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Bay Area Atheists/Agnostics/Humanists/Freethinkers/Skeptics Message Board › Is coexistence unattainable?

Is coexistence unattainable?

Jeff C.
Pacifica, CA
Post #: 4
There are so many points of view and so many people who get defensive and hostile when you don't agree with theirs. As an atheist, I am confident and comfortable with my beliefs; therefore, I do not feel threatened when a xian disagrees with me. Other people can believe whatever they want to believe. I'm honestly okay with it as long as they're not trying to cram their beliefs down my throat. But there are so many theists (and unfortunately some atheists as well) who don't seem to share this level of tolerance. My theory is that people who are insecure with their beliefs feel the need to "convert" others in order to validate their own dubious ideas of truth.

Why are some people so afraid of diversity of thought? Is it really necessary for me to think and believe exactly as you do? What a bland and unimaginative world that would be.
A former member
Post #: 4
Hi Jeff. Difficult question. I've wondered about it myself.
In general I enjoy diversity of thought, and as an engineer, I've found it essential to solving problems in design reviews - which could be applied to life in general. Different perspectives and thinking produce a crucial variety of solutions to choose from. I see an important role for diversity in humanity's progress.

However, I cringe when I think of how much faster humanity could progress - if we didn't have to deal with the distraction of the particular Stone Age thinkers around us.

I guess I'm drawing a distinction between intelligent people who hold fast to differing ideas and people who are not educated or intelligent enough to grasp any idea but the one they were baptized in. I don't believe people are necessarily trying to convert inorder to prop themselves up. I believe a lot of people just don't have the mental faculty to grasp things. I believe the problem lies in education and differences in intelligence.

Am I saying that we should segregate people based on intelligence? No. That can't be fixed (at least right now), and it's difficult to measure anyways.

(On the other hand, if we could genetically modify a virus to instantly raise the intelligence and reasoning ability of every human on the planet - I think that would be a fantastic thing. Maybe natural selection will help out by increasing the intelligence level over a few hundred years as well.)

It's a long road, but I believe the only realistic chance we have to "raise the level of discourse" and make the world free and tolerant for atheism is by working hard to democratize education everywhere. And I think both atheists and theists agree that increased education is a good thing, so maybe there's a chance we can reach that world.

Jeff C.
Pacifica, CA
Post #: 5
Interesting take. Brings to mind something said in the meeting many of us attended at Berkeley today: Education is inversely proportional to our propensity for religious beliefs.

While I agree with your premise (94% of scientists with PhD’s are atheists), it should be remembered that, when considering theists as a group, we are not talking about a bunch of inbred mouthbreathers. Most theists are intelligent enough to recognize that their beliefs are illogical, but they choose to believe anyway. Intelligence may be part of the problem, but I think society has to take the lion’s share of the blame.

We, as a species, consider conformity a positive attribute. We want to fit in. Momma is a xian, as are my teachers and my friends and hell, just about everyone I know, so I guess I should be a xian too. It’s not a matter of what makes sense; it’s a matter of conforming to society and its norms. Most Americans are Christians, most Arabs are Muslim, etc. etc. It’s just easier to choose the “default settings” of your culture.

Try having a discussion about religion with a fundie. As soon as you introduce common sense to the argument, the defenses go up and he will run scurrying for his comfort zone. It’s not a question of intelligence—the light bulb is there, it’s just never been turned on. And as soon as you hit the switch, he gets scared and he turns hostile. This is the problem. People who are deeply religious don’t want to listen to logic or rationality. If they did, they wouldn’t be religious in the first place.

Most people have their religion so deeply rooted in their lives that it helps define them as human beings. Introducing alternative and conflicting points of view, no matter how reasonable, threatens them. When threatened, most people instinctively lash out at the source of the threat. Add to this the inherent intolerance of religious doctrine (we should smite our enemies and kill the infidel) and we have a recipe for a truly screwed-up world. I fear this is a problem with no solution.
A former member
Post #: 5
I agree that it may be impossible to solve. I too have many fundie relatives from Utah, and it's impossible to have a conversation with them. I don't believe they are trying to convert or run from me though.

In addition to education/intelligence, I think it's a question of frames. Their frames are fundamentally different. They truly see the world differently. I thought George Lakoff's book "Don't Think of an Elephant" was very good on the frames topic. The guts of the frames idea is that we are programmed to process the world differently based on our root linguistics, and our root linguistics can be influenced by repeated exposure to certain ideas. It's also the idea that there's a war going on for our minds that's being fought thru media imagery and bombardment with certain ideas. If this is true, it follows that smaller minds would be more susceptible to it.

It's also interesting to note that we already segregate ourselves in many ways. For example, Meetup provides us with a certain amount of insulation from the fundie population. As well as the blue/red state phenomenon, and rural vs. urban. Both sides - atheist & theist - have already decided their response to the coexistence question - live apart if possible.

What do you think? Are we already on that path? Going forward will we see increasing polarization across rural/urban or other location lines? If the question of coexistence has already been decided, where are we headed?
Jeff C.
Pacifica, CA
Post #: 6
I can relate to your problems with talking to your relatives. My parents are both dedicated members of the lutheran church. They feel as if my atheism is a direct result of something they did wrong in raising me. We have had discussions concerning God and religion, and like you, I don't detect serious efforts from either side at converting anyone, but there is something palpable in the air that says, "If we weren't related, I'd really let you have it!" and it quickly becomes obvious that the only way to keep the peace is to agree to disagree and simply eliminate religion as a topic of conversation.

I suppose this is perhaps as good a solution as we can hope for. In most cases, I believe both sides of this fence are willing to maintain the status quo and live by the motto that "good fences make good neighbors". We don't have to be the best of friends, but we don't have to be enemies either. It is the radical and militant lunatic fringe (both theists and non-theists) who simply won't accept the live and let live philosophy. Perhaps the media bombardment you speak of helps to fuel their hatred? After all, these are the smallest and most easily influenced minds there are.

And I think you are essentially right. Everyone sees the world differently, based on individual experience. If a person grew up totally immersed in the culture of Islam, day and night, 24/7, it is all but certain that that person would be Muslim. That same person growing up in Milwaukee probably would develop a completely different set of beliefs.

Our history has shown that whenever there is a strong difference of opinion that divides us, true coexistence is simply not in our nature. Whether it is a political, religious, racial or moral issue, we respond by drawing lines, building fences and establishing borders to separate ourselves. Even in America, where we take pride in our so-called diversity, we voluntarily segregate ourselves because we feel more comfortable surrounded by people "of our own kind". It may not be politically correct, but it's true. In the specific case of religion, Utah is very disproportionally Mormon and the bible belt is bursting with fundamentalism. Do you suppose congress might let the atheists have Hawaii?
A former member
Post #: 6
Cool reply. Thanks. You had me rolling on the floor with the "If we weren't related, I'd really let you have it!" Two thumbs up for Hawaii.
A former member
Post #: 3
//I believe a lot of people just don't have the mental faculty to grasp things. I believe the problem lies in education and differences in intelligence.// I agree that the answer lies in education, but I do not think that elementary science is beyond the grasp of people with low IQ, unless, as Darryl Ray put it in The God Virus, their minds have been infected with the God Virus, which seemingly disables portions of the brain that deal with logic and rationality. I think that, given the right circumstances, education can counterbalance the negative effects of religion on the brain.

On another point, I believe the statistic regarding 94% of Ph.D'd scientists being atheist is slightly off. It is 90% of all members of National Academy of Science who are disbelievers. "Only 10 percent of NAS scientists believed in God or immortality, with those figures dropping to 5 percent among biologists." http://www.americansc...­

About 62% of scientists overall are atheist. http://www.godandscie...­
Gavin I.
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 104
I agree with most of what is said here with the exception of the self-congratulatory linking belief to intelligence. I was raised in a belief free home and think we live in a naturally universe - no unseen entities needed, welcome, or ever existed. There is no shortage of highly educated, highly successful, theists who are more intelligent than myself.

I suggest decoupling intelligence from non-belief as it is almost certain some something else is going on.

Another view is theistic belief is a handicap fitness indicator, similar to the peacocks tail or a male antler's antler's, something that publicly displays sexual health at a cost of making one more vulnerable to predation, but the ladies like it, so what you going to do.

Two characteristic of all known religions is a shared-public display of a counter-intuitive belief and thinking the other guy's belief is stupid. So it may be our counter-intuitive, shared-claim/belief is all believers are stupid - despite the contrary evidence.

I think the percentage of atheists in the scientific community is grossly exaggerated and would go as far to suggest there are probably less atheists practicing science in publicly funded education than in the general population. The distinction I make is between evolution-based atheists an "cultural atheists."

Cultural atheists are the folks claiming non-belief, but will qualify, with the ,"of course, that doesn't mean God couldn't exist," and remain blissfully ignorant of the theory of evolution as it directly applies to their claim of atheism and their scientific discipline. They are easy enough to out, "So you would believe in god, if the messiah were to suddenly appear?" "Ha,ha,ha. Yes." "When do you think that is going to happen?" "Soon."

You don't have to look too far to find a young earth geologist.

I do agree about the importance of education and community building, something I have been thinking about a lot lately.

As far as the "coexstence" question is concerned, once you get past the, "Coexist," bumper-sticker, it is actually very difficult to get one human being to kill another under most circumstances, so the short answer is, yes.

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