited their site. In their requirements I saw a strictness I once used, before I grew the self-confidence I now have. The Brights' strictness might have a protective purpose.
I don't know what you commented to the Brights and so don't know if their responses served to protect them. I've been politically active for many years and often hear hurried responses from hurried people.
As to "rational", the word has at least two uses: according to logic, and goal-directed. The first use is common in mathematics and science; the second use is common in economics.
I read far more non-fiction than fiction. I expect non-fiction authors to have used their reason; I expect fiction authors to have used their imagination.
I think creationists are protecting their beliefs, which is a quite rational goal.
Tom - I don't think the members of the Brights community are much different to our AN community - I see similar responses to new comers here, who are newly away from their theist points of view - and so still under some illusion - they get a bumpy reception.
My point is about how we educate others on rational thinking - do we do it with negative comments and ridicule, or do we make an effort to be kind whilst we point out the faults in their reasoning?
It's not as simple as become an atheist - it's about a whole change in the way that we think - from reasoning based in non-rational thought, to reasoning based in rational thought - and this process takes time and education by others who are willing to hear non-rational statements, and provide education - I'm arguing that we need to show more kindness and compassion when it comes to educating people to think rationally.
Thanks for highlighting the different meanings of rational. Logical rational and goal-directed rational thinking.... it's worth making those finer distinctions.
Alice, I really like this group discussion and openness to input, although I didn't have problems as a newcomer. I did get responses that explained my misunderstanding of the meaning of atheist and I had a chance to rethink my position. With clear thinking and realistic definitions, this site helps me come to a deeper understanding of what it means to claim to be an atheist. I particularly like your gentle style, Alice; you nudge and provoke in a compassionate way, wise beyond your years.
Joan - that's very kind of you - thank you for the compliment to my character :)
I too much appreciate the opportunity to share and be challenged and learn in this community - we are a brutally honest lot at times - and I've learnt how to let it role off me now - on the whole I don't get personal attacks - we do tend to stick to playing the ball and not the person..... it's just that we can come in so very personally attached to our beliefs about reality, strong identification, and can take attacks on the beliefs personally.