A Common Misconception About Atheism (Spoken About in a Somewhat Different Lens)

There are plenty of people, like Ray Comfort, who do not accept the category of atheism, saying that all people know in their hearts that there is a god.  If we were to accept Comfort’s premise as true, we could then envision an argument between Comfort and an atheist, which ends at a breaking point in which the atheist finally says that they don’t believe in god (the god of the Abrahamic faiths) because they are angry at him.  This, of course, is not the case.

Atheism, as we know, is the lack of belief in a deity or deities.  People come to atheism for one reason or another, but the general reason I have seen (and one which I share) is that there isn’t sufficient demonstrable evidence that points to the existence of deities.  That point seems to get lost on many people.  Many outspoken atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Neil deGrasse Tyson have bolstered their arguments denying the existence of deities by pointing out the absurdities found in the Bible and are tenets of the Abrahamic faiths.  Many people ignorant to the true nature of atheism may see their arguments as an expression for their distaste for the god of the Abrahamic faiths and will extrapolate from their books, speeches, and debates, that they are angry at god.  I realize this is a logical fallacy, but many do not.

I don’t want to knock any of these men for their work; I think their arguments are absolutely stellar and reflect a large about of study and work in order to form.  There is just one thing that I feel needs to be clarified concerning atheism.  It boils down to this: the lack of belief in the existence of deities does not have anything to do with what we believe are the moral successes or failures of the deity(ies) in question or the religious systems they are attributed to.  There are religious systems that atheists may find to be morally sound and there may be others they may find to be morally reprehensible, but this is irrelevant in atheism.  Even if I were to like all of the philosophical teachings of a religious system, I still would not believe if the deity(ies) without demonstrable evidence of their existence.  I may like the teachings from the sermon on the mount, but that does not, in turn, compel me to view Jesus of Nazareth as a divine being.  On the same end, I do not like how the god of the Abrahamic faiths is said to impose hereditary guilt on people, conceivably sending five-day old infants who die to eternal punishment for lack of repentance, but that does not compel me to view the god of the Abrahamic faiths as real.  It doesn’t work that way.  Dawkins, Hitchens, and deGrasse Tyson have not spoken about the absurdities in the Bible out of hatred for a god: they spoke about the absurdities because they are absurd.  They do (or did) not believe in the existence of deities because the arguments for their existence are not good, not because the deity is not good.  The moral character of the proposed deities is ancillary when it comes to speaking about their existence.  So, in short, our opinions about how good or bad a religious system is are not relevant when it comes to judging their veracity.  They simply don’t matter.

 

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

John Elder Robison Resigns from His Positions with Autism Speaks

What can you say about an advocacy group that loses its only member who is part of the target group they are working for?  You would say that group was doing a bad job at working for the people they advocate for.  This is now the case with Autism Speaks.  For the past few years, John Elder Robison, a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, has been working on the science and treatment boards at Autism Speaks.  He resigned just this week.  He explains his reasons in this post:

http://jerobison.blogspot.com/2013/11/i-resign-my-roles-at-autism-speaks.html

I am not going to summarize what he said because he is capable of speaking for himself, and because he enumerated his issues with Autism Speaks in a succinct manner.  I will say this, however:  I commend Robison for trying to work with Autism Speaks.  Upon hearing about his appointment, I feared he would end up being tokenized(well, he was) and start to tout the Autism Speaks mantra of fear, dehumanization, and stigma.  But his post shows otherwise.  He went into an organization knowing full well about its PR issues, its issues with allocating funds, and its general unwillingness to listen to the voices of autistic people.  It makes me upset that Robison could work for an organization that targets a population which he is a member of and not take anything he tried to say or do with the legitimacy it deserved.  From his post, it appears that he spent a great deal of time being frustrated with them and their inability to listen to him.  In my eyes, he chose the perfect reason and time to sever ties with Autism Speaks.  (For the post Robison is referring to, here’s the link: http://www.autismspeaks.org/news/news-item/autism-speaks-washington-call-action)

For him to see a post like this, after working with that organization for that long a period of time, must have been completely infuriating.  It’s infuriating to me, and I don’t even work for the organization.  For it to be 2013 and to have one of the founders of the largest autism organization worldwide to call us autistics public health crises, the cause of families breaking up, and consider us general burdens to society is disgusting.  This type of rhetoric has no place in 21st Century dialogue.  No wonder why so many autistic people think Autism Speaks is evil.  Look at what they’re saying about us!  For Robison to stay on as long as he did shows that he has more patience than almost anybody I can think of!

Oh, and I find it funny how the science world believes we lack empathy.  That we can’t understand what other people are thinking or that we are not considerate of other people’s feelings.  So many believe that autistic people’s primary deficit is being unable to understand others and empathize with them.  But, even after all of the pushback Autism Speaks has faced from autistic people, whether it be after the “Autism Every Day” incident, or the pushback after the release of the “I Am Autism” video, they still use the same exact scare tactics they used before to promote their organization.  It’s as if they’ve learned nothing over the past few years.  They have learned nothing about how autistic people feel when they are called public health crises, diseased, defective, etc.  They have learned nothing about how to work with autistic individuals in developing the best solutions for mitigating disability and creating a more equitable society for everybody, autistic and neurotypical alike.  They have learned nothing about advocacy as a whole.  I think we all now know who really lacks empathy…

So, now that Autism Speaks’ only autistic member is gone, the organization can no longer make any claim whatsoever, that they are inclusive.  They have gone back to being 100% against the disability rights’ movement’s mantra: “Nothing about us, without us!”  Finally, they have thrown away any possibility of being able to have a dialogue with autistic individuals about how to improve our lives.

Are you listening now, Autism Speaks?  I doubt it.  So, you can go on with your fear-mongering, your dehumanization, and your ignorance.  We’ll move on without you.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

On “Tolerance”

The word “tolerance” gets thrown around a lot in many different circles.  Often, in debates, one side will call the other intolerant of their views, and vice versa.  In the United States, many people who subscribe to liberal views want to be viewed as tolerant of opposing views.  However, when they critique the views of conservatives, conservative people will try and identify a hypocrisy in liberal’s views, saying they aren’t truly tolerant because they don’t agree with their views.  I feel this whole dichotomy over-simplifies the use of “tolerance” when it comes to debate, and it’s time that is changed.

The most important thing I want people to realize is that blanket “tolerance” is not a virtue.  Some seem to think that being tolerant of something is synonymous with being good or being right, but that isn’t always the case.  There are obvious things that people should be intolerant of, like genocide, rape, exploitation of people, starvation, and poverty, among other things, but things get a little more nuanced when we talk about “culture war” issues or neurodiversity.

So, are there things I am intolerant of?  Yes, absolutely, and that’s not a bad thing.  There are a lot of things I am intolerant of.  A few examples: I am intolerant of the idea that religious beliefs should dictate public policy, I am intolerant of people who will blame rape victims for their rape, and I am intolerant of the idea that autistic individuals should spend their lives trying to act “normal” in order to appease society.  Intolerance is part of forming any argument of belief you may have.  You don’t have to be tolerant of everything in order to put yourself in the right.  A degree of intolerance provides evidence of applying critical thinking skills into forming your argument.  The important thing is striking the right balance of tolerance and intolerance.  When arguing, you must show enough tolerance to critique ideas, and not people.  Critiquing people and showing blanket intolerance for them does not get your point across and show a lack of critical thought on your part.  In short, do your research, know what you’re talking about, and solidify your position on an issue.

So, my final point is that intolerance is not something you should be afraid of.  It is a tool, but it is one that must be used carefully and with a lot of thought.

 

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

No, America was not Founded on “Judeo-Christian Values”

I’m sure most people who would actually come to this blog are already aware of this fact.  Anyway, I am writing because many people who argues about how America is not a Christian nation will rely on the Letter to the Danbury Baptists or the Treaty of Tripoli as their main sources for their argument.  I am not saying those two example don’t provide concrete evidence of the intentions of the Founding Fathers; they certainly do.  What I am saying, however, is that there is a much simpler and even more concrete piece of evidence which completely nullifies any assertion that America was founded on “Judeo-Christian principles.”

It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why these people’s assertions are false; all you have to do is read the First Commandment in the Bible and compare it to the First Amendment of the Constitution.  You first find the Ten Commandments written in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 20 (and then again in the book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 5).  In the King James Version of the Bible, the first commandment reads as: “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  (Exodus 20:2-3)  The first amendment reads as: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  Let’s first break down the first commandment:  God starts off by saying he is the lord, signifying that he is the only deity in existence.  In verse 3, God is saying that he is the deity that must be worshiped before anything else.  In this context, “other gods” means anything that is not him that people make into gods or other gods that were purported to exist during the time the Bible was written.  Overall, God is expecting compulsory worship of him and him only from all of the inhabitants of the world.

Now, let’s go to the first amendment.  For our purposes, we will just be looking at the first part of the amendment.  For congress to make no law respecting an establishment of a religion, it cannot hold one religious system in higher regard than any other religious system.  Therefore, Congress can not establish a law which gives preference specifically towards the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).  In order to ensure that the tenets of the First Amendment are met, Congress must remain neutral when it comes to any faith. For the sake of our argument, the second half of the first part of the amendment is the most important part of the text.  It guarantees United States citizens the ability to worship in any way they see fit.  The ability for citizens to worship in any way they see fit goes in direct opposition to the god of the Abrahamic faiths, who compelled people to worship him.  The god of the Abrahamic faiths does not allow for religious freedom, and it is seen in some of the most frequently cited text within the entire Bible.  On the other hand, the guarantee of religious freedom in the United States comes from some of the most frequently cited text within the entire United States Constitution and its Amendments.  These two statements are not compatible with each other.  One directly and blatantly contradicts the other.

Many may say that I am only talking about two specific statements.  However, there is no way to deny the importance of the First Commandment and its centrality to the Abrahamic faiths.  Nor can anyone deny the importance of the First Amendment and its centrality of the United States Constitution and in our daily lives.  Others may find quotes that some of the Founding Fathers have said expressing their belief in the God of the Abrahamic faiths.  Although many are documented to have been said by some of the Founding Fathers, they are only quotes.  Yes, some of the Founding Fathers were Christians, but that is irrelevant.  What is relevant are the laws they wrote.  If we want to study the religiosity, or lack thereof, of the laws of the United States, the laws written will provide solid evidence for how religious a nation the United States is.  However, as I have already shown, you don’t have to dig too deep to find out how religiously based the United States’ laws and founding documents are.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

Why I am an Agnostic Atheist

I promised posts about religion and atheism, so here’s one!!

So, my answer to the question:  Does god exist?  I don’t know, but I haven’t seen any evidence which would prove the existence of god.

It’s quite simple.  In statistics and science, it is commonplace to formulate a null hypothesis and an alternative hypothesis for an experiment of an analysis.  The alternative hypothesis is the hypothesis you are trying to prove is true.  If you attain enough evidence which supports your alternative hypothesis, you can reject your null hypothesis and accept the alternative hypothesis as true.

In the case of the existence of a deity or deities, the burden of proof lies on the person claiming their existence.  In this case, “There is no god.” is the null hypothesis, and “There is a god.” is the alternative hypothesis.

In this case, I have not seen enough demonstrable evidence which supports the alternative hypothesis of “There is a god.”  Therefore, I must stick with the null hypothesis of “There is no god,” which explains the “atheist” part of “agnostic atheist.”

As for the “agnostic” part of “Agnostic Atheist,” I realize that there is a possibility that enough demonstrable evidence supporting the alternative hypothesis from above may surface.  Since I am open to that possibility, that ultimately leads me to the conclusion that I don’t know whether a deity exists or not.

In short, I am an agnostic atheist because I have not seen enough demonstrable evidence which points me towards its existence, but that evidence may be out there.

There are many (like Ray Comfort) who do not fully understand atheism.  Many, like Comfort, would like to believe that we know there is a god, but we are angry at it.  This does not make any sense.  If we do not believe that a god exists, how could we be mad at it?  It would be like me being mad at unicorns, even though unicorns do not exist.  That’s not how it works.  Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity, not anger at a deity.

I hope this serves as a formidable introduction to the topic.  Until next time, “If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”