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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. J.C. says:

    I have stumbled upon the site here and to be honest. I don’t want to sound like jerk or anything but…..
    Everyone’s thoughts on Evoloution as being 100 percent correct is extremly flawed. It’s pseudo science. Evolution is a theory, not a fact.

    • piratesmee says:

      JC: Please research the difference between a scientific theory and “theory” as the word is used in everyday conversation.

    • TiltedHorizon says:

      A scientific theory is constructed to conform to available empirical data about such observations, and is put forth as a principle or body of principles for explaining a class of phenomena.

      If you want pseudo science visit http://christianscience.com/healing/topics/

    • Keith says:

      I don’t recall anyone saying that Evolution was 100% correct. The evidence for Evolution is very compelling:far more compelling than a book of bronze age mythology.The ancestry of the horse, for example, is very well delineated from the Eocene Hyracotherium (Eohippus) to the modern day horse.
      One of the absurd objections by the creationists is that there are no “transitional” fossils (whatever that means). Given the rare conditions under which fossils occur, and given that there are many fossils that are impossible to access (eg. under the sea), the remains of 99.999999% (recurring) of all animals from the past are unobtainable. The ideas about fossil ecosystems and fossil animals are always undergoing review, for example the argument about whether Dinosaurs were cold or warm blooded: so, palaeontologists are willing to change their views when the evidence is presented. Creationists will only change their minds when their god tells them to, In other words never.

    • theFewtheProudtheMarinara says:

      Why is it “pseudo” science? Please share. Unlike Intelligent Design, it undergoes the Scientific Method, and has not been unproven. As a matter of fact, when archeologists have looked for an intermediate step between macro-evolutionary changes, they’ve found them.

    • Brian Fritzen says:

      You’ve got to be a POE! There is no other explanation. No one with an IQ above 80 thinks that anymore. Evolution is. Evolution happened. Get over yourself. Evolution has been observed. It continues on as we speak.

    • B. says:

      The idea that you are descended from Jesus, proven trough Christian crystals and homeopathic prophecies – is pseudo science. Science is, by definition, science.

  2. Ronster says:

    As with any group of like minded individuals, you will only hear from the noisy ones. You will hear from one individual that rants about his/her beliefs, but will not hear from the thousands of others that do not feel the need to put others down and scream from the hilltops. I am atheist and I respect the right of others to believe as they do, so long as others are not harmed by these beliefs. I cannot go so far as to suggest that I respect their beliefs when they are based on nonsense and fairly tales, but go ahead and believe in them. I believe that we should strive to improve the condition of the human race and protect our planet and inhabitants from undue harm. I believe that is the primary goal of most atheists, and most people in general. No sky fairy is going to help us and the time we have on earth is our only chance. FSM is a fun way to get a point across and if you are offended by it you can go to another web page, you can rant against it or you can join in the fun, your choice. Whatever you choose, it won’t affect anyone else. By the way, some people that post here against evolution (an overwhelmingly supported theory), may want to look up the difference between a hypothesis and a theory. Hypothesis – a suggested explanation based on repeated observations and generalization; Theory – an explanation supported by repeatable experimentation and/or research.

  3. Going bananas says:

    How can one be a member of FSM? Do i have to believe in UFOs. sasquatch, Lochness monster, Atlantis, etc. Do i have to be Italian to be admitted to your religion? Do i need to be a person who takes standup comedians, clowns, saturday night live and Mad comedians seriously to be accepted by you? Do i have to be a simpleton or downright stupid in order to be qualified in your group? Do i also need to embraced crass commercialism, and capitalism as one of my principles in your group. If so, then anybody can worshipped anything from Kim Jong Il to anything wacky, looney and downright crazy. I hope Mr. Henderson will say at the end of the day that everything is a joke so that he can still changed his stand on mocking religion. There is still hope Mr. Henderson on turning back and being sorry to the True Creator. Please do it ASAP if you want to be saved.

    • TiltedHorizon says:

      OOOOOO. I want to be saved! True Creator? Which one? Tell me! Crap…… now I’ll never be saved.

      Oh well, bring on the strippers and beer!

    • Brian Fritzen says:

      “So you want to be a Pastafarian

      Great. Consider yourself a member. You’ll notice there’s no hoops to jump through. You don’t need to pay anything.

      How to help the church

      You can do that by spreading the word. Tell people about Pastafarianism. Point out that we’re the world’s most peaceful mainstream religion, having started no wars in our God’s name. As far as I know there are no deaths attributed to our religion.

      Can I be a member if I don’t literally Believe in the FSM?

      Yes you can. For the same reason that many in other religions don’t literally believe their scripture, you can be a Pastafarian without being a True Believer of our scripture. In other words, do you know Christians who don’t take the Bible literally – but who consider themselves True Christians, nonetheless? So do I. In fact, True Belief is not often a requirement of religion. Most religions are comprised of a group of people with similar – but not exact – world views. Pastafarianism is no different in that regard.”

      I think that answers your question. Saved from what exactly? Burning for eternity? That sounds like a loving god.

      You should turn back and enjoy our beer volcanoes and stripper factory.

    • Danimal says:

      Ok Bananarama I’m going to try and keep this simple as it appears the irony of your own statement went over your head.

      If you had read the about tab or spent sometime trying to educate yourself about pastafarianism you would realize this *IS* in fact a joke. Specifically it is a satire, a special kind of joke that takes a real concept, like religion, and highlights the absurd portions of it by deconstructing and synthesizing the concept from a different point of view or in a slightly different context. Here is a satire of your letter for example:

      How can one be a member of God? Do i have to believe in rib women. talking snakes, two (seven?) of every animal in the world fitting on one boat for 40 days, a woman turning into salt, etc. Do i have to be straight to be admitted to your religion? Do i need to be a person who takes pedophiles, men in funny hats, terrorists, and hate mongers seriously to be accepted by you? Do i have to be a simpleton or downright stupid in order to be qualified in your group? Do i also need to embraced crass commercialism, and capitalism as one of my principles in your group. If so, then anybody can worshipped anything from Kim Jon Il to anything wacky, looney and downright crazy. I hope Going bananas will say at the end of the day that everything is a joke so that he can still changed his stand on mocking rational thought. There is still hope Going Bananas on turning back and being sorry to all the people harmed by religion. Please do it ASAP if you are a decent person.

      Do you see how your own argument applies to your “True Creator” just as easily as it does to the FSM. I’m guessing you don’t but I’m trying to show you anyway. The atrociousness of your spelling and grammar signal to me that you have not yet reached the mental capacity to understand abstract concepts like irony or satire.

      Please use your brain,
      Danimal

    • plumberbob says:

      @ Going bananas ,

      Perhaps if you were smart enough to read and follow the directions that were clearly given to you when you entered our site, you would have had your questions answered. After reading the Open Letter and the “About” tab material, you could have learned:

      1) Our mission is the exclusion of religious mythology from the science curricula of public schools.

      2) Our theology is a satire that neither depends on, nor is derivative of any other religion.

      3) We insist that any school board that includes any religious mythology in their science curricula, must also include ours.

      Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
      H. L. Mencken
      US editor (1880 – 1956 )

      Please remember that you’ve never been presented with any evidence of the existence of any deity. The transcendental feeling that one can get when deep in prayer or during meditation can be taught to any willing person in about an hour. It’s physiological; it’s not theological.

      Get over yourself! Remember that your religious organization is run by old MEN, whose only goal is the collection of MONEY, POWER, and SEX for themselves!

      RAmen

    • Hernando says:

      We are mere pathetic specks of dust or mud. To put us at the center of “creation” is beyond laughable. It’s nice that we are capable of reflecting on all this. But that only proves that we are capable of thought. Wow. Fun and games. Food and wine. Women and song. Politics and prison. Sin and redemption. True creator? See a movie called “Agora”. Religious folk have been the source of slaughter and ethnic cleansing. Religion equals exclusive belief and robotic thought. All crap, crap, crap.

      How did you treat your wife or mother today? Did you flip another driver the bird? What was your budget for donations last year? Did you discover a really good wine? Did you share it? Do you eat pasta or rice? Meat or beans? Herb or booze? Yell at your dog? Kick your kitty? Slap someone? Compliment a co-worker? Respond to a resume even if you don’t have an opening at your company? Call someone back instead of instantly responding to your “smart phone” like a slave? Call someone back? Thank someone for pointing out one of your faults? Look someone in the eye on the sidewalk…and smile? Pick up some litter? Care about litter? These are the real questions of this brief insignificant thing called life. BTW, when was the last time you gave someone a back rub?

  4. elbowmacaroni says:

    I HAVE a question for the xtrians. Where do they get off presuming people need saving. Just because you attach guilt to normal, healthy, and indeed vital aspects of human life doesn’t mean we all should. When i was young i found out that masterbation was considered a grave sin. In most transcendant religions (those that profess a belief that their final resting place is somewhere beyond this life) that belief is held. However in religions of the world and of the natural order of things, such as Toaism, Paganism, Buddhism and the like, such natural processes are viewed as divinely human activities, things which bring joy, ecstasy and happiness. So if some invisible sociopath in the sky says that sex is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I just find it so odd that an entire religion is centered around denial of the very joys of being human. It’s no wonder they get their holy panties in a knot when the see others living lives filled with joy and indulgance and fullfillment. I think they are just jealous that we aren’t ruled by the pressumed dictates of an imaginary friend. As children having an imaginary friend is called cute. As adults it is called religion.

    Long live logic and hamburgers!

    • tony allen says:

      Well said. The bible is nothing more than a misogynistic tribal screed that condemns us all for being normal in the first three pages. Jesus didn’t die for our sins, he was tortured and crucified for turning over the money changers tables at the temple a couple of days before passover. That’s like the Jewish 4th of july! Not real smart dude.

  5. Lucifer says:

    Dear JC: “Everyone’s thoughts on Evoloution (spelled wrong) as being 100 percent correct is extremly (spelled wrong) flawed. It’s pseudo science. Evolution is a theory, not a fact.”

    Would you please pull your head out of your asshole. You are turning blue.

    The Improbability Pump
    By Jerry A. Coyne
    Imagine for a moment that a large proportion of Americans–let’s say half–rejected the “germ theory” of infectious disease. Maladies like swine flu, malaria and AIDS aren’t caused by micro-organisms, they claim, but by the displeasure of gods, whom they propitiate by praying, consulting shamans and sacrificing goats. Now, you’d surely find this a national disgrace, for those people would be utterly, unequivocally wrong. Although it’s called germ theory, the idea that infections are spread by small creatures is also a fact, supported by mountains of evidence. You don’t get malaria unless you carry a specific protozoan parasite. We know how it causes the disease, and we see that when you kill it with drugs, the disease goes away. How, we’d ask, could people ignore all this evidence in favor of baseless superstition? Why has natural selection always been the most contested part of evolutionary theory?
    But that’s fiction, right? Well, not entirely, for it applies precisely to another “theory” that is also a fact: the theory of evolution. Over the past quarter-century, poll after poll has revealed that nearly half of all Americans flatly reject evolution, many clinging to the ancient superstition that the earth was created only 6,000 years ago, complete with all existing species. But as Richard Dawkins shows in his splendid new book, The Greatest Show on Earth, the theory of evolution is supported by at least as much evidence as is the germ theory of disease–heaps of it, and from many areas of biology. So why is it contemptible to reject germ theory but socially acceptable to reject evolutionary theory.
    One answer is religion. Unlike germ theory, the idea of evolution strikes at the heart of human ego, suggesting that we were not the special object of God’s attention but were made by the same blind and mindless process of natural selection that also built ferns, fish and rabbits. Another answer is ignorance: most Americans are simply unaware of the multifarious evidence that makes evolution more than “just a theory,” and don’t even realize that a scientific theory is far more than idle speculation.

    Lucifer

    • Atsap Revol says:

      LUCIFER,

      Christian Scientists reject the idea that pathogenic bacteria and viruses cause disease. They believe that disease is a false perception of reality, and it represents a flawed relationship with God. Their “Holy Book” is “Science and Health With Key to The Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy. If you like doubletalk, you’ll love this text.

      Do any of you Pastafarians believe that confirmed believers in superstition/religion can be swayed by presenting unequivocal evidence of the truth? Probably not too likely, but the cycle can be broken if young people move away from ridiculous dogma. That’s why it is important not to allow the teaching of ID in schools.

      AR

  6. tony allen says:

    To deny god is to deny the human ability to create one. Look at the FSM, to me he’s as real as any of the others out there. So what is the nature of the god that these people believe in? Is he hate filled or loving? What about the story of Job? What about jesus? An all powerfull god who stands by and does nothing while his son is tortured and killed. That’s supposed to show me how much he loves me? I’m a member of FFRF and fully support the effort to keep religion and state seperate. None of these three desert dogmas deserve any stake in the future.

  7. tony allen says:

    I don’t have a problem with the nativity thing. I like babies as much as anybody else, but when it’s on government property, it favors one religion over another and that’s where we draw the line. They have their god on our money and in the pledge and they want him back in our schools. I say NO NO NO, and I’m willing to put up cash to stop the assalt on the first amendment.

  8. tony allen says:

    I and FFRF don’t have a problem with a nativity scene. There are nativity scenes on the FSM website. The nativity scene that FFRF sued over is on goverment property. That’s a violation of the 1st amendment because it gives people the idea that one religion is favored over another.

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