Monday, October 22, 2012

Stupid American Atheists

American Atheists have decided that it's in their best interests to take sides in the Presidential election. They produced a billboard and mounted it on a truck to drive around Boca Raton, Florida, the site of this evening's third presidential debate [American Atheists Demand Answers on Romney's Religious Loyalty].

This is not only an attack on religion—as opposed to an attack on the existence of god(s)—but it's an attack on a particular religion that just happens to be the religion of one of the candidates. There's no balanced attack on the religion of the other candidate even though his religion is just as bad.

This is really stupid and American Atheists should be ashamed of themselves. It's the sort of thing that rightly fuels the accommodationist objections to the New Atheists.


19 comments :

  1. Why should religions, as opposed to the existence of god, not be criticized? Why should a particular religion, notably one that is the relatively recent work of a known con man, be exempt from questioning? Why should we not care that a man who may become President believes in not just patently foolish things, but is associated with an organization with clearly bigoted positions on important issues? Yes, Obama's religion is also ridiculous, but it has the advantage of being ancient, which Mormonism does not. It also has the advantage of being very nebulous, with lots of room for metaphorizing, while the Book of Mormon is meant to be read literally, and is held by Mormons to be not just an accurate history of the pre-Columbian people of the Americas, but the most correct book ever written.

    If Mitt Romney believed in alien abductions, and that those abductions made white people and straight people better than others, we'd call him out for it, even if Obama believed in extraterrestrial life that just had never visited Earth. And it would be utterly devastating to his political career, because it's utter nonsense that we would never countenance in a President. Why are his provably false religious beliefs any less open to scrutiny?

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    1. If Mitt Romney believes that gays and blacks are inferior Americans then he should be criticized. It's not especially relevant for an atheist organization to make that case since any reasonable person could do it.

      But he's not being criticized for those things. He's being criticized because he happens to belong to a particular religion. It's the fallacy of guilt by association. I have no idea what Romney personally believes, do you?

      Why should we not care that a man who may become President believes in not just patently foolish things, but is associated with an organization with clearly bigoted positions on important issues?

      You should care that your current President, Barack Obama, probably believes in patently foolish things and is associated with an organization that has lots of bigoted positions. The fact that after 2000 years people still haven't recognized the foolishness in his organization is not a recommendation.

      Is American Atheists a registered charity? If so, won't they get in trouble for this ad?

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    2. He's a bishop.

      Is saying the head of the local chapter of the KKK is a racist guilt by association?

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    3. Larry said "I have no idea what Romney personally believes, do you?"

      Of course not Larry. No one does because Mitt keeps flip-flopping so many times it's not possible to keep up with his lies.

      Also, Larry, Mitt doesn't just "happen" to belong to the Mormon religion. He chooses too, every day. And touts it as something positive. So it's entirely relevant to point out that, no, it's not entirely positive. In fact, much of it is specifically negative.

      Would you have felt better if the other side of the billboard took a shot at Christianity or religion in general so that it was more "balanced?"

      And if "any reasonable person" could make the case, why is it that nearly half the American voting population will not make that case at all? Are they all unreasonable? (Frankly it would be pretty easy to argue "yes" to that.)

      Yes, Obama believes all kinds of nonsense with his Christianity, and he should be criticized for it as well.

      Also, why are you asking if American Atheists is a "registered charity?" You could just look it up. Not every organization with a ".org" is a CHARITY. It just means it's a non-profit, which is not the same thing as a charity.

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    4. Whether charity or non-profit, don't see why they could get in trouble for display. They are not legally guilty of political advocacy. They criticized a religion, but neither endorsed nor criticized a candidate. If the message was about christianity one could hardly accuse them of being anti-Obama. Nor, despite the anti-mormon message could one accuse them of being anti-Harry Reid or any other Mormon who is in the news these days.

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  2. I don't think it is quite fair to characterize the Mormon Church as racist, as they long ago abandoned the belief that Africans are the descendents of Ham.

    Clearly, their beliefs are nuttier then mainline Protestants, liberal Catholics, and Reform/Conservative Jews and are only exceeded in absurdity by the Scientologists and the Moonies.

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    1. All of the religions are equally "nutty." Each espouses completely indefensible twaddle and passes it off as pure gold. We are just so used to the nuttiness of the older religions that most have become desensitized to it and can't even see it for just how nutty it is.

      What about a woman being made from a man's rib, eating an apple as suggested to her by a talking snake in order to gain knowledge, which then caused said man and woman to be tossed from paradise, is not utterly bats#!t crazy?

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    2. Long ago? Mitt would have grown to adulthood in a church that preached institutional racism. The LDS changed their position to comply with civil rights legislation (in my understanding). It is easy for an organization to reverse its position, I cannot believe that it is as easy for an individual to do so.

      Does this entail that Romney and others of his generation are automatically racist?

      Of course not.

      But it does mean that their were some causal forces presence that would increase the chances of him being so, or at least having been so.

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  3. I dunno, I'm one of them durned accommodationists, and I would *rather* have the Gnus giving criticism proportionally and giving it to those who deserve it. The Mormon Church deserves flack for its history and its anti-gay policy. I forget what church Obama attends, but it's some liberal church I think with a long history of including African Americans. It would be pretty absurd to take the above ad, and add "oh, Obama's religion is evil too, because they believe in God" or whatever.

    IMHO much of the problem with the Gnus is things like the following:

    * lumping moderate and liberal religions with the fundamentalists

    * insufficient distinction between practical, harming-people-on-the-ground stuff like racism, violence, etc. -- which deserves vitriol, harsh ads, meanness in response, etc. -- and basically academic and philosophical issues like the existence of God, or accomodationism. All too often, the latter things attract levels of vitriol that should be directed at the former

    * unsophisticated understanding of tolerance and secularism in the liberal democratic tradition. e.g., the regular calls/wishful thinking about how religious upbringing should be classified as child abuse or thought of as criminal

    I like Jefferson's philosophy:

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    The error seems not sufficiently eradicated, that the operations of the mind, as well as the acts of the body, are subject to the coercion of the laws. But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. If it be said, his testimony in a court of justice cannot be relied on, reject it then, and be the stigma on him. Constraint may make him worse by making him a hypocrite, but it will never make him a truer man. It may fix him obstinately in his errors, but will not cure them. Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only.
    =============

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  4. I disagree. American Atheists (or indeed any non-Mormon) is correct to attack Romney's Mormon religion in this campaign. Romney makes a big deal of his religion, going so far as to claim in two different debates with Obama that all US citizens are "children of the same god", and he is (or was) a bishop. To the extent you can believe anything he says, you can believe he would not work contrary to his religion. This is hardly guilt by association. It's a belief system Romney voluntarily associates with and he is regarded as a leader.

    Compare this to Obama, who to my knowledge has only ever been a lay member of his church. Obama has demonstrated and stated his willingness to work against the aims of his religion, as president. Obama's religion is less important. And if we're being intellectually honest, Obama's religion is far less crazy. The miraculous events of Obama's religion happened millennia ago, not within US history.

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    1. If we're being "intellectually honest," Obama's religion is every bit as crazy as Mormonism. There were no "miraculous events" that occured. It's all made up nonsense. And what does *when* such supposed "miracles" occurred have to do with how crazy they are? Does "old" crazy somehow lose its craziness? That's not an "intellectual" position I'd want to have to defend.

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  5. The caption should read.... Stupid atheists....

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  6. I am with Larry on this one and I can't believe that some here are defending the stupidity displayed. Hey, what's next for atheists.org - taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, perhaps?

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    1. I agree too. i think a lot of atheists defending American Atheists are lettig their emotions cloud their judgement here. Is mormonism irrational? Yes. Does mormonism have a screwed up history when it comes to civil rights? Of coursw. But just because what the American Athesists are saying is correct doesn't mean that what they are doing makes political sense. If the goal is to mock religion than what they are doing here makes sense, but if it is to promote atheism, rationaloccoma thought, and/or secular humanism I dont see how this helps. I am definitely not an accommodationist, but it often seems like new atheists cant decide whether they are more interested in bashing religion than they are interested in promoting atheism and science.

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    2. Dave

      Atheism and science? Does atheism hold the monopoly on science? Does it own science? Are you basing this on some intellectual position?

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  7. I worry that a religious fence sitter who thinks atheists are evil will vote for Romney after seeing this. The enemy of your enemy and all that.

    But I worry too much.

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  8. I am one of those who think it is specifically religion that is in need of criticism and not so much the notion of gods. Whatever one might think of the possibility that there might be a level of agency beyond that which we can comprehend currently, it is nevertheless religion that emerges from the pretension that one can know the nature of such a hypothetical agency, and what this agency thinks, and wants, and has done, and will do. It is religion that ultimately defines the god, not the other way around. People seem intent on wanting their damned gods (i.e. want to assume agency exists in the universe). That being the case, I tend to focus on arguing that they cannot know anything about the nature of this hypothetical god/agency, nor have a personal relationship with him/it/her (i.e. no religion). Any personal belief to the contrary is a delusion.

    That being said, I agree with OP in this instance. Should not pick on one religion. If the organization wants to address specific tenets of religion rather than the nonsense of religiosity in general, they are going to need a bigger truck.

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  9. You make a point. But one can see the sign, noting it's source, as "religion is dogma; discriminatory dogma." Here's Romney's commitments.

    We can elegantly derive, scientifically,the existence of widespread false belief, but these examples can open people's minds to the arguments. Europe isn't more progressive because they are better scientists. At some painful historical point, many decided to look.

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