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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Creationism: The Denigration of Democracy

Matthew Chapman, the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, spoke at the Atheist Alliance International Conference, which I attended.

First, speaking of Kitzmiller vs. Dover School District, in which intelligent design was ruled a religious intrusion into the Dover-area public schools, he voiced my own thoughts:

As I said in the beginning as a sort of joke, the battle is won. But the battle is won intellectually by any reasonable standard, and has been won for years. Furthermore, if the pursuit of truth through reason brings happiness, as I believe it does [and as I believe it does], why then with all this going for it, is atheism so unsuccessful compared to religious belief?

Last night, Sam Harris suggested that we dump the word atheist altogether, and maybe he’s right. Once you see the light, so to speak, it is [as] embarrassing to declare oneself an atheist as it would be to constantly advertise one’s lack of belief in fairies. On the other hand there is the idea of advertising our ideas, and “branding,” and so on–“God forgive me” for saying that word… And we’re not really talking about fairies, we’re talking about Al Qaeda, and a Catholic Church discouraging the use of condoms in Africa. Sam spoke of racism, and said that there was no group named anti-racist, but when racism was at its most severe, there was—there were the Abolitionists. And I can imagine that it was somewhat embarrassing to declare oneself an Abolitionist, that is, “Of course I’m against slavery,” one would say in civilized society…

But here, at 25:44, he voices exactly what I have been thinking lately, and it's creepy how spot-on he is.

I would like to say a few things that are perhaps worth saying:

Obviously, religion provides something which atheism doesn’t…and for the people I met in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, who I got to know very well and whom I’m very fond of, religious people, young Christians, I like them a lot—and for the older ones, many of them, it provides friendship and connection, it provides a place where you can meet people who would otherwise spurn you quite often. It provides a “purpose to life,” “beauty,” “meaning.” If a church works well, a member can get help when he or she is sick or hungry, and eventually the church will bury you and honor you. The church “takes care” of people. And how does atheism compete with that?

I don’t think it can. [emphasis mine] I don’t believe that atheism can ever succeed in isolation, but only as a result of a much larger political change.

One small example: If a person is terrified of going to the doctor because if they do, they may go bankrupt, but on the other hand if they don’t, they may die, what other recourse do you have than God?

It’s quite clear that the better a country takes care of its citizens, the less religion there is. (And I come from a country where the national health system, when I was a child, worked beautifully. That was a level of fear that one just didn’t have in one’s life.) And I don’t believe that atheism can succeed in a country as primitive as this one now is. [emphasis mine]

A country where politicians deride their own profession, sneering at politics as if the political process was the problem, not the solution;

who deride the idea that government should help, protect, and raise up its weaker citizens;

where the current government has turned over the delivery of basic needs to religion, and made them a matter of charity;

a country where the corporate structure almost forces the employee to ignore morality and then celebrates those who are most rapacious. [Hence our being buried with mountains of "Bring Jesus to the workplace" trendiness.]

Without gigantic social change, the church will have to remain the only place where ordinary people can go to find community, and equality, albeit under the eye of a very stern God, the only place where they can advocate for helping their weaker neighbors without feeling like, “God forbid,” socialists, or liberals.

Well said! Further, I believe that this was the goal of the right wing all along, to bring this country to this point, a point at which we, like Russia being unable to rescue sailors from the sunken Kirsk, cannot rescue buried miners but can only "pray" for them (whatever that does, since they're still buried). This has been the goal all along of the Republican wonks, to turn this nation into the Christian Soviet Union, and who now publish astonished critiques of the current situation as if they themselves were not to blame.

If atheism, if reason, is to flourish, it will only do so when people feel protected by a rational system in which they have involvement, and which is run on principles of compassion, not profit. I think we have all been scammed into accepting as a matter of principle something that is in fact a matter of greed and profit, and that perhaps, incidentally, creates all of the conditions—fear, sickness, hunger, insecurity, and so on—that enables religious power to grow.

All this shit about being against “big government”!

It’s all part of the same scam, as far as I’m concerned, which is the denigration of democracy. [emphasis mine]

And that, my friends, is what I stated a year ago. Those who rewrite the past control the future - and creationism is about doing both. It seems that people like to be told what to do. Well, not me.

As Chapman says toward the end of his speech, we need politicians who are skeptics, who make decisions based upon reason, not faith. I agree - the last thing we need is another President who is a "person of faith"! In addition, "atheism should be the next cause of feminism, for a feminist to still believes in God is like a freed slave who's still living on the plantation." I did not say that, and I wish I had.

And meanwhile, the theory of evolution messes with Texas:

In Texas, where the cotton industry is plagued by a moth in which an immunity to pesticides has evolved, a frustrated entomologist commented, "It's amazing that cotton growers are having to deal with these pests in the very states whose legislatures are so hostile to the theory of evolution. Because it is evolution they are struggling against in their fields every season." Meanwhile, the bigger message--depressingly reminiscent of our imperial predecessors--is that science in the United States is already in trouble. Irving Weissman, a stem-cell researcher, told the Boston Globe, "You are going to start picking up Nature and Science and all the great [research] journals, and you are going to read about how South Koreans and Chinese and Singaporeans are making advances that the rest of us can't even study." [emphasis mine]

The teaching of evolution in our schools is a public health issue. It is an academic freedom issue. It is essential to our republic - assuming, of course, we can keep it.

UPDATED: I suppose I could say that the bizarro chatter at Uncommon Descent (as parodied by AtBC) is a figment of my imagination, and none of it is real - but you just can't make this stuff up!

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Blogger Joshua said...

Well, well said, Kristine. And thanks for transcribing that speech as well.

The idea definitely fits in line with what a lot of so-called "militant" atheists want to accomplish: not to destroy religion but to make it obsolete.

November 06, 2007 7:15 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Thank you, Joshua. I don't know about "destroying" religion - that sounds a lot like the "Let's eliminate war" argument in the comments of my previous post.

Were it that easy!

Chapman, instead of saying, "I don't understand how anybody can buy this stuff," was examining the conditions that bring about magical thinking - namely, helplessness, a need for self-esteem, a need for community, identity (even as a "sinful" creature), meaning, socio-economic and educational levels, etc. (I would add personality and coping strategies, which are partly genetic, to the mix, although Dawkins emphatically would not.)

Religion is already obsolete, in my opinion, but we need to be practical, and start where people already are, instead of where we would like them to be.

A lesson I've learned.

November 07, 2007 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

November 07, 2007 6:39 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Wow, what a compliment, although my boyfriend called it "creepy."

With some luck, you may even get JAD to visit. Lots'o'luck with that.

November 07, 2007 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second the creepy. What is the point? This also gives your your answer to my question as if it was an answer to GRO. Perhaps this is blogger performance art?


November 08, 2007 12:57 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

More like a bit of street theatre.

The point is, Amused Muse is now worse than Saddam Hussein, of course. The Whore of Babylon, as it were.

I doubt that were I a man I would inspire such devotion.

This only reinforces my point that, people who advocate an unrealistic “peace” which is really just passive-aggressiveness will only force the battle into another sphere. If war is never the answer, then war is never the answer, but GRO is now waging war. I have seen peaceniks really go at each other, too. One would think they would focus on the Pentagon, or the CIA, or the multitude of other demons they ostensibly fear, but I think that if these entities did not exist, they would have to create them.

Amused Muse is amused.

November 08, 2007 8:54 AM  
Anonymous missouri said...

What a creep. Now he's accusing you of hyperbole in your "Denigration of Democracy" post, without mentioning that you are quoting Matthew Chapman. You're right, he's just focusing on you. Obviously he's stung that you are as informed if not more so than he, but don't agree with him.

I'm sorry that you have been going through a rough time only to encounter this. Be safe, Amused Muse.

November 08, 2007 9:53 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Ah, don’t worry about it, folks. Maybe it’s a parody site, like Rev. Tippler’s. (But as Janine says, it is hard to tell these days.)

My very own BUUD! It’s a form of electronic indexing, after all. I welcome that.

November 08, 2007 11:51 AM  
Anonymous borat said...

When you say BUUD youhve said it all.

November 09, 2007 11:10 AM  

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