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Convert Me

A Community for Informed and Rational Debate

4/6/13 11:52 am - tcpip - Sam Harris, the New Atheists, and anti-Muslim animus

Yeah, as an "Old Atheist" there are reasons I don't really care for much of this "New Atheism".

A long overdue debate breaks out about whether rational atheism is being used as a cover for Islamophobia and US militarism.

More at:

1/24/13 11:14 am - tcpip - A Comedian's Level of Understanding

Stage magician, comedian, and libertarian-capitalist Penn Jillette has published (in the New York Times no less) what is possibly the greatest error rate per hundred words in his article Atheism Should End Religion, Not Replace It. Have fine picking the low-hanging fruit on this one, punters.

Also, just for fun, I am considering becoming a Neopythagorean Number Mystic for a while. Convert me.

9/8/12 05:24 pm - friedenswacht - Pop-Atheism and Atheism+

It is difficult to deny that pop-atheism (or 'new atheism') is an identifiable social movement within Anglophone society. More than just mere disbelief, more than just mere non-belief, pop-atheism was about giving expression to ideas which were becoming particularly common within popular culture about religion and its place in society.

Based on pandering to the biases of people who'll buy the books and fork out for tickets to conventions, it rejected the traditional modes of atheistic thought which explicitly self-identified as a social project. If anything, it rejected all social project outright on the presumption that a rejection of God would (somehow) result in a utopia of equality and inclusion. Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens had attributed a swag of social evils not to particular social facts but to theistic belief.

The result was an internalisation of racism and sexism within pop-atheism.

Responding to criticism of pop-atheism, a group established Atheism+, which was about recombining atheism with progressive politics.

It immediately attracted derision from the 'mainstream' pop-atheism crowd who refused to acknowledge the latent racism and sexism within the subculture. This, in turn, prompted a response from PZ Myers:

'It really isn’t a movement about exclusion, but about recognizing the impact of the real nature of the universe on human affairs.

And if you don’t agree with any of that — and this is the only ‘divisive’ part — then you’re an asshole.'

It is worth noting that one of the people behind the Atheism+, Jen McCreight, decided to quit blogging after she was torn down by comments from the pop-atheism crowd 'about how [she's] a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few)'.

For debate: Pop-atheism was always going to descend into a racist, sexist heat death because it refused to acknowledge the validity of non-positivist philosophical discourse (which it called 'obscurantism').

Sub-debate: We should rewind the clock on atheism back to pre-2001, when it was an intellectually serious position to hold.

8/4/12 07:20 am - slyfoot - Things Are Going To Slide

Things Are Going To Slide

People keep suggesting that hundreds of years from now most of the citizens of the future will look back and regard the fight for same-sex marriage in the same favorable way that most of today's citizens regard racial integration as a good thing. And maybe they will. But I think there will also be serious negative repercussions for the church. Why on earth should these hypothetical citizens of the future have any respect or love for Jehovah? In order to avoid some serious cognitive dissonance, the Bible wouldn't just need to be re-interpreted, it would need to be re-written. One can make a case that Jehovah was in the business of freeing the Chosen People from slavery. But one simply can't make the case that Jehovah was in the business of marrying gays and lesbians without some serious self-deception. It doesn't just require a re-interpretation of scripture, it requires re-writing scripture. So if the Church exists at all in 500 years, and these hypothetical citizens are indeed grateful for being enlightened out of the Church's social backwardness, they will have re-invented God to fit society's image of what God ought to be, not what the biblical God actually is.

And my question is: Why bother with the biblical God at all?

5/19/12 10:41 pm - adogablog - Convert Me Challenge

Hi everyone!

This is my first time in this community so I hope my post is acceptable. My question must have been asked before but hopefully not in quite the same way. Anyway, I'm really excited to see what kind of answers I get since this is a subject that has really been bugging me lately, since I moved from a not-very-religious city to a town full of Mormons. I tried to address guidelines a through b. Thanks for reading!

My current belief system can best be classified as atheistic. I accept that I do not know the origins of the universe or the purpose of life, and therefore am open to considering all possibilities. However, I cannot accept religion as a valid possibility because I feel the best means of analysis uses scientific methodology, meaning giving validity only to arguments which can be tested using deductive reasoning. I also adhere to Occam’s razor meaning the simplest argument is preferable to a complex one. While I realize there may be flaws in this methodology, and in fact I accept that everything we think we know, religious or not, may be wrong (we may even lack the ability to comprehend ultimate truth), I do believe that scientific reasoning is most logical process to use to reach a conclusion. In this sense, religion seems absurd to me and not worth considering at all, as does “God” which means nothing to me, so this is why I consider myself an atheist and not agnostic.

I am willing to let other people attempt to convert me mostly because I am very curious as to why on earth anyone would take something humans wrote in a book to be the word of “God.” The idea baffles me and I am sincerely curious. Conversations I’ve had on the matter have ended abruptly after I make this point and the religious person claims faith, which is like a different language to me and we don’t have much more to discuss. To convert me I would need someone to (1) convince me using the scientific methodology I described above, or (2) convince me to dismiss logical reasoning in favor of faith-based thinking.

Oh and I suppose I am asking you to convert me to anything non-atheistic, meaning to consider religion and/or God as valid possibilities.

5/1/12 10:51 am - joshua_ray - Natural Law and Social Systems

I can't decide to not wear a seatbelt while driving or being driven. The Justice component of our fair governing body has passed legislation requiring me to wear my seatbelt, and they base the justification of these legislations upon the ethical consideration referred to as Legal Paternalism, which inherently describes that the law must father citizens within it's jurisdiction or society. I understand this concept, and I agree with it.

However this is merely an example that I like to cite when discussing a different topic- the topic of ethics in society regarding the use of cigarettes and alcohol. There are many ways in which laws outright contradict each other in their intentions. Also, and most importantly, the ethical considerations which are referenced as the basis for the justification of the creation and implementation of legislation are not- in fact- the true basis for justification at all. The true and logical precept is not the ethical consideration, because if the only basis were the ethical considerations then the law would not be as it is. It is my honest belief that the true and unwritten justification for the precise legislation in this matter is and has always been a form of class warfare. In fact, it is my honest belief that the entire justice system is essentially a form of class warfare.

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When one thinks about alcohol or cigarette consumption, and considers the weight of scientific data which concludes that such things are vastly detrimental to the health of the user, it becomes immediately apparent that people should not consume these substances at all. Therefor if this is the only thing we consider then we would naturally tend towards the creation of legislation the requires people to not consume these things at all, and requires any company or individual to not create or distribute- whether for profit or not- any of these substances to anyone within our society. However this is not the status of our current legislation. The form of our current legislation would rather give someone the freedom to handle fire, and then punish them when they get burned, but those with money do not get punished. Those with enough money may simply purchase their freedom instead, with some slight restriction. For instance one may pay to stay out of jail, to be fairly represented, and to have their punishment stay off their record after a short time. They still are punished, but it does not affect their lives nearly as negatively as someone who cannot pay for these things, and for that reason I believe that the the system is designed to push down the poor and uplift the rich as an aside to any relevant punishment.

American society, or perhaps Western society as a whole, uses these substances as a mechanism for the perpetuation of chaos and death. Death and decay is an essential part of nature. The lowest parts of the food chain feed off of and consume the decay, which brings from it new life. Being a naturalist myself, I must say that though I have a distaste for the incidence of this happening at all, I understand it to be inevitable and quite necessary. So here we have an entertainment industry that is largely dependent upon the consumption of these substances. We have a workforce that is kept underfoot through their willingness to keep themselves underfoot in the first place. I might think of this as wrong that some higher force would "do" this to the lower forces, but I don't believe that is true. I used to, but now I do not see it this way. We are here underfoot, because we decided by our actions to be here. We did not aspire to obtain greater education. In many cases our confusion about reality causes our thoughts, our actions and our intentions, to be terribly misguided. Of course the most important thing to understand regarding this situation we are in as a society is that we asked for this in the first place. As a society we asked for there to be a system above and around us which takes care of everything we become too complacent to take care of for ourselves. Also there are things we cannot do as individuals, but only as a collective can we do great things, and so it is inevitable that there is a system.

One question remains now, which is to ask, "is this wrong that the system is this way?" I cannot say that it is necessarily wrong. Perhaps certain aspects are questionable, but we must be reminded that the system was created in the first place by the adherence to social contracts which were created and implemented by the people themselves- the rich and the poor. Rather, the educated and the rich created the contracts and the poor either actively supported it or passively ignored it. The world is not perfect, and in no case can anyone claim that, but we may look at case studies which conclude that doing it any different way might be worse for everyone than the way we have it now.

For much of my life I have felt that I don't want to be part of this society- that I never asked for these social contracts and that I don't want them, and that I wish there were somewhere I could go that had no such thing. I think it would be interesting if there were a place set aside in the world where anyone who had such thoughts could go to, and there they could play out the disastrous consequences that would arise as an effect of the decisions they make as individuals. That way the rest of the world could use that place as an example of why it is necessary and inevitable to have societies and systems. Then we wouldn't have the problem of everybody thinking they know what's best, but never being able to prove it or fully explore their ideas. We wouldn't have radical anarchists running amuck and disestablishmentarianists terrorizing innocent people. We wouldn't have the backwoods rednecks who think that we should turn back the clock on hundreds of years of social and political progress to return to a way which didn't work in the first place. If they were able to just practice what they preach they would come to understand the error of their aspirations, but when it is impossible for these people to even try what they believe would work they become restless and resentful in their convictions. That's when they act out and become unstable or in other words destabilize things external to themselves.

It is not necessary, though, to actually have a place to go which has no system, because through social education we may run scenarios in a soap box type of existence- essentially within our minds- and we can come to these vital understandings that way. Therefor it is my belief, finally, that people should undergo such social education. Should they be required to undergo this education? No I can't say that, but only because of my uncertainty. The system we have isn't perfect either. I just think it's the best choice as of now, and so we always need fresh minds to bring unique ideas to the table. If we politically indoctrinate people then we would lose that variety of unique ideas, and so for that reason we must allow there to be the anarchists and the backwoods politicians. We must allow people to drink alcohol even though it's terrible for them. We must allow people to smoke cigarettes even though it is terrible for them. We must allow this, because it doesn't always cause a problem with someone else. It may be unhealthy, but legislation requiring people to be healthy would be seen as terribly unconstitutional. Does this mean that there are fundamental problems with the constitution itself? I think it does. Do we have anything better to work with? I don't think we do. So we carry on, in spite of the flaws, and perhaps one day we can forge a new social contract which will eliminate those flaws and create a utopian society as a result. However this may never happen, because there will always be new life and eventual death. This is the law of nature and cannot be changed.

12/16/11 08:14 pm - trophonius - Hitchens

Twitter has erupted in a death match between theists responding to the #godisnotgreat hash tag and atheists mocking them for doing so.

One atheist sums it nicely: Christians freaking out about the hash tag is his final Hitchslap.

It's the sort of dogmatic groupthink I mentioned in my last post. You either have to swallow the hateful (often Islamaphobic) misrepresentations of your beliefs, or you're a hysterical crazy religious person.

Meanwhile, atheists complaining about Thanksgiving are completely rational and sane. They're not reactionary nut bags. Perish the thought!

One of the hallmark signs of groupthink, cult behaviour is the application of double standards. Your ludicrous objection to trivial matters is symptomatic of an intellectual disease; my ludicrous objection to trivial matters is a sign of my unwavering moral righteousness.

Hitchens was one of the loudest champions of the groupthink. Religion was the cause of wars and hatred, so let's bomb the liberty into Muslims. Let's hope the next generation of atheists is a vast improvement.

12/11/11 02:37 pm - trophonius - Groupthink

Is it merely human that people, regardless of their religious beliefs, accept without question statements which affirm their beliefs?

One of the problems I have with atheists is their inability to critique arguments in favour of atheism. Regardless of its intellectual merit, an argument in favour of atheism must be correct because it's arguing in favour of atheism.

I was recently in a discussion where somebody was asserting that 'to exist' was by definition identical 'to be evident to humans'. My argument was that there was no evidence to support their conclusion. I was chided as an unthinking theist and banned from further discussion.

The culture of new-atheism teaches its adherents that they are special, clear-thinking, and more rational than people who disagree with them. As it has never managed to get the financial or political power, comparisons with Scientology are a bit stretched.

I raised this point with a colleague. Their response was that it doesn't matter if the unwashed masses don't understand atheism or how to argue in its favour, only that they do so. It's a game of numbers, not argument. So long as people are buying the books and paying to see the conferences, the people at the top of the pyramid will have the clout to push for atheist causes. My colleague, an atheist, figured that theists have been doing the same for centuries. If you can't beat them, join them.

But it sat uneasy with me. Why are new-atheists so prone to groupthink? I can get theist friends to admit they don't know the complexities of their faith. Why are new-atheists less able to self-reflect and admit their ignorance?

11/26/11 03:20 pm - joshua_ray - Interdependance in a Greedy World

Certain people have decided to push an agenda, through social media, which labels anything to do with globalization as Evil's plan according to their own interpretation of prophecy.
I find this to be appalling, and I wonder why they have such an interest in demonizing globalization and it's proponents. Then I considered that, perhaps, religion will lose it's monopoly on the world if globalization runs it's course.
Just think about it like this. You have several key players that all want to own one hundred percent of the pie. Globalization comes along and tells them to share the pie. None of them really want to concede, but according to the wise analysis of experts it is an inevitability to engage in this universal game theory.
So of course the biggest of the players would oppose it, since the deal actually benefits the smaller players much more! In turn, they feed the public with bullshit after bullshit through the guise of impartial public media. To shame.

11/21/11 08:19 pm - direwolf23 - Forgiveness

I was wondering if anyone had suggestions on a way — through actions and thoughts - to forgive those who think they've done nothing wrong, are not remorseful, or both. I've been struggling with this in regards to some people I used to consider friends, and could use some help.
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