Life after Theism/Atheism Arguments

There’s a great article over at the Secular Student Alliance in which Camp Quest director Amanda K. Metskas talks about how tired she’s become of religious debates, and thinks a little about what might lie beyond them.

As someone who loves debate (including the religious variety) but also knows its limits, I’ve actually been mulling over a lot of these issues myself. We’ve heard, and are going to continue to hear, plenty of of arguments against religious beliefs and religion. And we’re going to see plenty of resulting pushback from believers, who are hardly going to give up their powerful dominance of society without a fight.

But let’s be serious for a second: at least in the short term, little of that is going to change anything: non-believers will be increasingly visible (get used to it!), but still a minority, and believers are not going to dump religion en masse. Given that, I often feel like there’s times and places where the discussion over who believes what and why and whether that’s justified or not just has to stop. It’s not always open for discussion: sometimes the issue is simply “here we are: figure out how to deal with it.”

I think most non-believers have spent their lives learning how to get along with, tolerate, and heck, vote for, believers (not like we have many choices!). Plenty of atheists bristle at religiosity (the likely apocryphal “hand-stabbing” atheists), or are even downright nasty and insulting to belief. But most of us pretty much stick to, at most, expressing ourselves heated words here and there, if we even bother. And we all get along just fine living and interacting with believers in the day to day.

I wonder if believers by and large know how to do the same back? Debates aren’t going away, but we can’t neglect the issue of figuring out how to get along better in the aftermaths.

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9 Responses to Life after Theism/Atheism Arguments

  1. Me, I have no problem with living side by side with believers, without any further argument. As long as they don’t judge, legislate or proselytize, I’ll be happy.

    But we do have to get rid of some laws on the books, and we do need to make sure we are not discriminated against because of our lack of beliefs, first. It’s the same thing all minorities have to go through. First it was blacks, then it was women, then gays, now non-believers.

    Society is in a the process of changing over the past 50 years. All for the better. We’re almost there.

  2. Bad says:

    Yeah, I mean, my point is largely that I think atheists already have a pretty high tolerance and acceptance for believers, even if it might not seem that way given the things the more outspoken of us have to say about belief. Not that many of us don’t have things still to learn about how to get along with religious folk, but believers have a lot to learn about us, and as they get used to having us around and in the open, we’re going to have to help them understand us in addition to both sides just trying to convince and convert (which is rarely going to be succesful).

  3. cragar says:

    Hi Bad, nice site, kind of looks familiar. :) I found you with the debating going on at john shore’s site.

    I think with the help of the internet and guys like Hitchens and Dawkins, it has made it a little easier to let it be known one is an atheist. For the first time in my life because of the blogs, I don’t feel like a lone person wondering why all of these people believe in a book that basically copied ideas from other myths/religions.

    As far as voting, truthfully in the past I have always looked at the candidates for selfish reasons, who is going to help my wallet more. But now that I am older (and wiser LOL), I am trying to look at the big picture now. That being said, no candidate in the near future is going to admit to even doubting about their religion, let alone not believing at all, as that would be political suicide.

  4. Bad says:

    Yeah, well I’m too cheap atm to shell out cash to wordpress for control over my CSS. :)

    Like you say, I don’t expect to see a national atheist candidate in the US for some time. I think at least for our lifetimes, we are going to have to focus on the situation of being a once hidden minority now out in the open making a place for ourselves in otherwise fairly religious society.

  5. Aww, c’mon! Some of my best friends are atheists. ;)

    Debating this stuff can be fun. You and I went a few rounds–which I hope you enjoyed as much as I did–but we kept it civil, intelligent, and one might even say, gentlemanly.

    But not everyone manages to stay as detached as you and I did. I’ve seen these things get really nasty, as no doubt have you. And really, for what? Neither side can ever really prove the other wrong.

    As you know, I have a set of beliefs that I’m comfortable with, forged as they were in the furnace of my own skepticism. And if I’m wrong? So what? Ultimately, whether or not God exists in any way, the universe seems to be chugging along quite nicely, and we really do have more important things to worry about.

    As for more worldly issues regarding this topic, I agree with you that Creationism belongs in Sunday school, not public school. Creationism has certainly gained ground thanks to President Nitwit and his farcical administration, but I strongly suspect that they will find a whole lot less sympathy from the next administration, which seems almost certain to be Democrat.

    -smith

  6. Bad says:

    Well, I disagree about the issue of whether we can prove specific arguments to be unfounded: that can and is done, and that’s an important part of advancing human knowledge and understanding.

    I do agree, however, that debate itself very rarely convinces a person to change their minds about what they believe, at least right there on the spot (human beings just aren’t generally wired that way). Debate is nevertheless still worthwhile, I think, primarily because it makes people think things out in action (whereas most of the time we simply believe this or that without much detail), and it exposes readers to range of ideas and arguments that are out there for various positions. Of course, anyone who tries to become informed about a subject just by reading or participating in debates though, is really fooling themselves (which, actually, is just another reason why Dawkins saying he won’t do the fast, verbal public debates that creationist showpeople demand is NOT arrogant at all! :)

    I still owe you plenty of responses from past discussions too by the way, but I’ve been so busy that I’ve been neglecting everything, including blogging. :)

  7. “I do agree, however, that debate itself very rarely convinces a person to change their minds about what they believe, at least right there on the spot (human beings just aren’t generally wired that way).”

    Geez, you got THAT right!

    I have debated creationists and atheists alike, and I’ve also participated in tobacco/anti-tobacco debates.

    [I smoke a pipe, so you can guess where I fall on that one. Anyway, do you spot a pattern here? ;>) ]

    I have never once seen anyone say something like, “Oh, wow! I never thought of THAT! You’re so RIGHT! How could I have been so blind?” before happily trotting over to the other camp. It seems like no one ever gives an inch, let alone conceding the other’s point.

    Ultimately, it all gets kind of tedious because after awhile you just keep hearing the same old stuff back and forth. Both sides have heard each others’ arguments hundreds of times, and have a response in the ready, which, as it turns out, has also been heard hundreds of times.

    I’m not saying one shouldn’t debate this stuff, of course. No doubt I will again. But after awhile you just say, “yeah, whatever” and move on to “icanhascheezburger”.

    No worries about the responses; we’ve certainly ground that one into a fine powder. If it saves you any typing, I’m willing to at least partially concede your point about Dawkins’ reluctance to debate, based on what I just wrote. I still have issues with Dawkins, as you might suppose, but I think I’ve expressed those sufficiently elsewhere. Having now been exposed to a broader range of atheistic thought (thanks in part to you), I have to confess that Dawkins is far from being the most radical atheist around.

  8. Bad says:

    Oh, Dawkins is positively cuddly compared to angry amateurs like this lady.

  9. “Oh, Dawkins is positively cuddly compared to angry amateurs like this lady.”

    Yup, I read her. All I can say is I’d hate to share an apartment with her. I can only imagine what would happen if I left the toilet seat up. ;>)

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