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Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Atheist propaganda in schools

The Colorado Coalition of Reason has made a 35-minute video, grandiosely entitled The Last Presentation, that they are sending to schools in order to talk to students about atheism and not to discriminate against atheist classmates.

This may seem like a laudable goal, but I'm afraid that, from my perspective, there are a few rather dramatically questionable things. Making a video about atheism is a ridiculous propositions, as atheists don't agree about anything. As such, this video tries to impose ONE particular worldview and propose it as "atheism." Here are some examples:

Good and evil? It’s all in your point of view. People can do things that by any definition are terrible antisocial acts, things that are harmful to others and I would call those evil acts. Ask an antelope what he thinks about being eaten and he’ll tell you the lion is evil. The lion will say he’s simply having dinner. By the way, being philosophical about it doesn't stop the pain or the death of the antelope. Nations go to war against each other. Our side is fighting for god, country, and apple pie. The folks on the other side are evil. The folks on the other side think the same think only reversed. Now that doesn't mean that people don't commit evil acts in war because they certainly do. It means that the definition of good and evil can change with your point of view.
...
The atheists I know act ethically. To us, that means don’t hurt other people, don’t take their possessions, and don’t lie.


If good and evil change depending on your point of view, then they are personal opinion, not fact, and it makes no sense to say that "atheists act ethically." This statement, which supposedly represents ALL ATHEISTS, basically tells schoolchildren that atheists don't believe in morality, and that anything that is good from your perspective, is good. "To us," it means to not hurt others, to not steal or lie, but to you it might be... say, killing atheists. But that's okay!

Religion gives many people much-needed support. It provides the floorboards of their lives and gives them something to hang onto. Lots of religious people do good things in charity. They tend to their flocks and they help those less fortunate.


What does people's charity work has to do with religion? Absolutely nothing. This is a completely irrelevant point in discussing whether religion does or does not "give many people much-needed support." How does religion provide support? Mumbling a few words about floorboards and supports doesn't make an argument. Do ALL atheists agree that religion does this? Not me!

Well, thank you, but sometimes I feel more angry than brave. Here’s an example. A religious leader wants to force-feed hospital patients over the objections not only of the family but of the patients legally expressed wishes. Tim, we’re talking about tax-supported public hospitals forcing their religious beliefs on others. I hope that explains why I support the separation of church and state.


Is the Church forcing this poor woman to stay alive? No! The State is. What power would "religious leaders" have to force people not to kill themselves, if the State was not there to effect it? "Religious leaders" in North America do not kill people, or steal their money, or force them to stay alive despite their pain. Only the State does that.

Please help by sending an email to the COCORE at cocore3@cs.com and tell them that, while you think their project is well-intentioned, that they should refrain from speaking for you or any other atheist. The minute they start saying that "atheists think this," they are lying about us, they are slandering us, and we should not stand for it.

Post a Comment


19 Comments:

At 6/23/2007 12:55 PM, Blogger The Jolly Nihilist declaimed...

I have to agree with you--nobody should attempt to speak for all atheists. We are a highly various lot, encompassing humanists, nihilists, objectivists, and others for whom no label is remotely appropriate. For example, I know that my nihilism is antithetical to many of your own views, yet we both are staunchly atheistic.

Generalizations such as this do a disservice to our noble philosophical viewpoint.

 
At 6/23/2007 1:07 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

I agree! This is why you should send them an email. (^___^)

 
At 6/23/2007 1:19 PM, Blogger Rasputin declaimed...

Would it be rude of me to suggest that the Colorado whatevers have been possessed by Satan?

 
At 6/23/2007 1:21 PM, Blogger Rasputin declaimed...

It just occurred to me that my last comment could be taken as me being a religious nutjob and actually meaning it. That was not the intent.

 
At 6/23/2007 4:09 PM, Blogger Brad Reddekopp declaimed...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 6/23/2007 4:11 PM, Blogger Brad Reddekopp declaimed...

I sent them a note explaining briefly my objections. I posted a copy of it here

 
At 6/23/2007 4:33 PM, Blogger SDF declaimed...

It's true that many atheists believe in moral absolutes – that it’s always wrong to kill innocent people, for example. What I don't understand is how atheists account for moral absolutes.

This question hit me when I read a biography of Chairman Mao, who killed millions of innocent people. On what basis would I say he was wrong?

Is it because I think he was wrong? But he thought he was right. Stalemate?

Is it because most people think he was wrong? But that assumes another absolute – that the majority is always right. But what’s the basis for this absolute?

Is it because the survival of the human race depends on protecting innocent people? Again, that assumes another absolute – that what’s right is what advances the survival of the human race. Mao might answer that he prefers another absolute – that what’s right is what keeps him in power. On what basis would I say he is wrong?

Again, I understand that many atheists hold to moral absolutes. But how do atheists account for moral absolutes?

 
At 6/23/2007 4:54 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

It's called reality. Look it up.

 
At 6/23/2007 7:31 PM, Blogger J Morales declaimed...

Francois, I don't think you're wrong, but I find the tone of the post (particularly your last paragraph) rather ironic.

 
At 6/23/2007 7:39 PM, Blogger SDF declaimed...

You are right, Francois. Reality is crucial.

Reality shows that Chairman Mao had different moral absolutes than you. Reality also shows that you believe he was absolutely morally wrong.

And so far, reality shows that you have not accounted for the reality of your moral absolutes.

 
At 6/23/2007 7:59 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Here is the letter that I just sent them:

---------

Hi,

I am an atheist blogger by the name of Aaron Kinney. I recently became aware of your video that you are intending to distribute to various public schools.

While your project is well-intentioned, and I agree in principle with your efforts to raise awareness of atheism and atheists, I must ask that you please reconsider distributing this video.

The reason for this is the content of the message itself. It comes off as speaking for all atheists, and makes quite a few broad assertions about us that I honestly believe simply arent true. Atheists are perhaps the most diverse group of people that can be categorized, and many of them (myself included) do not agree with many of the assertions you make about us in the video.

I want to clarify to you that I fully support your efforts to disseminate atheistic materials to schools. But I believe that the content of this particular video is rather poor. Indeed, its entire approach and subject matter needs to be reconsidered.

One particular part of the video (but not the only part) that I believe needs to be changed or omitted entirely, is the part about good and evil. Among atheists, an extremely wide variety of moral frameworks are held. The one you promote is not the only one. I, for example, certainly dont believe that good and evil are dependent upon point of view. But my opinion on the matter isnt that important to your video. What is important to your video is that you are declaring that all atheists take the same moral stance you do, when they most certainly dont.

Instead, you should perhaps consider explaining that atheism does not include an inherient moral framework, and that such a thing cannot be obtained by divine decleration nor ones opinion. Then explain how atheists do indeed find moral frameworks through which they conduct their lives properly. Perhaps show statistics that demonstrate that atheists act just as benevolently as anyone else, if not even more so.

This is just one of many examples of things that I found to need reconsideration in your video. Again, I want you to know that I am encouraged by your efforts to raise atheism awareness and acceptance, and I would love to see you produce a quality piece that does justice to the diverse collection of atheists in this country. But please, do not use this particular video. Please edit it, rewrite it, and do whatever is necessary to provide a more accurate, open ended, and less decleratory message. Keep the philosophy of the video in line with the concept of atheism, which is only the rejection of a positive claim, after all.

Thank you,

Aaron Kinney
http://killtheafterlife.blogspot.com

 
At 6/23/2007 8:03 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Immediately after sending my letter, I was informed that these videos have already been distributed as of December 06.

Now I look like a retard. Great!

 
At 6/23/2007 8:07 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

No no, it's fine. We need to send a clear message that what they did was NOT ok. They need to take down the page from their site, and they need to recall these videos.

 
At 6/23/2007 10:03 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Again, I understand that many atheists hold to moral absolutes. But how do atheists account for moral absolutes?

Who said anything about the existence of moral absolutes?

 
At 6/23/2007 10:48 PM, Blogger SDF declaimed...

Zachary -- I might have assumed too much. Francois did not use the term “moral absolutes.”

He said: "If good and evil change depending on your point of view, then they are personal opinion, not fact, and it makes no sense to say that "atheists act ethically." This statement, which supposedly represents ALL ATHEISTS, basically tells schoolchildren that atheists don't believe in morality, and that anything that is good from your perspective, is good."

This sounds to me like moral absolutes: moral -- because he mentions good and evil and morality; absolutes -- because he says they are fact, not personal opinion, which does not change depending on your point of view, and which is not true just because it is your perspective.

And doesn’t Francois’ response confirm my interpretation? He did not deny moral absolutes; he said that accounting for moral absolutes is as easy as pointing to reality (my interpretation).

 
At 6/24/2007 2:43 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

sdf-

It's most probable that the unlikeliness of you getting a response from Franc has less to do with his capability to do so, and more to do with his reluctance to address an issue which he's written about at length on this blog.

But, I'll go so far as to suggest that what you're reading in Franc's criticism is not an assertion of moral absolutism, but an attack against moral relativism; the counterpoint to which is moral objectivism. That is to say, our morals should be based on the facts of reality, and not on any personal will.

 
At 6/24/2007 3:47 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

I never said anything about moral absolutes, although there obviously are some trivial ones. For instance, life is a moral absolute, since all moral agents are necessarily alive. But moral absolutes are not the point here.

 
At 6/24/2007 7:28 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

Franc,

I find myself in complete agreement with you on this issue.

I also believe that "good" and "evil" are garbage can terms, having no meaning that can be universally agreed upon. They are at the same time childish oversimplifications, and attributions of motive in some idealistic, superstitious fantasy world. One can talk in terms of morals and ethics, but "good" and "evil" does not take into account the wide variety of human motivations, rationalizations, and denials. Dividing things up this way also misses the very real difference between intentions and results. Sam Kinnison's example of feeding those who live where food won't grow comes to mind. Send them food, keep them alive, they make starving babies. Is this good? Evil?

I will be sending the Colorado Coalition of Reason an e-mail asking them not to speak for me in this fashion.

 
At 6/24/2007 9:35 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

My contribution:


To Whom it may Concern,

I am adding my voice to the list of athiests that would like you to know that we do not appreciate the manner in which you have attempted to educate the general public. I believe that your intention to end discrimination is a worthy goal, but your execution might cause more confusion than it resolves. Atheists compose such a wide spectrum of beliefs that the only commonality one finds is the belief that there is no god. Buddhists are technically atheists for example, and have basic beliefs that give them little in common with Realists.

I disagree with this statement:

"Ask an antelope what he thinks about being eaten and he’ll tell you the lion is evil. The lion will say he’s simply having dinner"

Ask an antelope anything and he won't say Jack. He's an antelope. Leave the anthropomorphism and other fantasy crap to the religious whackjobs. Furthermore, the animal kingdom is not capable of the higher reasoning required to create and place a moral judgment upon their actions. Stop adding to the ambiguous cartoon bullshit that children are being subjected to.

I disagree with this statement:

"Nations go to war against each other. Our side is fighting for god, country, and apple pie. The folks on the other side are evil. The folks on the other side think the same thing only reversed. Now that doesn't mean that people don't commit evil acts in war because they certainly do. It means that the definition of good and evil can change with your point of view."

War is, by most human definitions, evil. I don't ascribe to the dichotomy of "good" and "evil" myself at all. War is an act of aggression, and an aggressive response. Under the common perspective, it is at best a "necessary evil". Killing is killing. No one but a soldier who has seen combat has any point of view on war that is relevant, unless it is one who has asked such a soldier and adopted that point of view. Our governments have handles by which they manipulate public opinion. This is called propaganda, or bullshit. The ability for humans to form bullshit rationalizations in no way alters the ethical/unethical nature of their actions. At best, it reduces them to tools in the hands of other unethical humans. Religious indoctrination plays a major role in the formation of these handles, which brings me to my next point.

I disagree with this statement:

"Religion gives many people much-needed support. It provides the floorboards of their lives and gives them something to hang onto."

The part I disagree with is, "much needed". I believe that religious indoctrination gave people the insecurities and paranoia that it alleviates on a short-term basis. First, give them the disease, then sell them the cure. Religious indoctrination not only asks, but often demands on pain of alleged eternal suffering, that children believe on "faith" contradictory and absurd dogma. This totally destroys critical thinking skills, and leaves the victim vulnerable to all manner of emotional manipulation and programming. "Gives?" "Sells" at a morally bankrupt price is more like it!

If you truly believe the things you say in this presentation, then we have very little in common, and I would appreciate it if you were more careful in implying that you represent my position in the future.

Regards

John Bogart
Member of the Human Race since 1958


PS: Last time I looked, "god, country, and apple pie" was not a sufficient reason in itself to go to war. More elaborate excuses are required, most dealing in racist hatred.

 

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