Class Warfare Blog

September 6, 2016

The Case: Theists v. Atheists, Part 6 and The End

In the first five parts of this series of posts I made a few claims, namely that the dialogue between atheists and theists is both ineffective and really almost nonexistent. I argued that religions exist because they actually do benefit those who participate in them, even though I think the negatives outweigh the positives (clearly, theists do not).

And I heavily excerpted the book “Everybody is Wrong About God” by James A. Lindsay (Pitchstone Publishing. Kindle Edition) which suggested these posts. I encourage you to read this book if you find value in the excerpts.

Now I add some additional thoughts to this mix.

* * *

I describe now a social group for you: it contains both men and women who meet according to schedule in a purpose-built “house” in order to spiritually support a group effort. They wear special clothing when they attend such services and during them they sing songs, and chant ritual sayings. You can see members of this group fervently calling upon unseen forces to affect the outcome of local events. Members of this group often share communal food and drink and support one another in these group activities. Members of opposing groups often elicit scorn and if the potency of this group’s object of worship is challenged by another group, it can lead to violence.

Is this a religious group?

What I just described is an English football club support group. A group of what we would call soccer fans. (I am oh, so tired of the English excoriating us ‘Mericans for calling the game soccer instead of football. They invented the word and carried it to the U.S. and planted it here! Sorry, got distracted.) British soccer/football fans exhibit virtually all of the characteristics of religious groups, including believing in the supernatural. I point this out for two reasons: for one, we come by these behaviors naturally, and two, we can find substitutes for religious practices that satisfy these needs. In fact, the ready availability of sporting contests to be viewed is thought to contribute to a general diminishment of violence. Ritual or staged violence may displace real violence, hmm. I think that view is a bit of a stretch, but it might hold up.

Clearly people have needs for things to be passionate about, to commune with others, to share food and drink, especially drink (certain pubs in England are off-limits to fans of “other clubs” after a game lest there be fistfights). These needs can be met secularly. The fact that the countries which meet the basic needs of their citizens the best are also the least religious of countries is a telling point. There are fewer calls on supernatural agents when natural agents are effective.

I would like to see a relentless commitment to the truth in reality whatever it turns out to be. Currently the level of hypocrisy in human affairs is much too high. For example, Silicon Valley tech executives who advocate for the use of screen-based devices in our schools spend large sums to send their children to Montessori schools which forbid the use of such devices in their classrooms, even at home. Clearly the data show that exposure to screen-based devices is a detriment to developing youths but, well, it is a $60 billion dollar market and there is money to be made. It is always surprising to me that the most religious Americans are also the most committed to capitalism, a form of social interaction in which money is worshiped.

So, a basic strategy in dealing with theists is just taking care of one another. I am not talking about lavish care but meeting basic, Maslovian needs (food, shelter, health care, etc.). Societies that do this have citizens happier than the norm, with anti-social behavior being much lower … as well as religious behavior being much diminished.

This seems to be a good way forward to a better secular future, better than trying to convert theists individually. In fact, I am going to eschew trying to convert theists at all. A better strategy is to outlive them, evolve away from the toxic aspects of religious practices. Make their religious benefits readily available from other sources and the religions will shrink and eventually disappear.

There are many “harmless” theists who will recoil in shock at being portrayed in this manner. They see all of the benefits of their religious association and, through confirmation bias, see none of the other aspects. I suggest that they do not worry because god is on “their side.” Myself, I want nothing to do with a god which picks sides. I wonder which English football club the Christian god really favors, hmm.

PS I will still write posts about the flaws of religion, but this is merely a social, “preaching to the choir,” activity. I suspect that all or almost all of you who like my posts on religion are already post-theistic. I write about religion in a “class warfare” blog because it is a weapon in the class war we are currently losing. If you are part of the “out group” in our economy (most of us now) you are told to “have faith” in things like markets to change your lot. Being religious establishes a basis for such new beliefs being proffered. If you are willing to believe one fantastic thing, why not two, or three?

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8 Comments »

  1. Would your general approach (and advice) be similar if the ‘controversial’ and divisive topic were, say, climate change and denialism, or medicine and various alternative woo?

    Loud and sustained criticism of religion’s pernicious effects I think is an important backdrop to all issues where religion tries to find a place at the table to affect policies, procedures, and outcomes. This can look like ‘preaching to the choir’ but I think we forget that the audience – like an iceberg – is almost entirely hidden from view. We need to reach a tipping point in the general population to stop privileging religious belief and other versions of pernicious woo in the public domain and we can help bring this about by convincing the younger generation (especially this group) that its good to be more critical than credulous. We lead by example. I think this naturally includes advocating for better social conditions (in the sense of a rising tide of social services and improved social safety net in the public domain lifts all boats).

    Comment by tildeb — September 6, 2016 @ 10:00 am | Reply

    • The basic strategy is to support secular government and resist religious privilege as much as possible … to combat poverty and anti-science attitudes. It is fascinating that the religious are so anti-evolution but at least there they have a point: if evolution exists, their scripture is wrong, wrong, wrong. But most of the opposition to action on climate change and other environmental issues comes from profiteers, rather than ideologues, don’t you think?

      On Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 10:00 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — September 6, 2016 @ 11:56 am | Reply

      • The primary way for atheists to resist religious privilege is to criticize it publicly. In action, this very much looks like arguing on blogs because</i. the religious tend not to see examples of privilege as privilege but as 'culture' and 'tradition' and even 'rights'. This is the arena of resistance by atheists and the forum by which we change minds – even one mind at a time. Again, though, the real audience is the great number of people who simply read and if it takes a hundred comments to sew that one seed of doubt – a doubt that can then be fed by facts and good information and sound reasoning – then the pebble in the pond effort is worthwhile. I think this is why we've seen the tremendous growth of the 'Nones'… people who are moving away from bad ideas towards better ones. And the place where people have access to these better ideas – especially from the younger people – is online in these discussion forums, in the arena of posting and commentary. That's why I think taking on theists one at a time works; it reveals all the facts being avoided, the good information being stifled, the sound reasoning being hushed. It reveals the biases at work, the privilege being withheld, the lack of merit for bad ideas.

        Sure, improving respect for secularism would be nice but until more religious people understand why this matters to them as religious people, why secularism is the only means by which freedom of religion can be exercised, then I think conditions will not improve but worsen. And – again – this is an arduous process because so many religious folk simply have had no exposure or need to think outside of their assumptions. That’s what we offer – as loud-mouthed, opinionated, strident atheists – and the reasons we offer are compelling in all kinds of formats – from the erudite to the obscene. Not engaging theists I think is a guaranteed way to fail doing our civic duty and being responsible citizens.

        Comment by tildeb — September 6, 2016 @ 12:41 pm | Reply

        • Notice I failed to close the italics after ‘because’. I’m such a poor editor.

          Comment by tildeb — September 6, 2016 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

          • I didn’t notice and I am an editor, but I didn’t have my editor’s hat on! ;o)

            On Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 12:42 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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            Comment by Steve Ruis — September 6, 2016 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

        • I also support opposition to religious privilege as it stands in the way of secular government. Attacks on religions because of their beliefs, I am afraid, will be ineffective and can possibly backfire.

          On Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 12:41 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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          Comment by Steve Ruis — September 6, 2016 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

  2. Good series, but one can’t ignore the fact that the religious meddle, and will continue to do so. This requires confrontation. Be it in social policy, the sciences, or education, the goals of the Enlightenment must be defended against the irrational.

    Comment by john zande — September 6, 2016 @ 10:37 am | Reply

    • Yep, support secular government and oppose religious privilege: the basic play book, but also to reduce poverty and discrimination based upon strange notions. I support discrimination against, say, people with communicable diseases. They need to be treated differently because of their condition an differently does not mean not humanely. Discrimination against LGBT people is just absurd, for example. Live and let live should be our watch word. If gay people want to get married, well it is their right to be as miserable as the rest of married people.

      On Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 10:37 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — September 6, 2016 @ 12:00 pm | Reply


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