Pharyngula

Speak it, brother!

Clenched fist salute to Pat Condell:

Exactly.

Comments

  1. #1 jdb
    November 28, 2007

    steve99: “This is not about moderate atheism – it is about dealing with individuals with sympathy and respect”

    I don’t interpret anything Pat said — or anything PZ, or Dawkins, or Hitchens, etc. have said — as meaning that atheists shouldn’t have social graces or treat people without sympathy or respect.

    “But what about those of us, or friends of us, who have aged relatives with belief? Or who (to give a real example) work to provide medical care to people? Do we say to them ‘I give your religion the finger’, when they are in desperate need of care and consolation?”

    Pat is giving religion the finger in the public sphere. If Grandma doesn’t want to hear what Pat has to say, she doesn’t have to watch his YouTube videos, or read Pharyngula. Nobody’s saying you should barge into Grandma’s hospital room and browbeat her about how her beliefs are a bunch of poorly written fairy tales, any more than you should barge into Grandma’s hospital room and browbeat her with your views on politics or any other topic.

    But if Grandma asks you to pray with her, there’s nothing unsympathetic or disrespectful about saying that you don’t believe. If Grandma wants to lecture everyone over Thanksgiving dinner about what a great president Bush is, there’s nothing unsympathetic or disrespectful about voicing your disagreement if you so choose.

  2. #2 Ichthyic
    November 28, 2007

    But if Grandma asks you to pray with her, there’s nothing unsympathetic or disrespectful about saying that you don’t believe.

    which inevitably leads to the question from grandma/relative/friend:

    why not?

    whereupon the only honest response is the one Pat gives, insulting or not to the person who asked the question.

    I myself finally gave up trying to be dishonestly polite or evasive in such circumstances (the question ends up just being asked again at a later date), but at least have learned only to go as far as the questioner is willing to extend themselves – only when it comes to friends/relatives, though.

    If it makes grandma feel bad on her deathbed that she wasn’t able to convert me, so be it. It would be worse to lie about it, yes?

    In fact, i have found that people WANT to hear reasons not to believe, even if they themselves can’t accept them at the moment, and get all defensive in the immediate sense. They seem to come back for more…

    might be just curiosity, or it might be that they themselves doubt their own faith, and want to see how the other side “lives”.

    when asked about comforting the aged, instead of encouraging them to look at a fantasy future past death, i always make them look back at the many great things accomplished during their LIFE, which is all that really matters.

    the comfort should come from whatever experiences one has managed to squeeze out of one’s current life, not some sweet lies about a future trip to a non-existent place.

  3. #3 Christianjb
    November 28, 2007

    Janine: It strikes me that Dawkins, Randi, Dennet and numerous other famous atheist/skeptics have managed to write powerful treatises on atheism and skepticism in strident but polite language. I’d even include Pat Condell as someone who is effective at getting his point across without resorting to gratuitously offensive language.

    You however are resorting to using sexually graphic language in an attempt to humiliate someone with an apparently honest question- since the person in question doesn’t rise to your self-evaluated level of atheistic purity.

    I know it’s the internet and all- but do we really have to behave like someone with Tourette’s syndrome?

    I think there’s something to be said for the Oscar Wilde/Winston Churchill school of witty put-downs. I’m not so sure about this current trend to just (metaphorically) violently attack anyone you disagree with with unthought-out profanity.

  4. #4 rootlesscosmo
    November 28, 2007

    aris (#24): This 1995 article by Richard Dawkins

    http://tinyurl.com/496jw

    quotes, without disagreement, a newspaper headline asserting that astrology has never been such big business as at present. True, it’s not quite as respectable as religion; it’s not a make-or-break qualification for public office in the US. That may be because, like palmistry, it’s acquired a down-market aroma, or because its place has been filled by other kinds of bunkum like Scientology; I don’t know. But vigorous ridicule, starting with Aristotle, hasn’t loosened its grip. On the other hand, it’s generally acknowledged that religious belief declined dramatically in Western Europe during the 20th century; if we want to encourage a similar decline (and I do) we ought to spend some time figuring out why.

  5. #5 MAJeff
    November 28, 2007

    Do we say to them “I give your religion the finger”, when they are in desperate need of care and consolation?

    How about when the asshole believers give us the finger when in need of care and consolation? Oh, that’s right. We don’t matter.

    Slag off. I’m sick of worrying about the sensibilities of the fairy tale set when they’re not willing to extend any similar courtesy.

  6. #6 MAJeff
    November 28, 2007

    oops…too many links…let’s just say that those who think we should take more care of the sensibilities of the fairytale set, while they feel free to ignore ours, during the same times of need…well, fuck ‘em and fuck those who would have us continually shut up.

  7. #7 Ichthyic
    November 29, 2007

    If I lied about what i believe because the idea bothers some people, would I become a moderate?

    I always ask these people (self described “moderate atheists”), when I meet them, if it would be sympathetic of me to not point out to an extreme OCD sufferer that their particular affliction is entirely based on something that is treatable.

    would it be sympathetic of me to not try and convince someone suffering from severe delusions that the things they are seeing aren’t real?

    If I truly believe that someone is suffering from a religious-inspired delusion, is it really sympathetic to let them wallow in their delusions?

    Or is it really doing them a disservice not to point it out?

    Isn’t it even doing a disservice to those they might try to convince their delusions are real?

    why is what I try to do any more or less sympathetic than someone who firmly believes I am going to hell trying to convince me to believe?

    I’ve certainly met many people convinced they are doing me a grand favor by preaching the gospel at me. Surely they are convinced they are in the end being sympathetic towards me, right?

    I can feel empathy and understanding towards those who have fallen for the great delusion, but no, I feel no desire to be sympathetic towards their position at any time, and in fact really do feel I would be doing a disservice to them if I did.

  8. #8 rmp
    November 29, 2007

    Ichthyic, I suspect that if I knew you I’d like to buy you a beer. However, I’m not planning on taking you to lunch with my mom at the nursing home ;)

  9. #9 Alex
    November 29, 2007

    Ichthyic, that type of thinking is the same that fundamentalist Christians use to justify preaching their BS all the time. There’s a time and a place to discuss those things, regardless of how “delusional” you believe someone else to be, and going up to religious people and telling them that they’re delusional is just as stupid as a religious fundamentalist going up to random people and telling them they’re going to Hell. Well, not quite, but close enough. My point is we’re all humans, and atheists such as yourself are just as capable of believing utter lies as theists are. Theists don’t have some sort of disorder that impairs their ability to reason, they just hold an unjustified belief, often much more strongly than they should. That’s common for humans and it’s a human flaw, not a flaw unique to theists.

  10. #10 MAJeff
    November 29, 2007

    But how often does anybody hear about people acting as steve99 suggests?

    I’ve got a post in moderation about going to my grandmother’s funeral in NW Iowa last week (couple posts on my blog–click my name and scroll down). I was the good son and stayed closeted as a liberal, a gay man, and an atheist. i even let mom get away with a homophobic erasure of my aunt’s wife so as to not offend the “good christian” bigots.

    But of course, again, it’s we atheists who are the problem, as a starting definition.

    So, yeah,, steve99, slag off.

  11. #11 Mike P
    November 29, 2007

    MAJeff,

    This isn’t an attack, but I’m honestly wondering: why the bitterness? I’ve read and re-read steve99’s post, but I still can’t find anything that would prompt a euphemistic “fuck off”. In fact, it sounded very much like the opening volley of a discussion. Perhaps even a heated one. But instead of engaging in debate, it’s “slag off”? I’ve seen you in engage in plenty of rational discussion around these parts, so is there something I’m missing?

  12. #12 MAJeff
    November 29, 2007

    Mike P,

    It was the same refrain as always, “Do you atheists go on the attack in every social situation?” We always get it. I was at a funeral last week where I was the good tolerant one and the Christians were the bigots. But, of course, Steve’s opening volley is, “What, are you atheists attacking all the time.”

    Sick of it. Period. Get a fucking clue. We’re human beings and we go through funerals and try to tolerate our relatives and just get through like everyone else. But, toss out the A-word and all of a sudden we’re these monsters looking to pick fights at every family gathering. Steve’s was just one more string in the same line…and I’ve had it. Maybe it’s a long day after a long couple of weeks, but could we please get over that shit and the stupid assumptions…and the just plain stupid and insulting question.

    That answer it?

  13. #13 Janine
    November 29, 2007

    Mike P, I promise I will ignore you.

    MAJeff, I feel I should have given you my condolenses last week when you brought it up. Suffer from a lose and then having to deal with all of the insults. You should have recieved some kind words, even if it was from a stranger.

  14. #14 MAJeff
    November 29, 2007

    Janine,

    Thanks,

    I was on the phone, even texting, the entire week, including while in Iowa, with my family–even while spending time with relatives. I had to cancel family thanksgiving plans (one of my dearest friends in the world) to deal with relatives and their bullshit. I’ve got a post on it planned for later in the week (the family/relative thing from a queer theoretical and lived perspective)

  15. #15 Ichthyic
    November 29, 2007

    I’m not planning on taking you to lunch with my mom at the nursing home ;)

    actually, what you would hear from me is only asking your mom to recall the many assuredly amazing adventures she has had during her life.

    that’s about it.

    surely you do the same to comfort her, yes?

    My pop is also very religious (heh, moreso as he gets older), but it’s all I do with him any more when he asks me why I am an atheist. seems pointless to drag out the obvious answer as he, like I’m sure is the same with your mom, has already heard the reasoning.

    Instead, it’s of great comfort to him to relate already many times told tales of his adventures overseas in the Merchant Marines, the wonderful times spent with his wife of many years, etc.

    the point being not to focus on the negative, other than to answer direct questions, but to focus on what is actually REAL – the very life that person has lead to date.

    like i said, I only drive the issue of atheism as far as the other person in the conversation wants to question me about it.

    btw, for Alex, that is NOT the same thing at all as preaching a fantasy delusion to people without asking, is it.

    my point is we’re all humans, and atheists such as yourself are just as capable of believing utter lies as theists are.

    that is very true, hence why I would hope someone would have enough respect for ME to point out any unsupported delusions I was suffering from.

    right?

    However, going into detail, that might not actually be the case. There is some evidence that there are measurable differences in susceptibility to delusional thinking in humans, just as there are measurable differences in susceptibility to alcholism, or addictive behavior, for example.

    I think you might be falling into the “fair and balanced” trap so often brought up here on Pharyngula.

    see, the difference is that someone preaching the gospel at me to ‘save my soul’ is in fact, suffering from a delusion, while my trying to point that out to them is not an equivalent measure.

    see?

    it’s not like preaching competing religions at all. the situation you describe is more like if I was a muslim, and trying to convince a xian he was wrong and going to hell.

    I’m not trying to replace one delusion with another, ergo I’m not doing the same thing at all as the xian trying to convince me I’m going to hell without Jeebus in my life.

    so, I pose the question to you:

    If you knew someone suffering from schizophrenia, do you feel any responsibility at all to suggest they seek treatment? that they might be suffering from delusions?

    Have you ever seen, “A Beautiful Mind”?

    if you met John Nash, do you feel you would be doing him a favor, or not, by pointing out to him that his delusions were not real?

    what level of responsibility would you feel for that?

  16. #16 Mike P
    November 29, 2007

    MAJeff,

    Yeah, I guess. I guess I’d just feel bad if this was Steve’s first time here or something and he hadn’t already had all that explained to him. And yeah, it’s not your job to explain and I could see how that could get really damn annoying over and over, but I’m just not sure what good snapping at him like that does, you know? And maybe it’s not his first time here and maybe he really does deserve it; maybe you’ve seen him around here and this is repeat behavior. I just didn’t read his post as intentionally insulting, but I’ve been wrong before.

    And of course you’re free to do whatever you feel like anyway because this is the internet and it’s just a freakin’ blog forum, so it’s really not all that big a deal. But anyway, I’m sorry for your recent loss. I’ve done the atheist-deals-with-death thing myself, but luckily my experience was much less negative.

  17. #17 Ichthyic
    November 29, 2007

    But, toss out the A-word and all of a sudden we’re these monsters looking to pick fights at every family gathering.

    or party

    or just about any kind of social gathering, for that matter.

    meh, you get used to it after a while, or you become a closet atheist.

    I wonder if all the “coming out of the closet” jokes 20 years down the line will be about atheists?

  18. #18 rmp
    November 29, 2007

    Ichthyic, I think I realize the one major factor in the equation that I haven’t made clear. Since my deconversion is so recent, my mother isn’t aware. In a sense, I’m ‘in the closet’.

    I’m starting to talk to people openly/honestly about my atheism but NOT MY MOTHER. ARE YOU CRAZY? NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

    Other than that, we are completely honest with one another ; ).

  19. #19 MAJeff
    November 29, 2007

    I read it as one more deployment of the same intellectually dishonest and dehumanizing (of atheists) questions we get surrounding this topics on every single thread.

  20. #20 Ichthyic
    November 29, 2007

    Perhaps you are in the need of confession? You seem to be projecting that need onto me?

    not to drag it out, but i rather think he was playing on a typo where you left out the word “with”:

    Janine wrote:

    I have dealt death in the family

    Is that a confession? Now I’m worried!

  21. #21 MAJeff
    November 29, 2007

    I don’t scream “God is fake! Fake, I tells ya!” in the face of every believer I meet. I’m sure that few would, and I’m equally sure that Pat’s not condoning such a ridiculous action.

    Just imagine, Pat is engaging in public discourse. Indeed, so public that it’s become intertextual in the way multiple blogs are linking to it and commentators in different locations are talking about it. He’s created a public.

    At a funeral, we’re talking about private conversations, deeply personal relationships.

    I wonder why that distinction is so hard for some people to grasp, and to note that the types of conversation, the topics, the modes of address, etc. are all dependent upon the discursive situation.

  22. #22 Mike P
    November 29, 2007

    MAJeff,

    You know the answer to that. People had been afraid for so long that atheists were evil, malicious and violent that when we turned out to be civil, normal people–if a bit peeved at the state of things–they had to invent something else to tar us with. Hence, the myth of the militant irrational atheist.

    I think deep down most of the atheist-bashers don’t believe we’re like that, but they have to have something to joke about with their religious friends.

  23. #23 Janine
    November 29, 2007

    Ichthyic, Hank Fox brought that to my attention. I already left an apology to Christianbj for my reply post.

    Back to the main point, steve99’s was not an honest question. I was the same tiresome bullshit about “Why aren’t you atheist nicer?” And this is without bother to know that many go through his “hypothetical” question everyday. And I do not go up to everybody that I see to state that I am an atheist. And I do not deny this fact when the topic comes up. And I do not constantly question believers about why they believe. I am not rude with my atheism. I am rude to loaded questions.

  24. #24 MAJeff
    November 29, 2007

    MikeP,

    I would have been shunned had I uttered one of two sentences: “I am gay,” or “I am an atheist.” My aunt and her (legally married in Canada) wife were shunned at my other grandmother’s funeral a couple years ago.

    These are “good Christians.” They are not, however, good people. And make no mistake, the are far more common than we like to think. This group is among the 24%ers, complaining about brown people and Massachusetts liberals and the French. But they’er also anti-evolution and the whole shit. There are a lot more of them than us.

  25. #25 jdb
    November 29, 2007

    MAJeff: [i]I wonder why that distinction is so hard for some people to grasp[/i]

    Me too, but I notice that it seems limited to discussions of atheism. If I write on my blog that Political Candidate X is a nutter whose policies are dangerous and illogical, the X supporters may descend on me with endless rebuttals, but it’s unlikely that anyone is going to say “oh, I agree with you about Candidate X, but do you have to be so RUDE? I know I would never think of walking down the street looking for X signs on people’s lawns so I can ring their doorbell and lecture them on their candidate’s nuttery. But that’s just me, I’m a moderate anti-Xer.”

    Most people understand that writing about politics in a public forum doesn’t mean that you’re an obnoxious twit about it in private. But somehow with atheism those assumptions go out the window.

    Maybe the idea is that “religion is such a [i]personal[/i] thing, that criticizing it is rude no matter how public the forum,” but that’s just the theists trying to have it both ways: they can brag publicly about their faith and how it gives them values and makes them fit for office, etc., but when a dissenting voice is raised, suddenly it’s a private matter after all.

  26. #26 steve99
    November 29, 2007

    Ok come on… some of you seem to be trying to defend what you want to have heard from Pat, rather than what he actually said. I have not the slightest doubt that PZ, Pat, Dawkins, Hitchens and others are polite and respectful to elderly religious relatives and others with quiet religious beliefs.

    However, that is not the point. Listen again to what Pat actually says….

    “Believe whatever you want, but if you want me to believe it, provide evidence or expect mockery and ridicule. Do not expect polite debate.”

    I mean, honestly. Why NOT respond with polite debate?

    Sorry, but this is just rudeness for the sake of it. If someone wants polite debate about religion, I’ll engage in it.

    I generally like what Pat says in his videos, but in this one he just comes across as plain rude.

  27. #27 jdb
    November 29, 2007

    “Ok come on… some of you seem to be trying to defend what you want to have heard from Pat, rather than what he actually said. I have not the slightest doubt that PZ, Pat, Dawkins, Hitchens and others are polite and respectful to elderly religious relatives and others with quiet religious beliefs.

    However, that is not the point.”

    Funny, it was certainly the point of your first comment in this thread. I’m not surprised that you’re running away from it now, but try to be honest about it.

  28. #28 steve99
    November 29, 2007

    “Funny, it was certainly the point of your first comment in this thread. I’m not surprised that you’re running away from it now, but try to be honest about it.”

    Running away from what? When did I claim that Dawkins and others were hostile to everyone?

    I have only mentioned and reacted to what Pat says in this video. I think what he says is crass and rude just for the sake of it. I have no personal way to know what he is like as a person (how could I?)

    And, how about responding to what I actually wrote, rather than making stuff up about “running away”? Would you tell someone who was trying to discuss religion with you politely (even if it was to convert you), to “get lost”? Would you “give them the finger”? Or would you try and at least be civilized and politely discuss the matter, explaining your point of view?

    It is the difference between acting like a mature, intelligent adult, following the Golden Rule, and acting like a brat…

  29. #29 steve99
    November 29, 2007

    “Steve99 — I guess it’s because of English dunderheads like you that the most brilliantly outspoken atheists are from the UK.”

    Way to miss the point. They are brilliantly outspoken, but they are not rude to those they disagree with unless provoked. There was a wonderful discussion between Dawkins and the Bishop of Oxford. They debated politely and with good humour.

    “You clearly can’t see the difference, as many people have stated, between public and private discussion. Pat sez: and if you expect me to believe it, expect nothing but mockery and ridicule. There are many times when religion is brought up where there isn’t an expectation that you wil believe it. Pat is talking in the context of very public debate — where theater shows are closed down because something is offensive to Arabs, when blasphemy charges are brought in an effort to censor free speech. Pat made his context pretty clear, and if you don’t get that, you can take your polite british manners and shove them up your ass. ”

    Look… you can invent a context to try and support your self-satified “Cool Angry Atheist” stance, but unlike you, I react to what people say, not what I want to believe they said.

    Unlike you, those outspoken atheists are usually polite in their debate. You need to follow their example.

  30. #30 Matt Penfold
    November 29, 2007

    “There is a simple question to ask yourself: Does what Condell says here, unqualified, constitute a good way to behave in a society where friends, family and colleagues are religious?”

    Yes.

    Do you have any other questions will incredibly simple answers ?

    Of course it does not matter how polite atheists are, the religious will still do what they do. Richard Dawkins would seem to have an infinite resource of patience given how he failed to tell the likes of Ted Haggard to fuck off. Of course Dawkins being so polite and civil makes not one bit of difference to how the likes of Haggard behave. The religious still spit out their bigoted vitriol.

  31. #31 thalarctos
    November 29, 2007

    (@everyone except Ichthyic–I apologize in advance for a personal message here, but I’ve got no idea how to reach Ichthyic otherwise. As this is the best way I can think of to reach him, I’ll keep it short, and get back on topic afterward.

    @Ichthyic–woo-hoo! Guess what? I spent 6 hours in the ER yesterday, because my hernia refused to reduce, as it typically does on its own. That’s great news, because it had the optimal outcome–it did ultimately reduce, so I didn’t have to have emergency surgery on the spot, but will have to in the foreseeable future. That means I have time to plan the surgery and recovery with the surgeon and a dive medicine doctor as well, so–if all goes as I hope, I’ll be back in a wetsuit (only one at a time, though) sometime in late 2008! /off-topic)

    Science Goddess, congratulations on your survival with the new liver–that is a great thing!

    As another who has looked into the abyss (blood clot in an especially bad place to have one, not that anywhere is actually good), when I was in the hospital for a month, I wish the Christian nurse and the Falun Gong nurse had shown as much restraint about barraging me with their beliefs and proselytizing as the atheists I know typically show to other people, especially in such a vulnerable situation.

  32. #32 Norman Doering
    November 29, 2007

    Ichthyic asked:

    If I truly believe that someone is suffering from a religious-inspired delusion, is it really sympathetic to let them wallow in their delusions?

    Can you really stop them from wallowing in their delusions?

    There comes a point where you don’t have to keep telling the schizophrenic that they’re crazy, they already know what you think — and you still don’t have a cure.

    Confrontation is not always the best policy. I think what we need to do is more research.

    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2007/11/how-to-end-islamic-terrorism-by.html

  33. #33 Ichthyic
    November 29, 2007

    Norman:

    Can you really stop them from wallowing in their delusions?

    It’s been done before; surely you know that. An intervention doesn’t mean that the person who intervenes is necessarily the one who then becomes the one qualified or responsible for treatment, only that they encourage the person suffering from delusions to question and then hopefully to seek treatment (the form of which would obviously depend on what kind of delusion we are speaking of). For example, if an acquaintance is suffering from the “DT’s”, surely you can tell them that the delusions they might be suffering from aren’t real, and that they can seek treatment for the underlying cause. In the case of extreme religious behavior, the underlying causes are not as clear (see below).

    There comes a point where you don’t have to keep telling the schizophrenic that they’re crazy, they already know what you think — and you still don’t have a cure.

    the point is not for me to “cure” them, but simply to get them to seek treatment to begin with. I think you meant this rhetorically, though, since of course there are many different treatments for schizophrenia.

    Confrontation is not always the best policy. I think what we need to do is more research.

    of course it isn’t, sometimes confrontation can be positively dangerous to both parties. that wasn’t the question though, the question was:

    how much responsibility do you feel to intervene?

    …and yes, of course more research is needed (hence why I mentioned that the underlying causes of extreme religious delusion aren’t exactly clear at the moment).

    always.

    I would, however, like to see a stronger emphasis placed on researching the underlying psychology involved in extreme religious behavior. There are just too many parallels in symptoms with other psychological disorders to suggest that this wouldn’t be a productive direction of research. so far, there are only a handful of published studies looking into the issue. These are suggestive, but much more needs to be done.

    not for the first time, I would ask those involved in debating creationists and evangelicals (of all stripes) to notice the tremendous amount of denial and projection employed as defense mechanisms. anyone who has ever taken even a frosh level psych class knows these are indicative of an underlying pyschological malady, however benign.

    IMO, a LOT of extreme religious behavior is simply a case of religion acting as an enabler of an underlying psychological malady. Others become involved out of a sense of belonging, or peer pressure.

    Not the first time it’s been discussed, but analyzing cult formation and maintenance is, I believe, quite instructive in beginning to form an understanding of the religion meme itself.

    of course, the knee-jerk negative reaction in this country towards anything smacking of “mental health issues” probably dooms looking at religion from a psychological perspective in at least the near future.

  34. #34 Ichthyic
    November 29, 2007

    I shudder when some of my scientific colleagues make such narrow and pompous pronouncements.

    BRAVO!

    now THAT is a classic case of concern trolling.

    nice job, Gerald.

  35. #35 Ichthyic
    November 29, 2007

    @tharlactos:

    heyo! great news.

    I’ve got no idea how to reach Ichthyic otherwise

    fisheyephotos@hotmail.com

    I look forward to perhaps planning a dive with ya in the next year or so?

  36. #36 Ichthyic
    November 29, 2007

    ..btw, going through Gerald’s other “posts”, he is in violation of both the antispamming rule, and the concern troll rule.

    I nominate him for the dungeon.

    those in favor?

  37. #37 whypatcondellisntfunny
    February 2, 2008

    Pat Condell has the right to speak his mind.

    He does not, however, have the right to call himself funny.

    http://whypatcondellisntfunny.blogspot.com/

  38. #38 Christopher
    January 21, 2009

    That was powewrful Pat, very powerful. Well done.

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