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An Emerging Trend?

Published December 30th, 2010 by Bobby Henderson

I have noticed in the last few months an increase in upset emails from self identified atheists/nonbelievers and I’ve been thinking about what this means for the Church of FSM.  Seems like I’ve annoyed some people.  Maybe I can clear things up, and/or possibly further anger people.   

First of course, I am talking for myself, not the church as a whole – let me make that clear.

I have a lot of respect for atheists and freethinkers and related organizations, and for rational causes in general.  But there are times when I see atheist individuals and groups as combative and petty, leaving outsiders with a negative perception, hurting worthy causes in the process.  I said the atheist movement needed a PR team some time ago.  And then in an interview in WordyMofo I said atheists sometimes come off as "a bunch of assholes" to outsiders.  Last week I said they’re not making any friends with the Nativity showdown.

I’ve said a lot of things but mainly I am talking about the *way* things are done; that is, the context of things; not ideas or goals or substantive parts of any of these organizations.  I’m in favor of atheist/freethinker/rational causes.  I just think when those guys get together they very occasionally act like dicks, leaving outsiders with the perception that nonreligious people are bitter and angry.  And that is shame, because I don’t think it’s true.

What I worry most about, though, are the emails from young people who see in the Church of FSM an opportunity to bash religion in general and more specifically to bash people for being religious.  Tolerance is more of a nuanced view and I believe they will come to it eventually if they stick around but it’s really very concerning that so many kids think this way when they first come to a place of free thinking.

I am not a huge fan of organized religion, and it’s impossible to ignore the abuses and corruption that have grown onto so many religions over the years, but at the same time, it’s impossible to deny that so many people get something meaningful out of their beliefs and that they have every right to continue to believe whatever they like *even if it’s irrational*, as long as it does no one else any harm.  Just as we have the right to believe in the FSM. Just as nonbelievers have the right to be free from it.  And we are all richer and more complete people for interacting with people who challenge and disagree with us. 

The question is, can you confront the abuses and injustices that come along with religion in a way that doesn’t betray that tolerance for the beliefs of others?  I don’t know, but shouldn’t that be the ideal? 

What do you think?

*Update*

Wow, good responses. I will note that what I receive in email varies quite a bit from the comments here.  I like that most people took the message in the spirit it was intended. 

I think there is an idea that I’m defending religion, but it’s not really that … it was meant more as a defense of people and their *personal* religious beliefs.  FSM knows there are awful religious people, of course there are – there are awful people anywhere you look, but there are also good people anywhere you look and that includes inside of religion.

There are several occurrences where a curious Christian ventured here and engaged us for a while only to be stomped on en masse for their thoughts.  I hate that.  There is this idea, I think, that being correct is enough, that if we rip apart all their arguments thoroughly enough they will see the error of their ways and then … I don’t know, renounce their foolish beliefs and join up?   Except I don’t think it works that way.  There is that quote … "You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into."  I think there is a bigger picture and if we truly want to help someone along a path of Reason, it starts with an uncommon level of respect. 

Thank you, everyone, for your responses. Keep them coming.  I feel like we’re onto something.

*update 2*

I just found this and thought it deserved some attention:

"Do we want Christians to join us? Since when is this not about keeping religion out of science?"

That’s a valid point.  I think its worth talking about larger goals of the Church of the FSM but for now I think it’s safe to say there is a wish amongst non-religious that the religious acted more rational – particularly in areas where their actions intersect with the rest of the world. 

I’ve seen plenty of disagreements between religious and non-religious played out publicly and I’ve yet to see a person of faith swayed by articulate impassioned reasoning. 

And I doubt very much that people of strong faith are concerned whether their beliefs are strictly True or not.   Whether that’s a conscious realization or not I don’t know, but we have all known people with entrenched beliefs that are too irrational to believe (earth is 5000 years old, anyone?) except they do believe these things – they believe these things with a force to be reckoned with.

Well what is at the root of that force?  Clearly it has little to do with objective reasoning.  I suggest it’s due mainly to the attachment to the very real, very meaningful community that churches provide for so many people.   Cognitive dissonance — they can’t be reasoned with because betraying those beliefs puts in danger their relationship to the community they value so highly, therefore the thing is True.   That’s the force, the block that can’t be argued against.

Atheists, nonbelievers, freethinkers — we can say we build communities as well, and there are some examples but we’re not great at it.   Say what you will about Christians, they kick our asses at building communities.  There is something about Drinking The Kool-Aid that lets people do with genuine (sometimes very creepy) intention what seems very hard to do for a group with broader more objective views.  I’m not just talking about religion.  Squabbling academic groups, anyone? There is something about getting together in groups that is very hard to do positively.  How do you do it without being cynical?  We need to figure it out.

Will Christians walk from one community to another? Surely some will.  I have heard the same story from countless ex-Christians who have become Atheists and it’s always a lonely road, because it’s never just a matter of questioning ones beliefs, is it? It’s also a matter of losing that support system and community that came along with those beliefs.  

And maybe just having that option, knowing that questioning beliefs doesn’t have to mean such a loss, will make it easier. 



168 Responses to “An Emerging Trend?”

  1. pierre says:

    A recent cognitive study, as reported by the Boston Globe, concluded that:

    Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

    In light of these findings, researchers concluded that a defense mechanism, which they labeled “backfire”, was preventing individuals from producing pure rational thought. The result is a self-delusion that appears so regularly in normal thinking that we fail to detect it in ourselves, and often in others: When faced with facts that do not fit seamlessly into our individual belief systems, our minds automatically reject (or backfire) the presented facts. The result of backfire is that we become even more entrenched in our beliefs, even if those beliefs are totally or partially false.

    “The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” said Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher of the Michigan study. The occurrence of backfire, he noted, is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

    The conclusion made here is this: facts often do not determine our beliefs, but rather our beliefs (usually non-rational beliefs) determine the facts that we accept. As the Boston Globe article notes:

    In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote.

    Despite this finding, Nyhan claims that the underlying cause of backfire is unclear. “It’s very much up in the air,” he says. And on how our society is going to counter this phenomena, Nyhan is even less certain.

    These latter unanswered questions are expected in any field of research, since every field has its own limitations. Yet here the field of psychoanalysis can offer a completion of the picture.

    Disavowal and Backfire: One and the Same

    In an article by psychoanalyst Rex Butler, Butler independently comes to the same conclusion as the Michigan Study researchers. In regards to facts and their relationship to belief systems (or ideologies), Butler says that:

    there is no necessary relationship between reality and its symbolization … Our descriptions do not naturally and immutably refer to things, but … things in retrospect begin to resemble their description. Thus, in the analysis of ideology, it is not simply a matter of seeing which account of reality best matches the ‘facts’, with the one that is closest being the least biased and therefore the best. As soon as the facts are determined, we have already – whether we know it or not – made our choice; we are already within one ideological system or another. The real dispute has already taken place over what is to count as the facts, which facts are relevant, and so on.

    This places the field of psychoanalysis on the same footing as that of cognitive science, in regards to this matter. But where cognitive studies end, with Nyhan’s question about the cause of backfire, psychoanalysis picks up and provides a possible answer. In fact, psychoanalysts have been publishing work on backfire for decades; only psychoanalysis refers to backfire by another name: “disavowal”. Indeed, these two terms refer to one and the same phenomena.

    The basic explanation for the underlying cause of disavowal/backfire goes as follows.

    “Liberals” and “conservatives” espouse antithetical belief systems, both of which are based on different non-rational “moral values.” This is a fact that cognitive linguist George Lakoff has often discussed, which incidentally brings in yet another field of study that supports the existence of the disavowal/backfire mechanism.

    In accordance with these different non-rational belief systems, any individual’s ideology tends to function also as a ‘filtering system’, accepting facts that seamlessly fit into the framework of that ideology, while dismissing facts that do not fit.

    When an individual—whether a “liberal”, “conservative”, or any other potential ideology—is challenged with facts that conflict with his/her ideology, the tendency is for that individual to experience feelings of anxiety, dread, and frustration. This is because our ideologies function, like a lynch pin, to hold our psychologies together, in order to avoid, as Nyhan puts it, “cognitive dissonance”. In other words, when our lynch pins are disturbed, our psychologies are shaken.

    Psychoanalysts explain that, when this cognitive dissonance does occur, the result is to ‘externalize’ the sudden negative feelings outward, in the form of anger or resentment, and then to ‘project’ this anger onto the person that initially presented the set of backfired facts to begin with. (Although, sometimes this anger is ‘introjected’ inward, in the form of self-punishment or self-loathing.)

    This non-rational eruption of anger or resentment is what psychoanalysts call “de-sublimation”. And it is at the point of de-sublimation, when the disavowal/backfire mechanism is triggered as a defense against the cognitive dissonance.

    Hence, here is what mentally occurs next, in a matter of seconds:

    In order to regain psychological equilibrium, the mind disavows the toxic facts that initially clashed with the individuals own ideology, non-rationally deeming the facts to be false—without assessing the validity of the facts.

    The final step occurs when the person, who offered the toxic facts, is then non-rationally demonized. The person, here, becomes tainted as a ‘phobic object’ in the mind of the de-sublimated individual. Hence, the other person also becomes perceived to be as toxic as the disavowed facts, themselves.

    At this point, ad hominem attacks are often fired at the source of the toxic facts. For example: ‘stupid liberal’ or ‘stupid conservative’, if in a political context. Or, ‘blasphemer’ or ‘heretic’, if in a religious context. At this point, according to psychoanalysis, psychological equilibrium is regained. The status quo of the individual’s ideology is reinforced to guard against future experiences of de-sublimation.

    Why Do Different Ideologies Exist?

    This all begs the obvious question about the existence of differing ideologies between people. Why do they exist? And how are they constituted differently? George Lakoff has demonstrated in his studies (which are supported strongly by psychoanalysis), that human beings are not born already believing an ideology. Rather people are socialized into an ideology during their childhood formative years. The main agents which prescribe the ideology are the parental authority figures surrounding the child, who rear him, from infantile dependency on the parent-figures, into an independent adult. The parental values of how the child should be an independent and responsible adult, in regards to his relations between his self and others, later informs that child’s ideology as an adult.

    Lakoff shows that two dominant parenting types exist, which can determine the child’s adult ideology. Individuals reared under the “Strict Parent” model tend to grow-up as political conservatives, while those raised under a “Nurturing Parent” model tend to become political liberals. His most influential book on these matters, “Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think”, was published in 1996.

    Of course, peoples’ minds can fundamentally change, along with their ideological values. But short of a concerted effort by an individual to change, through one form of therapy or another, that change is mostly fostered by traumatic or long-endured life experiences.

    Yet many minds remain rock solid for life, beliefs included. As psychiatrist Scott Peck sees it, “Only a relative and fortunate few continue until the moment of death exploring the mystery of reality, ever enlarging and refining and redefining their understanding of the world and what is true.”

    Thus to answer Nyahan’s question—how can society counter the negative effects of backfire?—it seems only one answer is viable. Society will need to adopt the truths uncovered by cognitive science and psychoanalysis. And society will have to use those truths to inform their overall cultural practices and values. Short of that, Peck’s “fortunate few” will remain the only individuals among us who resist self-delusion.

    Stephen Dufrechou is Editor of Opinion and Analysis for News Junkie Post.

    © 2011 News Junkie Post All rights reserved.
    View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/149262/

    • Hernando says:

      Good grief. I get it, but….

      What you are saying in a nutshell is: It’s hopeless for most. But a few of us can have an independent thought. I think that’s pretty obvious. Just turn on the news. Talk to your neighbors. It’s scary out there.

    • TiltedHorizon says:

      I believe cognitive dissonance can be overcome because denial can only drown out, not silence, facts. Take the Vatican for example, after years declaring contraceptives immoral, they have recently softened their stance, now its ‘ok’ under certain conditions. It seems, after ages of denying human suffering, they concluded spreading HIV is worse than using a condom, kudos to them. I realize it’s a small change but it is a change nonetheless. I can now have hope that in my lifetime they will stop denying the pedophiles in their midst’s and do something other than moving them to another church.

      So keep spreading the word Pastafarians, sooner or later the facts will plant seeds of doubt, like a foot wedged in a closing door, it will not go quietly, in time, more minds will be freed from the puppeteers.

  2. theFewtheProudtheMarinara says:

    “when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds.”

    Ain’t it the truth, Pierre. About a week ago I watched a TV interview with some prominent “birther”. Item after item, his questions about Obama’s citizenship were refuted. Finally he was asked what it would take for him to accept that Obama was indeed born in Hawaii, an American citizen. He just glowered silently.

    His political ideology would just not accept what he didn’t want to believe. Just as I’m sure he would believe anything that agreed with his theology, real or not.

  3. piratesmee says:

    Though I have failed on occasion, I do believe in civility. Civility, however, does not require refraining from vigorous debate — minus profanity and personal aspersions. Unfortunately theFewtheProudtheMarinara’s quotation and observations too often are true, but we can try to sway those who are not wholly committed. I agree with Bobbie’s concerns — and the import of the 8 I’d Really Rather You Wouldn’ts– that the best way to do that is to stick to logic and avoid looking like jerks.

  4. Ashli says:

    I think it’s important to note that religion and the religious seem to get an automatic position of respect in our society, sometimes even from nontheists. When you are speaking/debating from a nontheistic point of view, especially one of atheism, this automatic respect often makes your points seem more like attacks rather than firm statements whereas someone with “faith” is regarded as passionate about their beliefs. I do not think that any religious belief should be granted respect at all. What is respectable about faith in imaginary things?

    Anger is okay, it’s perfectly human and it doesn’t mean you have to be a dick, it’s just strongly, positively correlated with dickish behavior. It is often motivational and sparks change and from it good things can be born. I went through the comments and didn’t see a link to this: It’s an old but post by Greta Christina on Atheists and Anger which has aged well.

    Also, in response to one of your updates, I think that if atheists want communities, we’ll build them no matter where we are. It doesn’t matter if we’re in the sweltering crotch of the Bible Belt (which I am), we’ll seek each other out, develop our A-dars, wave flags, shine our beacons in the night, do whatever we have to – and we’ll make it work.

    • piratesmee says:

      I agree with Greta Christina’s thoughts — just think that our anger can be clear without being abusive. Anger is implicit when you point out the outrages and idiocies perpetrated in the name of religions.

    • Brian Fritzen says:

      Thanks for the link. I am starting to feel militant again. I guess I am lucky because I live in a metro area in Central New York State. The idea that evolution would ever be challenged in our classrooms (in NYS) is so remote as that I never really considered it a threat. We have had our share of challenges to books, to which our school librarian just reorders the book after it has been removed. (I am an atheist, I am a teacher.) I have found many students who also tend toward the atheistic side. Many of whom are “out of the closet” about it. The debate is there, there is a genuine push against the established religions here. People go, but they don’t really know why they are going. The pay lip service. They don’t even know what they recite. I think many go because they are “supposed” to go.

      I find it funny, in the blog post in the link that George Bush Senior thinks that atheists are not patriotic. The man that wrote the Declaration of Independence is not patriotic? Are you joking? Thomas Jefferson, at best, was a deist. He (nor George Washington) was not Christian. That is known. America was founded on secularism. These christians have hijacked our history, hijacked our country, and hijacked our government and schools. They are no better than terrorists.

      That sound extreme? Good. They are extremists. The sooner the general population is made aware of their insane agendas, and made aware of their cockeyed beliefs (and I am not just talking about a simple, “I believe in God.” person) the sooner we can remove these people from power. I have said it for years, why do we continue to vote for these parties when they care not about the people. They are not of the people, by the people or for the people. If they were, we would all have health care, jobs, and a strong educational system.

      I once thought that Freedom of Religion should be tolerated, now, not so much. These “faithful” are amongst the most hateful, bigoted people in the world and they are running our societies straight into the ground. Maybe Anonymous is right to be militant. Maybe it is time to throw off the oppression of these religions and really become a nation of reason.

      • Keith says:

        Creationist bigotry is not new to New York.In 1871 William Tweed had the staues of several prehistoric animals demolished. They were intended for a palaeontology museum in Central Park. The pieces were apparently buried in said park and may still remain for some archaeological dig to find. Had they survived they would no doubt have been as impressive as the Crystal Palace statues.

      • Ashli says:

        I’m in an active meetup group with some folks from New York and they’ve got to be some of the most awesome people I’ve run across down here. I’ve lived in the South all of my life and I didn’t know what an “atheist” was until the internets was widely available. I just knew that I was really different from everyone else and didn’t believe in god at all. Thankfully, I’ve found a giant network of people with whom to share a table of pasta and goodwill, for the sake of being nice humans and not because we’re scared of a sky daddy.

        These New Yorkers, they’re terrified of the school to which they send their daughter because, even though it’s a public one, it’s principaled (is that a word?) by a Mormon and they have daily prayers. Their daughter is the only atheist and she stands up for reason and logic on a daily basis and receives little jesus tokens from her teachers, like cute clicky jesus pens and church invites.

        Teaching creationism alongside evolution is complete and total malarkey. It’s terrifying to me to see these sorts of things being taught to children. While I think that tolerance is a concept we can never, ever put aside, we can also not leave behind reason, logic, and knowledge. Other nations seem to do this quite successfully, yet we fail so beautifully. At least somewhere there’s a push against religion because it’s definitely not happening here. We need transplants!

  5. Hernando says:

    I am an old guy…old enough to be collecting some Social Security to supplement my meager wages.

    When I was young I was a vocal born again atheist/agnostic..whatever. I ranted to anyone near me, venting my fury at the stupidity and abuses of organized religion. I was embarrassingly obnoxious. But I knew I was right no matter how irritating I was.

    When I moved into middle age, I embraced tolerance and patience…especially for those who had a different world view. I wasn’t going to believe in their junk, but I was going to listen a little more than I spoke…Tao stuff.

    Now I’m older and I’m ready to act young again. Why? Because the “believers” (many not all) have become dangerous to my freedoms. What used to be just a person to person dialogue about what our belief systems were has morphed into this political nightmare. “Believers” are multiplying rapidly and they are very scary! They profess Christianity but don’t believe in being their brother’s keepers. The have replaced compassion and tolerance with bigoted vitriol…and they have their own TV network. I repeat: they are dangerous to the very principles they claim to represent. They need to be opposed. Stand up Noodle Heads and fight!

    So, in conclusion, I’m ready to start irritating the opposition again…but nicely, with sauce, maybe even good garlic bread. If they leave the table, that’s just more pasta for me.

    • Keith says:

      That is largely because the “Christians” adhere to the old testament . They formulate their opinions (or in many cases blindly follow those of others) and then selectively pick and choose from the buybull whatever supports their obnoxious beliefs.

      • Hernando says:

        Yep, and I’m thinkin’ that blindly follow are the operative words. It’s so weird. I mean why? WHY? Because it’s easier? Because they are too scared to question? Because they don’t enjoy thinking new, independent thoughts? They don’t like garlic?

        • theFewtheProudtheMarinara says:

          Yes, Hernando. I believe religion offers the easy way out. No need to ponder tough scientific or moral questions. It’s written down for you. Sure, it’s often written cryptically and the language outdated, but that’s what your paying your pastor/priest/imam/rabbi for – the interpretation. Sure, the guy from the Westboro Baptist church won’t agree with hardly anyone else, but you’re free to choose some other congregation which will tell you what to think and how to live your life.

          The hilarious thing to me is how these sheep are so fearful of government intervention. “They can’t tell me I can’t smoke in public!”, yet at the same time think the governement and church should mandate what every woman can or can’t do with her own body.

        • Drained and Washed Clean says:

          Of course it is easier. They get heaven (so they never have to die), they get to forgiveness (so they don’t have to feel bad about doing bad things), and their egotistical desire to mean something more than just a carbon based life form on a tiny planet floating in the middle of an incomprehensibly big universe is met by having a purpose from an invisible sky daddy, and they get to feel superior and know all the answers to the universe because their zombie did it. They never have to think again.

    • opiesysco says:

      I am getting to be an old guy too. Not old enough to collect social security, but old enough to worry it may not be there when I retire. But anyway, I feel theists are a danger to the population at large. They have proved this many, many times in the past. There are not too many wars that have been fought that did not have a religious element to it.
      I am reading The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins and he has some great pionts. The religious in this country are a very large and very powerful lobby group. The question you have to ask is “Why”? There is only two reasons I can think of, money and power. Atheists do not have a large lobby group because as Dawkins said, and I am paraphrasing, “gettinig athists to get together and think as one is like hearding cats”. The way I see it, atheists do not have the same goals as religion, we dont want power, and we dont want other peoples money. We just want to be left alone to think the way we want to think, to believe what we want to believe without the fear religion has.
      The good new is, many young people today are turning away from the church and religion as a whole. You can see it in the dwindling numbers of church goers. And I am talking about the US only. My daughters tell me all the time of the people in their school that are non-religious, agnostic, atheist, etc… This to me is a good sign. I think if you take the money out of the picture, you will see religion fall even more. I contacted the FFRF and asked if any lawsuites have been filed to stop the unfair practice of tax breaks for religious groups. The lawyer told me there was a suite in the past and it was thrown out of court. She then told me it is a worthy fight. If atheists can get together to get rid of the tax breaks, then we would possibly see religion take a hard fall.
      As for tolerance, I dont have any more. I deal with people every day, and I just cant find any more tolerance.

      • Brian Fritzen says:

        If you like the God Delusion, check out Stenger’s God the Failed Hypothesis. Blew my hair back. The premise is to use the scientific method to see if there is scientific proof of god. From the title, you can imagine the conclusion.

        I think you are right. Technology is replacing religion. Even if they go, they are texting and twittering when there, which will lead to them questioning why they are going there at all.

        As for the tax breaks, I wholeheartedly agree because they use their money to influence elections and bankroll politicians which are beholden to a group that does not pay taxes.

        I think the church population is aging and when they pass on, the membership will fall. I often think about this as the storm before the calm. People get hysterical because their religion / faith is dying and so they freak out over what amounts to nothing. And then we all realize there was nothing to worry about. Think of the Y2K scare. The terrorists scare (that family that died because they sealed their house up in fear of chemical attacks from evildoers.) All this insanity will soon be gone. I hope within my children’s lifetime, if not, within their children’s. Religion is hearing its death toll. A handful are trying to seize power in a mad grab to sustain what they are realizing is essentially a big lie.

        • opiesysco says:

          I agree with you about religion dying out, but I would have to say only in the western countries. If you look at the muslims. they are growing faster than the christions are dying out. When will they understand religion is just a big lie?

        • Noodlity says:

          Muslims are less of a threat than pop culture would have you believe. For one, they have no centralized religious leadership or priesthood, to issue blindly followed orders. They have “scholars” who tend to be much more rational than their Xian counterparts, and “fatwas” which are considered advisory guidelines at most. Furthermore, overzealous literal interpretation of the Quran is not too appreciated, much less preached.

          The misconceptions about Islam have more to do with Middle-Eastern culture (even though the ME only accounts for 20% of Muslims) , than the religion in general. Countries such as Turkey or India, OTOH, are secular despite the large number of Muslims there.

          All in all, apart from the Vatican and the overtly Xian USA states, and the small number of Sharia-observant Muslim countries, religion tends to keep to itself. Out of schools, parliaments, and courts; as it should be. Presently, I see no need to ask for more.

        • Brian Fritzen says:

          @ Noodility,

          You are correct. One of the scariest things I have seen is the racification of muslims and arabs. When American’s are exposed to “Muslims”, “Arabs”, or “Terrorists,” they look the same. Hitler did this with Jews.

          The arabs are only a small part of Islam. There are millions of Muslims in China, yet I don’t see them killing their wives, and burning American flags….

          Hopefully, American Muslims will start to see through it all when they start using technology like today’s youth.

    • Ashli says:

      I think it’s a very natural cycle of things for you to want to be more active again; water flows more rapidly and with greater strength downhill.

      You have the wisdom of your time of listening and gathering recipes. Your sauce will be the most delicious of them all!

  6. Mike Henderson says:

    Bobby,

    I really appreciated this article. Compassion is something I wrestle with every day. I too easily get sucked into feeling superior with my beliefs (or lack there of) and forget that it’s not enough to be right. Thanks for pointing out that the true end goal is living without violence or hate; whether or not that is with or without religion. I find each time I talk to a person with faith, one on one, I end up liking them…. and surprising myself. I don’t agree with them, but I like them. And I need to learn to cope with all people of faith with the same respect; but I often don’t.

    However, I also want to comment that the biggest problem I see Atheists making is accidentally legitimizing religion by our resistance. If we argue religion is an empty vessel and that all goodness and evil come from people themselves, then we cannot blame religion when it suits our agenda. Doing so, unwittingly gives faith and religion a power we are otherwise trying to dismiss. I think there is a phenomenon that comes with the social structure of a church that empowers their members to do either great good or great harm, far beyond what an individual could ever accomplish – a community Atheists have not been able to match at the same scale. But people are people. Given the same opportunities, those without faith are just as capable of the same good AND horrible deeds simply because we are all human.

    Religion is an empty construct that only people give power to, and Atheists are often those people. We take that bait way, way too often.

    Thanks for calling me on my crap.

  7. Trevor Markwart says:

    It amazes me and, at the same time, it is completely predictable that some atheists would be upset about The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That is because a good number of atheists are often very angry people. They have become atheists after emerging from a bad past where religion was forced on them. They were shunned and attacked for not fitting in. They were in some cases ostracized and ridiculed for pointed out, simply, that the emperor had no clothes. Quite often in the United States they are gay, and therefore viewed as the Devil. Most angry atheists come from small town America, and they are angry because of their life experience. What they don’t get is that anger cancels out reasoned thinking just as surely as religious zealotry does. They are unable to step away from their anger and see the whole picture.

    It’s no wonder they don’t get that the approach of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the correct way to approach this topic. For The Flying Spaghetti Monster is every bit as real and wonderful as god or allah or the cow and monkey gods or praying to trees. No, The Flying Spaghetti Monster is better. He gives us much more to believe in and hope for in the life after this. Much, much more. Beer volcanoes and stripper factories. Can’t beat that.

    And pssst — over here — hey, if you really, really want to upset and anger religious nuts, then ridicule them. Nothing, absolutely nothing, angers a religious nut more than to ridicule them. They DO get that.

    • Brian Fritzen says:

      Watch the generalizations. I agree that they can be angry at first, sometimes. But what of people born and kept atheist? I am not angry. Religion makes me angry when it tries to steal liberties from free people. But I am not “angry.” Nor have I seen many angry at the FSM. We understand it completely and love the power of FSMism and its defense of real science.

      I am just calling you out about the generalizations. I get what you are saying and give ye a hearty “rum’s up.”
      Ramen, brother, Ramen.

  8. Trevor Markwart says:

    Well, I’m not referring to people “born and kept atheist” like you, Brian. Born and kept atheist means that you’ve not been assaulted like born into religion and assaulted when becoming an atheist. You really don’t have a reason to be angry.

    Imagine if you grew up in a religious house, it was driven into you, you were forced to attend a religious school, an alternative “education” environment — THIS is what formed your formulative years. Your adult years, based on reason and intellect, would be forever tinged and colored by anger — because your parents, your family, your community you came from, everybody you knew as a kid, would be coming from some bizarre imaginary view of the universe that painted you as the enemy and outsider. Even though you were the person who was simply speaking the truth.

    I’ve had a few girlfriends who were of this background. Their childhoods were awful. Screwed up childhoods scar you for life until you overcome them, and create a lot of lingering anger that is hard to disperse. This is the main problem with religion in our modern world. This is where angry atheists come from. Not from your self-described background, Brian. Your background is one of intellectual privilege. Remember that.

    • Brian Fritzen says:

      Thanks for that. It gives perspective.

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