Nathan (vovat) wrote,

Agreeing to Disagree

I was alerted by nova_one to this article, and I figured I could make a post out of my own comments on it. I recommend reading the article, as it's pretty good, but I'm going to cut and paste the ten things to offer my own thoughts on them.

1. You Can Do Terrible Things in the Name of Either One

I get what he's trying to say here, but I think the wording is a bit misleading because I'm not sure anyone has, say, killed anyone IN THE NAME of atheism. Atheists can kill people, and they can use the absence of God as an excuse (although I don't think even that's as common as many believers want us to think), but has there ever been a case of someone saying, "I'm going to kill you because there's no God"? In fairness, I don't know that anyone has said, "I'm going to kill you because there IS a God," either, but there have been horrible deeds done in the name of religion that I don't think have been done in the name of atheism (but could well have been done by some individual atheists).

2. Both Sides Really Do Believe What They're Saying

No objection to this one, but I do have to mention one passage that particularly resonated with me: "After all, you've got people who are doing the hard part (self-sacrifice, patience, giving up all sorts of sinful pleasures) but are avoiding the easy part (praying and listening to a preacher talk for one hour a week). If God and the danger of Hell were that obvious, why wouldn't they just go all the way with it?"

3. In Everyday Life, You're Not That Different

I agree with both parts of his argument on this one. People who believe in a supernatural being who can do anything don't usually assume He's going to keep their car filled with gas. And as for the part about atheists, I'm reminded of a bit in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather in which Death tells his granddaughter Susan that it's good for humans to believe in the little lies (like the existence of the Hogfather, the Discworld's equivalent of Father Christmas/Santa Claus) so that they can learn to believe the big ones, like truth, justice, and mercy. I'd say there's definitely something in that. We don't have to believe that these "big lies" come from a magic lawmaker in the sky, but we do have to adhere to them in order to function in society. I do think comparing Janet Jackson's exposed boob to someone sleeping around isn't really fair, but I do get the point he's trying to make.

4. There Are Good People on Both Sides

Agreed. Here's my favorite part of this item (not properly quotation-marked, because I'm not sure of the right way to do it):

I understand the concept, that all morality comes from God and thus those on the outside are vulnerable to temptation and the devil and all that. But you know good people who aren't believers. I know you do. You can't miss them. Therefore:

If God alone can deliver us from temptation,


Some people who don't believe in God are also able to resist temptation,


God must offer his protection against temptation even to some who don't believe in God. One could even say that God aids the atheist's honest desire to follow one of God's rules... even while he continues to deny God.

5. Your Point of View is Legitimately Offensive to Them

Pretty valid argument here.

6. We Tend to Exaggerate About the Other Guy

Definitely, which is why I often make a point, when I'm criticizing people who do or think dumb things in the name of religion, that I realize ALL followers of their religion (usually Christianity or Islam, in the examples we get from the media) are like that. In fact, most aren't.

7. We Tend to Exaggerate About Ourselves, Too

Yeah, I'm generally pretty live-and-let-live when it comes to religious belief, provided other people are the same way with me. But nothing gets me closer to feeling like a militant atheist than someone making a really stupid and obnoxious point based on their religion. Sort of like how seeing reports of excessive prudishness can essentially turn me into Mr. Super-Permissive Free-Love Advocate, when there are actually plenty of sexual practices that I DON'T tolerate, or at least seriously question.

8. Focusing on Negative Examples Makes You Stupid

I think the author does a fine job at defending this one.

9. Both Sides Have Brought Good to the Table

No argument here.

10. You'll Never Harass the Other Side Out of Existence

Yeah, people who harass those who disagree with them can't possibly think they're going to actually change hearts and minds, can they? I would imagine that most of us are smart enough to realize that. The author uses Ann Coulter as an example, and while it's hard to tell exactly what's going on in her bizarre mind, I don't think she's trying to convert anyone. She wants to make money preaching to the choir, and make waves hurling juvenile insults at those who disagree. More than anything else, I think Coulter is stuck in a childish mindset, saying nonsensical things about the other kids to make them cry.

All right, now to read nova_one's own comments on the article.
Tags: religion

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