Fundamentally, we Atheists would love to share our secret.  We know how nonsensical religions are.  We feel a collective freedom.  We feel it's a better way to go through life, and we'd love for others to join us. 

 

But what if this actually does happen.  Atheism catches on, and 15% becomes 50%.  Would this be a good thing?  Maybe, maybe not.  I imagine a scenario where the remaining believers become even more dug in, more fanatical.  It almost has to be that way.  In order to continue to believe in what people are running away from in droves you would likely have to become more extreme in your beliefs. 

 

I imagine that in said scenario, we Atheists will become even more dug in ourselves, so convinced of our correctness based on the throng of converts that any remaining believers are surely ignorant fools. 

 

What we have here would be a truly divisive rift.  Two polar oppositve extemes trying to coexist in a world/country with no buffer.  It's a recipe for disaster.  Civil wars begin in such ways. 

 

I admit that it is an extremely unlikely scenario.  But the possibility of such an occurrence does beg the question - should we just keep our secret to ourselves?  

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Comment by John Camilli on December 2, 2011 at 12:20pm

"The more I connect through AN and other groups for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, etc. the more I forget that there are still many people that can't wrap their head around my beliefs."

That's a good point to make, Martial, and another thing to watch out for; that we do not become so sequestered in our own domain that we forget how to relate to others. Being an atheist carries this risk naturally, as we are a vast minority, and yet if we cannot relate to others, how are we ever to convey our ideas to them? We are wont to think of the theists as ignorant, and ourselves as enlightened; blaming them for being so un-informed as to make our ideas incomprehensible. But Einstein said it, didn't he? That "if you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." If we become so distant from theists that the ideological divide is insurmountable, then it is we who have become stupid along side them, each of us confined to our own little universe of understanding; our own little dogma.

I think it is important to pay close attention to how we each have become convinced of atheistic ideas, and do what we can to preserve those memories so that we can relate to people who have yet to experience them. Otherwise, we become like a technician, too submerged in his or her own technical jargon to speak the common language anymore.

I think a particularly pertinent area to look at is the divide between dualistic and empirical thinkers, as well as the different types of skeptics. Most of the disconnect between theists and athesits can be found in whether one is a dualist or an empiricist, and the divide goes all the way into modern science: for over a half century, quantum theorists have been split between (basically) two schools of thought that hinge (I think) on whether the observer of QM experiments is a dualist or an empiricist (happy to go into more detail on that for anyone interrested). And the important thing to realize when studying those philosophies is that there's no way to utterly prove one or the other correct. Most atheists seem to get it into their heads pretty early on that there is something inferior about the dualistic approach, and yet there is no proof or disproof that can substantiate such an idea. There is no better reason for being one or the other, it just ends up meaning that you'll make different interpretations of you reality. I get into that with my friend Glen here sometimes, though neither of us has gotten the other to budge on that point :-).

Comment by Martial Epicurus on December 1, 2011 at 9:05am

"problem is, even the even-tempered one's come across as Satan peddling hethens to the religious enslaved masses."

 

For some reason that sentence reminded me of The Screwtape Letters (book of the month at church many years ago). The story depicts a demon basically coaching his nephew as he attempts to corrupt a Christian. The nephew's method of corruption is considered typical. He attempts to tempt the Christian into extravagantly sinful acts while his uncle instructs that "the safest path to hell is the gradual one." I believe the same can be said about how atheists deal with theists. I am atheist 24 hours a day, 365 days a year so it isn't a big deal to me. The more I connect through AN and other groups for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, etc. the more I forget that there are still many people that can't wrap their head around my beliefs. As much as I'd like to shake the superstition out of them, it doesn't work that way. 

Comment by matthew greenberg on December 1, 2011 at 8:08am

John, i think you hit at the heart of what i was trying to warn against.  honestly, i'm not even sure i agree with my own premise, but i thought it was an important question to raise. 

 

ultimately, i think that Atheists tend to be much more gentle and introverted in their approach.  we hear about 'Angry Atheists' all the time, but typically they are not so much 'angry' as they are outspoken.  Dawkins is an 'Angry Atheist'.  really?  the difference is that our views are so completely OUT THERE to the public at large.  they cannot conceive of a person who doesn't believe in something so fundamental as the existence of God.  so indoctrined are the masses that hitting them with some minor information feels like a sledgehammer to the face.  it's almost as though you can see their brains short circuiting at the notion of Atheistic ideas.  if small comments can do that, imagine the blow that a truly outspoken Atheist with a grand stage can land on them.  no sledgehammer, more like a grand piano dropped from a roof. 

 

i honestly feel like the majority of Atheists are pretty good at handling relations with Theists.  problem is, even the even-tempered one's come across as Satan peddling hethens to the religious enslaved masses.

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on November 30, 2011 at 10:28pm

Crusaders had faith. The mundane religious folks today are less governed by faith. The greater the stranglehold of faith the greater its pernicious influence. Faith-based morality is rotten to the core. 

Atheists worship reason and rationalism. This mindset causes atheists to question whether it is right that offenders should be stoned to death for a minor offence, whether abortion is murder, whether gays and women should be second class citizens.

Therefore the erosion of faith will not result in civil war. Likely it will engender superior ethics, and will not be another my way or you die way of life. Where faith has eroded sufficiently to approach 50/50 civil war will not occur. If atheists were vociferous in some faith loving country in the middle east, the atheists would be slaughtered. But where the overlordship of faith has ceded power to a large extent civil war aint happenning.

Comment by Phil Smith on November 30, 2011 at 5:39pm

I have to agree with you John, you do put it more succinctly than I; prejudice never knows reason and reason is what we are all about. I do get angry at some of the idiocy propounded by creationists, J.Ws, and fundementalists generally yet they too hold their views as " right". Quandry innit.   

Comment by John Camilli on November 30, 2011 at 4:42pm

Interresting topic. I have taken caution at the potential of this problem for a while now, often preaching to atheists that we must not become the next round of theists; believing solely in our own "right" answers and condemning all others. I see it happening all the time on this site and others. Many of us are angry to the point of irrationality, blindly hating all things religious and seeking the downfall of theists everywhere. How can such a way of thinking be any better than the dogma it replaces?

 

I jsut saw a study released today that cited distrust as the main problem that theists have with atheists, ranking right up there with the level of distrust in rapists... yes really. That made me think for a moment because I couldn't conceive of how we could be veiwed as being at all similar. But from the perspective of a theist, I think I can indeed see the correlation. First of all, they see as lacking any morals and being capable of anything because we have no tangible compass for our morality. Moreover, I think they view us as trying to constantly lure people to our way of thinking, sneeking in our seemingly mundane facts to hide the larger, abhorrent nature of our conclusions.

 

I think it is important to be aware of, and to combat, these impressions that theists have of us. Not only externally, but internally as well. I have seen a lot of propensity for hubris and righteousness in atheists that, if sustained by a majoritypopulace, would lead only to more oppression.

Comment by matthew greenberg on November 29, 2011 at 1:20pm

i nor anyone else knows what the future holds.  a make believe scenario such as this one does not mean that we should sit idly by and let our rights be taken away by religious politicians.  it does not mean, or intend to infer, that we should not be outspoken, or continue to do as we do.  i was simply wondering if there is a negative potential effect of 'winning' the war against religion.  or if winning isn't the right word, gaining ground may work better.  just b/c something could happen it doesn't mean that we should change our behavior b/c, well, what if?

Comment by Martial Epicurus on November 29, 2011 at 1:12pm

Interesting thought. It certainly seems plausible to me. I agree with the live and let live sentiments from Phil. It's usually when they don't do the same that issues arise, in my life anyway. As for the secret...I guess it my atheism isn't much of a secret these days. I don't wear it on my sleeve but if asked, I'm honest (except in a work setting for some reason).

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on November 28, 2011 at 6:16pm

We should ask historians how such shifts occurred in the past. Human beings have made many radical shifts in belief, yet here we are. In War Is a Force That Gives Us meaning Chris Hedges describes war as a kind of psychosis. When a country loses its war, within a few days an abrupt shift happens. Suddenly people are once again capable of seeing reality instead of "mythic reality." Perhaps such an abrupt awakening is possible with religion too, if a threshold percentage of the population grasps memetics. Just as a culture can be literate or illiterate, it could become memetically sophisticated. While there would be individual exceptions, the Overton window can move.

Comment by Phil Smith on November 28, 2011 at 4:57pm

Maybe" we of no faith"  should just live and let live, ignore the bleatings of the faithfull and lead by example.  I do not enter into discusion when I encounter them, ( except a bit of J.W baiting when they knock on my door.) but carry on my activities as I always have, happy in the knowledge that my mind is free of the contradictory b/s these poor sods have to live with.  I cannot deny that some of the teachings of J.C were pretty spot on such as being good to the rest of humanity, helping those that don't have etc. Sooner, though probably later, they wil see that we godless heathens are actually more "christian" than they are.  A rather apt quote I came across sort of sums it up.  Two hands working will achieve infinitly more than a thousand pais clasped in prayer.

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