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?
Do you mean "non-rational thinking"?
George - yes I do - thanks for point it out :)
Here, at AN, I have come across the phenomena of theism without rationalism. I am surprised. I feel pained that atheism is actually getting polluted. I have already started wondering whether atheists should unite in any form at all. Most atheists do not seem to realise that an atheist is an intellectualy superior member of a society and his thinking and acting should be in accordance with this stature.
Madhukar - Interesting point of view - my thoughts were the opposite - that atheists are not superior - although I do agree with your point that we should aim to act with integrity and honour, and aim to be leaders in rational thinking. I am interested to pursue this idea further and discuss ways that we might as community members promote this awareness and responsibility to others in our community - so that as a community we are more mindful of our role and how we conduct ourselves.
Madhukar, I respectfully disagree on intellectual superiority. Superiority is a dangerous concept because it can be distorted, just as dominionism can. I understand what you mean that atheism or naturalism or freethinkers or these more complex concepts require more sophisticated reasoning to maintain balance. How do white supremacists form their moral foundation? or how do athletes develop notions of superiority? Or for that matter the arrogance and hubris of the wealthy, or educated, or whatever? Superiority too quickly becomes polluted.
Madhukar / Joan - I wonder perhaps if we all might define our use of the term ''superior''
I wonder if perhaps Madhukar might be meaning of higher station, rank, degree, importance - whilst Joan may be thinking more about showing a consciousness of feeling of being better than or above others - superior airs. They are similar but different also. One is about a belief about ones rank and therefore responsibility; the other is about conceit or vanity.
Or maybe Madhukar means that we have cast off one of the most insidious, harmful human memes and thoughts? Similar to those who regard slavery as evil being 'superior' (to illustrate the point) to those who regard slavery as acceptable or even normal. Just trying to understand his point, not say I agree with it completely.
Greg /Joan /Alice,
You have seen Dr.Meaden's post about pride of atheists. I think that the word 'pride' does suggest some kind of supiriority. It is different than self respect. Intellectual supiriority is not any new concept and is well accepted. It simply means better enlightenment. Better knowledge, better thinking ability. Abilty for free thought and ratinal thinking, in my opinion, are highest intellectual qualities. This is what I mean by intellectual superiority. This very much exists in the society and it would be hypocritical to deny it.
I think actually it is borrowed from the Gay Pride movement - when gay people were discriminated against they promoted gay as being something to be proud about - and thus gained many equal rights for Gay people. Atheists are treated the same way in our society, they are looked down on for being non believers - if we start a similar movement and use pride to front it - we can gain the same status and respect as religious groups claim in our society.
I lived in SF from 1976 to 1996 and heard young gay men "reclaiming" the word "fag" and young pagan women reclaiming the word "witch".
They were taking away these words' power to hurt by re-using them. They succeeded.
do you reckon we should take on words such as Heathen and Infidel? ;)