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Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 6:03amSanction this postReply
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George,

Interesting article!  I recall when I became a freshman in college and decided that religion really did amount to a pack of farcical and manipulative lies.  The problem?  I had no other philosophy to which I could turn to give me an integrated world view.  I struggled, I stumbled, I fumbled, and eventually I gave up and fell into a cult called "The Baptists".  Thankfully, a classmate loaned me The Virtue of Selfishness, the clouds of mysticism parted and the searing sunshine of reason made its way to my suffering spirit.  You can read the complete story here if you wish.

I ran into the malevolent types of atheists you describe at the 2003 International Atheist Alliance Convention in Tampa, Florida.  I shall never forget the discussion I had in the lounge with someone who wanted me to explain some of the finer points of laissez faire capitalism.  As I attempted to engage in a dialogue, two other parties continuously interrupted me with complaints that I lived in a world of "rational idealism".  When I asked them to stop interrupting so I could finish my discussion, one of them exploded, "Fuck you!"  So that ended the discussion abruptly.  I learned later that the two parties in question had sympathies for Castro.  Damned Communists!  The original person who had asked me the question apologized later for his colleagues' rudeness.  I directed him to Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal for further reading.


Luke Setzer


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Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 6:22amSanction this postReply
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Why am I an atheist? I am one because no one has ever said anything meaningful to the contrary.

I've heard plenty of people say, "God exists." Before I can ever get to the question of proof or disproof of that statement, though, they have to define "God". Until they define "God", they aren't saying anything. What is "God"? What isn't "God"? How is "God" supposed to compare to reality, and what part of reality is "God" supposed to compare to?

Until these questions are answered, the statement "God exists" doesn't mean anything more or less than the statement "Flibbertygibbets exist".

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Post 2

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 7:40amSanction this postReply
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I can remember my introduction to atheism. It was in the course of reading Ayn Rand's Virtue of Selfishness. Like most others, I was raised in an atmosphere of religion - not fervently, but Methodist nonetheless. It was my horror at discovering she was an atheist, which bothered me so much because she was right in so meny other things she wrote of - so it came to asking the question: if she was right in these other assertions, what reason had she for being an atheist.  It was from that point on, discovering that the whole notion was an unwarrented presumption held largely over the centuries by force and perpetuation of ignorance, that - intellectually - I became one myself.  But it is one thing to make a mindful shift like that, quite another to emotionally do that shifting, especially after a lifetime [as it was to me at that time] of being under the influence of a deity, even if by that time it was a benign one relegated to the background after creating, having given us the means of going at it on our own - the rational faculty.

Now, after more than 40 years of Objectivist influence, and much thinking and reading on this and other subjects, the issue seem moot, an obviousness so few others see. But, at the same time, long recognised that religionists are such not out of evil, but of ignorance and lifelong conditioning, and no amount of forcing the issue will alter that - indeed, would only intrench it. It is enough to point out the fallacy of 'no god - no morality', that morality has to do with making choices, living according to our nature as humans, being the understood, not the commanded. If asked why no god belief, then explain - but otherwise recognise that am in the fore of tomorrow, in a world yet to be grown up in many ways, and that only in time will this be altered.

Quite true, atheism is no guarenteeing of rationality - communism is actually secular religion, simply substituting 'society' for 'god', and as such actually another religion, as mystical as any. But that only points out that the issue is more 'sense of life' than anything else - rational versus irrational, self-ism versus other-ism.


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Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 8:31amSanction this postReply
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George,

My own Atheism is not a vitriolic hatred of theists just for the sake of hatred. Its an affirmation of my senses. The only time I tend to bring it up is in the context of Theism being used to justify immoral action in personal life and politics. I know few atheists personally, so can't speak to the hypocrisy issue myself. I will judge any I find based on their bahaviour. Many theists I encounter (though not all) are benevolent in ther own way, but others are fervant conversion seekers and dispersion slingers at anyone who is not of their faith, but more especially at atheists.  Such is life. I would say the underlying theme of your article was to always examine oneself and ones beliefs, behaviors, and motivations carefully.

Ethan


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Post 4

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 9:19amSanction this postReply
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To George:

How I Became Atheistic

[irony: this piece was written whilst listening to the beautiful voice and music of Josh Grobin - a religious singer]

I was an adolescent, maybe 10 or 11 years old. It was a small church. I had gone to church many times with my family. My folks had signed me up for a special church presentation. There were quite a few other kids there. We listened to a group leader introduce what was to be the presentation - a movie. I think that the movie was called Rapture.

At the climax of the movie, the unsuspecting characters - with which we had become familiar as the plot unfolded - experienced a painful death by fire, burned alive without warning; the Rapture had come and "true justice" had been served. Their screams were horrifying, and wouldn't you know, I was in line to be "signed-up" by the Pastor, who was conveniently waiting in the back of the room with that nice, easy-for-kids-to-read oath: "I accept my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, into my heart ..."

It was by deception that I became religious. It was by deception that I stayed religious - as I witnessed the evasion of personal growth (in others and myself) which only religion makes possible. While other philosophies may claim that man is, by nature, base and corrupt - only religion allows one to embrace this notion with an ironically righteous conviction; only religion allows one to maintain the pretense of morality while rolling in the "sinful" muck that is taken to be the human spirit.

Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. Unconditional forgiveness. Only God may judge - religion itself, cannot be wrong and must not be questioned. That is the answer to the Jim Bakers of the world, using religion as a tool to sacrifice the value of others to self, spending my tithes on prostitutes while committing the greatest sin which humans are capable of: living a lie.

As I read in the news about a self-sufficient town of Amish people, where a young girl was repeatedly sexually-molested by relatives for years on end, I recall the sinister sanction and unassuming arrogance of her relatives and of the leaders of this community. She was shamed (and one gets the impression: blamed) for having worn blue jeans. And the leader's punishment for the girl's hideously and insidiously familiar "abusers": 6 weeks without Church, and repentance to the Lord - which, they claim, is tremendously difficult for the abusers.

I have one question: How difficult is it for a child to develop the joy of self-love that is esteem, when her body has been used by others (others familiar to her, or not), for years, as a mere means to their savage ends? How does that "difficulty" compare to the "difficulty" of 6 weeks without Church?

Their militant avoidance of spiritual growth (of building a soul) was made evident through the news reporter's questioning. When pressed (by the reporter) for a rationale supporting this meek "religious" response to a horrendous crime - their arrogant, self-righteous, destructively-modest reply: We leave that up to the Lord.

Seven words have never been more evil than that.

Only religion has the power to whitewash the sins of whole towns of evil, and to give to mass deception the pretense of a self-exalting morality. Only religion allows humans to feel entitled to a wicked, deranged esteem without any growth in spirit or character. Yeah, communism is bad. But its pretenses are now, in principle, easily uprooted via reference to reality (via reference to history - which is something communism accepts as a judge). Religion is a more insidious evil than that, because it comforts and supports infantile narcissism - it allows one to feel "good" without "growth."

Imagine a bird tricked into never opening its wings (with a touch of false morality allowing the bird to feel a mongrol, self-righteous exaltation of walking on the ground all its days), that is what religion can do to the human spirit. Using Mill's terms for another purpose, religion creates satisfied pigs, satisfied pigs feeling moral superiority over the dissatisfied Socrates found in the world.

As a primitive philosophy -and as a springboard to a more moral philosophy - religion is not entirely without value.

I started out with religion as my philosophy. Then I read books by the Christian psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, who encouraged me to question my own religious convictions. This led me to Nathaniel Branden, who encouraged me to question every system of moral philosophy or belief. This led me to Ayn Rand, who encouraged me to embrace all that is good in myself and the world. Who taught me how I can achieve values and enrich my life and the lives of others around me.

Peck was the bridge allowing me to escape the wickedly circular damnation of religion, Branden was the bridge offering hope and confidence, upon which Rand delivered the means and empowerment - closing the deal.

I have again, been born-again - each time leaving a much more helpless self behind. Each time embracing higher hopes for my future. Each time experiencing a wondrous joy flowing through my veins, and a refreshing reverence for life and for taking part in life. Each time feeling more alive than ever before. This is how I became atheistic, by embracing life.

Ed
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 11/24, 9:29am)


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Post 5

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 2:32pmSanction this postReply
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I would like to thank everyone for their input, and many of the positive comments.

It was Ethan who best put his finger on my intent when he said, "I would say the underlying theme of your article was to always examine oneself and ones beliefs, behaviors, and motivations carefully."

However, this is only half my intent. The response to the article is as I expected, and by many of those that I would expect to respond as they did. The article is primarily addressed to those that posture as objectivist (or objectivist fellow travelers) because they have a personal ax to grind. That ax manifest itself either an obsession with denouncing religion (or any form of moral value judgments), or an obsession with justifying their hedonistic (and often self-destructive) lives.

For these people atheism is not a corollary conclusion to their beliefs, but its very core. There are also a great many agnostics and 'new age' religionist that reflect the same mentality. I once believed that this was primarily limited to those suffering from 'teenage angst or rebellion'. As I have grown older I am have come to conclude that there are a great many adults operating under the same premise. The only difference being that they have acquired a degree of subtlety or a means of masquerade.

Naturally, I am not speaking here of persons that point out legitimate concerns with theocratic dangers.  Nor am I referring to a strident and proper denunciation of such. However, it is not difficult to discern a person making legitimate denouncements from a person that seems to literally delight in those denouncements. The former is rejecting a false moral code; the latter is overwhelmed with the need to reject moral codes per se.

Once again, many thanks to all.

George


Post 6

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 4:45pmSanction this postReply
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George, this is an excellent, thought-provoking piece.  It has given me pause, as I can become quite frustrated and angry with religious people.  However, after examining my motivations, I can say that I do so because I cannot stomach when people say they will "Leave it up to God," or "God will provide the answer."  I see this as utter laziness and a complete copout.  That kind of belief system facilitates the abdication of personal responsibility.

What I find interesting is that my parents always taught me "God helps those who help themselves."  At least they were on the right track.

Again, well done, George. 


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Post 7

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 6:03pmSanction this postReply
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I am saddened for SOLO, which has been a positive inspiration for me in living an objectively moral and virtuous Atheist life, that this repulsive stinking screed of anti-Atheist bigotry was posted without even the minimal hygienic precaution of placing it in the "dissent" category. Except for substituting "9 out of 10 Atheists" in place of "9 out of 10 Jews," it would not have been out of place as an exterminationist antisemitic sermon, delivered from the pulpit of a typical Roman Catholic church in Slovakia or Croatia when Hitler established Roman Catholic theocracies in those countries. The staggering collectivism of Cordero's stereotyping of (his fellow????) Atheists - and the pervasive, propagandistic lies that pervade his shitty piece - screams out for some kind of response. This shit, however, stinks with so many falsehoods that it is difficult to know where to start.

One of the slanders, the supposed link between Atheism and National Socialism, has a long and ignoble history that dates back to Whittaker Chambers' supposed abstract of Atlas Shrugged in National Review: "To the gas chambers, GO!." So I shall deal, first, only with Cordero's reference to Dachau. All of Hitler's writings make it clear that he saw his regime, and his "War against Judeo-Bolshevism", as a Crusade in the defense of Christiandom. There was not a single identifiable Atheist in the Nazi ruling echelon. Hermann Goering, the only top Nazi whose Christian devotion is subject to reasonable doubt, may have dabbled in Old Norse Paganism - and that's about it. In every country they conquered, the Nazis appointed the most theocratic satraps they could find. In Slovakia and Croatia, they established full-fledged theocracies, headed by Roman Catholic priests and pledged to total extermination of non-Christians. Even in France, where separation of Church and State dates back to the end of the monarchy, the Nazis insisted on restoration of the Established Christian Church.

I should add that I never became an Atheist - my parents did. They had been G-d - believing Jews until 1942, when, as partisans in an Anarchist band, led by a man who was marked for death by the Nazis as an Atheist, they learned of the murder of my brother, their first child, shortly after my brother's third birthday. My brother was being hidden by a Catholic family, one of whom confessed to a priest that they were hiding a Jewish child. The priest told them to repent the sin of sheltering that little Christ-killer, and take him to the Feldgendarmerie post, where he was killed on the spot. After that, my parents decided that they could not stay sane and keep believing in a G-d who would permit such things to be done in His name. So, mister Cordero, this is personal. I shall fight the evil of faiths to my last stroke of the keyboard. I have pity for those who abandoned morality because the only morality they knew, was morality that drove bigotry against them: as questioners, as gays, as warriors for their own happiness. But I, I have not abandoned morality - and I shall fight against the manifest evil of latter-day Christianist crusaders like George Cordero, and yes, also George W. Bush. They, and their lies, shall not pass.

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Post 8

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 6:50pmSanction this postReply
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Mr. Cordero wrote:
Were you among the deeply scarred in life, seeking retribution?
And Mr. Reed, reading your chilling message I can't help but think that Mr. Cordero's article is right on target.


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Post 9

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 7:28pmSanction this postReply
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So, mister Cordero, this is personal.


I believe that, but not for any of the reasons you have given.

Your reaction is astonishing. Did you even bother to read the piece?

First of all the piece is not anti-atheist. That is beyond ridiculous. My references to '9 out 10' people was a dramatic device used to make the reader reflect on whether he has made a virtue out of negating the false codes of others, instead from affirming his own. Even the most cursory look of most people that define themselves as 'atheist' (see the hedonistic left for a reference) should suffice. It is interesting to note that most Objectivist do not use the term as an adjective to describe themselves or what they consider to be virtuous about themselves, they use it in its proper context as a negation of mystical assertions that are arbitrary. 

Trust me when I tell you that you are preaching to the wrong writer when it comes to making references to totalitarian regimes and the horror they commit. The story you used as an excuse for your tirade, is one whose subject I would be willing to venture, I have a far greater and a far closer first hand knowledge of.

Normally I would try and address a dissenters arguments. But after a careful double read of your post, I see there is no argument to address. I must admit however, that the last sentence of your response I found to be extremely funny.

George

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 11/25, 1:44am)


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Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 8:02pmSanction this postReply
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Mr Cordero,

The reference to Dachau - DACHAU - as something connected to Atheism is right there in your article. So it is a fact that you have alleged a connection between Atheism and National Socialism; this scandalous allegation is not something that you can conveniently deny. And this allegation is a blatant lie, and the exact opposite of historical fact.

As for totalitarian regimes, I wonder if your experience was much different than mine. I spent the first 10 years of my life in Communist, Roman-Catholic Poland. I assure you that Roman Catholic Communism in Poland was at least as totalitarian as Atheist Communism in Cuba. I can also assure you that being hit by Communists as a "Zionist" or by Catholics as a "Christ-killer" feels pretty much the same. Not much different, for that matter, having raised several children as a father and step-father, from being hit as an Atheist child in America.

And yes, as long as the only morality kids know of is the false, anti-life "morality" of the Christians - which is, as a literal historical fact, the personal "morality" of Adolf Hitler - some of them will react accordingly. To the poison of supernaturalism and repression, Christian "morality" is not an antidote. It is more of the same.

Post 11

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 8:19pmSanction this postReply
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oh Mr. Reed,

First of all, Adolf Hitler's 'moral code; if there is such a thing that can be attached to him, was Aryan supremacy, not Religion. The Nazis conviently used both the extremist religionist and extremist anti-religionist as instruments of terror towards their 'racial' goals.

Secondly, I made no connection between atheism and Nazism whatsoever. The paragraph preceding that one gave examples of the negative effects of religion. The one after that described: 1. an arbitrary killing, 2. Communist horror (where I did make a connection), and 3. Nazi racist horror (racism being the logical extension of using the example of Dachau). The idea being to focus the reader on the reality that horror has many faces.

Lastly, I do not know why I am responding to you at all. Take note that none of the readers before you interpreted the article as you had. Your tone and remarks were offensive. This is my last post to you sir.

George

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 11/24, 8:31pm)


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Post 12

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - 10:59pmSanction this postReply
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George, although I think that Adam is overreacting to your article -- for reasons I can well understand -- I also think that there are errors in your article.

It is true that many people are atheists for wrong reasons -- just as they are all sorts of things for wrong reasons. One can be an Objectivist because one wishes to use moral absolutism as a club with which to beat others -- but that tells us nothing whatever about Objectivism, just as being an atheist in order to defend hedonism tells us nothing about atheism or its importance. We do not learn from this that subjectivism is not so bad, or that religion is sometimes benign.

You wrote: "Line up 10 men who have uttered the words, 'I am an atheist,' and I will show you 9 hypocrites. Show me 10 men who are speaking about the corrosive influence of Christianity, and I will show you 9 men with corroded souls."

I cannot imagine why you say this, and I'm certain you can't justify it. I am an atheist, and I believe that Christianity, like every other religion, has a corrosive influence; but I am neither a hypocrite nor do I have a corroded soul. What I recognize is that today, particularly in America, Christianity does not typically lead people to kill people of other religions; we no longer have Crusades or Inquisitions; but this is because most modern men,still insisting that their Bibles are the literal word of God, hypocritically ignore those parts of the word of God that they do not at present wish to incorporate into their lives. Well, better a hypocrite than a fanatic, I suppose. But can we count on even hypocrisy to last indefinitely?

And surely it is clear that among Christians -- Baptists or Catholics or Mormons or evangelicals -- there are all over the world still tremendous numbers of fanatics, insisting that those who do not accept their particular faith are damned to hell for eternity, and should be doomed to suffering or extinction on earth. There is no way to reconcile the beliefs of some Christians with other Christians, or of Christians with Jews, much less reconcile either of them with Islam.

The fact is that we live in a world in which billions of men and women, with regard to their most FUNDAMENTAL beliefs and values, reject reason and extol a faith that sets them against reality and against other human beings. And our advances in the methods and tools of war make our religions and our religious differences, now that we are armed with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, clear and present dangers to our continuing survival. Do you care to think about how many human beings have died over the centuries under the heel of faith and unreason? How many are dying today? And how many will yet die?

I agree with Adam that Nazism is not atheistic. Whatever the place of a god in the hierarchy of any particular Nazi, what is certainly true is that Nazism is shot through, from beginning to end, with the one thing central to all religions: faith as opposed to reason.

What are victimless crimes but the result of religion today -- crimes for which people's lives are ripped apart and destroyed? What are the drug wars, which send so many to their deaths, but the result of religion today? TODAY, not in the distant, unthinkable past of Crusades and Inquisitions. Religion is dangerous, whether watered-down or not. It affects all of us every day of our lives. It could yet destroy us.

Barbara

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Post 13

Thursday, November 25, 2004 - 1:35amSanction this postReply
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Miss Branden,

You stated: I am an atheist, and I believe that Christianity, like every other religion, has a corrosive influence; but I am neither a hypocrite nor do I have a corroded soul.

As am I, and I agree with your sentiments. But, what I am reffering to here is a type of atheist, one that I have found to be far too common. As an Objectivist your atheism manifest itself differently than most. From time to time we have all seen people (especially younger ones) that use their atheism as a means of an almost obsessive hammering and derision of other people. It was primarily to these people to whom the article was written. The types, that make negation a virtue, and that affirm nothing. Many use atheism as a means to evade moral judgement or to mask a contempt that is far deeper than the one they outwardly display towards religion or religious people. Carefully read my article and I believe you will discern that I was trying hard to make that distinction.

You stated: And surely it is clear that among Christians -- Baptists or Catholics or Mormons or evangelicals -- there are all over the world still tremendous numbers of fanatics, insisting that those who do not accept their particular faith are damned to hell for eternity, and should be doomed to suffering or extinction on earth.

Once again, I agree. This was not the point of my article. It's point was for those who focus their energy not on these fanatics, but on all religious people - irrespective of their degree of mysticism.

You stated: Do you care to think about how many human beings have died over the centuries under the heel of faith and unreason? How many are dying today? And how many will yet die?

The answer to that is obvious. Millions have died as a result of religious fanaticism. And millions in this century died as a result of one of faiths worst alternatives; atheism as a political tool. In the case of Communism they rejected traditional faith, and replaced it with the Marxian 'faith'.  It matters not that we are able to see that they simply replaced the God in heaven, with the God called 'state'. Those that accepted it did not percieve it in that manner. My point is simple; atheism on its own cannot provide a benevolent set of moral values. Accepted in a vacuum it can lead at best to a self-destructive hedonitic life, at worst as rationale for hatred. Most importantly however is the fact that my article was not addressing issues of this magnitude - it was far more of a personal address; a call for introspection.

You stated: Religion is dangerous, whether watered-down or not.

Once again, I agree. There are endless ways in which religious fervor has manifested itself throughout the ages, one of the modern ironies is in those that have made a religion out of rejecting religion.

As you have seen by now, one of the consistant themes in my writings are attempts to express a more introspective and benevolent self-examination for Objectivist.  A call for people to examine their rationale for their atheism is no more an affirmation of religion, as a call by you for Objectivist to re-examine the nature of their moralizing value judgements is an affirmation of 'moral neutrality'. I would not assume that you were taking a position against making moral value judgements, I would assume that you were asking people to 'check their premises' as to the reason they make some of the judgements they do, and whether these judgements are compatible with the philosophy they have accepted. No reasonable person could argue that incorrect premises leading to moral value judgements leads to great harm. Just as I believe, that an atheism born of wrong premises can also lead to great harm.

To quote Ethan Dawes once again, he stated, "I would say the underlying theme of your article was to always examine oneself and ones beliefs, behaviors, and motivations carefully."  Thanks Ethan, you nailed it.

George

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 11/25, 8:20am)


Post 14

Thursday, November 25, 2004 - 6:12amSanction this postReply
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Short summation:

All Objectivists are atheists.
Not all atheists are Objectivists.

(Edited by Bob Palin on 11/25, 7:20am)


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Post 15

Thursday, November 25, 2004 - 7:12amSanction this postReply
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I can also assure you that being hit by Communists as a "Zionist" or by Catholics as a "Christ-killer" feels pretty much the same. Not much different, for that matter, having raised several children as a father and step-father, from being hit as an Atheist child in America.
The second part of this statement is so striking I just can't let it pass.

People who have had similar experience don't necessarily come away with the same realization. It appears, Mr. Reed, that whatever comes out of your experience of living under Communism and living in American is quite different from that of mine.


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Post 16

Thursday, November 25, 2004 - 8:44amSanction this postReply
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I know an Objectivist, with a copy of Atlas Shrugged permanently displayed on his mantel, who professes devout Christianity. Of my cynical, outspoken atheist friends in college, all now keep Bibles in their desks. One close friend of mine, who shares all of my political positions, remains profoundly Buddhist.

When someone tells me he is deeply spiritual, I hear the emphasis on “ritual.” All of us feel the need to relax, to surrender our burdens periodically. We differ mainly in the amount of structure we require.

Long after I moved out of my parent's house, I found myself troubled by a strange phenomenon that occurred whenever I returned to visit. Each time I returned I grew sleepy. I often fell sound asleep on their couch and my parents worried that I wasn't getting enough sleep. I soon realized that the moment I stepped across my parent's threshold I abandoned my new, uncertain, world to step back into my old, secure, childhood. I left my burdens at the door. The feeling of relaxation and relief followed immediately, and I surrendered to the delight of this temporary freedom by snoozing.

For me, a trip to my parent's house (or a little Tai Chi) is all the ritual I need in my life. Others prefer more complex rituals. I suspect that no one ever completely outgrows the need to relax and momentarily surrender their cares. If we are honest, even the delicious fever we feel in a deeply romantic relationship includes an element of relaxation, of joyous surrender to the warmth and protection of love.

What is a ritual, but an unthinking, comforting pattern? I posit that most members of religions participate in ritual because they seek this relaxed state of mind, not because they want to remake the world. They are cozy in their hypocrisy. The pageantry, even the smells, of a religious service can revive memories of childhood, of marriage, of happiness for many. People like a feeling of familiarity, of community, and religious rituals provide a reason for older people to leave home once a week and greet friends. Is our Objectivist morality so heartless that we must lump these modest hypocrites with Islamic fanatics? Objectivists often discard a person's worth when they perceive a difference in kind, never considering degree. In doing so we pass over potential allies and miss the nuances of the world. An Objectivist that reserves friendship only for those of identical premises is lonely indeed.

The impulse to seek solace is profoundly human. While it is tempting for an atheist to speak out harshly against religion, it is foolish to think that this will have any lasting effect. You are attacking merely one of many forms trying to satisfy a basic human desire. You are also ignoring a fundamental truth: that only positive ideas change the world. Militant atheism wins no enthusiastic converts, only the discouraged.

Consider two atheists: Robert Ingersoll and Ayn Rand. Both were extremely articulate in expressing their views. Of the two, which one profoundly affected our culture? Which one do you remember best? Why?

Unreason is toxic, but Christian charity workers carry a trivial dose of the toxin compared to Meccanized terrorists in the middle east. The latter want to kill me, the former to hand me canned goods. People prefer to be drawn instead of driven, and religion soon buries critics who offer no alternative. In other words, people prefer to be lead instead of chaste (sorry, couldn't resist). We as Objectivists should lead people to reason. Our world swings between religious tolerance and genocide, so before an atheist targets the acting priest he better audition his understudy—that is, if he considers the audience important.

11/25/04

Post 17

Thursday, November 25, 2004 - 2:31pmSanction this postReply
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I seriously can't believe I'm reading this on an objectivist website. Did SOLO become a conservative front organization overnight?
This bizarre stereotype that  Atheists are in large part simply "traumatized christians", or "would be nihilists who take pleasure in destruction" strikes me as noisome and unsubstantiated. Let alone 9 out of ten, which I will grant Cordero used as a rhetorical device, I can't remember the last time I EVER met someone who fit into the second category ( I never met a nihilist who attacks his targets for the sake of "getting off" on such), and have only met one who fits into the first. This rhetoric of "corroded souls" and negation sounds far too much like the fundamentalist assertions that "atheists believe in god too, but simply don't admit it". or, more standardly, that "non-believers only disbelieve because they want to sin". I'm not saying that every atheist i've ever met is perfect, but come now-- Where are these  corroded negation mongers? Also, even if I grant that mr Cordero is correct, negation may be, at least temporarily, a good thing: If you believe that ethics are a  byproduct of god, and you come to reject god, IT IS ONLY LOGICAL AND CONSISTENT that you shall reject ethics as a mystic fantasy also. This isn't "whim worshipping nihilist subjectivism" or "a corroded soul", this is a very sensible conclusion if you have never heard of Ayn Rand. So, next time you hear someone say that they believe ethics is an irrational construct, don't claim that theyre death worshipping nihilist whim worshippers with issues: say that Bad Ideas lead to other bad ideas, even after the death of original bad ideas, by corrupting the logic of the person in question with unnoticed premises. I should also note that Objectivists tend to fetishize "dedication to moral principal" to an unhealthy degree. Moral principle is good, moral principle is good.... ONLY IF YOU HAVE GOOD PRINCIPLES. That an objectivist would consider a christian, who follows a moral code without questioning, to be   a healthier specimen than a "amoralist hedonist" who rejects morals because it is philosophically plausible given context to do so, seems very odd to me.

(Edited by Robert Bisno on 11/25, 2:35pm)

(Edited by Robert Bisno on 11/25, 2:35pm)


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Post 18

Thursday, November 25, 2004 - 2:58pmSanction this postReply
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Interesting article. I am always struck by the fact that I have never been able to predict human behavior in any meaningful way by looking at their professed *belief* label.

Ive been able to tell that Christians will probably go to church and give a portion of their income to charity. They will probably vote along certain lines and profess disdain for certain things. But thats where the predictive power stops. From panhandler to scientist to ceo, I find it very hard to tell one way or the other.

The percentage that lead rational (apart from their religiosity), goal oriented, productive, benevolent, happy lives is (in my experience) remarkably similar to the percentage of atheists and objectivists who lead productive,benevolent, goal oriented, happy lives.

I've come to the conclusion, that barring the fanatic, what people call themselves is less important than how they live their lives. Yet, how can that be? And why do I feel discomfort being around the profoundly religios? Perhaps its because of their wish to *change* MY beliefs. Perhaps its because we find our *purpose* in completely different values. Or perhaps I have had one glass to many and I am completely missing the point...

John
(Edited by John Newnham on 11/25, 3:29pm)


Post 19

Friday, November 26, 2004 - 4:00amSanction this postReply
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George, you wrote: "What I am referring to here is a type of atheist, one that I have found to be far too common."

For someone whose writing I very much admire because of its usual clarity, you failed in this article to be clear. You appear to be casting doubt on the rationality of atheists as such, since your focus is to present the psychological problems you ascribe to them.

You wrote: "As you have seen by now, one of the consistant themes in my writings are attempts to express a more introspective and benevolent self-examination for Objectivists."

Yes, I have seen this, and I accept your explanation that such was the purpose of your article. My point is that that was not as evident as you intended it to be.

Barbara

And don't forget that since you have named me The One Who Can Do No Wrong, you are stuck with the consequences.

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