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Robert L S.
icexxcube
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 64
Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2005 10:24 PM
Subject: The term "Atheist". Positive values. I would like to ask the group some things ...

Robert,

I would like to ask the group some things, but at the next Tucson Atheists meeting, and not party!

"Atheist" is "in your face" and that is excellent. But does anyone think this term inadequately describes their beliefs and worldview?

Does anyone believe in the paranormal?

Does anyone believe that powerful alien life forms have visited the Earth, and have a hand in guiding us?

Does anyone believe that Racism is valid?

How about Sexism?

Homophobia?

(I personally am Straight. But I feel it is incubment upon us Straights to defend our Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters!)

A tough one: How about Eugenics, that is the idea that some humans are inherently superior to others, in intelligence, based on their general group heredity and ancestry (but not of course based on personal IQ, Down's syndrome and other mental birth defects, etc., even though these people do have fundamental rights, and we have something to learn from them too)?

How about Human Rights? Does anyone beleive that non-coercive, non-potentially violent and dangerous ideas (violent and dangerous: e.g. Nazis, Skinheads, the Taliban, coercive Religous Fundamentalists of all sorts, etc. we can think of many others) should be forcibly supressed? That freedom of expression, when it isn't violent and threatening, should be restricted?

I would like to think that a scientific and naturalistic worldview rejects these pseudo-scientific ideas, just like it rejects Religion. That it has a fundamental sympathy for the Human Rights of others, especially since our rights have been long denied, as we all know personally!

Here is a positive value, besides the support of the scientific worldview, that we may all share. I have a strong feeling that the vast majority of us do. I think that this goes hand in hand with the term "Sceptic" as defined by Randi and Michael Shermer, as well as Dawkins' definition of Bright.

I think too that the term "Secular Humanism ... zzzzzz ..." is incredibly boring and puts people to sleep before the second word comes out ... one thing you don't want to sound like is stuffy and boring.

I don't know. I can tolerate people''s beliefs in powerful aliens (although how is this really differernt from a belief in Gods?) but I don't want to be a "fellow traveller" with Racists, Sexists, and Homophobes.

What's your personal opinion here? How could I propose this to the group? Would a group email or a survey (I love that "minimalist" / mythical Jesus survey BTW) be the way to go, before a discussion in person?

-ted
Robert L S.
icexxcube
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 65
Ted,
Racists, Sexists, and Homophobes are mostly religious people. I don’t think we have any of those in our group. If you believe there is no god, that’s all you need to be a member. I do not think we need to divide our group into liberal or conservative, rich or poor, black or white, strait or gay.

If you want to be a Bright tell everyone who asks, that is what you are. If you would rather refer to yourself as a secular humanist, I couldn’t care less. Agnostic, freethinker, godless, infidel, or whatever you want. If it means non believer or without god, than you are welcome to Tucson Atheists
.
I think we should have different names for different groups in different neighborhoods just like churches. First Church of the Agnostics has a nice ring, but only thing I’m agnostic about is life on other planets.

I’m a skeptic. Because; I’m skeptical of everything. That’s my favorite group, Skeptics of Tucson. Not only do I not believe god, the devil, and hell. I don’t believe ghosts, aliens, or mystics.

I find it is hard to get a group of atheists to agree on anything. Trying to get atheists together is like herding cats or butterflies. The reason there are not more atheist churches is because every atheist can think for themselves. - Robert
Robert L S.
icexxcube
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 66
Robert,

I am glad see that other people think that Racists, Sexists, and Homophobes are almost never Atheists whatosever. I do think that the world over, Sexists and Homophobes are almost always religous of one sort or another, that is if they aren't obviously otherwise mentally disturbed (hey, but aren't such people among the religious mentally disturbed as well? :) ) I would agree with you, especially in the US, that even Racism tends to have a very strong religous cast (as practically everything else does here): the Klan, Christian Identity, the Nation of Islam, and even the various neo-Nazi groups who in the US tend to be "folkish" (= "racist") Germanic Neo-Pagans ...

You are right of course. I was just trying to give a "strict definition" and see how it came out.

Of course, aside from the definition of atheist, I wouldn't want to divide the group in any sense, into liberal conservative, rich or poor, straight or gay - it seems we do have some strong conservatives, and that is excellent and the way it should be in my opinion (of course!):

Since about the French Revolution, and certainly since the time of the Commune of Paris in 1870, the great conflict in Western Culture has been between the "Left" and the "Right". This reached its heights in the attacks by the government on Leftists after the Russian Revolution in 1919, and especially during the Cold War and the McCarthy Era.

Then, Communists actually took the cultural place of "witches" / Satanists at an earier period, that is a mythical enemy that infiltrates the society, has alliegance to a powerful outside evil force, and tries to destroy society from within. It's no coincidence that the hunt for Communists in the 1950's was called a "witch hunt".

(I do think that witches by that definition, or as an organized group, were entirely the product of the Christian imagination in the Late Middle Ages. Sorry, but there is no evidence to support Margart Murray's theory in the 1920's that a form of female-oriented Paganism survived in an organized fashion in Europe. But it did spawn Wicca ... You can see the effect of a mass belief in entirely mythical witches in places like Nigeria and Indonesia, where there are lynchings of so-called "witches" every so often ...)

Just as the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, but starting with the coming to power of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 in Iran, the great conflict of Western Society, and now including the Islamic and Hindu worlds as well, reverted back to a relgious conflict. Paranoid "RIght-Wing" groups like the John Birch society essentially disapppeared. It is no coincidence that the belief in "Satanic Ritual Abuse" (SRA) in some circles in the US (Fundamentalist Religous ones, but not exclusively) suddenly blossomed (again).
(BTW, this type of accusation was exactly what the "witches" were accused of in the Late Middle Ages and Rennaisance: kidnapping babies, torturing them, and eating them ... and of course the same accusation was made against the Jews as well.) Take the McMartin Pre-school trial as a very prominent example.

So, since 1989, and this was made clear to all by 9/11, the key conflict has reverted back to the "Wars of Religion", but now it generally is Secularists vs. Fundamentalists of all sorts ...

And I see this among friends of mine. I have conservative friends, who still complain about certain "Left-Right" issues (Unionism, the Welfare State [yes Todd]), and I point out to them that this is the conflict of the "Last Millenium". That the real issue at hand is Atheism vs. Religion (and these friends are Atheists too btw). So, there has been a radical realignment in the past few years. Of course we are seeing people who would be described as "conservative" as well as "liberals" in a group of Atheists (as it should be) because now we all see a real and present common enemy, and the former Left / Right axis has almost totally faded into the past ... Even in American Politics in general, you really don't have a Conservative movement as such anymore: Essentially the Religous Right has taken over much of the Republican Party, and those former Secular / Atheist Conservatives and Libretarians are homeless now.

So aside from my belief that diversity is a good thing, what we have evidence of here in our group is this new alignment, the new primary conflict being Secularism vs. Fundamentalism (as it is known in the press). Of course, if you ask anyone now in the US, Europe or other places which group is most likely to kill you for reasons of belief, the reply will always be Fundamentalists (Islamic, or what have you). Everyone knows this intuitively now, and everyone on both sides of the conflict knows what's at stake (just look at Pat Robertson). So really, I would expect that groups like ours will grow by leaps and bounds in the coming short period. All those people from the Left and Right who don't really see their basic fears being addressed by the traditional Liberal and Conservative political movements will find a home here. Aren't we seeing this with the group right now? Don't say that nobody told you this was going to happen ;)

Aside from the fact that Atheists are almost always intelligent, independent (free-) thinkers, this is also part of the reason that getting Atheists to agree is like herding cats or butterflies ...

Now, the definition of Skeptic really fits the bill for my beliefs (if they can be labeled, but as I said, labels are useful as a shorthand for other people).

Damn it, I have to learn to spell it if I want to call myself that! :)

So maybe the term "Bright" isn't necessary at all. Also, and this just reminded me, the old early-19th century term for "Atheist", Freethinker, has wonderful positive connotations, and could be revived. So does Skeptic. So maybe we could also use either term, especially since Freethinker was essentially equivalent to Atheist in its definition.

I would also say that as you define it, the Skeptics of Tucson would be my favorite group as well. Maybe we could just ask people, out of curiousity, who would also consider themselves a Skeptic as well? That would cover everything I mentioned previously with one question ...

My bet is that almost everyone in the group also happens to be a Skeptic, like yourself. Not to exclude anyone from the Atheist group (not Racists etc. but believers in the paranormal and the like), but I think that an awareness of this further mutual common belief would be an excellent thing to bring to the attention of people.

Of course, the very idea of Skeptic (and Freethinker too) implies that people don't agree on everything.

So how about asking people simply if they would consider themselves Skeptics as well, provided that the understand what that term means? I'd like to try that, but not in any sort of divisive way, but just to figure out what people are thinking.

-ted
Patty
user 2449435
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 1
My Webster's defines "atheism" as "the denial of the existence of God, particularly with regard to theistic formulations; godlessness in belief or as a guide in conduct". That obviously fits with the Greek derivation of the word. To me therein lies the real problem with the term. For me, "atheism" does not encompass enough meaning and makes too much of an emphasis on the denial of "God". It's also a negative term. I'm not referring to its negative connotation (which it certainly does have, but that is just another project for the organization). I mean that it is about not believing something. Furthermore, it is only about not believing in God.

I value rational thought and scientific method. I find no evidence for the existence of God, unicorns, the tooth fairy, or an unlimited number of mythical concepts that can be conceived. I also find lots of evidence to the contrary of God, unicorns, and the tooth fairy. Consequently, I do not go along with the urgings of many people that I join them in their beliefs of these concepts.

I further note that when Webster says that atheists use godlessness as a guide in conduct, it is placing too much emphasis on that person's lack of belief in a specific mythology. It is only in contrast to how important God's guidance is to some people of faith, that those people presume that a belief in God or lack thereof is the key to conduct guidance. If there were no people looking to God for guidance, there would still be many different ways people determined how to conduct themselves - just as there is now in any case.

Perhaps a more appropriate term is rationalism. Webster says it is "the belief that all knowledge and truth consist of what is ascertainable by rational processes of thought and that there is no supernatural revelation." Any rationalist would certainly also be an atheist, but would all atheists be rationalists?

Although, as explained above, I am not satisfied with the term atheist, I do feel it would be productive to promote a more positive connotation of the word, as well as to demarginalize atheists. Since I also value diversity appreciation, multicultural understanding, and peaceful strategies for problem resolution, I am less likely to support messages which emphasize the evils of religion (despite how easy it is to find evidence for this), but rather messages which let people know that atheists are valuable members of our world and it would behoove us to ensure they (I mean we) share equal rights with theists or anybody.

Finally, while political issues will certainly arise that may polarize so-called "conservative" atheists and "liberal" atheists, I agree with the previous writer who feels we should ensure that that particular dichotomy is not emphasized in this group.

Patty
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