Stupid Common Sense Atheism and Atheist Experience making decent points!
At first, I was delighted to see this:
And I was even more delighted to see this:
Especially when Bill pulled his whole “tide goes in, tide goes out” bullshit, or as it’s better known, the “God of the Gaps” argument, and Silverman reacted with his “What the Fuck Is WRONG with You??” look.
I felt smug, in the know, proud of my fellow atheist brethren, and life was sweet and happy. Until…
says (I made a huge mistake missing the quote on Luke’s site as a quote, and instead believed it to be Luke’s words. I’ve since been informed they’re Alonso Fyfe’s words),
Well, that’s [The American Atheists’ assertion that “You KNOW they’re all SCAMS!”] false. It is a clearly recognized and proved falsehood that any person who values truth would reject.
A scam, just like a lie, requires that the perpetrator know that his claims are false and that he makes them anyway – motivated by a desire to con others into providing them with some benefit others would not provide if the speaker reported the truth.
The claim that the American Atheists put on this sign is not only false, it is a derogatory and bigoted falsehood. This statement – that all religious leaders are intentionally providing you with false information to con you out of political, social, and economic power – is structurally no different than a statement that says “All black people are lazy” or “All Jews are greedy.”
Before I get started, let me be clear. I like Luke. I respect what he does on CSA. It’s at least much more popular and thorough than what I do here. I’ve also met Luke on several occasions and consider him a friendly acquaintance. (And mF is he tall!) That having been said:
What a bunch of (partial) horseshit!
Luke Alonso’s first claim that those of us who value truth would reject American Atheists’ claim to be a falsehood is itself a falsehood. American Atheists’ claim is not a demonstrable falsehood. It’s debatable, which automatically makes it undemonstrable. You may not agree with their claim, but you can’t set up a repeatable, objectively verifiable experiment to test its truth. You can ask people their opinions. Some will agree with their claims. Some won’t.
Luke Alonso’s point about scams and lies presumes that the scam situation never occurs in religious communities. And yet we have reams of articles, reports, etc. on Christian preachers (I’m not an expert on other faiths) ripping off their flock. Can we prove that the preachers KNEW they were ripping off their flocks? No. But we can’t PROVE that Charles Manson made his family kill Sharon Tate either. The fact remains that many preachers know damn well that what they’re telling their flocks, not the least of which is that an omnipotent god needs their money, is bullshit and yet the preachers do it anyway. That is a scam.
I also highly suspect that many preachers don’t sincerely believe that if their flocks don’t follow certain laws that they will literally end up in Hell. I’m sure some preachers do sincerely believe this, but not all.
Know how I know this? Because I’ve listened to several interviews either with these knowingly lying preachers or people who have spoken with them. The head of a Seattle-based atheist group is a former Christian preacher who did not believe the bullshit he was preaching, but preached it anyway until he grew the courage to stop. There’s in fact a growing segment among Christian preachers who are atheists, but their lives are so completely built on selling bullshit that they have little practical choice but to continue to sell bullshit. That is a scam.
A cursory look at history demonstrates that the Catholic Church sold indulgences, pieces of parchment containing blessings and pardons from the Pope for anything from small offences to murder, to whomever could pony up enough to buy them. Maybe the selling priest sincerely believed that these indulgences were legitimate, but a certain Martin Luther called the church on it’s bullshit. It was a scam.
Let’s step outside of religion for a second. I’ve been to at least two get-rich-quick seminars in my life (friends invited me) at which they made extraordinary claims about how easy it was to use their systems to get rich quick. Were the systems bullshit? It would take a long time to get into, but technically no because the systems did work, but practically yes because the systems only worked for a few (check out pyramid schemes). Did the purveyors of these systems know that they technically worked, but practically didn’t? I can’t prove that they knew this, but it’d be hard to know the inner workings of any get-rich-quick scheme and NOT know that they’re pretty much scams.
Luke Alonso’s implication is that not all religious leaders or adherents sincerely believe that their religions are scams, sure, I’ll grant that. But enough do know and do participate anyway that the claim that they’re scams and that people know that they’re scams is true.
Perhaps American Atheists should have said “Most of you know that most of these are SCAMS”, but at some point we’re pointlessly splitting hairs.
3. A derogatory, bigoted falsehood. I’ve covered the “false” part. I agree that the nature of the American Atheists message is derogatory. of course it is. They’re criticizing something. And that’s not bad. At least it’s not inherently bad. They have every right, and I would argue obligation, to be derogatory about systems that actively (knowingly or not) exploit people. Bigoted is a bit more difficult. For some objective evidence, let’s turn to Dictionary.com:
utterly intolerant of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.
Okay, I’ll grant
Luke Alonso that American Atheists’ message is leaning on the bigoted, but I have to ask… so what? How is this possibly a bad thing? Must I, according to Luke Alonso’s reasoning, be okay with or support everything that is not my own? That’s demonstrably not true as I don’t support child pornographers, serial killers, or anyone else who actively seeks to cause suffering to others. Now those are all extreme examples, but the logic still applies. Am I, according to Luke, obligated to respect any belief or opinion merely because someone has the right to hold such a belief or opinion? Of course not. Because, as I’ve said before, some beliefs and opinions are either bullshit or wrong.
4. All religious leaders. I guess,
Luke Alonso, that you didn’t read the sign. The sign says “they’re all scams” referring to the belief systems, not to the religious leaders thereof. The systems are scams. The systems are providing unverifiable claims, false information, information that causes or supports human suffering, and the systems are asking for financial support to dispense this information. That’s a scam. Yes, some leaders of these faiths may sincerely believe that which they’re dispensing, but enough don’t or are aware that that which they’re dispensing is bullshit that they are partaking in these scams.
5. Structurally no different. I suppose that syntactically “They’re all scams” is no different from “All blacks are lazy”, but I’m not convinced that they’re structurally identical. It is demonstrable that all religions, on some level, are scams. It is not demonstrable that all blacks, on any level, are lazy. At least it’s no more demonstrable with blacks than with any other culture group. It seems as if the American Atheists message is equal to “All blacks are lazy”, but it’s more like both apples and oranges are fruit, but the essential nature of the two fruit groups makes them identifiably separate from each other despite both being the group “fruit.”
6. Finally, I feel the need to point out that I don’t entirely buy the American Atheists claim that their message was directed towards closeted atheists. Clearly the message was designed not only to attract closeted atheists, but also to gain headlines, which it did. I do, however, believe that the major intent was to reach out to closeted atheists. I would have preferred a message more along the lines of “If you think they’re all scams, you’re not alone”, but the draconian part of me feels, as irrational and emotionally based as it is, that given the thousands of years of religions dominating human culture and causing or contributing to untold human suffering, that for one billbaord to be a little offensive to some people using slightly ethically questionable pratices, well, more power to ’em.