When Atheist Absolutism Should Take a Back Seat January 7, 2010

When Atheist Absolutism Should Take a Back Seat

My friend Todd Stiefel read Karen Armstrong‘s piece about religion as well as Sam Harris‘ reply and Armstrong’s response to that.

He has a response of his own that I’d like to share. The last paragraph, especially, is well worth reading:

Karen Armstrong’s reply highlights an important issue for the freethought movement. Do we come across as absolutists, and if so, what are the consequences? The answer to the first part is clear: Armstrong apparently views many nontheists as touting religion as purely evil. We all know many nontheists who feel this way and are vocal about it. That message works very well for “inreach” to nontheists and those already on the road to freethought. It is a message that is important for our movement and that has been critical to getting nontheists thinking and communicating.

As for outreach to the faithful (the vast majority of the population), we have a different situation. This type of absolutism puts them immediately on the defensive. To those who see their religious experience as a positive force in their life, the message of religion as completely negative fails to resonate. A discord is immediately created between their positive experience and the negative absolute. The discord leads these people to become protective of their beliefs which shuts down much of their willingness to contemplate new ideas. When this happens it is extremely difficult to get them to consider the messages that are truly important in a world where it is impractical to eliminate religion. If we put them in a state of defense, we cannot effectively promote that nontheists are equally capable of being ethical, that we should not be discriminated against, that no idea is above criticism and that governments should put liberty above dogma.

In reality, religion is not all evil. It most certainly has been a force of great evil, but it also has been an enabler of enormous amounts of charity and helps bring a feeling of tranquility to many of its adherents. I disagree with Armstrong when she says that religion was designed “to help us to live creatively, serenely, and kindly with the suffering that is an inescapable part of the human condition.” That was one purpose, but it was also created to control people, to motivate warriors, to fill gaps in knowledge before the advent of science and for many other reasons. Ironically, her opinion is just as guilty of judging religion in terms of an absolute. In her case, she assumes the origin and intent of religion is purely good.

It is a fact that religion is not going away anytime soon. Since we must live with it, we also must work to help it evolve to being a more beneficial force. If we take the approach in our outreach that religion is absolutely evil then our message will not be heard and we will marginalize ourselves. Instead, we need to marginalize the religious fundamentalists. To do this we need to build bridges with liberal and moderate theists. The first span of the bridge is accepting that religion is not simply good or evil, but that it can be good and evil. We should continue to directly criticize the flaws in religion and never hold an idea above questioning. Some will still be offended by this, but we can open far more minds if we make our points without the absolutism that alienates those that we hope to influence.

Todd’s response affirms why I feel so strongly about the need for positive dialogue with liberal theists. They’re far more closely aligned with our views on social issues than with the religious fundamentalists. Since religion is not going away anytime soon, it’s good to have them on our side in certain cases.

We can (and should) still criticize religion, but when it comes to issues like gay rights, stem cell research, or a woman’s right to choose, those liberal theists have our back. I’d much rather have them on our side and get issues like those resolved instead of pushing them away because I choose to focus on the “existence of God” question.


Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Neon Genesis

    I agree completely that I think it’s important to work together with people who share our views even if we don’t agree with them entirely on everything. I know from my own experience in interacting with Christians, that the anti-theistic approach is not always the most effective. Like, one of my friends is a Catholic. She has conservative religious beliefs but she also has many social liberal beliefs and we agree on some issues while disagree with others. My friend said she gets turned off and refuses to waste her time on people who think she’s stupid just for being a Christian, but she’s had some preconceived notions she’s had of atheists changed by interacting with atheists who were nice and friendly and weren’t always harping on her about how delusional she is. We still debate religion and the supernatural and she doesn’t get offended when I debate with her because we’re debating in a respectful manner. I believe strongly in the Golden Rule that we should treat others the way we want to be treated. I know I don’t like it when Christians come up to me and start arguing how stupid and delusional I am for being an atheist and how dangerous my atheism is, so I don’t treat Christians the same way. I also think it’s important to make good criticisms against religion and not repeat the same old arguments. Like, I doubt we’re going to get far repeating the same old argument that moderates aren’t true believers and I think that argument is just a distraction from the real issues. Even Bertrand Russell accepted that liberal Christians were real Christians but then he moved onto the issues he thought were truly important.

  • Agreed. Heartily.

    My final break from evangelicalism occurred when I realized that it prioritizes correct belief above moral and humane action. That is morally bankrupt. I am uninterested in — I am opposed to — an atheist movement that makes the same error. Human welfare matters. Now. Not in some ideal future when we’ve convinced everyone else to see the error of their ways.

  • Oooh, Todd, how DARE you say that religion is morally ambiguous like any other human endeavor? Heretic! Heretic! What arrogance on your part to seek out nuance and precise meaning instead of relying on caricatures, straw men, and prejudices? You’re setting an awful example for the Atheist community!

  • I think Todd is right on. I’ve discussed on my own blog why eradication or reform for religion are not mutually exclusive goals.

  • Sacred beliefs based on faith and good feelings, rather than evidence and solid reasoning, makes liberal theists’ beliefs just as susceptible to many of our arguments. When arguing for gay marriage, for example, I can’t trash the logic behind basing your ethical beliefs on the Bible, and still keep the liberal interpretations intact. I can try my best to keep quiet about the fact that all religion is equally unreasonable, but it makes being reasonable less effective.

    Add to that the ease at which many of them take offense, and critical thinking and true criticism becomes very difficult.

    Then again, there are other groups who disagree and work together very effectively to meet common goals:

    http://infalliblefailure.blogspot.com/2009/12/happy-birthday-linus.html

    But the difference is that neither side takes personal offense when they argue. I’m not sure if that will ever be possible with the majority of even liberal theists.

  • With any collection of (atheist) cats, there will be some that like to fight with others, some that like to cooperate with others, and some that will be indifferent towards others. It is hard to keep them all herded.

    No one really knows how the world’s religious movements will play out in this unprecedented time of instant communication. Personally, I think cats of all stripes have a role to play.

  • I should have added that one thing I think skeptics/atheists could do better is make the following point more clear more often: attacking an idea is not the same as attacking a person. People deserve respect a priori, while ideas do not, they must be critically examined.

    I’m still not sure if this will get through to many theists, but its important to put out there.

  • Brian

    By abandoning “atheism” as a banner and replacing it with “critical thinking,” we make few additional enemies but gain a tremendous amount of credibility by having a movement that is actually for something. This is the long term way to defeat theism, and we should start now.

    In the short term, it makes sense not to alienate potential allies against those who would kill us. We should be careful not to succumb to lazy moral equivalencies and equate American Christians with Al Quaeda, as some leftists are wont to do. We can agree to be a part of civil society and disagree just as religious people do now.

    Fundamentalists are natural allies because they actually understand that our enemies are motivated by their convictions. Moderates have more at stake in secular society, and have mastered the art of simultaneous theological and intellectual obscurantism. If they can teach that to all of the fundamentalists, we’d be in much better shape.

    As long as our approach is that it is irrational, we don’t have to say religion is evil, and we won’t cause as much offense. People will defend it as “faith,” and we don’t have to criticize that.

    At the same time, the oldest religion in the world is barely more than one hundred years old, because religion doesn’t live outside of a human host. I’ve never met two people with the same metaphysics. Each society could change in just one generation from religious to secular as Ireland did. We can do it.

  • Why do I have to change my views on religion to work with theists for gay rights? If that is the task at hand, why would religion be brought up at all? I’m certainly not going to bring it up since religion plays no part in my life other than irritant. If one of these hypothetical theists asks me to pray with them for successful completion of our objectives, they’ll have to understand that I won’t be a part of it, and I’ll be waiting patiently for them when they decide to get back to work.

    I’m all for positive dialogue with theists on social issues. However, once religion is brought into it (and nontheists aren’t the ones who will bring it up), the dialogue is no longer positive or about social issues.

  • colin

    Hear hear! This is why I don’t have a problem with any of my theist friends: their belief doesn’t make them live any differently than my non belief (what this says about the strength of their belief, then, is another story altogether). Also I’m not friends with assholes.

  • Keith

    I think what Colin says about the commonality in the way of life between atheists and certain theists is, in fact, evidence that religion is not completely evil, or at least that it doesn’t cause every believer to consistently do evil things.

    That’s why I think, with many theists, it may be less threatening to describe the path to atheism as a simpler, less dramatic, change than they may think it is. Abandoning their faith might not require any significant changes in their day-to-day behavior, but rather a philosophical change in the way they justify or interpret that behavior.

  • Religion isn’t all evil. It just has enough rotten in it to ruin the whole thing. It is a Curate’s Egg. It might be possible to work around or ignore the rotten parts but it is probably easier to find people who don’t exhibit the bad aspects of faith to a great degree and work with them.

  • Neon Genesis

    With any collection of (atheist) cats, there will be some that like to fight with others, some that like to cooperate with others, and some that will be indifferent towards others. It is hard to keep them all herded.

    I think this is a good point to bring up. It’s also important to point out that not all atheists are liberals just like not all believers are conservatives. That’s why I think it’s important to apply the Golden Rule when we debate with others no matter what we agree or disagree with.

  • Luther

    I don’t believe that religions were/are “Created” with a purpose, with actual designers, like a car or a watch. It was “created” unintentionally by man, which is meaning and explanation making machine, unfortunately religion is a whole bunch of self-perpetuating meme’s. They really may be the opiate of the people but were not created any more than opium was.

  • In my never-humble-opinion, there are several issues here that we can separate out for the theists in order to help them wish to hear our message.

    First – many people have high religiosity needs. That has been statistically demonstrated. Satisfying this need for religiosity is important to these people, and making them feel stupid or inferior for having the need for religiosity is about on par with some ‘holier-than-though’ theist putting non-theists down for NOT having an innate high need for religiosity.

    It is therefore very important that during discussions with theists, we do not (accidentally or not) make them feel inferior for having the natural need they were born with (or which may have been acquired during a traumatic period in their lives).

    So, right off the bat, I make sure to differentiate between ‘individual spirituality’ – which is OK, and actually, that IS the bit of religion which drives people to ‘be better’ – and ‘imposed religion’ where people are forced to submit their own, very special personal ‘individual spirituality’ to a prescribed dogma, enforced by a religious, top-down institution.

    And, I am rather convinced that this is actually the bit about ‘religion’ which IS the ‘evil’ bit: if forces people to only worship one way, only believe one way – whether that way is ‘right’ for them or not!

    Being somewhat knowledgeable (no, not an expert, but generally knowledgeable) about many religions, I then point out how ‘not satisfying’ a specific ‘spiritual need’ let to spliter-groups or sub-stories in within the official religious dogmas (I pick the religion of the theist I am speaking with). A big example of this is the Madonna worship in Christianity, as an attempt to bridge the gap in the Christian dogma, whose scriptures are not inclusive of, say, feminine spirituality.

    I think that most of the theists I spoke with could see the validity of this criticism, some more so than others – but, none found it offensive and many could really relate to it. They walked away with a different understanding of why so many anti-theists find ‘imposition of religious dogma’ – which organized religions are, to be ‘evil’ and why our reaction to it is so visceral.

    There is a separate issue, about the separation of religion and state. This is where the gay rights, and so on, need to be grounded in: the question is NOT ‘is it moral or not for gay men to marry’! Rather, the question is whether it is dangerous for a democratic society to pass laws based on religious morality.

    Most people, religious or not, are willing to – eventually – agree that legislating morality is not a good idea. After all, it is because they choose to behave according to standards higher than the common law that they will find salvation in heaven, right? Their salvation is based on them making the choice to avoid temptation, and all that. That in itself implies that the common law – the law for the greater society – OUGHT TO contain these temptations for them to make moral choices to avoid! Right?

    Sorry to get so wordy – I don’t like ANY dogma….and some atheists fall prey to dogma.

  • DeafAtheist

    I agree with what Hemant said following what he posted from Todd. Because of our minority status we do need the support of liberal Christians for many issues that liberal Christians agree with us as being outdated… such as gay marriage. Gay marriages have become legal in several states. This couldn’t have been achieved without the support of liberal Christians.

    But there’s a flip side of the coin. Liberal Christians are also enablers for fundamentalist Christians. We’re not the only ones they’re supporting and the lion’s share of their support generally goes into what their faith supports even if it infringes on the civil liberties of non-believers and by “non-believers” I don’t just mean non-theists, but also those of other religions that aren’t believers in the Christian religion.

    So I believe absolutism has a place in the atheist movement. If all of us smile and nod while scrounging for the scraps that are dropped from the theistic table that won’t get us anywhere. Sometimes we require a much more forceful approach.

    Some theists might shut down from that approach as Todd said, but many also do not. Those that do not will wonder if there is any truth to what the atheist claims despite the sting they feel by the allegations against their beliefs and might even decide to look into issues the atheist pointed out themselves which could lead to a journey that ends in shedding their own theistic beliefs.

    So I think both absolutist and diplomatic atheists give the movement balance. They both have their uses and can be effective in areas the other cannot. Being a part of one group or the other gives you deniability in regards to their actions just like liberal Christians have deniability in regards to the actions of fundamentalists.

  • I could not agree more.

    I am one of those liberal theists and I’d love to help put a stop to much of what is done in the name of religion, and work with those of other faiths and with atheists to bring about positive change in the world.

    I am angry every time a member of the religous right assumes she speaks for me.

    I am saddened that Christian schools all over this nation churn out creationist kooks instead of teaching students real science.

    I am disgusted when a Christian organization raises $40,000,000 to knock on doors in California because they don’t believe homosexuals have equal rights.

    I am frustrated that U.S. Christians vote based mostly on two issues when there are many other issues we should consider – social injustice, poverty, and unjust wars to name just a few. They claim to be the only source of good in the world yet many of my atheist friends care more about these important issues.

    I’m confused when Christians fight against the separation of church and state. Prohibiting same sex marriage is a clear example of government support for one religion over another. I’m confused when Christians support that. Don’t they realize that they may not always be in the majority?

    I support a woman’s right to choose mostly on political grounds, but the politics of many conservative Christians confuses me too. Many of them claim to be for smaller government but they don’t mind the government legislating issues as private as sex and reproduction.

    I guess I just wish more Christians would interpret scripture with reason and stop using pop theology to support their own selfish agendas.

  • I’d much rather have them on our side and get issues like those resolved instead of pushing them away because I choose to focus on the “existence of God” question.

    You don’t always have a choice. Sometimes they bring it up on their own. Yes, even liberal Christians.

  • I’ve never bought the “all religion is evil ” argument. Religion has played a role in the development of our species so we shouldn’t wholly dismiss it’s influence as bad.

    It’s also much more likely that you will change someones mind if you can find some common ground.

    There’s no doubt that many religious people try to be decent people ( even if they are deluded). Trying to engage ordinary religious people in a range of debates – including theism/atheism – is one way to try to get further in opening up their thinking.

    I agree with a previous comment that whlle in the US the equations may seem like Atheist=Liberals and Xtians=right wing republican that there are many right of centre Atheists and Left of centre Xtians.

    Atheists need to be careful when they mix political stances in with their Atheist activism because we should be wary of entrenching the view that Atheism is a one way political street.

  • Atheists don’t have collective “goals”. Collectively, we don’t believe in gods. That’s all.

    I don’t see very many atheists who *are* absolutists, and frankly I don’t take Karen Armstrong’s word for it – or indeed, for anything – (most of the time I have no clue what she’s saying and the rest of the time, she’s clearly wrong).

    Without some demonstration that a substantial proportion of atheists are absolutist with regard to religion being good or evil, this whole piece comes over as one big concern-troll.

    I’ve had enough of concern-trolling being used to shut me up, thanks very much.

  • I agree with this effort. There needs to be a friendly and charming factor to our efforts.

    I’m not saying kill ’em with kindness either. But my experience with my over religious family, friends and acquaintances has been if I go too far, I push them away.

    Make headway following the lead of guys like Ira Levin. Integrate charm into the horror. Boohoohahaha.

  • liz

    i’m liking all these responses to the comments of replys to comments.

  • Aj

    This is ridiculous. Many nontheists think that religion purely evil? Where are they? Perhaps Todd Stiefel should stop listening to Karen Armstrong and start reading Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins. From atheist books, blogs, forums, and websites, would one get the impression that nontheists believe that religion is purely evil? Not a chance. Opinion in general is far more nuanced and sensible than that. Todd Stiefel should have rejected Karen Armstrong’s premise as false, it’s patently absurd. The problem that theists have is not that atheists are saying religion is purely evil because they’re not.

    What do religious people really have a problem with? Questioning religious beliefs, and complaining when a religious belief causes something terrible. Complaints of absolutism are just a defence mechanism when these things happen.

  • Twin-Skies

    I agree with the letter. I’m pretty chummy with several liberal Catholics, including at least one Jesuit priest who has no qualms about gays.

    Said priest is more than happy to give insight on how to trap fundies in their own theology, using the bible.

    We don’t necessarily agree with each other regarding our personal faith, but the recent screed coming from the Vatican and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Reproductive Health and LGBT rights, and the overall ignorance of the typical Filipino here has given us common ground on what should be done to help the local communities.

    For one, separation of church and state.

  • I agree with the sentiment here, but the truth is that we are collaborating with theists on social issues. Advocacy groups like NARAL, HRC, etc. are comprised of both seculars and liberal theists, and I don’t see that cooperation being compromised by criticizing religion.

    Armstrong complains that atheists focus on the fundamentalists. That’s because we don’t really have a problem with the liberals–except insofar as they are too tolerant of their more extreme co-religionists.

    If Armstrong truly thinks that literalism and fundamentalism are just as much distortions of religion as anti-theism, then wouldn’t she be far more concerned about the fundamentalists, who greatly outnumber anti-theists like Harris? Yet she calls out the new atheists by name and spends most of her time debating them; she disavows fundamentalism but blames on it on those who provoke it by attacking religion, rather than on individual fundamentalists or their leaders. She chastises Harris for not reconsidering his views, but does she make the same demand for the hundreds of millions of theists who view their religion literally (and, in her opinion, incorrectly)?

    Armstrong wants a Socratic dialogue? She can be certain Socrates would not have let her get away with such intellectual dishonesty.

  • I tend to generally disagree with Todd on a few main points.

    First, evil really isn’t a word nontheists use and is absolutist sillyness.

    Second, what most Atheists argue for is an open debate so discussing how we can edit and control our message is a pointless exercise.

    Sure, being insulting to believers doesn’t really get us anywhere, being vocal almost always gets us further than silence.

    If the radicals want to throw a few stones, good for them. Lets not stare at our navels and apologize constantly.

  • AxeGrrl

    Eamon Knight wrote:

    My final break from evangelicalism occurred when I realized that it prioritizes correct belief above moral and humane action. That is morally bankrupt. I am uninterested in — I am opposed to — an atheist movement that makes the same error. Human welfare matters. Now. Not in some ideal future when we’ve convinced everyone else to see the error of their ways.

    Great post Eamon, and your final point is THE point imo.

  • AxeGrrl

    Reed1gm wrote:

    Sure, being insulting to believers doesn’t really get us anywhere, being vocal almost always gets us further than silence.

    If the radicals want to throw a few stones, good for them. Lets not stare at our navels and apologize constantly.

    When you say ‘being insulting to believers doesn’t really get us anywhere’, why feel the need to then add a qualifier? It doesn’t get us anywhere. That’s the point. Then you presented a false dichotomy: the choice isn’t just between ‘being insulting’ and ‘silence’ ~ there’s a whole big, nice area in between those things, when actual communication is possible.

    you then wrote:

    If the radicals want to throw a few stones, good for them. Lets not stare at our navels and apologize constantly.

    In what situation is stone-throwing deserving of a ‘good for them’ exactly? Trying to appear strong/forceful in one’s position (by ‘throwing stones’) should be secondary to simply expressing/explaining/justifying that position calmly and rationally. Then, no apologizing would be necessary.

  • QrazyQat

    Look at the people and what they are calling atheists’ “absolutism”: that’s what a bus ad saying you can be good without god was called. Where are the loud, vocal cries against that idiocy by moderate religious people?

  • AxeGrrl

    QrazyQat wrote:

    Where are the loud, vocal cries against that idiocy by moderate religious people?

    Exactly! The same goes for all of the moderate Muslims who talk about it being a ‘religion of peace’…where’s the outrage from them over Muslim terrorists?

  • muggle

    I’m all for positive dialogue with theists on social issues. However, once religion is brought into it (and nontheists aren’t the ones who will bring it up), the dialogue is no longer positive or about social issues.

    Exactly. As I keep saying, forcing Atheism, is not freedom of religion but there’s one hell of a difference between forcing Atheism and letting theists shut you up.

    I don’t trust Karen Armstrong as far as I can throw her. As I said before, I don’t believe she’s as benign as she claims. She’s just devious with words. So was Hitler. I’ll shut up about what I believe when she does likewise and hence gives me no reason to defend against the nonsense she spews.

    I’m glad the “new” Atheists (god, I hate that fucking term) aren’t taking her shit lying down. I hope they won’t start. Todd’s wrong.

    I’ll work with theists of any ilk on any issue I think it worth working on. Hell, yes. But the second they pull Christ or “God” or goddesses or zen or whatever other woo hoo they buy into it, is the second I’m gonna stand up and say wait a minute, put your religion aside and focus on the issue at hand. This is about a civil issue in a country that separates church and state — not your faith.

  • Grenouille

    Armstrong’s response is the typical conjuration that is given to defuse any non-theist’s attacks on a particular religion. As per her characterization of “religion”:

    Religion is also about the quest for transcendence, the discipline of compassion, and the endless search for meaning; it was not designed to provide us with the same kind of explanations as science, but to help us to live creatively, serenely, and kindly with the suffering that is an inescapable part of the human condition.

    Personally, I’m at a loss as to how she can make this sort of blanket definition for all religions everywhere at any time. Moreover, she includes these certain platitudinous quests as supposedly ubiquitous among religion and nobel quests, as many apologists do. But let us just look at the usual suspects included by Armstrong: transcendence, compassion, and search for meaning.

    To begin with compassion. It is hard to see how a blanket statement about compassion can be made when so many religious texts have death penalties for relatively minor crimes by today’s standards. Quite simply, over the development of mankind, it is easy to see that it is not religion that has introduced compassion into our modern laws, but mankind himself. Compassionate religion almost always comes after the status quo has shifted toward a revised penalty. Strike one for this fluff word.

    Secondly, the endless search for meaning. This one is easy: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” – John 14:6. Nothing endless about that statement. Rather, religion is meant to be something that brings closure to our feelings of emptiness or longing, not to induce an endless quest. I’m sure many Buddhists would be indignant if you said to them that enlightenment was an endless pipe dream. Endless quests for meaning are not fulfilling, which is why it is often argued that religion is a good thing because it does the opposite of an endless quest by fulfilling our voids. The typical sermon paints non-theists as in a depressed fugue reading Sartre all day long pining for meaning to their senseless lives. Armstrong uses yet another fluff word that is commonly thrown around in defense of religion to dress it up as something that only apologists see religion as.

    Finally, quest for transcendence. This does seem to be a crucial facet of religions, enough to warrant the generalization at least (it is arguable that shamanic religions do not concern themselves with the same notion of transcendence as modern usage of the term demands). But why is this a good thing? Isn’t it a usual cry of the non-theist that having no afterlife means that we can only be concerned with the human connections we have in this life? This word sounds pretty and is connected to many ridiculous new age connotations about spiritual fulfillment, but it is precisely this notion that fuels Jihad and abortion clinic bombings. It is the notion that this world isn’t the final reality that can drive and justify extremism in religion. Furthermore, this is a fluffy word that has so many possible definitions. Just try to list some possible definitions, you’ll be surprised at how many different ways this word might be used. This sort of vagueness is yet another reason to reject Armstrong’s response in virtue of her inability to pinpoint what religion actually thinks, instead she must use wishy washy words which are destructive in any sort of constructive debate.

    As for “it was not designed to provide us with the same kind of explanations as science”, tell this to the Answers in Genesis folk. Simply, she has no possible evidence within certain religious texts, such as the bible, to warrant such a claim. Simply, she must be quite arrogant to claim that she’s discovered the correct meaning of religion after half of the USA still agrees with intelligent design.

    Finally, “creatively, serenely, and kindly with the suffering…” is another list of fluffy words which is at least suspect in generalizing them to all religions. Creatively is an odd one. I don’t remember Abraham, Jesus, or Siddhartha saying “go and be creative.” As for serenely, my own personal experience with evangelical christianity’s constant reiteration that hell is always a possibility if you lack faith or have a questioning mind. As for the human condition part, it may help cope with the human condition. But the trade off is that many religions satisfy the human condition and give serenity through being an exclusive religion, or the “right one”. Such exclusivity also fuels violence and intolerance toward other religions. Religion may offer good things, like coping with the human condition, but the cost of these benefits is all too often overlooked.

  • Reed1gm

    AxeGrrl

    In what situation is stone-throwing deserving of a ‘good for them’ exactly? Trying to appear strong/forceful in one’s position (by ‘throwing stones’) should be secondary to simply expressing/explaining/justifying that position calmly and rationally.

    In the situation where you understand how movements work. Almost every issue has radicals and they are a pretty vital part of moving any issue in society. Take environmentalism for instance. Some organizations frame themselves as more radical, like greenpeace. While others like sierra club are a little more mainstreams and still others are more centrist. And there are groups even more radical than greenpeace.

    Do the moderate enviros spend their time talking about how the radicals are undermining the cause. No, they take advantage of the leverage they get in the discussion through having someone to their left in an attempt to persuade both public opinion and electeds.

    Non-believers should do the same. Religious people have no limit for their insults for those without a faith, so there will certainly be those that always have insults in return.

    It is helpful to have them there. Certainly I can believe that some are persuaded away from religion by the disdain expressed by some of our more insulting Atheists, And a reasonable discussion seems like the best option when you are faced with a fight from both sides. When one side is rational and the other side radical, powers that be often move to placate the radicals to avoid conflict. The cartoon Mohamed being a good example of this. Not that we should ever threatened violence, but we should not allow ourselves to be easily dismissed by swearing to always be civil, no matter what.

  • Neon Genesis

    Certainly I agree that even radicals play a part, but if everyone plays a part, why does it seem like the “radical” atheists are over-shadowing the “moderate” atheists? Like it seems like every time an atheist suggests being an accommodationinist isn’t a bad thing, they get shot down by the anti-theists as being concern trolls. And did somebody actually compare Armstrong to Hitler? How is that even a remotely accurate comparison? I guess it was only a matter of time before someone committed Godwin’s law.

  • CB

    I’m with Russell Blackford on this one:

    We should never flinch from expressing the view that no religion has any rational warrant – that these Emperors really have no clothes – and that many churches and sects promote cruelty, misery, ignorance, and human rights abuses. Yes, there are liberal forms of religion, but whatever good will we might feel towards them should not make us hesitate to speak uncomfortable truths.

    I believe religion is an essentially human creation, and as such has virtues and flaws. The virtues, obviously, should be praised, and we all benefit from increased religious moderation. But when religious believers–of whatever stripe–assert the superiority of their teachings over practical morality based on increasing human happiness and decreasing human suffering, or try to bring about adverse societal changes based on those teachings, they should be opposed, and the reasons for that opposition should be clearly spelled out.

  • Reed1gm

    why does it seem like the “radical” atheists are over-shadowing the “moderate” atheists?

    i think its because your definition of “radical” combined with the fact that people being impolite makes for good TV.

  • Neon Genesis

    Hence why I placed “radical” in quotation marks.

  • AxeGrrl

    Reed1gm wrote:

    In the situation where you understand how movements work. Almost every issue has radicals and they are a pretty vital part of moving any issue in society.

    I didn’t realize that by the phrase ‘throwing stones’ you were referring to radical activism specifically (since you referred to being ‘insulting’). Question for you: do you still believe this: “being insulting to believers doesn’t really get us anywhere” ?

    Do the moderate enviros spend their time talking about how the radicals are undermining the cause.

    Perhaps not, but think of PETA. From everything I’ve read/seen/heard, it seems as though just as many animal rights supporters despise most of their tactics as the rest of the population. Do you think PETA’s tactics ‘convert’ more people to their cause or turn more people off?

    I just think the more ‘uncivil’ and insulting you are, the easier you make it for the opposite side to say ‘another angry atheist. Been there, done that’. When that happens, people (not just that particular opponent) are more likely to just walk away than to listen to you.

    I’ve seen for myself from my participation in other discussion forums that remaining civil, thoughtful, calm and reasonable is far more effective in taking the piss out of the opposite side, sometimes to the point that they are literally left with nothing to say…because when all the vitriol is abandoned and only the actual points remain, they simple can’t argue against them (maybe because they didn’t expect you to stick around long enough to force them to). They may just leave the conversation at that point, but the great thing is that the entire exchange is there for everyone else to see. When the opposite side is resorting to ad-hominems and diversionary tactics and you don’t rise to the bait at all, but keep pressing on, keeping the focus tight on the actual points at hand, they’re the ones left looking cowardly and childish.

    That may not ‘convince’ that particular opponent, but it sure as hell makes other people reading the exchange more likely to stop and think about the actual issues. When you have to machete your way through a hostile/vitriolic exchange, it’s tiresome….and for some, simply not worth the effort in end. And that, imo, is a kind of failure.

  • Alex

    Being associated with UUism for the last 15 or so years, I think many of the liberal fans or lovers of Christian mythology will drop it like a hot potato after non-believers establish more places to be in community with other non-believers with humanist ethics.

  • muggle aka somebody

    . And did somebody actually compare Armstrong to Hitler? How is that even a remotely accurate comparison?

    Wow didn’t even have the balls to call me by name. It’s “remotely” accurate because, like Hitler, she’s starting with words and speeches designed to subtley alienate and malign a group of people she doesn’t like and wants to target.

    Note she’s unfairly depicting all humans as naturally religious in the quote. That subtly implies that the irreligious are subhuman.

    Hitler may be somewhat an exaggeration but I’ve no doubt that today he’d start out this subtly. Ms. Armstrong, because Hitler has shown out and out hate speech for what it was, dare not start out any more boldly than that.

    But the bottom line is she’s calling Atheists subhuman. And, no, I’m not twisting her words. Just calling them out for the hate speech doublespeak they are.

  • QrazyQat

    Exactly! The same goes for all of the moderate Muslims who talk about it being a ‘religion of peace’…where’s the outrage from them over Muslim terrorists?

    In that case there certainly have been plenty. It’s true that, in the USA at least, they are not widely reported.

  • I could not agree more! I would much rather build relationships with people of all stripes, and really dislike the head on confrontation approach, although I do realize that it is necessary in some instances.

  • Neon Genesis

    But the bottom line is she’s calling Atheists subhuman. And, no, I’m not twisting her words. Just calling them out for the hate speech doublespeak they are.

    So, are anti-theists calling theists sub-human when they claim only anti-theists are rational? Sam Harris must obviously be like Hitler! He also promotes torture yet that doesn’t cause any outrage from anti-theists.

  • muggle

    And Neon if you’ve read my posts, you’ll note that I also call them out on that. I haven’t read Sam Harris’ book (as I’ve already told you) so I don’t know about that or not. I have time and time again on this board stressed that enforced Atheism would not be religious freedom and I have called no one subhuman. I called Nathan a sick fuck but that was only after he said he’d kill for “God”.

    I’m full of faults. Not the least of which is my abrasive personality. If you want to poke the bear, obsessively seek them out but one you won’t find is dishonesty. One reason people find me abrasive is because I’m literally honest to a fault and refuse to change that because if there’s anything I come near to worshipping at all, it’s the truth. I hate lies and deceit.

    I guess that’s one reason that Ms. Armstrong rubs me the wrong way. She’s carefully crafting her words to sound nice while she calls Atheists subhuman. She is a bigoted asshole.

  • Neon Genesis

    And yet in this faq, Karen Armstrong says this about atheists.

    If John Doe puts the Golden Rule into practice “all day and every day” as Confucius prescribed, not simply doing his “good deed for the day” and then returning to a life of self interest; if he does not confine his benevolence to his own group, tribe or nation or to people he finds congenial, but extends it to all members of the human race — and, indeed, to all species; if every time he is tempted to speak unkindly of an annoying sibling, an ex-wife or a people with whom his country is at war, he refrains; if he never speaks an unkind word, never makes an irritable gesture, but behaves with friendly courtesy to all; if he does not look down, even in his most intimate thoughts, on those who do not share his beliefs; if he does not inveigh impatiently at what he regards as the credulity of the religious; if he works energetically and in practical ways to assuage the suffering and injustice of life, even if this goes against his own interests; if he is open-hearted, generous and kind at every moment of his life, I would not only call him “religious” but I would bow before him as a Sage, a perfected human being.

    But apparently this makes her an evil bigot on par with Hitler: http://blog.ted.com/2009/11/ted_and_reddit_3.php I think it’s also obvious that Armstrong is using the word “religious” in the Einsteinian religious sense.

  • AxeGrrl

    Why does Armstrong insist on using the word ‘religious’ in her description of all of the above? Why do so many people insist on trying to claim all of those ‘good things’ as somehow ‘belonging’ to religion?

    I realize that some people use the words ‘God’ or ‘religion’ when they mean ‘goodwill, charity, etc’….and I guess that’s a big part of the problem….

    But to me, ‘religion’ is too narrow and too specific a word/concept (when it comes to how people most people think of it) to be applied to all ‘good things’.

    Yet again, I’m reminded of that Seattle Atheist sign that Hemant posted about awhile ago:

    “…kindness, charity and goodwill transcend belief, creed or religion”

  • Neon Genesis

    I suppose because it’s words that are familiar to them and they’ve grown attached to and so they still have cultural significance to them even if they don’t literally believe in them. But then to me it’s like asking why do we say “love comes from the heart” when the heart is just an organ that pumps blood through our bodies.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    He also promotes torture yet that doesn’t cause any outrage from anti-theists.

    In the specific case of a timed explosive, proven efficacy, and an admission of guilt in planting the explosive, a situation that will almost never arise. I’m sure theists and atheists are OUTRAGED, just OUTRAGED that Sam Harris has done this. I’m sure you weren’t deliberately trying to give a false impression of Sam Harris, you just can’t comprehend words. Since I’ve already pointed this out to you before, this is mostly for other people who might not have read Sam Harris’s books or articles, and might be foolish enough to believe your comments.

  • Neon Genesis

    Expect it’s been proven over and over again that torture is inefficient and admissions of guilt from torture have been proven to be unreliable, so the argument is nonsense.

  • Neon Genesis

    Here’s one of Sam Harris’ articles on torture. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/in-defense-of-torture_b_8993.html

    Torture need not even impose a significant risk of death or permanent injury on its victims; while the collaterally damaged are, almost by definition, crippled or killed

    What, seriously? Why doesn’t Sam Harris try being waterboarded if he doesn’t think torture has any permanent injury on its victims?

  • monkeymind

    In the specific case of a timed explosive, proven efficacy, and an admission of guilt in planting the explosive, a situation that will almost never arise.

    In fact, the likelihood of any of Sam’s lavishly detailed little scenarios actually occurring is so vanishingly small that it’s perfectly obvious that the whole purpose of the piece was to have a wank while fantasizing about “taking the gloves off,” and being a strong and powerful torturer, just like Big Dick Cheney.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    If that is the case then the premises are false, not that the argument is nonsense. As an expert in torture, I bet you’d know that there’s no way to torture without serious risk of permanent injury or death.

    monkeymind,

    I would imagine torture fantasies to be a little less dry, and contain more details about torture. I realize you have an irrational and stupid hatred for Sam Harris, you don’t need to prove it every time his name is mentioned on this site. Sam Harris goes into more detail at his site.

  • Neon Genesis

    If that is the case then the premises are false, not that the argument is nonsense. As an expert in torture, I bet you’d know that there’s no way to torture without serious risk of permanent injury or death.

    But Sam Harris is not arguing for a form of torture that doesn’t pose any serious risk of permanent injury or death in spite of his claims that he is. The particular form of torture Harris is advocating in the article is waterboarding and how is that not causing any sort of permanent injury? In the article, Harris advocates torturing Khalid Skeikh Mohammed to get as much information out of him as possible. They did in fact eventually torture Khalid Skeikh Mohammed but later it was revealed that Khalid Skeikh Mohammed purposely lied and gave false information to make the torturing stop, which disproves Harris’ theory that torture can give us reliable information. Torture didn’t produce reliable information when it was used on women in the Salem witch trials and Harris even admits this in The End Of Faith, but for some reason, he thinks torturing Muslims will be the exception.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    …which disproves Harris’ theory that torture can give us reliable information.

    The scientific inquiry of the efficacy of torture is settled. Collect your Nobel Peace Prize. Not too sure about the sample size you’re using though. Sam Harris links to an interesting article about a time when the threat of torture succeeded in gaining reliable information. Dismiss contrary evidence, dismiss!

    But Sam Harris is not arguing for a form of torture that doesn’t pose any serious risk of permanent injury or death in spite of his claims that he is. The particular form of torture Harris is advocating in the article is waterboarding and how is that not causing any sort of permanent injury? In the article, Harris advocates torturing Khalid Skeikh Mohammed to get as much information out of him as possible.

    He’s clearly not talking about just waterboarding but all torture in that paragraph, you’re deliberately ignoring the context. He mentions waterboarding once in the article, and not in that paragraph. We have already established that you’re not above totally misrepresenting what someone writes when he irrationally despise them.

  • muggle

    Neon, not only do I concur with AxeGrrl here but don’t even get me started on the Golden Rule, which is, at best, egotistical.

    I’m supposed to be impressed that she says Atheists are all right as long as they behave like good little Christians? And don’t object to being termed religious?

    Another thing I say a lot is the day Atheism gets termed a religion is the day I become a Nontheist. Note I said, Nontheist, not Anti-theist.

    Her bigotry keeps showing through even when you try to defend her. In fact, the examples you give of her open-mindedness are just more examples of bigotry.

    How about this, I continue to live my life the way I decide best and as long as I’m minding my own business and hurting no one, she do likewise? I mean since she believes in the Golden Rule and all.

  • Neon Genesis

    The scientific inquiry of the efficacy of torture is settled. Collect your Nobel Peace Prize

    This is not my own argument. This is the fact in the case that in the example Harris gave where torturing a Muslim would be acceptable, the Muslim himself later admitted he had lied to get out of being tortured. Harris himself says in The End Of Faith that the evidence gained from women being tortured in the Salem witch trials was inaccurate. Why was it inaccurate for women in the witch trials but Muslims are suddenly the exception to the rule? Are you saying if you were tortured you wouldn’t lie if it stopped the torturing?

    I’m supposed to be impressed that she says Atheists are all right as long as they behave like good little Christians? And don’t object to being termed religious?

    Where do you get that from her statement? So Sam Harris suggesting we should torture Muslims isn’t bigotry but Karen Armstrong saying she doesn’t disrespect all atheists is?

  • Neon Genesis

    And if you want actual scientific evidence that torture produces unreliable results, AJ, here’s the results of actual scientific research done on it: http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/you-cant-trust-tortured-brain-neuroscience-discredits-coercive-interrogation-25370.html

    Psychological studies suggest that during extreme stress and anxiety, the captive will be conditioned to associate speaking with periods of safety. For the captor, when the captive speaks, the objective of gaininginformation will have been obtained and there will be relief from the unsavory task of administering these conditions of stress. Therefore, it is difficult or impossible to determine during the interrogation whether the captive is revealing truthfulinformation or just talking to escape the torture. Research has also shown that extreme stress has a deleterious effect on the frontal lobe and is associated with the production of false memories.

    Neurochemical studies have revealed that the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, brain regions integral to the process of memory, are rich in receptors for hormones that are activated by stress and sleep deprivation and which have been shown to have deleterious effects on memory. “To briefly summarize a vast, complex literature, prolonged and extreme stress inhibits the biological processes believed to support memory in the brain,” says O’Mara. “For example, studies of extreme stress with Special Forces Soldiers have found that recall of previously-learnedinformation was impaired after stress occurred.” Waterboarding in particular is an extreme stressor and has the potential to elicit widespread stress-induced changes in the brain.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    This is not my own argument. This is the fact in the case that in the example Harris gave where torturing a Muslim would be acceptable, the Muslim himself later admitted he had lied to get out of being tortured. Harris himself says in The End Of Faith that the evidence gained from women being tortured in the Salem witch trials was inaccurate. Why was it inaccurate for women in the witch trials but Muslims are suddenly the exception to the rule? Are you saying if you were tortured you wouldn’t lie if it stopped the torturing?

    Sample size of one. Also the women in Salem were not fucking witches, don’t be ridiculous or are you going to argue that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was not a high ranking member of a terrorist organisation?

    If you had actually read the article you have decided to quote mine, you’d understand that Harris was writing about ethical consistency in US society comparing views about collateral damage and torture. He also accepts as a premise that information taken by torture is highly unreliable, and responds for it to still be consistently ethical with modern warfare (involving collateral damage) then it would “need only equal the chance of such occasioned by the dropping of a single bomb”.

    And if you want actual scientific evidence that torture produces unreliable results

    That’s better, next time you want to run with anecdotes, don’t bother.

  • Neon Genesis

    Harris’ comparison of collateral damage to torture is a weak comparision. The difference between collateral damage and torture is that collateral damage is unintentional and torture is intentional. To compare the two would be like arguing that since killing in self-defense is sometimes inevitable, we should therefore start murdering people to be consistent. Since Harris is against pacifism, does he think we should start murdering people to be consistent?

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    Harris’ comparison of collateral damage to torture is a weak comparision. The difference between collateral damage and torture is that collateral damage is unintentional and torture is intentional. To compare the two would be like arguing that since killing in self-defense is sometimes inevitable, we should therefore start murdering people to be consistent. Since Harris is against pacifism, does he think we should start murdering people to be consistent?

    Even if that was the case, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore it and misrepresent Harris’s argument, presenting it as if he didn’t mention it at all.

    I think you are equivocating between intended targets and intended consequences. Collateral damage is inevitable in many actions in modern warfare. In some cases military personnel know that innocents will be killed alongside combatants. Others they know a certain strategy is likely to lead to innocents being killed. The consequences are considered and intentional (anticipated, planned for). Therefore collateral damage while unwanted, is intentional. Take for instance a bank robbery. A criminal gang would still be charged with murder if anyone gets killed, even though their intended target is to steal money.

  • Neon Genesis

    But even if say, a poor person intentionally steals from the store to feed his family, that doesn’t mean we should suddenly allow people to start robbing stores on the off chance that there’s a 1% possibility that a person needs to steal for a reason that might possibly be justified.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    But even if say, a poor person intentionally steals from the store to feed his family, that doesn’t mean we should suddenly allow people to start robbing stores on the off chance that there’s a 1% possibility that a person needs to steal for a reason that might possibly be justified.

    I guess that’s why Sam Harris stated:

    Nevertheless, there are extreme circumstances in which I believe that practices like “water-boarding” may not only be ethically justifiable, but ethically necessary. This is not the same as saying that they should be legal (e.g. crimes like trespassing or theft may sometimes be ethically necessary, while remaining illegal).

  • Neon Genesis

    Expect that the scientific evidence posted shows the evidence given due to torture is unreliable, so I still don’t see how it justifies the use. To me, the 1% offchance where you have to resort to torture to get information that might be reliable but is highly unlikely shows the inefficiency of the investigator’s skills to handle the case, not the justification of torture.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    Expect that the scientific evidence posted shows the evidence given due to torture is unreliable, so I still don’t see how it justifies the use.

    Even after acknowledging that might be the case, Sam Harris argues that it’s not always unreliable, it’s false that torture never works, and that even if it was highly unlikely, even a small chance would justify torture if the threat was significant enough (i.e. nuclear bomb in a city). I don’t know why you don’t just read his articles yourself.

    After reading the review of the literature published in Trends in Cognitive Science I think if the advice was applied to new torture techniques, torture may become more reliable, as the long term policy of torture of the Bush administration was actually counter-productive. For instance torture in the long, and sleep deprivation in the short term, would impair prisoners long-term memories. Also the review advises that torturers be psychopaths, as ordinary people would be motivated subconsciously to receive bad information so that they didn’t have to torture.

  • Neon Genesis

    But how would we know the evidence is reliable until you commit the act of torture? If it turns out to be unreliable, wouldn’t it be too late then and we would have blood on our hands? How can we as atheists attack the bible for its promotion of torture while we turn around and promote it as a convenient means to an end? How can Sam Harris condemn the bible verses promoting torture while promoting the thing he claims to decry and then expect moderate Christians to take him seriously? Karen Armstrong promoting compassion is evil but Harris promoting torture is good? Am I missing something here?

  • muggle

    Sigh, Neon, this is becoming more and more futile. Your whole quote boils down to the last sentence. She would call anyone who behaves ethically in the ways she mentions religious. Just by calling anyone religious if they act ethically, is bigotry. Plain and simple.

    And, please, stop with Sam Harris when rebutting my arguments. I’ve told you repeatedly I’m no fan of his. I haven’t read his book because he really doesn’t appeal to me. I was amused by the bit of sarcasm quoted originally. That’s all. And it’s also about the extent of Sam Harris I’ve read.

    Believe it or not, I don’t like all Atheists or dislike all theists. Looks bad right now because I’m protesting her and Nathan’s current bad behavior (as I see it) but there are plenty of good Christians out there. I just don’t see Armstrong as one of them because I’m finding her remarks bigoted as all hell.

    One thing I find fault with so-called anti-theists is when they do act snide and superior. And I agree with you, not Sam Harris, re torture. I run hot and cold with Dawkins and definitely thought his “brights” idea snobby as all hell and, yes, snobbery — acting as if you’re superior to someone else — is bigotry. I haven’t read Hitchens’ books, have read some of his articles. Run hot and cold with him too but he’s not as bad as Dawkins. Couldn’t even get through that you tube clip Hemant posted though.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    But how would we know the evidence is reliable until you commit the act of torture?

    The US military puts soldiers through water boarding and other torture techniques to prepare them for capture by enemy forces. It’s voluntary, and one of the purposes is to develop techniques to avoid giving information away. Also, you were perfectly happy to use evidence that was not gathered through torture against torture, you can’t turn around now and say that it’s invalid.

    If it turns out to be unreliable, wouldn’t it be too late then and we would have blood on our hands?

    Would you be willing to have blood on your hands in an attempt to stop a nuclear bomb killing millions in one foul swoop? In modern warfare decisions are made all the time that don’t just result in suffering and injury, but death to innocent people, in attempts that are very unlikely to achieve objectives for every bomb.

    How can Sam Harris condemn the bible verses promoting torture while promoting the thing he claims to decry and then expect moderate Christians to take him seriously?

    There’s quite a big difference between how and why the Bible says people should be eternally tortured, and rare exceptions when Sam Harris thinks torture might be morally permissible. If you can’t tell the difference then that explains your reaction, explaining how you can’t tell the difference would be interesting, as it’s blatently obvious.

    Karen Armstrong promoting compassion is evil but Harris promoting torture is good?

    You’re not even attempting to hide your dishonesty.

  • Neon Genesis

    The US military puts soldiers through water boarding and other torture techniques to prepare them for capture by enemy forces. It’s voluntary, and one of the purposes is to develop techniques to avoid giving information away. Also, you were perfectly happy to use evidence that was not gathered through torture against torture, you can’t turn around now and say that it’s invalid.

    And yet you also said before that one instance where torturing a suspect didn’t produce reliable information doesn’t count as disproving Harris’ argument in favor of torture when it does work yet now you’re turning around and saying the one instance where it did work is suddenly proof that it should be used even though the majority of scientific research done on torture shows it produces unreliable results. Which one is it? Does one example prove or disprove an entire argument? You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You also wanted actual scientific evidence proving torture produces unreliable results. I gave you that evidence that was done by actual scientific research that shows it’s unreliable but now you’re hanging onto that one example you had where it worked. This is frankly no different than the climate change deniers who hold onto the one instance of fraud in the email conspiracy as proof that climate change is a hoax or the creationists who argue that one instance where there was an evolution hoax proves creationism is real.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    …you’re turning around and saying the one instance where it did work is suddenly proof that it should be used…

    No, and I don’t even know how you could have gotten that idea. At this point, it seems as if it doesn’t matter what I actually write, or what anybody actually writes, you will decide to create your own version and respond to that instead. The part of your comment does not contain a mention or reference to “one instance” of anything at all.

    The only time that I mentioned one instance of torture (and that was the threat of torture) it was as evidence that the threat of torture has worked at least once, therefore invalidating the claim that torture has never worked. That was a while ago, and a separate point to the one I was making in my most recent comment.

    Also what should be made clear is that the review of the literature that was being discussed in the link you posted, is actually specifically about enhanced interrogation policy employed under the orders of the Bush administration, a specific strategy in gaining information, not about torture in general.

  • Neon Genesis

    Sigh, Neon, this is becoming more and more futile. Your whole quote boils down to the last sentence. She would call anyone who behaves ethically in the ways she mentions religious. Just by calling anyone religious if they act ethically, is bigotry. Plain and simple.

    So, was Einstein being a bigot when he equated his feeling of the awe of the universe as a religious experience? And as I’ve told you before, Armstrong’s idea of religion is the kind of religion Dawkins refers to as “Einsteinian” religion. Armstrong is a “sexed up” atheist who equates God with nature, so I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill here.

    No, and I don’t even know how you could have gotten that idea. At this point, it seems as if it doesn’t matter what I actually write, or what anybody actually writes, you will decide to create your own version and respond to that instead. The part of your comment does not contain a mention or reference to “one instance” of anything at all.

    And it doesn’t seem like it matters what counter-evidence I provide you. Even if the majority of scientific research on this says torture is unreliable, this will not be good enough for you because if there’s a 1% chance of it working, the rest of the science doesn’t matter to you.