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In order to continue giving a free pass to their LDS thought pathogen, I find the more educated and intellectual TBMs often turn to some variation of the theme that we apostates are just too dumb to appreciate the glorious subtle nuances of the restored gospel. We are too shallow, too literal, too easily duped by the philosophies of men. This really gets under my skin in a way the other canned explanations don't. I laugh when people imply that I've left because I want to sin. I roll my eyes when people think I must have taken trivial offense. When I see the 'just too dumb' themes thrown at me, however, I feel an intense anger that admitedly isn't very healthy.

 

In one sense, maybe they're correct. Maybe it takes a genius to come up with all those plausible (at least in their minds) excuses and twist themselves into the intellectual pretzels that are required to manage all the cognitive dissonance. The question must inevitably be asked: 'What of the less cognitively gifted of God's children? If the gospel is for everyone, then what of them?'. The answer to this dilemna is odvious. They are the ones who must pray, pay, obey, avoid 'anti-Mormon' philosophy at all costs, and defer to their intellectual and spiritual superiors.

 

I guess this is why I react so strongly to the Mormon intelligensia, FARMS/FAIR apologetics, and endevours like http://mormonscholarstestify.org/ It is a crass attempt to brow beat the membership into questioning their intelligence to draw conclusions on the veracity of the church's claims. To me, that is even more incisious than slandering apostates as wanna-be masterbators or thin skinned crybabies.

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“Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I also say, that ye do not know that there is a God” (Alma 30:48)

 
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The pretentions of Mormon "intellectuals" are tuly pathetic.  They have to ignore archeology, linguistics, genetics, and other discipliines in order to believe.  Plus, they have to ignore American history and forensic psychiatry that totally explains Joseph Smith.  Let's face it, these are supposedly educated people who accept  demonstrable forgeries like the Book of Mormon.

 

For example:

When I first moved to Mass. I met this very nice RM guy. He was doing a phd in Hebrew Bible at Harvard.  Next thing he's teaching "Ancient Studies" at BYU, which means he's teaching the Book of Mormon as if it were ancient and related to the Bible. I called him out on it one time, or I tried to, but the ignorance is total and the denial is beyond belief.  This RM guy was exposed to all the sciences, so he had to know better, but Mormon "intellectuals" like him are the ones who are "just too dumb" even if they have Harvard phd's.

 
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I fortunately don't live around many Mormons, but I get this same attitude from my neighbor, who is EC.  She doesn't believe that I'm an athiest and that I truly don't believe in a god or "The Savior".  She believes that because I wasn't raised a real Christian, I don't actually "get" how wonderfully awesome God/Jesus/Christianity really are.  She keeps trying to get me to listen and read things so that I can believe and be saved.  She was actually physically crying over my lost soul last time we got talking about it.

 

I'm sincerely glad that she's found something that makes her happy in life.  She's a really nice and very intelligent person otherwise, and this is our only area of contention, but I'm brushing up on some of the nastier bible stories and some history of Christianity so I have ammunition next time she confronts me about how loving her god is and how I just need let go of my Mormon past and come to the real Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And I may never find the meaning of life
But for this moment I am fine - Rob Thomas, Streetcorner Symphony

 
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Korihor&#;s Attorney:

 

...

 

 we apostates are just too dumb to appreciate the glorious subtle nuances of the restored gospel. We are too shallow, too literal, too easily duped by the philosophies of men. 

 

... 

 

The irony in that statement is overwhelming.  

 

Makes me want to hit myself in the face with a frying pan.

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Above the Waves
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Korihor&#;s Attorney:

In order to continue giving a free pass to their LDS thought pathogen, I find the more educated and intellectual TBMs often turn to some variation of the theme that we apostates are just too dumb to appreciate the glorious subtle nuances of the restored gospel. We are too shallow, too literal, too easily duped by the philosophies of men. This really gets under my skin in a way the other canned explanations don't. I laugh when people imply that I've left because I want to sin. I roll my eyes when people think I must have taken trivial offense. When I see the 'just too dumb' themes thrown at me, however, I feel an intense anger that admitedly isn't very healthy.

 

In one sense, maybe they're correct. Maybe it takes a genius to come up with all those plausible (at least in their minds) excuses and twist themselves into the intellectual pretzels that are required to manage all the cognitive dissonance. The question must inevitably be asked: 'What of the less cognitively gifted of God's children? If the gospel is for everyone, then what of them?'. The answer to this dilemna is odvious. They are the ones who must pray, pay, obey, avoid 'anti-Mormon' philosophy at all costs, and defer to their intellectual and spiritual superiors.

 

I guess this is why I react so strongly to the Mormon intelligensia, FARMS/FAIR apologetics, and endevours like http://mormonscholarstestify.org/ It is a crass attempt to brow beat the membership into questioning their intelligence to draw conclusions on the veracity of the church's claims. To me, that is even more incisious than slandering apostates as wanna-be masterbators or thin skinned crybabies.

 

 Good points. Apologists bug the crap out of me because they approach issues with their minds already made up about the desired end result. In a word, they're obdurate.

 

 On the highlighted comment, the big thing they're missing when they say stuff like that is that many of us (dare I say "most" of us?) used to live and think like them. But how many TBMs do you know who can honestly say they've lived, thought, and explored the fullest extent of both sides of the fence? They can't. They only know their version of life. So by calling us "dumb," "indignant," and "duped," they're just saying all that without the experiential dimension - they've never known anything else, so how the hell would they know? 

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“I will seriously consider believing the Book of Mormon is an ancient text if someone actually discovers, in the Americas, an authentically ancient and decipherable Paleo-Hebrew/Egyptian hybrid text, written upon metal, which includes the translational errors contained exclusively in the King James Version of the Sermon on the Mount. Until then, no can do. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
~Dogger Dog

 
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I hate that also and I never considered myself an "intellectual."  However, I do question things and analyze the nuances of life around me.  I cannot tolerate the pathetic looks of my mormon friends and especially family as I empower myself against a very powerful unhealthy cult-like religion.  And they think I am crazy?

 

My father was concerned about me talking to my sister-in-law because I am a "very persuasive" person who can "get people to think like I do."  Ummmm that's code for she using logic and reasoning when she talks to people.  Therefore, she cannot be trusted.  

 

If the church is True, then why do mormons fear those who not only walk away, but those who walk away with a firm disbelief in it?  

 

I loathe the mormon church and the unhealthy ways it controls its members.  

 

If you are someone who thinks and analyzes and is not afraid of finding some truth, then you are on your way out the door sooner or later.  As I ponder my life I am amazed I lasted as long as I did.

 

 

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Myths which are believed in tend to become true. George Orwell

The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.  Pierre Abelard

“The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”  Dumbledore

 
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Mormon apologists remind me a little of the some alcoholics you meet at the gas station begging for money. They talk way too much and are hoping you will believe the twisted, convoluted story for why it is they are here at point A and need your help to get to point B. The problem Mormon apologists face is that they start with a conclusion and have to weave a twisting, turning path through the facts that keep getting in the way. I think some people legitimately enjoy the mental gymnastics. It's like a challenge for them to make everything fit together. Why they would rather start with the conclusion and make every mental contortion to get there instead of leading to the most obvious conclusion based upon the facts is a mystery to me. 

 

What I have said is this:

 

"People smarter than both of us have come down on both sides of the question - it's not a matter of intelligence. For me, it is a matter of trust. Can I trust that the church is what it claims to be and can give me the things it has promised me? I searched, pondered, prayed and discovered my answer was 'no.'"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But then again, I could be wrong…

The fine print: You can also find me populating the DAMU as monomo on NewOrderMormon, Happy Guy on LifeAfterMormonism, Tim the Enchanter on Mormon Discussions, and TheWayoftheFuture on /r/exmormon (Reddit).

 
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Korihor's Attorney:

'What of the less cognitively gifted of God's children? If the gospel is for everyone, then what of them?'. The answer to this dilemna is odvious. They are the ones who must pray, pay, obey, avoid 'anti-Mormon' philosophy at all costs, and defer to their intellectual and spiritual superiors.


 

Yep, I got that one from my MIL. Something about the "brilliant men in Salt Lake" that I should defer to on such inscrutable subjects as whether there was a bronze age civilization with European crops and livestock hiding out in America for a thousand years. Hang in there my friend. :)

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In a way all of us have an El Guapo to face someday.
http://digitalplates.blogspot.com/

 
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I'm not sure what it's like for you guys because I've never been a man but for women who think even a little bit we get so much flak for even asking a question that might lead us into a grey area or to seek information not approved of by the LDS authorities.

 

Curiosity has killed many a cat but it is also a killer of women or at least our intellects, especially in the LDS church. We're punished for even daring to suggest that we thought about something and came up with a different perspective than what we were told to come up with.

 

One time when I was about 11 or so, during a Sunday School lesson on the legend of Noah's Ark the corpulent red faced teacher was regaling us with the tale of how Noah's sons collected animals from every continent I asked the simple question of how that could be since the continents were clearly divided by the time Noah had existed. It seemed a fair question and I was not trying to be controversial, just reflecting a complex curiosity and the smatterings of cognitive dissonance on such matters. He became instantly upset with my question and stammered for a while and then slammed his fists on the table and spat, "YOU ARE A GIRRRRLLLL! ".

I wasn't sure what that had to do with anything but he was spot on with that statement, which instantly reminded me of my place and that not only was it inappropriate for me to ask such a question, but that I'd usurped his Priesthood authority by daring to bring it up in his class. I was sent out into the hall and later called to the Bishops office because of my "disruptive influence" and told to "Leave it alone". Mom reminded me that smart girls often got into a lot of trouble and that it wasn't ladylike to question authority. She was right about that.

It didn't take long to figure out that open inquiry was just not allowed or celebrated. I learned then to find my answers in the dark secret corners of the library, from reading publications that I carefully concealed behind the pages of more innocent magazines, and to not let on that I'd learned something far different than was being touted by the leaders.

 

When I meet clearly bright and intelligent LDS women I wonder how long it'll be before the church expells them too. We may be "Lazy sinners" for having asked questions, but it's comforting to know that I was never a sheep.

 

I made a collage representing the joy that a curious mind and willingness to peek outside the box has given me. My family considers it offensive. That makes it even more special and important to me.

 

 

 

 
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Dahli-mama: 

 

I asked the simple question of how that could be since the continents were clearly divided by the time Noah had existed. He became instantly upset with my question and stammered for a while and then slammed his fists on the table and spat, "YOU ARE A GIRRRRLLLL! ".

 

I... wait... what?

 

How the hell did he get from point A to point B? Seriously, non-sequiter much? It's just astounding that sexism should figure into a response to such a basic question. I mean, what primary child hasn't thought something along those lines?While you're at it, where'd all the water go after the flood? How did kangaroos get to Australia? There's a lot of simple, genuine questions to be asked about the flood story, and they deserve at least a little respect. At a minimum he could've answered along the lines of it being a miracle.

 

What do you think his response would have been if a boy asked the question? It sounds to me like maybe he just didn't have a nice, ready, pat answer, and calling you out on your lack of a Y chromosome was a way of avoiding the question.

 
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What was interesting to me in school that year was the study of techtonic plates and the movements of the continents. Theories were just beginning to gain favor and taught in the elementary education (At least in Oregon) and so as I learned first about Pangea and then the separation of S. America and Africa, the similarities of species at equatorial latitudes and such, I felt so excited. It made sense that monkeys were in Africa and S. America and had similarities yet animals in Australia had few other animals like them in the rest of the connected continents.

 

This stuff was pretty new and even my parents generation had never heard of the continents being connected at any point so in my mind it was possible for all the animals to have traversed continents millions of years ago, but not in biblical time and certainly not in Noah's time.  I was only in the fifth grade but even at that young age the legend of Noah's ark and a worldwide flood didn't add up.

 

I think what infuriated my Sunday School teacher was not that I asked the question, but that my question userped his position as the know it all teacher and assumed authority of all information and scripture. By bringing in something as simple as the logistics it made him look rather foolish. That was not my intent at that moment, but soon became my intent, especially after he humiliated me in front of my peers.

 

I took it upon my naughty self to make sure to enhance his natural foolishness from that point on. He made it so easy and I took such delight in setting him up. I am happy to admit that I inspired him to be released and a much more laid back woman took his place. She didn't bother with the bible much and I suspect she didn't believe it herself.

 

 
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Dahli-mama:

I'm not sure what it's like for you guys because I've never been a man but for women who think even a little bit we get so much flak for even asking a question that might lead us into a grey area or to seek information not approved of by the LDS authorities.

 

Curiosity has killed many a cat but it is also a killer of women or at least our intellects, especially in the LDS church. We're punished for even daring to suggest that we thought about something and came up with a different perspective than what we were told to come up with.

 

One time when I was about 11 or so, during a Sunday School lesson on the legend of Noah's Ark the corpulent red faced teacher was regaling us with the tale of how Noah's sons collected animals from every continent I asked the simple question of how that could be since the continents were clearly divided by the time Noah had existed. It seemed a fair question and I was not trying to be controversial, just reflecting a complex curiosity and the smatterings of cognitive dissonance on such matters. He became instantly upset with my question and stammered for a while and then slammed his fists on the table and spat, "YOU ARE A GIRRRRLLLL! ".

I wasn't sure what that had to do with anything but he was spot on with that statement, which instantly reminded me of my place and that not only was it inappropriate for me to ask such a question, but that I'd usurped his Priesthood authority by daring to bring it up in his class. I was sent out into the hall and later called to the Bishops office because of my "disruptive influence" and told to "Leave it alone". Mom reminded me that smart girls often got into a lot of trouble and that it wasn't ladylike to question authority. She was right about that.

It didn't take long to figure out that open inquiry was just not allowed or celebrated. I learned then to find my answers in the dark secret corners of the library, from reading publications that I carefully concealed behind the pages of more innocent magazines, and to not let on that I'd learned something far different than was being touted by the leaders.

 

When I meet clearly bright and intelligent LDS women I wonder how long it'll be before the church expells them too. We may be "Lazy sinners" for having asked questions, but it's comforting to know that I was never a sheep.

 

I made a collage representing the joy that a curious mind and willingness to peek outside the box has given me. My family considers it offensive. That makes it even more special and important to me.

 

 

 

 

 

At its core is the idea that men are superior to women by divine order.  The universe was somehow created by a Heavenly Father who didn't need a Heavenly Mother to procreate with (kinda gay if you think about it?) Intelligent women are the greatest threat to men controlling all the earthly and eternal decisions in primitive religions like Mormonism.  Oh and in high school math club it was definitely no girls allowed.

 

 
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A while ago in Sunday School, someone was telling the story of how his friend fell away from the church because he was reading anti-Mormon literature and became too analytical. I think this was supposed to inspire the kids to stay strong in the church (all it made me want to do was vomit). One guy condescendingly said "Ohhhh, he was the scientific type." Sigh.
 
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Korihor&#;s Attorney:

In order to continue giving a free pass to their LDS thought pathogen, I find the more educated and intellectual TBMs often turn to some variation of the theme that we apostates are just too dumb to appreciate the glorious subtle nuances of the restored gospel. We are too shallow, too literal, too easily duped by the philosophies of men. This really gets under my skin in a way the other canned explanations don't. I laugh when people imply that I've left because I want to sin. I roll my eyes when people think I must have taken trivial offense. When I see the 'just too dumb' themes thrown at me, however, I feel an intense anger that admitedly isn't very healthy.

 

In one sense, maybe they're correct. Maybe it takes a genius to come up with all those plausible (at least in their minds) excuses and twist themselves into the intellectual pretzels that are required to manage all the cognitive dissonance. The question must inevitably be asked: 'What of the less cognitively gifted of God's children? If the gospel is for everyone, then what of them?'. The answer to this dilemna is odvious. They are the ones who must pray, pay, obey, avoid 'anti-Mormon' philosophy at all costs, and defer to their intellectual and spiritual superiors.

 

I guess this is why I react so strongly to the Mormon intelligensia, FARMS/FAIR apologetics, and endevours like http://mormonscholarstestify.org/ It is a crass attempt to brow beat the membership into questioning their intelligence to draw conclusions on the veracity of the church's claims. To me, that is even more incisious than slandering apostates as wanna-be masterbators or thin skinned crybabies.

 

You do realize that's a knife that cuts both ways, right?

NPR did an excellent piece on this today, here.

 

It was Einstein who railed against “the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source.  They are creatures who — in their grudge against the traditional 'opium of the people' —cannot bear the music of the spheres.”

-

I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.

 

- Albert Einstein, letter to Guy H. Raner Jr., Sept. 28, 1949, quoted by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic, Vol. 5, No. 2

 

Personally I think we make a huge mistake when we get too attached to the absolute certainty of our own opinions, rather than sacrificing them in our stead.

 

I keep quoting this article, All Evidence to the Contrary,  but every time I read it I see something I didn't see before, which is a good indication that there are many layers of depth to it.

 

In summary,

 

Needless to say, these findings do not bode well for anyone with hopes of changing anyone else's mind with facts or rational discussion, especially on "hot button" issues. But why do we cling so fiercely to positions when they don't even involve us directly? Why do we care who got to the North Pole first? Or whether a particular bill has provision X versus provision Y in it? Why don't we care more about simply finding out the truth--especially in cases where one "right" answer actually exists?

Part of the reason, according to Kleiman, is "the brute fact that people identify their opinions with themselves; to admit having been wrong is to have lost the argument, and (as Vince Lombardi said), every time you lose, you die a little." And, he adds, "there is no more destructive force in human affairs--not greed, not hatred--than the desire to have been right."

So, what do we do about that? If overcoming "the desire to have been right" is half as challenging as overcoming hate or greed, the outlook doesn't seem promising. But Kleiman, who specializes in crime control policy and alternative solutions to very sticky problems (his latest book is "When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment"), thinks all is not lost. He points to the philosopher Karl Popper, who, he says, believed fiercely in the discipline and teaching of critical thinking, because "it allows us to offer up our opinions as a sacrifice, so that they die in our stead."

A liberal education, Kleiman says, "ought, above all, to be an education in non-attachment to one's current opinions. I would define a true intellectual as one who cares terribly about being right, and not at all about having been right." Easy to say, very hard to achieve. For all sorts of reasons. But it's worth thinking about. Even if it came at the cost of sacrificing or altering our most dearly-held opinions ... the truth might set us free. 
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Kori,

 

I think the idea of mental (or thought) pathogens does cut both ways in the sense that both Mormonism and atheism are memes. The idea of memetics is that ideas evolve and prosper by their success in spreading through the host population (analogous to a pathogen). Some memes propagate because they accurately reflect reality (i.e. they instill some advantage to the host). Other memes propogate merely because they have impeccable transmission and defense strategies - like a parasitic pathogen. I believe that atheism is the former and Mormonism is the latter.

 

Taken to its extreme (as Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett do), our consiousness is really just a compilation of fiercely held memes (a memeplex) that is identified with the 'self'. Under this model, people don't just define their strongly held opinions to themselves, these opinions are literally an integral part of their consious identity. Unlike religious folks (at least religions like Mormonism), the atheist may not be able to free themselves of this predicament, but they can mitigate it by becoming more self aware.

 

I like the Einstein quote. One of my biggest (of many) problems with Mormonism is its perversion of the concept of humility. Myself and most atheists philosophers I have studied define it much like Einstein does. Mormons, however define humility as deference to their tribal god, represented by the prophet. In effect, they call gross tribal arrogance humility. Atheists often fail in their attempts to be humble, but at least they know what humility is and can therefore properly strive to achieve it.

 

I am an enthusiastic atheist, but I would not classify myself as a 'fanatic', at least not in the same sense as a religious fanatic. For one, I accept that many of the beliefs and opinions I hold now will and ought to change as I accumulate more knowledge. A religious fanatic feels that the core body of their beliefs and opinions are absolute and unalterable and close their minds to anything that threatens such. 

 

 

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“Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I also say, that ye do not know that there is a God” (Alma 30:48)

 
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Korihor&#;s Attorney:

Kori,

 

I think the idea of mental (or thought) pathogens does cut both ways in the sense that both Mormonism and atheism are memes. The idea of memetics is that ideas evolve and prosper by their success in spreading through the host population (analogous to a pathogen). Some memes propagate because they accurately reflect reality (i.e. they instill some advantage to the host). Other memes propogate merely because they have impeccable transmission and defense strategies - like a parasitic pathogen. I believe that atheism is the former and Mormonism is the latter.

 

Taken to its extreme (as Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett do), our consiousness is really just a compilation of fiercely held memes (a memeplex) that is identified with the 'self'. Under this model, people don't just define their strongly held opinions to themselves, these opinions are literally an integral part of their consious identity. Unlike religious folks (at least religions like Mormonism), the atheist may not be able to free themselves of this predicament, but they can mitigate it by becoming more self aware.

 

I like the Einstein quote. One of my biggest (of many) problems with Mormonism is its perversion of the concept of humility. Myself and most atheists philosophers I have studied define it much like Einstein does. Mormons, however define humility as deference to their tribal god, represented by the prophet. In effect, they call gross tribal arrogance humility. Atheists often fail in their attempts to be humble, but at least they know what humility is and can therefore properly strive to achieve it.

 

I am an enthusiastic atheist, but I would not classify myself as a 'fanatic', at least not in the same sense as a religious fanatic. For one, I accept that many of the beliefs and opinions I hold now will and ought to change as I accumulate more knowledge. A religious fanatic feels that the core body of their beliefs and opinions are absolute and unalterable and close their minds to anything that threatens such.

Korihor's Attorney:
Thanks for your interesting take on memetics as it applies to Atheism vs. Mormonism.

As a self described 'enthusiastic atheist' I'm interested in your take on The Problem with Atheism' speech Sam Harris gave at the '07 Atheist Alliance International conference here

 

Here's my own summary of the problems he lists:

 

  1. "atheist" is a term that we do not need, in the same way that we don't need a word for someone who rejects astrology. We simply do not call people "non-astrologers." All we need are words like "reason" and "evidence" and "common sense" and "bullshit" to put astrologers in their place, and so it could be with religion.
  2. Attaching a label to something carries real liabilities, especially if the thing you are naming isn't really a thing at all. And atheism, I would argue, is not a thing. It is not a philosophy, just as "non-racism" is not one. Atheism is not a worldview—and yet most people imagine it to be one and attack it as such. We who do not believe in God are collaborating in this misunderstanding by consenting to be named and by even naming ourselves.
  3. Another problem is that in accepting a label, particularly the label of "atheist," it seems to me that we are consenting to be viewed as a cranky sub-culture. We are consenting to be viewed as a marginal interest group that meets in hotel ballrooms. I'm not saying that meetings like this aren't important. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think it was important. But I am saying that as a matter of philosophy we are guilty of confusion, and as a matter of strategy, we have walked into a trap. It is a trap that has been, in many cases, deliberately set for us. And we have jumped into it with both feet.
  4. This whole notion of the "new atheists" has been used to keep our criticism of religion at arm's length, and has allowed people to dismiss our arguments without meeting the burden of actually answering them. And while our books have gotten a fair amount of notice, I think this whole conversation about the conflict between faith and reason, and religion and science, has been, and will continue to be, successfully marginalized under the banner of atheism.
  5. So, let me make my somewhat seditious proposal explicit: We should not call ourselves "atheists." We should not call ourselves "secularists." We should not call ourselves "humanists," or "secular humanists," or "naturalists," or "skeptics," or "anti-theists," or "rationalists," or "freethinkers," or "brights." We should not call ourselves anything. We should go under the radar—for the rest of our lives. And while there, we should be decent, responsible people who destroy bad ideas wherever we find them.
    We should not define ourselves and name ourselves in opposition to such thinking.
  6. I think we should do nothing more than advocate reason and intellectual honesty—and where this advocacy causes us to collide with religion, as it inevitably will, we should observe that the points of impact are always with specific religious beliefs—not with religion in general. There is no religion in general.
  7. The problem is that the concept of atheism imposes upon us a false burden of remaining fixated on people's beliefs about God and remaining even-handed in our treatment of religion. But we shouldn't be fixated, and we shouldn't be even-handed. In fact, we should be quick to point out the differences among religions, for two reasons:
  8. First, these differences make all religions look contingent, and therefore silly. Consider the unique features of Mormonism, which may have some relevance in the next Presidential election. Mormonism, it seems to me, is—objectively—just a little more idiotic than Christianity is. It has to be: because it is Christianity plus some very stupid ideas. For instance, the Mormons think Jesus is going to return to earth and administer his Thousand years of Peace, at least part of the time, from the state of Missouri. Why does this make Mormonism less likely to be true than Christianity? Because whatever probability you assign to Jesus' coming back, you have to assign a lesser probability to his coming back and keeping a summer home in Jackson County, Missouri. If Mitt Romney wants to be the next President of the United States, he should be made to feel the burden of our incredulity. We can make common cause with our Christian brothers and sisters on this point. Just what does the man believe? The world should know. And it is almost guaranteed to be embarrassing even to most people who believe in the biblical God.
  9. The second reason to be attentive to the differences among the world's religions is that these differences are actually a matter of life and death. There are very few of us who lie awake at night worrying about the Amish. This is not an accident. While I have no doubt that the Amish are mistreating their children, by not educating them adequately, they are not likely to hijack aircraft and fly them into buildings. But consider how we, as atheists, tend to talk about Islam. Christians often complain that atheists, and the secular world generally, balance every criticism of Muslim extremism with a mention of Christian extremism.

    The refrain, "all religions have their extremists," is bullshit—and it is putting the West to sleep.
  10. Atheism is too blunt an instrument to use at moments like this. It's as though we have a landscape of human ignorance and bewilderment—with peaks and valleys and local attractors—and the concept of atheism causes us to fixate one part of this landscape, the part related to theistic religion, and then just flattens it. Because to be consistent as atheists we must oppose, or seem to oppose, all faith claims equally. This is a waste of precious time and energy, and it squanders the trust of people who would otherwise agree with us on specific issues.
  11. Another problem with calling ourselves "atheists" is that every religious person thinks he has a knockdown argument against atheism. We've all heard these arguments, and we are going to keep hearing them as long as we insist upon calling ourselves "atheists. Arguments like: atheists can't prove that God doesn't exist; atheists are claiming to know there is no God, and this is the most arrogant claim of all.
  12. So too with the "greatest crimes of the 20th century" argument. How many times are we going to have to counter the charge that Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot represent the endgame of atheism? I've got news for you, this meme is not going away.
  13. Why should we fall into this trap? Why should we stand obediently in the space provided, in the space carved out by the conceptual scheme of theistic religion? It's as though, before the debate even begins, our opponents draw the chalk-outline of a dead man on the sidewalk, and we just walk up and lie down in it.
  14. Instead of doing this, consider what would happen if we simply used words like "reason" and "evidence." What is the argument against reason?
  15. Nobody wants to believe things on bad evidence. The desire to know what is actually going on in world is very difficult to argue with. In so far as we represent that desire, we become difficult to argue with. And this desire is not reducible to an interest group. It's not a club or an affiliation, and I think trying to make it one diminishes its power.

And his last reason is an excellent summary of why I don't identify myself as an atheist, even though, like Einstein and Harris, I reject any kind of an anthropomorphic or theistic 'God'

16. The last problem with atheism I'd like to talk about relates to the some of the experiences that lie at the core of many religious traditions - Is there a form of happiness that is not contingent upon our merely reiterating our pleasures and successes and avoiding our pains? Leaving aside all the metaphysics and mythology and mumbo jumbo, what contemplatives and mystics over the millennia claim to have discovered is that there is an alternative to merely living at the mercy of the next neurotic thought that comes careening into consciousness. There is an alternative to being continuously spellbound by the conversation we are having with ourselves. One problem with atheism as a category of thought, is that it seems more or less synonymous with not being interested in what someone like the Buddha or Jesus may have actually experienced.

I'd like to point out that, as atheists, our neglect of this area of human experience puts us at a rhetorical disadvantage. Because millions of people have had these experiences, and many millions more have had glimmers of them, and we, as atheists, ignore such phenomena, almost in principle, because of their religious associations—and yet these experiences often constitute the most important and transformative moments in a person's life. Not recognizing that such experiences are possible or important can make us appear less wise even than our craziest religious opponents.

I don't know if our universe is, as JBS Haldane said, "not only stranger than we suppose, but stranger than we can suppose." But I am sure that it is stranger than we, as "atheists," tend to represent while advocating atheism. As "atheists" we give others, and even ourselves, the sense that we are well on our way toward purging the universe of mystery. As advocates of reason, we know that mystery is going to be with us for a very long time. Indeed, there are good reasons to believe that mystery is ineradicable from our circumstance, because however much we know, it seems like there will always be brute facts that we cannot account for but which we must rely upon to explain everything else. This may be a problem for epistemology but it is not a problem for human life and for human solidarity. It does not rob our lives of meaning. And it is not a barrier to human happiness.
We are faced with the monumental task of persuading a myth-infatuated world that love and curiosity are sufficient, and that we need not console or frighten ourselves or our children with Iron Age fairy tales. I don't think there is a more important intellectual struggle to win; it has to be fought from a hundred sides, all at once, and continuously; but it seems to me that there is no reason for us to fight in well-ordered ranks, like the red coats of Atheism.  

       
Finally, I think it's useful to envision what victory will look like. Again, the analogy with racism seems instructive to me. What will victory against racism look like, should that happy day ever dawn? It certainly won't be a world in which a majority of people profess that they are "nonracist." Most likely, it will be a world in which the very concept of separate races has lost its meaning.
We will have won this war of ideas against religion when atheism is scarcely intelligible as a concept. We will simply find ourselves in a world in which people cease to praise one another for pretending to know things they do not know. This is certainly a future worth fighting for. It may be the only future compatible with our long-term survival as a species. But the only path between now and then, that I can see, is for us to be rigorously honest in the present. It seems to me that intellectual honesty is now, and will always be, deeper and more durable, and more easily spread, than "atheism."  

 

 

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Delusion: a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary.

 
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Confused Guy:
A while ago in Sunday School, someone was telling the story of how his friend fell away from the church because he was reading anti-Mormon literature and became too analytical. I think this was supposed to inspire the kids to stay strong in the church (all it made me want to do was vomit). One guy condescendingly said "Ohhhh, he was the scientific type." Sigh.

My father discouraged me from taking a debate class in high school.  He said most people he knew who took debate ended up debating themselves right out of the church.  He also discouraged me from taking philosophy classes in college.  

 

 
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Kori, 

 

Many of Harris's points seem to boil down to a battle of semantics. The term 'atheist' was coined by a Judeo-Christian culture. Yes, the term is silly on some level, but nevertheless we're stuck with it in a predominantly theistic society. I would rather take that label and try to build it into something positive (think 'gay-pride') than stigmatize it further by trying to run away from it. I feel the same way about the label "apostate".

 

I certainly agree with him on seeking to point out the rediculousness of related belief systems in the hope that they will draw parallels with their own, although I can't boast any great personal successes with that approach.

 

As for trancendental spiritualism, I don't believe it needs to be at odds with materialism. We can experience awe, enlightenment, and reverence without resorting to supernatural explanations for things.

 

 

 

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“Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I also say, that ye do not know that there is a God” (Alma 30:48)

 
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Korihor's Attorney:


 

Kori, 

 

Many of Harris's points seem to boil down to a battle of semantics. The term 'atheist' was coined by a Judeo-Christian culture. Yes, the term is silly on some level, but nevertheless we're stuck with it in a predominantly theistic society. I would rather take that label and try to build it into something positive (think 'gay-pride') than stigmatize it further by trying to run away from it. I feel the same way about the label "apostate".

 

I certainly agree with him on seeking to point out the rediculousness of related belief systems in the hope that they will draw parallels with their own, although I can't boast any great personal successes with that approach.

 

As for trancendental spiritualism, I don't believe it needs to be at odds with materialism. We can experience awe, enlightenment, and reverence without resorting to supernatural explanations for things.

People identifying themselves as "Atheists" doesn't bother me nearly as much as it bothers Sam Harris. I just choose personally not to label my "self" in terms I reject, especially theism. Having said that, I tend to see eye to eye more with self described Atheists (like those on this board) far more often than I do with Theists, especially those who still believe in the big guy in the sky

which is in my book about as naive as believing in this dude 

 

However, I'm in the center of the Carl Sagan camp when it comes to identifying my self as an "Atheist"

"An Atheist has to know a lot more than I know." Carl Sagan

"The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books—-a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects." Einstein

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity." Einstein

"What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism."  Einstein

"The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties - this knowledge, this feeling ... that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself among profoundly religious men." Einstein

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