Chapel Hill

Many posts have been made already on the Chapel Hill shootings, some defending atheists against the charge of being a hateful ideology and some attacking– The one thing I have noticed lacking is the observation that both sides are actually correct.

In reality the term Atheist is now seen as an ideology by many atheists but, is still seen as a simple statement of non-belief in the supernatural by many other atheists. Is it any wonder theists (and some atheists!) pounce upon the atheist as a worldview position? It did not help us make the case that atheist was only one position about gods and the supernatural when some atheists pushed the term Atheism+ either.

The analogy of language with biological systems for such terms as ‘mind virus’ and evolution of language is as true with atheism as it is with feminism. No matter what we do, language change is inevitable– I would argue the new fangled term egalitarianism will also evolve and become a term proponents argue over as well in just a few years, as Identity politics hits that movement(?). I don’t even need to mention the argument over the term Agnostic do I?

This is precisely why I judge people on their behaviours and positions rather than any labels we use. It is why those of us who begrudgingly label ourselves atheist (After all, why is the sane position the one needing a label) are careful to make clear our position. There is no charge of ‘No true Scotsman’ for the usage of ‘atheist’ possible if we have a well defined definition that does not change in response to an attack. Incidentally it is precisely for this reason many organisations write open letters reiterating their positions after any event such as this.

The Chapel Hill shooting is also a real life example of the topics of many of my prior blog posts. e.g. ‘On heroes’,  ‘Propaganda’, ‘In Living Colour’, ‘Us vs. them’, ‘I’m not a true Scotsman’, ‘Why I am still a feminist, ‘I’m not a foot soldier in your war’ and ‘How to argue on the Internet’.

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In Living Colour

Our first television set was a RCA black and white with a tiny screen– modern colour TV was still years away from the 1950’s. We watched much early Disney and Ed Sullivan and Saturday morning there were the westerns my dad liked. The bad guys always wore black stetsons and the good guys always wore white.

One thing I have learned growing up is never to assume that there are only two sides to an argument. We are not watching old black and white cowboy westerns and people are not always 100% right or wrong. The best policy for me has been to take individual components of a side and examine each issue taken by one side or another as dispassionately as I can– I ask questions, I examine the evidence, I argue it out with others. Sometimes one or two points from one side seems right to me. with many other points seeming right to me from another side.

I can’t do group think for this reason. I reserve the right to express support for some grievance by any group without necessarily agreeing with everything this group says. Remember, any social group will use propaganda tactics whether it is consciously or unconsciously and critical thinking is the prime defense here. I also reserve the right to not be confined by association fallacies, in other words, I try hard to examine points of view without regards to who is saying it. “Even a stopped clock is right twice a day” goes the old adage. This does leave me in the position of sometimes being equally hated by those who do take sides. I am often asked to “Take a side!” or “ Make up your mind!”. Sorry. I just don’t do that.

I have said it before, sometimes I wish people would talk to each other, try to walk in other’s shoes instead of boiling everything down to black and white. People are not ‘isms. People hurt and they lash out. “I guess I’m just a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” (Lennon of course) All I ask of you is to argue in a civil manner without repeating the same boring argument to me and without bullying. I have a large tolerance for diverse points of view provided you aren’t a bigot or bully. There are also appropriate times to argue and, appropriate venues– I don’t really think twitter is one.  Don’t be guilty of “Argumentum ad Twitterum”.

Why are you reading my blog?

Why are you reading any atheist blog for that matter? Yes for some of you, they were helpful for your deconversion, but why are you still reading them now? What is the point of continually reading one atheist blog and agreeing with everything said? You’ve come out of the dogma of religion only to take on the dogma of another person’s thoughts. Wasn’t the point of deconverting to learn to think, and evaluate evidence for yourself? I want to be challenged not pampered as religion does.

There is so much work to be done in our own communities, are you there helping with your local atheist groups? Are you active politically arguing for reason and science over nonsense?

Our local group has meet ups where I have met the most interesting people, and perhaps helped some come to grips with their family not accepting their atheism. I have met an active minister a member of the clergy project, trying hard to find other work, an atheist immigrant from Iran and several who have found reason and left evangelical lifestyles behind– they need our help and reading or even writing (!) a blog does not help them.

There is a reason the sub title of my blog is “Yet another atheist blog”. I don’t write to flame up controversy for the sake of followers– I write because I see things are not said. That said, I’ll concede more atheist blogs are good, if it translates into real action not keyboard warrior action,

So do you do anything in your local community?

 

The Church Dude

A group of us through CFI Ottawa got together to watch the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye debate. Somehow one of the guests, I’ll call him Tony, was an Evangelical christian going to seminary. That was not really a problem as Tony was not trying to convert anyone, at least during the debate and I found myself agreeing with Tony on many things. Tony was as aghast at Ken Ham as the  rest of us and pointed out that most Christians including his branch agreed that evolution was a fact. He was also against dogma, but aren’t we all? Or was he right and most atheists are dogmatic?

After the debate was over and we had some local discussion, that’s when Tony began making his views known. I had thought perhaps he was a Realistic Christian, that is he was an atheist but took many of the good ideas of Christianity into his belief system. It quickly was obvious I was mistaken. He told us he came to his views from personal revelation, he used to be an atheist, and perhaps string theory with its 11 and a half dimensions was somehow where a God could be found. 

The tragedy was his unwillingness to listen as I tried to explain to him why he was illogical, self revelation is not convincing, he used to be an atheist (statement of conversion fallacy) and the misunderstanding of physics. Meanwhile he began to try and convince another young couple that perhaps they did not know and maybe there was a God as he ignored me.

Isn’t part of being dogmatic the unwillingness to listen? 

 

 

 

If Real life was like Social Media

I have learned a lot about modern social media since I have joined the party but it has got me to thinking; What if real life was run like some common social media sites?

Here are some real life scenarios and what could happen if real life was like twitter or a blogsite.

You are at a meetup at a restaurant. You make a comment that is misunderstood by someone, instead of asking what you meant they shout.  “You are a (one of MRA, racist, homophobe, transphobe)” for everyone in the restaurant to hear. You are then berated by dozens of their friends before you are escorted out of the restaurant.

You are an artist displaying at an art gallery. One day you walk in to see a display of plastic trinklets next to your painting. You complain to the gallery and when they refuse to move the trinklets you complain to the newspapers. The next day you are escorted out of the gallery and told that you are banned from the gallery because friends of the trinklet artist had signed a petition asking you to be banned.

You are on your way with some friends to see a movie. At the door your ID is checked and, you are told that because of a new computer system you are banned. Someone had put you on their computer system because they did not like your politics.

I think I am getting the hang of modern social media now. Wouldn’t real life be better with these modern social media improvements?

Oprah disses atheists or does she?

Unless you have been living under a rock you’ll be aware of the  fuss over Oprah’s claim that  “atheists must believe in God if they experience awe and wonder”, during her interview with Diana Nyad. What struck me as interesting were the subsequent remarks made by Nyad as she continued to remark, “The soul lives on since we have created so much energy”. Was she  really claiming the existence of a soul as in the old fashioned  sense of the term? Or was she using it in a poetic sense?

If Diana Nyad really does believe in an afterlife she is not the only self avowed atheist who does. So did Oprah diss an atheist or not?

Propaganda

There is the common mistaken belief that propaganda is a political tool only used during wartime, but it is in daily use by governments, political parties, social interest groups, marketing, and professional organizations.

The most influential expert in propaganda in the 20th century was Edward Bernays who was also instrumental in renaming it to Public Relations. The irony of this Jewish writer’s works being admired by the Nazis and, the negative connotations of the term propaganda post war, were reasons enough.

The six basic tools of propaganda are easy enough to find online, but I thought it might be fun to compare these techniques with what has been happening with various factions in the atheist community for the past few years.

Name Calling

Name calling or demonization. A group you wish to attack is demonized by using non flattering names.

e.g.

In war time we used “The Hun” (WWII) or “Geeks” (VIetnam), and in our own community terms such as “Slymepitter”,  “chillgirl”, “madfem”, “MRA”, and “baboon”

Glittering generalities

Used to appeal to deep seated beliefs without evidence by using slogans or even logos. These serve to form cohesion since we all  want to show we belong to a group with others who share our beliefs and a logo or slogan shows our commitment.

e.g. Atheistplus

“We are atheists plus!”

Slymepit (Phawrongula)

“Hypocrisy, destruction, and random stupidity from the baboon squad.”

Transfer

The technique of taking an emotional support of something already dear to us and transferring the feeling to something else we want to support. e.g. An appeal to our feelings of injustice due to racial bigotry could be transferred to blindly support a group.

eg. Atheist plus

“We are…

Atheists plus we care about social justice,

Atheists plus we support womens’ rights,

Atheists plus we protest racism,

Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,

Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.”

Testimonial

Find a leader who is willing to support your cause and have them support it openly.

e.g. For marketing any sports figure will do.

Atheistplus

Richard Carrier, PZ Myers

Slymepit

Thunderf00t, Abbie Smith

Plain folk

Where the a non famous speaker espouses a position giving the impression they are like you and me.

e.g.

In marketing anyone supposedly off the street talking about any product.

In our own community I suppose the plain folk talk happens at atheist meetups.

Card Stacking

Never give your opponent the principle of charity. Always be careful to always show their side in the best possible light while distorting the position of their opponent as to show them in the worst possible light.

All sides have been guilty of this one.

I can’t state that propganda tactics are being used consciously by anyone but I can say that whenever tribalism takes place these techniques naturally fall out.