They make creationists sad:

Driving home from church recently, I spotted one of two new billboards sponsored by a local coalition of atheists. “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone” was their message, an attempt, the group declares, to let the city know that good people in Dallas, like atheists, don’t need God. I’m sad to see the ads go up in my city, but not really surprised. The drift away from conservatism in religion, and in politics, is much more obvious in our nation today.

Comments

  1. #1 Boomer
    May 11, 2009

    Well, creationists make me profoundly sad too, particularly when they involve themselves in educational curriculum reform. If they went only as far as billboards, I would be much happier.

  2. #2 Amar
    May 11, 2009

    Driving home from work recently, I spotted one of many many billboards sponsored by one of the many many churches in the area. “Jesus is the only way” was the message on this particular board, an attempt, the church declares, to let the city know that they will welcome anyone into their church who believes as they do. I’m sad to see the ads go up in my city, but not really surprised. The drift towards blind faith and non-inclusion in religion, and in politics, is much more obvious in our nation today.

  3. #3 J. J. Ramsey
    May 11, 2009

    What’s neat is it shows that atheist advocacy doesn’t have to be unfairly insulting in order to have an impact.

  4. #4 Gwenny
    May 11, 2009

    I’m sure if the dinosaur had feelings they were sad to see their was of life go away, to be replaced by smarter, more adaptable lifeforms. It’s evolution in action.

  5. #5 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 11, 2009

    J. J. –

    But would people be putting up atheist billboards in Dallas if Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris hadn’t paved the way?

  6. #6 Matthew Foster
    May 11, 2009

    Boomer,
    I disagree. I’m an educator in Houston, and ‘sad’ isn’t quite accurate. Irritated, frustrated, infuriated, helpless…these describe the situation better.

    I’d like to see some billboards capturing the essence of Gwenny’s comment.

  7. #7 J. J. Ramsey
    May 12, 2009

    Jason Rosenhouse: “But would people be putting up atheist billboards in Dallas if Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris hadn’t paved the way?”

    The billboards show that people will get riled up about an atheist message even if it takes the high road. Good grief, Bloomington transit in Indiana had balked at a bus billboard that simply said that one didn’t need God to be good. Dawkins et al. didn’t need the rhetoric about “faith-heads” or to play games with the word “delusion” that come across as disingenuous in order to stir things up and pave the way.

  8. #8 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 12, 2009

    J. J. -

    You didn’t answer my question, because you know the answer is no.

  9. #9 J. J. Ramsey
    May 12, 2009

    Jason Rosenhouse: “You didn’t answer my question”

    But I did answer your implied point, which was that we did need atheist advocates who were unfairly insulting. I pointed out that Dawkins et al. could have accomplished their goals while sticking to the high road.

  10. #10 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 12, 2009

    J. J. -

    Actually my implied point was that people wouldn’t be putting up atheist billboards in Dallas if Dawkins et al hadn’t paved the way with the success of their books. We’ll never know what would have happened if they had written their books differently. I suspect that if they had written polite, scholarly tomes they would not have been nearly as effective or successful.

    The simple fact is that there is no evidence of any significant backlash against Dawkins et al, and ample evidence that they have helped the cause. Atheism and secularism are in a much better position today than they were just five years ago, and it’s hard to deny that they played some role in that.

  11. #11 Boomer
    May 12, 2009

    J.J.

    Dawkins et al. didn’t need the rhetoric about “faith-heads” or to play games with the word “delusion” that come across as disingenuous in order to stir things up and pave the way.

    I don’t know… how can you be so sure? Why is it that the start of this latest movement coincided with Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ “insulting” books? It’s my impression that Dawkins and others were fed up with taking the high road by not targeting dogma for decades and making no headway.

  12. #12 Boomer
    May 12, 2009

    Matthew -

    Yeah, I was understating my feelings quite a bit. It infuriates me as well… and I’d probably be more apt to do something about it if I wasn’t up here in Canada, where there is less of a threat to undermine the science education standards. I have to admit though that I sometimes worry that this will eventually spread north of the border.

  13. #13 J. J. Ramsey
    May 12, 2009

    Jason Rosenhouse: “I suspect that if they had written polite, scholarly tomes they would not have been nearly as effective or successful.”

    And if they had written accessible but well thought out and solid arguments, and didn’t lower themselves with name-calling and sloppiness, then what?

    Jason Rosenhouse: “ample evidence that they have helped the cause.”

    Which cause? The cause for atheism, maybe, although Massimo Pigliucci seems to think that Dawkins doesn’t bear as much responsibility for “the statistically significant increase in the number of non-believers in the US apparent from recent polls” as he might like to think. He didn’t elaborate on why he thinks this, unfortunately. Someone may have to ask him.

    As for the cause of critical thinking, Dawkins isn’t much help at all, since he isn’t exactly leading by example.

  14. #14 J. J. Ramsey
    May 12, 2009

    Boomer: “I don’t know… how can you be so sure?”

    Simple. Dawkins et al. put out books with both B.S. and an atheist message to a mainstream audience, and a furor rises. The BHA, AHA, etc., put out billboards with an atheist message but without the B.S. to a mainstream audience, and a furor rises. So an atheist message in the mainstream makes a splash, with or without the B.S., and I’m supposed to conclude that we needed the B.S. all along?

    “Why is it that the start of this latest movement coincided with Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ “insulting” books?”

    It didn’t. It started with overreaches by the Christian Right and with 9/11. Sam Harris, the first of the so-called New Atheist writers, even admitted that his book The End of Faith was a response to 9/11.

    “It’s my impression that Dawkins and others were fed up with taking the high road by not targeting dogma for decades and making no headway.”

    Ok, two big problems. First, how the heck is not targeting dogma taking the high road? Taking the high road means playing fair with one’s arguments. Second, if you think that atheists were initially polite and suddenly started taking the low road when Dawkins et al. came out with their books, then you simply have not seen, for example, the Internet Infidels.

  15. #15 JohnnieCanuck
    May 12, 2009

    I don’t grant you your assumption that criticising religion and pointing out the evils perpetrated by it is the less honourable path. This just another demand for a privileged position for the religious.

    I think the reason believers are so sensitive is that they never quite become comfortable with their own internal doubts and it become harder to suppress them when atheists speak out.

    In my experience, the access to the thoughts of other atheists on the Internet (thanks Jason) has been a significant contributor to the growth of our influence. Anonymity has been an important aspect of this, given the negative pressures applied by family, friends, employers and co-workers.

    Maybe if you cleaned up after your dogma, you wouldn’t have to listen to me complain when it gets on my shoe.

  16. #16 Boomer
    May 12, 2009

    JJ

    I hate to disagree with Massimo, I’m a fan of his. And like he said, we may have to agree to disagree. You say that 9/11 is what caused the “new atheist” movement, but personally I don’t think that 9/11 in itself caused it. It is true that Harris’ book was a response to 9/11, and it may be the case that the other anti-religious books were as well. But I think that it was this response to 9/11 that has resulted in changing attitudes towards atheism. Things could just as easily have drifted the other way without these “militant” atheists pointing out that the problem was not with Islam, but rather with religious dogma itself. Without something to counter the American religious right epitomized by Faux News and the Bush administration, America could have instead gone even further in the direction of the attitude of a “Christian Nation”.

  17. #17 Shamelessly Atheist
    May 12, 2009

    I agree with Boomer. And not just because he’s my brother. 9/11 gave us a sense of urgency to stem the tide of religious nonsense before we end up in world-wide sectarian warring, I won’t argue with that. But Dawkins’ antitheist stance can be seen in a number of his books long before this. If you want a tipping point, I would suggest that the rise of Jerry Falwell during the Reagan years was a catalyst in the early years of the so-called New Atheism. As a Canadian who went to the US as a summer student, I was rudely awakened to the existence of the religious right and its stance that I vehemently oppose. Moral Majority my ass. These people are neither moral nor a majority, yet they got a disproportionate and undeserved representation in the White House. We didn’t get much of that crap back then up in the Great White North. But it’s starting here now as well.

  18. #18 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 12, 2009

    JohnnieCanuck –

    You’re welcome!

  19. #19 J. J. Ramsey
    May 12, 2009

    JohnnieCanuck: “I don’t grant you your assumption that criticising religion and pointing out the evils perpetrated by it is the less honourable path.”

    Did you even read what I wrote? Where did I ever say that criticising religion is less honorable? As I said earlier, “how the heck is not targeting dogma taking the high road?” Playing games with the word “delusion” to suggest that believers are crazy, yes, that is a problem, but that is B.S., not criticism.

    I find it telling that when I bring up the matter of unfair insults, both you and Boomer responded with a straw man about me complaining about religion being criticized.

  20. #20 Boomer
    May 12, 2009

    JJ

    I made the inference because I don’t know what insults you are referring to, so I only assumed you meant criticism of dogma (which many fundies DO find offensive). I have read the End of Faith and the God Delusion, and while I didn’t agree with much of what both presented in their books, I don’t recall anything being “unfairly insulting”.

  21. #21 J. J. Ramsey
    May 12, 2009

    Boomer: “I made the inference because I don’t know what insults you are referring to, so I only assumed …”

    Well, there’s a problem right there: assumptions are tricky things.

    Also, I already mentioned at least one insult, “faith-head,” and I already linked to a comment thread on the Friendly Atheist blog about Dawkins’ use of the word “delusion” (which comes across as disingenuous for reasons that are discussed on that thread). Then there is the matter of how he can insult believers’ intelligence by being lazy in his argumentation, as if he didn’t think it was worthwhile to attempt to have rigor to match his vigor. I’ve discussed this before ad nauseum on this blog, and you could have at least searched the blog before making your assumptions.

  22. #22 Matthew Foster
    May 12, 2009

    Personal Testimony.

    I’m straight from a fundamentalist Christian sect, and it was Dawkins’ books, along with Hitchens and Harris on YouTube that shot directly at the heart of my faith-based indoctrination.

    Daniel Dennet, whom I enjoying reading now, wasn’t effective for me at first; he was too gentle. It was the shock factor that caused me to think.

  23. #23 J. J. Ramsey
    May 12, 2009

    “It was the shock factor that caused me to think.”

    But there are all sorts of ways to shock. Bluntly telling the truth works, and to the extent Dawkins et al. do this, they is useful. However, implying that believers are stupid or crazy isn’t truthful, and it won’t help you unlearn the mental habits from your fundie days. A former fundie who simply switches sides but keeps thinking in the old black-and-white ways hasn’t gained much at all.

  24. #24 Matthew Foster
    May 12, 2009

    “…it won’t help you unlearn the mental habits from your fundie days.” – J.J. Ramsey

    You’ve made some good points; however, as an educator, I’m aware that researchers are asking the questions to address your concern, how do minds change? How do unschooled minds take on sophisticated disciplinary modes of thought? You’re right, “switching sides” or merely accepting facts is not the equivalent of developing disciplinary understandings that equip us to solve problems face the challenges of the future. This, I believe, is the where the real battle lies.

    Nonetheless, pure numbers of people “switching sides” is what it takes to gain political sway in my American democracy, so I’ll settle for that for now (a short now).

  25. #25 lidagazeteler
    May 14, 2009

    Which cause? The cause for atheism, maybe, although Massimo Pigliucci seems to think that Dawkins doesn’t bear as much responsibility for “the statistically significant increase in the number of non-believers in the US apparent from recent polls” as he might like to think. He didn’t elaborate on why he thinks this, unfortunately. Someone may have to ask him.

  26. #26 sesli chat
    May 20, 2009

    thank your
    very good comments

  27. #27 Edebiyat
    September 19, 2009

    Edebi forum

  28. #28 masal
    September 19, 2009

    masal diyari..

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