Thought Experiment In Lieu Of A Response

I will have to postpone responding to all of the various objections made in my athiesm thread till tomorrow or sometime later in the week. Expect a new post or a series of posts on this topic, defending the claim that "It is not enough to simply respectfully tolerate religion; it must be actively opposed and dismantled by those concerned with truth, progress and reason," and therefore why Hitchens, Dawkins and other vocal athiests are doing culture an important service by showing that religion poisons everything.

For now, here's a thought experiment to chew on:

Are the innovative technical achievements of The Birth of a Nation a credit to the Ku Klux Klan? Or, do we say that D.W. Griffith was a talented and groundbreaking filmmaker despite his white supremacism, and that his filmmaking chops did not benefit from his racist beliefs, but were actually poisoned and reduced by them?

Share this

All you're arguing, so far

All you're arguing, so far as I can tell, is that it's bad for people to believe bad things. Sounds reasonable.

But it would be far easier (if less sexy and vitriolic) to simply criticize bad beliefs in the first place, rather than religion itself, which is only serving as a proxy (and it's not clear how good a proxy it is). Unless of course you think there's something morally wrong in believing in God period.

Yes, I think there is

Yes, I think there is something morally wrong with believing in God, period. I'd probably describe it more as a vice, akin to belief in other untrue, unsubstantiated, and potentially harmful nonsense like belief in reptilian conspiracies, just because "morally wrong" implies a more extreme, actionable error.

The more ecumenical or watered down religions - deism being I guess the most extreme form - contain less objectionable beliefs by virtue of containing hardly any beliefs or calls to action at all, other than some vague belief in an intelligent cosmic presence. But they still remain objectionable by lending credence to the notion that belief in God for its own sake is something respectable or praiseworthy, and thus contribute to the cultural acceptance of more harmful, thicker religious belief systems.

This thread is not about that, though. This thread is about the relationship between social accomplishment and false, harmful beliefs.

Never knew the plot to "Birth of a Nation"

I'd heard of this movie before but had only gotten this much out of any "review" I had ever read:
The Birth of a Nation (also known as The Clansman) is one of the most influential and controversial films in the history of American cinema. Set during the American Civil War and directed by D.W. Griffith, the film was released on February 8, 1915. It is important in film history for its innovative technical achievements. Then something about it dealing with race relations or southern slavery or some such.

I'd never seen the film. With all the accolades I had aways just assumed the plot was along the lines of "fighting the evils of racism". Silly me. Thanks for opening my eyes Micha. Especially before I accidentally said something like "Yeah, I heard that was suppose to be a good film". That would have been hard to explain. :)

I wonder how they dealt with getting people to play African American actors. I assume they used white guys in blackface.

Your statement sounds too militant and intrusive

Sorry I don't like your sentence "It is not enough to simply respectfully tolerate religion; it must be actively opposed and dismantled by those concerned with truth, progress and reason."

First off it's a false dichotomy. Those aren't the only two possibilities.

I really dislike the use of the term "dismantled". What are you going to do take a wrecking ball to Saint Patricks? Besides I don't like setting goals for my self that are impossible like flapping my arms to fly. I cannot both follow my own ethical norms and "dismantle religion".

I also dislike the phrase "must be". It sounds like you are claiming this as a duty for every person. It begs the question, "Why must those who are not atheists actively oppose and dismantle religion?" It also sounds like you think you have the right to force them to cooperate or get out of the way if they don't.

I also dislike your use of the word "progress". Progress to where?

Here's my atheists "creds" so you don't think I'm some theist:

I've never been one to "respectfully tolerate religion". I determined that the Christianity I was being taught as a child was morally bankrupt around the age seven. At least that's as far back as I remember thinking about it seriously. I had to keep quite as a kid because there were repercussions if you didn't. I believe this was harmful to me but it wasn't because I was being respectful.

At that stage the most I would do is say I was agnostic, or fail to repeat "under god" during the pledge, etc. I did cultivate atheist friends however but my beliefs certainly restricted possibilities of expressing my views as most kids are little beasts.

Later I only opened my mouth about it when someone asked me about religion or tried to push their religion on me. Then I did not respond with any kind of respectful deference.

I was not exposed to any atheist books during this time as there were none in the school library and frankly I was not aware of such things. I pretty much worked out many of the various atheist arguments for myself from scratch. I would occasionally hear atheist arguments but usually in the context of some theist disparaging them.

This gradually changed from around fifth grade on as I was exposed to people like George Carlin. I started to realize that the insanity was not as prevalent or as powerful as I appeared as a young child.

This was not totally ex nilo because my father was an agnostic and I had a very heavy science background. Science truly is the enemy of religious thought since all I did is apply scientific principles to religion. I was exposed to C.S.I.C.O.P, Kurtz, Stephan Gould, Vonnegut, etc. None however seemed to have come to the conclusion I had, that science could be applied to religion.

The first explicitly atheist book I read that spoke as if science was applicable to religon was "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins. What a breath of fresh air it was for me. Except for the last chapter. I thought memetics was flawed and still do. I don't think it takes into account the way humans filter information. I also have other issues with it.

At that time I did not believe that religion was adaptive. I really thought it served no useful purpose, period. I have since changed my mind and I do have rational reasons.

I'm still a strong atheist. Yes, I think certain conceptions of god are disprovable. I know for instance that the god of the bible does not exist. Other more nebulous versions of god I am an igtheist about.

I do use my real name to argue as an atheist on the web, and I am open about my atheism with family, friends, and my employer.

So now you know a tiny fraction of my background.

Besides I see nothing wrong with religion, per se. It's faith I have a problem with. Doesn't matter to me if it's of the moral, philosophical, economic, or political kind. I don't like the faith of Christianity and I equally don't like the faith of Communism and Socialism. I'm not particularly fond of the faith present in Anarchocapitalism and some forms of Libertarianism either. I do believe that some forms of faith are far more dangerous than others but all are prone to error.

Error is the reason I don't like faith. Faith is a approach to belief that is prone to error. Error leads to bad consequences.

I have been thinking about this for a quarter century. I think the best approach is to form a religion or religions based on reason. I find that this tends to shock not only the religious but the atheists themselves. They usually think it is a horrible idea. I think mostly because they haven't thought about it much and are biased against the word "religion" as they associate it with faith. I think it possible to create a non-faith based religion.

I envisioned it as having some base principles from which it could grow into many sects. It would be designed at the outset to evolve, and not to stagnate, using the best principles of science and economics.

So instead of trying to tear down everyone else's castle you build your own and invite others in. This doesn't mean refrain from critically examining and exposing the errors others have.

Micha, You know, I'm a little surprised at you. I thought in the past that you had been critical of my debunking of Islam. I think Christianity has what are morally reprehensible aspects but I think Islam is vastly more likely to lead to moral error, and outright violence. Plus it is currently virulent. Thus I think it deserves the most critical attention at this point in time than Christianity. I vaguely recall you siding with the idea that I was motivated by some kind of racism in my critique of Islam, and desire to slow it's spread by immigration restrictions. I really think you vastly underestimate the ability of immigration to change the climate of a culture. I was for open immigration until I realized the philosophical underpinnings of Islam and it's history.

I've never been a racist and one of the main tenets of my religious beliefs are that all men are of equal authority regardless of race. I would welcome people of all races to join me.

I believe that we should be tolerant of other religions that are tolerant. However, I don't think one has to tolerate intolerance, defamatory statements, and incitements to violence. Where religions or political systems advocate such things I think others have the right to force them to stop.

My position is NOT that individual Muslims, Christians, Jews or any other creed are evil. One can be the follower of what are objectively immoral systems without being evil yourself. I do however believe that such people will tend to moral error the more faithfully they follow the original tenets of their religions. I also believe that their religions are a hodge podge of error and rationalizations to ameliorate those errors which makes it difficult for believers in these faiths to easily navigate ethical waters. It's very hard to read the Koran and pull out the few good moral lessons without outside guidance away from it's inherently intolerant and violent message. It's not surprising to me in the least that Muslims are terrorists. On the other hand it is not in our nature of the average person to do these things, and I think many Muslims are closet non-literalists and others are silently non-believers due to the penalties for speaking out. Thus I don't think all Muslims are bad.
Attacking a religions tenets is NOT the same as attacking it's followers.