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A bigot amongst us

Just a quick note to highlight just what we are up against as atheists in this country.  A recent piece in our very own Irish Independent can be seen here.  This article perfectly illustrates the ignorance and intolerance of the religious mind  – where truth is not a requirement, and all generalisations must be used to punctuate their fallacious argument.  The article is erroneous with the facts and is sloppy journalism at its worst.  I will be writing my own letter of disgust to the newspaper, just as was done already.  The UK’s freethinker website has also done a piece on it here.  You will also note the use of the egregious ‘militant atheist’!

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12 Responses

  1. I guess all I’m hoping for is that we’ll think a little more before we put out messages like this. Until we do, it’s going to be so much more of the “same old same old” with theists and atheists lashing back and forth. I’m tired of the lack of progress I continue to see with the acceptance of nonbelievers in society. A Christian in a bookstore I frequent in my hometown once equated “atheism” with “satanism.” This billboard campaign will do nothing to change his view; education combined with civil dialogue, I believe, would do a much better job.

    If “outrage” is warranted, “enraged” is not at all a good way to go about mounting a response to the source of the outrage. If remaining at a perpetual standstill is what we desire after all, then atheism can no longer claim “rationality” for its own. Let’s move forward.

  2. I see the advertising more as a ‘background noise’ effect, we need to raise peoples awareness of an alternative to religion. Perhaps ‘alternative’ is the wrong word – maybe it’s enough to make people aware that lots of people consider it permissible not to believe in gods. Lot’s of people, i’m sure, simply drift through life not really believing, perhaps the bus-slogans will just give a moment of reflection in people like these. Who cares what the believer things about them – the bus-campaign can hardly be seen as an attempt to convert believers.

    As for the ‘outraged response’ of the believer, if they are offended by such a message, their problems run deep. I have to look at there religious symbols every day, knowing that a core belief of their doctrine is that because I demand reason and evidence for my ‘beliefs’, I must burn for eternity in a lake of fire. I must listen to them pity everyone except member of their particular cult for their non-belief. Do you not feel a little bit of outrage is warranted?

    The problems of the modern world are not going to be helped by a words written on the side of a bus, it was at best tongue-in-cheek, not everybody believes – nothing more. Couldn’t the message ‘relax, and enjoy your lives’, be a positive message? It is not a hedonistic message, it is harmless. I don’t see how you get such a negative response to such simple language and I don’t see the contempt aimed at the believers.

    The points you made however, have make me think about it a little more!

  3. My understanding is that the exact wording of the bus billboards is “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” I imagine myself as a religious person seeing one of these and saying, “well, you people are free to believe as you like, but you’re wrong,” and walking off. In the ideal outcome I might become curious and start up a dialogue with nonbelievers, but the specific wording doesn’t give me much hope of that happening. The outraged response article is the best we’re going to see from this, and that’s not progress. We’re running around in circles, and we don’t have to be.

    A second objection to this wording: how do we “relax and enjoy our lives” while the modern world’s such a mess? The article commented on the implausibility of this as well. Would it not have been more positive to at least say “There’s probably no God, so let’s concentrate on solving the real problems in this world ourselves”? The billboards have now made us out to be a bunch of callous hedonists, and I can just see biblical injunctions raining out of the sky on that basis. I’d call that a step backward on our part, which is unfortunate.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t have billboards, rather that this specific strategy has flaws that can potentially make things worse for us. I owe no apologies to the religious for not believing as they do, but I don’t need to exhibit a contemptible attitude to express my worldview.

  4. spacecat5000 – the use of hyperbole was self-evident, but the ad homenem was unnecessary and i apologise.

    I feel however that your billboard statement, while to the point i think we all share – is too-timid, as a conciousness-raising excersise (which is it’s goal, surely?) As i asserted earlier, this feels to me like ‘doffing of the cap’ to the relgious. We need to make our views heard and the inbuilt urgency not to offend doesn’t appear to have furthered the cause of freethought.

    The phrase ‘there is probably no god, so don’t worry about it and get on with your life’ – is as harmless as could be. How do you see signs of irrationality and the ‘troublemaking atheists’ in that?

  5. Stilldoubting, I’ve dealt with this before – you didn’t really read or understand my comment, and you’re essentially accusing me of bowing down to the religionists in the name of not offending them. That’s not at all accurate. The crack about ‘lessons in hyperbole’ is ad hominem and is not appreciated.

    “Rational debate” would have consisted of a billboard statement like “We believe that there is probably no god and we would really like to know why we cannot be allowed to relax and enjoy life just the same as religious people.” That would have been a legitimate invitation to the debate you say you want. The billboards as they are just antagonize and further the inaccurate generalization of “troublemaking atheists” in society.

    The idea should be to make our stand clear, and then discuss it in a rational way with those who want to understand it. I don’t see the current wording of these boards doing that in any way. It’s just counterproductive and will lead only to the type of article this blog talked about. We need progress, not constant back-and-forth bickering.

  6. spacecat5000 – did you take lessons in hyperbole? ‘horrifying asseriton’, ‘perpetual war’, ‘standoff”. While it stands as an excellent lesson in over-emphasis i don’t feel language like that is warranted here or adds anthing to the conversation.

    What did you find irrational about my comments? I was simply suggesting that by making every effort to avoid offending peoples dearly-held assertions, we deny ourselves of any say at all in the religious/secular debate. Respect should be earned and theists have been enjoying the fruits of ungained respect for far too long. We should not be afraid to make our opinions clear to everyone. I am not suggesting anything other than rational debate and legitimate promotion of the secular viewpoint – please, where is the horrifying, assertive-irrationality in that?

  7. “…and being the ‘better person’, gets us nowhere.”

    What a horrifying assertion, Stilldoubting. It’s no wonder that this standoff between theists and atheists is still going on without any end in sight. But, if a perpetual war is what you really desire, have at it. It certainly appears ‘rationality’ has gone out the window here.

    dj357, I’m quite with you in demanding conclusive evidence of any assertion that atheism is somehow primarily responsible for increases in drug use, crime, and suicide. If such were true, would not statistics lend support to it? This kind of bigotry is reprehensible.

  8. yeah, i agree, any journalist who was actually trying to prove a point, as opposed to merely throwing out disgusted slander, wouldn’t have written this:

    “I am convinced that this injection of atheism into the culture is directly responsible for the increase in drug-abuse, in crime and, most specifically, in the five-fold increase in suicide that we have seen in these islands over the last 25 years.”

    ….umm, would you like to present some evidence for your bald-faced assertion? ………yeah, didn’t think so, but thanks for showing us that religious bigotry is still alive and well in our little island.

  9. What I find interesting about the Independent article is that there is no attempt to debate the issue just an attempt to slander atheists.

    I think that counts as a surrender 🙂

  10. The message is about ‘consciousness building’ – to use Dawkins’ phrase. Why should we feel the need to pander to the religious, and why should the secular community go cap in hand asking for recognition of our rights? Just how is this simple, non-confrontational message alarming to anyone – there is no dissemination of the facts – how can it be propaganda?

    Dawkins is a long way from combative – compare his words with those in the article i highlighted with this post – there is a marked distinction between which side keeps things civil, and being the ‘better person’, gets us nowhere. Religion feels no compunction to play by any rule-book, truth and facts are anathema to faith, and we don’t further the cause of secularism by bending over to be seen as civilised. We know what we are and we have to learn how to better communicate the message.

  11. I don’t get it. Why a message like “There is probably no God. So relax and enjoy life”? Propaganda from an atheist standpoint is just as dumb as propaganda from a religious standpoint. All this is doing is generating more unnecessary animosity.

    I personally think a message like “if you don’t believe in God, you’re not alone, and you’re not automatically evil” or something to that effect, followed by contact information would do better in moving toward the acceptance of nonbelievers in society. Sure, the religious might still whine, but they’ll have less of a leg to stand on if we abandon the ‘combative’ stance of people like Dawkins. Let’s stop giving the opposition ammunition and instead show that we’re the better person in all of this.

  12. Yuk. Just remove the word “atheist” and replace it with the word “Jew” and you get an idea how disgusting this polemic is.

    If she hasn’t met an atheist who has a sense of joie de vivre, then she doesn’t get out much.

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