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Atheism Plus? What are we talking about here?

Ryan is going to kick off the meeting with a quick 10-15 minutes on research involving "Atheism Plus". Richard Carrier stuck his neck out on the topic at AACon this year which resulted in a firestorm of negative comments from many Atheists. You can see the video and comments here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au2i3xxgv7U

As this is a controversial topic in our Community, so let's open it up for discussion.

Join or login to comment.

  • Scot

    BTW, "disruptive" is fine. Anything that challenges is appropriate and good for learning (about ourselves as well as others). IMHO, the only inappropriate comments are ad hominem. Otherwise, any idea or opinion is fair-game. As far as we know, no one here is omniscient (ha, pun intended). Thus, we all have room to learn and grow. And, the more we challenge one another the stronger we all become.

    Great Discussion!!

    May 25, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      ...accidentally hit return resulting in premature posting above. Very glad to read these inputs as am new to the group & do not have a good sense of the group's receptive & tolerance zone. Appreciate the clarification! Thanks for the refs to belief articles which will be read in time & may I recommend one of the most profound understanding of the believing brain by the same exact title - The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer 1st published in 2011, hence it it contains the very latest of scientific understanding with examples of why people believe... ghosts, gods, weird things etc. There is a deeper why that is not explained but it would be futile to even begin that discussion now. Recommend the book again for an understanding of belief vs faith.

      May 26, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      The Believing Brain is an excellent book! I recommend it whenever I can. It helped me catch myself in beliefs, not religious ones, but a few I was clinging to for no good reason:-)

      May 27, 2013

  • Tim

    An article at Babble.com about raising kids without religion. As a parent this is interesting to me. May not be interesting to others in our community since secular parenting is a drop in the bucket, but we at least have to try.

    http://www.babble.com/dad/raising-a-child-without-religion-or-faith/?cmp=ELP%7Cbbl%7C%7CYahooShine%7C%7CInHouse%7C052013%7CLosingMyReligion%7C%7CfamE%7C

    May 25, 2013

    • Tim

      Ming - I don't believe in teaching atheism to my kids. It's more important to teach them how to think, than what to think. If you teach them how to think critically then they will probably arrive at the best decisions naturally. I don't believe that putting them in Catholic school is necessary. It's not like Catholics have a corner on discipline and work ethics. In fact many tend to rebel later in life after a childhood spent in those institutions. There are plenty of secular schools that can accomplish the same thing without wasting precious learning time on religious nonsense. If there are not enough secular schools that can impart the right influences on our children then it should be our goal to create them, instead of putting our kids into the care of priests and nuns who who it appears sometimes have some self discipline issues of their own.

      1 · May 27, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      I raised three kids without religion. All of them attended church once, with friends, and they never wanted to go back. When my daughter was 8, she asked me if she could believe in god. I told her only if she could find very compelling reasons to think god exists. I found out later the reason she had asked was because a girl friend told her if she didn't believe in god then they couldn't be friends. "

      1 · May 27, 2013

  • Scot

    I'd like to offer a few of the numerous resources on beliefs that I have found very informative:

    Battle for the Mind: A Physiology of Conversion and Brainwashing - How Evangelists, Psychiatrists, Politicians, and Medicine Men Can Change Your Beliefs and Behavior
    http://www.amazon.com/Battle-Mind-Brainwashing-Evangelists-Psychiatrists/dp/1883536065/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369503803&sr=8-1&keywords=battle+for+the+mind

    Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills
    http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=9344

    Why We Believe in Gods - Dr. Andy Thomson
    http://www.project-reason.org/archive/item/why_we_believe_in_gods_-_dr_andy_thomson/

    May 25, 2013

  • Scot

    I think we all agree that Athesim should be promoted. It's part of the Mission Statement of the ACSJ. However, "promotion" is not equivalent to "proselytizing". We're not trying to "convert" anyone, rather we are offering the reasoned and evidence-based alternative to faith-based belief ... an alternative that many (if not most) do not understand.

    And, it's precisely because they don't understand that we should be patient and compassionate, yet steadfast when communicating with believers. No interaction with a believer (debate, conversation, youtube video, online discussion, etc) is ever a waste so long as we maintain our bearing (i.e. don't let emotional reaction interfere with our message) and remain steadfast to the principles of reason and evidence.

    Simply put, you cannot argue someone into or out of a worldview. But you can, by maintaining bearing and commitment to principles, give them the tools to question and evaluate their own worldview.

    3 · May 25, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    The big picture - in reply to Tim, Rich, Larry
    First want to apologize if what I write is viewed as disruptive as that is not my intent. I view self-concluded-atheist as true thinkers. Meaning they are able to correctly pick the most probable best answer given current human knowledge (if this is provocative, I will withdraw. Not generate controversy but rather stimulate thinking). 2nd I am liberal in thinking but view political correctness as silly - meaning say exactly what you think & not sugarcoat.

    If we are able to soar a mile high & view the big picture, atheism arose because the 95% belief-inclined (read religious) rammed their silliness down our throats - stunting scientific progress & cause unnecessary suffering. BUT this is only what is obvious on the surface! Beliefs of all sorts exist in all facets of human life - in medicine, health food, the economy, stock market etc. It EXISTS among atheists! So we should be focusing on the real root cause - belief!

    May 24, 2013

    • Rich D.

      No need to apologize, Ming. There is no disruption. I enjoy your contributions to this discussion. We are in agreement. I only wanted to express my perspective on it. I think even controversy is good because it makes me think.

      On another note, you refer to the problem as "belief". I think the correct term is "faith". You and I BELIEVE in science and logic. We have a reason to believe science and logic work. Faith is believing in something when there is no reason to believe. Blind faith is the problem, in my opinion.

      May 24, 2013

    • Brian B.

      Good stuff guys. I would agree that "faith" is the real problem. Many Christians try to equate belief with faith and say we have faith in science. So we need to come to an agreement on what words mean. I believe that the traffic light will work based on evidence of it working 99% of the time. But I would need faith in the existence of Heaven as nobody has ever seen it or returned from it.

      1 · May 24, 2013

  • Tim

    Ming - "Religion is a time proven end product of a facet of human evolution." I totally agree with this statement Ming. I refer to religion as "a nasty side effect of the evolution of the frontal cortex." I however don't see it as necessary, especially in some of it's forms. There have been many religions in human history that did not cause wars, waste vast amounts of human intellect, and set back scientific progress. Having a dance at the spring planting season and at winter solstice is a far cry from invading and murdering your neighbors because they don't believe in your particular god. I've heard it said many times that polytheism was never the problem that monotheism was. There are other reasons to go to war of course. But monotheism puts up a far different agenda, and is more likely to lead to cultural superiority and proselytizing at sword point.

    Great discussions BTW.

    May 24, 2013

  • Tim

    Ming - "Beliefs of all sorts exist in all facets of human life - in medicine, health food, the economy, stock market etc. It EXISTS among atheists!"
    This is why we have the terms "strong atheist" and "weak atheist". Some folks that do not believe in god still believe in other silly things. Their reasons for not believing in god may not be based on sound logic or they may just lack proper education or critical thinking skills. If there were a poll I bet only a small fraction of atheists would be defined as "strong". This is probably even more the case with the "non" crowd. They may have reasons for not wanting to affiliate that have nothing to do with logic or reason.

    1 · May 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Religion is a must in society

    Having ultra religious close relatives, I understand how the religious think.

    This is a very difficult subject & once again am condensing days/weeks of discussion into a single sound (audio) paragraph.

    We are all born with varying degrees of smart, intelligence & beliefs such that it is an indiscernible continuum but can roughly be broken into 3 predictable blocks of 30-40-30. This is best seen in political elections - 30% core democrats, 40% swing, 30% core republicans. This pattern likely holds true for religion though it gets skewed by weekly reinforced beliefs (read church). So the short point is simply this - 30% of religious believers simply cannot understand the atheist view. They find comfort and solace in times of severe emotional stress such as death & divorce knowing that there is a heaven when they can meet again. Religion is a MUST for these people!
    Religion is a time proven end product of a facet of human evolution.

    May 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    This is about the best group of atheists I've been to - welcoming, friendly with very good participation. No wonder attendance have been growing. Great group of people!

    I did not speak up as I did not want to disrupt the natural flow of the group. I really wanted to know where everyone stands.

    However I am not convinced about the value of promoting atheism.
    Very very few people are born with the ability to reason without bias. It has nothing to do with how smart you are or how intelligent. If you are one of the few, regardless of your religious upbringing, you will automatically be an atheist. Period. As there can only be one conclusion based on what we know today from both archeology & science. Therefor if you have to be convinced or taught or cajoled to be an atheist, then you cannot possibly have understood. You believe in atheism but you do not understand.

    3 · May 22, 2013

    • Rich D.

      It's just my opinion but I think atheism SHOULD be promoted. Why should mythology be allowed to be perpetuated but reason and logic suppressed? Atheists are a repressed minority. Our tax dollars often are spent on Christian displays in courthouses and City Halls, public prayers in City Council meetings and high school sports events.

      I agree that most of the time any debate with a believer is futile. And it would be counterproductive to talk down to believers by cajoling them or teaching them. But truth and reason should eventually win out. As Brian said, we can offer a more compelling point of view. And, as Tim said, bad information should be called out. We won't win over the hearts and minds of the truly faithful but there are some people on the side lines watching and listening who are on the fence doubting and the atheists still in the closet will be encouraged.

      1 · May 23, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Agree with all that Tim, Larry & Rich has written in principle. And agree with the direction of ACSJ. Given the simple choice of promotion or no promotion, it is clear that promotion has no real downside but only gains no matter how miniscule as in Larry's example.

      May 24, 2013

  • Larry G.

    With Rich, I think we should promote the atheist view, if only to reach those who are on the fence. I have done now dozens of videos on YouTube debunking the bible and arguing against religion generally. Only two people have told me that I actually helped them to jump off that fence away from religion. If they were the only ones, I think my efforts have been worthwhile.

    1 · May 23, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Agree

      May 24, 2013

  • Tim

    The other problem for increasing atheist numbers is the fact that secularists and atheist tend to have very low birth rates compared to almost any religious faith. Most religions are all about increasing their numbers through procreation, while atheists tend to be more concerned with the environment, over population, and preserving the Earth, as we have no god to come and clean up our mess in the end. Also we tend to rebuke the social pressures to reproduce just as we rebuke the social pressure to believe in gods. The only way we can succeed is by advancing science and through the dissemination of knowledge as we see in the internet these days. Unfortunately as we all know the internet is full of more misinformation than good information, that is why it is an important battlefield in this struggle. We need to make sure bad information is called out and rebuffed as much as possible.

    2 · May 23, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Agree

      May 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    The hard truth of PEW report 2012 on the rise of the Nones. http://www.pewforum.org/Unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise.aspx

    There is a 2nd way of looking at the report.
    Look close at the chart, the true number of atheists is 2% & it is 5% if agnostics are included. The rest are Nones. Nones are merely those that are torn between the powerful arguments/evidence of evolution and their instincts (read feelings or emotions) of the teachings of religion. Many simply discount or dismiss the entire issue. Bottom line is - no true increase in the percentage of atheists. It was suppressed 500 years ago when you can be labelled heretic and be burned alive; and so the closet atheists are just now surfacing with confidence. I think the number will remain at 2-3%.

    BUT that includes kids who grew up atheist! Would their natural reasoning have led them to be atheist had they been brought up religious? That probability must also have been 2-3%!! Meaning a resounding no.

    May 23, 2013

  • Louise

    Excellent presentation! Great discussion!

    May 23, 2013

  • Tim

    Oh yeah, great presentation Ryan. Especially for being sleep deprived.

    May 23, 2013

  • Tim

    I got hugs.

    2 · May 23, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Absolutely agree with Ryan that we must accept all claimants of atheism as by definition atheism is simply the belief or conclusion that there is no god. It makes no other inference. I like the passion that Ryan has for the subject matter. Good arguments!

    Belief or conclusion maybe semantics to some but it is the key to understanding of why be an atheist. It is also at the very root of the problems with atheist behaving badly which is at the core of his presentation. A long & difficult discussion between belief & reason - why it makes all the difference.... and ultimately the only reason.

    Religion is the most obvious and the simplest of all belief systems. Hence the focus by atheists. However beliefs are in all aspect of human life. From politics to climate change to the economy, stocks, medicine and health foods etc etc.

    We are wired to believe! ...as it is the most expedient & efficient shortcut for survival of the fittest. For when the mind cannot understand, it believes.

    May 23, 2013

  • Scot

    Well done, Ryan. Thanks for a presentation.

    May 23, 2013

  • Kennita

    Good intro to the group/concept

    2 · May 22, 2013

  • Farah

    It was very good.Thank you Ryan

    4 · May 22, 2013

  • Sean W.

    Great presentation from Ryan. I look forward to the next meeting.

    3 · May 22, 2013

  • Invisible Pink U.

    Excellent meeting with an excellent group of folks. Let's keep this up!

    2 · May 22, 2013

  • Larry G.

    Ryan's presentation was excellent!

    1 · May 22, 2013

  • Larry G.

    The address is in Los Gatos. A little confusing. I live right across the street on Pollard Rd. Most of my house is in Campbell, but the address is in Los Gatos. The Round Table Pizza is to the left of the CVS Pharmacy. It's a small storefront compared to what you are used to, so look for it.

    1 · May 22, 2013

    • Jason G.

      Thanks for the details :)

      May 22, 2013

  • Rick

    Interested, but will arrive late.

    May 22, 2013

  • Tim

    Kennita, I will pick you up. It's not far outta my way. No problem at all.

    1 · May 22, 2013

  • Kennita

    FTR, Outreach Paratransit is convinced that this Round Table is at 1472 Pollard in Los Gatos. Still looking for a ride. I can chip in for pizza; Outreach would cost me $8.

    May 22, 2013

    • Brian B.

      Hey Kenita, yes the location is 1472 Pollard. Google maps thinks it is still Campbell but it could very well be Los Gatos.

      May 22, 2013

  • Kennita

    Is anyone coming from Sunnyvale way (near Fair Oaks/Central)? I'd rather not have to take Outreach paratransit. Please email kennita at kennita dot com, or text[masked]-9371. Thanks!

    May 21, 2013

  • Scot

    This looks particularly relevant to the upcoming Atheism Plus discussion:

    An Open Letter to the Secular Community
    http://www.ftsociety.org/2013/04/02/an-open-letter-to-the-secular-community/

    1 · May 19, 2013

  • Brian B.

    Hey everyone, please make sure you see the venue has changed. This other Round Table has a big back room (not sealed off) - but there is a TV for projecting slides. It's a much smaller place, however, it will have to do this time. Look for the Safeway shopping center, it is in there. I drove down Winchester, turned on Knowles which turns into Pollard after the hospital.

    May 19, 2013

  • Rich D.

    Sorry I cannot make this meeting. I'm cooking dinner at the homeless shelter at that time. See you all next time!

    1 · May 17, 2013

  • Farah

    I WILL BE THERE

    May 16, 2013

  • Jim W

    Bring your own can of worms....... *sigh*

    1 · May 16, 2013

  • Rich D.

    Just as there are many kinds of Christians and many kinds of Muslims, etcetera, there are different kinds of atheists. To say Dr. Carrier is being divisive ignores the fact that atheism is not a homogenous community. As Dr. Carrier points out, there are humanists, skeptics and agnostics. They are atheists Plus because they have no belief in god but also derive their moral code from human values.

    But there other factions currently defined within atheism that Dr. Carrier did not mention and one is the nihilist faction. Nihilism is the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless and nothing has a real existence. Nihilists are amoral or have no moral values.

    Atheists who demean and verbally abuse women and generally support social injustice, must by definition, fall into the nihilist category.

    May 11, 2013

    • Rich D.

      Nihilists give atheists a bad name. Generally, religionists misunderstand atheists and think all atheists are nihilist.
      Nihilists serve no useful purpose within the atheist community. Just as the anarchists within the Occupy Wall Street movement destroyed the Occupy movement, so are nihilists destroying the atheist movement. Nihilists must be marginalized and shunned.

      Perhaps this whole topic pivots on semantics. I submit that we should define ourselves as "persons with no belief in a deity and who derive their moral code on human values rather than divinely dictated ones". (Or something to that effect). This would place Nihilism outside the definition of atheism into a definition of their own. This better defining would help to protect the good atheists from the taint and defamation of being Nihilists.

      3 · May 11, 2013

  • Larry G.

    I'm looking forward to it. These meetups get better and better.

    May 10, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'll be out of town.

    May 10, 2013

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