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Re: [bostonatheists] interesting discussion

From: David M
Sent on: Sunday, September 1, 2013 11:58 AM
Once someone makes a questionable causal claim between something bad and religion, responding to it may mean losing direct relevance to atheism. 

There is a reason this discussion needs to end.  It is because this is an email distribution list and the discussion has reached a point where it is better done elsewhere,  like in a forum. 

All I'll say about blaming religion for the origin of problems that predate religion is that people are indulging in motivated reasoning. If we find ourselves doing that, then it is time to be more vigilant about critiquing our own thoughts. 

-------- Original message --------
From: Craig Corsetti <[address removed]>
Date: 2013/08/31 10:26 AM (GMT-05:00)
To: [address removed]
Subject: Re: [bostonatheists] interesting discussion

Agreed. Well stated.

Sent from my iPhone

On Aug 31, 2013, at 9:45 AM, McCoy <[address removed]> wrote:

Well stated, Paul. Let's end this email thread now.

On Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 11:42 PM, Paul G. Brown <[address removed]> wrote:
   Allow me to make an attempt to head off a schism by summoning the shade of Oliver Cromwell--bigot, misogynist, theocrat,  regicide and anti-mince-pie radical--to remind us all, once again, of Cromwell's Rule, which is best summed up by the bon mot he coined in his "Letter to the Church of Scotland" - "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken." 

  There are famous examples of principled anti-racists and advocates for personal and political freedom who were motivated by their sincere (miss-)belief in magic bearded guys in the sky; ML King, Ghandi, John Brown, etc. And good for them. In so far as we share their goals we should seek to make common cause. We atheists do this already with organizations like Americans United for Separation of Church and State. And there are many "liberal" christians who find the shenanigans that have characterized the Texas Board of Education utterly abhorrent. 

  So can we come to the following accommodation? 

   First - when considering the questions that trouble us today--the extent to which structural racism and sexism constrains the lives of many of our fellow humans, the ethics of population control--how about we keep our discussion "atheism relevant". If you find yourself making an argument that's not related in some way to facts about beliefs in gods, or godlessness, I beseech you! Think it possible that your point might be better made in another forum. On the other hand, if your response / experience of social injustice relates in some way to some mangled recapitulation of the teleological argument or someone's assertion of divine authority, have at it! It's relevant testimony. 

  Second (and here I act as Zach's toady) Forums! People! Take it there! 

On Aug 30, 2013, at 7:12 PM, cathy mclaughlin <[address removed]> wrote:

dear john and others,
i so agree with john. folks are forgetting that so much racism and sexism as well as other types
of bigotry either have their roots in religion or are, or were,  at least supported to some degree
by religious groups. a scientific attitude combined with compassion and respect dissolves so much
of the obscurantist reasoning behind these very old ideas, that are in no way inherent to people
but rather must be taught. and so often there was a very definite (yet so often unacknowledged, of course) agenda behind those lessons.
anthropology and evolution were threats against the state of apartheid in south africa- professors had to give lectures in their homes because the official curriculum was racist (and unscientific) to the core.

i do think that humanism can be quite an antidote to fascism as well.

Subject: Re: [bostonatheists] interesting discussion
From: [address removed]
To: [address removed]
Date: Fri, 30 Aug[masked]:14:53 -0400

     I'd have to agree with McCoy and Turner on this and disagree with Craig.  I think a well developed Humanistic worldview is a morally superior position to confusing ancient texts, and as McCoy said, should be used to promote fair treatment for everyone.  Craig said "Our goal is to spread logic, reason and humanism over superstitious beliefs."  I don't think it's just superstitious beliefs but irrational beliefs in general, including sexism, racism, bigotry, etc.  /my 2cents worth.


On Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 8:29 PM, McCoy <[address removed]> wrote:
So by inviting bigots and other illogical people into the fold we are going to make ourselves more respected? Isn't this the problem with religion? That anyone is welcome as long as they drink the Kool Aid? I think as secular humanists we have an obligation to promote and fight for justice and fair treatment of everyone (except bigots). 


On Friday, August 30, 2013, Craig Corsetti wrote:
I've reached my breaking point and must speak up. No this is NOT the conversations we should be having in my humble opinion. We have enough challenges and issues as a group of non-believers without adding divisive societal issues like racism and sexism. If it occurs within our ranks then fine, let's deal with it appropriately and swiftly but from a general or philosophical perspective absolutely not. We need to reach out to all types of people (yes INCLUDING those with different racial and sexual opinions). I would argue we should even accept "racists" or "sexists" (two very loaded and subjective terms) if they do not divide our group or behave in inappropriate ways. We are not morally superior to any other group so let's get off our high horses and be more tolerant and inclusive. It seems some who made comments out of frustration earlier have been banned (a frustration I too was feeling but that does not make me racist)? This is incredibly disturbing to me and I found the angry, equally disrespectful responses to them no less inappropriate. We are all imperfect with very different backgrounds. Humans are all racist, sexist, hypocrites (black, white, Asian, men, women doesn't matter) etc to some degree. It's who we are but banishment or dividing our group for these other societal ills is not the answer and will only doom us to failure in our cause.  
Our goal is to spread logic, reason and humanism over superstitious beliefs. We have not yet had our civil rights movement and may never if we keep this exclusively as some kind of supposedly moral elitist group that only a tiny minority can ever qualify for. We non-believers are LESS tolerated and respected than any other group of oppressed people in America today including Muslims, blacks and gays. Atheists cannot get elected to public office. Almost 50% of people would not want their kids marrying an atheist. Another survey had us below pedophiles for people they would trust! Yet here we are bickering with each other over race, sexism and population growth?? So I implore you all to think about what topics you are introducing to this already oppressed minority with its own problems and issues to deal with. Take your personal or controversial society concerns to the chat rooms where people who actually want to engage can do so. Please stop dividing us or we will go nowhere. I prefer to keep the topics only relevant to growing our community and reducing the influence of religion on this country. That does not mean I don't care about racism or sexism and many other concerns. This isn't the venue. Just my humble opinion but if I'm in the minority of this minority then maybe I'm part of the wrong group here.

From: Mike Hanauer <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Friday, August 30,[masked]:55 PM
Subject: Re: [bostonatheists] interesting discussion

Thanks for asking, Ken.

I guess I could make a number of observations.

The first, I believe I started this thread with a discussion of US overpopulation (and we double every 60 years). I suggested people have a look at a paper I wrote (just updated and reissued) at

From there, however, the discussion took a sharp turn.

I'd still appreciate it if people have a look at the paper and comment. I don't believe anyone did.

I believe population is critical in saving the planet, making us sustainable, and saving quality-of-life for future generations. This applies to all people regardless of race. Population growth continues to overwhelm all else we do for conservation and for preserving the middle class.

I'll leave other thoughts for another time (including the thought that atheists should incorporate such overarching issues into their dialog).


From: kenneth a. thomas <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Wednesday, August 21,[masked]:41 PM
Subject: Re: [bostonatheists] interesting discussion

Besides the name calling what are you observing from this discussion, Mike?
Best regards, Ken.

From: Mike Hanauer <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Tuesday, August 20,[masked]:28 PM
Subject: Re: [bostonatheists] interesting discussion

I don't think labeling people -- racist, xenophobic, stupid, whatever -- has any place in a constructive society or discourse.

"Listening, not Labeling, leads to love and understanding."

From: Alison <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Tuesday, August 20,[masked]:40 PM
Subject: Re: [bostonatheists] interesting discussion

Though I appreciate the honesty of all responses, and though the thoughtful responses were perhaps the majority, the racism of this thread is just appalling, running the gamut from what Ken rightfully describes as "microinvalidation" to the outright hateful comments by the person above who called someone out for "black sympathy". Are you KIDDING me?!!? 

I am by nature anti-authoritarian, which is part of the reason why I'm an atheist. It's also one of the many reasons why I recognize, condemn, and fight against white supremacy and systemic racism. These things are fundamentally linked. 

I hope this discussion can continue but perhaps a little critical examination of some of the finer points

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