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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Shermer On Rational Atheism

Michael Shermer recently published an open letter to Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens in Scientific American. In it, he cautions against the overweening perception of atheism among the majority of, if not most of, society at large. He offers five concepts that, if kept close at hand, may help to reduce the amount of antagonism that is currently being stirred up by those who feel threatened by the growing popularity of atheism.
  1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail.
  2. Positive assertions are necessary.
  3. Rational is as rational does.
  4. The golden rule is symmetrical.
  5. Promote freedom of belief and disbelief.
I think that it is good to keep in mind that, just because atheists don't have a burden of proof necessarily, it doesn't mean that we don't have work to do. Although there may be more of us every day, we're still in the vast minority, and it would be foolish to expect those who disagree with us to just roll over and acquiesce to our respective worldviews.

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4 Comments:

At 8/21/2007 7:58 PM, Blogger bpabbott declaimed...

I think we need many more Michael Shermer's.

However, we are all fortunate to have some like Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and Hitchens.

I often see these men referred to as "militant atheists." Which I think ridiculous.

None of these individuals condone violence or destruction. They apply reasoned critique in order to rock the boat, and push individuals from their comfort zone ... thus forcing many to intellectually address sectarian and secular issues.

It is the nature of activism to "rock the boat."

I think such individuals are more appropriately described as atheist activists ... I suspect/hope that is how they'll eventually be recognized.

 
At 8/22/2007 1:36 AM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Activists for non-existence?

 
At 8/22/2007 10:06 PM, Blogger Alison declaimed...

No such animal as an atheist movement.

 
At 8/26/2007 3:35 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

Alison, repectfully, I think you're wrong. I think the movement is toward defining ourselves for the rest of the world, versus letting the religious blabbermouths define atheism and atheist world views as they would have us defined for their sheeple. I don't think there is a cohesive, or single atheist world view out there, and that's as it should be. I do think that most atheists would agree that just because we don't believe in a deity, that doesn't mean we don't believe in anything. This is how we have been portrayed, and I think there is a general movement to correct that deliberate misperception. There is also an unrelenting propagandistic meme to the effect that, since some of us do not believe in an afterlife, we must necessarily have nothing to look forward to and are therefore chronically depressed. There might not be a concerted effort, or a membership, but I think one cry of "Bullshit!" has inspired others, and in that sense, there is a ground swell, or movement.

Or maybe it's just a Rationalist movement. Woo Hoo! Go Reality! Hey you, crossing yourself at the goal posts. Physics wins every time!

 

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