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A Time of Doubt for Atheists

Religion Government Atheists Media Op-Ed Gina Piccalo NYTimes

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#1 Nonny

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 12:12 AM

Yahoo

Quote

A Time of Doubt for Atheists

By Gina Piccalo Times Staff Writer Mon Jul 18, 7:55 AM ET

It's been years, decades even, since the Almighty was so hot.

The evidence is everywhere.
President Bush rallied the faithful to hold on to the White House. A book by an Orange County preacher extolling God's purpose in our lives stays a bestseller for more than two years. And Hollywood, frequently seen as a den of iniquity, is courting a more spiritual audience in movies and TV.

Faith is the new must-have, evident when a major leaguer points skyward after his base hit, when a movie star credits the Big Guy for his Oscar, when the Justice Department backs the display of the Ten Commandments at two state capitols, and when it defends the Salvation Army's requirement that employees embrace Jesus Christ.

So where does that leave the fraction of Americans who define themselves as godless? Although the percentage of Americans who claim no religion is about 14%, less than a quarter of them identify themselves as atheists, according to recent polls.

Some are using humor to cope, such as actress Julia Sweeney in her one-woman play "Letting Go of God," which ran in Los Angeles for several months this year. "It's really because I take you so seriously," she tells an imaginary God, "that I can't believe in you."

Others see the future as a time when nonbelievers are outcasts and religion dictates law, social protocol, even private life.

"The McCarthy era is the last time this climate existed," says Simi Valley resident Stuart Bechman, co-president of Atheists United, a local affiliate of Atheist Alliance International.

Although the comparison sounds melodramatic, atheist activists believe the climate to be so perilous that they're considering something drastic: unity.

Atheists aren't by nature of one mind. There's a godless organization for every wrinkle of nonbelief — the prayer-never-hurt-anyone, live-and-let-live atheists; the prove-the-God-fearing-world-wrong, keep-America-secular atheists; and the contrarian I-don't-believe-in-God-but-don't-call-me-an-atheist atheists.

Fear, however, is a great motivator, and politically active atheists know that they need an advocate in government to be heard. Unfortunately, as one activist noted, most politicians are as eager to align with the godless ranks as they are to lobby for pedophiles. Hence the need for an image makeover.

Keen to cast off stereotypes of immorality, atheists are stressing their integrity, patriotism and respect for the faithful while staying true to their age-old commitment to the separation of church and state. Some even bristle at the terms "atheist" or "nonbeliever." Others have begun raising funds, lobbying politicians and building online communities.

There have been larger-scale actions as well. The first godless march on Washington drew thousands in fall 2002, and a few months later the Godless Americans Political Action Committee was formed. This year, an Inauguration Summit of 22 like-minded groups was held in Washington to stimulate cooperation days before Bush's swearing in. And this Veterans Day, so-called foxhole atheists (servicemen and women who are nonbelievers) will be honored in the capital.

If all goes as planned, says Ellen Johnson, longtime president of American Atheists, at least one presidential candidate will be courting their vote in 2008.

"We can't complain about what the religious do," she says. "All we have to do is copy their strategy."

*

Best or Worst of Times?

Some among the nonbelievers say life is pretty good compared with decades past when violence was a common threat and professed nonbelievers were driven from their jobs and homes.

"I actually think it is getting better for atheists in the U.S., despite the religiosity of the current administration," Las Vegas atheist Clark Adams writes in an e-mail. "Many celebrities are on record as nonbelievers, and it's not too uncommon to see an atheist positively portrayed on TV or in movies."

Others, though, label this argument "denial." They're quick to reference the many atheists who so fear harassment that they join atheist groups anonymously and others who are cast out of their families, refused positions involving children or relieved of jobs because of their nonbelief.

It's this group that pushes the separation of church and state, a debate energized during the 1960s by legendary atheist activist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, who proclaimed herself "the most hated woman in America."

They reject the argument often cited by Christian activists that the nation's government was founded by Christians. They argue that although some of the authors of the Constitution may have been religious men, they consistently maintained a clear boundary between their faith and their government. They note that until the communist scare of the 1950s, "In God we trust" wasn't the national motto, nor did it appear on paper currency, and "under God" was absent from the Pledge of Allegiance.

They point out that Bush — who as Texas governor declared April 17, 2000, Jesus Day — has awarded religious "armies of compassion" and other faith-based groups more than $3 billion in public funds since 2003. And they feel the steel in remarks by former California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, now on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, who told Roman Catholic legal professionals in April that people of faith were embroiled in a "war" with secular humanists.

"I have been threatened with damnation so many times it's stupid," says Dave Silverman of Piscataway, N.J., communications director of American Atheists and founder of NoGodBlog.com. "The amount of intolerance in this country is staggering."

Atheists often keep quiet about their worldview. Some say that to volunteer their atheism offends believers.

"We have a social idea that it's rude," says Bobbie Kirkhart, Los Angeles-based president of Atheist Alliance International.

Others say it instantly taints society's perception of them.

Silverman says his 8-year-old daughter, who he says is also an atheist, has been taunted as a Satanist by some of her Christian playmates. Atheist United's Bechman says he usually receives hate mail or prank calls after he takes a stance on church-state issues. Los Angeles acting teacher and Thomas Jefferson impersonator Dale Reynolds says he's sometimes consoled by believers saddened by his lack of faith.

"It is the kind of thing that if you bring it up, there are ramifications," Reynolds says.

Still, there are those outspoken nonbelievers doing their best to influence the masses.

American Atheists' Johnson, whose national organization claims 2,200 members, is a regular on news talk shows. She is also executive director of the Godless Americans PAC, and meets with politicians to build awareness and support for church-state separation legislation. She helped organize the 2002 march on Washington and is organizing November's Atheists in Foxholes parade and ceremony. Yet, she acknowledges, atheism is a hard sell.

"The candidate is in an awkward position," she says. "They're wary to be endorsed by an atheist…. We have to be able to deliver the votes to get them into office. I can't do that yet."

Mynga Futrell and Paul Geisert of Sacramento hope to change that with a new name and an online community. They founded the Brights' Net (the-brights.net) in 2003 to create a place for people who share "a worldview free from supernatural and mystical elements." They chose the term "brights" because, unlike "godless," "atheist" and "nonbeliever," it did not define them in religious terms. By creating this label, Futrell and Geisert hope to "level the playing field" and recast members of their community as independent thinkers who celebrate knowledge without identifying themselves as vociferous anti-theists.

They want to build a large, influential community, similar to MoveOn.org, to sway public opinion. So far, they say, there are Brights in more than 115 countries.

"There's this tremendous feeling of being a second-class citizen when you know you're patriotic and working for all kinds of good things for the country, and yet you're ranked with the pedophiles," Futrell says. "You have to have political influence in order to get cultural change of any kind."

*

Celebrity Heroes

If the politicians don't come, it doesn't hurt a cause to have a celebrity.

In 1999, then-Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura became a hero for the movement when he refused to endorse the National Day of Prayer and told Playboy magazine that organized religion was "a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers."

Actress-writer Sweeney emerged this year as a sort of amiable advocate for nonbelief. "Letting Go of God," which played at a small Hollywood theater, proved so popular that Sweeney is recording a CD of the performance, writing a book based on it and has plans to release it as a film.

Her show aims to entertain and disarm audiences as it traces Sweeney's path away from Catholicism.

In one scene, a Bible study class causes her to find the book outrageous and disturbing. She asks herself, "Is this one big practical joke?" Her skepticism isn't limited to one religion; after a journey to the Far East and a run-in with Deepak Chopra, she chooses science over faith because "for the first time, knowing too much didn't ruin it."

Breaking the news to her devout Catholic parents, however, didn't go well. Her father forbade her from attending his funeral. Her mother complained that "at least being gay is socially acceptable…. Why can't you just say you're still searching?"

Sweeney didn't respond to interview requests, but on her blog at juliasweeney.com, she described the fallout of the recent publicity.

The mail was so voluminous and, she writes, "so outraged and so filled with hate" that on June 13 she decided to stop blogging for a while and has considered moving.

"I think I tried really hard not to be hateful in my monologue," she writes. "I tried to make a case for faith and show the struggle with compassion to all sides…. I think I have a lot in common with Christians … because I think it's majorly important if someone is religious or not. Only I think it should be on the 'not' side."

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#2 Godeskian

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 06:18 AM

Quote

Others see the future as a time when nonbelievers are outcasts and religion dictates law, social protocol, even private life

And some of us will fight that future with every fiber of our being. I can think of nothing worse than a society where law, social protocl, private life and everything else is run by religious mores.

Quote

They argue that although some of the authors of the Constitution may have been religious men, they consistently maintained a clear boundary between their faith and their government. They note that until the communist scare of the 1950s, "In God we trust" wasn't the national motto, nor did it appear on paper currency, and "under God" was absent from the Pledge of Allegiance

Some of us don't care what religion the founders were, anymore than we care what religion the current administration holds. We care that the constitution seperates church and state, and want it to stay that way for one of the very few nations founded on secular principles.

Quote

Silverman says his 8-year-old daughter, who he says is also an atheist, has been taunted as a Satanist by some of her Christian playmates

I have personal experience at this. I wish religious people, and I do mean predominantly Christians who approach me would not confuse 'Secular' with 'Satan' and not assume that because I do not follow their beliefs i'm a tool of the devil. The devil comes from your beliefs, not mine.

Quote

So far, they say, there are Brights in more than 115 countries

I actually support the notion of repackaging Atheism with a term that does not make it a religious definition, but i'm not sure 'bright' is the term i'd choose.

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Breaking the news to her devout Catholic parents, however, didn't go well. Her father forbade her from attending his funeral. Her mother complained that "at least being gay is socially acceptable…. Why can't you just say you're still searching?"

That sort of statement just makes me want to roll my eyes at the idiocy of some people. There are idiots amongst all walks of life, believer and not, but that is just so juvenile.

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#3 Kosh

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 08:09 AM

I cannot imagine how my sisters would react. I think Pastor Libby has an idea, but shes smart enough to know not to try to force it on me. The other three sisters are a mix of denominations, and I just leave religion out of the conversation. I think they may have gotten the idea when I took all the religious stuff off the walls after Mom died. Native americans replaced Jesus on one wall, a map on another wall. One of the kids noticed  one of the paintings leaning up against the wall, and asked Grandma why it was there, Jewel told him Jesus was getting a timeout. I'd love to know what was going on in his little head at the time. He's a very bright kid.
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#4 Han

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 09:48 AM

Godeskian, on Jul 19 2005, 11:18 AM, said:

I actually support the notion of repackaging Atheism with a term that does not make it a religious definition, but i'm not sure 'bright' is the term i'd choose.

How bout the 'Enlightened', after the age of englightenment...but that could hold connotations as well.
Han

#5 woody000

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 09:54 AM

Not a good idea, that could be seen as arrogant.

#6 Cheile

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 10:26 AM

i don't have much sympathy for the atheists being harassed, as they have done it to anyone who dares say they believe WAY more than believers have done it to them.  not to mention that most of the believers who are behind the harassing are hypocrites, so therefore those of us who do not behave like this should not be lumped in with them.

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#7 Cardie

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 10:26 AM

Rationalists?

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#8 Han

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 10:32 AM

Cheile, on Jul 19 2005, 03:26 PM, said:

i don't have much sympathy for the atheists being harassed, as they have done it to anyone who dares say they believe WAY more than believers have done it to them.  not to mention that most of the believers who are behind the harassing are hypocrites, so therefore those of us who do not behave like this should not be lumped in with them.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Nor should the atheists who do not preach be lumped in with those who do.
Han

#9 sierraleone

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 10:35 AM

Cheile, on Jul 19 2005, 11:26 AM, said:

i don't have much sympathy for the atheists being harassed, as they have done it to anyone who dares say they believe WAY more than believers have done it to them.  not to mention that most of the believers who are behind the harassing are hypocrites, so therefore those of us who do not behave like this should not be lumped in with them.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I don't know about that (the first part, the last part I agree with). I've know atheist to be quiet and not add anything to religious discussion out of respect. Atheist don't deserve to be lumped together either.

And while *some* atheist may have harrassed people in the last few decades.... I think the religious people so inclined to harrass the unfaithfull had a few centuries head start ;) (a a group, obviously, considering as individuals, no one lives that long :) )

Edited by sierraleone, 19 July 2005 - 10:36 AM.

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#10 Zwolf

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 11:23 AM

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i don't have much sympathy for the atheists being harassed, as they have done it to anyone who dares say they believe WAY more than believers have done it to them.

******* I find this pretty damned funny, considering I've had my head cracked a few times by good ol' Southern Baptists who hated my guts just because I didn't go to church.  NOT even because I was an athiest, because I didn't admit that back in high school - but just because I didn't go to their damn church.   I've had knives pulled on me over it, I had junk tossed into my locker over it, and even now, as an adult, I get harrassed by religious people who want me to pay some kind of respect to their delusions and get highly offended if I don't join them in prayer to something that I'll no longer even pretend to believe in.   I used to play along - it got me nothing but blood and bruises.  So, I'm not going to do it anymore.

And, I know, I know, "those people who did that weren't real Christians."  Well, they're a good percentage of the people who are claiming to be Christians.  Depsite all of that happening, I still try to give religious people - of whatever faith - the credit that they're trying to do something good.  I give 'em credit for good intentions, because I do know some who are good people.  But, I'm a little bit tired of always having to play this game that "the nice people are the real ones and the a-holes are all just fakes."   And I'm especially tired of it when that same courtesy is almost never given to my side of the argument.

When people want to debate religion, then I'll gladly debate it, but other than that I don't try to take anyone's faith from them unless they try to push it on me.  Then I push back.  Unless they try to involve me in it, through whatever means,  I could care less what imaginary friend anyone has, or doesn't have.   I wish them well in it and hope it brings them some kind of comfort... regardless of the fact that I never get the same respect back.  

But you really should try living as an atheist in the middle of the deep South before you go making statements like that... because, I'm sorry, and with no disrespect intended, but you have no idea what you're talking about.  You haven't walked a mile in my shoes and haven't had violence done to you in the name of this junk, or had to hide your beliefs to get a job, had to look at bloody, arrogant "This Blood's For You!" billboards on your daily commute, have people spread rumors behind your back at work, had your time wasted by well-intentioned "witnesses," gotten your tax dollars handed to "faith-based" charities that you not only don't believe in but in some cases are actually opposed to (I don't mind the ones helping the poor, but the ones trying to spread religion are counterproductive to my world-view),  or all of the million other little things I've had to put up with for not conforming to the norm.  

Sympathy, I don't care about; I've learned not to expect it.  But I'm not going to just take blame for something I haven't been guilty of.

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#11 Rhea

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 11:45 AM

Cheile, on Jul 19 2005, 07:26 AM, said:

i don't have much sympathy for the atheists being harassed, as they have done it to anyone who dares say they believe WAY more than believers have done it to them.  not to mention that most of the believers who are behind the harassing are hypocrites, so therefore those of us who do not behave like this should not be lumped in with them.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Do you have any proof to back up this sweeping generalization? I hover somewhere between agnosticism and atheism, and I know that I for one have never asked nor cared whether other people share my beliefs. A few vocal atheists are not representative of the rest of us, just as a few vocal fundamentalists don't speak for all Christians.
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#12 Kosh

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 11:58 AM

Cheile, on Jul 19 2005, 11:26 AM, said:

i don't have much sympathy for the atheists being harassed, as they have done it to anyone who dares say they believe WAY more than believers have done it to them.  not to mention that most of the believers who are behind the harassing are hypocrites, so therefore those of us who do not behave like this should not be lumped in with them.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>




You are doing the same thing to us. There are few atheists who harrass people, just like there are few christains.
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#13 woody000

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 12:07 PM

Cardie, on Jul 19 2005, 03:26 PM, said:

Rationalists?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hmm... better. But some would even object to that. It's a hard one. I could think of many ridiculously long and complicated names which would be ok, but a simple one is needed.

Zwolf666, on Jul 19 2005, 04:23 PM, said:

Quote

i don't have much sympathy for the atheists being harassed, as they have done it to anyone who dares say they believe WAY more than believers have done it to them.

******* I find this pretty damned funny, considering I've had my head cracked a few times by good ol' Southern Baptists who hated my guts just because I didn't go to church.  NOT even because[...]not to expect it.  But I'm not going to just take blame for something I haven't been guilty of.

Cheers,

Zwolf

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Good post. I feel for you. It's one of those things that's hard to imagine if you don't live there. I mean, being a Christian in that part of the US is easy. So, naturally you get a lot more people who really aren't Christians but are just idiots who like to pretend they are, who like to pretend they know something about the religion they claim to be a part of. People in countries and areas where a smaller proportion of people are Christians have a harder time from Atheists, and therefore you're going to get fewer idiots, because it takes some sincere effort to follow a religion.

Rhea, on Jul 19 2005, 04:45 PM, said:

Do you have any proof to back up this sweeping generalization? I hover somewhere between agnosticism and atheism, and I know that I for one have never asked nor cared whether other people share my beliefs. A few vocal atheists are not representative of the rest of us, just as a few vocal fundamentalists don't speak for all Christians.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I think the thing is, it does depend where you are, the kinds of people you talk to. Being English, being a physics student, and going on debate sites, I have found what cheile has said to be the case. Atheists I've met have very often come across as arrogant, with huge superiority complexes and many thought that anyone that follows a religion must be stupid. Conversations with them very often ended in them calling me stupid, me quoting my 144 IQ, and them making some clever comment causing anyone present to feel as if I had somehow been defeated. (Even though under further analysis the comment was very childish.)
Religious people that I've met have more often than not been much more accepting of other views, and not even liked to get into discussions about it, they tended to take a more passive attitude. But when you compare that to the bible-belt in the US, it's clear to see how different that is likely to be. People have experiences which are exact opposites on this, and really I think it says more about human nature that the nature of religious people, or the nature of atheists.

Edited by woody000, 19 July 2005 - 12:16 PM.


#14 Cardie

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 01:55 PM

In religion, politics, and everything else having to do with ideology, we tend not to notice the foibles of even the extremeists who claim group identity with us, because their harassment isn't aimed at us.  But we do notice (and magnify) any aggressive or ill-mannered behavior by those not in our camp because it is aimed at us.

And you don't have to be an atheist to suffer in the Deep South; just be a Catholic, a Jew or have ancestry from anywhere except the British Isles and Northern Europe.  And I do live here, so I'm not working from stereotypes but from experience.

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#15 Elara

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 02:14 PM

I don't tell people here, in my hometown. Not because I am ashamed that I don't believe what they believe, but because I can't stand the thought of their attempts to save me or that some may feel shame for me. I don't want to see 'that' look on their face, I don't want to explain over and over to deaf ears why I don't believe in their religion. I don't attempt to 'save' them, why must they 'save' me?

My mother doesn't even know and I absolutely will not discuss it with my oldest brother and his wife, they are southern Baptists. Not as bad as what Zwolf talked about, but it would be darn close and I am already trying to mend my oldest brother when it comes to gays/lesbians.

'Worse' yet, my son follows my ways and my mother already accuses me of ruining him. ~lol~

My son and I had a really interesting discussion on theories of gods and goddesses and how they might have and may yet exist. We couldn't even begin to have civil a discussion like that with anyone in this small town.
I did talk about my Atheist/Pagan leanings years ago with someone I considered a friend. She went nuts, going on and on how I needed to go to church and save myself. After I listened to her for about ten minutes, I pointed out to her that she was a fine example of a Christian. There she sat, 6, 7, 8th. beer, with a joint and some other drug in her purse and there I sat, with my Pepsi and no drugs. Well, she said, God would understand as long as she believed. All I could do was laugh.
I think that was the last time I ever bothered discussing it with anyone around home.
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#16 Solovet

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 02:49 PM

I find it ironic that the mood can be as described in the article in a country where state and church are officially separated, while I live in a country (Sweden) that is the most secular in the world, but does have an official Christian state church.  :Oo:  
Of the course the influence of that church has evaporated into nothingness during the last few decades. I wouldn't really know if Christians feel discriminated against here, but atheism and agnosticism are the norm - I was 15 years old the first time I met somebody my own age who said he believed in God.

#17 Godeskian

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 03:07 PM

edited

Edited by Godeskian, 20 July 2005 - 01:06 AM.

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#18 entroki

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 03:45 PM

Rhea, on Jul 19 2005, 12:45 PM, said:

Do you have any proof to back up this sweeping generalization? I hover somewhere between agnosticism and atheism, and I know that I for one have never asked nor cared whether other people share my beliefs. A few vocal atheists are not representative of the rest of us, just as a few vocal fundamentalists don't speak for all Christians.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Like woody said, it depends on where you are. Living in a big city that's very liberal, I'm going to confirm his experiences on this, and being a teenager, I'm going to have to confirm this even more. In my own experiences, the majority of people I know who claim to be atheists and are very vocal about it are about my age up to about 30 years old. And they are VERY vocal and like to harrass people for being religious or just not being atheist, and honestly? They're assholes, and they are assholes because they think that just because they aren't religious they have the right to be as assholish as they want to be since there's no moral rules they have to follow. Of course, I've also met some very abusive youths who are extremely religious, but there aren't many of those around nowadays anyway. Actually I think this whole thing's just because there are more youths who are hardcore atheistic than religious in most places. Older adults just tend to be more passive and tolerant overall.

Edited by entroki, 19 July 2005 - 03:46 PM.

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#19 Kevin Street

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 03:52 PM

Easy now, Gode. Let's try and stay on the subject, rather than discuss each other.

- In regard to finding a new name for atheists, I don't really care for any of the options that have been brought up so far. It's hard to name a group that is primarily defined as not belonging to another group without being offensive to someone. (IE: the name "Brights" implies that non-Atheists are not bright. And the same thing would happen if we tried to rename religious people as "Believers," since other people believe in things.) The best option would be to simply pick a name that has no inherent meaning - but if one is going to do that then why not just stick with the original term?

- Reading the article that Nonny quoted is a very strange experience. The America that it describes is nothing like what we see on television or in the movies, and it's nothing like my country either. I wonder if that kind of harassment of nonbelievers is restricted to certain areas (like the South that Cardie mentioned), or is it widespread? In any case, I had no idea that so many Americans were stridently religious.

entroki said:

Older adults just tend to be more passive and tolerant overall.

That's an interesting observation. But in my own experiences I find the opposite to usually be the case. Youths are usually passive about things (to the point of apathy), while it is adults who tend to be full of belief and conviction. (And the older people are, the more they tend to believe in things, imo. When we're young we think we'll live forever, but when we get older and aging begins to restrict our activities, the spectre of death becomes a real possibility and we begin to seriously wonder about concepts like God and the afterlife.) Areas where older people predominate (like senior's centers and small towns) tend to be more religious and hardcore political than areas where the average age is younger.

Edited by Kevin Street, 19 July 2005 - 04:16 PM.

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#20 Zwolf

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 04:04 PM

Quote

They're assholes, and they are assholes because they think that just because they aren't religious they have the right to be as assholish as they want to be since there's no moral rules they have to follow.

****** That sucks.  They're pretty stupid if they think there aren't moral rules they have to follow.  In my book, religion (or lack thereof) and morality have nothing to do with each other.  I have pretty high morals (I'm old-school straightedge: no drinking, no smoking, no drugs, no casual sex, etc.) - more than most religious people I know.  I've only known one athiest who was immoral, and he was a complete dirtbag.  He's probably drunk himself to death by now.  Anyway, I've known some very moral religious people, and some very immoral ones, so I never tie religion and morality to each other.

Anyway, sorry it's different in bigger cities.  I don't like fanatical athiests any more than I do fanatical religious people.  A pusher's a pusher, and if they're trying to force their nonbeliefs on people the same way so many religious people do, then they're missing the point pretty badly.  

I've never been too fond of athiests that make a big hobby of it, anyway.  I have a cousin who's an athiest, and he's pretty rabid about it.  I think it's 'cuz he lives in Texas, which is one of the worst places in the world for pushy fundamentalist a-holes... he's probably reacting against that.  But he can get pretty tiresome, with all the groups he joins and newsletters and junk.  That defeats a lot of the purpose. Devoting that much time and money to it, he might as well have a religion.   But, I guess ya do what ya gotta do in Texas...  

Cheers,

Zwolf
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