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Posted by on Aug 24, 2011 in Atheism, Feminism, Freethought Blogs | 25 comments

Free Thinker

In the traditional sense, freedom of thought largely meant freedom from the belief in god. It was a brave and daring proclamation to make. Today, however, most Western societies are largely secular, with the notable exception of America. Many American atheists are attempting to eradicate religion altogether, but given human nature, the task is overwhelming. While the religious may be open to persuasion, they don’t change their minds when they hear someone – namely, a small minority – ridiculing their cherished beliefs.

Now, what about Dawkins, you say? Wasn’t he successful by ridiculing the religious? First of all, Dawkins wrote brilliant books on science and atheism, which were bursting with sparkling English wit and erudite turns of phrase. And Dawkins wasn’t cruel to ordinary people, either. Instead, he was cruel to religious practices and to those who profited from them. This made him different from some of today’s “gnu” atheists, who are willing to literally wreck a person in order to get them to shut up. Of course, the “gnu” atheist’s targets rarely shut up; and in fact, they make it their life’s goal to destroy this so-called movement before it gains any real traction. After all, the numbers are on their side.

Persuasion is an art, and reading people (not in a psychic way, of course) is a talent. Great teachers and debaters take these factors into account.

  • I think you’re right in that Dawkins never ridicules people, he ridicules beliefs. I can’t think of a single prominent atheist who actually seeks the eradication of religion. Most simply seek to have atheism recognised as a valid world view, to promote critical thinking in all aspects of society, and to prevent the propagation of unscientific dogma in our children’s education.The tone argument is something that has come up in the skeptic/atheist community quite a bit in the last couple of years. Phil Plait’s famous “Don’t be a Dick” speak at TAM struck a nerve with a lot of people. If you want you can read my take on the whole thing you can find it on my blog –

  • Thanks, I agree with you completely. What made me want to start this blog is the ElevatorGate scandal. Somehow, a few atheists have apparently decided that if you don’t agree with everything they say, you’re not a true atheist. But that kind of atheism is more like religion or nationalism than a scientific quest for knowledge. When we stop questioning authority, we stop thinking critically.So I hope to write blog entries that remind skeptics to be skeptical, and to question everything, at least within reason. My goal would be for atheists to lead by example, and to provide people with the same community-building activities prevalent in churches/synagogues, etc.I also hope to examine politics with a skeptical eye because exaggerations are prevalent on both sides. (Even though I’m a committed liberal/democrat by default.)The best way to learn is to discuss things with people you disagree with. I only wish we, as atheists, could do it civilly.

  • Oh, one last thing — I can think of at least a few prominent atheists who want to eradicate religion, or at least keep it exclusively in the home, and to criminalize religious indoctrination of children as child abuse. Life is a balancing test, and trying to control freedom of speech in the home is a scary thing indeed. I grew up in Commie Russia, and don’t want to go through that again. (Religion couldn’t be taught there, either.)

    • PJLandis

      If the child-abuse thing is referencing Dawkins, it should be noted that he wasn’t equating it with beating a child or physically harming or anything. He has been adamant that he has never nor does he advocate criminalizing religious indoctrination of children. His main goal was to raise awareness, not only to encourage people to allow their children to make their own decisions when they are old enough and for society not to be so accepting of such indoctrination.

      It’s not a crime to teach your daughter that she is lesser than a man, but it’s not generally socially acceptable either; I believe Dawkins is advocating we look at religious indoctrination of children in the same way.

      • As always, I’ve seen some others take it further, but all I can say is that I can see both sides of the issue. I really would be best to let children decide for themselves after they’re given all the information. They’re going to pick up a lot from their parents regardless.

  • What is the purpose of an organized aetheist movement? Just another support group. Why does an aetheist need a support group? To bolster his insecurities? The aetheist has as much chance of destroying the belief in god as does a snowflake surviving phx az heat in august.

    • PJLandis

      Everyone needs a community, that’s just part of being human.

      And Phoenix has a lot of freezers, so maybe with a crackerjack HVAC crew “the atheist” might just turn all of Arizona into godless heathens.

  • It’s a place for religious community building, I think. Unfortunately it hasn’t been a very good one, constantly plagued by tribalism, disagreement, and very little help to those who are truly suffering.

  • The purpose of organising is consolidated effort. If the goal of atheists is to demand equal representation in government, society etc then it needs to be organised. If people want action on something, such as for example the removal of religious doctrine from science classes, then a concerted effort is required to raise awareness and support. Its all well and good for individuals to blog or tweet about social injustice, but 10,000 signatures on a petition or 1,000 people at a protest is worth more than all the blogposts in the world.

  • Oh, I agree. My frustration came from the EG scandal, when thousands of people started blogging about a non-incident instead of doing things to help the needy. My blog has several goals: 1) Raising consciousness on key issues, and providing a needed source of community, 2) Preventing groupthink and tribalism, 3) Examining the good things religion does and trying to emulate the benefits of religion, without sacrificing truth, 4) Bringing new issues and scientific discoveries to light, and 5)Serving as a starting point for petitions and other civil action. My final pet peeve is mixing political ideology with atheism/skepticism. I plan to show why this cannot be done. At first glance, it seems beyond obvious, but apparently it isn’t.

  • I am interested in your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • Please feel free to subscribe to the blog or to the RSS link (or both). I look forward to chatting with you more

  • I’m just stopping by to say hello and welcome to blogsnot!

  • Same as Justi šŸ™‚

  • Me too, er, three.

  • Hi Brad and Justy. Kisses.

  • hey blu…congrats on setting this up. I’ve enjoyed reading your opinions elsewhere…look forward to following you here since I don’t do FB etc…Mary

  • Glad to see you too, Mary. My poetry/random musings blog is also in this Blogroll. And then, of course, thre’s always twitter.

  • I would love to suscribe, but the process seems to be a bit more complicated here than at Justi’s…

  • Good luck, new blog!

  • Phil: Try going to the home page and clicking “Subscribe to: Posts” at the bottom. Copy and paste the URL of the page that opens into your RSS Reader.

  • Russell & anyone else — I have my old poetry blog linked to this one (it’s on the blogroll, called “Random Sighs and Musings.” I generally like that kind of writing much better; but right now I feel like I have too much to say that isn’t poetic, romantic, or musical.

  • Hi! I linked here from Russell Blackford’s blog, and I see a lot of potential here. One thing I have noticed is that, while nobody likes to be told not to rant about their pet peeves, members of the atheist community tend to be exceptionally prickly about it, given the fact that in many places (including the U.S.), they’re basically told all the time to shut up and not talk about things that seem obvious to them. Getting up in arms over something like Elevatorgate (which I agree should have been a non-incident) is possibly a symptom of this.A question, too, if I may: who are these “prominent atheists” who want to eradicate religion? People mention them all the time, but never by name — and somehow I never seem to meet them. Aside from the general insanity and sock-puppetry, the downfall of the infamous “You’re Not Helping” blog was in making these sorts of assertions and then refusing to give specific examples that could be independently verified. As skeptics, we’re skeptical of ALL claims that can’t be checked!

  • @Keith I wrote so much in response to you, that I decided to make it a separate blog post.

  • Oops, Kirth as it were. My mistake. šŸ™‚