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Atheists Rally In Washington

Atheists rally on the Washington Mall. We’ll hear out what they believe, and want.

Reason Rally March 26, 2012 in Washington, D.C. (Aldene Gordon/Flickr)

Reason Rally March 26, 2012 in Washington, D.C. (Aldene Gordon/Flickr)

Everybody rallies, at some point, in America.

On Saturday, on the National Mall in Washington, it was American atheists’ turn to rally.  They carried banners calling for the total separation of church and state.  And they shouted out loud in an atheist chant:  “We’re here, we’re godless, get used to it!”

America is a country where belief in God is widespread and believers dominate a lot of political discourse.  This past weekend was atheists turn to say, “wait a minute, we’re here too, we’ve got rights, and we’ve got a perspective that the country may need.”

This hour, On Point: we hear from atheists in America.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Kimberly Winston, National Reporter for Religion News Service, where she covers non-theism and atheism.

James Randi, prominent atheist, scientific skeptic, and magician known as “The Amazing Randi”.

Hemant Mehta, a blogger for “The Friendly Atheist” and the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief.

From Tom’s Reading List

CNN “A coalition of atheist and secular organizations are coming together on Saturday to hold what is being billed at the largest gathering of atheists in history.”

Washington Post “”Atheists and nonbelievers gathered on the National Mall Saturday (March 24) in a bid to show politicians, voters and even themselves that they have grown into a force to be recognized and reckoned with.”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Walts/1366163819 Jim Walts

    Its something who’s time has come.  Religion was useful for a primitive people to try to understand their world.  It quickly because a tool to manipulate the masses.  So, I think it is great to get more exposure to the fact you don’t have to be religious. 

    • Robert Riversong

      You confuse belief, which is a guide to knowing and right living, with institutional religion, which is no different from any cultural institution as a tool for control.

       

      • Origami_isopod

        No, actually, I don’t “believe” in what is right, I *think* what is right.

  • Mark Plante

    I was there.  What a positive, inspiring, uplifting, and entertaining day!  Rain and all.  “We’re here, we’re godless, get used to it…and we vote!” 

  • UCC member

    I’m fine with Atheists but respect is a two way street.  Not every religious community is irrelevant/ uneducated/ anti-sicience.  -UCC member

    • gemli

      The extent to which one believes in superstition is the extent to which one denies the real world.  There is a place for feelings of spiritual connectedness to all things, but it doesn’t require that we create invisible realms, the rules of which vary depending on where we grew up and which Bible we read. 

      Education is no guarantee of having an affinity for science and a desire to understand the workings of the universe.  But when philosophies aren’t rooted in reality, then they’re rooted in myth and metaphor and superstition.  They have little to say about the real world, which is where we live and what we’re made of.  For centuries religion held back progress that by now might have cured cancer and other diseases which the real world dishes out.  Live and let live is a fine position to take, if only religion would do the same.

      • Robert Riversong

        Does the “real world” include quarks and muons and quantum fields and the “god particle” or Higgs boson?

        Is the force of gravity “real” or is space/time “really curved”? Is Newtonian physics “real” or is quantum mechanics “real”?

        What we call reality-based science is no less based on superstition and imagination than any other belief system, as well as on untestable and unprovable axioms as the foundation for the faith.

        And let’s not forget that it is science/technology which has caused climate change and the sixth great extinction of species, not religion.

        • gemli

          Yes, the real world consists of quarks and quantum fields and all other things that can be demonstrated to exist.  These things may run counter to our expectations, but that’s a problem with our expectations, not with the real world.

          The thing that separates real knowledge from superstition is that real knowledge can be built upon.  A computer is the result of
          thousands of discoveries made over centuries, each one sitting atop the
          other, and supporting those that follow.  If even one understanding is
          wrong, the whole chain is broken, and computers wouldn’t exist.

          Scientists may use their imagination to try to understand what they see, but nothing becomes law until it can be observed and measured.  That’s why science is not based on superstition, where imagination is never held to an objective standard.  No one is asked to merely “trust” science.  We can all verify these things for ourselves, if we take the time and effort.

          And science didn’t cause climate change.  Dependence on fossile fuels increased CO2 levels, which contributes to global warming, and that needs to be reduced.  I’m not sure anyone would want to go back to a time when prayers were the only recourse for pneumonia and cancer.

           

        • Origami_isopod

          Science is not a system of belief. It’s a method of testing facts against real-world evidence. Climate change and extinctions have come about because of human greed, but also because of apocalyptic xtian beliefs that jeebus and gawd are gonna rapture us up into heaven so we can just trash the planet anyway.

          You’re deluded, ignorant, and incoherent. 

          • Gregg

            Before greedy rapture loving human debris came on the scene there was plenty of warming, cooling (ice ages), extinctions (dinosaurs), continent colliding to form mountain ranges, etc.

            Expand your logic.

  • Jack Arnon5

    “We’re here, we’re godless, get used to it…and we vote!” 

    Would that we could decide the truth of metaphysical question through the ballot box.

    Majoritarian truth are often distortions of reality. Through of atheism   as of religious beliefs. 

    • Isaac, in Groton CT

       I’m not sure that the point of “we vote” is meant as a rallying call for discerning a fundamental truth. Rather it’s a reaction to the religious right in American Politics.

      To suggest that the conservative religious voters are trying to vote in the existence of God kind of belittles their beliefs, and the objections to their political goals. Fundamentally, government should not be telling us whether there is or is not a God, and should not be deriving its policy from one form of religious belief or another.

      • TFRX

        conservative religious voters are trying to vote in the existence of God kind of belittles their beliefs

        Tangent: I submit that that’s a fight between “theocons” and 1) non-theocratic right-wingers, or 2) non-political Christians or 3) some mainstream v. evangelical mixup.

        The live-and-let-live right-wing Christians might serve themselves well do to look at the right-wingnuts and figure out how much the latter are hurting the name of their religion, or the idea of Christianity in general.

        As a lefty, it’s not my fight, as very little of what I do would convince a right-wing theocrat-in-training sort to give up their goal.

  • Mark Plante

    Letting your representatives know that they must be aware of a large group’s collective voice is not the same as trying to answer metaphysical questions through a ballot box.

    And I would strongly argue that “majoritarian truth” (although that is not how I see democracy…assuming a well informed populace, anyway) is better served with voters who come to the polls seeking skeptical, secular representation.
    Both points are why, in my opinion, maintaining the wall between church and state serves us well as a nation, both the religious and the non.

  • JB

    Atheism?  What a joke.  Anybody with any common sense knows that God exists and that he is the creator of the universe.

    • Tiggrr

      Are you going to produce evidence, or is this just a baseless assertion?

    • Isaac, in Groton CT

       Common sense?

    • http://twitter.com/Zandatsu Kai

      It used to be common sense that the Sun revolved around the Earth. It’s funny how things change when people become more knowledgeable about the world around them.

    • Chris B

       That is so funny!

    • JustSayin

      Atheists can’t thank God for creating them to to deny His existence. But hey, its God’s will, and only an apostate would deny the teachings of atheism.

    • NrthOfTheBorder

      Some people are real good at saying dumb stuff… just to provoke a response.

    • Four Elements

      Pretty scary to think that fantasists like this can affect our lives.

    • Anonymous

      Ha! Some Monday morning satire!

    • Origami_isopod

      LOL argument by assertion.

      Also, “common sense” is almost always code for “something I pulled out of my behind because believing it makes me feel superior.”

  • Tim E

    Separation of church and state: What does not believing in god have to do with my vote?  What am I going to vote for, an imposition of my unbelief on other people?  What agenda do I as a human who does not believe in god have in the political arena?  Am I going to force an atheistic agenda on people through the ballot box, through the courts?  No, I’m not, no matter what kind of agenda an atheistic group, which does not represent me, tries to impose on the American people.  My concern is that I retain the freedom not to believe in a non-existent god, and I have that already.  My concern also is that people who believe in gods have the freedom to do, and I will resist any movement that seeks to intimidate or suppress religious freedom among my fellow Americans.

    • Robert Riversong

      “What agenda do I as a human who does not believe in god have in the political arena?”

      Since most atheists also consider themselves true believers in science as the salvation of humanity, the agenda (shared by atheists and the majority of religious, unfortunately), is to impose scientific “solutions” on the myriad geophysical problems created by scientific “solutions” to past problems.

      The irony of this approach (which some have equated with insanity – doing the same thing over and over even in the face of repeated failure), is that it is based on blind belief no less than Christian evangelism. But, unlike Christian evangelism (which, at worst brought us crusades and inquisitions), the blind belief in the efficacy of science has brought us to the brink of global ecological catastrophe, and its acolytes continue to believe that better science and technology will save us from our own foolishness.

      • Origami_isopod

        No, we do not **believe** in science. We know it to be useful and accurate when used correctly. 

        What’s your solution, Robert — hold hands and sing “Kumbaya”? Yeah, that’s really gonna help lower the temperature…

    • Corict

      What does it have to do with your vote? Vote not to elect people who intend to pass/enforce legislation based on the tenets of a specific religion rather than on the will of the people.

  • http://twitter.com/TweeterSmart b smart

    its one thing to want people to think logically and use reason, but its not cool to try and bludgeon belief out of people.
    i don’t think atheist do themselves a service focusing on removing religion. if they focused on critical and skeptical thinking in time the minds will change, but being divisive simply hardens the opposition against you.
    and i say this as someone who switched from the non-skeptical to the skeptical side!

    • NrthOfTheBorder

      If atheists do what die-hard evangelicals do, I agree.  But I wonder if part of the atheist message isn’t also a warning: It’s not just that there’s a lots passionate intensity afoot, there’s a lot of wigged out stupidity that goes with it.   

    • Patrik

      I don’t think aetheists try to bludgeon belief out of folks, I think it’s really the other way around and what you see is probably atheist pushing back.  As an atheist I see a lot of religious folks try to bludgeon me with believing what they blieve when I’m just minding my own business.  Sometimes they even become angry when they discover  I’m atheist. 0_0

      When they see someone doing well without having faith in a god it frustrates them and challenges what they believe without saying a word to them.

      • Ray in VT

        What has always puzzled/frustrated me is when religious people espouse the idea that unless you believe in God then you must be some sort of immoral degenerate.

        • Yatalk

          Not just “unless you believe in God”. Even that’s not enough for many people- it has to be THEIR god in order for you to be acceptable.

      • http://twitter.com/TweeterSmart b smart

        +1

  • Ed

    It isn’t a choice between faith and reason, they are the two ways that we reach out to grasp truth, we need them both, of course. They work together and support one another. In fact, reason can’t function without faith: reason draws conclusions from accepted premises, and where do the premises come from? They come from accepted axioms, i.e., faith. Reason only functions fully in the context of faith, cf Pope Benedict and his brilliant writings.

    This atheist view of reason goes back to Masonry.

    • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

      You had me until “reason can’t function without faith.” Or maybe you mean, those of us who are not religious just put all of our faith in reason.

    • JustSayin

       Faith is irrational. If it wasn’t it wouldn’t be faith. Belief is an act of faith, because there are no facts to support the belief.

      Science is not religion.
      Religion is not science.

      The world of science is still waiting for faith and religion to bring one tangible useful object into everyday life…

      Science and engineering has brought everything else, which are too innumerable to count… But a little acknowledgement of the real truthful power of science should be praised. This website, your computer, the internet, the language, font, the chair you are sitting in, the monitor, your dwelling, your food, your heat, your clothes, car…. OK, that’s enough.

      God? We are waiting…

      • Isaac, in Groton CT

        At some point, though, you’ve got to answer a question that you’re posing to yourself. At some point, when all the facts in the world fail you, there’s going to be a leap, be it of faith or logic, to some unsupported conclusion.

        While I wholeheartedly agree with your distinction between science and religion, I’m not so sure I can as readily sign onto your rejection of one, in favor of the other. They are not comparable, and thus, they are not mutually-exclusive.

        Though Newton was the first to figure out why, scientifically, the moon never falls down on us, we’d already come up with an answer to explain it to ourselves that wasn’t in any way scientific. And while it wasn’t truth, it certainly got us through the day.

        • JustSayin

           Perhaps, I was unclear. I do not reject faith in the unprovable. I do reject faith as the philosophical basis for science (although that argument is way too subtle for this forum).

          Newton was hyper-religious, but he was also good scientist, and a closet alchemist.

          The two are not incompatible depending on the depth and intelligence of the individual. Its when the individual has little intellectual and emotional depth, and hence no balance, between the rational and the irrational. Was it the mercury or the contradictions that made Newton insane.

          As usual, it is the extremists in a society that are the problem, They can only accept the extreme in either spectrum as the sole truth, and in an attempt for power and ego reinforcement will force their beliefs upon others.

          • Robert Riversong

            As a lover of science, I see your position as extremist and, in many ways, irrational and hence faith-based. Among other reasons, is that you believe that only what is tangible is real or efficacious. Apparently you’ve never known or felt love.

            That you should insist so aggressively that it’s not, is merely indicative of the extent to which your faith in science blinds you to its own superstitious and unprovable basis, and to the fact (yes, fact) that blind faith in science and its handmaiden, technology, has led us to the brink of global ecological catastrophe (which would have been impossible without it).

          • JustSayin

            As a practitioner of science. My position is not extremist or faith based. It is rational, mathematical and physical.

            You condemn me, science and technology, and use it as the scapegoat for your “brink of global ecological catastrophe”.

            It is the shallowest of partisan reasoning, and prejudicial at best.

            If you believe this about technology, why? Did God warn you about overpopulation, pollution, fossil fuels, acidification, or are you basing your beliefs on science.

            Science does not destroy the world. People and their, petty fears, ego’s, greed, hate and irrational beliefs will destroy the habitat of people.

            …And no technology is not necessary for ecological disaster. But, you would have to believe in the Siberian Traps as per the Permian age.

          • amyc

             Love is real and efficacious. You can demonstrate your love for someone through your actions. You can measure the chemicals that create the common sensation we call the feeling of “love” in our brains using MRI machines. To say that love or any other emotion is not tangible would be to assume that we cannot demonstrate our feelings through action. Feelings without action are essentially useless and/or nonexistent. The only feelings that are intangible are the ones that you are not feeling.

            Your assertions that science and technology destroy the world are just plain ridiculous. Widespread greed and not enough foresight are destroying the world. The same science that gave you the computer with which you could leave your comment is the same science that could find a solution to our energy problems, and it’s the same science that is constantly ignored and/or abused by the right-wing in America.

        • Joshua Hendrickson

          There are lots of ideas that “get us through the day,” and that may be essentially harmless.  But that doesn’t excuse those baseless ideas that essentially support our prejudices and hatreds, and fuel pogroms, inquisitions, and suicide bombings.

      • Ray in VT

        One could certainly argue that faith and belief are, or can be useful, in everyday life, although it certainly isn’t tangible.

        I don’t think that science and faith need be irreconcilable, at least within a person’s worldview, although they may at times be contradictory.

        • TFRX

          But when was the last time our mainstream media covered scientists who were church-going Christians? (I chose the example “Christian” simply to put one over the fat part of the plate.)

          The ordinary news consumer gets fed the horsecrap that one cannot be both a good Christian and a real scientist. It is very much akin to how “Catholics v. contraception” is about the USCCB v. contraeption, not all the Catholic groups who are fine with the last Obama jujitsu move, or the 95% of Catholics who use contraception.

          That’s not accurate coverage, merely a pale imitation of the story that copies (surprise) Fox News’ framing.

          And (my favorite wrap up) it’s never a part of the narrative.

          • Ray in VT

             The only one scientist who comes to mind who is open about his faith is the guy who headed the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins maybe, who is an evangelical Christian.  Most of the Christians whom I know see no problem reconciling their faith with scientific observation, even if it conflicts with what is written in the Bible.

          • Four Elements

            EVERYTHING conflicts with the Bible, because it conflicts with itself.

          • JustSayin

             Because there is real power in extremism. Being rational will never bring power, or wealth, or even slight praise.

          • TFRX

            But the mainstream media does a lot of work for the wingnuts by sanding off the crazee.

            Those wingnuts get a pass, far too often, them as normal, as RealAmerica(TM), by the narrative that “they’re affronting you, fundie Protestants, by not swallowing the USCathConfBishops’ birth control position”.

            This is just another failing of the mainstream media bubble. For example, too many of those tastemakers don’t have to worry about being in East Nowhere, Missltucky, and having to go through The Only Pharmacist in Town, who doesn’t believe in The Pill.

            Athiests know people, or can imagine people, in that situation. Our Beltway Inbreds, by and large, can’t see the threat that represents to real people.

          • JustSayin

            It is a success for fascism though. Fascism and religion are two faces of the same totalitarian coin.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6quwxV-5SE&feature=related 

          • TFRX

            Was it Sinclair Lewis who said “Fascism will arrive here carrying the Cross”?

          • JustSayin

             Yes but I think its:
            “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

          • TFRX

            How could I have forgotten the “flag” part of that quote?

            Thanx for the clarification.

          • Robert Riversong

            Love is irrational. Joy is irrational. Living a life in complete service to others is irrational. And, yet, these are the most praiseworthy of all things and offer a wealth that money will never bring.

          • JustSayin

             I wrote: “Being rational will never bring power, or wealth, or even slight praise.”

          • Joshua Hendrickson

            Those things aren’t necessarily irrational.  They are emotional, which may or may not be buttressed by reason.  Reason is not the ultimate measurement of value (as opposed to truth), but irrationality is no measurement of value at all.

          • Origami_isopod

            Hate is irrational. Greed is irrational. Praying to imaginary beings is irrational.

            Love, joy, and altruism may not be precisely rational, but they bring benefits of health to the individual and cohesion to a community or family.

            Also, it might be “praiseworthy” to live a life in complete service to others, but given how many of us, especially women and people of color, are pushed into doing so because we’re at the bottom of the totem pole, I think it’s praiseworthy to live the life one really wants to live, so long as one isn’t hurting others.

          • amyc

             Christian scientists (not referencing the crazy religious group) do exist, that much we can agree on. Just because they exist doesn’t necessarily mean that they are compatible. Humans are very good at compartmentalizing ideas and beliefs. Many people who hold contradictory beliefs and over-use this tool begin to feel the uncomfortable sensation of cognitive dissonance.

      • denis

        It would seem faith is in fact a big part of science… when a hypothesis is first set forward there is a large amount of faith that the conclusion will be as hoped for.

        • JoeBuddha

          The deal is that science takes the next step: Looks for Evidence in support of the hypothesis. If evidence is not found, the hypothesis is withdrawn. There is no such check in religion.

        • Anonymous

          Thus demonstrating no real understanding of science.

          “Conclusions” aren’t “hoped for.”

      • Anonymous

        “Science and engineering has brought everything else…”

        Well, not exactly.

        “Science” doesn’t make plants photosynthesize, doesn’t make flowers bloom, doesn’t make it rain. Science attempts to understand quantifiable aspects of the universe we are able to perceive. It’s a tool.

        Neither science nor engineering will tell you whether or not to help someone up who has fallen, to stop for a pedestrian in a cross walk, or to keep an eye on an elderly neighbor.

        Nor do we need religion for these things.

        The science-religion dichotomy is only so useful.

    • NrthOfTheBorder

      Ed, spoken like a true Catholic.

      • Origami_isopod

        Unfortunately.

    • Anonymous

      Faith with a veneer of logic applied to a false premise is theology not reason. 

    • Origami_isopod

      Reason and faith are diametrically opposed. If you take something on faith, you are by definition not examining it critically.

      Then again, I don’t really expect much intelligence from someone who describes the writings of Ratzi the Nazi as “brilliant.” The RCC is one of the biggest obstacles to human progress the planet has ever hosted.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    There is a place where “live and let live” bumps up against reality and that’s in the push by Republicans to return power to states and local communities to determine what is taught in their schools.

    I’m all for a great books look at the history of world religions and the teaching of evolution, but my guess is that many evangelicals would like creationism taught either along side evolution or instead of it. If this is determined at the local level then what good is having a constitution that attempts to separate church and state?

    I think one of the reasons Republicans are “bleeding the beast” that is public education by attempting to get rid of the Department of Education is to better allow states rights in determining curricula. If this happens no doubt Kansas and many other states will be teaching creationism in pubic schools.

  • Lin

    I can’t believe we’re even having this discussion in 2012. Of course our country has to have complete separation of church and state. It’s one of our founding tenets. Duh. I don’t care WHO fights for it. It simply must be.

    Those who want to impose a Christian god and their exclusive teachings on the great melting pot that is this country are the most dangerous of zealots. We should and keep every absolutist as
    far and sealed off from the presidency as possible.

  • Hidan

    If they can reduce the crazies attempts at combining Church and State more power to them.

  • Anonymous

    I completely support this movement, but I wonder how people view separation of religion and state when it comes to organizations that aren’t quite religion?  Many Eastern mystic traditions fall into this ‘quasi’ category, like buddhism and the advaita vedantas.  Yes certain Eastern mystics talk of a One-ness, but it’s not the same as the Judeo-Christian Gods, in that there is no impugning of human attributes, nor can this one-ness be an entity as God possesses in the West.  A lot of eastern practices look like religion, but their text is decidedly not religious and Western philosophers have had a hard time categorizing them.

    • Yatalk

      For myself, I view the beliefs you mention as beliefs that anyone should be free to hold. I would not want them to become a legislated policy just as I do not want Christianity (or any other religion) to be mixed up with lawmaking.

  • gemli

    I don’t care about religion as it’s constituted today any more than I care about Zeus or Thor or any other previous manifestations of supernatural worship.  My aim isn’t to battle religion; it’s to argue against anything that denies or discredits commons sense, logic, and reason.  Religion is trying to assert itself politically, demanding that reality conform to superstition in the classroom, in our hospitals, and in our courts.  People realize that our lives today are far longer, healthier, and free from the misery that beset earlier generations.  God must have heard many prayers to relieve suffering, or to spare a sick child.  But only when penicillin was added to prayer did things start to improve.  People are not going to be dragged back to the middle Ages without a fight, and the political ring is where that battle will take place.

  • Gregg

    I think the right to assemble is fine, ditto free speech.  But why do atheist want to impose their beliefs on me? Why is there a fuss about separation of church and state? The line seems clear to me.

    • Isaac, in Groton CT

      In regards to imposing beliefs, Gregg: they don’t want to impose their beliefs on you. What makes you think they do?

    • NrthOfTheBorder

      Atheists are a whole lot less evangelistic than your comment suggests. Seems to me they are the [mostly] the take or leave it crowd and [most] couldn’t care less about what you believe – or not.

    • Isaac, in Groton CT

      In regards to the separation of Church and State: the fuss has been made because the religious right has made it, once again, their goal to impose their personal ideologies upon the nation.

      From birth control to transvaginal ultrasounds, there’s a fuss about separation of church and state because there are some folks intent on blurring the line that you perceive to be so clear.

      • Gregg

        The only imposition regarding birth control is by Obamacare demanding Catholics provide it. The line is clear.

        • denis

          The correct statement would be Catholic businesses would be required to have birth control; an option in the insurance plan. Quite different than “demanding Catholics to provide it

          • Gregg

            Actually there is no difference and ultimately it comes at the point of a gun.

          • JoeBuddha

            Actually, there is no mandate. That was solved shortly after they made a fuss; woman can get what they NEED outside their employers’ healthcare provisions and the employers can opt out. The fact that you folx keep on about it means you’re either LYING to keep the meme alive or ignorant. My money is on the former.

          • Origami_isopod

            Boo hoo hoo. You live in a pluralistic society, and your church gets immense benefits from the tax structure and loads of undeserved goodwill. They can suck it up and stop trying to shove their misogynist agenda down the throats of those of us who are smart enough not to be Catholic.

        • Isaac B.

          No, the ACA does not demand that Catholics provide birth control. It demands that employers provide health insurance that includes in its coverage birth control.

          Being that employers provide health insurance as a form of compensation, do you believe that a Catholic employer can make its paychecks conditional on the employee not using them for birth control or, heaven forbid, abortion?

        • Origami_isopod

          Oh, never mind, I see why you project. Xtian wingnuts always accuse their opponents of doing what they themselves do or plan to do.

    • Ray in VT

      I think that this would have been hilarious to attend.  I would have loved to have seen Eddie Izzard and Bad Religion (again).

      I do think that most atheists push their (non)beliefs on people.  I don’t like the aggressive stance of the “new atheists” like Richard Dawkins.  I don’t feel or see the need to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  Having lost whatever faith that I had around age 7 I grew up not believing, and I took some real flak for it.  I try not to pass that along.

      A lot of non religious people, and even some religious people, think that there should be a clear line of separation, but they feel that that line is under constant attack by those who wish to push their religious views/agendas on others.  I have to admit that I feel that way sometimes.

      • Hidan

         What Richard Dawkins does is fight back against those religious people pushing there religion on others. He knows full well that those folks who believe in there own fairly tales are not going to listen to soft reason. So he calls them out and points out there fallacy. I’m sure he would love to be less confrontational.

        We currently have people running for president that believe so terrible things base on there religion. Softly questioning them on it is not going to help the people (if in office) there going to discriminate.

        • Ray in VT

          I know why he takes the stance that he does, and I do not like how some figures in this country mingle religion and politics, but I still don’t have to like his tone.  I’ve chosen to take the soft irreligion line.  When occasionally someone whom I know tries to save my soul, then I thank them for their concern, which is genuine on their part.

          • Anonymous

            I find people trying to save my soul as annoying as they would find me telling them that they believe in fairy tales which I only do when provoked.  I don’t go around knocking on doors or handling out pamphlets. 

          • Ray in VT

            This mostly happens with people whom I actually know, and it doesn’t really bother me.  It also usually only happens once per person.

          • Anonymous

            Those hordes of pesky Zen Buddhist solicitors are a real problem in our neighborhood.

      • Gregg

        You know Ray, nobody knows or understands the ultimate truth. I think the danger comes from those who think they do and look with disdain at those who have a different view. Atheist generally regard Christians as unenlightened zealots but they don’t know what happens when you die or what happened the day before the universe was formed or how high the sky is. Belief or non belief is all about faith. I don’t see what’s so hard about respecting that. Your particular brand of atheism seems to acknowledge that, thanks.

        • Ray in VT

          I am pretty aware of what I don’t know, and it provides a lot of uncertainty about what happens next (nothing is my belief) or what came before the Big Bang.  I don’t think that science can answer some questions, like why are we here.  Just because isn’t really satisfactory, even if it ultimately is the truth.  Many people want certainty and the comfort that belief can provide, and I see nothing wrong or weak in that.

          I know some atheists who are anti-religious who do view believers as ignorant or weak or something, and that’s just … I don’t know what it is, but it’s not right.  I think that people should be left alone as much as is possible.  There are unenlightened religious zealots.  There always have been and there probably always will be, but one need not lump all Christians in with groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, whom I find to be very distasteful in their actions.

          We could all do with more civility and understanding of the views and beliefs of others.  Can’t we all just get along?

          • Gregg

            “Many people want certainty and the comfort that belief can provide, and I see nothing wrong or weak in that.”

            IMO that nails it. I believe religion is a way of dealing with one’s mortality in a way that is comforting. That seems weak minded to some. I tend to agree with you that nothing happens when you die but even that is faith and a way to regard mortality without fear of eternal damnation.

        • Anonymous

          While we, as a species do not know what happens when we die, other than that we are no longer physically alive, the science on the how high the atmosphere is well known.

          We have the Troposphere:extends to between 9 km (30,000 ft) at the poles and 17 km (56,000 ft) at the equator, the
          Stratosphere: extends from the tropopause to about 51 km (32 mi; 170,000 ft), and the
          Mesosphere extends from the stratopause to 80–85 km (50–53 mi; 260,000–280,000 ft).

          Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth

          By the way I respect peoples faith, it’s a personal thing and I do think it should stay that way.

          • Gregg

            By “Sky” I meant the other side of the edge of the universe.

      • Origami_isopod

        You’re entitled to your opinions, but you’re not entitled to have me respect them. 

        I have no use for “moderate” theists who spend their time whining about atheists instead of fighting the theocrats.

        • Ray in VT

          I am on friendly terms with many people who I think hold strange or crazy views.  We leave well enough alone, and even though we may not totally respect each others views, we at least respect each other enough to not poke each other about those views.

    • Anonymous

      Do you believe what Hindu’s believe? Do you believe what Muslims believe? Do you Believe what Jews believe? Do you believe what Buddhist’s believe? Do you believe what Mormons believe? Do you believe what Wikans believe? If any one of those groups that you do not share beliefs with were in control of the government, what would you say then?

      The Pilgrims escaped religious persecution in England so they could exercise their own persecution of others in America. At the time of the revolution, various Christian sects would kill members of the other Christian sects if they were found in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      How many millions have died in the name of God over the centuries? How many times has the name of God been used to manipulate situations and consolidate power?

      Recognizing this, the founding fathers separated church and state.

      • Gregg

        I believe some of what all those religions believe and don’t rule out any of it. I would not be concerned if any where in charge of our Government because our Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

        How many people have died in the name of Allah in the last decade? There’s no need to go back centuries. This in enabled by theocracies which we are not and cannot become.

        • Ray in VT

          We are not a theocracy, but we could become one.  Now, that is not a commentary on current politics, but just a view that laws and rights only exist as long as we believe in them and fight for them.  Could we slide into a theocracy?  Sure.  Will we someday?  Maybe.  Soon?  Nah.

          People still do fight, die and kill for their beliefs.  I think that that is less so today than it has been historically.  Europe did that for many years, but we’ve moved past that.  We’ve found other reasons/justifications to kill each other for the past few centuries.

          Religion has given us many beautifully inspired works of art and literature, and it has also wrought great destruction.  Neither aspect should be ignored.

        • Anonymous

          “Gott Mit Uns” = “God with us” was used the Nazi’s in part to justify the hostilities resulted in the deaths of 60 million people give or take 20 or 30 million in the Pacific theater. The Crusades were a skirmish by comparison. I think Christianity has the lock on 1st place in being abused my political leaders… I am Christian.

          • Gregg

            I disagree, people have been bastardized interpretations of holy books forever. If there is a God she doesn’t condone NAZI death camps, I’m quite sure. 

          • Anonymous

            And how have popes and other religious leaders not bastardized the Bible? Selling salvation, promising redemption, hiding the truth… Pedophilia case in point today?

            If you look back at the original Aramaic writings and read them in context, scholars will tell you… things have changed. When you understand there are contradictions, you accept interpretation, but whose interpretation, yours? Mine?

            If I say that I speak for God, that I know what this or that means as God intended, what are you going to say? I’m sure that you would disagree with me on that single point.

            I don’t speak for God. I express my opinion based upon what I believe God is… just like every other human being: be they pope or supreme leader.

            Who’s going to decide who’s speaking for God for the USofA? The founding fathers said NOBODY!

        • Origami_isopod

          And how many have died in the name of jeezus? Let’s start with all the people in Africa who’ve died because Ratzi and JPII opposed condom distribution. Or how about women who’ve died from illegal abortions or dangerous pregnancies because a bunch of celibate old men think they get to dictate sexual morality to women?

    • Anonymous

      It does to you, but there is a history in this country that begs to differ.

      Not to mention that candidates such as Santorum have very clear view points on this that seem to me to want to blur that distinction or completly do away with.

      Not to mention that in some states, such as Tennessee they already have. The legislation in that state passed a law that is nothing short of anti-science and is a direct influence of evangelical religious doctrine.

    • Anonymous

      What beliefs are being imposed on you by which atheists? Be specific.

      Where’s the separation when the currency i use says “In God We Trust”?

      I “trust” no “God.”

      • Gregg

        “In God we trust” is in no way a “law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”. It’s a few words on money. 

        • Anonymous

          Again, what beliefs are being imposed on you by which atheists?

        • Four Elements

          It’s also a filthy invasive repressive ploy

        • Origami_isopod

          Yeah, a few words on money vs. your bishops trying to tell me what I can do with my own damn uterus. Cry me a river.

    • Origami_isopod

      Project much?

  • Hidan

    From TED

    Richard Dawkins: An atheist’s call to arms

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxGMqKCcN6A

    Dan Dennett: A secular, scientific rebuttal to Rick Warren

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTepA-WV_oE&feature=relmfu

  • Anonymous

    People are free to believe whatever they want.  That doesn’t mean that I have to accept beliefs without evidence as being equally valid as ones that have evidence.  Public policy should not be based upon religion.  Churches should not be subsidized. 

    • Gregg

      Are churches subsidized? I understand you did not say they were. I don’t know the answer but often the distinction between a subsidy and an exemption is blurred. They are completely different.

      • Anonymous

        They don’t pay taxes.  Donations are tax exempt.  They receive government money to administer services and are not held to the same standards as all other employers. 

        • Gregg

          Okay, so you are considering tax exemption a subsidy.

          • Brett

            Do you consider getting federal and state funding as a regular piece of their fiscal pie subsidizing them? 

          • Gregg

            Sure. If money is exchanged (it’s not with a tax exemption) then it’s a subsidy.

        • JustSayin

          I think they still get the “Faith based initiatives” that GWB got enacted, and that Obama continued.  Yep, that’s a religious subsidy.

        • TFRX

          And Churches went though a ton of politicking from the pulpit, at least in 2004.

          That’s the kind of behavior that should get a church’s tax-exemptness revoked.

          • Gregg

            Obama is asking churches to spread his message from the pulpit right now. Does it bother you?

  • Brettearle

    If the Constitution specifically mandates a separation of Church and State–although such an edict is, periodically, a matter of debate and interpretation–then the Athiests are within their democratic rights to demand such an arrangement in public life.  

    I believe God exists–but that doesn’t mean I support any claim that violates the Constitution.

    If citizens wish to challenge the current accepted interpretation, in the Constitution–which upholds the separation of Church and State–then let them petition Congress and start an effective Movement. 

    • Gregg

      The Constitution does not specifically mandate the separation of church and state. The phrase does not appear in the document anywhere.

      • Brettearle

        I’ve heard that said, over and over again.

        If that’s true, then why are Nativity Scenes banished from the lawns of City Halls?

        Why is School Prayer challenged as unconstitutional?

        Where is it written that the Constitution DOESN’T mandate the Separation? 

        Who says that the Constitution shouldn’t specifically state that there is NO separation–if, indeed, we are to allow for such a union?

        • Ray in VT

          I think that the phrase “wall of separation” was used by Jefferson, and I think that that is what he viewed the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment as doing, but that exact phrasing does not exist in the document.

          “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

          This originally applied only to the Federal government, and at least Massachusetts had an established church well into the 19th century.

  • Jesus saves

    You can’t deny that as the U.S. turns it’s back on it’s Christian heritage, faith and traditions, this once great nation of ours goes deeper into decline as a result.

    • Ray in VT

      I certainly can and would.

    • Anonymous

      Decline? Define what our “Christian heritage” was in a historical sense. As one who was born Jewish I’m ready to hear what exactly this means. 

      • Patrik

        I think they mean the heritage & tradition of hunting down those who don’t convert to what they believe and slaughter them.  e.g. Saracens, Moors, Native Americans…

      • Anonymous

        Don’t feel excluded.  They add Judeo to Christian when they need Lieberman’s vote.

        • Anonymous

          I suppose all those signs in shops all over the nation at one time telling Jews, Blacks and dogs that they were not welcome means nothing. Religion and the idea of defining the world through this lens is very troubling to me when it starts to dictate what is Godly and whom is welcome into it.

        • Laurie

          Exactly. They only care about the “Judeo-” part when they want to justify something.

    • Brettearle

      To use a resurgence of Christianity as an excuse, for the potential `downfall’ of our country, ignores the beliefs of many religious devotees of other faiths and those secular citizens who practice humanitarian fellowship.

      By implication, you are suggesting that Christianity cures all of us, to the point where the country will be saved–because we will not fall from God’s grace if we believe in God, through Christianity. 

      I seriously doubt that God would look down on your comment and respect it.

      The plight of the human condition cannot be saved if everyone believes, simply, in Chrisitanity–and to recommend such a potential requirement does nothing but to make solutions more difficult, in our country.

      Such a claim ignores an opportunity for millions of people, who are not Christian, to believe what they wish to believe–and still be men, women, and children of
      good-will, upstanding character and constructive
      industry.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, our “Christian heritage” did so much to help the indigenous North Americans, slaves, women who weren’t allow to vote, Chinese Americans during World War II…

    • Four Elements

      its

      • Anonymous

        That’s the least of what needs correction.

    • Yatalk

      Making 2 statements (the “US turns its back on its Christian heritage” and our nation “goes deeper into decline”) does not prove cause and effect.
      I had a sandwich for lunch. It was dark when I got home from work. Both true, but the sandwich did not make it dark out tonight.

      I’m not even going to get into whether your statements are provable facts.

  • Anonymous

    It’s funny how there are over 66 comments already and the show will not begin for another hour and a half. I guess when it comes to atheism people don’t need to listen before formulating an opinion.

    • Ray in VT

      This happens a lot on political or cultural hot topics.  It’s pretty civil so far this morning.

  • aj

    John the Baptist is severely under-rated historically.

    That said, if I as a first century Gallilean, crossed paths with the radical preaching Palestinean Jew. Though I am not a circumsized jew, my word as bond, I’d of been with him as he rode a donkey into Jerusalem willing to die for the struggle.

    But that doesn’t make him my lord and saviour, that would of made him my comrade. Had you known the man, Jesus of Nazareth, I suspect you would feel similarly. 

    I swear I can see “heaven” in Audrey Hepburn’s brown eyes more than I could ever see “heaven” in Jesus’ brown eyes.Oh I forgot, Jesus was the one and only Palestinean with blue iris’.

    Resurrection you claim? What resurection? The Canon’s gospels were written decades later by scribes who never knew the man. Mark, the earliest gospel does not even touch upon this fantastical “resurrection”. 

    Saul, the father of what would become Christianity manifested in the Roman Catholic tradition, never even knew the man!!!

    Though one must admire brave early Christians fervent devotion even in death.

    (In the Province of Africa lived 2 newly baptised young pregnant Christian women Perpetua and her servant Felicias. Together in the arena both were publicly torn apart by wild animals at Carthage in AD 203. Felicitas and Perpetua became celebrated among Christians as saints, followed by a narrative of the martyrdom. These Acts were soon read aloud in Churches throughout the Empire)

    I beg to ask the question, why did Peter the Apostle (therock of Jesus’ church, the one who knew the Nazarene’s very scent, the one who spent many a moon with JC, brothers for all intensive purposes) why then Peter’s 3 denials of Jesus on the night of his lord’s arrest?  And yet so many willing martyrs, down the centuries, for a MAN they never knew? You answer the resurrection.  Which in fact NEVER HAPPENED.

    4th century “Christians” in Egypt destroyed the irreplaceable library of Alexandria, tragically setting back the natural sciences for ATLEAST a millenia! All in the name of “Christ”! But what would Jesus the MAN have said about these barbarousactions?

    Don’t tell me about Abraham’s “God”, if you have never read Confucious; or if you dont know that in the story of Buddha grace comes from the kind heart of a girl who sees him starving and feeds him her rice; or if you even in the slightest justifythe holocaust of millions of THEE Americans and the imprisoning of their posterity on reservations rendering them strangers in their own land; or if you cant learn from the migratory birds who fly overhead for thousands of miles never lost for their eldershave taught them the landmarks along the way and which the flock now teaches the young the same way to be flown twice a year for millions of years more than any “enlightened” homosapian existence!

    Is their not enough heaven in that alone? A spirit equal if not superior to your man-made deities?

    If not, don’t tell me about Abraham’s “God”, because I KNOW it is no more than ancient Sumerian stories like the epic of Gilgamesh and remnants from the first monotheist Pharoah Akenhaten and his remarkable Queen Nefertiti.
    Dont tell me about your god, when your fellow living comrades go on starving to death, and your fellow living creatures go extinct.
    In their well being is your salvation. My beloved comrade Jesus of Nazareth taught me that.

    • aj

      Wishing everyone a blesswed and happy Easter :)

  • AC

    hmmmm. i can never make up my mind which God is the right one…..so many insist THEIRS is the best.
    & thats why i believe in church being totally seperated from state. well, at least until there is a world-wide consensus. which won’t happen, since too many make their living & derive power from working for their various gods…..

  • Brett

    The certainty with which both atheists and religious people express their views indicates to me that neither has any kind of insight. Most of the stories from the Bible are just plain silly, from the Garden of Eden to angels being sent down to protect Jesus from King Herod, to the ark, and so on. I don’t have to “know” anything to not believe those stories. The Bible seems just a human construct as is religion itself. It does serve some social purpose in society, which has positive components as well as undesirable ones.

    Generally, I am not bothered by religion or religious people. I will say that many religious people I know have a kind of smugness about them as if they do “know” all about God, Jesus, Heaven, Hell, sin, and so on. Many atheists I know seem as adamant in their beliefs. 

    As far as laws go, churches should NOT be tax exempt. Their schools and hospitals should neither have tax exempt status nor receive any governmental funding (yes, Gregg, in addition to tax exemptions they do receive subsidies) if they wish to compete in the marketplace just like any other business. 

    • Anonymous

      The certainty isn’t equal.  Most atheists would admit they don’t know everything and would change their views with additional evidence.  Religious people usually claim they know the answers to the big questions and when confronted with evidence contradicting their beliefs they either reject the evidence or twist it to confirm to their existing beliefs. 

      • Brett

        An atheist with uncertainty is called an agnostic. (although, I will agree that religious people cling to their beliefs with a kind tenacity that seems to exceed most atheists). 

        • Anonymous

          “I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden.” – Richard Dawkins

        • Patrick

          Really, the atheist/agnostic distinction is one that’s never been compelling to me.  I understand the difference, but all agnostics are atheists in practice.  Both see no reason to believe in a deity, and both believe that the existence of god is as likely as the existence of the giant spaghetti monster.

        • Anonymous

          I think an agnostic thinks that the claims about the existence or non-existence of diety’s are unknowable. 

        • TFRX

          I was waiting for someone to mention athiests and agnostics simply to drop this clip. (Caution: Adult Swim material.)

        • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

          Agnostic/gnostic refers to knowledge (which to me is still fishy because how do you *know* something is *unknowable*?) while atheist/theist refers to belief.

  • aj

    ” Preacher man, don’t tell me, Heaven is under the earth. I know you don’t know What life is really worth. It’s not all that glitters is gold, half the story has never been told.So now you see the light, eh! Stand up for your rights. 
     
    Most people think, Great god will come from the skies, Take away everything And make everybody feel high. But if you know what life is worth, You will look for yours on earth. And now you see the light, You stand up for your rights. jah!
     
    We sick an’ tired of your ism-skism game – Dyin’ ‘n’ goin’ to heaven in-a Jesus’ name, lord. We know when we understand: Almighty god is a living man. You can fool some people sometimes, But you can’t fool all the people all the time. So now we see the light (what you gonna do?), We gonna stand up for our rights! 
    So you better: Get up, stand up! (in the morning! git it up! ) Stand up for your rights! stand up for our rights!” 
     
    -Bob Marley

    • Yatalk

      Too many people have lied in the name of Christ
      For anyone to heed the call
      So many people have died in the name of Christ
      That I can’t believe it all.
      Graham Nash

  • Wes

    As my wife so elequently pointed out, while many of our country’s founding fathers may have been Christians, they didn’t want those in government to use religion to justify their bad behavior!

    • TFRX

      Tangent on your nomenclature: I thought the word “Deist” was used heavily back then because the FFs didn’t want to have any particular church get too big for its britches laying claim to their work.

      They were fighting against the Divine Right of Kings, after all. It doesn’t get any more “God is on my side” than that.

  • Pingback: We've come a long way! - Page 5 - City-Data Forum

  • Patrick

    Religion is going the way of the dodo.  Before the scientific revolution, religions never had to contend with a belief system that made objective and verifiable claims about the nature of reality.  Now, in the face of that, in only a few hundred years, the strength of religious authorities has already waned dramatically.  Just extrapolate into the future.

    Mark my words – within three generations, all religious privilege will be expunged from the public square in all pluralistic democracies.

    Simple demographics tell the story – each generation is less religious, than the one before.  For everything that we might point to as a modern example of religious extremism, the analogous example in the previous generation was far crazier and more brutal.  This is a slower process in less-developed societies, but it is happening nonetheless.

    • AC

      did you ever see this? scared the pants off me!!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Camp

      • Patrick

        Yes, but any parent knows that brainwashing your kids is practically impossible.  Even for those who succeed initially, their kids will be increasingly out-of-touch in their peer group, and under a lot of pressure to conform to the dominant non-religious lifestyle.  Thus, they become culturally marginalized; the new “extremists,” in effect.

        Just witness Rick Santorum – home schooling and railing against higher education, in order to hide reality from his kids.  It’s not an approach that will be successful in enough cases to reverse the larger trend.

    • Ray in VT

      I would have to disagree with your conclusions.  I think that although the authority of religious leaders and institutions have waned somewhat, many people are still religious in a less organized or in a more local way.

      Religion and faith have been important aspects of the human condition, and I think that even if older beliefs or traditions change or fade, then new ones will emerge.  There was that great South Park episode about Dawkins and religion where religion was disproven by Dawkins, so in the future society worshiped and fought over what he said..

      • Patrick

        Ray, be honest.  The authority of religious leaders, in the centuries since the scientific revolution, has waned dramatically.  In the west, in a historical sense, it is almost completely gone.

        Their main product – answers to questions about the nature of observable reality – is no longer of value.  Of course, ethical and philosophical questions remain, but these can be better handled by ethics and philosophy that aren’t burdened by clearly mythological origins (great flood, Eve from Adam’s rib, etc.).The rise of “spiritual but not religious” is the answer to your point.  Again, just look at demographics; younger people have no need for religion.  The world and the human condition are changing, as they always have.

        • Ray in VT

          Hi Patrick.  I think that the power of the highest echelon of religious leaders has diminished, although the Pope certainly commands great power.  I think that the power of local leaders is still quite strong, depending upon the individual believer, but that is also perhaps not once what it was.

          I think that traditional beliefs have declined somewhat among younger people in at least the West, but many still hold strong religious convictions.

          • TomK in Boston

            No doubt true in VT, Ray. Been to a red state lately?

          • Gregg

            Is it your view religion is a partisan matter?

          • TomK in Boston

            I wouldn’t put it that way, but facts are facts. The redder the state, the more christian the younger people.

          • BHA in Vermont

             I think one ‘proof’ of Patrick’s point is the huge % of U.S. Catholic women who have used birth control (and that does not count the rhythm method). The church say absolutely NO. The women who don’t have to have children at whatever point in time say YES.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chewie-Solo/100003654098461 Chewie Solo

    Here’s my video of the Reason Rally, there was a decent turnout considering the rain and all.  
      
    In the video, there are people arguing at the end.  
      
    http://youtu.be/y2QEjZwg1BQ 

  • Anonymous

    As an agnostic, having studied government and philosophy in college, I wanted to weigh in with two ideas.

    1.) Will Deming defined religion as “an orientation to ultimate reality.” Deming understands that humans require some basic orientation to the world we live in, with respects to: values, right and wrong, a narrative that broadly gives us insight into how it is we should live. 

    2.) Reading the works of de Tocqueville, Putnam, and others — communities (and nations) tend to do better with stronger, more trusting civil societies.  Religions tend to promote stronger civil society.  Further, Confucius acknowledged that the most civilized nations have no laws, as people did not require laws to keep them civil.  Religions help individuals look beyond self-interest, and see the worth of others.

    That said, one issue I think that plagues the atheist movement, is an inability to provide this basic ‘orientation to ultimate reality’ — that is, beyond a rejection of a deity, what does atheism stand for?  What core values does it promote?  How do we understand right and wrong?  How does it reconcile the big questions, and what does it say about how we should interact with others?   Is atheism at all normative, or is it completely relativist?

    I am interested in how your guests would weigh in on the above questions. 

    To put this ‘orientation’ into context — on the question of universal healthcare, is this good or bad?  From many of the major religions, we might borrow the golden rule for insight.  If atheism is purely scientific, do we defer such a question to Darwin, and assume a dog-eat-dog world of survival of the fittest?

    Without a narrative that provides a basic context to these questions, I cannot see atheism becoming an influential movement.  We may agree that a deity is unlikely, but as many existentialists and others have acknowledged, people prefer a basic orientation or narrative to our existence, than the anxiety that ensues in its absence.

    • Greg P.

      But look at the current countries which are most religious countries – Afghanistan with Taliban in power, Saudi Arabia, etc.  Strong civil society indeed, but if you dare to disagree, you are killed. 

      • Anonymous

        Two Things:

        1.) There is NO (or very little) civil society in the countries you mentioned; governments of those countries do not allow organizations to assemble unless explicitly allowed by the state.

        2.) I am not advocating for all religions in general or any in particular.  Instead, I am just recognizing that humans require some fundamental direction or orientation to the way we see and understand the world (and, the value of those orientations are themselves debatable).

        • TomK in Boston

          So we better keep a safe distance from the current radical GOP, aka “God’s Own Party”.

      • JustSayin

         That’s correct, and Jefferson knew it:
         
        “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people
        maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of
        ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail
        themselves for their own purposes.”
        – Thomas Jefferson

    • Patrik

      Why would you need to believe in an invisible/all knowing entity in order to be civil?  Id like to think Im a pretty civil guy who knows the difference between right and wrong  Atheism to me is reason, its challenging everything and asking questions.  Scientists do that even with their own theories, they discuss, experiment, consider all the FACTS and then come to their conclusions.  They don’t just cop out and say, eh I’ll just leave it up to [insert favorite god here].

      • Anonymous

        I do not believe that we need a god to be civil (I am agnostic) — I did not write that either.

        What I said is that we require an ‘orientation to reality’.  
        You wrote: Atheism to me is reason,
        This is an orientation to reality — specifically, you are saying it is GOOD, to challenge everything and ask questions.  I agree with this.  

        But this is the first step — we question things in part, because we believe that things can be better.  Of course, to be better, requires us to understand what better is.  This is where religions tend to play a prominent role.

        Finally — in this context, humanism for example, is also defined as a religion…

        • Patrik

          Sorry, I misinterpeted your question “How do we understand right and wrong?”.

    • Anonymous

      I believe you can use reason as a guide to all of your questions including an orientation to ultimate reality. Confucius did not promote a god but instead self-knowledge and an understanding of yourself as a part of humanity with an interest in making society work. As a social animal, humans require other humans to survive. We are driven to protect each other and to work together and that drive does not require a religion. It is a natural thing for any social animal. “Thou shalt not kill” is important to the survival of the tribe.

      • Anonymous

        I am agnostic, and I am a strong advocate of reason, questioning, etc. however… to better understand my point, let me be clear:

        Reason is the means by which we determine whether conclusions are true or false — but it cannot tell us whether something is good or bad.  

        We can use reason to determine whether something is good or bad, only if we define what is good or bad in the first place. 

        Defining what is good or bad, is, as I mentioned, a basic assumption — and religions (which do not require a God) provide some of these basic assumptions – or better, an orientation to reality.

        For example, you mention “thou shall not kill” – that is not a law, that is not a fact, that is simply a normative orientation espoused by many religions.

        Humans kill to eat (plants/animals), and we kill humans in war, or in law enforcement.  I assume at some level you believe some of this is good, some of it is bad.  But reason alone cannot tell us whether this is good or bad; that is derived from some basic assumptions about life, which are generally rooted in religion.

      • Anonymous

        I am agnostic, and I am a strong advocate of reason, questioning, etc. however… to better understand my point, let me be clear:

        Reason is the means by which we determine whether conclusions are true or false — but it cannot tell us whether something is good or bad.  

        We can use reason to determine whether something is good or bad, only if we define what is good or bad in the first place. 

        Defining what is good or bad, is, as I mentioned, a basic assumption — and religions (which do not require a God) provide some of these basic assumptions – or better, an orientation to reality.

        For example, you mention “thou shall not kill” – that is not a law, that is not a fact, that is simply a normative orientation espoused by many religions.

        Humans kill to eat (plants/animals), and we kill humans in war, or in law enforcement.  I assume at some level you believe some of this is good, some of it is bad.  But reason alone cannot tell us whether this is good or bad; that is derived from some basic assumptions about life, which are generally rooted in religion.

        • Houses

          steve: the whole intellectual movement we call the Enlightenment was based on the premise that reason CAN determine whether something is good or bad (as for example in Kant’s moral imperative).  I’d say the same for the Greek rationalists, whose project the Enlightenment saw themselves as extending.  This doesn’t mean any of them were right, but it’s certainly a very massive part of the Western intellectual heritage.  I think atheists in the U.S. are generally appealing to that heritage as their normative framework, whether they fully realize it or not.

          I say “in the U.S.”, because in Europe this whole discussion rarely comes up — atheism and other flavors of irreligion are very widespread and generally not embattled.  They consider us to be lunatics on the subject.

  • Brothersower88

    Separation of Church and State does not mean that they don’t influence each other. 

    If I am walking up the sidewalk and see my wife at the door, we are separate, but I can see here, read her body language, hear her voice, etc. She has influence over me and a significant amount since I am more in tune to more of her subtle signals.

    If I am visiting a friend miles away, my wife and I are still separate, but she can influence me with a call or text.  In these modes of communication she has much less influence then when I am on the door step because I receive less information.

    In both cases we are separate, but the level of influence we have over each other changes drastically depending on how much space “separates” us.

    A similar process happens with government and religion.  In general, religious leaders don’t get to make laws, and the President
    doesn’t get to decide eternal spiritual matters of individuals (i.e. who goes to Heaven, Hell, reincarnates, etc). But religious beliefs guide voters in who to pick for government, and governement makes laws that pertain to religious institutions and communities.

    As long as peoples’ (voters and politicians) lives are shaped by politics and religion, neither can ever exist absolutely independently. 

    TL;DR
    The Church and State are separate right now.  If you like how separate they are depends on your views and how closely/distantly separated the two are currently.

    PS. While this may not be the appropriate forum to entertain the discussion, it might be worth mentioning that Atheism could be viewed as the religion of sorts. 

    Having a belief so strong that it guides your life’s choices, actions, and thinking patters sounds a lot like a religion. 
    On top of that, Atheism has no scientific proof that a deity doesn’t exist.  They have faith that one doesn’t exist.
    The intellectual or scientific high ground can go to neither side of the debate religious.

    PPS. It might also be worth mentioning the difference between atheism, anti-theism, and agnosticism. 

    • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

       “Having a belief so strong that it guides your life’s choices, actions, and thinking patters sounds a lot like a religion.”

      No it doesn’t. It sounds like a philosophy, which can be completely naturalistic with no worship/acknowledgment of a supernatural god.

      “On top of that, Atheism has no scientific proof that a deity doesn’t exist.  They have faith that one doesn’t exist.”

      For any concept of a god that has an effect on the world, there is a distinct lack of evidence of any kind, scientific or not, *where there should be some* if the god existed. Saying science cannot disprove a god is like saying science cannot disprove fairies or a cosmic teapot orbiting Earth.

      “The intellectual or scientific high ground can go to neither side of the debate religious.”

      Except that religions have historically had to cede authority and explanatory power to empirical science and never the other way around.

      • Brothersower88

         I smiled.

        Everything in this reply is in the “this may not be the appropriate forum to entertain the discussion” part of the comment.

        While I think it could be a very beneficial discussion, it should not be entertained here because discussion on these topics can get derailed very quickly.

        Looking back, I should have not made my post script comments, and I apologize for misleading the conversation.

        Please share your views on the actual comment.

    • Anonymous

      The biggest thing you are not seeing here is this:Athiests are open to changes and new ideas. They are flexible and inclusive. Religion tend to be exclusive and rigid.

      • Brothersower88

        This is not addressing separation of Church and State.

        There is no way that any conversation that be made supporting and entire group of people.  There will always be exceptions and outliers.

        Again, as I said to Adam K, I should not have included my post scripts as they are derailing the conversation.

        Do you have any comment on separation of Church and State?

  • Brett

    In addition to tax exempt status, as well as having whole portions of their annual operating costs being funded by federal, state and local governments, church-run schools and hospitals receive Medicaid and Medicare funding. We’re talking in the Billions of dollars each year. All of this according to the CHA (Catholic Health Association) which is a trade organization representing Catholic health care institutions. Some of the numbers are staggering (like a surge in 2003-2004 equaling $10.4 billion for that period). I believe the total costs of taxpayers subsidizing the Catholic Church alone (not to mention the other denominational church-run organizations; Baptists are second to Catholics) are over $50 billion in the last decade.  

  • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

    I went with a busload from Boston. It was a great, informed, chatty, interesting, and smart group. It was terrific to find these new allies that I didn’t know before. And I found local groups I might be interested in seeking out.

  • Elle

    I find it quite distressing that there is a litmus test of “godliness” in our society to run for political office, and that the absurd belief is prevalent that not to believe in God means one has no source of morality. I see everything through an ethical lens, I try to walk the charitable, empathetic walk every day, I protect both people and animals (vegan, do lots of volunteeer work with elderly and other vulnerable populations). Why should I feel outside the mainstream and criticized?

    • TFRX

      I believe that there are more openly gay Representatives in Washington than there are declared athiests. That’s saying something.

      (Of course, the number of protest-too-much closet cases…)

    • Anonymous

      Last April, the Washington Post printed an opinion piece from two sociologists who had done a study of religion and atheism in America.  An excerpt and a link:

      … Is this knee-jerk dislike of atheists warranted? Not even close.

      A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.

      Consider that at the societal level, murder rates are far lower in secularized nations such as Japan or Sweden than they are in the much more religious United States, which also has a much greater portion of its population in prison. Even within this country, those states with the highest levels of church attendance, such as Louisiana and Mississippi, have significantly higher murder rates than far less religious states such as Vermont and Oregon.

      As individuals, atheists tend to score high on measures of intelligence, especially verbal ability and scientific literacy. …

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-do-americans-still-dislike-atheists/2011/02/18/AFqgnwGF_story_1.html

  • Four Elements

    “Everybody rallies, at some point, in America….On Saturday, on the National Mall in Washington, it was American atheists’ turn to rally.”

    What a pompous, smug, condescending lead-in. So don’t take them seriously? Ho hum, another rally? Pandering to the theists, maybe?

  • Anonymous

    In effect, they’re the same thing.

    Subsidy is, generally, a sum of money granted or given to some entity or organization.

    A tax exemption allow an entity or organization to retain some of the money they would otherwise pay to the commons.

    If this same amount of money were given to them, it would be a subsidy.

    In either case, the cost to the commons (tax payers) is he same. 

  • Anonymous

    Why does the separation of church and state have to be framed in terms of atheism?  Practicing or non-practicing religious people can and do have the “separation” view of government.  Let’s remember that it’s the United States of America nation that we’re talking about?  This is not a religious state, it’s a secular state!

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Some people simply can’t stand the idea that what they believe and choose isn’t believed and chosen by their neighbors.  When we can accept that in a free society, whatever doesn’t harm others must be allowed, we’ll have many fewer problems.

  • Anonymous

    I came back to the US after a long, long absence and am still struck by the cultural changes.  So please forgive any naivete on my part, but the growth of religion and its loud shout into our ears from all sides seems to be closely related to a startling growth during the same period of numbers of people with addictions. A while back, I did some interviews with evangelical Christians each of whom, without exception, revealed that before becoming evangelicals they had been teenagers in trouble — mostly with drugs, booze.  The religion had replaced substance abuse, but the obsession level didn’t appear to have changed.  Christ simply replaced crystal meths as a way of avoiding real life.

    This kind of “religion” appears to have a very strong “me” component.  And that plays into the loss of public space, of shared values. Whether it’s loudspeakers with Christmas carols,  or whether we’re talking about the relatively benign habit of sticking an insulting bumper sticker on one’s car, we are up against a tidal wave of arrogance and provocation in our public spaces.  One result lately has been the sickening polls showing that it would be impossible for a non-believer to be elected president.

    That brings us full circle to the people who are dead set against our centuries-old government that serves public as well as private (including religious) interests. Some of their determination is fueled by corporate greed:  we have a whole group of “people” now in the form of corporations whose tax advantages also disadvantage the tax payers.  But we have among us a large group of individual voters who — whether they were overlooked by education or belong to a religious group that’s not well-grounded in either reality or the practice of civility — seem dismissive of public responsibilities. These folks just plain don’t want to know. Figuratively and even  literally, they will cross from one publicly paved sidewalk to another in order to avoid people they are unfamiliar with, or whose color or gender they distrust.

    America was once very smart about maintaining secular public spaces.  Where the space is shared — public schools, our streets, our parks, our commons — it should be free from the interests and expectations of private groups.  In those common areas we allow ourselves not only a space to breathe freely but a place in which we can coexist and enjoy each other without our financial circumstances, our religious beliefs, or our politics defining or separating us.  It’s really just about manners, about civility, about putting others before oneself.

    • Anonymous

      That’s exactly how I feel about this issue. You hit the nail on the head.

    • JustSayin

       I noticed that too. They just swap one addiction for another, and one extremist lifestyle for another extremist lifestyle. It’s all based on addiction and brain stimulation.

    • Anonymous

      I agree. This is the best-reasoned comment of all.

  • Four Elements

    …And deliver us from faith-based public policy, faith-based economics, faith-based miltitary policy, faith-based social policy: if You’re there …

  • http://twitter.com/zeroanaphora Abbie

    Very positive episode so far. So glad the Reason Rally is bringing this discussion into the Zeitgeist.

  • Joe in JP

    As an atheist, I struggle daily with morality. I mean, without the promise of paradise and threat of eternal torment, it’s really difficult to restrain myself from rape, murder, theft, and all the other forbidden actions.  It’s hard to hold to the rules of the Bible, like stoning harlots and blasphemers, without belief in that Bible.

    • Gregg

      I get your snark but I do believe atheist have less concern with moral public behavior. You won’t see things like this in church, content warning:

      http://www.theblaze.com/stories/bring-your-kids-atheist-performer-drops-75-f-bombs-on-stage-at-reason-rally-warning-explicit-video/#ooid=RyZGQ5NDoXDXgFu68EwvSVdAuMo_90v5

      • Ray in VT

        Vulgar, crass and inappropriate I’ll give you, but a lack of concern regarding public morality I think is a bit of a stretch.  I was taught to keep the blue language in the barn as much as possible, but I drop some f-bombs in public, but I don’t shout it on the street.

        Here’s an extreme example, but you don’t see this behavior from atheists:

        http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/26/WBC_protest.jpg

        • Gregg

          I put it that way because it was on the Washington Mall. Where did MLK deliver his “I have a dream” speech? The setting should be respected in my view. But the main thing is there were lots and lots of children present.  I don’t consider that moral public behavior. Maybe parents should have known better than to take their kids but that just re-enforces my suspicion. Why should they expect such behavior from atheist… or should they?

          I didn’t hit the link because I don’t want to loose my page but that looks like Westboro. I think if there is a hell they will go there. Christianity is not about hate. My example is common, look at Bill Maher and other famous atheist. 

          • Ray in VT

            It is Westboro, and they are just horribly repugnant to me.  Their actions at funerals are just despicable.

            I think that people should expect some decorum and clean language in public from everyone.  I have seen some of Minchin’s stuff on BBC and other places, and he does some funny stuff, but I wouldn’t let my kids watch him.  The event organizers should have tried to ensure that the guests kept the language clean.

            I would agree with you very much on the reverence with which the Mall and its surroundings should be held.  I’ve been there a few times in my life, and I found it to be a place that deserved respect.

      • Joe in JP

        if you honestly believe that saying the f-word is the same as rape, murder, and theft, then atheists cannot engage with you in a reasonable discussion.   you have made up your mind that atheists are immoral, and you will accept no evidence to the contrary.

        • Gregg

          Did I say that? What I actually DID say, I stand by. 

          • Joe in JP

            see Ray in VT’s comment.  If you judge any movement by its extremists, you will get a false picture of behavior.  That’s one atheist shouting a word in public.  How about the millions of theists who seek to limit the rights of their fellow citizens by voting for politicians who promise to do so?  I would judge any movement by its center.  The center of the religious right is voting for Rick Santorum. 

          • Gregg

            So you think the rousing applause on sacred ground in front of children was just an extreme example? Just one guy? 

          • Joe in JP

            sacred ground?  you really are a theist, chief.  I’m not going to argue with you anymore.  have a good day.

          • Gregg

            There you go, elitism on parade. I’m not a Christian… chief. I consider the Washington Mall sacred Ground because of scenes lie these:

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2008/nov/18/national-mall-washington-photos#/?picture=339807334&index=5

            I think the dude has every right but don’t tell me MLK is proud of the F-Bomb song.

  • Ray in VT

    I think that is easier to be an atheist here in 2012 than it was even in the 1980s.  When I came out as an atheist in the 1980s I was branded as a devil-worshiper by the parents of one of my friends, and they were doctors.  I can only hope that my children will not have similar experiences should they decide not to believe.

  • Anonymous

    I’m Brazilian but lived in the USA for 10 years before returning to my country. As hard as I thought the US was for atheists, it doesn’t even come close to how bad it is here in Brazil. American atheists are luckier than they imagine. In Brazil we’re seen as worse than rapists and it’s easier to elect an openly corrupt politician than someone who doesn’t profess strong religious faith, even if it’s just for show.

  • HeisenbergPrinciple

    I really wanted to attend; but it’s hard to drive 4 hours and hang out in the rain to stand up for what I don’t believe in.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

     I first heard of James Randi when he was on one of those 80s afternoon television talk shows that my mother watched.  She was a fundamentalist and found his remarks to be incomprehensible, while I thought that he was one of the few reasonable individuals that I’d heard in my young life.

  • reya

    Just because SOME Islamic countries do not tolerate atheism
    does not mean that the US is the only place that does! I think you will find
    that you can be an atheist anyone in Europe and not fear persecution, even
    Italy. In fact separation of Church and State is normal in most countries

     

  • Vacrowe

    To the lady asking where the secular humanists meet….Try a Unitarian Universalist church. We welcome all — pagan, Christian, naturist, atheist, Buddhist, etc. We support each other on our individual paths and provide community that is not oppressive or requires belief in any specific doctrine other than respect and love for your fellow man/woman.

    • Anonymous

      Sleeping in on Sundays is one of the perks of being an atheist though. 

    • Anonymous

      As i mentioned elsewhere, if only they didn’t call it a church.

  • Four Elements

    What really burns me is the assumption that one can’t be religious (i.e., good, moral, upright) unless one believes in “god”. I consider myself extremely religious. I have a belief system and a code of behavior that I conceived all by my lonesome with no input from any priest, and I do not believe in a personal supreme being nor in the necessity for one. And I accept mystery and ambivalence in life. I fear and resist death, but I refuse to believe in something merely to be comforted in that fear or to have all questions answered. Keep your desperate certainties out of my mind, Christians. What am I, some kind of infant?

  • Sheryl

    I’m atheist and proud of it!

  • DMC

    I think that it is well-tolerated in this country to say that you do not adhere to any religion, but when you say that you do not believe in God, people have a much harder time with that.  I am an atheist and am careful about who I tell.

  • Entroperic

    I identify myself — if pushed to — as a ‘strong’ agnostic, but dislike simplistic labels and otherwise personally view religion, mysticism & spirituality as a non-issue — it simply isn’t a part of my life. I’m glad that this event occurred, hope that there are many more. 

    The major issue I encounter with this ‘divide’ is in the field that I work: substance abuse & mental health treatment. Being identified as anything other that “spiritual” or “believing in a higher power” can cause more personal & professional grief than you can imagine.

  • Sam from New York

    I always thought my cultural religion, Judaism, was a nice moral code, even though I can’t remember ever actually believing in God. Then I read my Torah Portion. It was a list of sexual crimes  in order of severity with homosexuality right between incest and bestiality saying that homosexuals should be put to death. That was when I realized that not only do I not believe in this stuff, but I don’t even agree with it. I went ahead with my Bar Mitzvah anyway out of respect for my culture, tradition, and ancestors, but I told my parents that I was an atheist. They questioned me about it quite a lot over the years and encouraged me to go to Synagogue on the High Holy Days anyway, but overall were very supportive and it was always my decision.

    To me, being Jewish is about the culture and tradition. The V’ahavta is the central prayer in Judaism and it basically just says to teach Judaism to your children. My children are half-Jewish, 1/4 Irish, and 1/4 Puerto Rican. I will be sure that they learn of all of their ancestors’ culture so they can teach it to their children and so on and to me that is what being Jewish is about. God is incidental in my version of Judaism.

    • Eternally Anti-fascist

      Good for you!  You made, in my humble opinion, a good choice in your life partner in that her genetic background is much different than yours.  And my belief system is that your children will be the beneficiaries of those choices between you and your wife.

      I tell my wife that; our three are half-Jewish (only ethnically) and half Scots-Irish-English-German Catholic!  And I think that they are superior; but then again I am prejudiced on that subject!

  • miro

    Viva the miltant agnostic, “I don’t know and you don’t know either.”

    Her skepticism re: metaphysical absolutes is refreshing.

    Avoid belief in any proposition that can’t in some way be tested.

  • Anonymous

    Should be mentioned:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv3ic6OOXns

    God is a Concept
    by which
    we measure our pain
    I’ll say it again
    God is a Concept
    by which
    we measure our pain
    I don’t believe in magic
    I don’t believe in I-ching
    I don’t believe in Bible
    I don’t believe in Tarot
    I don’t believe in Hitler
    I don’t believe in Jesus
    I don’t believe in Kennedy
    I don’t believe in Buddha
    I don’t believe in Mantra
    I don’t believe in Gita
    I don’t believe in Yoga
    I don’t believe in Kings
    I don’t believe in Elvis
    I don’t believe in Zimmerman
    I don’t believe in Beatles
    I just believe in me…and that reality
    The dream is over
    What can I say?
    the Dream is Over
    Yesterday I was the Dreamweaver
    But now I’m reborn
    I was the Walrus
    But now I’m John
    and so dear friends
    you’ll just have to carry on
    The Dream is over

  • Laurie

    I’ve heard talk about a “god gene,” something in the DNA that predisposes one toward religious belief. If there is one, I think I must not have it. Even as a child I did not believe, and shrugged when a 1st-grade classmate told me that I would go to hell for not believing. I just don’t feel it.

    • Ray in VT

      Same here.  I went through the motions as a kid until I was about 7, but I never really believed.

      • Gregg

        I had my own awakening in fifth grade but it took me quite a while to mature enough to develop my own beliefs and have the courage to believe them. How do you do that at age 7? 

        • Ray in VT

          I don’t know how mature my views were.  I just came to the realization one day that I didn’t really believe in anything that religion was offering, at least in terms of proof of existence of the divine.  I think that religion does have a lot to offer in terms of values, traditions and wisdom, but I’ve always wanted something concrete, and I haven’t found a faith that can provide that, which is probably why it’s called faith.  I’m open to conversion though, should the evidence present itself.

  • BHA in Vermont

    I think one answer to Esmee’s (sp) comment is:
    Atheists don’t need answers to all questions. Those who need answers often turn to religion and say “It’s God’s will”.

    Anyone watch Survivor last season?  Coach found the hidden idol. Some days later people who do not know he has it want to look for it so he goes along with the game. After awhile Brandon wants to pray to God to help them find it. So they all pray and viola, some minutes later, Coach ‘finds’ it and they all PRAISE THE LORD for helping them. How hypocritical can you get?

  • White Ashlee

    I do not believe in God, but I find that I am spiritual.  The more I read and practice Buddhism, the more I find I am living a rewarding, exciting, and kind life.  I find that those who are religious shun us atheists; they assume that we are lost, untamed, too over sexed, or just over all bad people.  I do not need the fear of religious to be a good and decent person.

    • White Ashlee

      religion*

    • Four Elements

      When I found Buddhism it was a breath of fresh air cleansing me of years of toxic Catholicism.

  • Brian

     It just makes me sick that popular society believes a person has to
    belong to a faith in order to have morals. So much of the political
    speech now a days is clouded in a faux moral high ground.

    Question: Will there ever be a time when America elects an atheistic President? Or Congressman for that matter?

    • Jasoturner

      There are supposedly no atheists in Congress, but this is almost assuredly not true.  We have elected them, we just don’t know which ones they are.

      • Sam from New York

        I’m not sure if Obama is an atheist, but he definitely is less religious than he pretends to be. I’m an atheist and I would love it if he would just be honest about his religious beliefs, but I understand why he won’t.

        He was raised by 4 people, in different parts, an atheist former Muslim father, an atheist former Christian mother, a non-practicing Muslim step-father, and a practicing Christian grandmother.

        Clearly he identifies as Christian, but he goes to Church so rarely he didn’t know the pastor at his Church was controversial, which caused him a lot of grief during the election. I would have loved it if his response were “I don’t really go all that often, I’m not religious”. But he couldn’t say that as a politician in 2008 and still can’t in 2012.

      • Sam from New York

        I’m not sure if Obama is an atheist, but he definitely is less religious than he pretends to be. I’m an atheist and I would love it if he would just be honest about his religious beliefs, but I understand why he won’t.

        He was raised by 4 people, in different parts, an atheist former Muslim father, an atheist former Christian mother, a non-practicing Muslim step-father, and a practicing Christian grandmother.

        Clearly he identifies as Christian, but he goes to Church so rarely he didn’t know the pastor at his Church was controversial, which caused him a lot of grief during the election. I would have loved it if his response were “I don’t really go all that often, I’m not religious”. But he couldn’t say that as a politician in 2008 and still can’t in 2012.

        • Jasoturner

          Reagan and Ike seemed pretty secular too.  Nixon?  Clinton?  Bush the elder?

          I think lots of successful individuals are pretty skeptical.

          • Anonymous

            Whoa, there!! Unfounded Speculation Alert!

            “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

            Papa Shrub, 8/27/87, interview with Robert Sherman, Chicago, IL

          • Jasoturner

            Fair enough.  I said “seemed” based on my own memories, but was not claiming certainty.  You never know who is going to believe what in this nutty world of ours…

      • Ray in VT

        I don’t know if he is, but I’d guess that Bernie Sanders is.

      • jhorn

        actually, Pete Stark, a congressman from california “came out” awhile ago

        • Jasoturner

          Interesting, I wasn’t aware of that.  Thanks.

  • Marc Prufer

    I believe that the statistics are that Atheists know more about various religions than practitioners in the various faiths do.

    One more point: The “extremist” atheists like Dawkins and Hitchins paved the road that the non-confrontational atheists walk on.

  • Nutricj

    Gosh, it has to be 25 years ago now, I told my catholic mother, and some family members that I didn’t believe in God like they do. I was terrified that I would be cut out of the family, be turned into flames, thrown out and unwelcomed back. But, instead I was met with these exact lines, “No, you believe in God, you just don’t realize it yet.” All these years later (never was it discussed with them by me again), my aunts just pretend I believe and talk with me about things with that absolute opinion that I believe too. It still dumbfounds me. A couple of my gay friends have had similar experiences when they came out to certain family members- everyone just pretends it isn’t happening for their own comfort. Denial’s not just a river ;-)

  • Sarah in Vermont

    Could your guests speak to the regionality of the religious/atheist phenomena? Growing up and living as an adult in New England, almost everyone I know – including myself – was not raised religious and does not believe in God. And to me it feels this is really the direction the whole country is moving, despite the bastions of hard-core religiousity in the south and elsewhere. Are we misunderstanding the reality of the situation because of where we live?

    • different every time

      imagine if you lived in Europe.  Generally speaking Europeans think we (the US as a nation) are insane for even having this debate.  

  • Sue

    I disagree with the comment that the church does not allow for doubt and the discussion of it within the church.  Please do not make blanket statements based on personal experience. Thanks!

  • John geiger

    I am a thinking Christian(Catholic) who agrees with many of the areas of concern that the atheist’s have, such as total separation of Church and State and the contraception issue. 

    If a person loses his job over his/ her non religious beliefs they should sue for their jobs-that is discrimination.  If he/she loses his/her family and friends I feel sorry for them but it was a choice they made.  Bill Mahar is an avid atheist and I agree with many of his political beliefs.  I am not in your face about my religion and I do not want anybody to be in my face about their religious or non/ religious beliefs.

    John Geiger

  • Hank

    Interesting that I was reading  Jacuques Costeau’s  The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World.  There was a chapter where the author describes a young boy taking a trip on the Caylpso with Costeau.  And instead of participating in the adventures going on up on deck, the boy reads a comic book.  When Costeau asks him, it turns out to be a book about Costeau’s adventures!  I believe that this may have been Costeau’s way of describing some peoples view of the world and the bible, or religion in general.

  • BHA in Vermont

    I agree with the caller who said he didn’t care if someone believes in their religion as long as they leave him alone.

    If it gets you through the day, fine. Better than drugs or alcohol. I’m not going to try to convince the religious that they should be atheist and I expect them to do the same for me.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       Trying to convince people of one’s own position is a part of democracy.  It becomes a problem when advocacy turns into force or belligerence.  But about your other remark, a glass of Scotch or hours in a pew?  Pass me the Lagavulin.

  • On Point Fan

    As part of this discussion, it is important to point out that many people do belong to a religious group, and even enjoy the customs, services, and community of that group, BUT in truth they don’t believe in God.  I am Jewish (I would never say I’m not Jewish), I belong to a synagogue and I participate.  I just don’t broadcast it and I act accordingly on a case by case basis.  If I were asked, however I would speak truthfully. I know I am not alone on that.

  • Mkuley1

    How would a US citizen feel if they travelled to a new country and everyone spoke of believing in Zeus?  Would you not wonder about their ability to think and reason?

    • Anonymous

      If I had to pick a religion, I’d pick that one.  The stories are more interesting and enlightening than the monotheistic faiths. 

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

         Since I often teach ancient and world literature, the old religions have a strong appeal to me–Greek, Norse, and so forth.

  • Kate

    Great conversation.  I truly wish that we could consider different language than “faithless, without faith, non-believers,” etc.  One may be an agnostic or nontheist but have tremendous faith and many beliefs.  Nature, energy, human capacity – these ideas, too, are valid.  I am NOT a non-believer, I just don’t believe in the same type of power or deity as many others.  

  • Robert Riversong

    The self-described atheists get furious when their belief system is described as a religion, yet – even among the majority of religious – American culture is based on a belief in science as the  primary, if not sole, path to knowledge about our universe and a belief in reason as the primary, if not sole, path to right action.

    Science and its technological gospel IS the modern religion, and though it has demonstrated great efficacy (as much in destroying the earth as in making life more comfortable – though hardly more satisfying or meaningful), it is also based on unquestioned and unprovable beliefs (axioms) and a narrow set of guidelines for the discernment of truth (the scientific method). Anything which falls outside of those limits is considered blasphemy.

    • Nutricj

      It is not fury…it is the educated knowing that calling atheism a religion is a complete lacking of knowing what religion is by definition. Science is exploration, questioning, studying, admitting when new information disproves theories from yesterday- it is not a belief system. putting all those religious definitional terms onto science demonstrates exactly the lack of understanding of what anti-theism or atheism is.

      • Four Elements

        Technically, “religion” is dervied from “religio”: “to bind”, so being religious is being bound to some credo which will determine your behavior. In that sense, religion is all about obedience and dogma. At its best and purest, science is the polar opposite of religion because it questions everything and is bound to nothing. Religion runs from uncertainty and is terrified of new knowledge.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a little disappointed that “atheist” has apparently come to be the catch-all term for anyone who doesn’t subscribe to one of the major religions, or, at least, their conception of a central deity.

    Atheism, as it is commonly defined as the doctrine which holds that god, or deity, doesn’t exist.

    Atheism would seem to leave out agnosticism, which holds that these kinds of things are unknowable. The distinction between the two doesn’t seem to be made often enough.

  • BHA in Vermont

    A Pew poll some months ago asked questions about religion to several groups of people. Who had the broadest understanding of many religions? The atheists and Mormons. More atheists knew that Mother Theresa was Catholic than Catholics knew she was Catholic.

    What does that mean? To me it means that most of those who follow a specific religion are blind to any other belief.  Their’s is the “right” one so there is no need to understand any one else’s point of view.

  • John in Vermont

    The (atheist) philosopher Bertrand Russell was asked what he would say if he died and found himself facing God. “I’d ask him ‘Why didn’t you give me better proof?’”

    Believing without proof is why they call it faith.  You don’t have faith in gravity because it works for you each day.  The ‘scientific mind’ has faith in the gravity of Mars though they haven’t experienced it because it can be calculated.  But, they could get there and be very surprised.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Recognizing gravity on Mars isn’t faith.  For one, it’s logical, since Mars has mass, and mass produces gravity.  For another, we’ve sent probes there and have seen the direct effect of the planet’s gravitational field.

      • Robert Riversong

        No one’s been to Mars, but many have had near-death experiences and met God, with a similarity that – to a scientific mind – would suggest a common reality that has more “proof” than the gravity of Mars.

        • Anonymous

          No one met god. 

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

          How a person chooses to interpret a near-death experience is a matter of personal choice, but scientifically, such experiences are likely the result of oxygen deprivation.

    • Cristobaldelicia

       There’s some easy logic believers can do though: why would a benevolent God let infants suffer and die of disease? If it is because of “free will,” then why does God force free will upon us? I can’t really argue against an uncaring, disinterested Creator— But a God that should be worshiped and obeyed….

    • Four Elements

      The only “proof” that “god” exists is that no one can prove that “he” doesn’t. Personally, I believe in Dog.

  • Sharon

    As a Christian, I absolutely believe in separation of church and state.  The one problem I have with this discussion is the “generalizations” and stereotypes about those of us who are religious, particularly Christian.  We are NOT all fundamentalists or highly dogmatic Roman Catholics.  I believe that atheists are good people who don’t believe in God.  I am not unusual within my mainline protestant community.  AND I am an ordained minister.  

  • S.C. Listener

    I don’t think “God” is the problem… humanizing the divine is; jesus et al. 

  • Ann

    Re separation of church and state–we owe much of our current church influence on public policy to Doug Coe and his “Family.” His power and influence is scary.  Read about him in “The Family”

  • Tim

    While not strictly atheist as a practicing Zen Buddhist, I feel the same way as your guests do. I believe that the existence of a higher power is not necessary for one to lead a life of compassion. I take offense when our political leaders espouse Christian beliefs and feel very left out as a US citizen.

  • Karen

    I am a quiet atheist, living in a place where people’s faith (or non-faith) is their business. I have a righteous atheist friend who is as obnoxious in his preaching as any front porch evangelical. Enough already! Imagine if we all left each other alone?

  • Gymus

    Hi.  I don’t understand why the “religious” don’t recognize God as a concept created to explain the inexplicable.  To that point, we used to have a God of the ocean, a God of corn, et al.  We now know how tidal waves and corn happen, so God is outdated.

    • Robert Riversong

      No, we did not have a “god of the ocean and a god of corn”. Pagan, or earth-based peoples, understood that there is god in all things, that all things are sacred and related, and thereby refrained from desecrating the natural world.

      We scientific moderns have abandoned that pantheistic or panspiritualist understanding and therefore exploit and destroy all things natural – ultimately destroying ourselves.

      Which belief system, then, is the most rational?

  • Neil – Vermont

    Great discussion Tom.

    It’s probably already been mentioned that we don’t need religion to have morals.  We wouldn’t have gotten as far as Mt. Sinai (where Moses brought down the ten commandments) if we thought as a civilization that murder, theft and perjury were just fine.

    The other delicious paradox I like to point religious folks to is the fact that, within every staunch religious person there’s a closet Atheist.  Every believer in a monotheist can understand what it’s like to not believe in a particular God.  We Atheists just decide to believe in one less then they do.

  • BHA in Vermont

    So I’ve read through a number of comments and it strikes me:
    Why do we give tax breaks to religious organizations? They pay no property tax so the rest of us have to make it up. If we are a “secular state” the government should not be giving tax breaks to any organization that is religiously affiliated.

    • Robert Riversong

      We don’t give “tax breaks” to churches, we simply don’t apply the laws of taxation to churches, thereby maintaining the constitutional separation of church and state. 

      In its 1970 opinion in Walz vs. Tax Commission of the City of New York, the Supreme Court stated that a tax exemption for churches “creates only a minimal and remote involvement between church and state and far less than taxation of churches. [An exemption] restricts the fiscal relationship between church and state, and tends to complement and reinforce the desired separation insulating each from the other.”  

  • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

    This is not a trivial philosophy discussion to me. I work with stem cell data. I rely on evolution concepts for the work I do in genomics. And as a woman whose health choices are being impacted by ancient texts, there are direct effects of religion on my life–which is not my choice, and it is wrong.

    • Robert Riversong

      And there are far greater effects of transgenic research on the life of the planet, for which most have no choice and for which a rational case can be made for its wrongness.

      • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

        Yeah, we should let everyone suffer and starve naturally, as [deity] wants.

  • john

    Here’s a Pascal quote:

    “Reason’s final step is to realize that there are an infinite number
    of things which lie beyond it.”

  • Logan (Providence, RI)

    It is amazing how much traction religion (especially Christianity)  has in a secular country such as the United States.

    Jesus supported the separation of church and state

    Matthew 22:21 “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”

    The US Constitution supports separation of church and state

    First Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
    prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

    • Guest

      Seems like a pretty cut and dry case.

      • Robert Riversong

        Not so “cut and dry”.

        Some theologians believe that what Jesus (who often spoke in metaphorical code) was really saying was that, once you render unto God what is God’s there’s precious little left for Caesar.

        And the first amendment doesn’t discourage the exercise of religion in the public square – it only prevents government from interfering.

  • Tim in Upstate NY

    Religion started as a way to explain the natural phenomena ancient cultures witnessed. As time went on, societies developed moral codes with these religions that helped growing societies function. Law and religious morals have always been closely linked, but you can still be of high moral character and be an atheist. The lack of religious diversity is government is very alarming to me. Being religious doesn’t necessarily mean you are a good person.

    • Robert Riversong

      Any more than being atheistic means you are an ethical person.

  • Naomi in Vermont

    I appreciate James Randy’s distinction between atheists who “deny” god and those who don’t know. When people think they “know” are “certain” or “believe” there is no god, then they cross over into the realm of belief which is the province of religion rather than reason.

    • Jasoturner

      Someone claiming to “know” there is not god is not an atheist.  He or she is an ideologue.  An atheist can always be swayed by new evidence.

      • Ellery

        How about a human who simply believes that a god concept is (a) irrelevant and (b) unnecessary for understanding?  Such an one is not an agnostic, but an atheist, that is, a non-believer. I not think the idea of supernatural entities who interfere in human affairs is even worth thinking about.

      • Robert Riversong

        You and Priscilla are equally confused, and that is because there is no more consensus about what is an atheist or an agnostic as there is about what is a Christian.

        Some atheists know there is no god, some don’t believe there is, while yet others have no belief about god; some agnostics are neutral on the subject and others insist that human reason is incapable of either proving or disproving the supernatural.

        Funny that rationalists are just as confused and confusing about their beliefs as the religious. It demonstrates the weakness of reason as a path to truth.

        • Jasoturner

          Not quite.  All atheists reject received wisdom as a means of apprehending the world.  The religious believe in words and practices that are encoded in books and traditions without question (or evidence of veracity.)  You simply raise some minor semantic issues and issues of approach as a smokescreen to try and invalidate positions.

          Secularism and religious faith are quite distinct world views.  Empirical observation, discovery and decision making, versus submission to religious doctrine.

          The religious like to paint belief and non-belief as two side of a coin, but they are not equivalent.  One belief system allows one to make accurate predictions about the real world, and to act accordingly.  The other is a stagnant set of rules that helped mankind when it could not apprehend the world empirically and needed magical explanations.  Many of these old doctrines are either unhelpful, or downright destructive, in man’s striving to make the world a better place.

    • http://www.facebook.com/AuntScilly Priscilla Ballou

      He was confused atheism with agnosticism.  I wish they would clarify their vocabulary and use words the same way the rest of English speakers do!

  • Lisa Tobias

    There are many tolerant atheists – Richard Dawkins is a sad example of intolerance among them.  Also, atheists do not have the monopoly on reason – I happen to believe that science proves that the Qur’an is true – anyone saying that religion and science are opposites has not fully researched the world’s religions.

    • Anonymous

      Jinns are real?  Has science concurred that women are inferior?  Believe whatever you want, but science does not prove that the Qur’an is true.

    • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

      “I happen to believe that science proves that the Qur’an is true”

      Then you happen to be wrong. Any confluence between scientific discoveries and poetically-inflected superstition is purely coincidental.

      • Robert Riversong

        Nice to know that scientific atheists have the monopoly on truth. Sounds like a form of fundamentalism.

        Odd, isn’t it, that all the great masters of science were deeply religious people.

        “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.” – Albert Einstein

        • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

          “Nice to know that scientific atheists have the monopoly on truth. Sounds like a form of fundamentalism.”

          I believe I was disputing the contention that science proved the Qur’an, or in fact any connection between the two. I happen to believe that the scientific method has a much better chance and track record of getting at truth than nearly any other methods humans have come up with, but that wasn’t what I stating in the above.

          “Odd, isn’t it, that all the great masters of science were deeply religious people.”

          Lovely strawmanning. Fact is, pre-19th century or so in Europe and America, you didn’t have much of a choice. Newton was a notorious believer in alchemy and Biblical numerology, and that certainly inhibited his what he was able to really accomplish. That quite from Einstein is at best deistic (he cited reference to Spinoza’s “laws of the universe” god that never interfered in the workings of the universe or in human affairs). In the 20th century, you have many more agnostics and atheists in the sciences, to the point now where the vast majority of National Academy of Sciences members reject a belief in a personal god.

          But more importantly, a god has only cited in science to the extent that something has yet to be naturalistically discovered. Neil deGrasse Tyson has a great slideshow about this “god of the gaps” phenomenon that merely impedes further understanding and introduces no explanatory power to a scientific hypothesis. Gods have been increasingly pressed into the tinier and tinier empty spaces of our understanding, and there’s no sense that this process will stop anytime soon.

        • jhorn

          ‘Odd, isn’t it, that all the great masters of science were deeply religious people.”

          Stephen Hawking?  Watson and Crick? Charles Darwin?- from his autobiography:

           …I was very unwilling to give up my belief;—I feel sure of this for I can well remember often and often inventing day-dreams of old letters between distinguished Romans and manuscripts being discovered at Pompeii or elsewhere which confirmed in the most striking manner all that was written in the Gospels. But I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct.

  • Scout Mom

    We are a typical, suburban, republican family, also we are atheists. Our town is small and most people go to the same church.  Our atheism has not been an issue, but we keep it to ourselves because our 10 year old son LOVES being a Cub Scout, where a belief in god is required.

    • Lonnie Wiens

       Dear Scout Mom, I used to feel the same and when our oldest was of age we joined the Scouts and I attained the ranking of a Scout Leader, uniform, scarf, clasp and hat.

      Then I looked into the history of scouting and the person whom started scouting from England.

      Please look into it yourself, all the way back.

      Scouting, Explorers etc. includes the literal brain washing techniques of a belief in a God, for the soul purpose of mentally being able to counteract the ability of

      Martyrs to unthinkably rush machine guns firing at full blaze with total disregard for one’s safety in battle.

      Human bomb carriers accomplishes the same tactic.

      The intent in the brain washing then is to be able to fight brain washing with brain washing, literally.

      The author of the Cub Scouts witnessed in battle how lesser and or no brain washed combatants were easily over run as they fled in the horror/s of battle by the willingness to sacrifice one’s person for their respective cause regardless of the consequences.

      Believing you will go to heaven, your God is bigger than my God etc. is a strong mental state to allow then well trained and well brain washed combatants a much better chance of surviving in hand to hand combat.

      The same may be transferred easily to computer and robot Arial applications when one is required to wipe out villages of unsuspecting or suspecting nhabitants whom one has avoided ever meeting face to face, and of course their respective/dis-respective cause is so just and right.

      Do unto others before they do unto you is the real given biblical source. me thinks.

      That’s why they are called Boy Scouts, the intent is literally to prepare them from youth to be able to survive in military conflicts. Skills like sewing on buttons, tying knots, being critical thinkers, resourceful, learning to survive on the streets of England at the time were easily transferred into military applications and saved the State of England much expense and time in training when they were drafted, or joined military adventures to apply those well learned survival skills.

      Instant military leaders, just add blood and guts, and stir or shaken well, and we are ready to do some 007 war.

      Later of course England was able to persuade their allies in India, and the variety of England’s Satellite Nations, the good ol’ U.S. of A of Northern America being one/inclusive, to train their youth in the same brain washing techniques and alternate religious persuasions joined the Boy Scouts movement from all over the Earth as long as they were sworn to support England in the end mind you.

      I am of the persuasion that similar thought was

      exercised by the U.S. and allies recently when it trained the Taliban combatants to fend off the aggressions of Communist Russians attempting to seek out a Warm Sea Port, Oil pipe lines through Iran.

      Relatively logical mind you, they already practiced Martyrdom as an integral part of their respective religion, what could go wrong? Truly a win win situation…. for all.

      The other interesting success here is the ability to then use another nations peoples to fight an alternate nations war/interests in the region for them. Doesn’t get better than that in Armed conflict.

      And what happens when they succeed/survive, and they realize how they were duped and we think they won’t be a little upset/pissed off about that.

      You’d think England would have learned when we kicked them out of this country the first time.

      But then Kings, Queens, and Lords have always had that that magical connection to Deity/s we all so envy about them. They then are able to know all and will avoid ever making any mistakes we avoid being able to forget and forgive them for.

      But, what’s to be learned from history but to do the same thing over and over.

      Believe it or not the Scout Troop I joined had a whole 7 young boys when we joined. A month later some 47 young boys joined the troop. What to do, what to do. There was an absence of Scout leaders available, and I having been trained from youth myself via a variety of Theistic Leadership groups, but now an Atheist/Non-theist came to the rescue.

      I literally became a main contributor to organizing the whole Den into parents all taking responsibility for organizing meetings, themes, activities etc. etc.

      We mobilized most successfully. We were on our way.

      Then one night one of the leaders on the higher ranks of the local Scouting programs came to me and addressed the idea that I was an Atheist and would have to make a decision.

      I would have to either quit the Scouting Leadership program or just say to him, “I believe in God”, and he and the other Scout Leaders would look the other way.

      I at first complied, and uttered the words, “I believe in God”, and just like that he was good with it, and we moved on.

      Over the next 2 weeks of feeling uncomfortable with my actions and the information I’d found in regard to the real reason/s of the Scouting Program, and the Scout Motto of “Be prepared”, I realized I had also told a bald face lie.

      This also felt most counter intuitive to the other associated principles of Scouting, namely the concept of “never telling a lie”.

      Something felt wrong with this picture.

      I also realized if I/we continued in the program I was inadvertently opening my young boy to becoming nothing but cannon fader in some future idealistic war.

      This for me was other than what I being an Atheist/Non-theist was all about.

      Our oldest and I sat down and had several talks about what had happened and the knowledge’s of what I’d discovered, and I told him it was up to him.

      If he wanted to remain in the Scouts programs, and we’d already filled his chest banner with a host of  mother machine sewed on yellow fabric arrows, working on to the third or fourth book, I’d remain in the program with him.

      After a few weeks passed by he came to me and said he agreed, and we should quit the Scouting program.

      It was like back when the young Black boy from Arizona was denied an Explorer badge by the Mormon sponsored Explorer’s program literally because the color of his skin violated one of the tenants of the Mormon bible then that that color of his skin was a mark described in the bible as a mark of some tribe to be other than in the best blessings of god, some thousands of years ago. therefore he was not allowed to have that badge.

      The Mormons lost that battle in the courts of Law, and eventually claimed that passage from the bible was just translated incorrectly. Oooops, sorry about that.

      Anyway, I am now thinking maybe the courts may have inadvertently done the young black person a disservice in their respective judgement which was a direct violation in the form of Religious bigotry and prejudice/ignorance, in as much he was then able to be allowed to now join the ranks of being trained to be cannon fader.

      Out of the pan into the fire.

      And yet, one might ask how do Atheists/Non-theists prepare themselves for survival of eventual War/s, mentally.

      So, having said all this, it is obviously you and your offspring’s choice.

      But, maybe knowing what you are getting into by being a part of a Scouting programs true purpose may help in some way.

      I also looked into ROTC programs when I was in High School. Learned to shoot a rifle other than a BB-gun for the first time, and how to march in cadence, live ammunition and targets the whole kit and caboodle, right on the High School campus. If you are interested type in Military Youth Programs in your browser. Every branch of Military service has one, or more.

      But, you are correct in being a Scout silently in any community currently and being of an Atheist persuasion if that is truly your intent.

      And yet there is at least one Statue in honor of Atheists whom fought and supposedly died for this country. I think it is in Alabama, easy find on the Web if you are interested.

      You may run into an interesting concept related to, “there are no Atheists, in fox holes”.

      So much brain washing, so little time.

      Can we live with them and or can we live without them?

      And yet Arguments are still being debated in regard to how to avoid War altogether still goes on.

      They used to debate this at Stanford, if you are interested. The president used to argue the only way to avoid War was through concerted embargo, and control of Armaments/resources used to promote hostile exchanges of ambitions. 

      One of the more successful counter arguments was the fact in the history of cognitive types recorded existence, there has been but one day, one single day mind you, on the face of this earth that there has been the absence of a war in progress somewhere on the face of this Earth.

      Therein the only way to avoid a war/s, was to do your home work such to be able to know when and where wars were to take place, and literally avoid getting involved.

      Newspapers/medias are a great source for such information’s, not that they would ever generate significant wealth or profit from reporting and or fabricating such information’s.

      This argument was asserted by a physically challenged sickly student from birth, from Colorado, whom eventually joined the leaders that helped construct the eventual over throw of feudal China, and contributed to the literal rise of Communism in China. Go figure.

      That thinking applied to nuclear missile exchanges, presents some most disturbing implications.

      Thank goodness some one eventually realized the only way to survive Nuclear Holocausts was to avoid going there in the first place.

      I used to participate in debate and organized discussion extracurricular activities in High School on the topic of, “Resolved there should be established an International Organization for the Control of Nuclear Armaments”.

      Same topic entered the collegiate forensic tournaments some 5-7 years later, and a few years later, such an organization came to fruition. Interesting how paradigmatic change takes place so spontaneously, or was there any design in that evolution of social awareness?

      Not that there is anything wrong with that.

      Enough already, and sorry about the extended reply, but fully appreciate your choices.

      Personally I have over the years come to some other ways to avoid War, but then I am now a Non-theist, what could I possibly know that Theists avoid knowing?

      May they/we live long enough to figure it out together.

      But then, Wars are good for the economy, get down get dirty.

      That’s what economies are all about, and what an International Space program couldn’t ever achieve.

      We are so much smarter to be fighting over miniscule specs of territory on a planet somewhere in reality and bullshit dogmas than exploring the vast expanses of reality, the Universe, as suggested by a female pheasant from Taiwan I met while attending a Space Camp program in San Fransisco (now closed to lack of funding) with our same son.

      I was surprised, in as much as I am the one that usually brings up that concept of solving the economic flows of our separate Nations, and or an entire worlds/global economy.

      If another person of such a low life style of persistence can recognize such a paradigmatic ideal then where are the minds and hearts of our respective leaders of the worlds nations all at?

      This was a woman, a low life in her own country, merely baby sitting/escorting the young female attendee to an otherwise expensive Space Program, and if/when she can realize such a significant idea, and she probably was other than ever a Boy Scout, what value does a Scouting Program have in the whole of it all?

      I am thinking not only Atheism is on the rise nationally and Internationally for some very good and real reasons/reasoning’s, so are other paradigmatic concepts of real value to Cognitive kind.

      On another hand the best defense is often the best offense.

      Maybe if Korea and Iran just uttered the words, “I believe in God/Allah/Vishnu” like Pakistan and India were able to claim, it will make it all go away…, make it all better…

      And they too may need to institute a good scouting program it they avoid already having one.

      Or they could just sign the Nuclear Armaments Treaty in earnest and join the rest of the world’s over due transition from Plutonium Energy generation to the so much safer Thorium based nuclear reactors?

      But then there is the concept of Population and Global Resources control and Environmental control, and the question of what are those Boy and Girl Scouts scouting for in the first place.

      Really sorry about the extended reply. But, now I feel a whole lot better.

      And one last thing, once in an Computer Explorer Post 305, sponsored by General Dynamics, sierra mesa California, we were asked if it were morally correct to create computerized Human Beings.

      I was president of that club for a while, and at the same time president of a very successful local Off Campus Youth for Christ Club and such a question was other than taken lightly by my person.

      Since I have changed persuasions over the years, yeah I agree, such is most capable of being accomplished, and the sooner the better.

      Cognition organic and or non-organic has some most valuable contributions to be made to the whole of a reality. I am thinking Theists have been teaching the same for a long time, and may have been missing the point in regard to how even their imaginary Deities have all been carrying that same characteristic with it all along.

      Sure would have been helpful to have some cognitive non-organic entities around after the tsunami in Japan hit. Some one to clean up that nuclear waste mess just for starters. And we wonder why their AI programs are so much more advanced than ours.

      I bet they have a good scouting or exploring program… 

      Maybe there could be scouting programs for non-organic cognitive entities too.

      Yeah that’s what we need, brain washed non-organic cognitive computers/entities just running all over the surface of the earth being prepared to avoid telling lies.

      That’s what life is all about.

      That’s what the purpose of cognition is in the whole of it all. Cleaning up the messes we organic cognitive entities are so good at making.

      Have greatest day.

      Lonnie
      Peace 2012

  • Cristobaldelicia

    I am VERY offended by the first caller.  I was repeatedly told I was going to hell as a child.  As an adolescent, I was told my only hope for sins such as masterbation was to tell an supposedly celebite priest and beg forgiveness.  The last straw was 9/11, which I remind people was done in the name of God.  I would just like to see us get to a point where a Presidential candidate ca admit to atheism and still have a chance of getting elected.

    • Drew You Too

      “I would just like to see us get to a point where a Presidential
      candidate ca admit to atheism and still have a chance of getting elected”

      As would I. Unfortunately I feel there’s about as much chance of that ever happening as there is of someone who’s not wealthy getting elected. It may have been possible once upon a time, but these days?

  • tamas

    It seems the people who have turned out for this rally have done so for two distinct motivations: 1) a personal need for validation as an atheist, and 2) certain political beliefs that they feel are threatened by a “religious” agenda.  I can sympathize with the first, and as a religious individual, I find myself in agreement with many of the political points they are espousing.  Likewise, I take offense when elected officials wrap abhorrent politics in religious trappings.  But I would caution these brave souls from confusing their politics with their identities as atheists.  The sooner we can drop these exclusive labels (Christian, Jewish, Atheist, whatever) from our political discourse, the better.

  • Keith Mullinar

    The ever missing question is “why religion – where did the concept originate and why?”

    • Robert Riversong

      The word “religion” means to bind together that which is sundered. It is humanity’s endless quest to find meaning in the myriad disparate facts and experiences of life. 

      For many today, that quest is fulfilled by science – which makes science our modern religion (no matter how much scientists and atheists deny it).

  • John in Vermont

    I have faith in a greater intelligence.  I don’t think it is in the form of a human father or mother figure but I can’t look at the complex set of organisms that make up life without thinking there is an intelligence behind it.

    We’ve managed to codify that intelligence with math and scientific process of investigation but  we haven’t discovered it’s essence.  Every gardener is impressed each year that a seed, combined with water and soil becomes a plant. Science can tell you much of how and why this happens but they can’t tell you why and how it all first happened.

    Do I think that intelligence has a special interest in me? No  Do I think it will help my favorite team win? No  Do I give thanks for everything it has created around me that I treasure? Yes

    • Wallerjunkmailaccount

      Sounds like you have faith in Good, not God. No offense meant, for me it is a weak distinction between having faith in the tumultuous and beautiful fountain of life and worshiping a Hands-Off God. Kind of the same thing. Humbly submitted, W

        

    • Robert Riversong

      There MUST be a greater intelligence in the Universe than that which humanity exhibits, particularly when it squabbles over whose faith is best (and, have no doubt that atheism and scientific materialism are faiths).

  • BHA in Vermont

    I think the comment that Atheists are trying to shove atheism down the throats of religious people might want to look at the country and its messages from a non religious seat.

    Religion is FORCED down the throat of all people in this country.
    “In God we trust” is all over our money (put there to prove we weren’t baddie Communists).

    Take another example:
    I will be testifying in court. They are going to ask me to agree to this statement: “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth SO HELP YOU GOD”.

    Well I do promise to tell the truth but if it is “so help me God” I’ll be quite the liar, won’t I?

    • Ray in VT

      And when was the last time that someone knocked on your door wanting to tell you about how there is no God?

      People who know me well know that I don’t believe, but I, and other atheists whom I know, don’t go around yelling about it.  We may have a bumped sticker, though.

    • Robert Riversong

      “In God we trust is all over our money (put there to prove we weren’t baddie Communists).”
      Actually, that phrase was added to US coins during the Civil War by Northerners who wanted to believe that God was on the side of the Union and opposed the Confederacy.

      It has been the conceit of all warring factions that God is on their side. Today we pretend that Freedom is on our side.

  • Jess in Murfreesboro

    I work in the sciences and atheists are thick on the ground, even in the middle of the Bible Belt here in TN. I have no problem with people who don’t believe in a deity or deities. I don’t like when atheists assume they have the monopoly on reason or the mocking tone that atheists tend to take toward religion and religious people.
    I’m a Hellenic Polytheist myself and our goals of separation of Church and State are quite similar, but I don’t want to work toward that goal with a group that will openly mock my faith.

  • Elliot deBruyn

    My two cents as an Atheist: A few people have said that it’s so difficult identifying as an Atheist in the U.S. I would counter — I’ll bet it’s much more difficult being a Muslim in post-9/11 America. I feel that Atheism would do well to accept the fact that religion is ALWAYS going to be present, and not believing is a choice that many, like myself, have made. Work for unity, not fracturing.

  • Michel

    I am raising kids in the south and feel like our family frequently gets pushed around by the very religious families around us. There are two sets of kids that I know of who are not allowed to play with mine because we are not “church-going Christians.”  In fact, I do believe in God but not in any of the specific religions that have been constructed to explain and organize it all. Even so, we have been likened to “devil-worshippers”, just because we don’t go to church.  It IS bullying. There is a need for these rallies and for being more vocal about our right to be open-minded and question things.

    • UU

      I went through the same thing raising my kids in Alabama. I “prayed” every day we could move back to Ohio where religion was not a big of a deal. We finally moved back to Ohio, but now are back in the south in Kentucky. They pray before school sports events, they had a Christian comedian entertain at the school one weekend, the list goes on. Now, I “pray” we can retire somewhere besides the south. When we lived in Alabama, I always said a lot of our neighbors home schooled for religious reasons, but we home schooled for church.

  • Dsurf

    I don’t understand why conversations about Atheists never manage to discuss the Unitarian Universalist Church. 

    • Guilfoyle20

       Here! Here!  As a fellow UU I completely agree! 

  • Rick

    This conversation is a special interest group looking make a “cause”. Pointless.

    • Ray in VT

      I disagree.  There is a great deal of discussion regarding belief and the beliefs of leaders in our nation.  Why not have a discussion regarding those who do not?  There are a lot of us out there, even if you don’t see us every day.

      • Rick

         “I am an Atheist” big deal.  Who cares.  Just pointless.

        • Ray in VT

          Again, I just disagree.  We pay a lot of attention in the country to other isms.  Why not talk about this one for once?

  • Anonymous

    ‘History of the State of New Jersey,’ by Thomas F. Gordon, 1834,pgs 44-45, XXII
    Discussing the Quaker and early West New Jersey Constitutions:
    “…that no one should be incapable of office by reason of his faith and worship. … It would be difficult to find any instrument, in representative government, more democratic, or more liberal, in matters of religious faith. Not even a belief in the Deity, was necessary to human equality, whilst the state of New Jersey, excludes from office all who do not profess belief in the faith of some Protestant sect.”

    The dissenters and outcasts from Europe who built these colonies over 150 years before our Founding had strong ideas about Religious Dissenting. The Founders who added religious tests seem unprincipled by comparison. 

  • Ian

    I don’t understand how this can be offensive to anyone or how Atheists are trying to shove their beliefs down anyones throat. I personally am an Agnostic however I am happy for Atheists to have their own beliefs as do I. What we both share in common is that main stream religious institutions feel that they own all elements that exist within their religion. Morality existed before Christianity existed, marriage existed before Christianity existed, everything that we live by that is moral are human elements that were then incorporated into religion. Just because religions took on these aspects does not mean that they own them and it frustrates me when religious figures act like anyone who doesn’t actively follow them somehow rejects these ideas or are immoral people. Religion may help bring these out but it also brings out segregation, isolation, and hate between people.

  • LISTER

     ROGER WILLIAMS FOUNDED RHODE ISLAND ON THE BASES OF SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

  • Robert Riversong

    That James Randi is unable to answer the question about the positive elements of religion without distraction and diversion, suggests that he, in fact, hates religion and does not approach it rationally (as he believes he does – in other words, he lives on false belief).

    He insists it’s time for us to “grow up”, but he comes across as a mean-spirited and angry adolescent who cannot either understand or appreciate anything outside of his own very narrow belief system.

  • Paynekpp

    I reject any lable with Theist in it. I was recently in Europe and told somepeoplE I could not be president on the USA because I did not believe in god. I am prevented from being a full citizen of this country. I don’t need a support group however

  • Samantha Oleksy

    For me, personally, Atheism means taking full responsibility for your actions. There is no God, angel or demon influencing my actions. It means holding each individual accountable. Santorum’s comment about the separation of church and state conflicting with the first ammendment: There is a difference between saying something and creating policies that influence the lives of an entire country.

    • Robert Riversong

      Most religions also assert that one is fully responsible for one’s actions. However, there’s hardly a one of us who is not heavily influenced by Madison Avenue. Does that make advertising the secular God?

  • Jasoturner

    I would suggest that anyone sincerely interested in contemplating deeply about faith (and non-faith) read Carl Sagan’s “The Varieties of Scientific Experience”.  Read with an honest and open mind, this book is extremely powerful.

    • Robert Riversong

      And read that along with The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature by Harvard University psychologist and philosopher William James. 

  • Paynekpp

    BTW their jaw hit the floor, Why should I be supportive of people who limit my citizenship

  • http://www.facebook.com/AuntScilly Priscilla Ballou

    It sounds like many of the complaints are about evangelical Christianity, not about reasoning, questioning Christianities like Episcopalians or Quakers let alone UUs or other non-Christians.

    It would also be easier to be open to the ideas presented by the atheists you have on the air if one of them were not so outright contemptuous about religious people and their beliefs.  If being an atheist means being so arrogant and hostile, why on earth would one consider it?

    • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

      Consider it? It’s not like choosing a tie or a belt that goes with your outfit. Are you one of those “reasoning, questioning” Christians you mentioned?

      • http://www.facebook.com/AuntScilly Priscilla Ballou

        If one is supposed to exercise reason, then “consider” is the appropriate word when presented with an idea, such as the idea of being an atheist in contemporary US culture.

        I am a reasoning, questioning post-Christian person who is looking around to see where/how she is now.

        • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

          The way this comment thread is laid out in my browser, I can’t follow it.

          Anyway, I wish you the best.

          Andy

    • Anonymous

      People become bitter and hostile when they marginalised and discounted by society. When an atheist steps forward and objects to an overt religious gesture in a clearly secular or governmental forum, the cry seems to go out that the atheists are attempting to limit religious freedom. Institutionalised prayer or religious symbols sponsored by governmental organisations are not allowed according to the Constitution. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/AuntScilly Priscilla Ballou

        But intelligent, thoughtful people who’ve been marginalized and discounted amend their style when going on national radio as representatives of a movement.

      • Tim E

        “Institutionalised prayer or religious symbols sponsored by governmental organisations are not allowed according to the Constitution.”

        Then why did the authors of the Constitution allow prayer and religious symbols in government, in practice?  Could it be that our political interpretations of the Constitution are different from theirs?  What is more likely, that they contradicted themselves or that we impose our political values, two-hundred years later, onto them?

        • Anonymous

          Maybe the interpretation of the authors of the Constitution by people with your your view are the ones that are incorrect. The “Founding Fathers” were men of the enlightenment. They believed in a creator god that did not guide the daily intricacies of the universe. The only mention of of divinity in the Constitution is the first amendment prohibiting the “establishment of religion” and even there no specific god is indicated. If the free exercise of religion was what concerned the founders then “establishment clause” would have been un-necesary. Instead the establishment clause precedes the
          “free exercise” clause indicating its superior importance in the document. No religious tests were established for legislators or the president and, in fact, “so help me god” is not part of the oath of office but simply tradition.

          Thomas Jefferson rewrote the Bible and used the phrase “wall of separation” when speaking about church and state.

          I see no symbol of religion on the great seal of the Unites States. In God We Trust was added to our currency in the 1950′s in a misguided reaction to communism.

          What are the “prayers and religious symbols” you say are allowed in government and practice? These were practical, forward looking men who feared the power of institutions such as religion to interfere in the workings government and the tyranny that may ensue from such interference. 

  • Tobyrzepka

    Plenty of atheists practice religion together in Unitarian Universalist churches. Organized religion doesn’t require god, but can thrive in an atmosphere of mutual respect and inquiry bound by common ritual and gathering.

  • Peter

    Freedom of religion = freedom from religion

  • Stan

    We should dicuss the scientific / biological aspects – the god complex within the brain, the chemistry of feelings / experiences.

  • Unitarian

    Someone should mention the Unitarian Church. They take all comers, including many atheists in my community, and just preach tolerance, kindness, and community service.  There is no “creed” and no requirement that you believe in the Bible, the Torah, or any other religious text.

    • Anonymous

      Hi, there are Christian sects that have no creed also. Just believe in living like Christ. Love. Kindness. Compassion.

    • Anonymous

      If only they didn’t call it a “church.”

      • Robert Riversong

        That’s your own bias. A small “c” church is nothing more than an assembly of people who seek to share their journeys and support one another.

        • Anonymous

          Then the dictionary is “biased,” too. One doesn’t get to invent one’s own meanings of unambiguously defined words.

    • Tim E

      Trading a defined set of superstitions for an open set of superstitions doesn’t seem like a net gain to me.

  • Catherine

    I only wish I’d been there in DC, but I wasn’t, so a couple of points:

    We are not UNABLE to think for ourselves as humans, but rather we are, or feel we are, UNAUTHORIZED to do so. The stricture comes at us from all sides, from an early age, and can be seen in so many facets of life, but it is most present in terms of religion.

    But I would bet that there are millions and millions of people who are, in their minds and hearts, essentially non-theistic, or who have a very individualized way of finding community, solace, and spirituality. MILLIONS. But, they are simply too fearful of what stepping out with such an admission might mean to them.

    What is this, is “belief” some kind of perverse insurance policy against future retribution? Sigh: We’re such lemmings. So, it’s as much of being afraid of being apart from the “norm” as it is abouit spirituality, and from THERE it spills into culture and — sad to say — politics.

    Having navigated different cultural slices of the U.S., having been
    skeptical since childhood, and having called myself atheist since my 20s
    (now in my 50s), I’ve been paying attention. Some of the narrowest, meanest, most selfish people I have ever met call themselves Christians. Some of the kindest, most open, most inclusive people I’ve ever met have been some sort of non-believers. That litmus test doesn’t work. Why can’t we all just be? And it has no more business being part of political discourse than would considerations of whether someone believes in the power of fields of luck, good or bad.

    It’s changing in this country (but we’re behind here) and in the world. But far too slowly, especially when one considers that even contemporary religions are relics of cultures from times so far past as to have absolutely no current traction, and yet we seem to disallow evolution of thought in this regard.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we all just let everyone think for himself or herself, and let each person figure out what works for him or her, in the heart and head? What if none of us was indoctrinated to presume that one person has any right to impose his or her views on anyone else, or any mandate to do so? Wouldn’t it just be simpler? Imagine how much we could do and how fine it would be. No, wait a minute, isn’t that a line from a song?…

  • Jenna

    I’m cringing at the humorlessness of the atheist “Rally for Reason”.  This language is as incendiary as “Pro-Life” – for what does it imply, but a false choice. There can be no solution, no compromise when we talk to and about each other in these binaries. 

    Juxtapose this with John Stewart/Stephen Colbert’s brilliant “Rally to Restore Sanity” and the cloying, corrosive identity politics of this national conversation becomes apparent.

    • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

      Well, Tim Minchin called it ‘The Rally for the Incredibly F*ing Obvious’. I thought that was good too.

      • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

        Down goes Jenna! Down goes Jenna!
        – Howard Cosell

    • Anonymous

      The stereotype of the humorless atheist.  I suppose Victoria Jackson is funnier than the following atheists: Douglas Adams, Ricky Gervaise, Ben Elton, Kathy Griffin, Larry David, Bill Maher, Salman Rushdie, Paula Pundstone, and George Carlin. 

  • Anonymous

    “No man nor number of men upon earth,” such is its language, “have power or authority to rule over men’s consciences in religious matters : therefore it is agreed and ordained, tht no person or persons whatsoever within the said Province, shall at any time hereinafter, in any way or upon any pretense whatsoever, be called in question, or in the least punished or hurt, either in person, privilege, or estate, for the sake of his opinion, judgment, faith, or worship, in matters of religion.”

  • Hines131

    I think that we need ot totally support the relegious groups in their fight for religious freedom.  Go to rallies with a sigh, “Athist for religious freedom.” 

  • FlexKris86

    I was raised as a catholic, went to Sunday school and had a hard time believing that Jesus Christ was real but I was forced to believe in him by my parents, I wish I was never forced into Catholicism because I live in fear, I feel if I don’t pray eveynight to Jesus Christ that he may take someone close to me, or hurt my family in someway. Now I jave friends who are atheists and never raised with any religion at all and they go about life day to day with no worries. I don’t force my children into Catholicism and hope that they grow up like my friends with no worries.

    • Anonymous

      Hi
      I was raised/mired in the same god-fearing household and am now (in my late 30s) learning to reject those false beliefs. It’s not the God/Christ I believe in any longer. Fear is not  a good motivator. 

    • BHA in Vermont

       As a Catholic friend of mine said a few decades ago – Easier to create them than to convert them.

      Belief in a specific religion is, for the most part, indoctrination from an early age.  Like any other marketing plan, get them young and they will not likely question their choices.

    • Robert Riversong

      Your parents were not Christians – they were ignorant, fearful people. Unfortunately, what they taught you is to fear religion. If you really want to let go of fear, then learn to see the good in all things – including Catholicism (which is often a force for social justice in the world).

      • JustSayin

        Wow! I think your judging and demeaning of her parents is what she wants her kids to escape from.

         Ah, feel the love and acceptance…

  • Oldseed

    You guests prove that militant atheists are just as obnoxious as militant christians

  • Mfanton2005

    I grew up with an agnostic father and atheist mother, but they never stopped my siblings or me from going to church. I personally don’t believe in any religion, but I have family and friends who are. I think if you’re religious that’s fine, just don’t push it on me. I’ll respect you, if you respect me. Most of my rWeligious friends know I don’t believe in God and they respect me. I just don’t like people who push their beliefs on others.

  • Anonymous

    Currently, I feel that there is a tyranny of the majority by the religious community, a situation that the Founders were particular about trying to avoid in any situation, not just religion.

  • Doug

    GREAT discussion. So refreshing to have an honest discussion of individual rights to have and share non-religious opinions.  

  • Sam from New York

    A philosophy professor of mine once told me that he didn’t define himself as an “Atheist” because he didn’t know how you would define God. “If you define God as a pillowcase, then of course I believe, I have one, but I don’t believe in the God of the bible”, he said.

    • Sam from New York

      I disagreed with him, by the way. There is nothing in which I believe that could reasonably be defined by the term “God” as it is used properly in English.

    • Robert Riversong

      That perfectly describes the utter lack of imagination possessed by most atheists. It’s perfectly rational not to believe in the God of the Old Testament (or of a bearded man in the sky), but it is a failure of imagination to limit one’s conception of the divine or of a spiritual essence of the universe to such a narrow notion.

      All the great masters of science were deeply religious individuals who were on a quest to find truth and meaning in the universe. Today, the purveyors of rationality are often just as blindered and fundamentalist as many of the religious.

  • Anonymous

    As a Christian who was raised Catholic, was atheist (in my 20′s), I value every atheist friend I have. We’re all on our OWN journey. I’m sorry that so many Christians have taken the wrong tac and have offended non-believers. 

  • Cynthia

    I think it is ironic that you are doing tihs story.  I am an atheist.  My boyfriend is fairly religous.  He considers NPR a “godless, atheist, evil entity, which is leading its listeners into hell”.  Whenever I mention a story I heard on NPR, no matter the content, he instantly dismisses it as being an attempt by those “godless atheists at NPR trying to brainwash me into believing there is no God.”  I know several other people that feel that way as well.  I find it impossible to overcome this prejudice to talk to him about anything I hear on NPR, it could be recycling, mosquito reproduction, or sports, he thinks NPR’s entire purpose in being is to lead people away from God.   I point out that you reporting is very balanced and often makes no mention of religion at all and he says that is just the point, the absence of religion in your broadcasts is proof of your anti-religous bias.

    • Anonymous

      Cynthia, thanks for sharing. I’m afraid your boyfriend’s actions are too common among religious peoples. I always find it interesting that non-believers/atheists typically respond more calmly and respectful to/of Christians who overstep their bounds.

    • Laurie

      Honestly, I’m not sure I could date someone who harbored such beliefs. I’m a longtime vegetarian and my husband loves meat. I can live with that. But part of the reason our relationship works is that we’re both non-practicers of our birth religions (Judaism on my side, Catholicism on his). How do you do it?

    • Anonymous

      I generally don’t get into personal matters but from what you describe of your relationship, I see lots of trouble. Two people with such divergent beliefs can rarely maintain such a close personal relationship

    • Eternally Anti-fascist

      Although it is said that “opposites attract”, what do you have in common with this man that makes you attracted to him, and him in you?

      Mind you, I am not a hypocrite.  I am an atheist and my wife (of 27 years) is a half-as_ed lapsed Catholic.  So, opposites do attract!  But, it may still be worthwhile to you to examine the strengths of your relationship.

  • Jim

    If the fear of hell is the only thing keeping you from killing someone you are not a good person. Address reality people. That’s all an atheist wants. 

    • Robert Riversong

      No, what too many militant atheists want is to limit reality to what reason and science can grasp – the physical, tangible world – which leaves out love and joy and commitment and empathy and compassion.

      • Anonymous

        No one is saying that. Atheists grasp the ideas and beauty of life, love, joy, empathy and all the rest. They just see no evidence that a deity is responsible for these things.

  • Asullivan07

    I’m of the belief that all religions have the same core tenets of living through love & compassion ~ and that’s a beautiful thing ~ so to align under one group or another strikes me as an arbitrary choice. I can see the way to live through love and compassion without being told how, and do just that.

    I am not religious, but I am deeply spiritual. That’s what best aligns for me. No one should be marginalized for trusting their own intuition. I love that we have a movement to stand up for personal choice!

    Who wants a homogenous world anyway?

    • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

      Hate to break it to you, but Islam means “submission” and the first 3-4 of the Ten Commandments (depending on where you get them) are about deference and fawning over god, neither of which have anything to do with love or compassion for anyone other than the deity.

      Different religions generally have quite distinct doctrines and beliefs about, for instance, what happens after you die and what you need to do on Earth to achieve salvation, so it’s hardly an “arbitrary choice” which one you follow. Except that most people just go with the one they were raised in or is prevalent in their culture anyway, so perhaps it is somewhat arbitrary, just not the way you seem to think it is.

      • Robert Riversong

        Islam means surrender to that which is greater than your ego, which is the foundation of all religion. The other tenet which is common to all religions is the Golden Rule – the basis for all morality.

        And, you conveniently ignore the fact that 6 out of the 10 commandments deal with man’s right relations to man.  

        • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

          “And, you conveniently ignore the fact that 6 out of the 10 commandments deal with man’s right relations to man.”

          You mean the authoritarian command to “Honor thy father and mother” without the crucial inversion that father and mother should honor their children? Or “Thou shalt not kill” alongside the many Biblical instructions to kill in battle? Or the insistence on not coveting “thy neighbor’s house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, ass, or *thing* that is thy neighbor’s?” I’m glad Yahweh let us figure out gender equality (by making the wife a possession and not codifying the coveting of a husband) and the horrors of slavery on our own, since giving us laws about eating shellfish and mixing different kinds of fibers was too important to leave out.

      • Anonymous

        I think Asullivan was addressing the fundamental core of almost all religions. The “do unto others” effect. This is a deep, and I think instinctual, part of the natural human condition. The “Thou shalt have no Gods before me” stuff is tribalism, we are right and you are wrong therefore we can justify killing you for your land kind of thing.

        • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

          “I think Asullivan was addressing the fundamental core of almost all
          religions. The “do unto others” effect. This is a deep, and I think
          instinctual, part of the natural human condition.”

          Even if it were true that this is core to *all* religions (which I don’t believe because, for just two instance, the tribalist commandments are prominently listed first and the existence of the Hinduist caste system), one must also question where this comes from. If, as you suggest, it is instinctual or it can be successfully derived from a purely secular point of view, then a god need not enter into it; if, only the other hand, “do unto others” is thought to be derived solely from a higher power that can’t be demonstrated or evidenced, that’s a problem and even conclusions we agree with shouldn’t be accepted on faulty reasoning.

          • Anonymous

            I am a non-believer, plain and simple. I do not defend the idea of a god. I believe that religion arose because early man could not explain much of the natural world.

            I was watching a nature show just last night. It showed wolves attacking a young wildebeest. Survival of the fittest would seem to dictate that the rest of the heard just move on. Instead they heard charged the wolves, drove them off and formed a protective circle around the injured animal. The instinct here went beyond self preservation to protecting a member of the heard. In humans we might call that compassion, lending a hand. I doubt these animals believe in a deity of any kind. I stand by my statement that many of the core tenants of religion are instinctual and natural.

            Another natural tendency of any “pack” animal is the idea of dominance. Becoming the dominant member of the pack or heard has its advantages to drive that members genealogical line further. This, I feel, is a secondary instinctual aspect and drives the cast system. And if you think the cast system is driven by the Hindu religion then you should go and watch any elementary or middle school playground.

  • Anonymous

    Fundamentalism is corrosive and dishonest, whether it is manifesting in religion or in atheism. The atheists on this show attack fundamentalist religion and skip over the vast swath of religious expression in this country that is not fundamentalist. They do so to validate their own fundamentalism. The real conversation between theists and non-theists is happening elsewhere, with much more intelligence and less name-calling. I’m content to let the fundamentalists continue fighting it out while the rest of us find our way into a new religious era marked by pluralism, respect, and openness.

    • TFRX

      I’m content to let the fundamentalists continue fighting it out while
      the rest of us find our way into a new religious era marked by
      pluralism, respect, and openness.
      ?

      I’d be content if fundie religions didn’t have the goal of forcing their beliefs into my laws. Ignore them at your peril. There is quite a conversation to be had there.

      • Anonymous

        I didn’t say ignore them – I said continue to let them fight it out. The more the religious fundamentalists and the atheist fudnamentalists engage, the clearer the alternative to the both becomes.

      • Robert Riversong

        The “fundamentalists” who have been most successful at forcing their beliefs into our laws (for 150 years, at least) are the free-market fundamentalists. Reagan was the high priest of that religion and everything has gone downhill since his reign.

        Those are the most dangerous kind. If the rationalists and spiritualists would join forces, rather than bicker, we might be able to defeat the real devil in our midst.

  • Anonymous

    James Randi was fairly annoying, eh? Gives the cause a bad vibe.

    • Robert Riversong

      Annoying? He is the epitome of a fanatical believer – in his case, in non-belief.

      • Jim

        Every Christian is an atheist with respect to the hundreds of other religions out there. 

        • Anonymous

          You have touched upon the response I give if asked, always by Christians,  if I believe in God:  “No, I don’t believe in Allah.”

      • Anonymous

        What’s not annoying about that?

    • Jim

      Maybe you should try and comment on the validity of his positions with respect to the discussion instead of how you personally feel about his demeanor. 

    • Wallerjunkmailaccount

      Yes, I found his opinions to be very parochial and demonstrated very little understanding of, or empathy for believers. But I suppose that the more moderate atheists would never bother to help organize or speak at a public awareness March. So while I am not happy with the image of atheists he fostered, I thank him for raising the issues with being atheist in a largely religious country & world.

    • Ariana

       That was the guy that was talking about giving someone a million dollars if they could prove God right? If so then I would have to say he did kind of seem to be an angry Atheist and not really a good spokes person for the group.

  • Armidalm

    I am glad that the Saturday event happened. It is about time to call the attention about the kind of bullying perpetrated by zealous Christians against anyone who does not happen to fit their expectations regarding virtue and decency. However, I join my voice to those who note the similarity between religious dogma and atheistic dogma.

    There is a grey zone underlying reality, lacking any better term we call it the paranormal. Religious zealots see the acts of the devil when they encounter it, in the name of science atheistic zealots dismiss it offhand as supertion. The metholodology used by those speaking in the name of science for rejecting as supertition what they refuse to acknowledge as phenomena has been criticized in more than one ocasssion as faulty and self-serving.  

    • Anonymous

      First, when a religious person states his/her beliefs they rarely have to defend their position. Everyone just assumes it is their faith and let it go at that. When an atheist states that he does NOT believe in a deity he almost always needs to explain his views, especially in a public forum. How is it being a zealot when a large, vocal, right wing religious group wants to teach a theologic explanation to the existence of life to school children?

      As to the paranormal, I have yet to see a repeatable paranormal phenomenon which defies scientific explanation. 

  • Eternally Anti-fascist

    As usual Tom Ashbrook has shown himself to be a pompous, arrogant a__h__e!

    He decried his commentators response to his comment concerning the (purported) existence of supposedly rational theist whom he claims can simultaneously be religious and yet “tolerant” of non-religious atheists.  He kept on attempting to “box them into” a position based upon his premise of, basically, a tolerant religious fanatic!  His guests would not “bite” so he abruptly changed the focus of the discussion, and thus COMPLETES my description of him (above)!!  The old computer adage of “Garbage in, garbage out!” still applies when a supposed debater makes irrational claims and expects rational debate therefrom!!!

    For the record I am a militant, atheistic, ethnically Jewish, self-avowed communist.  I doubt that he has the courage of his convictions to debate/engage me either on his show or through the Internet.  Let him prove me wrong!

    • Robert Riversong

      One more true believer who is certain he is right. You don’t need God to be a fascist – you need the kind of self-righteous ego you display.

      • Gregg

        I still think you’re a condescending elitist but you are making a whole lot of sense today. I’ve enjoyed your comments.

        • Brett

          You make everything so personal! ;-)

          • Gregg

            Just callin’um the way I see’um. I try to be nice but I’ve been on the receiving end of Mr. Riversong’s insults. That influenced me to make assumptions that I should not have so I give him credit. The condescending elitist is hitting it out of the park today.

          • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

            That’s “Mister” condescending elitist to you.

    • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

      God knows you sinned when you wrote a__h__e. After all, he’s God of the Gaps.

  • Jess in Boston

    The “I’m right, you are wrong” mentality drives me insane, whether it is coming from atheists, agnostics, believers, or zealots.

    On what occasion is it ever appropriate to state your religious beliefs? I cannot think of any polite conversation where someone would declare their extent of belief in spirituality or God.

    In my view, the problem is not religion nor is it atheism. It is the inability for people to be polite to one another, respect each other’s beliefs, and the arrogance that comes with the self-centered “I know better” attitude.

    • Gregg

      I agree, well said. The thing about the religious context when someone says, “I’m right, you are wrong” is there is no possible way to know who is right or wrong.

      • Jim

        Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The burden of proof is on those who claim that there is a god or gods not the other way around. The “I’m right. You are wrong.” mentality is for the religious minded. The atheist mentality would be more like “I think I’m right based on this mountain of peer-reviewed evidence. Now, if you have something to prove otherwise, I will check it out.”

        • Jess in Boston

          The above phrase is simply dandified “I’m right, you are wrong.” Evidence has nothing to do with rudeness. Both the religious person and the atheist in your example lack basic decency.

          • Anonymous

            I prefer “I’m right, you’re wrong (ignorant)” to ‘I’m right, you’re wrong (condemned to eternal damnation)”.

            The latter is much more insulting in my opinion.

          • Jess in Boston

            They are both insulting. 

            Because you may ascribe to one view over the other does not make it less rude and vicious to say. Surely another person would rather hear that they are ignorant over being accused of blasphemy. Does that make them correct because they feel ignorance is the lesser insult?The sooner both groups learn and practice the common decency they claim to stand for, the better.

          • Jim

            Do you mean ” As soon as both groups ignore the conflicts between them and move on.” ? Would that be better? I wish to believe a world could exist where everyone was ignorant of each other’s religious affiliations and those affiliations carried no weight in government policy. This is the world I strive for, yet I am aware that the only way to initiate this change is to proudly and publicly claim “I am an atheist, and I have an opinion that is grounded in reason and based upon evidence” to let others know that they are not alone. -not alone despite our currency’s constant reminder- “One nation under God”

          • Jess in Boston

            What I propose is some sense of decency and respect for one another’s opinions instead of the constant childish sniping from both sides which serves absolutely no purpose but to fan flames.

            You say that you strive for world where personal beliefs are personal. And yet you feel that the path to greater privacy and less public influence of personal religious beliefs is to inform the public of your own belief system? And then further, to assert superiority of that system over others’?
            I cannot see where one can find the public declaration of beliefs objectionable in others, and then so quickly pardon themselves of the same obnoxiousness on the grounds of cultural or intellectual superiority. Do not the proselytizers also use that same logic to excuse their own indecent behavior? 

    • Anonymous

      I agree that it would be nice if we could all just get along, however their are quite vocal conservative Christian groups out their pushing their agenda on our secular society. They have no problem stating their beliefs loudly and expecting our government to codify those beliefs in law. I have known, been friends with, am related to, many very religious people who live their lives and let others live theirs. Those are not the people this rally or the speakers on this program were addressing. It is instead those who would have the ten commandments enshrined on the town square.

      • Jess in Boston

        And so using incendiary language which alienates even those who the protestors are not addressing is supposed to fix the issue with vocal Christians?

        I cannot think of an example where fighting fire with fire by stooping to the level of the lowest common denominator has been effective for change.

        • Anonymous

          Because of the nature of religious beliefs most grasp most tightly to them. For this reason compromise can be next to impossible to achieve. The religious extremists wish to ignite a firestorm to sweep their agenda over the entire country. They feel no need to compromise. In fact their idea of religion forbids it. If not fire, how does one maintain freedom from religion?

  • Markus

    I lean towards atheism, though I try not to think about it too much as it’s an inherently depressing belief. But could there be a less tolerant and more obnoxious group than the people who speak for atheists? I only heard 20 minutes of the show, but what I heard came down to, at best, those who believe in God are ignorant or, at worst, evil and ignorant.

    Maybe it’s just that the mouthpieces of both sides (like the Lara Ingraham’s on the other side) have to be this way to get noticed. However, just once, I’d like to hear from advocates who don’t sound like people you’d avoid at a party.

  • Anonymous

    The concept that the US is the ONLY country in the world where you could have such a rally is an uninformed fallacy.

    The idea that one needs a religion to codify what are obvious laws against theft, murder etc is also specious. Have we forgotten how, throughout history, religious political systems have and do engage in activities contrary to their avowed teachings? 

  • Brett

    I don’t know…having “The Amazing Randi” as a guest seemed to cheapen the whole discussion. (Please, Mr. Randi, stick to debunking Kreskin and gypsy fortune tellers.) I find him amusing, entertaining, and I don’t necessarily disagree with his beliefs, but his input is about as useful as talking politics with Jillette Penn. 

    At one point, as expected, he pulled out his “million dollar challenge” stunt, which is nothing more than a cheap, parlor trick disguised as some sort of expression of an intellectual viewpoint. I don’t care much for organized religion, but it is something that is greater than the sum of its parts, that’s for sure; and, to “challenge” anyone to come up with empirical, irrefutable evidence that God exists fails to see the scope of religion in society. Why not offer a million dollars to anyone who can prove irrefutably that love exists? I doubt that love would hold up in a controlled, double-blind study. I’d place a bet that Mr, Randi wouldn’t bet anyone a million dollars to prove metaphors exist. 

    • DennisGilman

       Nor a bet to prove that God doesn’t exist.

    • Gregg

      I can’t say I disagree. Have you seen Penn Jillette’s 10 commandments for atheist? I thought t was good, it buttresses the point above by Wallerjukmailaccount.

      http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-10-28/penn-jillette-ten-commandments/50978982/1

    • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

      If people invoking gods or demons or angels would acknowledge them merely as abstract concepts like love or linguistic inventions like metaphors and not truly existing entities, then Randi’s challenge might be considered a mere stunt.

      • Brett

        You presume all religious folk are Fundamentalists. Sorry, the man [Randi] is out of his league as far as an intellectual discussion goes. 

        • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

          So the non-fundamentalist religious don’t believe god is a physical entity or that it has ever manifested itself in a way that could be evidenced? And they’re willing to admit that prayers and miracle healing don’t work and are as fraudulent as dowsing and psychic readings? That’s a relief.

          • Brett

            You are serving to reduce any chance of intelligent discussion even farther; but thanks, you appear to have an agenda by virtue of your presumptuousness about what I’m saying (or by putting all religious people in one category and all atheists in another). If, as an atheist, you subscribe the kind of tawdry, pseudo-intellectualism that Randi is in camp with, then so be it…

          • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

            I still fail to see why asking for evidence (not necessarily “proof”) rather than assertions is “reduc[ing] any chance of intelligent discussion.” Randi’s a provocative guy, admittedly; being an openly gay atheist and debunker of all types of frauds wins you as many enemies as friends, but I still think his fundamental reasoning is sound. He’s seen too many sleights-of-hand and dishonesties that look distinctly analogous to religion to not speak up about it.

          • Brett

            See, again, you emphasize something that has nothing to do with my post. I don’t care if Randi is (as you say) openly gay; I didn’t even know that. I’m not finding fault with him because he’s an atheist; it’s how he frames his argument. It reduces everything to very simplistic terms…It’s also interesting how you wish to parse things like “evidence” and “proof.” You seem too enamored of people like Randi and too willing to defend anything that is in line with your position. This I find to be intellectually stunting…sorry, it’s nothing personal. 

  • Wallerjunkmailaccount

    I am an atheist that actively participates in a church. I can do this because I find the translation between religious and secular humanitarian concepts as easily as replacing the word “God” with “Good”. But to hear the guests characterizing religious people as being irrational and unthinking is embarrassing to me as an atheist, and I am embarrassed on their behalf for their parochial world view. 

    I am also disappointed in the show for not finding a a more nuance thread. Maybe 
    the show could have made some headway if there had been a few examples of atheists who differentiated between the act and the beliefs of the actor. The show should have distinguished between theists who bully or otherwise try to enforce their dogma-based moral views on others (likely the majority, I would guess), and those who respect other and only seek to impose their will on others through the legitimate secular legal system. After all, we do this all the time; we don’t allow murder, or theft, or rape. People and their representatives have determined their moral standing on this point, whether from secular or religious underpinnings, and brought their collective will to bear on the whole. Even Santorum’s comments can be seen as somewhat rational when viewed as taking views that were developed in the religious context and brought to bear on the public through secular representative democracy.

    Maybe the somewhat sophomoric discussion of the program is a necessary step to a more intelligent dialogue. If so, I think you should do another show on the topic on the separation of church and state. I think it would be fertile to examine how religiously developed views are properly brought to bear on the larger population, and to what extent separation of church and state simply meant that there will be no one official state sponsored church.  

    • DennisGilman

      You’re my kind of atheist.  Don’t get me wrong.  To me atheism is illogical, but then so is Catholicism.

      • Joel

        And I assume you are prodestant?  What is so damn logical about that!? Ha!

      • http://masterdev.dyndns.dk/drslog Won Word

        You believe Odin is the ruler of Asgard and father of Thor?

        SWEET!

  • Four Elements

    I’m moving to Vermont! Lots of thoughtful posts by Vermonters in this discussion! Sounds like a rational, tolerant state.

    • Anonymous

      Single-payer, universal health care, too! See you there.

      • Ray in VT

        We’ve got our problems, but we do pretty well by and large.

  • Riki

    I’m an atheist concerned about the religious right’s involvement in politics and appalled by the condescension of candidates like Rick Santorum, along with his insistence that a particular Christian belief in God is essential for leadership and equated with morality. But as I listen to James Randi, I hear a similar mocking, intolerant voice – cool it James, if you want to be taken seriously, if you want to be effective, if you want to change the nature of the conversation from finger pointing and righteousness to serious thought, then stop mocking – grow up yourself. 

    • Logane

      I have this exact same complaint about the likes of Richard Dawkins.  I was completely turned off by his version of the Atheist movement because of his vicious fixation with mud-slinging and gross generalizations.  Why do some people have such an axe to grind against religion that they lose sight of the high-minded tolerance that they are supposedly striving for?  Finding inconsistencies in any man-made text or is rediculously easy – even in a standard undergraduate treatise on quantum mechanics!  And his attempt to scientifically prove that there is no God is as foolish an endeavour as trying to prove that bible is literally true verbatim.  The best argument you make for the lack of a devine creator is one based on Occum’s Razor, and that is only a limitation on the number of assumptions and is by no means testable or conclusive.  Any dispassionate scientist without an axe to grind would see this weakness in Dawkins arguments immediately.

      • http://masterdev.dyndns.dk/drslog Won Word

        Tolerating people who believe in imaginary sky daddies is one thing.

        It is when it is impossible to get any people elected to political office who don’t share the sky daddy delusion that “tolerance” becomes a problem.

        We have serious problems, and we need serious people to solve them, not people who are burdened with imaginary friends.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/YULH2O4GAHINZKCQT3DQNNKLOA John

        Logan: Your assertion that Dawkins attempts to ”
        scientifically prove that there is no God is as foolish an endeavour as trying to prove that bible is literally true verbatim.”, is demonstrably false.  He does no such thing in the books that I have read.  You KNOW that it’s impossible to prove that something doesn’t exist!  Why do you enter such silly talk in this forum.  Support your argument with evidence, please! Let the readers decide after seeing your evidence.

  • Dleblanc27

    Glad to hear this covered on NPR. A little less negative spin might have been nice though, especially concerning the separation of church and state. As a young woman and stepmother this topic is of great concern to me.

  • Brett

    When religious organizations attempt to influence legislation that makes school systems teach creationism alongside evolution in science class, this would be an example of overreach. There are many more. 

  • Brett

    Fox News always pulls out its “culture war of the season” at Christmas time, and there are always these spate of “stories” about how “the government is trying to stifle religious freedom,” etc. It’s this kind of reframing (and propaganda) of the issues that reduces it to its lowest common denominator. 

  • Joe

    People who claim to be ‘atheists’, are just living in a world of self denial.  They aren’t fooling anyone.

    I remember the late Christopher Hitchens who was a staunch atheist, and then right before he died,

    Christopher Hitchens was quoting Bible verses.

    • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

      You people will believe and spread anything, won’t you?

    • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

      Boy is this the height of misdirection. Hitchens wrote a Vanity Fair article (http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2011/05/hitchens-201105) celebrating the language of the King James Bible for its poetry and influence, not for its superstition.

    • Joel

      Joe, this is complete bs.  Hitches NEVER EVER EVER EVER would do such a thing.  In fact, he went out of his way to make sure every one knew that.  BALONEY!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Grimm/1013560147 Robert Grimm

        Hitchens often quoted Bible verses. He used them to point out the depravity of religion.

    • Nutricj

      did your priest sell you that yarn?

      that is completely false

    • http://masterdev.dyndns.dk/drslog Won Word

      Uh, right. Do you have ANY physical evidence that god exists?

      We’re talking about evidence that can be explained by nothing else except an all-powerful, all-knowing creator-of-the-universe.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/YULH2O4GAHINZKCQT3DQNNKLOA John

      Joe: your assertion about Hitchens is false, I claim, based on the reading and listening I did.  Can you give us some evidence to your “remembrance”?

  • Doni in VT

    I am very disappointed at the level of discussion I hear in this program.  As a pastor of a main-line Protestant church, I can absolutely assure you that in my church (and many) non-believers are not demonized; there is no presentation of an angry god waiting to blast away anyone who fails to follow a particular script; and no one is expected to check their intellect at the door. I live side by side with, and love, atheists in my family. There are many “Christians” who understand that our faith is not dependent on ancient mystery stories or “impossible” miracle accounts. Religion makes the news when there is a sensationalistic story that sells.  Unreported is the faith that guides and enriches the lives of millions. The difficulty is to help people enter into a deeper, more nuanced, more complex understanding of the meaning of God/faith for our lives.  Your discussion, assuming demons/angels/hell as normal understandings for “religious” folk, demonstrates an extreme lack of knowledge of the range of religious faith understanding. It also trivializes and denigrates the rich potiential of  a lived spiritual life of faith.  I have no desire or intention of imposing my beliefs on any other.  And, I object just as strongly to those who impose on me their assumptions of what they THINK I believe, because they can place me under the label “Christian.” It’s like thinking that all music is like Justin Bieber or rap. I do not want my, or any religion, dictating public policy. However, I do demand the modicum of respect that if you discuss my faith, let it be by people with some depth of understanding, rather than throwing up a comic book, sensationalized version. 

    • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

      Those sure are words.

    • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

      Heyyyyyy, wait. Aren’t you throwing up a comic book, sensationalized version of atheism?

      • Doni in VT

        I admit that I fail to see how I’ve done that.

        • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

          I’d say Randi and Hemant have a pretty healthy depth of understanding. But! I admit I didn’t hear the program yet. I’ll look for it here or on NPR tonight.

          BTW, no Hell in your church doctrine?

          • Doni in VT

            Church doctrine carries a great deal of historic theological terminology that, my denomination thankfully, does not try to define in minute detail. If one’s focus is “Hell,” it can be quite adequately understood as metaphor. My God doesn’t ask me to live in fear of some fiery pit of eternal suffering lying in wait if I somehow go wrong. Mercy and grace ultimately trump fiery judgment. That’s the Good News, bro.

          • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

            With all due respect, couldn’t God also be understood as a metaphor? How do you decide what is and isn’t a metaphor?

          • Doni in VT

            Sure God can be understood as metaphor.  God is always a mystery way beyond what our puny human minds can fully comprehend.  The God that we can fully know is not really God. Even LaoTzu knew that. It’s the “Via Negativa” in Christian thinking.

          • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

            So, we don’t really know. You believe by choice/faith. I see no reason to believe.

            I’m fine with that. Take care!

          • Doni in VT

            You’re absolutely right: it is choice/faith. May your path provide well for you and, if it doesn’t offend, may you be blessed.

          • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

            ;-)

    • Hgtyu

      According to the bible, you have to be forgiving and understanding. The sheer fact that you are demanding something placing youyrself in such a high ground is already breaking several precepts of the bible. The fact that you refer to music such as Beiber’s and Rap in a demeaning way suggests you are not willing to offfer a similar level of respect as the one you are “Demanding” for other ways of thought.
      As I mentioned, I believe there are a lot of seggregationists  disguised as church lambs, they have always been there and are the ones who give religions the stereotype.
       

      • Doni in VT

        I would hope that a program like OnPoint would offer a discussion that acknowledges the range of Christian positions, rather than arguing from a limited stance. Yes, I used the word “demand” because I wanted to stress my concern about what I saw as the program’s too narrow framing. And, I used Beiber and rap because I felt that would exemplify some of music’s range–it was not intended to denigrate.  I suppose I should have said Mozart and Bluegrass. Word-picking is easy. If I’m breaking biblical precepts by your understanding, then I guess I’m still one of those sinners standing in the need of grace and still an unfinished work in God’s hand.

    • Logan

      That is great that your church values intellect and curiosity and doesn’t demonize people who believe something different.   Yet I think your church is the exception that proves the rule.  Personal faith varies even more than religious doctrinem, and sadly, closed minded fire-and-brimstone churches are more normative than high-minded congregations of benevolent truth seekers. 

      • Doni in VT

        No one ever said it would be easy work!  But a God of grace and love asks the same in response.

    • Doubting Thomas

      I appreciate the consternation of Moderate Christians when they hear Christianity reduced to a discussion of the radical fundamentalist Church, which expresses its “concern” for humanity as a mission to proselytize and convert non-believers whom they believe will otherwise burn in hell.  Moderate Christians have probably not been exposed to the extreme prejudice and intolerance of this insular and paranoid form of their faith.

      I have relatives who will argue the most absurd social positions, dredging up vague and usually irrelevant biblical passages as justification.  Many Fundamentalist Christians in America see no point in addressing or even acknowledging social ills, because, after all, this life is just a testing ground for the life everlasting.  People who have bad things happen to them must have “brought it on themselves.”

      • Doni in VT

        I sympathize with you. It’s hard to counter such self-serving and fear-based views. Fortunately, the “testing ground” theology is not universal Christian teaching–some understand God’s “kingdom” as beginning with Christ’s ministry and coming closer to fulfillment with every act we take to further his ministry through caring for the poor, lifting up the oppressed, and working for justice.

    • Atheist Hole

      I’m fairly disappointed that moderate Christians fail to understand the mockery that the fundies are making of their religion. It is not the atheists that create the sensational passages in the bible, we just point out the absurdity of claiming inerrancy of an obviously flawed document. This same perception is actually common in moderates and cafeteria catholics, yet they do not take action to prevent their faith from being hijacked, much like the extremists in the Muslim faith are trying to do.

       

  • Drew You Too

    The fundamental core of most organized religion is to treat others better than yourself. The problems ensue only when we, as finite beings, profess to know the mind of the infinite. Attaching human traits and qualities to that we cannot comprehend is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make ourselves feel more secure. If most self proclaimed Christians held to what is supposed to be the primary tenant of their belief they would never attempt to integrate their beliefs into mandates. I am not trying to single out Christianity, only expressing my opinion that if Jesus is truly your savior you would never presume to impose your personal beliefs on another human being. My personal beliefs are just that, my personal beliefs. If someone initiates discussion of those beliefs then an open discourse should result. I find it encouraging that there has been so much civil discourse on what is normally such a volatile subject. Perhaps there is still hope for our species, and isn’t that what benevolent faiths should aspire to?

    • http://masterdev.dyndns.dk/drslog Won Word

      Not according to your holy text:

      “Whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.”
      - 2 Chronicles 15:13

      • Tim E

        That’s just the point; the redactors of Chronicles didn’t get it.

      • Drew You Too

        My Holy Text? And which text would that be? You assume far too much and do so incorrectly. Why is it that so many pick and choose a certain phrase or passage when ALL Holy Texts (as you phrase it) are meant to be digested in their entirety? If you only subscribe to The Old Testament of the King James Version of The Bible you’re completely missing the point. I realize that this reply was unnecessary, thanks for the clarification Tim E.

  • Anonymous

    The basis for not having a state sponsored religion is a reaction the the experience in England, and later Britain. There was actual seesawing between protestantism and catholicism, as well as rebellions 1715 & 1745 (well within living memory by 1776) in attempts to reinstate catholicism, depending on the latest ascendancy to the monarchy. Religious dissent was rampant in Britain, mostly non-catholic, in fact there was great anti-catholic feelings which were transferred to the America along with the dissenters (and anglicans) from the state sponsored anglican religion. BTW Rick Santorum should feel happy that he can run for presidential office as he would have been discriminated against for his catholicism, a mold broken by JKF, who he vilified. There were would not be many people who dared declare atheism in any form either side of the Atlantic. The courage of the Framers is exemplary in their ideal of religious freedom and even freedom from religion is what makes (some of) these men exceptional.

    btw I am not a professional historian, this is a take of a biochemist.

  • Anonymous

    I’m way out west so this program is probably over. Anyway, I was wondering if any atheists can tell me what “interfaith” activities they participate in? As a Jewish person, I participate in  a lot of interfaith Jewish-Muslim or Jewish-Christian events in order to promote understanding and harmony, etc. Do any atheists participate in this already, or do they want to?

    • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

      I noticed the Interfaith Alliance has members that are also members of the American Humanist Association, if that helps answer your question at all.
      http://www.interfaithalliance.org/about/67-faith-traditions

      • Kathers

        I am an Atheist & I attend Quaker meetings because we have the same pro social welfare, anti war values. I went to a UU for awhile but I could not abide singing religious hymns. This Quaker group is 5 people-if it ever gets to the point where devout believers come in and try to change what we have now I will leave. I go for the intelligent discussions about everything from health care to others who actually want to make their religious values law, which tend to be right wing fundamentalists who think they need to control my personal life. I make no apologies for being an Atheist, I am proud of who I am, and I do not know how intelligent, educated individuals can possibly believe there is some kind of supernatural thing ‘out there’, but they do & they have my respect as long as they keep their beliefs to their themselves and those who agree-to stop trying to put prayer in classrooms, to try and have Intelligent Design taught next to real science, and most of all I wish they would follow some of Jesus’s best words, those from the Sermon on the Mount. I live in SC-one of the most backward, uneducated, ignorant, racist places in the nation-like many southern states. My main goal is to get out and like a previous writer suggested, move to Vermont!

    • Eternally Anti-fascist

      I participated in a fundamental Jewish-Christian “activity” by marrying my wife (27 years ago) and producing three healthy, intelligent, strong children, and working with my wife to raise them to young adulthood (well-educated) as ethical, hardworking, moral citizens.

      In this duo I am the atheist and my wife is the lapsed Catholic.When there are many more ethical, well-educated, hardworking citizens of this country from widely diverse genetic backgrounds, harmony and mutual understanding and acceptance of “others” will come about much easier!!!

      • Laurie

        Heh, same here, except married 5 years ago and currently have one baby. I am the Jewish atheist and my husband is the lapsed Catholic.

    • Tim E

      I do not believe in god, and I like to stay as far away from both religious and atheistic groups as I can.  Both bother me, and I already have all the freedoms I need in America not to be involved with either one of them.

  • Hgtyu

    I believe there are few true believers. As a Christian myself

    • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

      He’s been taken up!

  • Markknoeller

    Religious people have demanded respect for a long time and yet they do not extend that respect to others outside their religion. What happened to “Do on to others”.

  • Hgtyu

    I think many people use church only as  a place to have access to certain social circles. In my experience, the ideology behind these minds is one of separation/seggregation. I believe that if these people were not part of our churches, interfaith relationships would not pose major challenges. Most concerning is the fact that these non religious people obtain, many times, positions of influence in church and their opinions eventually influence the congregations

  • aj

    The entire Mainstream Media bubble is in the process of slandering an innocent murdered young boy.  Dragging his honor in the mudd because he got a buzz from reefer.

    These overpaid media pigs are doing this while high and intoxicated on caffeine.

    A plant is a plant is a plant.  Unless viewed through the eyes of U.S. corporate cable “news”.

    Hypocrites.

    Ron Paul 2012.

    • Anonymous

       Although I also support RP, that doesn’t make any sense. If you think MJ and caffeine are equivalent, you are deluded. a plant is not just a plant…

    • http://twitter.com/BoredInfidel MikeTheInfidel

      “A plant is a plant is a plant.”

      Deadly nightshade… peppermint. Refuted!

    • Gregg

      I heard Hannity on the radio excoriating the press for bringing it up. It’s irrelevant.

  • atheism kills

    Atheism was absolutely deadly in the Soviet Union, where atheism was THE state religon.

    How many millions did the atheists, Lenin and Stalin murder between the two of them? 

    20 to 30 million Soviets died under the atheism pushed by the communists in the Soviet Union.

    • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

      God can top that in one flood.

      • http://masterdev.dyndns.dk/drslog Won Word

        …or one inquisition!

        • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

          Well of course in one inquisition! That goes without saying, doesn’t it?

        • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

          I forgot to add a smiley face below. You get the idea…

          • Matrobnew

            Our three greatest weapons…

    • Chuck from Bloomington

      Actually, this is an often misrepresented view of history. Stalin attended the seminary and came from a religious family. There is really not much evidence that he was atheist but rather an non-religious, narcissistic and brutal monster. Hitler often publicly identified as Christian. This tired argument about atheism being the root of genocides is absurd and not backed historically. Need I list all of the atrocities carried out in the name of religion?

      • Laurie

         It’s kind of like the canard about Hitler being a vegetarian (yes, I went there). Hitler’s physician recommended a vegetarian diet because he had digestive issues, but Hitler actually loved eating meat. Yet people with an axe to grind about vegetarianism love to trot out that myth about him being one as a way of shutting down any rational conversation about the topic. So it is too with Stalin and atheism, as you say.

        Bottom line: No one group has a monopoly on either perfect or evil behavior.

    • O’Sullivan

      But stalin was the god in a theology of “the state”. you’ve heard of the cult of personality right?
      For a modern day example, look at North Korea. Kim Jong Il is referred to as “our father”. Cheers

      • Lou

        Obama has a ‘cult of personality’ surrounding him as well.  You’ve heard of Barack Obama, right?

        • http://masterdev.dyndns.dk/drslog Won Word

          Feeling left out?

          If all I had was Frothy or Mittens, then I’d be pretty depressed too.

          • Lou

            You are incorrect madam.

            I’m just depressed about the sacreligous Obama being president

          • Ray in VT

            Sacreligious how?  Also the idea that our current President has a cult of personality comparable to that of some of the worst totalitarian dictators of the modern world is just preposterous.

    • Anonymous

      Atheists have become pluralities in many developed democratic countries, including most European countries, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Yet American christians readily take their families on vacation to these countries because they have good reputations.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/CXX2PC4KHYHQ4OUQMLZSA2MODI Dave the logician

        Japan is a very religious country. They are not “atheists.” They have a “stste” religion, Shintoism, and there are many, many Buddhists in Japan. Obviously your “atheists” must be defined as non-Christians.

    • Navy_Atheist

      No, 20-30 million died in the Soviet Union because of blind dedication to the dogma of communism, which is contrary to the reason embraced by the average, non-dogmatic American atheist.

      Now – do you wanna’ call Hitler’s reign and nazism atheists murdering people? Please do, cuz you’d be wrong…

    • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    What has always puzzled me about the belief in god is the absolute need for blind, unquestioning faith. In pretty much every other facet of our lives, we have faith in those people and ideas which have demonstrably proven themselves to be deserving of it. Not blind faith, but earned faith. If our parents are kind and nurturing, they quickly earn our trust, usually for a lifetime. If our parents are thoughtless bastards who treat us with indifference or cruelty, we soon learn that faith in their love or concern for our well being is, shall we say, misguided. This recognition of earned trust runs through our lives. It decides for us how we feel about friends, politicians, presidents, and even more mundane considerations such as doctors, lawyers, and auto mechanics. Earn my faith and trust through your words and deeds and I’ll be a true believer for life.          Equally puzzling, perhaps even more so, is the belief in individual religious tenets. This adherence to various religious ideas is not innate, implanted in the soul by god in some moment of spiritual enlightenment. This belief in various religious dogmas is due as much to the simple learning process as algebra or social studies. While many people will go on their own personal journeys of religious soul searching, their numbers are infinitesimal when compared to the number of people who simply continue, throughout their lifetimes, to observe the religions they were brought up in. In other words, Catholics are Catholic because they were taught  to be Catholic. Muslims are Muslims because men taught them to be Muslims. Lutherans are Lutherans for the same reason. Had my Methodist grandmother, who believed strongly in her church, been born in Ireland or Italy, she most likely would have been taught to be a  Catholic, and she would have believed in it with all her heart. Had she been born in Beirut or Baghdad, She most likely would have been taught to be a Muslim, and she would have been as good a Muslim as she was a Methodist. We’re told that we can’t know the will of God, and God works in mysterious ways, but we rely on the teachings of Man to inform our religious sensibilities.

    • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

      (Pssst, feettothefire…atheists and agnostics use paragraphs.)

      • Anonymous

         Paragraphs too closely resemble Biblical passages for my tastes.

        • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

          Try my Bible. It’s the One True Bible. Now with Christian dictionary! andybreeden.com

          • Anonymous

             You made me laugh today. Thank you.

        • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

          Shameless, I know. (below)

        • http://masterdev.dyndns.dk/drslog Won Word

          Fun fact – the original text had no punctuation, no verse/chapter numbers, and no spaces between words. (source: Tov, Emanuel. “Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible”. 2nd Ed. 2001. Augsberg Fortress. Minneapolis, MN. pg 209)

    • Brett

      Good post; I especially like the example of your “Methodist grandmother.” 

      “We’re told that we can’t know the will of God, and God works in mysterious ways…” This is usually trotted out when something can’t be explained or we are asked to not think and just accept something that has no logic. 

  • Gunderson

    I vehemently agree with your guests that there should be a separation of church and state. When Presidential candidate, Rick Santorum spouted off his belief about the integration of religion and state, I was terrified. I was raised in a small sect of Gaudiya Vaishnavism (also known as the Hare Krishnas.) The intense hatred and persecution I experienced at the hands of practicing Christians has left me wary of their ethics and values. In my experience, ethics and religion are very separate issues that do not need to be intermingled. I doubt that Mr. Santorum would be so keen on his quest to add more religion to the state if it was MY religion that was the majority. Since I’m used to having my religion mocked and ridiculed, I take no offense to atheists’ anti-religion comments. I’m just glad that they don’t want to push their beliefs on me and I think more people should learn from them.

  • Pingback: Discussing the Reason Rally and Atheism on NPR | Friendly Atheist

  • aj

    Even NPR is getting in on the slander.  Let’s not forget the historical context of Prohibition of Cannibus laws, mainly rascist in nature.

    Yeah, so VASTLY different than the coffea plant.  Try burning 2 and a few for a nonviolent, and then tell me how effin delusional my flora classifications are.

    I know this is off topic, I’m done.

    • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

      If aj is right, we’re gonna need a bucket and some cats.

  • Ann

    for more info on religion and politics and Doug Coe and “the Family” see:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120746516

    he and his organization had a lot to do with “under God” in the pledge of allegiance and with adding “in God we trust” on money.  It was done in the mid 50′s as I recall from his book.

  • Anonymous

    I grew up in “rapture ready” Tulsa in the 1960′s and 1970′s, and I wish I could have joined an atheist group in my teens just to have some sane people to talk to. I’ve met a few people who had the good fortune to grow up as atheists, and to me they seem like characters from some advanced, futuristic civilization out of science fiction.

  • Ann

    ps  the “his” was Jeff Sharlet and the complete name of his book is: The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of Amercian Power

  • Anonymous

    Children in American culture learn to believe in the godlike Santa Claus in the same way they learn to believe in Jesus. Yet these children can abandon this belief in a matter of minutes, and without existential trauma, when they learn the real source of their christmas presents. 

    In fact, if you met a newly enlightened kid who lamented that he had based his life on a lie, and that he now has nothing to live for, you’d think it would sound like the premise of an episode of South Park.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    I’m all for the rally, but we atheists are hardly all of a single stripe.  As I like to say, Ayn Rand was correct in her atheism, but monstrously wrong on every other count.  I appreciate Hitchens and Harris for their analyses of religion but reject their embrace of Bush’s foreign policy and (in Harris’s case) torture as a viable tactic.  Some atheists, maybe most of them, are of the kind who are not fascinated by religion and just want nothing to do with it; as for myself, I’m thoroughly atheistic but am professionally and personally interested in theology and mythology.  As Homer Simpson memorably said, “I love God–he’s my favorite fictional character.”

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    I wonder if the “slaves obey thy masters” billboard controversy will be addressed; it’s certainly recent enough.  It appalled me that, on the news that I saw about it, the commentary was provided by a Republican spokesman who asserted that it was somehow racially insensitive by depicting (shock!) an African-American slave in shackles as its illustration of Paul’s injunction.  This was deliberately obtuse; equally obtuse was the spokesman’s defense of Paul’s statement. The billboard was allowed to stand for all of a day; I’ve seen really vile and ignorant religious billboards stand for years.  Who’s discriminating against whom?

  • Nabil

    I am a Muslim and very interested in this conversation.  I agree that Athiest, Non Theist, Humanist, etc. have a right to their opinions, should be treated with respect, and not face discrimination of any sort.  I take issue however with the position that Athiest hold a monopoly on reason and that beleivers are operating on irrational or illogical premisis.  This is absolutely not true. To suggest so, which has been done by guest on this show as well as those at the rally, is arrogant and unreasonable in its own right.  True critical and flexible thinking brings one to the reality that both Athiest and believers use reason and logic,  they are different but the differences do not negate that reason and logic exist equally in both.  On the other side their is irrationality and illogical premises existing on both sides as well.  Believers and Athiest should not try to one up each other as the superior holders of truth and reason.  We should agree to disagree while holding respect for each other’s intellect and abilities to reach our own conclusions intelligently.

    • Chuck from Bloomington

       I don’t believe that those who believe in god are completely irrational or illogical as human beings. But I would argue that their belief in god is an illogical belief. Such an illogical belief gets a pass by many, including atheists, out of a respect that it is an illogical belief in god. I offer this, if someone said that they believed in Thor, or Mother Goose, or the Old Woman in the Shoe, most reasonable people (including many who believe in god) would conclude that such beliefs are illogical. But we give it a pass if it is an illogical belief in god. It is somewhat an intellectual double standard. 

      • Gaius Cassius

        And I believe that your belief in “no god” is irrational and illogical (the belief, and it is a belief not a fact, that the created universe arises spontanteously is absurd to my thinking.) So where does that get us? Your posting lacks any form of humility about what is known and can be known.

        • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

          I don’t have a belief that there isn’t a god, I have the lack of a belief in any god concept that I have ever come across. No compelling evidence has ever been presented to lead me to believe in a god.

          Our physics can only get us to the Planck time after the Big Bang, so I have absolutely no idea what “caused” the universe to have existence, but I have enough humility not to replace this ignorance with something else. Anyone claiming to have such knowledge or informed belief on that subject is plain lying and should be called on it.

          Enough humility for you?

      • Nabil

        Thank you for your reply and thoughts.  I would respectfully disagree with you that my belief in God is illogical.  I would also respectfully suggest that your analogy to belief in Thor and Mother Goose is not aplicable.  The scripture I am familiar with, the Holy Qur’an, lays out a very logical argument for God’s existence.  Scripture and religious doctrine can not be compared with comic book characters or stories who’s whole purpose is to tell stories.  Belief in fictional characters would be illogical I agree.  The premis layed out in scripture does not start with the foundation that we are dealing in fiction.  In brief the Holy Qur’an lays out an argument that if one considers the order of the universe (that the sun stands in perfect distance to sustain the earth for example) and the sustanence that the earth provideds to humans (animals alike) fruits, rain to nourish the ground, countless other examples), that it that it is logical to believe that a divine being/intelligence created it as for these things to occur randomly in the universe is argulably unlikely.  I am not doing the scripture justice but offerring a brief example for these purposes.  While I disagree in your belief that God does not exist I do not think that the premis on which your arguments/beliefs are made are illogical just as my belief in God is not. 

        • Ray

           Nabil, Because you can’t understand how the sun is where it is is no proof of god. It is just lazy thinking, another example of god of the gaps. An understandable position to take if you are an iron age desert dweller but unforgivable with the knowledge available in today’s world.

        • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

          Those premises all have naturalistic, non-random explanations to which adding a god does nothing. It’s the same argument as a puddle saying to itself that the hole in which it finds itself is so miraculous that the hole must have been designed for the puddle, when, like the truly tested and verified explanation, it’s completely the other way around.

        • Nutricj

          Give a read or two of Joseph Campbell. It may help to shine some light on what many atheist/agnostics/anti-theists understand the mythology in all man made religions to share, and it is thoughtful and respectful, and interesting.

        • Mkuley1

          Nabil, thank you for your statements.  I beg of you to read up on chaos theory.  It may help explain what you have called the “order in the universe” you believe has origins in a deity.  Our ability to create chaotic models and understand them has improved dramatically in the last 50 years.  And in conjunction, the computer age has allowed us to collect immense amounts of data.  Science has found that there is order, independent of scale, in chaotic systems (like the universe in which we live).  This has helped me to understand the order you have described.  And yes, I am an atheist.

          • Nabil

            Thanks, I’ve heard about chaos theory from friends and family and I definately have to read up on it.

    • Tim E

      Nabil, I’m an atheist, but I generally agree with your statement here.  There is a common hubris among atheists, a false presumption that atheism is born of rationality and that religion is irrational.  But two opposing conclusions can both be logical if they start with different premises.  Atheists are not commonly strong at being skeptical of their own premises, and it often leads them to the sophomoric arrogance that atheism is logically superior to other opinions.  Probably very few of the attendees of the atheist rally in Washington have opinions that are based on methodological rigor.  The very desire for and satisfaction from such a rally is rooted more in the human limbic system than it is in our centers of rationality.  Atheism, as does religion, owes far more to sociology than it does to the mythologies of reason.

      • Nabil

         Thanks I appreciate and respect your statement and point of view

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YULH2O4GAHINZKCQT3DQNNKLOA John

    Humorless? Apparently, you did not attend so you are in error.  There was lots of humor. I chuckled often, belly laughed a few times.  If you want humorlessness, go to bible study, which I did. Read Revelations when you have a few hours

    • http://www.facebook.com/AuntScilly Priscilla Ballou

      That’s “Revelation” in the singular.  There wouldn’t be any humor in it for us, because it was written for a bunch of people 2000 years ago, none of whom are reading it now.

      • Tim E

        What’s the evidence that the Apocalypse was a work of a comedic genre, to its intended, original audience?

        • Houses

          Are you kidding?  They were wetting their pants in Jerusalem, they were howling! John himself usually couldn’t get through a complete reading of Revelation without dissolving into laughter…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CXX2PC4KHYHQ4OUQMLZSA2MODI Dave the logician

    If ever there was a tiny minority in the world “it is us.”

    Probably the most “profiled” minority in history.

    BUT, what, exactly, is there to “rally” for (or against), I wonder?

    Equal “rights?”

    “Rights” to do what? For whom? Not to be treated as sub-humans? Not to have “offenses” committed against us?

    To have our “beliefs” raised to the level of a real “religion?”

    We already have the right to vote and to “worship” as we please (even if we do not receive any government subsidies – ah, is that the issue?).

    We “atheists” have no “church,” no “holy book,” no
    unity, no cohesiveness, even.

    Perhaps to “raise the consciousness” of the believers so they will “respect” us and stop treating us like pariahs?

    And why, I wonder, are the attendees said to be “divided” into
    “atheists” and “non-believers?”

    I love it.

    While it is likely that one day all humans will be “atheists” (unless we have destroyed ourselves first, or have been destroyed by some bored “god”), nothing we do or say, today (or for millenniums, probably), will change anything.

    In the meantime, I will remain an atheist (I think). Although I seem to enjoy explaining why I think there is no need for “gods” I really don’t expect to convince those who believe in their “gods” that they are wrong to do so, nor do I really feel any burning need to do so.

    Sounds like the “rally” is more of an ego trip than anything.

    • http://twitter.com/Zandatsu Kai

      On a scale of 1 to 10, just exactly how much do you love quotation marks? It must be pretty high, say a 9? 

  • Tim E

    When I stopped believing in god at age forty, the only self-identified atheistic communities I could find were consumed with anti-religion sentiment.  I was looking for something positive, not a negative environment that had nothing better to do than criticize, criticize, criticize.  I eventually concluded that self-described atheist groups had nothing positive to offer, and I’ve done better thinking of myself as simply a human, rather than an atheist, ever since.

    • Checkit

       Good for you.  I’m an atheist, and also was put off by the more strident anti-religious voices in the atheist community. 

      But I realized something that helped me understand those people: the most vocally anti-religious atheists were usually the ones who had suffered the most for their atheism, at home, work, school, or wherever.  Anti-religious atheist groups and discussion forums full of this type of person often became, effectively, support groups for abused rationalists.

      Comparatively, I had it easy.  No one in my family is religious going back two generations, and I grew up not talking or thinking very much about anything supernatural. 

      Not everyone is so lucky; while I don’t necessarily with the approaches of some atheists, it helps to understand where they’re coming from.

      • Tim E

        Checkit, your point is taken, and, yes, the more strident voices tend to dominate. But the point doesn’t make the experience any more pleasant.  And even without strident atheists in groups like that, what chance is there that groups that are defined by a negative can construct positive self-identities?  Probably slim, and the anecdotal experience I’ve had suggests slim-to-none.

        BTW, I was raised in a fundamentalist church, my dad was a pastor, and I was a minister for seventeen years, until I realized during New Testament doctoral studies that none of it was trustworthy and that all the pieces fell together on the premise that it was all of human origin.  I can’t say that I was abused in my religious experience, but I had a lot of anger at how much of my life had been wasted on the religious pipe dream.  Still, though, atheist communities filled with angry anti-religion sentiment turned me off.  Show me an organized atheistic group, and I’ll show you an angry group with an anti-religion agenda.

        • Checkit

           “I can’t say that I was abused in my religious experience”

          I’m really glad to hear that, especially given the environment you grew up in.  Many others do not have it so easy: people get fired for being atheists; they get in trouble at school; they get disowned by their families; or told by complete strangers that they’re horrible people.

          If you’re concerned with how atheists present themselves, consider how a large chunk of them have been treated, and give them a hug (metaphorical or otherwise).

          • Tim E

            Checkit, if I come across any atheists who seem sincerely wounded, I will give them a hug.  Good idea.  But if they are coming across as arrogant and intolerant of religious people, I’m more likely to look for the door and leave them to get over themselves on their own.

  • Ruth Housman

    I was listening to Richard Dawkins while
    driving today and saw immediately in front
    of my car the word GORILLA on the truck ahead. I had to smile because I was not long ago at the Brode Institute at MIT listening
    to a talk about evolution and punned to laughter about the continuing guerilla warfare about our relatives the gorillas and other
    monkeys.

    The timing was Perfect. I would love to ask how anyone experiencing massive synchronicity as I AM in a provable way would feel about the issue of God. I think there is proof extant and it could be God invented atheists.

    The constant occurrence of astounding synchronicity forces this question.

    • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

      Wow. Evidence of God by coincidence? That’s a new one. Maybe anecdotal evidence for psychic powers or something, but not God.

      How many times have you been driving and not noticed a synchronicity? Or indeed just been looking and listening at the same time and not had a coincidence occur? We’re all animals evolved to seek out patterns, so it’s no surprise we have these “I was thinking of my cousin just as he calls on the phone” kinds of moments every once in a while, but to make anything more out of them is extreme confirmation bias.

    • JustSayin

       I was driving, and on the radio they were talking about birds — and then I saw a bird hit by a car — a Mustang.  What a massive synchronicity — Horses hate birds. 

      The truth is revealed…

  • George

    I read somewhere that in 1,000 years (If humankind is still here), religion will be referred to as 20th Century mythology. Of course, I read a lot of hard-core Sci-Fi and I believe in science more that fear and superstition, which is what ALL religion is based on.

    • Nutricj

      Many believe it s just a handful of generations away. Hitch compares it a bit to a sort of Darwinism on intelligence…that the strongest minds don’t/won’t need to live out their lives in fear of some fantasy / mythological based order and will eventually become the majority.

  • Ray in VT

    If you are around and still want an answer to an earlier question that you asked, Gregg, here it is:

    I don’t know how mature my views were.  I just came to the realization
    one day that I didn’t really believe in anything that religion was
    offering, at least in terms of proof of existence of the divine or the hereafter.  I
    think that religion does have a lot to offer in terms of values,
    traditions and wisdom, but I’ve always wanted something concrete, and I
    haven’t found a faith that can provide that, which is probably why it’s
    called faith.  I’m open to conversion though, should the evidence
    present itself.  I’m not going to bank on that, though.

  • Anonymous

    Sometimes it seems that Atheism is merely a conversion of what the phrase “God is Everywhere” means. They desperately try to reject “God” like an obsessive-compulsive scrubbing ‘germs’ off his skin. 

    I can’t help but cringe at seeing Atheists proselytize rejection of God with missionary zeal equaling that of Evangelicals. I doubt that rational and meaningful discourse about governance could ever begin by establishing dogmatic positions and digging ideological trenches. That’s warfare.

    • http://twitter.com/BoredInfidel MikeTheInfidel

      I truly hope you realize just how little sense you made.

      • Anonymous

        Sorry for the incoherence. I only meant to comment that Atheists appear as much emotionally invested in the idea of God as Christian s (because it’s mainly Christianity that’s being talking about here), albeit dismissively, and that that investment in rejection also appears to have the possibility of negatively affecting the political discourse. If Atheism is fundamentally a rejection of God, I can’t really see it having much to do with reason. To argue by insisting that god doesn’t exist (viva la evolution) is no more rational as saying “because God says so in the Bible.” “God” seems irrelevant to the question of whether thinking of life in terms of evolution is a useful tool with applications that greatly benefit our immediate lives, or whether women should receive contraceptive benefits. It seemed one thing to criticize impractical policies that might happened be concocted by religious beliefs of the policy makers, and quite another to bring up the nonexistence of god as argument against such policies. There must be a way of talking about them, and coming into agreement with each other, without even bringing up such a thing. That’s what I meant by ‘warfare,’ whose aim is to dominate the opposing force.

        I hope I made at least a little more sense than the previous. It was really a case of “I couldn’t help myself blurt out something.” I probably shouldn’t have commented it in the first place. I do get worried if I ever make any sense at all, or if I can ever make sense of this world.

        • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

          Atheists “reject” the Christian God the same way Christians “reject” Zeus, by not having a belief in his existence. Emotional investment comes when other human beings use demonstrably untrue entities as the rationale for policies that affect us. If someone says he believes life begins at conception despite the scientific evidence because a flying unicorn wrote it down in a book he believes in, that seems fair game for condemnation and/or ridicule. When one side’s policy is based on reason, and the other on superstitious assertion, there’s no middle ground to be taken I’m afraid.

          • Anonymous

            Neither will anyone get anywhere by condemning people for believing that flying unicorns can write a book, when what’s really being talked about is the meaning of life itself, and how we conduct our lives around such a meaning. It’s so much more complex than just a matter of listing fossil records and empirical findings, or monotonously reciting a passage from the Bible. Governance should not be merely a game of condemnation or ridicule. It’s surely not a game of ping-pong; we’re not required to return the same ball in the same manner as your opponent. And it seems often that that is exactly what is occurring: one side refuses to think, refuses to try to understand why they think the way they do, just because the other is not thinking either. I don’t think you can call that reason, that seems more like laziness and impatience.

        • Anonymous

          1st evolution does not prove or disprove the existence of god but argues the accuracy of the story Genesis.

          As to your main point, yes war has been declared. For a long time religious forces have fought to codify religious doctrine in American law. You seem to argue that it is the atheists who are the aggressors here.

          Why is more reasonable or acceptable for religious groups to vigorously push their agenda on society?

    • Anonymous

      It seems to me that the believers (mostly christian) long ago dug their trenches and built their battlements and declared war on secularism. If a student protests a prayer performed before a high school football game there is often a huge national outcry that government is trying to limit religious freedom if the school disallows such prayer. It is the christian right that has pursued assaults against scientific teaching and woman’s rights.

      Simply look at the outcry surrounding the misinformation that President Obama is a Muslim and therefore unfit to be president. Do you think we will ever elect a Jewish or Hindu president?

      Atheists are not desperately trying to deny god because they do not believe god exists. What they are trying desperately to reject is the intrusion of religious doctrine into public policy and christian jihad against secular society and scientific reason.

      I as an atheist could not care less weather you are a believer or what religion, if any, you adhere to. What does concern me is when your religious tenets begin to insert themselves into political policies.

  • Joan

    1)  It is reasonable to be an athiest (skeptic, et. al.) only if there is no God.  If God does exist, then denying Him does not make much sense (any more than denying the existence of the sun makes sense).

    2)  As one of the panelists admitted, there is really no way to prove or disprove the existence of God through logic.

    3)  Some quite sane, intelligent, admirable people (f.i. C.S. Lewis) have had experiences of God that they felt were indisputable, and that completely erased their doubts as to His existence. 

    When these factors became clear to me, somewhat late in life, my “conversion experience” took place forthwith, without benefit of evangelical preaching or group hysteria.  I saw that I would never be sure either way about God, unless I became willing to directly experience either His existence or His absence.  I like to get to the bottom of things and find bedrock, and in this effort I trusted myself not to sacrifice that motivation for some lightweight, comforting experience of groupthink disguised as religion. 

    Since then I’ve had many occasions to rue the assumptions I used to make about believers:  that faith is an easy, irrational, soothing bromide that weak, confused, dishonest people swallow in order to insulate themselves from reality. Let me assure you that, at least for those who consciously engage the possibility of God in mid-adulthood, it can be an incredibly hard thing to do; anyway it was for me.  It was many years before the holy reality that I seemed to see in flashes coalesced into the undeniable experience of the Presence of God, Who is worth everything.

    I hope it is acceptable to everyone for me to believe this, and say that I believe it.  

    I am sorry for the experiences of exclusion that the athiests (I’m using that term to refer to skeptics, agnostics, and other related but not identical groups, since mentioning each group each time would be cumbersome) who spoke on the show today have suffered.  I liked an earlier poster’s comment regarding that:  she’s a non-believer who grew up and still lives in New England, and has found that not being religious has not been a social problem for her.  She thought that prejudice against athiests might be a regional phenomena.

    Speaking as an openly Christian New Englander, I’d have to say she’s right.  Here in the northeast, I was more acceptable to the majority of people as an agnostic than I am as a Christian.  I am not one to charge up to people and demand to know whether or not they have a personal relationship with Jesus.  Even so, I have found that new acquaintances who are friendly and accepting sometimes become just the opposite when it comes up in conversation, however quietly and unaggressively, that I am a Christian.  I have also once or twice had people suddenly explode into emotional anti-Christian diatribes, again when I was pretty much just standing around minding my own business.  It may be that the difficult experiences that agnostics have in the South and Midwest are mirrored in the similar experiences of religious people in the Northeast and the West Coast. 

    Finally, I’d like to offer my sympathy and respect to every athiest who has been badly treated by others, especially by religious people.  I will never forget that I had logical reasons for thinking as I did when I was an agnostic, and that I was just as much focused on truth and honesty as I am now.  The fact is that in this lifetime we will never be able to prove anything about the existence of God to anyone else, so we may as well show each other respect.
     

    • Tim E

      Very nice post, Joan.  My life’s experience has gone in the opposite direction from yours: I was a Christian for the first forty years of my life, and now I have not believed in god for ten years.  I was as intelligent and as interested in the truth as a Christian then as I am as a merely human now.  It seems to me that our psychological, sociological, and intellectual experiences play more into our belief systems than do raw logic or reason.  We are reasonable creatures, but we are much more than that, and it seems to me that we often give ourselves more credit for being rational than our underlying animal natures deserve.  In any case, I like your attitude, and I, as an atheist, find more affinity with your attitude than I do with the atheistic guests On Point  hosted today.

    • Gregg

      That is very compelling Joan. I consider myself Agnostic. It’s not that I don’t believe in God, it’s that I think (as you wrote) it is impossible to know for sure if there is a God. I have known more than a few people like you who have had experiences culminating in the removal of all doubt. I remain open to that eventuality. 

    • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

      “1)  It is reasonable to be an athiest (skeptic, et. al.) only if
      there is no God.  If God does exist, then denying Him does not make much
      sense (any more than denying the existence of the sun makes sense).”

      It is reasonable to be skeptical of a god’s existence if there is no evidence for it. This is currently the case for any god claim I’ve come across, regardless of the assertions or personal experiences of individual believers.

      “2)  As one of the panelists admitted, there is really no way to prove or disprove the existence of God through logic.”

      Depends on what conception of a god we’re talking about. A god that is a square circle is logically impossible.  A god that is beyond space and time yet is of spatial and temporal dimensions is conceptually impossible. Besides, logic usually isn’t of concern when a god is being discussed, evidence is.

      “3)  Some quite sane, intelligent, admirable people (f.i. C.S. Lewis)
      have had experiences of God that they felt were indisputable, and that
      completely erased their doubts as to His existence.”

      Smart people are often the best at compartmentalizing, since they have the most ingenious mechanisms for doing so. For an individual who is convinced by a personal experience, there’s not much I can say; however, if such were to happen to me, I hope I would recognize the numerous similar cases that individuals bring to bear for their own pet gods (not to mention devils, aliens, fairies, leprechauns, etc.) that are mutually incompatible, and exercise some skepticism.

      But you seem very cool, Joan, and that you really thought this through, so in all honesty, good luck with yourself.

    • Ed Lover

       Regarding 1), how do you feel about Vishnu, or Mithras, or Poseidon?  Do you feel comfortable “denying” them?  Since you’re a Christian, I imagine you do.  For us atheists, that’s how we feel too – just about every deity.

      Humans have invented thousands, maybe millions of gods.  We only don’t believe in one more than you.  On the other 99.999999% of deities, we agree.

      • Joan

        Thank you for your reply, Ed, and for your interesting question, which I will not try to answer.  When it comes to argument/discussion of issues, I am a sad example of the person who remembers what she should have said two weeks after she should have said it.  In any sort of argument, I am toast. Thank you again, though, for your wonderful response, which gives me a viewpoint I hadn’t thought of before on the relationship between Athiests and Christians. 

    • Tanya

      I think what you’ve written is VERY acceptable. I wish everyone (believers of a god and non) could follow such a thoughtful and personal path. I respect yours immensely. It has no bearing that you are Christian and that I am an atheist (Unitarian Universalist, to be more exact). The only factors here are that you’ve been honest with yourself, and respectful of others. The world would not be better if everyone was an (insert religious creed here.) The world would be better if everyone was honest and respectful as you’ve been.

      I am from New England also and I’ve met (and am friends with) many people who would allow themselves to be so ugly and judgemental to Christians. I can admit that I can participate in passing such ugly judgement as well but you’ve represented yourself so well here that I’ve been reminded that it matters not what people choose to believe, but only how they got there and what they do with their faith. Thanks.

      To apply your approach to the topic at hand (how religion factors into our government), I do strongly feel that religion does not belong in government nor state. I don’t see why it ought to and it can be particularly disturbing for young people. I came to peace with the Pledge of Allegiance as a young person by standing out of courtesy but abstaining from holding my hand and reciting the pledge. No one ever bothered me and I felt content except that it seemed expected that everyone should participate and no one ever discussed the option of abstaining, or even the implications of why we say it in the first place. Again, this practice is begging for honest, respectful discourse. If we did this, I believe we would all agree that faith is an individual matter and that it ought not to be imposed on any individual to any degree.

      But there will always be rude, impatient, close-minded people on both sides and so the fighting continues and we, on both sides, continue to lament it.

  • ElfmanNW

    I really understand why the people who
    organized and participated in this really elected to do so. The
    power that these political Christians have gained through the
    Republican Party to impose their religious beliefs on all Americans
    is scary. I fear that a really like this will only further energize
    them and convince them that they are losing the imaginary war on
    Christianity in America.

    The current power of the Christian
    Taliban within the Republican Party is really a recent phenomenon.
    Even Ronald Reagan, while happy to have their support, did not
    subscribe to or advance their agenda. This is not the Republican
    Party of anyone’s parents or grandparents.
     

    • Tim E

      While I sympathize with your position, Elfman, I would recommend reading about the atrocities of the Taliban before comparing American evangelicals to them.  Such a comparison is unfair and impugns the credibility of the person trying to make it.  It belongs on the same shelf of fiction that calls Barack Obama a Maoist or George Bush a Nazi.

      • markie

        So you have evidently Timmy, forgotten about Manifest Destiny. Your hand are clean???

        • Ray in VT

          Don’t get me wrong, I do not care for what I perceive to be the political aims/agenda of modern American Evangelical Christianity, but I agree that compare their actions to those of the Taliban or other militant Islamic Jihadists is not accurate.  I think that terrible things that our nation did as it spread across this continent cannot be blamed on the Evangelicals.  There are plenty of others who can be blamed historically for that.

        • Tim E

          Elfman said “the current power of the Christian Taliban within the Republican Party.”  It’s an implicit comparison of 21st-century Christian evangelical Republicans with the Taliban, and it’s unfair.  

          As far as Manifest Destiny goes, I don’t get the sense that people like Thomas Jefferson and James Polk were overly motivated by religious motives.  The slaughter of Native Americans doesn’t seem to have been the monopoly of the religious, even though, yes, since religious people are humans, they do no better or worse than anyone else.

  • Pat McMahon

    It is terribly regrettable that someone at the atheist rally used the word “detest” to describe his feelings for those who believe in God or religion. I am an agnostic. I don’t want “hate” in my life or spirit. I seek peace with, and respect for all

  • markie

    Atheist, what a dumb name, cus it implies that theism has some validity in the world of reality.

    • markie

      God is nothing more than Energy anthropormorphized.

      • Nutricj

        Indeed. Why call energy god? Why imply that energy, biology, physics, and all things that link us as universal citizens, along with the other animals, the trees, the birds, the stars- have to be so named and explained as god? We can actually be linked together by sharing energies- have vast spiritual connectivity. we can be awe struck by the energy without the faulted man made designations/naming it god.

    • Lonnie Wiens

       markie,

      Got into that once myself.

      In the absence of a Deity/s Atheism and Theism are both mute points.

      In fact they border if not cross the very lines of anarchy.

      Maybe one of the more meaningful reasons there is separation of church and state.

      Many Theists would die for their belief systems as compared to dieing for the right to believe what ever they want.

      Basic difference between Theocratic governments and Democratic governments.

      I also realized Atheists inadvertently feed the fires of Theism and vice verse.

      So, I began calling myself a Non-theist, a person that searches for what makes sense in the absence of a Deity/s.

      And I view Theists as those whom attempt to make sense out of reality if there is/were a Deity/s.

      Much easier to converse with them as an occasion occurs from that frame of reference.

      Glad to see other persons realize the futility of such discourses.

      Lonnie
      Peace 2012

  • Bruce

    Thanks, On Point, for two great shows today.  Although I’ve been preoccupied with the mundane lately, I haven’t stopped listening to your program.  Your guests did an excellent job unpacking the issues raised on the National Mall—an event I admittedly had not heard or read much about beforehand.
    Personally, I’m less interested in what people profess to believe or not believe, and more interested in the impact a particular belief system may have on their actions.  The anecdotal data and research I’ve read leads me to the conclusion that Christians, as a group, act no differently than anyone else, including atheists. 
    I agree with William Lobdell, author of “Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America…” who discovered hardly any differences between the morals of Christians and atheists, and in some instances religious institutions that acted less ethically than corrupt Wall St. bankers.  For me this raises the question, if organized religion does not make a difference in how we treat one another in this life, then what good is it?  
    Historically, I think the evidence suggests that in our part of the world (the West), if we have seen any moral progress at all, it has occurred not because of religion, but in spite of it.  By progress I mean the following:  the idea of democracy; the elimination of cruel punishments; the adoption of equal rights for racial and ethnic minorities, women, and gays; the acceptance of education and health care as human rights; and the humane treatment of animals. 
    According to this interpretation of history, the impetus for these changes came from secular reason, not from religion, which played no role or opposed these advances.  The philosophers of classical Greece and Athens and, later, of the Enlightenment had more to do with our moral progress than the rise of a dogmatic monotheism which led to an exclusiveness and intolerance–still in ample supply today thanks to the evangelical zealots of the Religious Right.  

  • Lisa

    i miss living in Chile; a completely Catholic country that is progressive enough in a religious sense, that the prior 2 presidents, Ricardo Lagos, and Michelle Bachelet, were both avowed agnostics. Nobody there had any problem. Both were moderate intelligent, prudent and excellent presidents in every sense. Neither could have been elected in these united states, which we like to think of as the “free-est country in the world. In the US if you said you were an agnostic, let alone an athiest, you could not get elected dog catcher, let alone president or senator or governor. it is sad.

    • Ray in VT

      I do not think at present that someone who is not at least nominally Christian could get elected President here in the U.S., but it is possible in the lower offices depending upon the state and the candidate.  I also think that the reverse is true.  In some areas being too overtly religious can work against you.

      Vermont has three representatives in Congress, and I don’t know if I have ever heard any of them address their religion at the events that I have attended.  I could venture a guess about each of them, but it wouldn’t matter to me, or probably to most voters here, because it’s more about their policies than their faiths.

  • Zak

    I am a 13 year old athiest and on many occasions i have been pegged and labled as a horrible person. I am continueously told I am going to hell, this doesnt bother me if there is a heaven or hell I’m sure Ill end up there anyway. People always try and convert me to christianity which is the prominent religion at my school.

    • Ray in VT

      I’m sorry to hear that, Zak.  I received much the same treatment when I was young.  To take the slogan of another movement:  it gets better.  Stick to your guns, stand your ground and just let the criticism roll off of your back when you can.

    • Tim E

      Zak, there is no good reason to believe either that hell exists or that if it existed you would go there.  That’s their narrative, not yours.  Theirs is a primitive narrative that was born out of a coarse, less humane society.  There is no good reason why you can’t be as good and happy a person as anyone else.  In fact, without the false guilt that often comes with religion, you are free to be the human you are and want to be.

    • Gregg

      Zak, keep your mind open. Fear of Hell or the promise of Heaven are not reasons to believe. However, I am informed there are reasons. Look for them and think about them.

      • Zero

        What the hell is this Gregg?  You are proving my point from a few threads ago about defending Christianity for political purposes.  You are not a Christian, yet here you are trying to persuade someone to “think” about believing. 

        I had to call you out on this.  It is so obvious that republican atheist/agnostics want people believe in Christianity, and then someone like George Bush comes along and says, “Jesus this, Jesus that,” and then they vote against their economic interests. 

        • Gregg

          So, I should encourage young Zak not to think?

          • Zero

            You are encouraging him not to think.  You are encouraging him to become a puppet-person, and you know it.

          • Gregg

            I deny the charge. I’m saying just the opposite. Please reread my comment.

    • Nabil

      No one, regardless of what they believe, has the right to say those things to you.  They don’t know what the future is and sound mean spirited.  Because you don’t think or believe like many of those around you does not make you a horrible person who’s going to hell at all.

    • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

      Luckily for you heaven doesn’t exist, hell doesn’t exist, all that matters is how you live your life now and it sounds like you’re doing a good job. This particular time in your intellectual development is hard for anybody, and just know that it will get better and that thinking for yourself is always a good thing.

    • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

      It gets better Zak. You’ll find your community eventually. You might be stuck for a while where you are, but your future friends are waiting for you.

    • JustSayin

      At your age, Religion is like sports. If you meet a rabid sports fan, just pretend you’re also a sports fan. Spit out a few “How about those Red Sox”, etc. and they will start jabbering about sports all on their own. Nod and ask questions and bull$hit along, and everybody leaves happy.

      You will be safe as you construct your internal beliefs — as will they. Its never wise to reveal what you believe to strangers or even friends, unless you feel safe and have the desire and energy to defend it. You will learn so much more by listening, than you ever will by talking.

      • Anonymous

        Sports teams don’t mandate sexual abstinence out of wedlock.

        • Jasoturner

          That’s true, the Vikings rented out a cruise boat for exactly the opposite reason!

    • Anonymous

       Zak, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

    • Jasoturner

      Hang in there Zak.  Trust your own instincts, your own observations and your own native intelligence to comprehend the world.  Whatever happens after that you can be proud of.  To have a book tell you how to think, eat and behave is nothing a free thinking human should be proud of.

      Also, read “The Varieties of Scientific Experience” by Carl Sagan.  It will make your day.

    • Heaviest Cat

      hang tough Zak. I’m not an atheist , I’m an agnostic but you surely have a right to your own convictions.

  • Nealh29

    It would be nice if we could have a respectful dialouge about this without insulting each other.  It is not necessary or intellectually rigorous at all.  If you do not accept the premis I put out (a brief summery of course) that is fine but characterizing it as “lazy thinking” of “dessert dwellers” is sophmoric.  I did not say I don’t understand how the sun is where it is.  On the contrary I do as it is evidence if the devine intelligence and architecture of the creator. We operate on different underlying premises neither of which is “lazy” or “backward”.  One could incorrectly make the assertion that scientific therories about the origins of the universe are “lazy” because they do not explain or prove how the existence of matter itself, down to the atom, came to be.  Where did the atom come from?  Was there nothingness before the atom or has it existed infinately?  Within the realm of traditional scientific method these questions have not been answered empirically by science or religion.  For the believer The idea that scientific knowledge is incompatible with religion or belief in God is falacious and history does not bear it out. As a believer I am not claiming to have all the answers either but because my premis is different from yours, and yours from mine, does not mean either of us are backward or lazy thinkers.  Go to MIT (or any institute of scientific study, research, and enhancement) and you will see diversity among scientist who are believers in God and those who are not.  Believers are studying the physical reality of this world with the same knowledge systems and methods and this does not contradict their faith.  On the contrary scientific investigation inhances it.  In Islamic history Islamic scientific scholars made advancements in mathmatics, medicine, etc.  The European rennisance (I know I spelled it wrong) was sparked by Europeans being exposed to the scientific, philosophical, and artistic advancement created in the Muslim world by believing scientist.  I say this not to suggest at all that believers have a monopoly on knowledge and rationality.  Lets have a substantive discussion about our questions and beliefs about the origins of reality but lets not digress into insults which do not increase anyones knowledge.

    • Anonymous

      Yes mankind is yet to discover the answers to many of the unknowns of the universe. But we cannot with honesty just fill in the blanks with created stories that have come from ancient writers who didn’t even know something as basic as disease prevention by handwashing. Should they have indeed had “divine” knowledge, why did the deity allow so many to die for discovering that earth rotates around the sun?

      • Jasoturner

        Indeed, if these books are divine, why no mention of atoms, or galaxies, or radioactivity, or gravity?  Why do these divine texts worry about what we should eat, but leave not one crumb of information about the world we understand today to prove there was a knowledge beyond the culture in which this divine document happened to show up?

        Maybe because the authors could only make up stuff they know about?

        • Nabil

          Again speaking fromy scripture the Holy Qur’an those things (atoms, galaxies, etc. sare mentioned and explicitly referred to.

      • Nabil

        The concept I’m trying to communicate is that the premis believers operate under is different from the premis athiest or non beleivers may hold that reality can only be discernable or defined only by what humans can observe (valid observation being done through scientific method).  The premis of many beleivers respects that scientific method and investigation is not only valid but essential to enhancing humanity’s knowledge and development.  This premis also however asserts that human observation is not the only source of knowledge and that the capacity for human knowledge has limits.  I understand that this is likely a premis you reject which I respect but it is important to note as believers are not just “filling in” things all humans do not yet know with something we just pulled out of the air.  We are operating from different assumptions and paradigms.  Believers suscribe to the thesis that their exist a higher knowledge evidenced to us by revelation, scripture being one of them.  We are not monolithic.  We have different religions, different beliefs, scriptures, interpretations of the same scriptures, etc.  Again you do not have to agree (as I’m sure you don’t) but my point is the process by which believers come to their conclusions is a logical one just as the process by which athiest come to their’s is logical.  The underlying foundations of each argument are different and if applied to the differing argument would be illogical or unreasonable.  This is why it is so important to understand the underlying assumptions and foundations for each perspective rather than either of us incorrectly assuming that the other’s position is illogical and unreasonable.  In response to you other points I will speak from my knowledge point which is Islam.  With respects to ancient writers who did not know about disease prevention of washing hands the first point is that the scriptures were not believed to be written by humans but revealed through them by God.  More to this point the Holy Qu’ran specifically instructs cleanliness and washing of hands, feet, arms, face, and head before prayer (at least 5 times a day).  This is both to maintain physical cleanliness as well as (through symbol) psychological and spiritual cleanliness.  Whomever one believes wrote this it is clear that the understanding of washing to maintain both physical and spiritual health was explicitly understood.  To go even further it was Muslim scientist and doctors, inspired by the Holy Qur’an’s command to study the physical realitites of this material world, who poineered the understanding that diseases were microscopic and could be spread by air, touch, etc.  It was these doctors and scientist who poineered hospitals as a means to isolate the sick from the healthy to reduce diseases being spread by transmision through air or touch.  Religious thought did not impair these discoveries but converslely insired them.  The question of how innocent people are allowed to die unjustly would take too long to discuss in this forum.  In my development I had the same questions.  I premis or concept important to understand from the believer’s perspective related to this however is that this material world is not the only realm of existance.  Believers and Muslim’s in particular believe their are spiritual  realms after death that we enter where each soul’s existence is rewarded or punished for their deeds in this life.

    • Heaviest Cat

      But it’s hard to reason with these heee haws! (nah, just kidding ; )

  • Gregg

    Ralph was a hell of a drummer. As a younger man he served in the Navy as
    a medic. He had a manicured beard and a tattoo. He was the coolest guy
    in the band. Men would share their drugs and women their bodies in every
    city at every gig. Ralph had a worldly presence about him, you wanted
    to hang with him. He was wrapped in a perfect package.

    Roger was a
    drunk. He was as redneck as they come. He had a garage and could fix
    anything that ran. His passion was dirt track racing. Most of his time
    and profits were spent in his garage working on race cars. He lived
    hard. He was usually dirty. He couldn’t spell very well and didn’t know
    many 12th grade words. He didn’t think twice about knocking on your
    door, drunk as hell at 2:30 in the morning just to visit. He was wrapped
    in a less than flattering package.

    Ralph was married with two
    children. One had Down’s Syndrome. His wife wasn’t stupid. We came home
    to Boone one week and she and the kids were gone. Ralph was devastated
    but at the next gig it was business as usual. After he left the band we
    lost touch. I’d see him here and there from time to time but that was
    all. He remarried but that didn’t last either. At one point I heard he
    was in jail for breaking and entering. I figured it was drugs at the
    root of it. I knew Ralph well and was sure he was not trustworthy.
    Finally I heard he found God. He got involved with a local church. He
    was out of jail and working on the grounds. The preacher, as a sponsor,
    was letting him live and work there as part of his parole arrangement.
    Everything was peachy until the preacher caught Ralph in bed with his
    wife. He could not be trusted. He left a trail of deceit that resulted
    in real people being hurt. The list goes on.

    Roger was a man of
    his word. If he said he would do something then you could take it to the
    bank. I helped him out a little while he was down on his luck and he
    never forgot it. I could count on him whenever I needed a friend. He
    once changed a water pump on my wife’s truck in the middle of the night
    on the side of the road 40 miles away while I was out of town. He
    insisted. He would never dream of cheating in a game of checkers, it was
    beyond comprehension for him to cheat on his girlfriend. He had awesome
    respect for women but even that got him in trouble. He once got beat up
    and thrown out (literally) of the “SidePocket Lounge”. I talked to him
    about it later and he told me he was standing up for a woman he didn’t
    know who was being harassed by cowboys. He told me they “crossed the
    line” and drunk and out numbered or not he had to put a stop to it. He
    was a simple man of high honor. He knew the meaning of a handshake. He
    valued passion driven obsession to a fault.

    I heard that Ralph
    had died in a house fire from a friend and former bandmate. Witnesses
    say he ran back into the house. He survived for about two days. Later it
    was revealed he set the fire. It’s all a mystery. A few years ago at a
    jam party deep in the woods around Todd,NC. I was talking with a few
    friends about Ralph. One said Ralph had stolen from him. Another
    recounted how Ralph took his girlfriend and then broke her heart. Aside
    from the metaphorical aspect of his dying in a fire this is what hell
    means to me. Ralph lives on and those that knew him well enough to see
    beyond his impeccable veneer will forever hold him in contempt.

    I
    heard about Roger’s death by sheer happenstance. I was at a gig in
    Gastonia, NC and the emcee from the Taylorsville dirt track was there. When I
    realized where he was from I asked about Roger and learned he had died
    of colon cancer. Sometime earlier Roger came by out of the blue. I
    surmised in hindsight that he knew he was dying and was saying goodbye.
    We had a great visit and he never mentioned his illness. I learned a lot
    from Roger as I’m sure many who got to know him did. The girl he got in
    a fight over was actually a prostitute. I’d like to think Roger’s act
    of redneck chivalry was not lost on her. Maybe she found some respect
    for herself inspired by Roger taking her honor more seriously than she
    did. Towards the end Roger was so weak he had to be loaded into his race
    car. He won his last race. He’s a legend in the Taylorsville dirt track
    world. Anyone who recalls Roger does so with a smile. He lives on. To
    me that’s heaven.

    If anyone ever writes anything about me after
    I’m gone I hope they don’t feel compelled to change my name to protect
    my loved ones from some dirty truth. Ralph and Roger were real people.
    “Ralph” wasn’t his real name, I changed it. I did not change Roger’s.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CXX2PC4KHYHQ4OUQMLZSA2MODI Dave the logician

    I enjoyed reading many of the comments on the program. Many of the comments, however, when discussing various religions and comparing them make a common mistake. Theology and practice are very different, always. If one wants to discuss religion one must consider it in terms of its theology, not its practice. I do not need to defend my atheism nor should those who are theists feel required to defend their beliefs. Most, if not all, theists need their theism, for one reason or another. That I cannot accept theism for me is personal. It would take a volume or two to explain to anyone why I am an atheist (a book I have been working on for a very long time). But that book is for my own satisfaction and growth. I am not writing it for missionary purposes. I only want to know more. So long as neither the atheist nor the theist feel the need to convert everyone to their position, all is well. We humans will grow at our own pace.

  • Stuartsigman

    interesting show, but it’s very interesting that the atheists being interviewed have an incredibly simplistic view of religion.

    i thought they were all for intellectual honesty and examination. oh well, guess not…

    • Jasoturner

      Religion is like the game “Dungeons and Dragons”.  If you are a player, it is a complex and engrossing world of intricate ideas and strategies of which no amount of analysis and speculation can exhaust.  If you have a day job, it’s just a role playing game.  It is in this sense that you may perceive the comments as simplistic – they don’t view religion as worthy of concentrated thought because it is not (to their minds at least) at all relevant to living a good and productive life.  I would not call this intellectually dishonest, quite the contrary.

  • Stuartsigman

    in fact, when they say ‘religion,’ what they seem to mean is ‘christianity’ because that’s what they may have had exposure to.

    well, news flash – christianity isn’t the only religion in the world.

    • Reality

      I don’t believe in any gods, Zeus, Vishnu, Allah or Yahweh.Or
      demons, devils, fairies and unicorns. That is what it means to be an
      atheist. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

      Like Reply

      • Stuartsigman

        The claim that the universe and everything in it arose by complete accident and randomness is the most extraordinary claim there could possibly be. There’s absolutely no evidence for it, and it is a mathematical impossibility.

        The only way someone would believe such a thing can only be described as blind faith.

        • Ray in VT

           In one of his recent works Stephen Hawking says that math and science can explain creation without the divine.  His math is way beyond me, but he is a respected authority.

          Would you contend that the claim that all existence was created by some sort of divine being is not an extraordinary claim?  I would, and it is that doubt that has lead me to atheism.

          • Stuartsigman

            Hi Ray – Honestly, I think that existence, the universe, etc. is pretty extraordinary regardless of whether it was created by God or not. 

            I’m sure Hawking’s math is way beyond me as well, but there are many other highly respected mathematicians and scientists who contend that the probability for the universe as it exists coming into being without some outside force acting on it is so infinitesimal that it’s accurate to say it’s an impossibility.

          • Ray in VT

            Hi Stuart (?),
            I appreciate your measured response.  I don’t know where this all came from.  It could be any number of possibilities.  I’m a skeptical about the existence of the divine no matter what tradition one talks about.  We’ll all find out some day, or we won’t.

            Einstein believed in God.  Francis Collins is an Evangelical Christian.  I think that it is arrogant and wrong for non believers to denigrate the faith of believers.

          • Stuartsigman

            Hi Ray – I agree – we shouldn’t denigrate either way. I respect anyone who is thoughtful and honest about their beliefs, even if I may come to different conclusions.

            I’m an Orthodox Jew, and try my best to embody the Jewish tradition of honest investigation and never being afraid to ask difficult questions.

          • Jammer

            Double check your facts on Einstein. He mentions “god” several times, but there are several sources where he denies belief in a personal god.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Lee/100001074475538 Christopher Lee

            Name those other mathemeticians. In fact, name ONE peer-reviewed scientific paper that offers even a scintilla of evidence for an intelligence of ANY sort behind the creation of the universe.

  • ScienceRules

    I don’t believe in any gods, Zeus, Vishnu, Allah or Yahweh.
    Or demons, devils, fairies and unicorns. That is what it means to be an atheist. Extraordinary claims require extra ordinary evidence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charley-Wooley/741206578 Charley Wooley

    I’m not a religious type myself more of a science guy. But I refuse to identify as atheist because of all the ra ra ra atheist folks out there. Yeah I don’t believe in a higher power without evidence to back it up… but I still suck it up and say “Under god” in the pledge of allegiance. Is it really that big of a deal???
    I mean atheists don’t even believe in a higher power so its not as if they’re going to offend their diety. And anyway the pledge of allegiance just doesn’t sound right without it…kinda loses its flow.

    • Tim E

      What bothers me about the Pledge of Allegiance is that it is “to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands.”  I can’t conscientiously pledge allegiance to a flag or to a republic, because flags can be construed to represent the wrong things, and republics can violate ethical principles.  If the Pledge said something like, “I pledge allegiance to Liberty and Justice, for which alone the Flag stands, to which the Republic is accountable,” then I could say it without representation. The presence of “under God” is not nearly as much of a problem to me as is the presumption that I would pledge my allegiance to a republic, instead of to the principles to which it should be bound and to which I and its other citizens should hold it accountable.

    • blatsnorf

       “Is it really that big of a deal???”

      Yes.  Ignorance comes in many forms…  Those who blame vaccines for problems the didn’t cause.  Those who  say that smoking isn’t harmful because their grandpa lived to nearly 100.  And, those who ask what harm is there is continuing to honor an undeserved position of privilege of the religious and entanglement of religion in our government.  Yes, it is that big of a deal.  You can be forgiven for not being aware of that answer.  Now you have to choose whether to remain ignorant…  good luck.

  • Freemarket

    Western civilizaion is based on the moral values of the 10 Commandments handed down by Moses and others.  Atheists do not have a moral foundation.  If there is no God, then breaking God’s Commandments makes no difference.   Believers in God do not have any evidence that God exists, but then, atheists do not know what happens after death as well.  As for this rally, this is nothing but a left wing rally and has little or no meaning for the existance of  God.  This woman spouts off the usual socialists cliches which corrupt the whole rally. 

    • Ray in VT

       To hear you speak one would think that atheists have no moral foundations what so ever.  It is just this sort of bias that many atheists, whom I have generally found to be good and conscientious people, have to put up with.  Christians may have the 10 Commandments, but look how many Christians break them.  Just because people have rules doesn’t mean that they live by them.  I’ll take people’s deeds over their words and beliefs any day.

      • Anonymous

        Huh. I am an atheist. I donate to charities, I donate countless hours of time to local nonprofit organizations, I vote, I have raised my daughter to be careful, considerate, and compassionate. I don’t cheat. I pay my taxes. I follow the laws of my town, state, and country. I work in a service profession helping other people. I keep my non-beliefs to myself and I wish all the religious people would too. And stay out of my bedroom!

      • Jasoturner

        Better to have a man who constructs his own moral bearings than a man who blindly follows rules that are dictated to him.  The latter can be easily mislead or manipulated to do bad under the banner of good.  The former, not so much.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CRTBVXTQSOPGLVECV6HA3NYJZA MoniqueDC

      Check your history, Freemarket.   Are you saying there was no moral or ethical structure before the Christian religion?     I think you will find at least 3,000 years of history that contradicts your theory.

    • Council of Nicea

       Dear enslaved market–its ironic that you talk about cliches as you use them–good t know people still have faith in soundbites, lies, propaganda, and brainwashing machines–but lets get this straight–morality–has nothing to do with religion-OK–you demonstrate your ignorance.  history does not begin with Moses.  Moses slaughtered thousands for no apparent reason–he commands them to turn on each other and massacre each other–his first order of business was to structure society in regiments, battalions–and Yahweh was a tribal God of Armies–War!–Murder, massacre, genocide!  But this is not my point–its yours–anyway, morals were established and have been established always and forever by non-religious people.  Take for example–Greek Philosophers–Socrates, Plato, Aristotle.  Virgil’s Aenied.  Milton’s Paradise Lost, beowulf, etc–these all question morality and virtue, even if you don’t accept the moral question or the ethical answer.  maybe you don’t live an examined life.  maybe it is ye who are ‘immoral’?  And if we take for example Homer’s Iliad a great anti-war epic, which examines what is honor, glory, and personal fame, when juxtaposed with the very real consequences of war on family, women, men, animals…women are treated as property, as sexual objects, as whores–by religious people–and Homer (who was writing down generations of oral transmission–countless beliefs and ideas) questions the virtue of this–and connects it to the savage instincts of religious people who start wars and kill indiscriminately in vainglorious war!  And these people lived and died long before the manufactured pre-Jesus idea of Christianity.  they had gods and virtues–all rhetoric–and they destroyed temples and human lives and nature; and “pagans” and atheists and philosophers alike questioned the morality of it–the consequences–and asked What is virtue?  Long before Christianity.  And mostly outside the Moses tradition.  And these people believed in their gods as strongly as you do–and now we recognize them all as myth and moral fables, parables, legend and lore–great stories!  nothing more.  We are all atheists–some people just go one god further! Your creation myth, tree of knowledge and life, the flood come from traditions that predate Yahweh and Christ by thousands of years.  These people too were asking what is good, what is evil?  they had laws, and family and friends and concepts such as loyalty, and kindness and compassion–so it is groundless to call atheists or non-Roman propaganda-worshipers as immoral or amoral.  Nonreligious people asked the first moral questions and often because religious people behaved in immoral ways.  You have no idea what world you live in. Its all a fantasy to you.  And you make it a dangerous place.  to be of one book is immoral.  The most immoral people i have eve met are religious.  The most compassionate, trusting, interesting, wise and fair people I ever met were atheists or went undisclosed.  if I was a god, i wouldn’t need people to believe in me or pretend for me–i would just want them to be good, and be well–i wouldn’t care how they do it.  religion is about power, and is certainly unethical, immoral, maybe evil.  Faith is hopeful, maybe foolish.  belief is ignorant, maybe immoral. if eve never tasted the fruit-w-e would have no concept of morality–we would be automatons, predator drones, machines–slaves.  programmed to kill, murder, if thy master bid–as Moses and Joshua and his friends loved to do.  A woman then must be the essence of all that is good and moral.  Pandora was so curious. Jezebel saw injustice in the world, a widening gap between the haves and have-nots and the murderous ways of the Bible thumpers–she adored nature and lived in harmony with it, and identified with the meek and under-privileged–for this she was smeared and called a traitor, a pagan, a whore…disobedient.  I think if i lived back then, i would find it hard to respect the emerging god of armies too–Yahweh–the genocidal god of rulers and elite wealth.

    • Nutricj

      since you go by freemarket- maybe it would be best to handle this in economic terms? altruism is both nature/nurture- but it can most certainly be taught and learned. just as guilt, love, moral compass- some is in- built and some is learned. but, we never need to learn utility after baby hood. man says, “i hungry, i eat” and “i have more food than you = i rich” currency is learned- this was once things like salt (the derivation of the word salary, as it used to be “money” a long time ago. so then man said, “i work, i get more salt, i get more food (or shelter, or stuff, etc.) = i rich. altruism= man says, “i give some salt/food/stuff away, i feel gooood, and (maybe a little ego)- now more man like me” = i rich and i give and i happy and i popular! yay for me. anyhow, western civilization is NOT based on the 10 commandments- we were running away from religious and other oppressive entities to become westerners and we had moral compass fine without religion.

    • Zero

      First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other god before me.”  First Amendment, “You can believe in whatever you want.”

      Atheists look at death from what we can observe: your cells die and you become a non-conscious, inanimate, decaying object–after that, all other beliefs are nothing more than the product of the imagination.  If you think your imagination is more real than what we observe, I would say that is egotistical.

    • Anonymous

      With every sentence I saw your IQ go down by ten points, great Christian!

    • Harley

      Do you know what happens when you die? Have you ever been dead? NO, i didn’t think so. Then its pretty safe for me to say you don’t have the slightest idea of what you are talking about.

    • Heaviest Cat

      Freemarket ,that is so arrogant and sanctimonius. Who are you to say that “atheists have no moral foundation”?
       Look in what many call the “Old Testament” and see how “moral” , “God’s people” were in their sanctioning of stoning women who were unfaithful or in the slaughter of the women and children of their enemies.Even the idea of “eternal damnation” for “non-believers” contradicts the idea of a loving God.

  • Jochebed

    Gotta love when the “tolerant open-minded” atheist can’t manage to answer a simple question about good qualities of religious organizations without going on a rant about religion.

    • Harley

      Cause there is only a small portion of religion that is good. Its a fact that religion is very bad and has killed more people than any other thing on this planet. Your organization is just an exception to the wickedness called religion. Thank you for doing good if even if it wont help the big picture.

    • Anonymous

      The debate is not about the good qualities of religious people, it is about the reasonable belief in a deity. People cling to this belief and there are reasons for it. It doesn’t make them bad or stupid, but it does show a preponerance to accept nonsense and this can also allow other nonsense to infiltrate their thinking and manipulate them. It takes courage to confront the reality that there is no sky daddy looking after us or a being who made the universe. If that is what people want to believe, then the question they must surely ask next is: but who made him? Believing in a god does not solve the big questions.

  • Josh

    Listening to this recent show about so called atheists and I find it funny that they think all reason goes out the window as far as faith and religion is concerned. 

    To see what I mean, listen to this Fresh Air interview with Francis Collins (Scientist/Christian- Director of The Human Genome Project)
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9207913

    Brings to mind the Bible verse supporting reason in RELATION to our creator of the universe as we are discovering:
    “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD”
    isaiah 1:18
    Josh

    • Michael Pfaff

      Hey Josh,

      We atheists read that as, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Imaginary Friend”.

      So, you can understand why we wouldn’t subscribe to the argument that your “LORD” has anything to do with reason.

      If I had a book that said, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Flying Spaghetti Monster” and claimed that the Cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was totally based on reason… I mean, just look! It says the word “reason” right in there! Would this be suitable evidence that our belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster was a reasonable belief, despite any evidence of the FSM actually existing?

      Mike

    • Zero

      I have more reason to believe Elvis is still alive: after all, I have seen his movies, heard his music, and there are pictures of him proving his existence, but since I haven’t exhumed his corpse, there is still more reason for me to believe he is still alive, then there is for Jesus or even God. 

  • 2dogsbarking

    I caught the last half of the show, as I was on my way home from (ironically) a Bible Study.  I wanted to call in and apologize for what insensitive, conceited, domineering and thoughtless pigs we Christians have been and continue to be.  How arrogant!!  For a people who claim to profess love, we don’t seem to show it to anyone outside of our circle of faith.  I presuppose the reality of Christ, but I don’t think he would believe what has been done and said in his name, nor am I sure he would fit in with mainstream Christianity.

  • Michael Pfaff

    Tom, thanks for having these guys on and spotlighting this event. James Randi was kind of a douche, but Hemant kicked ass.

    • Anonymous

       Amen (oops!).  I took the time to register for this forum to say exactly that.  Randi came off as a complete jerk.  He’s obviously not interested in a conversation with anyone who doesn’t hold exactly his views, as he went out of his way to mock those who dare to choose to believe in some higher power, and is so proud that he never believed.  I share his view in that I don’t have enough credible evidence to be a believer, but I’m not joining his little club.  Live and let live.  The caller who said they’re making a religion out of atheism is definitely on to something.

  • Zero
    • Lonnie Wiens

       Zero, viewed the video, most comprehensive.

      I have a simpler notion. “The only thing in a reality that has morale’s are we cognitive entities”.

      Therein morale’s are purely relative to cognitive entities.

      That which extends the longevity of cognition in a reality is good.

      That which distracts from the extended longevity of cognition in a reality is bad.

      Question then becomes what does an otherwise non-cognitive reality need cognitive entities for anyway, mortal or immortal.

      Cognition derives from the ability to make choice.

      At some time in the course of a realities persistence it may need to make a choice/s in regard to extending its own persistence.

      Yeah, even one of the essences of a Big Bang Theory may depend on a reality making the correct choices at right time/s and place/s.

      Currently the only entity capable of making cognitive choices that we know for sure persists are we cognitive entities.

      AI and instinctual entities are subjects of past and future evidences of cognition in a reality; but as of yet similar to how we describe our Deities in every culture as having a similar characteristic/s is pure speculation.

      Even our cartoons on daily TV shows emanate that invisible characteristic of cognition/the ability to be sentient/ being aware, the OMmmm… or they fail to sell.

      From the perspective of reason/logic one may indicate there is ultimately an absence of a reason for anything to persist.

      But what the suicidal s far to often forget is that there is equally an absence of an ultimate reason to die, or to avoid persisting.

      Comes down to a matter of cognitive choice, and or what we call the will to live or instincts too, a lack of choice on the occasion.

      We really are okay, and have always been so.

      One might insinuate the job of social systems/cultures is to then encourage a positive response from its respective citizens then to choose to persist.

      And yet cognitive entities in our current form do both.

      The choices we make in ever way, on every level of social interaction that contribute to the extended longevity of not just cognitive entities, but instinctual and non-cognitive reality are what morale’s are all about.

      When we ask what is the purpose of we cognitive entities/cognition in any form is; in the whole of it all, we have a most invisible purpose; as we are the ability for the whole of it all to be able to be aware of its self.

      Some have historically called it that indescribable essence of God/s, and yet we are other than a God/s.

      No flowing robes and beards, just that essence of being cognitive. Pure and simple.

      But, will any Theist come out and just say it, plain and simple.

      And yet I am thinking they call it that ambiguous characteristic of being unique. What ever that means.

      And yes, and tag, we are still it. Mortal as we may be we are an integral part of the whole of it all. We share that essence of an indeterminate ability to persist with the whole of a reality in an otherwise state of constant change.

      If we are ever to realize immortality in the form of cognition. an ability for a reality to be able to be aware of its self, then it is up to us to do so.

      Part of what real/absolute freedom’s foundation is all about.

      As we discover morale’s that will contribute to the extended longevity of ourselves, then a reality has morale’s, even though 99.999…% of it is incapable of recognizing such, less such entities as our selves.

      Now wasn’t that much simpler….

      I think your explanations are much more precise in the videos.

      I address similar complications from the premise suggested by the question, “What when removed from a reality renders it null and void, or non-existent”.

      Or what has to persist for anything to persist, Deities inclusive.

      That answer is a great way to prove what avoids existing, avoids existing. Do two positives make a negative.

      But then I am a beleiver in the fact the only thing that avoids changing in an environment of constant change, are the very Laws of Change.

      But, then what do I know.

      I’m just a non-theist, a branch of Atheism that says, “Okay there is an absence of Deity/s, then what makes sense”. Or is that also a form of Ignosticism?

      Morality is just one of the disciplines.

      The RR looks like it was a great success. Great job done by all.

      Lonnie
      Peace 2012

       

      • Jac

         You have totally confused yourself with words. Cognition my ass.

  • Katsbizness

    The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches
    me to suspect that my own is also. I would not interfere with any one’s religion,
    either to strengthen it or to weaken it. I am not able to believe one’s religion
    can affect his hereafter one way or the other, no matter what that religion
    may be. But it may easily be a great comfort to him in this life–hence it is
    a valuable possession to him.

    – Mark Twain, a Biography

    • Michael Pfaff

      Christianity will doubtless still survive in the earth ten centuries hence–stuffed and in a museum.

      - Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898

      • Tim E

        Maybe, but some other set of religious notions is likely to take its place.  Until the human brain evolves away the genes that give easy rise to religious fancies, I suspect religious imagination will continue to be endemic.

    • Zero

      “Faith is believing in something you know ain’t so.”

      -Twain, from Pudd’nhead Wilson.

  • Harley

    Its really hard talking to religious people. Its unfortunate that they dont want to learn more and are just so stuck with whatever truth they settled for. Really sad like a disease almost.

    • Tim E

      I was a believer, and I changed.  For forty years some probably thought I would never change my mind, but I did.  Changing one’s mind is sometimes a long process; it depends on where you are coming from, how you process information, and how and when your experiences converge to tip the scale one way or another.  Change in the brain is organic, and organic change takes time.

    • Jac

       Sort of like how child abuse is passed from one generation to the next for the good of the children. So they grow up right.

  • Anonymous

    Great topic, I wish I could have attended the DC rally. 

  • Lonnie Wiens

    An interesting development I’ve been experiencing lately has been the  rise of the Islamic Atheists. Similar to how many Atheists call themselves Christian Atheists, as they have roots in Christianity, or Mormonism or Judaism, Quakerism etc. just for starters.

    Interesting enough the Islamic Atheists want nothing to do with Christianity which is kinda/very understandable. But they also avoid wanting anything to do with Atheism. (Basic brain washing works.)

    Fortunately they avoid being offended by the word Nontheism, which is about what makes sense in the absence of Deity/s as compared to just knowing/believing there is an absence of deity/s.

    Nothing funnier than when fundamentalists of varying back grounds get together. Schisms

    begin flying everywhere. Even when Scientists get together the same thing holds true.

    There is a difference. Someone’s answer may even be true/correct.

    In a way Theism is about what makes sense if there were a deity/s, and Nontheism/Atheism about what makes sense in the absence of a Deity/s..

    The Black Atheists whom often call themselves “Non-believers” fall prey to similar linguistics also.  I looked a long time ago for a word that was less offensive to Theists than Atheist. The word Nontheism has opened many an ear and heart in Theistic communities too.

    A common question that Muslims/Islamic theists ask me is, “If Allah avoided creating all of this, then where did it all come from?” The same question the other Theists also often ask me.

    Fortunately I stumbled onto a Theory in Nuclear Physic’s several decades ago, and  I share parts of that information with them, and the schism’s that parallel between Theism and Atheism seem to just melt away.

    Bottom line we are all asking the same questions. Get over it.

    We are all still searching and researching comparing notes for the Answers for the 6 basic big questions, Who, What, Where, When, Why and How are we.

    Yeah, I have a 300+ page book on the subject, not ready for print yet, but they like it, Mikey likes it. They even want to help translate it into Persian.

    Currently the Islamic Atheists and I joke about how if we put our respective names on the book as author and translator, we will surely get on some list in Iran, just for starters. We both agreed we would go with Anonymous in both categories and laughed out loud, smiling ear to ear, and a twinkle in our eye.

    Nice thing about the U.S. of Northern America is that we can have rallies and share amongst ourselves our deepest felt secrets, searches, and researches in regard to the 6 basic questions.

    There are answers out there and in here and as long as we play the game of intimidation in regard to search and research we will avoid ever solving Cancer just for starters.

    Yeah, my theory does shed considerable light on that difficulty too.

    This rally is a very good beginning and a way perhaps we can all look much deeper into the 6 basic questions together.

    When Islamic Atheists are willing to sit down with Non-theists/Atheists of a variety of roots could this be a sign of hope for a change?

    Could there be an answer/s, let it be, let it be!

    Lonnie
    Peace 2011

  • Anonymous

    The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. ~JFK

    • uppity

       as in american democracy or freedom or american free media

  • Pingback: Atheists Rally In Washington - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum

  • Trenchant

    ****Blind Faith is a harbinger of idiocy and precursor of mind control!               *************The word “Religion” is ‘abhorrent’!
    Conjures up: “Superstition”, “Fairy-tales”,”Lies”, “MindControl” “Enticement”, “Coercion”, “Enslavement”, “Thievery”, “Child Molesting”, ‘Pedophilia”, “Insinuation”, “Compulsion”, “Deception, “Delusion”, “Bigotry”, “Degradation”, “Debasing”,  “Corruption”, and “Subornation”; all used and intended to cause “INFERIORITY COMPLEX!
      ============********The word “Atheist”
    Conjures up: “Total “rejection” and “Disbelief” in every iota of “Religion’s Garbage”! There is no possible compatibility with these two total opposites!”Atheist”: Is a ‘derogatory term’ coined by Charlatan “Theists” when they are actually referring to the ‘sane’ and ‘rational’ people among us who despise those ‘God-ists’ dedicated to corruptingthe minds and bodies of innocent children and the naive! ***Blind Faith is a harbinger of idiocy and precursor of mind control!====== All humans are born ADIAMORPHIC; godless’!  The content of their pristine minds is determined by their environment and the people they are in contact with. Most children are victims of religious indoctrination that is foisted upon them by well meaning parents who are victims of the same type of mind-control that corrupts the minds and bodies of those who are so unfortunate as to be children of religious people. Once the seed of an illogical unnatural portrayal of life is forced into a child’s mind it’s corrupting influence spreads throughout like the tentacles of an octopus and thereafter adversely effects every thought and action! “.———— IF YOU ARE “RELIGIOUS”:What ‘you’ ‘presently’ “believe” —’you’ did not “choose”! ‘It’ is not a result of ‘your’— personal “free” “choice”! You were indoctrinated, ‘infected’­; at an early age with a “Dogma” that addicted you to a “belief” that was ‘chosen’ for you!Thus, you ‘caught’ the ‘plague’! And, because you are still addicted to that bizarre hallucination you are presently a victim of Mind-Contr­ol! Reasonable, rational, sane, logical people do not believe silly unfounded or lying assertions­; and no ‘special’ epithetsshould be attached to those who reject unreal absurditie­s! Further; the “freedom to believe” does not grant special powersto ‘believers­’, that devolves to inflicting discomfit upon others. No morally rational person would condone such a ‘belief’! Nor, be affiliated with an organization that is known to have killed many people, and is responsible for hiring and supportingrapists and pedophiles! One’s “perceived” “reality” is often irrational­! because the nonentity only exists in the mind as a mental delusion!”Ghost” “Holy” or otherwise is a non-existent nonentity! 

    • John Lenarduzzi

      Hello Trenchant, It sgood you took the time to write your thoughts, but calm down and try to make your point in just a few words. You are sounding irrational and I am sure you have something of value to share.  

      • Jac

         There is absolutely noting irrational about this statement. The fact that it can be perceived as such is another symptom of how intrinsic the delusion is to human culture.

      • Anoracle

        This is a Response to: John Lenarduzzi;
         -
        Your ignorant ‘pedantic’ tolerance condones and perpetuates the crimes and criminal activity that corrupts the minds and bodies ofinnocent children and the naive among us.While writing your criticism of my empathy for the victims of suicide bombing and the pedophile rapists; somewhere in theworld those criminals were killing or ravaging innocent children!   Do you ignore all crime unless you personally are the victim, or are you deriving some ill gotten lucre from those Ponzi-like thieves?Wake up! Before all the world including you; are forced to kneel,or put your nose in camel dung, before a gang of thieving scoundrels in a Theologically dominated world!They bought the Congress to alter our once Great Pledge ofAllegiance into a “Religious Prayer” by changing it from-”—One nation indivisible–”, to- “—One nation (DIVISIBLE BY)”under God”!   And, added their ‘artifices’ to our money. Then, we are constantly reminded of their ever present ‘Steeples’and Temples erected to honor their debauchery and immoral presence by their forceful invasion of our schools and public meetings with their ‘proselytizing and endless attempts to indoctrinate all School children with their lying fairy-tales of a “Ghostly- Apparition” by agents of a foreign government entity!  RELIGION IS ORGANIZED CRIME

    • Heaviest Cat

      aw come on Trenchant how do you REALLY feel about religion?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/34DKVTBCBPSJTH7PEUAYW5CH74 Paul

    Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.  
    One of the greatest gifts God gave men was free will.  We are all free to exercise to either believe or not.  Believing or not does not change the truth.  Guess at some point in this life or the next each person will find out if what they believed or did not was the truth or lies, or maybe they wont. Maybe death meaningless and there is no life after death.  But each person will find out or not find out when they die. 
    The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.   

    • Heaviest Cat

      “perishing”? sounds a bit self-righteous to me.

  • uppity

    the only reason christianity or judaism has survived so long is because a modern world made it possible–the roman empire was vast and when they institutionalized, a political move, they preserved it. otherwise it would have died.  hell, they probably invented it.  There is no evidence of christ, except in th ebook they produced. 

    Rome flousished and influenced many cultures and were foundatins of europe and Britian and russia–thus the christian culture is preserved and as this western civ developed and spread to americas it expanded and as technology developed it expanded and was preserved.  otherwise christ would have died like mithra or bacchus or horace or ishtar or asherah who only survive in secret cults and architecture like masonic temples and hollywood films as subliminal messages–or the us dollar.  The imag eof christ is a fabrication and has long history and is archetypal.

    • Heaviest Cat

      Uppity, there’s proof that Jesus existed but no there is no proof at this point of his diety

    • Oswald

      Interesting you point out the Romans. Constantine, who made Christianity legal and the official religion of Rome, had to appease those followers of the old Roman Gods as well, so he modelled all of Jesus’ pictures and sculptures after the most popular God Apollo. Jesus took on his more European/white characteristics, as well this was the first time he was pictured with Halos and auras around his head which are included in most modern depictions of Jesus. The Halo of Apollo the Sun God of Rome…

  • Pingback: 45 minutes on NPR about the rally, and atheism in general… « UnusedGreyMatter

  • Blessedangel1972

    Uppity…you are WRONG… there IS proof of JESUS the Christ. There is NO denying he actually DID Exist. It has been SCIENTIFICALLY proven. Just because YOU choose to ignore the facts does not make it true. You just want to live your life without recourse…unfortunately…you, along with everyone else who believes like you…well, that is your folly. Very unfortunate.

    • Nixjasr

      Wow blessedangel, I almost didn’t believe what you had to say, but screaming at me with those ALL CAPS convinced me.
      Now Jesus will let you into the big playground in the sky. Nice work.

    • mike

      actually he has not been “scientifically” proven as you say, maybe by creation “scientists” but not by real scientists who care about truth. If there was proof then so be it but there is not.

    • pete

      There probably was a guy, “Jesus,” and he probably even preached a bunch.  As they say, the bible’s the greatest piece ever written…best piece of fiction.

  • John Lenarduzzi

    No god has ever done anything that we can detect.

  • Abob

    I am not a nontheist. I have myself experienced a spontaneous higher dimension of conscious existence which was as far beyond the consensus consciousness of humanity, in which I was completely mired until that moment, and which I could not possibly had any accurate idea with either thoughts or images. In other words, in Bible parlance, I was “taken up alive” into heaven. And I can tell you that as astonishing as what I “saw” was, I was struck dumb and though I had a friend with me in very ordinary circumstances when this happened, I could not even speak because of the wonderful and astounding nature of what was “revealed” to me, which there is no way to communicate in words. But one thing I can tell you about it is that it in no way resembled anything reported in any religion, with the possible exception of some of the reports of enlightenment that come from Buddhism or some “Hindu” reports of such events.

    • Abob

      I would add that much of what is written in the Bible especially the old testament would be the direct opposite of what I experienced and as such is a lie, and just criminal manipulation of humanity. It was full of compassion for the limited comprehension of humans, myself included. This discussion is ridiculous. I am the only one involved in anyway that has such a direct experience of the very roots of all authentic ideas about what is truly possible for human consciousness, and as far as we ordinary humans are concerned, thinking in words and images, there is something higher, that no religion or any of the famous preachers or holy men have any direct experience with. The blind leading the blind.

      • ThePope

        Abob says, “I see your “god” and raise you enlightenment.” I wonder what the brainwashed “I just know in my “heart” it’s true” crowd have to say to that? Something involving satan I would venture. It keeps them from actually having to use the brain they used to have.

  • Bin

    Jesus went to the rally. And Jesus wept.

    Then, Jesus went to church. And Jesus wept there too.

    • mike

      why would jesus weep becuase people wanted to express their opinion that we should stop having fairy tales in our government? it’s ok to have religious beliefs, but when people try to use that to justify hate, discrimination, or bring things like creationism to the table atheists have a better footing to fight on to stop it with secular morality being superior to the book that says that children making fun of a bald man deserves them being killed by bears =/

  • Sy2502

    I am an atheist and I would be very happy to leave religious people alone to practice their beliefs in the privacy of their home, but unfortunately that’s not happening, and so I have to do something I don’t particularly like, that is to push back, to stand up for myself. Because while I am happy to let people be religious in their private life, they won’t give me the same courtesy. Let me explain:
    - I am sick to my stomach to hear the religion of political candidates be brought into the discussion. I don’t elect them for their adherence to the Bible, but to the Constitution. We are electing a President, not an imam. And I am painfully aware that even atheist candidates have to fake being religious because some people would never vote for an atheist.
    - I am sick and revolted by the continuous attempts to indoctrinate children with school prayers, teaching creationism in class, etc. If you wish to teach religion to your kids fine. Don’t you try to indoctrinate mine.
    - I am sick of being told I am immoral by people who only behave themselves because they are scared of going to hell, not because doing good has social and personal value. You know, if your religion is all that is keeping you from going on a murdering spree, I’ll drive you to church myself. All these people claiming monopoly on morality actually seem to be some of the least moral people I know. While atheists are 15% of the population, the make up something like 0.1% of prison population.

    • 2dogsbarking

      I am not an atheist, but I agree wholeheartedly with everything you have said!!

    • pete

      [Point 3]  How about all those people who holler “amen” in church and then break every commandment by 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.  Treat others the way you would like to be treated.  That’s it.

  • Nutricj

    Had to type something, anything….

    Saw that there were 666 comments and I got so scared I had to add one to save us all from hell

    Off to paint unicorns with my daughter now,

    Phew, disaster avoided!

    • aj

      :)

  • Ericd725

    Joe Campbell  explained it best in “a hero’s journey”, its a metaphor for that which we cannot explain.  I believe in a higher power, and, I’m sure most atheists would agree with whats right and wrong.  When it comes to anyone asking me what church I belong to, or even if I’m an atheist or whatever,  its none of anyone’s business (including the government). 

  • John Lenarduzzi

    Separation of church and state means that each individual is responsible for his own actions. That man will judge man. Thats the law. You abide by the law because it is the right thing to do.  Man enters into the age of reason at around 7 years old. That is when you develop a conscious that dictates right from wrong. It is what many refer to as God. The Id or mans inherent greed drives us to do uncivilized actions, that is the devil in you. Pray for the strength to listen to your conscious and do the right thing. If you need to pray to a God and need religion in your life to help you do that, then please do. But do not preach religious self riotousness or judge others. That is all that is being asked of you. Keep religion out of government, if not, you never know who’s religion might be judging you. 

  • alliwant

    Freedom of religion is for  believers, freedom from religion is for skeptics.

  • Slipstream

    I support the rights of atheists to not believe, to assemble peacefully, to form groups, all that.  I also agree that the Founding Fathers were not particularly enamored of religion, and probably a lot of our recent politicians who paid lip service to it were not really very interested in it (Reagan comes to mind).  But I don’t agree with the atheistic philosophies discussed in this program.  Listening to someone like Randi, I would say that he simply believes in a different deity than the religious people do.  The Randi crowd believes in rationality and reason, and have raised it to the level of an unshakeable principal, almost to the level a deity.  Reason is a tool, a product of the unreasonable subconscious mind, created to help humanity make sense of the world.  It is helpless in the face of existential questions. 

    For the record, I am a Buddhist, which some people regard as an atheistic religion, altho I wouldn’t see it that way. 

  • Lydiarice

    wow, what a great show!  I agree with James Randi that we should just grow up and stop looking to fairy tales for answers.  Faith cannot be  depended on for guidance, because it can be made up about anything. You call it faith because it is not knowledge, and you are unwilling to say “I don’t know”.  There are some things we cannot know.  Don’t make up stuff to pretend you do know.  I am a proud Atheist, which just means I have no evidence for any deity.

  • Rex

    In the words of David Cross: “Back when the Bible was written…then edited…then rewritten, then rewritten, then re-edited, then translated from dead languages, then re-translated, then edited, then rewritten, then given to kings for them to take their favorite parts, then rewritten, then re-rewritten, then translated again, then given to the pope for him to approve, then rewritten, then edited again, the re-re-re-re-rewritten again…all based on stories that were told orally…30 to 90 years AFTER they happened…to people who didn’t know how to write…so….”

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