Atheists, and Dawkins, vs. Xians

I’m not going to link to individual threads/posts, partly out of laziness and partly to avoid picking on any individual poster, but I have seen a bunch of posts lately saying something like: “oh, the extreme nutty jerk atheists are just as bad as the extreme nutty jerk theists {usually referring to Christians, presumably}”. I’ve also seen a bunch of cases in which an enormous variety of sins and faults of a variety of prominent Christians are mentioned, and then people say that Richard Dawkins (being a famous frequently-viewed-as-asshole-y atheists) is guilty of the same, or at least equally vile, transgressions.

I call shenanigans.
Before I commence ranting, let me state that I am referring here to US society in general as it is today. I’m not referring to other countries where Christians are being martyred. I’m not referring to the past where Christians were eaten by lions. I’m not referring to the SDMB community, in which there are, by absolute count, more prominent outspoken atheists than there are in the entire rest of the world (and which features Der Trihs who is, in fact, at least as much of an asshole as any religious poster, if not more so).
So… in the US as a whole right now, some (but not all) Christians are (imho) guilty of at least the following faults, in approximately decreasing order of importance:
-attempting to pass laws and even constitutional amendments to deny basic human rights to their fellow citizens
-attempting to impose their religiously-based morality through laws about a variety of other topics
-“intelligent design”, and their attempts to legitimize it and put it in public schools
-blaming just about every bad thing that ever happens to the US on God’s anger at all the homos
-despite the fact that the constitution clearly forbids it, continuing to put religious symbols and statements onto our money, into the pledge of allegiance, and frequently into town halls, schools, etc.
-despite the fact that every US president and an incalculably massive majority of all other elected officials ever have been Christian, and there are Christian churches all over even here in secular liberal silicon valley, having the massive gall to claim that they’re a persecuted minority, with bullshit like the “War on Christmas”
-frequently and publicly announcing their faith as part of a self-proclaimed effort to convert others to their faith, even when very unwelcome (note that this is not just some jerks being loudmouths, but rather a fundamental tenet of their belief system which is taught by their organized hierarchies)
-according to various polls and statements, viewing atheists as untrustworthy, unpatriotic, etc.
-Despite their faith having a number of clearly moral and excellent teachings (turning the other cheek, the golden rule, charity, love, peace) seeming to care solely about a few random “family values” issues which in fact are mentioned only peripherally if at all in the bible, and usually not mentioned by Jesus at all
-In the case of many (but certainly not all) of their prominent leaders, being exposed as raving hypocrites due to their financial and/or sexual shenanigans
-In at least one extreme case, being Fred Phelps. I mention him mainly so that when people try to claim that the extremes on both sides are equally bad, they need to remember just how extreme the extremes are on the Christian side. Also, all those fundamentalist separatist Mormon cult people are nominally Christian.
(-I feel like I’m forgetting a few obvious ones…)
-And of course, in many cases, being assholes about their faith

In the US as a whole right now, some (but not all) atheists are (imho) guilty of at least the following faults, in approximately decreasing order of importance:
-In many cases, being assholes about their lack of faith
-In the case of Richard Dawkins, being a really serious asshole about his lack of faith, and making a few really inexcusably assholish and clearly wrong remarks, at least assuming someone has correctly quoted to me one he made about being raised Catholic being worse than being molested. But not really actually DOING much aside from being an asshole.
-One of them once may have stabbed someone in the hand with a pencil
(Oh, and for both groups, some percentage of them are just plain assholes, not to mention criminals, dochebags, hypocrites, liars, etc.)
Seriously. The equivalency is so hilariously far from being even remotely reasonable that it boggles my mind. Really, what sins are the atheist assholes guilty of? Have they ever (as anything other than perhaps a stunt to make a point) proposed adding “there is no God” to coins or the pledge? Do they (in anything approaching statistically relevant numbers) claim that Christians aren’t good Americans?

And even these extremely assholey atheists, who I admit do exist (Der Trihs – who sometimes makes points I agree with but always makes me wish he would just go away and stop trying to support the side I agree with – being a good example), how common are they, really? A large majority of the people I know are atheists/agnostics, and I’ve never heard someone actually (to pick a commonly used example) get angry at someone for saying “God Bless You” when they sneeze. I claim that’s one of those things like the returning Vietnam vets being spit on that everyone has heard about but which, if it happen(s)(ed) at all, (is)(was) incredibly rare.

And, finally, let me state one more time that the big list of Bad Things above is not things that all, or even most, Christians do. But the claim I’m responding to is not about the average atheist or Christian, it’s about the extremes. And, once again, I’m not talking about the SDMB, but about US society as a whole. Whatever the SDMB-centric equivalent is of someone getting mad at “God Bless You”, it probably does happen with non-trivial regularity… but that’s a separate issue.

So, your point is that, at least in the USA today, there are more bad things done in the name of Christianity than in the name of atheism?


WHOA. This is a new development. We really should do something about this. Like, um…uh…breed. And then teach our children not to do bad things. Because historically, trying to get people to stop doing bad things (according to the prevailing opinion of what is “bad”) tends to get people killed.

I have been noticing people separating themselves from Dawkins at an alarming rate on this board, too. More and more I am seeing posts like, “I’m an atheist, but…” and then they say something about Dawkins not speaking for them, or whatever. I just read the man’s The God Delusion, and I cannot figure why people are painting him as some kind of lunatic they have to separate themselves from.

The same for Der Trihs. People are always like, “I agree with what he says, but he makes me cringe when he says…” Whatever. I like Der Trihs. There. I said it. And I am not about to qualify it. He doesn’t make me cringe. Even if I disagree with something he says, which is less often than some might suspect, he doesn’t ‘make me cringe’.

Dawkins talks about this attitude in his book, which I just finished so I may be heavily biased toward his view point right now, since I tend to be easily influenced until I have some time to figure things out for myself.

I admit I haven’t read your whole OP in my eagerness to post on this topic, but I promise to read it now. I tend to get more rambling as it gets later. Sorry.

I think I distance myself from Dawkins not so much because I disagree with his ideas so much as his presentation. To draw a parallel, I agreed totally that Saddam Hussein was a dictator that should have been removed from his position of power…but I wholeheartedly disagree with the methods that were used to accomplish this goal.

I say this, and yet there is a part of me that agrees with Howard Bloom (in The Lucifer Principle) that eventually it comes down to basic Darwinian principles of survival of the fittest. Human reason didn’t triumph too quickly in Europe during the Middle Ages, did it?

So you’re comparing the ideas outside the norm of the extreme Christian Fundamentalists and the extreme atheists and saying that the atheist have less extreme ideas outside the norm that are seen as radical. Am I reading that right?

But why would that be surprising? Atheists are not a group that believes in anything. They’re the group that doesn’t believe in anything as a group. So there’s not much you can point to that they’re advocating that’s outside the norm. . .because they’re not advocating anything.

But these same atheists might belong to nazi groups or skinhead groups or some other group that does have beliefs outside the norm.

Or was there some other point you were trying to make? That was an awfully long OP. I did read the whole thing, however.

But not in the name of atheism, right?

Whew. I read the entire OP.

Right. And that’s why when you do a comparison list of the two sides, they’re lopsided as the OP is showing. But that’s not because atheists are necessarily better as a group. It’s because, as a group, they’re not advocating anything.

People like Dawkins, though, sometimes does advocate things. That’s when the whole thing gets messed up. And that’s why atheists disclaim people like Dawkins sometimes.

I agree. More people need to stand up for what they don’t believe in.

Given that there are many more theists than atheists in the US it would be rather remarkable if this were NOT true.

Drawing equivalencies is a messy business. It is often more accurate to say that, though X is bad, Y is also bad and it is bad in ways that share certain characteristics with X. It avoids the weighing of the badness of X against the badness of Y while maintaining the important point that both X and Y are non-ideal options.

Talk about intolerance. (Go ahead, talk about intolerance among yourselves for a while. I’ll wait.) I’m also a fan of Der Trihs–no big shocker, perhaps, and I don’t even have a lot of dealings with him OTHER than on the subject of religion, and not much there. I guess there is some sort of human need to castigate someone, anyone, who holds views more extreme than your own so you can hold yourself up as a reasonable and moderate whatever-you-are, but whatever happened to Voltaire’s principle? This is like saying, “I’m a good guy, I hate assholes too” to score brownie points with the people you’re arguing against. Fuck that. If you mostly agree with most of Der Trihs’ main theses (and if you disagree with most of them, I don’t understand why call yourself an atheist) then why isn’t your position “Of course, he and I don’t agree about everything, particularly arguing techniques and the value of abrasiveness, but…” rather than “Of course, Der Trihs is worse than Lex Luthor, that’s clear…” I’m not not talking about closing ranks here, or not criticizing those who self-identify the way you do, but could we we specify particular qualities Der Trihs exhibits with which you disagree before just distancing yourself from him like he had BO? I see this as an attempt to persuade the believers into accepting you as a reasonable atheist, and it’s weak and it’s cheap and it’s mostly despicable.

Because not believing in God does not mean you have to be a raving asshole, you silly son of a bitch.

Two gratuitous, meaningless name-calling incidents in one short post. That’s good for you. Keep it up. Your postings are getting better and better.

Couple of points that popped up in my head reading the OP:

  • Whatever way you slice the population, there’ll be a few assholes on every side of the cut; that doesn’t say so much about the criteria used for determining the slices than it does about people in general;
  • Ad hominems never help a debate, it simply doesn’t matter if pastor X molests altar boys, secular humanist Y eats babies for breakfast, Darwin was a racist, Jesus was a sailor*, or Dawkins doesn’t really always know what he’s talking about;
  • Calling out Der Trihs has really become a shorthand way of throwing a bone to the other side of the debate if you’re an atheist – ‘see, at least we can find common ground in not liking Der!’. Personally, I don’t get the fuzz about him – he is very blunt and outspoken, but usually makes a well reasoned argument, and doesn’t insult anybody directly, but I can certainly accept if somebody is ticked off by him; still, to just call attention to how much you don’t like him and wish he stopped supporting your side in a post that doesn’t gain in content through the mention of his username is simply bad style.

*when he walked upon the water

So what’s your excuse?

It is Der Trihs’s opinion that, because of my faith, I am a sicko, delusional, crazy, and dangerous idiot. He believes I should be exterminated. To what extent do you agree with him, and if you were in my shoes, do you think you would perceive him as merely abrasive?

No. That’s honestly a very, very weird view to adopt. Is thinking of ‘sides’ and ‘scoring points’ the way you live your life? If it isn’t, why would you ascribe that to other people?

Instead of ‘scoring points with the other side’, might you perhaps point out that an unrepentant bigot is an asshole… simply because bigots are assholes?
If so, maybe you can understand why so many atheists here on the Dope point out that Der is an asshole because he is a bigot.
And others, like Pseudo, support him because they’re bigoted in exactly the same way.

The sad thing is that more Dopers don’t call out that intellectual lightweight.
Or notice the glaring holes in his logic.
Or voice their disgust with how comfortable he is with expressing the depth of his bigoted hatred.

The facts of the matter are that he, pretty much habitually, insults vast swaths of people directly, including every Doper who happens to fall into those categories. In GD of all places.

Saying things like “Conservatives are [insert pejorative]” or “Religious people are [insert pejorative]” are not only direct insults (i.e. “flaming”) but are aimed at virtually every single Doper who happens to find themselves on the other side of his comic-book-fantasy-world.

And getting back to the OP, he’s right. Bigoted filth like Der Trihs are (thankfully) a rarity. There is no real equivalency between the evils and indecencies that parts of the majority can commit while they’re in power and the evils and indecencies that a vocal minority of a silent minority can commit when their ‘worst’ action is voicing their bigotry on an anonymous message board.

FinnAgain, I’ve read enough of your posts to know that rational discourse with you on the matter is an impossibility, so I will abstain from that; however, I’d appreciate you not trying to convert me to the gospel of hating Der Trihs, since I usually prefer to reach my own conclusions and opinions through my own observations and experiences, especially if the topic is as hotly discussed as this one, since you can hardly rely on anybody being unbiased. If not hating Der means I don’t get to be in The Club, well, I’ll find a way to deal, I’m sure.

Is this an accurate portrayal of his view? I’m not joking, and not busting your chops–I don’t read his posts very much (I often agree with them when I do, though) and I could have missed this level of hostility, I suppose, but does he really tell people he thinks they should be exterminated? I thought that was violative of the registration agreement, wishing death on a poster. I certainly don’t wish death on any Christian, particularly not the ones I know whom I consider my friends, both here and IRL, though I do look forward to a day when their influence is much reduced to the point where it is universally acknowledged that they are a harmless fringe group who believe in imaginary beings for the purpose of feeling better about themselves, but otherwise are completely removed from secular life, though I don’t see that day happening within my lifetime or within this century, so you personally are quite safe from my hopes being realized.

As to whether I think you’re sick, I’d have to say that I don’t think “sickness,” except as a metaphor, is a helpful term to use. (Though I have used it as a metaphor from time to time.) I don’t understand a lot of what you’re saying when you discuss your religious beliefs, which may be my fault, but I certainly don’t think you’re any kind of idiot–I just don’t get what you’re saying much of the time. But I credit you with caring as little as you seem to about a need to convert anyone to your beliefs in order for you to hold those beliefs. We can just disagree about God’s existence–and I think we do, about as strongly as two people can–without expressing personal hatred and contempt for each other. Is it possible you take Der Trihs more personally than he intends? I thought you took me too personally (and did so too quickly) when you asserted that I meant to harm living people by stating that I wished for every church to be destroyed. Instead of concluding that I was a homocidal pyromaniac walking around with matches and a can of gasoline, you could have asked me exactly what I meant, and we could have discussed the ramifications of what I was saying. (I thought you raised a good point, which I’ve never had a chance to bring up due to my hiatus, about whether I wanted your collective property to be confiscated by the government, or something.) Instead we got off topic because you felt that I was making threats that I never remotely intended. Maybe that’s going on here, to a degree, with Der Trihs ? He is abrasive, sometimes rude, often stubborn, and maybe I’m insensitive to his more offensive remarks but I haven’t seen him behaving in a way that is inappropriate for a messageboard. Maybe IRL with no reaction time, you’d have more of a point, but on-line you don’t need to respond so immediately to every post you read, and you can find out if the level of personal hostility you perceive is really there. You’re certainly in no immediate physical danger, and if someone is hot-heated, maybe it’s best to ignore them the best you can, and not interpret their posts for the maximum conceivable harm you can find. It certainly would be Christian of you to turn the other cheek when Der Trihs posts in a way that offends you, wouldn’t it?

Half, I pointed out Der’s actual positions and what he’s actually said on this message board, and the fact that his own stated views mark him as a bigot.
And as long as we’re making our wishes known, I’d appreciate it if you had some spine instead of this weaselly evasion.

Don’t come up with a position and post it on a public message board and when it’s refuted with 100% factual content, claim that someone is trying to ‘convert’ you to a ‘gospel’ of ‘hate’ and they simply can’t be reasoned with. And when, as you’re fully aware, people base their views of Der on his own words, don’t claim that this is about other people’s subjective views rather than Der’s own bigotry. If you really have to support (or worse, agree with) his bigotry, then at least be honest enough to admit that you can’t rationally support a claim that he’s not a bigot. If (and I don’t know you from Adam) you happen to be the same sort of bigot Der is, at least admit it proudly. Don’t go through this silly song and dance and claim that you can’t have a rational apologia in defense of his unfairly being labeled a bigot.

Because you do, however, have a grain of truth to your evasion. You’d have to ignore reality itself to disagree with Der’s own words when they’re used to point out Der’s own views. When he makes claims like “Conservatives are evil”, by logical necessity, he reveals himself as a bigot. So you can not ‘rationally’ mount a defense against Der’s own words.
In order to gainsay the reality of his nature, you’d pretty much have to show that he doesn’t rant most often via drawing with a broad brush and that he really only means “Some but not all of Group A, to be determined by a valid scientific statistical study, before which I cannot hazard a guess about percentages due to lack of data…”
But of course, he’s never expressed any such thing. as you know or should know.
Lacking that, you don’t have any rational basis for disagreeing that Der is, in fact, a bigot.

So no, you can no more rationally disagree with the fact that Der is a bigot than you could rationally disagree that fire is hot.
But there I go, trying to convert you to the gospel that the fire is hot.