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Chris Dunn

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Wed, Nov 16, 2016 - 11:24 AM

Can We Be Rude To God?

Wednesday, November 16, 20169:52 AM
Can We Be Rude To God? (2016Nov16)

Believing in God is not a neutral act—it is an offense against reason and a surrender of sanity. I don’t say that to be cruel—it is simply a fact. It’s even part of the rules—ask your preacher—if there were any practical proof of God, then there wouldn’t be any faith—or any need for faith. God says, “Believe in Me.”—He doesn’t say, “Look over here.”

Recent ‘Questions’ posted on The Humanist website seem to be subtly asking, ‘How do Humanists make allowances for our group psychosis?’ In a way, they seem to be asking how far we’re willing to go with this Rational Thinking business—and whether or not we non-believers reach a point where we are willing to be rude about the differences.

And that is a valid question in a country founded on religious freedom. After all, it was our religious freedom that allowed us to eschew religion without being burned at the stake—it stands to reason that Christians would wonder if we’ve been given too much freedom—if perhaps it is they, or at least their faith, that will be victimized.

It is a thorny question. Obviously, I am an American, and Americans believe in freedom of religion—but freedom of religion doesn’t address an important issue: How much respect is shown for another’s beliefs? People who believe in something that no one else respects usually get put into mental institutions—it is only natural for believers to be concerned with the amount of respect they are given.

Yet how much respect can a non-believer have for the fanciful tales and notions of theists? Shorn of their ‘given’ legitimacy, the arcana of the major faiths become ludicrous—heaven, hell, angels, an old bearded guy in the sky, transubstantiation—these fantasies are no more acceptable than Greek or Norse mythological tales. As a rational man, I can’t possibly respect these ideas—yet, as a man, I can respect other people having other ideas.

If someone says to me, “I’ll pray for you.” I am capable of holding my tongue—there is little to be gained by insulting someone who has just expressed concern for my welfare. If, at a funeral, a child is being reassured that grandma will be happy in heaven—I’m not going to be the cretin who decides Grandma’s funeral is the place for discussing atheism. But I behave this way because of my respect for other people’s feelings, not my respect for their beliefs.

So please, Humanist-question-contributors, stop asking questions that are sneaky attempts to force us to show respect for your faiths. We don’t respect your faiths—we are unable to. It’s nothing personal—we are simply practicing freedom of religion by answering ‘no’ to all of the above. What we can and do respect are your feelings—if you want to believe in God, we will try not to laugh about it or argue against it.

But if you insist on believing in something that isn’t there, there are going to be conflicts of perception—women and gays are two good examples. The whole point of freedom of religion is to avoid the kind of bloodthirsty nonsense that’s playing out in the Middle East right now. Yet Religious Freedom can only do so much—there will always be disagreements between people of different faiths—and people without faith—the point is to try to live side-by-side, in spite of the disagreements. That’s the reason for separation of church and state—so that no one can make rules to enforce their beliefs, or to criminalize another’s.

But you are probably asking yourself—wouldn’t I, as an atheist, try to criminalize theism, given the chance? I would be tempted—there are many aspects of faith that seem little more than child-abuse or bigotry—indoctrination from infancy, or bias against women and gays—these things are wrong from my point of view. But then again, they were deeply religious people who came up with freedom of religion, and separation of church and state—and those principles kept us atheists from being declare outlaws, back when our lives could have been forfeit. Turning your own good ideas against you would be the height of ingratitude and incivility. I like to think I’m better than that.

So please, Humanist question-submitters, try to stick with questions asked out of curiosity and avoid questions that are little more than subtle digs at ‘the other’.



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Cj Stone

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Print Thu, Nov 17, 2016 - 09:24 AM
I'm going to disagree with your initial premise—that believing in things that are not here-now present is "an offense against reason and a surrender of sanity". We all believe in things that aren't there--such as justice, equality, freedom, and meaning--and we are not offending reason or surrendering sanity. A god is just another one of those things that aren't there.

Now, I am not suggesting there are not problematic results to such a belief. There are, but there are also problematic results to believing in capitalism or the supremacy of logic. (Logic itself has told us there's a problem with logic [Godel's Theorem].) So problematic results in and of themselves are not a reason to discard god beliefs.

That said, I don't much care what people believe as long as they don't interfere with others' rights, and that's certainly the line I'll draw on god beliefs. I think religions are particularly pernicious in this respect, so I'm more assiduous when checking religionists' behavior against that line. Otherwise, they draw their moral/ethical direction from invisibles, and so do I, so we're not that different.


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Chris Dunn

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Print Sun, Nov 20, 2016 - 12:18 PM


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Neil Stahl

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Print Mon, Nov 21, 2016 - 04:00 AM
Short answer: No. How could we be rude to something that doesn't exist? Put another way, rudeness depends on the one being rude and the one or thing someone's rude to. And there isn't any god to be rude to. It's like being rude to air, only less so because air at least exists.

If you want a believer's answer about their god, ask that believer. I'm confident there is no god so be as rude to a non-existent entity as you like. Of course if you're rude to a non-existent entity that someone else believes exists and is all powerful yet needs their help (yes, I know that's silly but we both know it happens a lot around here) then you may need to worry about that person's response. But you don't have to worry about any god's response because there aren't any gods.

Now it's possible you're asking whether we should be rude to other people's god(s) because of the effect on those people. If so you should have phrased it better. And if this were a polite society where people don't try to impose their beliefs on others I might say we should not. But it's not such a polite society; it hasn't been for millennia though it's probably getting worse. Anyway some people think their gods don't want real science taught and don't want homosexuals who are in love to be able to to marry and don't want girls or women or families who need an abortion to be able to get one. Several even think their gods don't want effective birth control to be available. And that would be ok except they try to force everyone else to live by their rules. One reasonable response to those people is to demonstrate how silly their beliefs are. Of course there are other responses we need to be engaged in as well.


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Chris Dunn
Friday, November 18, 2016 - 10:38:04 AM
@Cj Stone: Your semantics are slippery--we choose whether or not to believe in an established faith's credo. We do not choose to seek Justice, or Meaning, or any other of the things that we feel, but do not see. In other words, it is not the lack of existential proof that makes religion crazy nonsense--it is the choosing to believe in it that makes its followers nonsensical.

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Cj Stone
Friday, November 18, 2016 - 11:07:11 AM
I was echoing the OP's talk; I will neutralize for you. We all take something to be the case. For instance, that there are gods or that there is justice, freedom, or meaning. We can act as if those things exist or as if they don't. If you do not take that to be the case, I suggest you live a day without attributing meaning to anything and see how your day turns out.

I do not act as if there are any gods. I do act as if those other things are the case. Everyone does this—assigns a place to what is in their world and then acts accordingly. Whatever you are prepared to act on is "real", so for religionists who are prepared to act on their god concept, their gods are real.

They are not different from us in that respect, that is, in choosing what they are prepared to act on, including things not here-now present. The distinction is how they are prepared to act, not that they are prepared to act. As I noted, as long as they don't suggest curtailing the rights of others (another invisible), we can all go on our merry way acting on what we're prepared to act on.

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Sue Parry
Saturday, November 19, 2016 - 08:19:36 AM
@Cj Stone: I think these are different kind of 'things'. People who believe in a god are usually think that god exists outside themselves. Kind of like unicorns, or hamburgers. Justice, freedom and meaning are abstractions - ideals we pursue, not 'things' that exist outside of human behavior. When we talk about justice or the lack of it, we are really talking about adjectives (is this behavior just, or not), not nouns (is there such a thing as justice).

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Chris Dunn
Saturday, November 19, 2016 - 07:40:38 PM
@Cj Stone: While I don't disagree, you are talking about behavior, and about perception. I am addressing only the act of choosing to believe in something solely on someone else's say-so, without any indication from reality that what they are saying is true--particularly when that act of choosing is multiple choice. Many different religions, but all claim theirs came 'from above'--that's a very busy above. There are many invisible things in the world--but only religions make the claim of zero-interaction. It's a special case, not a general concept.

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Chris Dunn
Saturday, November 19, 2016 - 07:40:35 PM
@Cj Stone:

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