Pharyngula

What is an “atheist community”?

Slate has an article by Paul Bloom on why religious people are nice and atheists are mean. As you might guess, I have some difficulty with the premise of the article — in my experience, atheists have been far friendlier, while the religious have been downright vicious — but it does make some interesting points (and, of course, it cites me as “prominent”, which is very flattering).

In particular, his main argument, which I entirely agree with, is that if religion has any virtue, it is not in the belief itself, but in the community that forms around it.

The positive effect of religion in the real world, to my mind, is tied to this last, community component–rather than a belief in constant surveillance by a higher power. Humans are social beings, and we are happier, and better, when connected to others. This is the moral of sociologist Robert Putnam’s work on American life. In Bowling Alone, he argues that voluntary association with other people is integral to a fulfilled and productive existence–it makes us “smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy.”

The Danes and the Swedes, despite being godless, have strong communities. In fact, Zuckerman points out that most Danes and Swedes identify themselves as Christian. They get married in church, have their babies baptized, give some of their income to the chu! rch, and feel attached to their religious community–they just don’t believe in God. Zuckerman suggests that Scandinavian Christians are a lot like American Jews, who are also highly secularized in belief and practice, have strong communal feelings, and tend to be well-behaved.

American atheists, by contrast, are often left out of community life. The studies that Brooks cites in Gross National Happiness, which find that the religious are happier and more generous then the secular, do not define religious and secular in terms of belief. They define it in terms of religious attendance. It is not hard to see how being left out of one of the dominant modes of American togetherness can have a corrosive effect on morality. As P.Z. Myers, the biologist and prominent atheist, puts it, “[S]cattered individuals who are excluded from communities do not receive the benefits of community, nor do they feel willing to contribute to the communities that exclude them.”

The sorry state of American atheists, then, may have nothing to do with their lack of religious belief. It may instead be the result of their outsider status within a highly religious country where many of their fellow citizens, including very vocal ones like Schlessinger, find them immoral and unpatriotic. Religion may not poison everything, but it deserves part of the blame for this one.

I don’t think atheists are miserable, or in a sorry state, and I do not believe our morality has been at all damaged, but I think it is important to understand that if this New Atheist movement (which is not new, yadda yadda yadda) is to increase its ability to influence the culture, being able to recognize our essential unity as a community is essential. People identify more strongly with other people than with ideas — often the ideas come along as part of the baggage.

I’ve noticed lately that some of the recent threads have contained some disparagement of certain godless groups. People are a bit concerned that I have said good things about the Communist Party, and about the Rational Response Squad. I don’t think this is right — we need to build unity and consensus. I do not agree with the Communists on most things, but I’ve talked to many, and I respect the fact that their single most common motivation is a drive for social justice. This is a good thing, and I think the wider community of godless people would do well to appreciate it. I don’t know much about the controversies people have mentioned behind the RRS, but I respect their passion and willingness to stick their necks out boldly. I also think this is a good thing.

One of the essentials of community building is the construction of principles of tolerance. We don’t have to agree with each other on everything, nor can we, and as we all know, freethinkers are going to be especially diverse and fractious. Learn to take the best that each subset of us offers — you do not have to swallow all of the Communist party line to see that some of what they say is useful. You do not have to be a member of the RRS to see that we share some common goals, and that we can work together. Heck, there are Christians who share some of our goals (secular government, religious liberty, good science education, and so forth), and we can and must work together with them. And at the same time, as skeptics and science-minded people, the principles of tolerance we adopt are going to have to include frank disagreement and criticism of ourselves and others. That should be a central part of who we are, that we do not muzzle our ideas and that we can go up to our fellow atheists and say, “you’re wrong” on just about anything, but without simultaneously implying that they’re going to be ostracized from the community.

Demanding godless purity would mean that there could never be a godless community, so get used to it.

And as Bloom says and I’ve said before, we are social animals and community is essential for our health and happiness. What can kill atheism best is if we refuse to make accommodations to build a true Interessengemeinschaft, a fellowship of interests, a community of godless folk dedicated to living rational lives. A fractured group of hermits and misfits can not change the world.

That said, I do confess that some of the commenters in the Pharyngula community do stretch my ability to tolerate…but I try. We all have to if this budding experiment is going to survive.

Comments

  1. #1 Denis Loubet
    November 7, 2008

    I think the Christians are a bit deluded.

    Christians think that I deserve to be tortured forever in a pit of fire.

    Who’s being mean?

  2. #2 Carlie
    November 7, 2008

    But Denis, it’s ok, because they’re very sad that you will be tortured forever.

  3. #3 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    November 7, 2008

    That said, I do confess that some of the commenters in the Pharyngula community do stretch my ability to tolerate…but I try. We all have to if this budding experiment is going to survive.

    *looks over his shoulder

    American atheists, by contrast, are often left out of community life.

    Huh? If you define all community life as community that springs from the church. I can’t tell you how many secular events I attend.

    If he’s basing all community as only that which is related to some house of worship then wtf.

    Am I misinterpreting that?

  4. #4 Zach
    November 7, 2008

    “Christians think that I deserve to be tortured forever in a pit of fire.

    Who’s being mean?”
    _______________________________________________

    In fact It is whoever owns the imaginary pit. Which is whoever thought of it.

  5. #5 Glen Davidson
    November 7, 2008

    There’s another problem, which is that it is likely that many are atheists (in part) because they are curmudgeons, and quite willing to disagree with others despite social repercussions.

    It is the one who is willing not to get along with others who sees things as they are.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  6. #6 Ordained Atheist
    November 7, 2008

    The idea of an atheist community will always be a pipe dream, since the single common feature among atheists is not a set of beliefs but the absence of one.

  7. #7 Zach
    November 7, 2008

    Carlie: They are happy. They just try to look sad.

  8. #8 FTFKDad
    November 7, 2008

    If anyone is looking for a Free Thought community in Colorado Springs, please follow the link and come find us. The kids group is growing and helping form a sense of community for those of us in this area. We are also finding similar communities growing over the US. It will take time – but things are changing, if slowly. Btw FTFK stands for Free Thought – Free Kids.

  9. #9 Smart_Cookie
    November 7, 2008

    So PZ:

    I seem to remember you mentioning once that you didn’t much like Humanists.

    Why not? Care to share your opinion about yet another godless group of caring individuals?

    Thanks!

  10. #10 'Tis Himself
    November 7, 2008

    Bloom makes the comment:

    Most Americans who describe themselves as atheists, for instance, nonetheless believe that their souls will survive the death of their bodies.

    I really doubt this statement. I believe that most atheists don’t accept the concept of souls. Most atheists I’ve discussed things with believe that when we die that’s the end of it. No afterlife, no souls being eternally punished or bored, nothing. Souls are what theists invented to give their afterlife some meaning. “Sure, your body lies moldering in the grave but your soul lives on and goes to heaven or hell.”

  11. #11 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    November 7, 2008

    Btw FTFK stands for Free Thought – Free Kids.

    Free Kids? How many?

  12. #12 CJO
    November 7, 2008

    We don’t have to agree with each other on everything, nor can we, and as we all know, freethinkers are going to be especially diverse and fractious.

    I disagree with this in the strongest of terms. We are all lockstep Myers sychophants who wouldn’t piss with our pants on fire without your say-so… wait.

  13. #13 tsg
    November 7, 2008

    Free Kids? How many?

    Does it matter? I know I can’t eat more than one.

  14. #14 Reynold
    November 7, 2008

    You want to talk about being mean? Check out how this woman raises her daughter.

  15. #15 Azdak
    November 7, 2008

    <Slurred drunken voice>I love you guys! No, really! I love you!</Slurred drunken voice>

    Seriously, though, I think blogs like this (and podcasts like Mr. Loubet’s) do go some way to ameliorate the isolation we tend to feel as “unwashed heathens” in a largely superstitious society. It probably isn’t expressed often enough, but many of us really appreciate the efforts made on our behalf by the folks like PZ to foster some sense of community for those of us who strive to be more reality-based.

  16. #16 FTFKDad
    November 7, 2008

    #11 “Free Kids? How many?”

    As many as you can take !! Cheap at twice the price!

  17. #17 Zach
    November 7, 2008

    Free Kids! Yay! Tell me: will I have to deal with parents.

  18. #18 Matt Heath
    November 7, 2008

    I should buy a football season ticket or something!

  19. #19 tsg
    November 7, 2008

    As many as you can take !! Cheap at twice the price!

    And that’s cutting me own throat!

  20. #20 blueelm
    November 7, 2008

    I guess I can kind of see the argument that there are more unhappy people who don’t believe. Perhaps something like depressive realism could lead some unhappy people away from sugary fictions?

    I have trouble with this though, because it seems socially unhealthy.

    The setup reminds me of an abusive relationship. One party acts aggressively against the other largely out of insecurity, blames the other party for “triggering” it by not allowing them to completely dominate at whim, and then blames the trouble caused by that abuse on the other party being “naturally miserable.” Rinse wash repeat.

  21. #21 spgreenlaw
    November 7, 2008

    I don’t really have anything to add, except that I really appreciate this post. Just one question. Does this mean we have to play nice with the libertarians?

  22. #22 Mena
    November 7, 2008

    Yeah, what the Mormons did to people who are just trying to live their lives as first class citizens wasn’t mean at all. Very nice and very christian of them.

  23. #23 Zach
    November 7, 2008

    Answer or I’ll tell dad about you!

  24. #24 tsg
    November 7, 2008

    The idea of an atheist community will always be a pipe dream, since the single common feature among atheists is not a set of beliefs but the absence of one.

    As long as there are theists, not being one will be a distinguishing feature. And as long as there are people grouping others together based on what they don’t believe, community will be possible.

    There is little quite as unifying to a group as hatred directed at that group.

  25. #25 Eamon Knight
    November 7, 2008

    What PZ said. We joined the local Humanist group largely as a replacement for the social environment we lost when we left church. It’s working out OK (modulo the fact that we’re anti-social borderline-Aspergers anyway).

    Ironically, the church we left was pretty close to the cited “Scandinavian” model: a social club that did some Good Works, and didn’t care all that much what the congregation believed. But in the end, still too religious (and suburban, and respectable).

  26. #26 wazza
    November 7, 2008

    I think part of the problem is that when we get together the main topic of discussion, because it’s the only one we share, is going to be how ridiculous religion is. That’s where the religious and those following a particular political ideology have the advantage, because they have other things in common too.

    I think there needs to be a positive manifesto before we can organize a community together. Right now Atheist Central is Ray Comfort’s blog.

  27. #27 Mikael Hiort af Ornäs
    November 7, 2008

    Three reflections on the Scandinavian example in the article.

    First, most Swedes would probably agree to being Christian cultural wise (celebrating Christmas, Easter, church weddings etc.), but not all would state that they actually believe in the resurrection of Jesus Josephson. The number of people attending church services decrease every year (although the decline seems to begin to come to a halt).

    Second, we had a state church in Sweden until only seven years ago, and there are still quite many that haven’t left the congregation they were born into (if your mother was a member, you automatically became a member at birth). I come from a long line of hellbound atheists, so I have never been a member myself. But many of my friends are, and the main reason is that they by paying their fees help to care for the large number of historical churches and other buildings of interest. Plus the fact that a membership gives you the possibility of a church wedding (if you’re into that kind of idiocy).

    Third, and this is purely OT, I remember a Danish priest that a few years ago told the Danish church that he didn’t believe in God or the resurrection of Jesus, but still would like to work as a priest for the church. Secularism at its best :)

  28. #28 CJO
    November 7, 2008

    I seem to remember you mentioning once that you didn’t much like Humanists.

    Why not?

    I recall him saying something along the lines of “not enough cephalopods.” Fairly glib, and not really addressing the issue, as long as I’m being a contrarian sychophant.

    In my view, a humanist ethos demands respect for all living things and a strong environmental consciousness. Maybe the motives aren’t as “pure” as valuing squids for squids’ sake alone (and not, say, because they’re yummy), but I really doubt that anyone can internalize such impersonal ethics. Charity begins at home, as they say.

  29. #29 blueelm
    November 7, 2008

    I don’t remember there being a post about not liking Humanists, only one about not being a humanist. That seems like a large difference.

  30. #30 bunnycatch3r
    November 7, 2008

    In a lecture I listened to a few years ago we were told that (and I do not have source data) that the Chicago area Planned Parent Hood was working closely with a large local Baptist Church. They found that despite all of their differences they were both very interested in the welfare of women.

  31. #31 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    November 7, 2008

    some of the commenters in the Pharyngula community do stretch my ability to tolerate

    It’s the leg-humping, isn’t it? I’ve been trying to get that under control, truly! The rubber bands and glue gun have helped.

  32. #32 SC
    November 7, 2008

    What is an “atheist community”?

    As Azdak noted, to a large extent this is. :)

    American Jews, who are also highly secularized in belief and practice, have strong communal feelings, and tend to be well-behaved.

    What the…?

    That said, I do confess that some of the commenters in the Pharyngula community do stretch my ability to tolerate…but I try.

    Why, whomever could you have in mind?

  33. #33 FTFKDad
    November 7, 2008

    #17 Zach

    Well… yeah … but we are those nice friendly parents Dr. Myers alludes to! But without the squid

  34. #34 Karellen
    November 7, 2008

    “a nonbeliever would have a harder time getting elected than a Muslim, a homosexual, or a Jew.”

    Hmmm….Muslims, homosexuals, Jews, and the assumed “default group of Christians.

    One of these things is not like the others. WTF?

    What’s the implication here? Are all homosexuals Christians? Or do they fall into some kind of twilight-zone not-religious-but-not-atheist-either grouping?

  35. #35 Greta Christina
    November 7, 2008

    Interesting question. Personally, I find the online atheist community to be more than enough, and don’t feel a compelling need to go hang out in person with other atheists every Sunday or whatever.

    But a lot of that is my somewhat anti-social personality. I’m a loner. I’m a rebel. Don’t try to change me, baby. Also, like the Rev. BigDumbChimp in #3 above, I get my needs for community met from other sources– nerdy folk dances, hot chocolate parties, orgies, that sort of thing.

    And it may well be that we’d be more welcoming to newcomers if they felt they had a safe place to go — an actual. non-online, real physical world place — after they left their religious community.

    I’m game. Somebody else has to organize it, though. I have too much on my plate right now as it is.

  36. #36 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    November 7, 2008

    What’s the implication here? Are all homosexuals Christians? Or do they fall into some kind of twilight-zone not-religious-but-not-atheist-either grouping?

    Duh. All homosexuals are satanists. Only such an abomination could be the work of Satan.

  37. #37 MickyW
    November 7, 2008

    Well I’m certainly happier since my de-conversion. Although community is very important for everybody, I don’t think it suits freethinkers to identify as such within a community to the same extent that it works for the church. Christians need community as the interpersonal relationships that are formed in the church help to define the biblical framework that they are striving for. The community becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you can think of it that way. That’s why they are always warning people against “falling away”; the devil being a roaring lion and all that crap. Atheists don’t need this, and as a fairly recent de-convert (is it called that ?), I’ve realised I don’t need it either.

  38. #38 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    November 7, 2008

    What the…?

    Yeah, I thought that was oddly phrased. He forgot to add that they dress well and have decent hygiene, too, to round out the patronizing tone.

  39. #39 'Tis Himself
    November 7, 2008

    spgreenlaw #21

    Does this mean we have to play nice with the libertarians?

    Bloom’s quote of PZ answers this question:

    As P.Z. Myers, the biologist and prominent atheist, puts it, “[S]cattered individuals who are excluded from communities do not receive the benefits of community, nor do they feel willing to contribute to the communities that exclude them.”

    Since libertarians exclude themselves from communities, they lose the benefits of community. One of those benefits is other people having any respect for them or being nice to them.

  40. #40 Tom
    November 7, 2008

    Reynold #14

    I read it. Gulp! Un-be-fucking-lievable! (scuse my french)

  41. #41 ggab
    November 7, 2008

    I don’t really have anything to say.
    Just wanted to feel like part of the community.

  42. #42 alcoolworld
    November 7, 2008

    Reynold @14

    You want to talk about being mean? Check out how this woman raises her daughter.

    YIKES, Reynold!!!
    That evil thing you sent me to almost made me run screaming out of the room.
    I am so very saddened by these monsters, the more so since I live in one of the most conservative parts of Georgia, where I see these kinds of wretches every single day

    UGH!! barf!!!

  43. #43 Walton
    November 7, 2008

    Third, and this is purely OT, I remember a Danish priest that a few years ago told the Danish church that he didn’t believe in God or the resurrection of Jesus, but still would like to work as a priest for the church. Secularism at its best :)

    That happens in a lot of liberal Protestant denominations, even where they’re not state-sponsored. Don’t forget John Spong, former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, who doesn’t believe in a literal resurrection, the literal divinity of Christ or the Trinity, and rejects conventional theism entirely. And we’ve had a few quasi-atheist bishops in the Anglican Church over here as well.

    The good thing about Protestantism, in general, is that it isn’t “top-down” in the same way as the Catholic or LDS churches are; you don’t have an ostensibly infallible church hierarchy which tells you what you must believe. Rather, each congregation and each individual believer is deemed to define their own relationship with God (the “priesthood of all believers”). The Anglican Communion in particular has always tried to be a “broad church”; it does have the “Thirty-nine Articles” as a broad statement of belief, but not believing in them is not a bar to being a practising member of the church or even to being ordained. There are, of course, loony evangelical fundamentalists in the various Anglican churches, some at high levels – but they don’t define the church in the same way that the Pope does for Catholicism or the First Presidency does for the LDS Church. And, of course, one can leave a Protestant church or denomination whose teachings or doctrine become objectionable – as Jimmy Carter did when he left the Southern Baptist Convention – without rejecting one’s prior faith.

  44. #44 tsg
    November 7, 2008

    I don’t really have anything to say.
    Just wanted to feel like part of the community.

    Get out!

  45. #45 Prof MTH
    November 7, 2008

    This all part of the book I am co-authoring. My research has discovered that the people who stand the most to benefit from religious institutions and religious practice are those who have the least access to social support services. This explains why for centuries we find a very high positive correlation between lack of degree and/or quality of education and high self-report rates of religious “piety” (“piety” defined as religious practice). These positive correlations within Xtianity go back to debates between the pagan philosopher Celsus and the responses to him by Origen.

  46. #46 GregV
    November 7, 2008

    Well said. Any chance of getting an atheist meetup type site going? So far the Richard Dawkins OUT campaign hasn’t done anything but sell merchandise (as far as I can tell). That would be a great place to start trying to organize atheists, even if for no better reason than for casual meetups with no specific agenda besides relaxing and having a good time.

  47. #47 ggab
    November 7, 2008

    tsg
    “Get out!”

    Maybe the article was right? That wasn’t very nice.
    If you were a homeless person, I wouldn’t give you any change.

  48. #48 Damien R. S.
    November 7, 2008

    Since libertarians exclude themselves from communities

    That is not a generally true statement. You can find some who fit the mold, but hardly all. There’s nothing inherently anti-communal about libertarianism… just anti-*forced* communalism.

  49. #49 WRMartin
    November 7, 2008

    The religious being

    happier and more generous then the secular

    is not what I have seen. I realize this falls into the anecdata column but the religious I’ve been around recently do have a certain feeling that they should be happy (Jesus loves them, yes he does) and so even though they appear to be extremely unhappy in reality they may feel a need to check the “Yes, I’m happy” box.

    And generous? Give me a break. My religious neighborhood group was without a doubt the stingiest, money grubbing, “I’ll pray for them” collection of folks I have ever seen. Up until they were collecting money to go on a ‘missions trip’ and then they had their hands out looking for some of that good ol’ precious cash from others. We’re talking neighbors that have no heat during the winter and they’re using their electric oven to keep warm. Neighbors that are scrimping on prescriptions for a post-op heart transplant patient. Me (Atheist Boy) and my wife helped pay utility bills and helped buy life-saving drugs while the “Let’s go knock on people’s doors and explain to them the joy of Christ” Christians could only offer excuses (it doesn’t fit in my budget now) or useless tripe (I’ll pray for them). Listen you bitch, the man may die while you’re still on your damn knees.

    Oh, and the study is a nice test: “We’re studying you, here’s some cash that you can give to others or keep yourself – now, do something; we’re waiting and watching. Ah, you took the bait. Good Christian. Here’s a cracker.”

  50. #50 tsg
    November 7, 2008

    Maybe the article was right? That wasn’t very nice.
    If you were a homeless person, I wouldn’t give you any change.

    It was a joke.

  51. #51 ggab
    November 7, 2008

    tsg
    I know it was a joke. My reply was supposed to be one too.
    Perhaps I failed in that, but the homeless line at least deserved a giggle. Unless, of course, you didn’t read the article and wouldn’t understand the reference….nevermind.
    I’ll go away now.

  52. #52 spgreenlaw
    November 7, 2008

    ggab,

    For what it’s worth, the homeless line made me chuckle. Sitck around (as long as you aren’t a libertarian)!

  53. #53 tsg
    November 7, 2008

    tsg
    I know it was a joke. My reply was supposed to be one too.
    Perhaps I failed in that, but the homeless line at least deserved a giggle. Unless, of course, you didn’t read the article and wouldn’t understand the reference….nevermind.
    I’ll go away now.

    Sorry. No, I didn’t read the article.

  54. #54 Quiet_Desperation
    November 7, 2008

    What is an “atheist community”?

    Well…?

    What’s the punchline?

  55. #55 Erik A. Kruger
    November 7, 2008

    PZ:

    Excellent post.

    I am a gay man in San Francisco, and have had quite a few friends, acquaintances, and total strangers in the Castro moaning about the passing of the anti-gay-marriage ballot initiative. The “funny” thing is that I had been seeing hundreds of people “campaigning” against Proposition 8 in the *Castro* for months. I work downtown, however, and have never seen a single person doing the same there. Friends of mine in the Mission, Potrero Hill, Hunter’s Point, the Marina, North Beach, etc. have confirmed when I’ve asked them that these NON-gay communities seem to have been, er, under-targeted at best. Of course, canvassing for basic gay rights in several of these neighborhoods takes some courage and initiative.

    The gay community has achieved more of a presence in the US, but politically has actually gone backwards in many ways since the days of Harvey Milk. Instead of trying to build far-flung and well-connected social communities from the ground up, many gay political groups for example have focused on pandering to the Democratic Party hierarchy (which has paid lots of lip-service, but has done remarkably little for gay rights broadly construed), or pushing legal–and therefore somewhat Pyrric–victories which do not address the fact of homophobia in the populace at large. Arguably such “victories” actually fuel and deepen the homophobia.

    [On a side note and considering the fact that crazy fundamentalist xtianity is the number one enemy of both sexual minorities and secularists, one would think that some coalitions between these groups would be in order. I have found, personally, however, that most other gay men I know are decidedly *not* atheists and in fact are either traditionally religious or New Agey . . . and have no real interest in promoting, say, basic science education. Quite a few in fact--especially of my generation (30s to 40s)--have been completely intelligence-wiped by academic post-structuralism and similar anti-critical-thinking and anti-science ideologies.]

    [[On a side side note, I'm a single, gay, atheist methodological-naturalist "open-realist" (in d'Espagnat's sense) epicurean stoic--eakruger@yahoo.com . . . .]]

    At the current moment, I think that the atheist “community” has an opportunity to do it better, and to learn from the mistakes of past social movements. But it doesn’t happen without work.

  56. #56 Prof MTH
    November 7, 2008

    Listen you bitch, the man may die while you’re still on your damn knees.

    Reply with:
    “Maybe God was answering your prayer by sending me to your door?”

    That should twist their undies.

  57. Atheist community? You can’t have an atheist community! Atheists believe that any level of organization above the most basic needed to hoe the garden or reproduce is dangerous and can’t function without being corrupted. Atheists believe in the exact OPPOSITE of organization, prefering utter LACK OF organizaiton.

    Oh wait.. no, forget it, I’m thinking of Anarchists. You were talking about Atheists…

    …. Never mind…

  58. #58 WRMartin
    November 7, 2008

    re: Thought-Free Kids

    Aren’t those what Christians are raising?

  59. #59 Blake Stacey
    November 7, 2008

    Having been raised in a nonobservant household, I don’t have a church to miss. I’ve always been able to get enough of a social circle and support network from school (and, later, university) to satisfy me. So, while I appreciate that “finding a new community” might matter to someone else, I have to confess that it leaves me cold.

    That said, I like the Skeptics in the Pub meetings. Hardline antitheism is not a requirement, and boozeohol is always present.

  60. #60 spgreenlaw
    November 7, 2008

    Greg Rosanne Rosanadana Laden,

    That’s not true.

    Sincerely,
    Your Friendly Neighborhood Anarchist

  61. #61 Jason S
    November 7, 2008

    Following on from #8 above, if there are any Irish Atheists interested in being involved in a community can I point you to http://midwesthumanists.wordpress.com/2008/11/06/new-irish-atheist-association/ ?

    Sorry for the shameless plug.

  62. #62 'Tis Himself
    November 7, 2008

    That is not a generally true statement. You can find some who fit the mold, but hardly all. There’s nothing inherently anti-communal about libertarianism… just anti-*forced* communalism.

    There are so many forms of libertarianism that no blanket statement, mine or yours, includes every libertarian. However, it’s been my experience that many libertarians, certainly the anarcho-capitalist flavors, pride themselves on being “rugged individualists” who put up with the rest of us because, as a group, we’re better armed than they are.

    Many libertarians say “I want self-government, not other-government.” Self government is libertarian-speak for “everybody ought to be able to live as if they are the only human in the universe, if only they believe in the power of libertarianism.” It’s a utopian ideal like those of some Marxists and evangelicals that would essentially require some sort of human perfection to work.

    More explicitly, self government is the peculiar notion that other people ought not to be able to regulate your behavior. Much as we would like to be free of such regulation, most people also want to be able to regulate the behavior of others for practical reasons. Some libertarians claim that they want the first so much, that they will be willing to forgo the second. Most other people feel that both are necessary (and that it would be hypocritical or stupid to want just one.)

  63. #63 ggab
    November 7, 2008

    Bob Barr 08!!!

    Did I even spell his name right?
    He was a Lib. wasn’t he?
    Hell, I’m not even sure what a libertarian is anymore.
    That’s the person that helps you find a book in the library, right?
    Should they be trying to run the country?
    What’s kinkier, a librarian fantasy, or a libertarian one?

    Flow of conciousness post now complete.

  64. #64 Quiet_Desperation
    November 7, 2008

    There’s nothing inherently anti-communal about libertarianism.

    Speaking as a libertarian, I agree.

    NOW GET OFF MY LAND!

    I tease. I’m not libertarian. I’m just old and tired. :-(

  65. #65 Monado
    November 7, 2008

    [sings:] I’m an atheist and I’m OK…”

  66. #66 Quiet_Desperation
    November 7, 2008

    Many libertarians say “I want self-government, not other-government.” Self government is libertarian-speak for “everybody ought to be able to live as if they are the only human in the universe, if only they believe in the power of libertarianism.”

    I think that’s Objectivism you’ve got a hold on there, sport.

    No put it down carefully, and get thee to a Hazmat team.

  67. #67 WRMartin
    November 7, 2008

    @ #63:
    Librarian. Definitely librarian. ;)

  68. Spgreenlaw:


    Your Friendly Neighborhood Anarchist

    You have access to a computer?

    (I thought all my Friendly Neighborhood Anarchists were recently tossed in prison by the Saint Paul Police … And I told your Minneapolitonians to not go to Saint Paul…)

  69. #69 FTFKDad
    November 7, 2008

    #58
    “re: Thought-Free Kids

    Aren’t those what Christians are raising?”

    Hardly – I think they are raising red-meat-fed ones that go for about $4 each.

  70. #70 Monado
    November 7, 2008

    Hmmm… there’s a skeptics’ night out at the Willow on Danforth every month’s third Friday.

  71. #71 Voltaire Kinison
    November 7, 2008

    Easy to get confused on who is a libertarian since libertarian Ron Paul ran as Republican, libertarian Mike Gravel ran as a Democrat, and a Republican, Bob Barr ran as a Libertatian.
    Confused this libertarian so much, I voted for Ralphie Boy.

  72. #72 spgreenlaw
    November 7, 2008

    Greg Rosanne Rosanadana Laden,

    Ah, yes. Well. I might not exactly be in your neighborhood, but I’m pretty sure I reside in one, somewhere.

    On second thought, if one considers oneself a world citizen then perhaps we are all really neighbors after all. Thats my story and I’m sticking to it. (The real story is that in a brazen attack on the St. Paul police headquarters the EZLN, newly arrived from Mexico in a show of solidarity with us Minnesota revolutionaries, freed us from our prison cells and then gave us all complimentary laptops running GNU. Of course, the spineless corporate media has yet to report on the story. Psh.)

  73. #73 Monado
    November 7, 2008

    Support your local community centre or other secular group and give people somewhere else to go than a church.

    Or even an organization with religious roots that doesn’t make a big deal of it, like the YMCA/YWCA. Your social service club. Your professional organization. Your baby-sitting co-op, sports club, running group, book club, or whatever. Create a vibrant community life that welcomes everyone without pushing religion.

    Did I mention that Obama’s crowd looked much like a typical street scenes in Toronto? It’s my observation that changing the world takes about 30 years, which is about one generation. Make a change that is just, however forced and awkward it seems, and when the kids grow up they’ll think it’s natural. Only when there’s a concerted rear-guard action, such as the immoral conspiracy of banks and property owners to keep black Americans from buying property outside narrow boundaries, does progress falter.

  74. #74 Walton
    November 7, 2008

    Many libertarians say “I want self-government, not other-government.” Self government is libertarian-speak for “everybody ought to be able to live as if they are the only human in the universe, if only they believe in the power of libertarianism.” It’s a utopian ideal like those of some Marxists and evangelicals that would essentially require some sort of human perfection to work. More explicitly, self government is the peculiar notion that other people ought not to be able to regulate your behavior. Much as we would like to be free of such regulation, most people also want to be able to regulate the behavior of others for practical reasons.

    That’s completely wrong. We libertarians don’t believe that “each man is an island” and that a person should live as if he were the only human in the universe. Rather, we have a preference for free, voluntary and consensual transactions between individuals, rather than those imposed by the coercive power of the state. I can’t produce everything I need for myself; but by my own economic activity, I can earn money, with which I can enter into voluntary and consensual transactions, to mutual benefit, with those who can provide what I need to live. This is co-operation; and there’s a big difference between co-operation and coercion. Libertarians do not deny that human beings are social animals; rather, we deny that the power of the state, which ultimately rests on force, is the only or the best way of creating beneficial relationships between individuals.

    Nor do we argue that “other people ought not to be able to regulate your behaviour”. Rather, other people ought not to be able to regulate your behaviour except insofar as it restricts their liberty of person and property. I have a right to swing my fist, and you have no right to stop me from doing so – unless my fist lands on your face, in which case I have violated your liberty of person.

  75. #75 Walton
    November 7, 2008

    Many libertarians say “I want self-government, not other-government.” Self government is libertarian-speak for “everybody ought to be able to live as if they are the only human in the universe, if only they believe in the power of libertarianism.” It’s a utopian ideal like those of some Marxists and evangelicals that would essentially require some sort of human perfection to work. More explicitly, self government is the peculiar notion that other people ought not to be able to regulate your behavior. Much as we would like to be free of such regulation, most people also want to be able to regulate the behavior of others for practical reasons.

    That’s completely wrong. We libertarians don’t believe that “each man is an island” and that a person should live as if he were the only human in the universe. Rather, we have a preference for free, voluntary and consensual transactions between individuals, rather than those imposed by the coercive power of the state. I can’t produce everything I need for myself; but by my own economic activity, I can earn money, with which I can enter into voluntary and consensual transactions, to mutual benefit, with those who can provide what I need to live. This is co-operation; and there’s a big difference between co-operation and coercion. Libertarians do not deny that human beings are social animals; rather, we deny that the power of the state, which ultimately rests on force, is the only or the best way of creating beneficial relationships between individuals.

    Nor do we argue that “other people ought not to be able to regulate your behaviour”. Rather, other people ought not to be able to regulate your behaviour except insofar as it restricts their liberty of person and property. I have a right to swing my fist, and you have no right to stop me from doing so – unless my fist lands on your face, in which case I have violated your liberty of person.

  76. #76 Walton
    November 7, 2008

    Sorry for accidental double-post.

  77. #77 Zachary Moore
    November 7, 2008

    Actually, the North Texas Church of Freethought has been building a vibrant and diverse community of atheists, humanists, and freethinkers in the Dallas/Forth Worth area for nearly a decade and a half. We celebrate our own marriages, mourn deaths, and welcome children into the world. We go the the movies together, meet at local restaurants, and have holiday (Halloween and Winter Solstice) parties together.

    We have the community benefits of any superstitious church, without the nasty superstition.

  78. #78 Becca Stareyes
    November 7, 2008

    It’s funny, a Christian friend was complaining about how she felt that now that she’s out of school, she feels like the only place she can go to have a community is her local church, even if they weren’t a perfect fit (read: she was going to stay home on Sunday if McCain won, because everyone else would be too smug). I’m an academic (well, grad student), so I hadn’t noticed the lack of things to do and people to talk to, or connections within a community.

    There’s got to be somewhere to have social communities that are a-theistic in the sense of one’s thoughts on the divine are irrelevant, and based around living in the same neighborhood, or enjoying the same activities, or having an appreciation for cephalopods(1).

    (1) What, you mean people don’t all come here for the pretty squid and octopus pictures?

  79. #79 'Tis Himself
    November 7, 2008

    I think that’s Objectivism you’ve got a hold on there, sport.

    If I was talking about objectivism, I’d have mentioned objectivism, Dude. Since I didn’t mention objectivism, I wasn’t discussing it. I am quite aware that objectivism and anarcho-capitalist libertarianism have many similarities and a few differences.

    The “self-government” idea was promulgated by Marshall Fritz, the same guy who invented “the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.” Fritz was an anarcho-capitalist libertarian who denied being an objectivist. He personally disliked Ayn Rand (who, from most accounts, was a real jerk) and disagreed with her objectivist philosophy, calling it “half-baked” and “based on a misunderstanding of what altruism is.”

  80. #80 Ouchimoo
    November 7, 2008

    Nice article, in the sense of someone trying to look beyond their bubble and think about another perspective. I think he was way off in some parts

    Most Americans who describe themselves as atheists, for instance, nonetheless believe that their souls will survive the death of their bodies.

    Hard to believe that if you don’t believe in souls. Also the statement about how they give a lot of time and money into the church but their atheists. I donno that seems a lot like “I’m a vegetarian, but I like to eat meat 4 times a week.” (?) I think the author did hit an important point. But I’d be hard pressed to completely agree with him.

    All the atheists I met that were considered “mean” such as myself is because we grew up in the inane religion. When we pointed out how stupid it was, we were attacked and ostracized from family, friends, etc. Or we watched religion deteriorate peoples emotional and rational health.

    Meh, nice try though.

  81. #81 RamblinDude
    November 7, 2008

    One of the essentials of community building is the construction of principles of tolerance.

    Agreed.

    I grew up in central Indiana. Church is, indeed, a major component of life there. Community tends to be strong, and church does tend to be an integral part of a community’s social dynamics. It does bring people together – but at a cost. It is their central belief in an eye-in-the-sky that is the core of their belief system. I don’t think you can separate the two now.

    Sure, they share, and organize, and get things done, but almost always while reminding themselves that life is only worth living because Jesus has lifted the sins from their hearts. You can’t go to a wedding, a funeral, a graduation, without a preacher impressing on your mind (often at great length) the importance of being “Saved.” Their beliefs bring them together – and also encapsulate them in an insulating cocoon of suspicion and distrust of worldviews and communities outside of their own. This is ultimately destructive, and we have seen this exemplified on a national scale as the Christian/right-wind ideology has surged in national politics. We have seen them even regard science, in general, with suspicion and distrust.

    Community is a good thing; it is a vital thing. Humans are social animals, and we would never get anything done on a grand scale if we didn’t mobilize ourselves as a group . . . . . . but it’s not automatically a good thing.

  82. #82 JHS
    November 7, 2008

    This guy seems like an all-around defeatist. Not too up on religion, but gosh those atheists are such lonely, sad sacks. What a world, what a world.

    Like PZ said, I don’t think anyone would argue that people are for the most part highly social, but unlike the author, I’d also say that the vast majority of people have plenty of “community” in their lives, regardless of what they believe.

    I think people (even some nonbelievers) have a hard time imagining “The Atheist” as anything but a Gollum-like shut-in, nose to the window, seething with jealousy, as his good Christian neighbors skip merrily by.

  83. #83 Raynfala
    November 7, 2008

    I’m “well-behaved”?

    Boy, I’m not doing something right… :^)

  84. #84 Michael Sal.
    November 7, 2008

    (and, of course, it cites me as “prominent”..

    How proud are you, Prof. Myers?

  85. #85 Bee
    November 7, 2008

    Could you have used any other group as an example instead of the RRS, P Zed? I find that bunch embarasssing, and so do a huge number of other free-thinking and honest individuals (including Dawkins, I suspect).

  86. #86 Cuttlefish, OM
    November 7, 2008

    It’s true that the atheist birds of a feather
    Don’t gather in churches–the more is their loss;
    The warmth of community, gathered together
    For singing, and praying, and burning a cross.

    (oops. wrong example.)

    The monks in their abbeys, preserving the writing
    Of ancients, when everyone’s future was black;
    They strove for salvation, while kindly inviting
    The godless among them to stretch on the rack.

    (dang. wrong example again.)

    The New World and Africa, ignorant, dismal,
    Called for new Missions, converting each brother;
    Heathens were called–they could choose their baptismal–
    Christ’s blood or their own; it’s one or the other.

    (crap. I suck at this.)

    When people are gathered, they still remain people,
    They’re good and they’re bad, both alone and in unity
    You can meet in a bar, just as under a steeple
    Good and bad don’t depend on religious community.

  87. #87 Karl
    November 7, 2008

    Speaking only for myself, I am quite happy.

    I belong to many different communities.

    The school where I teach, the game store where I play games, the dojo where I train, and my family. That’s just off the top of my head, and not including virtual communities–such as this one. Some individuals have different beliefs than me. That doesn’t mean we can’t be part of a community together. I play dungeons and dragons with a young earth creationist, and we have a good time. Happiness requires some form of community and community requires some common ground, to be sure, but to suggest that community requires religion… I just don’t see it.

    KJO

  88. #88 Jim Lippard
    November 7, 2008

    GregV (#46): I highly recommend Meetup for organizing atheists, freethinkers, and skeptics. The Phoenix Atheists Meetup Group, formed perhaps a couple years ago, is about to hit 500 members. There are multiple events per month in different parts of the city. The critical mass formed helped get the FFRF billboards to Phoenix (5 of them), and resulted in the formation of the Arizona Coalition of Reason, supporting numerous groups:

    http://www.arizonacor.org/

  89. #89 'Tis Himself
    November 7, 2008

    Libertarians do not deny that human beings are social animals; rather, we deny that the power of the state, which ultimately rests on force, is the only or the best way of creating beneficial relationships between individuals.

    This is what I meant when I said one cannot make blanket statements about libertarians and libertarianism. I personally know libertarians who do prefer the “every man is an island” ideas. Many of them are objectivists, but not all.

    Rather, we have a preference for free, voluntary and consensual transactions between individuals, rather than those imposed by the coercive power of the state.

    Ah yes, the infamous “government is men with guns” argument so loved by libertarians. Many libertarians make a big deal of “men with guns” enforcing laws, yet try to overlook the fact that “men with guns” are the basis of enforcement of any complete social system. Even if libertarians reduced all law to “don’t commit fraud or initiate force”, they would still enforce with guns.

    Nor do we argue that “other people ought not to be able to regulate your behaviour”. Rather, other people ought not to be able to regulate your behaviour except insofar as it restricts their liberty of person and property.

    This begs the question about what “liberty of person and property” entail. I think that stock markets should be firmly regulated. The recent meltdown on Wall Street was, in part, caused to too little regulation. My 401K has lost a third of its value in the past couple of months. Since many libertarians complained that the Bush administration was regulating Wall Street too much, it would certainly appear that you and your libertarian brothers are glad that ten of thousands of my dollars disappeared into thin air.

  90. #90 PGPWNIT
    November 7, 2008

    My opinion is that people are people regardless of their ethos. If you’re a miserable atheist, you’ll also be a miserable Catholic.

    Assigning people to tribes based on some other tribe membership seems a bit wrong to me.

  91. #91 woody
    November 7, 2008

    The “community” of free thinkers exists in our mutually reinforcing abhorrence for and rejection of the (mostly bloody, vicious, and murderous) delusions of the superstitious.

  92. #92 tsg
    November 7, 2008

    This is what I meant when I said one cannot make blanket statements about libertarians and libertarianism. I personally know libertarians who do prefer the “every man is an island” ideas. Many of them are objectivists, but not all.

    “No True Libertarian” argument in 3 … 2 … 1 …

  93. #93 Hambydammit
    November 7, 2008

    PZ,

    As a member of the Rational Response Squad, I’d like to thank you for this post. As a member of AAI, the Secular Coalition for America, Atheist Nexus, and a supporter of numerous other freethinking causes, I’d like to encourage everyone to recognize a larger goal.

    Freethinkers have not had the kind of power we have now for many, many years in America, and I, for one, am sick and tired of people getting their panties in a bunch over insignificant internet wars.

    If anyone has a problem with particular members of the Rational Response Squad, that is your right, and I do not begrudge you your opinion. RRS was founded as an in-your-face group designed to target young atheists. Over the last couple of years, it has morphed as individual members have moved on or changed focus, but it still retains a certain brashness. That’s by design.

    If you look at my posts, or read my blog, you’ll see that I have an entirely different kind of approach than some of the other members. I’ve noticed that most of the detractors of RRS are not members, and don’t seem to have looked very closely at the diversity within our group. That’s the whole point. We have some loudmouths, and we also have some PhDs, philosophers, mathematicians, and physicists. We let everyone have their say, and if that offends anyone, we are truly sorry.

    For what it’s worth, I’m atheist, moral, and happy, and I directly support as many atheist organizations as I can, even (in very.. ahem… Christian fashion..) those that disparage RRS. If there’s a fight, it’s certainly not of my making. There’s something much, much more important than whose website has a bigger member. (Pun absolutely intended.)

  94. #94 Sili
    November 7, 2008

    Well, technically Buddhists are atheists, but they’re certainly big on the whole soul deal.

    And I’m pretty sure you’ll find plenty of newagers that claim to reject god(s), but are adamant that we are souled beings who can be healed by crystals, have our auras read and talk to the dead.

    And then there are the “atheist butterers” and the “I used to be an atheist”s.

    So for all I know it might be “most” among the people who’re likely to respond to such surveys.

  95. #95 The Swiss
    November 7, 2008

    wazza #26:

    I think part of the problem is that when we get together the main topic of discussion, because it’s the only one we share, is going to be how ridiculous religion is. That’s where the religious and those following a particular political ideology have the advantage, because they have other things in common too.
    I think there needs to be a positive manifesto before we can organize a community together.

    I don’t agree. Just as theists tend to share some delusions and general attitudes, atheism comes strongly correlated with respect for factual truth, whence a passion for science and rationality, as well as with other Enlightenment values such as secularism, the value of education, the central role of individuals in society, and so on and on. I know I share such values and interests with this heathen crowd more than I do with Christian or Muslim people — on average. It’s why I keep coming back to this blog, after all (which has nothing to do with PZ’s penmanship :-)

  96. #96 skepsci
    November 7, 2008

    While I agree with the main thrust of your argument, I do have to take issue with this sentence:
    I have some difficulty with the premise of the article – in my experience, atheists have been far friendlier, while the religious have been downright vicious.
    The community which is friendlier to you – a prominent atheist – may be very different from the community which is friendlier on the whole.

  97. #97 SC
    November 7, 2008

    Oh wait.. no, forget it, I’m thinking of Anarchists. You were talking about Atheists…

    Don’t make me come over to your blog and set you straight. ‘Cause I’ll do it.

    Hardline antitheism is not a requirement, and boozeohol is always present.

    Yes, but not for free, as was promised in the promotional materials for one recent event. *grumble* (And before you point out the pitchers of beer, I’ll note that your title was something like “Drinks are on the hive.”) *grumble* :)

  98. #98 Azdak
    November 7, 2008

    I’m finding that I’m now prone to skim comment sections here primarily in search of new Cuttlefish posts. Given that I generally shun interweb poets as a rule and, as a child, would get annoyed when confronted with verse within prose (Oi! Tolkien! Stop singing, already!), that’s saying something.

  99. #99 tsg
    November 7, 2008

    I’m finding that I’m now prone to skim comment sections here primarily in search of new Cuttlefish posts. Given that I generally shun interweb poets as a rule and, as a child, would get annoyed when confronted with verse within prose (Oi! Tolkien! Stop singing, already!), that’s saying something.

    One of the problems with a medium that makes it possible for anyone to publish is that, well, anyone can publish. Sturgeon’s Law, and all.

  100. #100 CrypticLife
    November 7, 2008

    ROFL! That Paul Bloom, he’s so funny……

    Seriously, though, there’s an awful lot of projection. Atheists tend to live in more urban and suburban areas, and generally would have more active social lives on average.

    Not that the religious can’t also, but fundamentalists always seem to like sticking exclusively to their own. I have a hard time imagining atheists have the opportunity to do that, even if they had the inclination.

  101. #101 Jeanette
    November 7, 2008

    We’re beginning to be a community. We do tend to be rugged individualists, which makes it a lot harder to come together, and often leads us into bitter, vicious arguments over minutiae such as the debate over what we should call each other (on some forums this question gets as many answers as there are non-theists, humanists, agnostics, atheists, freethinkers, a-religionists, etc. to argue about it).

    But we’re beginning to come together more, meeting to socialize, and occasionally to do little political things.

    If anyone’s looking for groups in Colorado, COCORE is an umbrella group for a lot of them, and their site can hook you up: http://www.cocore.org/

    My name above links to the site I help run, and someone earlier posted a link to the Colorado Springs group (they really need one up there in the land of Focus on the Family), but both of those groups and a whole bunch more are listed on the COCORE site.

  102. #102 mayhempix
    November 7, 2008

    Posted by: spgreenlaw | November 7, 2008 2:04 PM
    “I don’t really have anything to add, except that I really appreciate this post. Just one question. Does this mean we have to play nice with the libertarians?”

    I hope not. They are really not atheists… they worship the fundamentalist God of the Free Market that will guide all things perfectly if left alone, unregulated and unmanaged. They also have a predilection for world conspiracy theories and utopian dreams of every man, woman and child left to survive on their own no matter the circumstances.

  103. #103 stogoe
    November 7, 2008

    Could you have used any other group as an example instead of the RRS, P Zed? I find that bunch embarasssing, and so do a huge number of other free-thinking and honest individuals (including Dawkins, I suspect).

    Congratulations on missing the entire fucking point. Did you even read the post? Fracturing and splintering and turning on each other for not being ‘ideologically pure’ is hurting Atheist America.

    (Incidentally, the only reason I can come up with for being embarrassed by RRS is because they’re ‘uppity’ or ‘militant’.)

  104. #104 Blind Squirrel FCD
    November 7, 2008

    People, If you can spare a moment to comment on the link Reynold posted above, you might possibly make a difference in a young life.

  105. #105 SC
    November 7, 2008

    Does this mean we have to play nice with the libertarians?

    If bashing babbling blithertarians is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

    I was really hoping that after the election they would just fade away. No such luck. Fade, damn you!

  106. #106 dNorrisM
    November 7, 2008

    Squirrel:
    I hope the daughter gets to read the comments on Mom’s blog, especially the one that says:
    “I hope you delete these comments, Jean.”

  107. #107 CrypticLife
    November 7, 2008

    Reading the article, it’s not so bad, but I think he plays extremely fast and loose with his interpretations of the research. It’s not really appropriate to say that American atheists are meaner based on the study he cites — that is very specific research into a specific, artificial situation, and likely with college students.

  108. #108 Randy
    November 7, 2008

    Reynold@14,

    Thomas H. Cruise on a pogo stick! That link is heinous. We atheists may eat the occasional toddler when we’re feeling especially peckish, but at least we don’t abuse them daily and crush their psyches.

  109. #109 sara
    November 7, 2008

    When I was traveling in Budapest, I visited the Catholic Church in St. Ivan’s Cave. My companion, a Hungarian-German guy whom I met on the train, refused to enter. I asked him why, and he replied “I’m an atheist.” I was surprised that he was so atheist that he would not even enter to appreciate geology! So maybe the atheist community is like the smoking community –the people waiting outside at non-smoking venues and at touristic religious sites like cave churches.

  110. #110 clinteas
    November 7, 2008

    @109,

    My companion, a Hungarian-German guy whom I met on the train, refused to enter. I asked him why, and he replied “I’m an atheist.

    See,thats what happens when you go with guys you meet on trains,atheists or not.
    And thanks for the ludicrous story.

  111. #111 normalityrelief
    November 7, 2008

    I agree with you. Honestly, I don’t call for the abolishment of religion simply because I don’t believe it can ever happen. People need something to worship (imho). If we did away with all organized religion, something else inevitably would pop up, be it another god, a highly-esteemed person, a new idea, etc. I believe it’s built into us, though of course we have the option to bypass it if we so choose.

    That being said, I feel everybody should respect the rights of others to believe what they want without too terribly much ridicule. Of course, if a believer decides to push that belief into the public sphere and demand others believe the same (or act as if they do), then they open themselves up for public criticism.

  112. #112 Walton
    November 7, 2008

    …they worship the fundamentalist God of the Free Market that will guide all things perfectly if left alone, unregulated and unmanaged.

    Wrong, again. (It’s mystifying to me how so many people completely misunderstand libertarian thought.) We do not assert that the free market always produces perfect results; that’s empirically untrue, because, by definition, a market can’t take externalities into account. So, for instance, shared resources (such as fish stocks, and clean air) are easily depleted in a free market, because individuals’ short-term self-interest does not tally with the long-term interest of the sector as a whole.

    Rather, we assert that in virtually all cases where the market fails, government decision-making also fails to an even greater degree. Central economic planning does not work.

    Look at it this way. As Jefferson said, “It is often said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him?” Substitute “legislators” for “kings” and you summarise the flaws in modern leftist thinking.

    Some around here, such as Nick Gotts, idolise “democratic” control of the economy. But democracy is hardly a panacea. If – as we all concede – individuals sometimes make bad economic decisions in the conduct of their own affairs, then it seems to me that it is an act of ludicrous insanity to give those individuals, when acting together in a large mob, much greater power over other people’s affairs. Although democracy is the least bad political system, and should be used where it is necessary for government decisions to be taken, it has to be tempered with strict limitations on the scope of government power.

    To conclude: libertarian does not mean claiming that “the market is perfect”. Rather, it rests on the claim that government, since it is (a) inefficient and (b) rests on coercive force, should have as little power over our lives as reasonably possible. The free market, for all its undoubted flaws, is generally a better and more efficient mode of resource allocation.

  113. #113 Sara
    November 7, 2008

    “Most Americans who describe themselves as atheists, for instance, nonetheless believe that their souls will survive the death of their bodies.”

    I don’t know who this guy talked to, but all atheists I know (and I know quite a few) believe fervently that when we die we are gone. Except the bit of us that turns into dirt, of course.

  114. #114 Priest
    November 7, 2008

    @Denis: if they give you any shit, just ask them to pray for you. Otherwise, blame their shumck of a god for planning out your destiny to be a godless heathen. He does still have a ‘plan’ doesn’t he?

  115. #115 horserotorvator
    November 7, 2008

    Bloom speaks such nonsense. He claims that comparing objective data from irreligious societies with subjective reporting by individuals in the (overly) religious United States leads to a “conundrum”. Bloom obviously doesn’t know what a conundrum is. And since most of Blooms article is pure conjecture, I’ll a piece of my own. Whenever I’m “miserable” (whatever that means) in connection with my atheism, it’s generally when the religious are inflicting their “happiness on me and my society, who, for the record, are quite content being left out of the religious “community”.

  116. #116 Wowbagger
    November 7, 2008

    normalityrelief wrote:

    I agree with you. Honestly, I don’t call for the abolishment of religion simply because I don’t believe it can ever happen. People need something to worship (imho). If we did away with all organized religion, something else inevitably would pop up, be it another god, a highly-esteemed person, a new idea, etc. I believe it’s built into us, though of course we have the option to bypass it if we so choose.

    You kind of contradict yourself there – first you say we need something to worship and then say we have the option to bypass it if we choose. If we need to do it then we can’t really bypass it, can we?

    But if you stick with the first part, and say we ‘need’ to worship something, I think you might find that’s something that affects reverted atheists (i.e. those who’ve been theists and stopped) rather than never-theists. If the idea of god was never there in the first place then having it taken away doesn’t leave a gap of any kind that needs filling.

  117. #117 moo
    November 7, 2008

    Why would atheists be unfriendly? Could it be that warm communities of nice Christians have been coming together to terrorize, torture, and murder us (or anyone with even marginally different ideas from the mainstream) for the last thousand years or so?

  118. #118 mayhempix
    November 7, 2008

    Posted by: Walton | November 7, 2008 5:06 PM
    “It’s mystifying to me how so many people completely misunderstand libertarian thought.”

    It’s mystifying to me how libertarians always take the bait and never see the satire, humor or irony in response to the things they espouse.

    Example:

    “The free market, for all its undoubted flaws, is generally a better and more efficient mode of resource allocation.”

    This statement is completely without factual basis or reality but is stated as an obvious given. Only a utopian fundamentalist could make that declaration with a straight face.

    Will he take the bait again?

  119. #119 mayhempix
    November 7, 2008

    Posted by: SC | November 7, 2008 4:20 PM
    “If bashing babbling blithertarians is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.”

    That would make a great chorus for a song.

  120. #120 Cath the Canberra Cook
    November 7, 2008

    The trouble with “atheist community” from my point of view is that it’s much like the “non-stamp-collecting community”. Why would you bother?

    In a much less religious country we get our community from friends, family, sports, pastimes, pubs, nerdy folk dancing, orgies and other common interests.

  121. #121 'Tis Himself
    November 7, 2008

    Rather, we assert that in virtually all cases where the market fails, government decision-making also fails to an even greater degree.

    Your proof for this is what? The fact that you think that gummint is ebil is not evidence of anything but your prejudices.

    Let’s just look at three things that government generally do better than private corporations:

    * Government militaries are usually much more efficient and much more reliable than mercenaries.
    * Governments support basic research, something few if any corporations concern themselves with. No corporation would have put the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit. (BTW, you do know that the initial problem with Hubble’s focusing was due to a corporation’s error, don’t you?)
    * Left to themselves, corporations have a pretty poor ecological record (as you admit). Government safety and environmental regulations are a necessity for the health of the general population.
    * Infrastructure is unprofitable. That’s why governments build, maintain and operate water works, sewage plants, roads, harbors, airports, and all the other marvels of modern living.

    Central economic planning does not work.

    Here’s where your lack of experience in the real world is most evident. Do you seriously believe that corporations, large, small and in-between, don’t have central planning schemes? I’m a financial executive for a largish company. A good part of my job is doing long-range economic planning for my employer.

    Or are you just making a dig at something nobody here is supporting, namely socialism?

  122. #122 GregB
    November 7, 2008

    Well let’s see, I’m an atheist so I’m a good test subject. Do I have a sense of community?

    Well, I have a group of friends at work. We all just went out to lunch together. That was cool and it certainly felt like a small “community”.

    I have my family and my friends. There’s another community.

    I teach music and have several students who are friends and are part of my community. I have friends at the music store where I teach as well.

    Tonight I’m going to a jam session and dinner at a friend’s house. There’s another group of people that’s part of my community.

    Tomorrow I’m driving to the Bay area to hang out with more friends and play music all weekend. Could that me more “community”?

    In my spare time I also like to fly fish and I belong to the local fly fishing club. Several times a year some of the guys from the club go out fishing together. Isn’t that also a “community”.

    I’m also learning to build acoustic guitars and I belong to a fairly large woodworking club. Once a month we meet, talk shop, watch some demos, and then go out for a beer or two.

    I use to belong to the local chess club as well. But I just didn’t have the time to commit to the study of the game.

    I’ve also spent time rebuilding local trails after a major rain storm. I’ve participated in local park clean up activities. I’ve driven sick friends to the hospital, fed and walked their dogs while they’re on vacation and so on.

    Hmmm, it sort of feels like I belong to several communities. I know that *I* certainly feel like I’m part of a very wide ranging set of communities. The only thing I’m not a member of is a delusional and judgmental religious group.

    If I’m suppose be missing something out of life I’m not sure what it is. I do know that I don’t have any extra time for whatever it is that I’m suppose to be missing. I’m just too busy with all my “communities”.

  123. #123 Mrs Tilton
    November 7, 2008

    Denis @1,

    Christians think that I deserve to be tortured forever in a pit of fire

    That’s true, but to be fair, they also believe that they themselves deserve to be tortured for ever in a pit of fire. That they won’t be and you and I will is not down to their being better people; it is merely because they have signed the form at the back of the Jack Chick tract, or burned a candle before a statue.

    Mind you, the tract-signers and candle-burners each think the other is going to be tortured for ever for using the wrong means of escaping eternal torture. But that would be an oecumenical matter.

  124. #124 jack lecou
    November 7, 2008

    Rather, we assert that in virtually all cases where the market fails, government decision-making also fails to an even greater degree. Central economic planning does not work.

    Assertions are easy, but sometimes it’s nice to go the next step and take a look at the evidence too:

    Modern mixed market economics, despite their foibles, seem to me to be demonstrably functioning a lot better than the kind of contract-serf/robber baron feudalism dictated by libertarian precepts.

    This paragraph also begins your trip down false-logic lane by presenting a false dilemma between libertarianism and “central economic planning”. Modern economic systems are neither. They’re complex ecosystems of market forces, regulations, and politics.

    One reason they work is that, contra Jefferson, collective action and the rule of experts actually CAN patch up many of the problems that individual action and our various human cognitive flaws leave behind. (A large flaw in your logic here appears to be your presumption that all government action is conducted by means of direct democracy.)

    Good governance is important, it’s true. And yes, it is very hard work. But it is not something we can just happily circumvent with a few trite invocations of Adam Smith or Ayn Rand.

    The free market, for all its undoubted flaws, is generally a better and more efficient mode of resource allocation.

    This, an oft-heard refrain from libertarians and free market types generally, is utterly vacuous. Let’s leave aside the fact that this statement largely lives inside your false-dilemma world, where markets are either ‘free’ or centrally-planned. Even in that world, you implicitly admit that in at least some cases the market is NOT the most efficient mode, but that free markets are “generally better”. So, lets say it’s 80/20. What’s your point? Are we supposed to use that as a rule of thumb? Look at a particular resource allocation situation and say, “well, there’s about an 80% chance a market will work better here, let’s just go with that.”?

    That’s stupid. It’s like saying red is the most popular car color, therefore we should assume all cars are red.

    I guess that’s an OK bet to make about an unseen car, but in the real world, betting is a foolish way to solve economic problems, and we are not entirely blind.

  125. #125 Rik G
    November 7, 2008

    Karl Marx was an atheist. Ayn Rand was an atheist. I wonder what kind of community they would have formed?

    The prefix “a” means “non”, not “anti”. l guess the “anti’s” might have some basis for a community, though I can’t imagine it would be much fun, but I don’t see “non” as being much of a basis for a community.

    ” in my experience, atheists have been far friendlier, while the religious have been downright vicious ” In MY experience there are wonderful people, as well as jerks in both groups. Of course, how we treat people may influence how they treat us. You know, sort of a psychological version of the Heisenberg uncertainty principal.

    I have no desire to join a community based upon what I don’t believe, but I sure do like hearing what everyone has to say!

  126. #126 Ann
    November 7, 2008

    I’m loving the libertarianism sub-discussion that got going! And by “loving” I mean “skipping completely.” But I’m posting anyway just to add to the sense of community I get from being with other atheistic types, even if only online.
    I want to repeat the excellent point WRMartin made earlier: If you think that having religion is supposed to make you happy, that’s what you’ll report. “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” and all that. I really can’t imagine a group of Christians sitting around and grumbling that God has really let them down, even though they might feel that, deep deep down. I suspect that the number of people who report divine intervention in their lives is a similar phenomenon: Who would want to be the person ignored by God? And don’t get me started on polls about sexual satisfaction among fundamentalist women. What else are they going to say??

    Those who’ve criticized the Slate article seem to have missed the author’s final point, which is that our outsider status may be causing more unhappiness than our lack of faith. Every time I hear a politician declare his faith, or another one condemn the faithless, my blood pressure goes up a little bit more. And while I’m glad that Kay Hagen won, I wish she’d stood up for the godless as tax-paying citizens deserving of representation, instead of touting her Christian bona fides.

  127. #127 windy
    November 7, 2008

    In fact, Zuckerman points out that most Danes and Swedes identify themselves as Christian. They get married in church, have their babies baptized, give some of their income to the church, and feel attached to their religious community–they just don’t believe in God.

    That is a much better attempt at summarizing Scandinavian (non)religious life than you usually see in American media.

    Still a little bit off- most people “give some of their income to the church” only via taxes, and “feel attached to the religious community” seems a little bit exaggerated.

  128. #128 robertm
    November 7, 2008

    “A fractured group of hermits and misfits can not change the world.”

    I get a nervous and anxious itchy feeling when I happen to agree with someone too closely or too often, so I thank you PZ for finally giving me something to bitch about.

    The need for constant (weekly in most cases) group re-enforcement is I think one major point that separates those who choose to dwell in the oft’ twisted and strange world of their minds, and those of us who choose to dwell in reality.

    A country composed almost entirely of fractured hermits and misfits constantly arguing the most ridiculously trivial and most gravely important matters, is about the most American picture I think I could ever dream up.

    Millions of individual insufferable elitist critical thinking bastards, would be I think a force for the world to reckon with.

  129. #129 frog
    November 7, 2008

    DamienRS: There’s nothing inherently anti-communal about libertarianism… just anti-*forced* communalism

    So you reserve the right to cheat?

  130. #130 Chris Crawford
    November 7, 2008

    I hate to say this, but honesty requires it: there’s real irony here in light of PZ’s definitely ‘not nice’ response to the lady from the Christian radio station. I think it fair to say that there are some atheists, and PZ is among them, who are not nice people — at least to outsiders. With members of the same tribe, PZ is a perfect gentleman. But he has written some really nasty things about people he disagrees with. Many of those people are contemptible because they continue to spout lies. But some, like the lady from the radio station, are nice people and PZ tars them with the same brush.

  131. #131 Graculus
    November 7, 2008

    I think part of the problem is that when we get together the main topic of discussion, because it’s the only one we share, is going to be how ridiculous religion is.

    Well, that and recipes for Xian babies.

    I hate to say this, but honesty requires it: there’s real irony here in light of PZ’s definitely ‘not nice’ response to the lady from the Christian radio station.

    I question the virtue in being “nice”. Being nice is a completely different thing from being good. “Nice” people smile to your face and stab you in the back. Good people may give you the gears, but I’d rather have them in my corner.

  132. #132 Dale
    November 7, 2008

    What can kill atheism best is if we refuse to make accommodations to build a true Interessengemeinschaft, a fellowship of interests, a community of godless folk dedicated to living rational lives.

    We certainly wouldn’t want to have a Interessenge-meinschaft gap to develop!

  133. #133 Eric Paulsen
    November 7, 2008

    We all know that sadness is really just happiness for deep people and as the two Johns have said: “If it wasn’t for disappointment, I wouldn’t have any appointments”.

  134. #134 bonefish
    November 7, 2008

    “some of the commenters in the Pharyngula community do stretch my ability to tolerate”

    Damn. Hope I don’t stretch you too far.

  135. #135 John Morales
    November 7, 2008

    “religious people are nice and atheists are mean”

    I think this is just propaganda.

    At the risk of appearing tautological, I’d say that “nice people are nice and mean people are mean”, meaning that I don’t think religious belief or lack thereof changes people’s basic nature, though piety might impose a veneer on it that can fool some people sometimes.

  136. #136 windy
    November 7, 2008

    With members of the same tribe, PZ is a perfect gentleman. But he has written some really nasty things about people he disagrees with. Many of those people are contemptible because they continue to spout lies. But some, like the lady from the radio station, are nice people and PZ tars them with the same brush.

    What the heck? The people at that radio station were total assholes to PZ during the last debate.

  137. #137 Blake Stacey
    November 7, 2008

    P-Zed was nicer than I would have been in agreeing to the original debate in the first place.

  138. #138 melior
    November 7, 2008

    The sorry state of American atheists, then, may have nothing to do with their lack of religious belief. It may instead be the result of their outsider status within a highly religious country where many of their fellow citizens, including very vocal ones like Schlessinger, find them immoral and unpatriotic.

    It would seem trivially easy to look around for similar data on members of outsider religious groups for comparison, like say, American Muslims or Scientologists.

    Unless you had already made up your mind to write an article about how mean atheists are. Then it would just ruin your point.

  139. #139 Ken
    November 7, 2008

    What would be the core issues an atheist community would take up? Can we make up a top 10 list of things we care to defend? Or are we doomed to laughing at believers?
    I bet that any list of issues we can come up with, we will also be able to find believers to work with on them. So what’s more important, the issues or whatever value we place on other people’s beliefs?

  140. #140 Patricia
    November 7, 2008

    Moron. PZ is always a perfect gentleman. He can disagree strongly, but he rarely calls anyone half the names we ilk do.

  141. #141 Mike
    November 7, 2008

    Glen… I agree.

    Ordained Atheist… I disagree… community has nothing to do with religion or belief, just commonality. Lack of belief is a commonality.

  142. #142 Jack Cummings
    November 8, 2008

    PZ,

    You should know that the Rational Response Squad claimed that Richard Dawkins had an affair with another woman. RRS member Brian Sapient (whose real name is Brian Cutler) asked a teenager to masturbate for him on a webcam. And RRS member Rook Hawkins has been caught plagiarizing his articles. You can read all of it here:

    http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/Rational_Response_Squad

    I hope Richard Dawkins sues RRS, because he has legal grounds to do so.

    Jack C.

  143. #143 Timothy Wood
    November 8, 2008

    amen.

  144. #144 Timothy Wood
    November 8, 2008

    Jack… did you even read the post.
    I mean, you are getting on a thread that says don’t be bitchy, petty, and divisive… and then leaving comments that are bitchy, petty, and divisive.

  145. #145 bastion
    November 8, 2008

    If Bloom is correct, I must be an atypical atheist.

    When I was growing up Catholic, and very involved in many church-related activities, I was utterly miserable. Trying my darnest to believe things and follow rules that simply made no sense to me made me very depressed and stressed.

    When I stopped believing, I became much much happier.

    I do not lack for “community.” In fact I belong to a lot of different communities: business, social, volunteer groups, art groups, and several overlapping circles of friends.

    I think if you asked those who know me, including my more religious friends, to describe me, they’d tell you I was “nice.” (And funny.) I don’t believe anyone of them would ever say I was “mean.” Maybe stubborn, maybe sometimes moody. But mean? Never!

    Maybe I’m fortunate because I live in an urban area of a blue state where there are a lot of well-educated, liberal-minded folks, and not some isolated area where the church provides the only community venue and social outlet.

    I also don’t believe that I have a “soul” or “spirit” that will live on after I am dead. I believe that when I die that’s the end of every part of me, except that part which is recyclable.

  146. #146 Wowbagger
    November 8, 2008

    The proportion of people in Australia who are regular church-goers is even lower than in the US; most people here don’t use their religious beliefs as bases for the communities. They find other things like sporting clubs, ethnic/cultural organisations (important for a country with a high proportion of immigrants) and any number of other options – including my own poison, community theatre.

  147. #147 Patricia
    November 8, 2008

    Good job Bastion.

  148. #148 Kel
    November 8, 2008

    Said it very well there Wowbagger. Church attendance is at 8%, most people just don’t care. Especially the youth, if it weren’t for church owned private schools most people would give a shit.

    The pub is the real communal centre of a town in Australia.

  149. #149 inter-something
    November 8, 2008

    Personally, I find it quite irksome that Bloom failed to mention all the anger and hatred many religious communities display towards Muslims, gays, and atheists in America. It’s not like atheists are saying “God Hates Fags”, after all. (And it’s certainly not the case that only a small minority of Christian groups are vehement, as I’m sure people on this blog are aware….)

  150. #150 bastion
    November 8, 2008

    At #142, Jack Cummings wrote:
    You should know that the Rational Response Squad claimed that Richard Dawkins had an affair with another woman.

    Dawkins is a woman?!!

  151. #151 scooter
    November 8, 2008

    JC @ 142: You can read all of it here:
    http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/Rational_Response_Squad

    I hope Richard Dawkins sues RRS, because he has legal grounds to do so.

    J C, you’ve been punked. Encyclopedia Dramitica is a Joke wiki, loosely associated with the old Live Journal–> Something Awful gang of crazies. Everything on there is total bullshit, they make up outrageous stories mostly about Internet people, Memes, YouTube characters, etc etc.

    They spend a lot of time going after each other, mercilessly.

    I’ts like the Onion for the Internet, only much more inflammatory, gross, and over-the-top.

    It’s all fiction. It’s a huge Jokester Troll collaboration where people get sucked into amending the wiki, and get brutalized for their trouble.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclopedia_Dramatica

    It’s one of my favorite webstops

  152. #152 Anton Mates
    November 8, 2008

    It’s worth noting that Bloom cites Arthur Brooks when arguing that religious folks are nicer than atheists. Brooks is generally sloppy with his numbers; we’ve discussed him in the threads below.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/08/i_guess_you_can_be_innumerate.php

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/09/arguments_for_morality_are_not.php

    You can read all of it here:

    http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/Rational_Response_Squad

    I don’t know much about the RRS, but Encyclopedia Dramatica is…not really the place I would look for the unvarnished truth about them. Or anything else, for that matter.

  153. #153 Maakuz
    November 8, 2008

    Actually, I´m pretty jealous of the Danes and Swedes- I´m from Finland, and we still have a strong bond between the church and the state.

    The good thing is, we can get rid of the churchthing online, where it takes about 2 minutes. So far, more than 100,000 people have used this! We have a population of nearly 6 million, so things are looking look pretty good in here!

  154. #154 csrster
    November 8, 2008

    “Third, and this is purely OT, I remember a Danish priest that a few years ago told the Danish church that he didn’t believe in God or the resurrection of Jesus, but still would like to work as a priest for the church. Secularism at its best :)”

    That would be Thorkill Grosbøll. He was subsequently sacked, reinstated, investigated etc. multiple times. He was supported throughout by his parish and opposed by his bishop (who is, incidentally, a woman).

    I think an even more interesting model for atheists to consider is the Norwegian one. There the Humanists have the same status as religious groups (xtian and non-xtian alike). They receive taxes from their members and can conduct marriages and funerals.

  155. #155 Aquaria
    November 8, 2008

    This weird take on atheists is on par with how we’re called angry just for saying, “I don’t believe in God.” You can say it that simply, and say it matter-of-factly, and the theists will get their panties in a knot and start calling you angry. So if you’re not the one who’s angry, where is the anger coming from? Well, I think we know the answer.

    Projection is their middle name. I’d say that their claims about our lack of “community” is a particularly ironic form of it. I was never lonelier than when I was sitting in a church and pretty sure that I was the only one who couldn’t take any of the garbage being peddled seriously. That so many people did both grieved me…and terrified me.

    A very lonely place to be.

  156. #156 Walton
    November 8, 2008

    As I believe some people have pointed out above, there is an inevitable difficulty with an “atheist community”, because atheism is a philosophical standpoint defined in relation to theism; that is to say, it describes what you don’t believe, rather than what you do.

    Atheist thinkers, as someone noted above, range from Karl Marx, to Nietzsche, to Ayn Rand, to Anthony Flew, to Jefferson (yes, I know he was a deist, but in pragmatic/functional terms he was a non-believer), to Christopher Hitchens. The rejection of a God or gods as the source of one’s ethics, and of conventional religious morality, is simply a starting-point; what one then puts in its place, as the basis for an ethical system, is entirely up to the individual.

    Of course, genuine Marxists are quite rare these days, as are genuine Nietzscheans. Most atheists I have known have either been left-wing secular humanists (who, despite rejecting God, seem to have retained the more palatable parts of Christ’s teaching, i.e. the bits about altruism and loving your neighbour – and are, unlike Christ, generally quite keen for the state to force you to share your wealth with the poor), or libertarians with (varying) Randian Objectivist leanings. (Of course, one doesn’t have to subscribe to Randian philosophy to be a libertarian; I don’t at all. Rand rejected altruism and conventional morality; whereas I support altruism and conventional morality, but I don’t think the state ought to impose them through coercive force. But I digress.)

    A secular humanist community makes a lot of sense. But this is not the same as an atheist community; because the latter simply defines itself by reference to the rejection of theism. In theory, if the concept of a God or gods holds no meaning for you, there’s no reason why you should bother to define yourself primarily as an atheist; why define yourself by reference to your non-belief in a meaningless concept? Rather, it’s much more positive to define what you do believe, and build a community based on that.

  157. #157 Kel
    November 8, 2008

    (who, despite rejecting God, seem to have retained the more palatable parts of Christ’s teaching, i.e. the bits about altruism and loving your neighbour – and are, unlike Christ, generally quite keen for the state to force you to share your wealth with the poor)

    Christ is an expression of that kind of morality and not the source of it. Golden rule ethics has been around long before the Jewe Zombie.

  158. #158 Tom Morris
    November 8, 2008

    Now the can of worms marked ‘libertarianism’ has been sheared open and poured across the dinner table, I think I have to step in.

    One of the things that irritates me is that whenever libertarianism is brought up, there are plenty of liberal atheists who like to dismiss it as being as irrational as, say, theism or astrology, and as if libertarianism has been scientifically debunked. Quite how a political ideology can be subject to such scientific debunking is beyond me. I don’t think I’ve seen a peer-reviewed journal article explaining how we must vote for the left or the right or the socialists or libertarians or whatever.

    Here’s the thing: we all want a rational political discourse, based on facts. That doesn’t mean ideology goes with it. It means that we need to be clear about our underlying ideological assumptions. There’s no scientific test to determine whether or not it’s better to prioritize the individual, the collective, the interests of capital or whatever. And you can’t escape having such ideological biases. The best you can hope for is that those biases are kept to a minimum thanks to judicious use of Occam’s razor, and that when the person faces the world of facts and things, they don’t delude themselves and others.

    We should, then, be politically tolerant, and push, as a minimum baseline standard, that people regardless of ideology have their epistemology sorted. With libertarianism specifically, the great risk is that libertarians get attracted to conspiracy theories. You only have to listen to some libertarian talk radio shows to see how there are plenty of people who have fairly reasonable political ideologies, but get pulled in by a lot of conspiracy crackpot stuff. You can oppose George W. Bush and the neoconservative agenda without having to believe that 9/11 was an insider job or a false-flag operation, you can oppose ‘big government’ without believing that the United Nations is a minion of Lucifer or whatever the latest bullshit is. You can oppose government projects without coming up with fairy stories for them. Many libertarians waver near the fringe – it’s not the ideology that’s the problem. One of the other problems that secularist disdain for libertarianism causes: the belief that secularists are part of some kind of liberal elite. Many libertarians can become attracted to the anti-secularist position by secularists not tolerating libertarianism. Again, listen to some libertarian talk radio and you’ll hear plenty of people who buy into the idea that Christian faith is an essential part of American freedom. It’s bullshit, and we need to help libertarians understand that belief or non-belief has nothing to do with this, and that atheists include everyone from the libertarians like Penn and Teller or Michael Shermer to liberals, socialists, conservatives, anarchists and whoever else you can think of.

    This should be a non-partisan effort: to remove the misguided attempts to distort and deny the facts in political discourse. Have your ideology – I’ve got mine! – but be reasonable and don’t distort the facts. That should be our message to everybody. And we need to try and make secularism and respect for the non-religious politically neutral.

    (Ideologically, I’m a liberal with civil libertarian tendencies: I think that we need a lot more more social freedoms and oppose the many ways my government wants to be a privacy-destroying bully, but am quite happy living in a country with a National Health Service free at the point of use, very happy that we pay for universities and libraries and museums through taxation, and most satisfied with four years of – I’m really coming to like saying this – President Obama).

    As for ‘community’? Secular community exists: pubs, clubs, restaurants, political parties, schools, universities, PTA meetings, sports teams, the Women’s Institute (seriously, they are pretty freaking radical and have been asking for things like legalizing and regulating prostitution), renaissance fairs, wine tastings, independent film clubs, village halls, painting clubs, evening classes, local government, writing circles, amateur dramatic societies. Rather than pen a blog comment or post about lack of ‘atheist’ community, join something. If there’s nothing to join, start something. And don’t dismiss having a local atheist group. We’ve got plenty of them in London, and they are pretty fun. Some of my religious friends find it very strange that I go to an atheist group. It’s really nothing more than getting together in a pub and chatting away about stuff that we think matters (it’s quite funny: religion is an endless source of absurdity and comedy).

  159. #159 Kel
    November 8, 2008

    The problem I have with libertarianism is that it seldom gets past idealism and on to pragmatic and constructive change. It’s just mock derision of anyone who feel that government or regulation should play a role.

  160. #160 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    November 8, 2008

    Why is it that every single fucking post turns into us having to be bombarded with libertarian boring fucking trash.

  161. #161 Nerd of Redhead
    November 8, 2008

    libertarian boring fucking trash.

    I think it is because they have nothing but their ideology going for them. Pitiful really.

  162. #162 Kel
    November 8, 2008

    Why is it that every single fucking post turns into us having to be bombarded with libertarian boring fucking trash.

    Yeah, there’s that too. Every fucking chance they get, libertarianism is brought up. Every. Fucking. Time. Same shit over and over, a relentless pursuit of ensuring everyone has heard their ideology. Yet not one has given a satisfying answer on how an unregulated system would lead to a sustainable future where the environment is properly managed.

  163. #163 vespera
    November 8, 2008

    I don’t demand purity, but Bob Avakian (Revolutionary Communist Party) is scum. He’s built a cult of personality around himself, which is opposed to what we are trying to do in a broader sense — foster reason and independent thought. I agree with the need for community, but I wouldn’t associate myself with someone purely because he’s an atheist any more than I would shun anyone because they’re not.

  164. #164 mindrek
    November 8, 2008

    Probably it’s too late for this post, but the claim Bloom makes about the Science article is rubbish in any case.

    Norenzayan and Shariff have a chart in their Science article showing two test groups and a control for a one-shot dictator game with a $10 reward. One test group was given a “religious prime”, the other was given a “secular prime”(“secular concepts indicating moral authority”, and the control group was given a neutral prime. The control group gave up $2.56, the “religious” group gave up $4.56, and the “secular” group gave up $4.44.

    I would be reluctant to take this as overwhelming evidence of greater “niceness” among the religious.

  165. #165 LaRue
    November 8, 2008

    We have a smallish freethought group, and one of it’s main purposes is just plain-old socializing with like-minded people. In the rather conservative city I live in (about 100K population) social circles are created in churches–if you don’t attend, the pool of potential friends is miniscule–unless you like walking on eggshells all the time or hearing what they did at church 3 nights last week…

    It also reminds me of the monks on Mt Athos who lower themselves to a cave in the cliff-face, and just sit tightly packed together all day as a spiritual discipline. I get it now, and it’s a good thing.

  166. #166 Reynold
    November 8, 2008

    I knew I forgot something. I have to give the credit for originally finding this to this poster on the Raytractors site!

  167. #167 Dag Yo
    November 8, 2008

    I see little reason why people shouldn’t be against each other with regard to their shared goals and against each other in regard to the goals that they do not share. Basically, we ought to be able to have it both ways.

  168. #168 Reynold
    November 8, 2008

    Someone’s decided to take legal means to deal with that woman.

    (See post #14 on this blog post to see what I’m referring to.)

    From the first link:
    I am in the Uk. After speaking to someone on the NSPCC Helpline (National Society for the Protection of Children) I have forwarded the link to the blog , her email, her name and the names of the children, her location and a copy of the text of the blog to the NSPCC. This definitely comes under what the NSPCC and Lancashire District Council define as Emotional Abuse based on the Children’s Act 1989.

    I think there needs to be some restraint from people (from here and other places)in replying to the blog as she may twist it in her head that people are out to get her and this may be adverse to the welfare of the children, especially if she has been using physical punishment towards them. This is a bad bad situation, but not handled properly and through the right channels it could end up, as has happened in other similar cases, disastrously.

  169. #169 Reynold
    November 8, 2008

    Nuts. Both paragraphs were to be italicized, as they are both from that first link.

  170. #170 Sacoglossan
    November 8, 2008

    Strange. When Bloom says

    “It is not hard to see how being left out of one of the dominant modes of American togetherness can have a corrosive effect on morality.”

    Its almost like he meant morale, rather than morality. Being left out certainly effects morale but its hard to see a connection to morality.

  171. #171 'Tis Himself
    November 8, 2008

    This weird take on atheists is on par with how we’re called angry just for saying, “I don’t believe in God.” You can say it that simply, and say it matter-of-factly, and the theists will get their panties in a knot and start calling you angry. So if you’re not the one who’s angry, where is the anger coming from? Well, I think we know the answer.

    What I generally hear is theists saying “You deny God because you’re angry with him.” This anger is supposedly caused by the Problem of Evil or Deuteronomical prohibitions against homosexuality or God not striking Pat Robertson with lightning or suchlike reasons. No amount of protestation on my part convinces the theists that I’m not angry with god. They know I’m angry, why else would I reject a loving god?

  172. #172 michel
    November 8, 2008

    > In particular, his main argument, which I entirely agree
    > with, is that if religion has any virtue, it is not in the
    > belief itself, but in the community that forms around it.

    i don’t think religion is intrinsically a good community builder. fear is a good community builder.

  173. #173 windy
    November 8, 2008

    Actually, I´m pretty jealous of the Danes and Swedes- I´m from Finland, and we still have a strong bond between the church and the state.

    Don’t be jealous, Sweden’s system is not too different. They still collect church fees via tax too.

  174. #174 pharynguphile
    November 8, 2008

    I don’t think atheists are miserable, or in a sorry state, and I do not believe our morality has been at all damaged

    Right.

    Look in the mirror. You are the bitchiest, crankiest, most sarcastic, arrogant and curmudgeonly pain-in-the-ass on the Internets; you’re a professor at a 3rd rate public university, and you have NO morality. . .so how could you assess it as undamaged when you do not possess it?

  175. #175 Patricia
    November 8, 2008

    I would like to know if it is true that someone in RRS started a nasty rumour about Richard Dawkins? I’ve looked at the link above which lists many claims about questionable behavior, but the site it’s self looks to be fishy it’s self.

  176. #176 Patricia
    November 8, 2008

    Queen of Typos! Damn ginger ale makes me loopy.

  177. #177 'Tis Himself
    November 8, 2008

    You are the bitchiest, crankiest, most sarcastic, arrogant and curmudgeonly pain-in-the-ass on the Internets

    You need to do some serious web surfing. Start with the FREEP aka Free Republic, then go to Conservapedia, and then, to look at the opposite side of the political spectrum, check out Daily Kos. But for the the guy who’s probably the bitchiest, crankiest, etc., pain in the ass on the intertubes, look at Fred Phelps’ God Hates Fags .

  178. #178 chick
    November 8, 2008

    honestly, i don’t know where bloom managed to jump from social exclusion of atheists and a “corrosive effect on morality” — from what i remember of current incarceration statistics, the proportion of committed atheists among prisoners is actually lower than the general population.

    that aside, there’s also research indicating how experiences of prejudice and discrimination can result in stresses above and beyond simply being out of the mainstream. that it is not so much being a minority as it is being a stigmatized one.

    the problem with religious types writing about atheists is that so many of them can’t avoid injecting their own biases and assumptions to support their theories. therefore, if you hold a pre-existing belief that religion (by whatever means) contributes to morality, happines etc. then you are more likely to interpret what you observe in a way that reinforces expectations.

  179. #179 bluescat48
    November 8, 2008

    [quote]Duh. All homosexuals are satanists. Only such an abomination could be the work of Satan.[/quote]

    That is an asinine comment. A person’s sexual pref has nothing to do with his religious beliefs. There are homosexuals through the whole spectrum of religion from fundimentalist to atheist.

  180. #180 Patricia
    November 8, 2008

    bluescat48 – That was pure sarcasm, made by a regular that is well known for his humor. I could have said the same remark, and others here would have taken it as high biblical satire.

  181. #181 John Morales
    November 8, 2008

    KOT,

    Why is it that every single fucking post turns into us having to be bombarded with libertarian boring fucking trash.

    I know it’s rhetorical, but could it be they’ve mostly been political of late?
    They don’t butt into the Friday Cephalopod posts, for example.

  182. #182 Patricia
    November 8, 2008

    I agree. I’m so damned sick of the libertarian bullshit that I want to kick the arse of everyone of them. I wish Walton and Scott From Oregon would run off together, get married, and never be heard from again.

    If they thought for a minute the cephalopods could vote they would troll in there too.

    In MHO they are no better than the damned Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  183. #183 Kel
    November 8, 2008

    I know it’s rhetorical, but could it be they’ve mostly been political of late?
    They don’t butt into the Friday Cephalopod posts, for example.

    Political is one thing, but it seems that any discussion that’s even slightly to do with politics becomes a debate about the merits of the free market. Fair enough if the discussion was directly related to fiscal policy, but it seems that it appears in any mention of anything to do with politics at all. And it’s the same rhetoric over and over again, it’s not like it’s anything new.

    What I wouldn’t give for one of them to talk about how to work within the system we have rather than spouting idealist nonsense that society is by no means in a position to implement.

  184. #184 Nerd of Redhead
    November 8, 2008

    In MHO they are no better than the damned Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Yeah, all True BelieversTM seem to have this certain aroma they give off when they open their mouths.

    Maybe PZ needs to open a libertarian/free market thread, but allow no posts out side of that thread on those topics. That way they can have fur fights over the fine philosophical differences, and the rest of us can avoid the thread.

  185. #185 Patricia
    November 8, 2008

    Righty-O Kel. And look how humourless and incapable of discussing any other subject they are.

  186. #186 Wowbagger
    November 8, 2008

    Six months ago I didn’t even know what a libertarian was. I think I was happier then.

  187. #187 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 8, 2008

    I do not understand this extreme irritation with libertarianism in this thread. People here hate Christianity and hate Islam even more. For that they have reasons. Good reasons well supported by evidence. Same thing goes for Scientology as well. Evidence also debunks the major claims made by these ideologies. So you have evidence debunking the claims of these ideologies as well as evidence for consistent abuse stemming from those ideologies. As well as evidence that those ideologies do not necessarily prevent people from behaving unethically in general. The point is that these feelings of disdain for religion stems from evidence.

    So why is no one presenting the evidence and building a case against libertarianism. Because they do not worship a deity? Neither do Scientologists. Plus they are mean and come after you, trying to bankrupt you with law suits and spreading ugly rumors, etc., Yet people go after them on blogs all the tie.

    My point is, if libertarianism is such trash, put it out in the open for all to see. Present the evidence and build the case.

  188. #188 John Morales
    November 8, 2008

    Abhilash Nambiar:

    People here hate Christianity and hate Islam even more.

    Well, I for one deplore what Christianity and Islam do to people, and how it poisons their follower’s minds, but that’s not the same thing.

    To do so would be like hating arsenic because it poisons people when ingested.

  189. #189 Patricia
    November 8, 2008

    I cannot hate Islam even more than I do christianity because I know so little about Islam. The other thing about Islam is that they don’t come bashing on my door at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings trying to pervert me.

    Libertarians on the other hand come here and troll and drone on and on. The election is over. If they want to talk about the bloody gold standard let them go tell it to Rush Limbaugh or some other idiot.

  190. #190 Nerd of Redhead
    November 8, 2008

    AN, the libertarians have been well refuted. Time and time again. Like creobots, they just keep saying the same things over and over in spite of evidence to the contrary. We are just tired of them, and those with killfile installed jump over their posts.

  191. #191 Sven DiMilo
    November 8, 2008

    those with killfile installed jump over their posts

    *raises hand*

  192. #192 Wowbagger
    November 8, 2008

    We are just tired of them, and those with killfile installed jump over their posts.

    Sad but true. I never thought I’d find someone so wholly without merit that I’d choose to killfile them, but Eric Atkinson has driven me to it with his inane babbling.

  193. #193 Kel
    November 8, 2008

    I do not understand this extreme irritation with libertarianism in this thread.The fact they say the same shit over and over despite it being refuted. Not a single one has demonstrated how a free market can adequately deal with the environment, yet they keep going on about it as if it would work. No wonder so many libertarians deny man-made global warming!

  194. #194 Patricia
    November 8, 2008

    Oh you big smarty pants Sven. *pout*

  195. #195 Abhilash Nambiae
    November 8, 2008

    Nerd of Redhead, like I said in my last post, present the evidence and build the case. To say you have evidence and not present it is what Christian fundamentalists repeatedly do. I am pretty sure you do not want to be like that.

  196. #196 Kel
    November 8, 2008

    Blockquote fail

    I do not understand this extreme irritation with libertarianism in this thread.

    The fact they say the same shit over and over despite it being refuted. Not a single one has demonstrated how a free market can adequately deal with the environment, yet they keep going on about it as if it would work. No wonder so many libertarians deny man-made global warming!

    My point is, if libertarianism is such trash, put it out in the open for all to see. Present the evidence and build the case.

    It is out in the open and it has been for a long time, it’s that their arguments never change yet we hear them time and time again. Every possible chance they get, they spew the same ideological rhetoric and just dump on anyone who disagrees. If the argument would progress then fair enough, but it seldom gets past the ideological barrier that is that the government is bad, people can look after themselves and gross fiscal inequity is the only way to have a cohesive society. It’s greed, ignorance and idealism manifest!

  197. #197 Kel
    November 8, 2008

    Nerd of Redhead, like I said in my last post, present the evidence and build the case.

    So presenting the evidence is hearing the same rhetoric in every thread, buzzwords like “regulation” and “big government” and idolising the “free market”? It’s dumping on anything that involves government intervention, that “taxes are stealing”, that trickle down economics is the ultimate way to have a society? What’s new when saying it for the 27th time as opposed to the 1st time? Why do we have to have the same damn discussion about libertarianism in every single politics thread?!?

  198. #198 Nerd of Redhead
    November 8, 2008

    AN, the libertarians have been posting for three plus months. Go back over the old political threads if you are interested. I’m not. I gave up arguing with them 2.5 months ago when it became obvious they weren’t listening to anybody, just repeating their holy political mantras over and over (just like the communists in prior days). I don’t think anybody is interested in compiling the refutations. If you are interested, do so.

  199. #199 John Morales
    November 8, 2008

    Libertarians, Randians and Godbots have two similarities – they each have topics they inevitably gravitate towards, and they know they are right, they don’t argue to explore the issue, but to defend their ideology.

    Just as well PZ tends to avoid philosophy :)

  200. #200 Patricia
    November 8, 2008

    #195 – christ on a corndog man, the proof is all over this blog.
    The damned libertarians never shut up, they say the same old shit time after time.

    Read the posts of Walton, the little dick less wonder, and Scott From Oregon, the great bore of the Pacific Northwest. Which, if I knew where Scott lived I would go pee on his lawn, just to show my utter contempt for his bullshit posts.

  201. #201 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 8, 2008

    Nerd of Redhead you have really done it. You have given to me precisely the same kind of excuses that Christians did. Considering that amount of energy people spent in refuting christian dogma this stands out.

    And Kel too seems bored with hearing the same thing over and over again. He wants evidence from them, which is fair enough. But where are the good counter arguments that you can use against them? That people eagerly pass around to arrest the spread of this ideology virus the way they do with christianity.

    No one is interesting in compiling arguments against libertarianism even though they are extremely irritated by it. So no one wants to shut them up, even though no one likes to hear them speak. And their arguments are bad. So no one finds them a threat? Just annoying? Maybe that is it.

    So you get bored hearing the same argument again and again. It does not mean it is bad argument. It could be. Christians have a lot of bad arguments that they repeat again and again yet it is very easy to find them refuted in great detail, with extremely sound evidence.

    I have looked into what libertarianism means. It is a complete way of life, like Islam (I have looked into that too by the way), but that is where the similarities end). The interesting things is whatever this ‘new’ atheist movement is it has borrowed heavily from libertarian ideals. People here have more in common with libertarians than they are willing to admit. Interestingly enough people who held to Ayn Rand objectivist notions too had a lot in common with libertarians, yet Ayn Rand hated libertarianism.

    Can’t help wondering if this is a case of like poles repelling.

  202. #202 Kel
    November 8, 2008

    And Kel too seems bored with hearing the same thing over and over again. He wants evidence from them, which is fair enough. But where are the good counter arguments that you can use against them? That people eagerly pass around to arrest the spread of this ideology virus the way they do with christianity.

    I’m not bored, I’m frustrated. And yes the counter arguments have been used time and time again. It doesn’t mean the arguments go away.

    The interesting things is whatever this ‘new’ atheist movement is it has borrowed heavily from libertarian ideals. People here have more in common with libertarians than they are willing to admit.

    I used to call myself a libertarian, that is until I came across the libertarians on places like this. The garbage that comes out of some of their mouths is absolute rubbish, yet we have to hear it over and over again. It’s idealist garbage with no pragmatic focus.

  203. #203 Patricia
    November 8, 2008

    Abhilash Nambiar – Why do you only reply to the men? Why don’t you reply to me? I specifically replied to you by your post number.

  204. #204 John Morales
    November 8, 2008

    Abhilash Nambiar, do you think you’re fooling anyone?

    You asked your question, you were answered.

    In Nerd’s words: “AN, the libertarians have been posting for three plus months. Go back over the old political threads if you are interested. I’m not.”

    You’re making the claim the Libertarian position has not been addressed, you’ve been told it has, and where to find the material.

    I haven’t made up my mind if you’re just a clueless, lazy egoist or merely a troll. But I have my suspicions.

  205. #205 Wowbagger
    November 8, 2008

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t libertarianism about judging a person’s worth on their wealth or their capacity to produce wealth?

    So, someone who was mentally ill and couldn’t work would be left to die on the streets because they couldn’t afford to eat.

    That seems more than a little wrong to me. Yes, it happens now, but we’d prefer that it didn’t; a libertarian, on the other hand, wouldn’t care – since that person isn’t contributing.

  206. #206 Kel
    November 8, 2008

    You’re making the claim the Libertarian position has not been addressed, you’ve been told it has, and where to find the material.

    That’s just it, it’s been addressed multiple times but the discussion never goes anywhere because it’s stuck in idealism. And it’s not a pleasant idealism at that, it’s fiscal darwinism.

  207. #207 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    November 8, 2008

    oh

    for

    fuck’s

    sake

    Why is every single fucking thread becoming the toilet of the libertarians to come and shit all over it.

    At least fucking flush.

  208. #208 John Morales
    November 8, 2008

    Wowbagger, there’s many flavours of Liberalism (check the sidebar labelled “Schools” on the linked article).

    BTW, you realise this thread has just been dragged towards that topic, and that the more posts on it the more the moths will be attracted to the flame?

  209. #209 John Morales
    November 8, 2008

    OOT

    For a little levity, some may find this oldie but goodie entertaining: Flame Warriors.

  210. #210 John Morales
    November 8, 2008

    Eeek, brain fade typo on #208. It should be clear that I meant to write the other “L” word.

  211. #211 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    November 8, 2008

    love the flame warriors

    The cartoon accompanying this entry is my favorite internet thing EVAH.

  212. #212 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    November 8, 2008

    Eeek, brain fade typo on #208. It should be clear that I meant to write the other “L” word.

    EEEEEEEK THE L WORD. RUINER OF ALL THREADS!!

    RUUUUUUUUUUUN

  213. #213 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    Patricia – Why do you think I did not address you? Could it be because you are not a man and I am a sexist pig? Could be. Or it could be that I was put off by your the comment in which you used the ‘little dick less wonder’ and ‘I would go pee on his lawn’. Basically abusing people for what they believe in instead of confronting the weaknesses of their arguments. I am not saying you have never done. Just that you have never done it here.

    John Morales – shame on you for calling me a troll, I asked reasonable questions because I felt people here would discuss ideas rationally. I asked a question, which was not answered. Specifically what I got was an non-answer.

    In Nerd’s words: “AN, the libertarians have been posting for three plus months. Go back over the old political threads if you are interested. I’m not.”

    He gave me no link. Nothing to work on. He just said they are there and asked me to find it out myself. In short he gave me a non-answer. I have heard several abuses strewn against the libertarian ideal, but no well-founded arguments like we find against creationism or christianity in general. Just claims that they are there.

    Like I have already said people here have more in common with the ideal of libertarianism than they are willing to admit. It seems to be the general aversion towards labels more than anything else.

  214. #214 INTJ Mom
    November 9, 2008

    Thanks for this post, PZ. I’ve been hanging out with atheists for 20 years or so now and with rare exception they’ve all been some of the most ethical, compassionate, civic and humanitarian minded people I’ve ever known. The vast majority of Christians I’ve known couldn’t hold a candle to them.

    I’m always perplexed when religious people describe atheists as unhappy, unethical, and selfish. It makes me wonder if they’ve actually met many atheists.

    As for the whole sense of community thing, different people have different social needs. All the socializing that goes on in a lot of religious communities would be too much for me because I have low social needs, especially for in person contact. However, if we didn’t have our godless online communities I could see myself getting lonely.

  215. #215 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Abhilash:

    John Morales – shame on you for calling me a troll, I asked reasonable questions because I felt people here would discuss ideas rationally. I asked a question, which was not answered. Specifically what I got was an non-answer.

    Well, you live up to your name.

    You were given an answer – but rather than accept it you wish for us to recapitulate all the arguments over again to pander to your vanity, as apparently you are too lazy to do a search* and come back with something substantive.

    As to calling you a troll, what I wrote is pretty clear. For what it’s worth, after your response I’m fairly confident the first alternative in my ultimate paragraph @204 is the correct one. Not much of a compliment, but there you go.

    Hint: try the search box in the upper left of this page.
    Find where the responses to “L” claims fall short, then come back and issue challenge.

  216. #216 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    Abhilash Nambiar, do you think that we need to bring out all the arguments again just because you asked for them? We’ve been inundated with libertarian rhetoric for months, if you would bother to look through the recent threads you’d see more than enough refutation. Do you think that we should have to write out the same arguments again just because you’ve arrived on the scene?

    Again, I state that there hasn’t been a single libertarian on here who can talk about how a free-market system would work to fix the environment. We’ve had centuries of turning environmental resources into economic wealth, so taking away the few checks and balances we have that are working to protect the decimated remains is hardly going to improve it.

    Like I have already said people here have more in common with the ideal of libertarianism than they are willing to admit. It seems to be the general aversion towards labels more than anything else.

    Except that bit about exacerbating inequity, destruction of the environment for capital, the cut-throat nature of fiscal darwinism, the poor and needy in society, the ability of having a democratic voice, and maintaining social cohesion, yep we are just alike… pull the other one I hear it plays jingle bells.

  217. #217 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    John Morales – I got a 100 matches for ‘L’ in this page alone. Your reluctance to point to me anything concrete tells me that you more likely than not have anything concrete to show. If you did you would have shown it by now. Kel on the other hand has been forthcoming about his concerns, even though he has not refuted or debunked the ideal of libertarianism.

    Kel – You wanted to know about the libertarian solution to the problem of pollution? Well here is the link. There is a sub-title dealing with pollution:

    http://mises.org/rothbard/newlibertywhole.asp#p242

    As for democracy, if you mean by that equal rights yes that forms the core of libertarianism. In the US there are both democratic and non-democratic institutions trying to ensure that all have equal rights no matter whether they are in the minority or the majority. Believe it or not libertarian ideals guided the formation of the US.

    But if you mean equality, equality in economic status, that will never be simply because different people have talent for different things. Another article that you may read.

    http://mises.org/story/3009

    Even then the free market provides for a higher quality of life than any other economic system. Even to low wage earners. I know for a fact that the even the pan handlers in the US are in better shape than in any third world country and yet are much less dependent on the government compared to Europe.

    And despite all the claims of libertarians that US markets are tightly regulated, the truth is US has one of the most liberal laws in the world when it comes to trade and commerce and the benefits that Americans enjoy stems directly from that.

  218. #218 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    I”m not getting into a libertarian discussion with you, if you want to join in one, join any of the other 50 or so threads where its’ been discussed in depth. Just search for “Scott from Oregon” and follow the trail of shit.

    I had a quick read through that link on the environment, it doesn’t answer the concerns. Rather it does the familiar tactic of blaming the government and the current regulation while pushing the libertarian mantra.

    Thus, when we peel away the confusions and the unsound philosophy of the modern ecologists, we find an important bedrock case against the existing system; but the case turns out to be not against capitalism, private property, growth, or technology per se. It is a case against the failure of government to allow and to defend the rights of private property against invasion. If property rights were to be defended fully, against private and governmental invasion alike, we would find here, as in other areas of our economy and society, that private enterprise and modern technology would come to mankind not as a curse but as its salvation.
    Full of wank, just like all libertarian writings.

    In short Abhilash Nambiar you are still saying nothing that hasn’t been said before, and nothing you said addresses the concerns that libertarianism provides. Those articles read as nothing more than apologetics and don’t address the issues. Please don’t make this into another libertarian thread, I beg you. There are plenty of threads where it’s discussed. Do you libertarians have a contract to make every possible discussion about libertarianism? Why must you make this thread another outlet for the same kinds of arguments?

    It seems PZ was sick of you idiots 2.5 years ago.
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/06/i_think_i_despise_antienvironm.php

  219. #219 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    Honestly, what is it about libertarians? Can they not help themselves? Is everything to them a calling of the free-market the way creationists have a calling of God? Seriously, EVERY FUCKING THREAD the same shit pops up over and over again. Same fucking shit every fucking day. It’s like libertarians are their own cult, and their sole purpose is to bring other people into their cult. Abhilash Nambiar is demonstrating that libertarians are incapable of having a single thought that is outside libertarianism. Please talk about something else, I do not want to join your cult, I care about social justice!

  220. #220 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    Kel, you seem exceedingly annoyed and frustrated. For the record I am not a libertarian. I make it a point to understand something well before deciding whether to condone, condemn or ignore it. So I asked a simple straight forward question, where I hoped to get a simple straight forward answer, I got abused by frustrated people. PZ’s understanding of libertarianism is retarded. But then again I admire him for his pro-science stand, so it does not matter. If you do not want to discuss it, I will respect that. However for the record I state, I see your source of frustration as your incapacity to clearly form and articulate arguments against libertarianism.

  221. #221 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Abhilash,

    I got a 100 matches for ‘L’ in this page alone. Your reluctance to point to me anything concrete tells me that you more likely than not have anything concrete to show.

    OK, you’re right, I was unfairly harsh and for that I apologise. I’ve just tried some simple search terms and can’t determine one specific enough to single out threads where this discussion has occurred.

    The problem is that, though Libertarian opinions have been addressed ad-nauseam, they don’t generally use that specific term, as the discussions tend to involve topics relating to that view and are interspersed amongst many posts over numerous threads.

    Try How low will he sink? and You mean it’s all my fault? for some examples.

    But yeah, I concede that, short of having been reading most posts over the last few months, it’s difficult and time-consuming to enumerate a list of relevant posts.

    And, since the issue is not one of particular interest to me, nor do I particularly care if you choose to accept that ideology as reasonable, I’ll leave it at that.

  222. #222 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    I see your source of frustration as your incapacity to clearly form and articulate arguments against libertarianism.

    You see wrong, my frustration comes from having to deal with the same arguments over and over. You have sounded just like a creationist, only putting the word libertarian over creationism.

    Abhilash Nambiar, just answer why I should have to respond to you when I and many others have responded to all your questions and more countless times already here? I’m frustrated, you are damn right. Because the last three months with the election being a key topic, almost without fail each thread has descended into a discussion on libertarianism. Each time the same arguments pop up over and over, each time the same dialogue plays out and each time it remains unresolved. My frustration is entirely out of the persistence of libertarians to keep up posting the same shit time and time again, and it’s directed at you because you don’t seem to understand that the dialogue has been played out time and time again. Why should I answer to you? Why should I give the same argument for the 27th time just because you’ve arrived asking for a dialogue on it? Why don’t you go and read the countless times this has been discussed already?

    I normally avoid talking with libertarians for just this reason, it’s a fucking cult and no matter what I say, I can’t break the spell that the free market is God. I have that trouble with creationists too, but that doesn’t mean that my knowledge on biology / physics is lacking… though I’m sure creationists do the same as you and take the frustration of persistence as a sign of the inability to argue. It’s not the inability to argue, it’s the arguing with a brick wall.

  223. #223 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    Kel don’t say I am wrong. Prove me wrong. Or at least point me to a place where you have proved this idea wrong. No one seems to want to give me link, where they have expressed their refutation of libertarianism. The refutation for libertarianism if it is exists is not plainly obvious. What is plainly obvious is some people’s dislike for it. I see the word shit and trash used generously. And now another dirty word ‘cult’ is added to the list. Which it is not. Cults after all have leaders who demand total obedience, strips you of financial independence and makes you change your name. Libertarian ideas do none of this. And now a pathetic attempt to club it with creationism.

    Creationist usually moderate and censor comments. A sign that shows that they are incapable of free and open discussion. Libertarians don’t. Quiet the contrary they are only too eager to discuss. It is you who run away.

    OK here goes. I am not a libertarian, yet. If you have a good argument against libertarianism share it with me so that I can use it against them. Kel? Any one?

  224. #224 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    Kel don’t say I am wrong. Prove me wrong. Or at least point me to a place where you have proved this idea wrong.

    Are you incapable of looking yourself? And are you going to take the absence of any of us giving an answer of proof of concept?

    The refutation for libertarianism if it is exists is not plainly obvious.

    It’s plainly obvious to the rest of us, don’t take your personal incredulity as a sign of it’s validity.

    And now a pathetic attempt to club it with creationism.

    Again, you don’t come around here much do you.

    If you have a good argument against libertarianism share it with me so that I can use it against them.

    If I say there is no refutation, would you kindly shut up about libertarianism? The problem I’m having with you is that you’ve decided to make yet another thread on here about libertarianism, you’ve tried to make it that we need to justify to you that libertarianism is wrong. If you want to be a libertarian, go ahead. All I’m asking is that you not make another discussion on here about it. But you’ve ignored that and went on and on, asking for answers when there is such thing as google. If you can’t understand that some problems transcend the individual and need group decisions then there’s no hope for you. Go be a libertarian, but please don’t reduce this blog to another libertarian soapbox.

  225. #225 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    Kel – You disappoint me. All you do is keep looking for excuses to wiggle out. Very Well.

  226. #226 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    Kel – You disappoint me. All you do is keep looking for excuses to wiggle out. Very Well.

    Go fuck yourself, seriously. If you can’t do a google search and look up “criticisms of libertarianism” yet are relying on commenters of a science blog for criticisms, then you aren’t being any better than a creationist. Do you really need me to point out the obvious flaws of unregulated access to finite resources in the pursuit of wealth? No, you don’t. You should be able to think for yourself.

    Just ask yourself why you are looking to me to stop you being a libertarian? I’m asking the same question. All I want is some respite from the constant stream of free-market worship, it’s been a non-stop parade on here for the last few months. Is it really too much to ask that now the election is over that we can go back to talking about science and atheism? Or do we have to justify ourselves to every Tom, Dick and Abhilash that comes on here?

  227. #227 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    Kel- You know a person has no argument when he resorts to name calling. I did google ‘criticisms of libertarianism’. Like I said I try to fully understand very concept. For that I listen to those who support it and those who are against it. None of the criticisms come even close to the excellent job of demolishing creationism that I see all over. I did not come here to discuss libertarianism. But the comment section was so full of it and mostly hate. So I asked why. And no one as given me a well articulated reply. Instead I am chastised and vilified for even asking.

    You do not have to justify yourself to me. I thought people here are generally rational. And if they hate something they would have rational explanations for it. That is what had hoped. I heard none of it. So I am disappointed. Good night.

    Maybe some day a new anti-libertarian movement will spring up with its own Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens but that day is not today.

  228. #228 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Sheesh, I can’t help myself – I know I said I’d leave it, but this annoys me.

    Posted by: John Morales | November 9, 2008 2:35

    The problem is that, though Libertarian opinions have been addressed ad-nauseam, they don’t generally use that specific term, as the discussions tend to involve topics relating to that view and are interspersed amongst many posts over numerous threads
    Try How low will he sink? and You mean it’s all my fault? for some examples.

    Posted by: Abhilash Nambiar | November 9, 2008 3:08

    No one seems to want to give me link, where they have expressed their refutation of libertarianism. The refutation for libertarianism if it is exists is not plainly obvious.

    Sigh.

    Plainly, though the task of searching for specific comments is onerous for anyone, the task of being honest is onerous for you. I bothered to find and show you two threads where such discussion occurs, only to find you claim no one did. Nor is there any evidence you’ve, you know, bothered to look at those threads.

    And, as to refuting Libertarianism, only its premises or specific arguments made from them can be refuted.

    Tell you what, you enumerate a list of claims that you think have not been refuted, and I’ll spare time to try to find links to where have been addressed.

    Finally, I note you made specific positive claims, e.g.

    That’s a positive claim. Care to support that (a) Islam is “a complete way of life” and (b) libertarianism is a complete way of life?

    Don’t forget to define what you mean by the concept of “is a complete way of life”.

    Actually, you’ve made many unsupported claims. For instance: “People here hate Christianity and hate Islam even more.” I refuted disproved that by counterexample, and not a peep from you.

    For instance:

    So you have evidence debunking the claims of these ideologies [Christianity, Islam, Scientology]. For that they have reasons. Good reasons well supported by evidence. The point is that these feelings of disdain for religion stems from evidence.
    So why is no one presenting the evidence and building a case against libertarianism. Because they do not worship a deity? Neither do Scientologists.

    Cripes, you imply you’ve found this evidence on Pharyngula “refuting” Christianity, Islam and Scientology, but can’t find the equivalent evidence as it relates to Libertarianism?

    How’s the whine go again? oh yeah, “don’t say I am wrong. Prove me wrong. Or at least point me to a place where you have proved this idea [that L has been refuted no less than C, I and S] wrong.”

    Sheesh.

  229. #229 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    I seem to have lost a quote during combox editing.

    Missing after the line “Finally, I note you made specific positive claims, e.g.” is

    I have looked into what libertarianism means. It is a complete way of life, like Islam

  230. #230 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    You know a person has no argument when he resorts to name calling.

    Ken Ham said the same thing a few days ago… doesn’t make creationism any less absurd.

    None of the criticisms come even close to the excellent job of demolishing creationism that I see all over

    Of course not, politics is sociology and evolution is biology, you won’t get the empirical dismissal that you do with creationism. Doesn’t make libertarianism any more practical.

    But the comment section was so full of it and mostly hate. So I asked why. And no one as given me a well articulated reply.

    It’s been answered several times. It’s because libertarians go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about libertarianism. You are coming in and the end of months and months of intense libertarian discussion, people here are sick of it. It doesn’t mean that libertarianism has any credulity, it just means that people don’t want to hear about it anymore. Stick around and see how creationists are treated here, it’s pretty much the same.

    I thought people here are generally rational. And if they hate something they would have rational explanations for it.

    They do have rational explanations for it, and if you read through what people were replying the answers were there. The environment is a huge concern, and what you linked doesn’t address the problem. It just highlights that the problems exist in other systems too – of course but it doesn’t make Libertarianism any better. There are obviously times when groupthink and long-term planning are needed in order to have a sustainable future. Take away all regulation and you have no chance of that.

    Honestly Abhilash, we’ve all had these conversations before and they get very tiresome. Don’t take our personal animosity as a sign that libertarianism works, how we respond to libertarians has nothing to do with the credulity of the idea. Acting like my antagonism towards you is a sign I have nothing to say is a cowardly approach. I’m sick of libertarian discussion; as I’ve said countless times it’s idealism with no pragmatic value.

  231. #231 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Kel, credulity -> credibility. But you knew that :)

  232. #232 Walton
    November 9, 2008

    Fair enough, Kel. I take your point. The discourse here between economic right and left does seem to be going round in circles.

    If you wish, I’ll voluntarily refrain from starting any more discussions about libertarian economics. We can focus on the many things we do agree on: good science education, civil liberties, freedom to marry, less state interference with people’s personal lives and lifestyles.

  233. #233 negentropyeater
    November 9, 2008

    As I’ve written elsewhere, we need to get used to it, the ordeal has begun, and it will be incessant for the next 4 years : as this new administration is forced to intervene heavily in order to get us out of the deep hole we’ve gotten ourselves into, after 17 years of irresponsible laissez-faire policies, you can be sure that you’re going to hear the voices of Libertarians claiming that we would be better off if the govt did nothing.

    First, I recommend ths short memo from Robert Reich :

    “When the real contest begins”
    http://robertreich.blogspot.com/2008/11/when-real-contest-begins.html

    …And don’t forget all the business groups, Republicans, libertarians, talk-radio hosts, and yell-television personalities who will fulminate
    over anything resembling a tax hike on the rich or big corporations.

    Obama’s agenda can survive all this, but only if he continues to mobilize and energize the public behind it. That means creating a new politics — utilizing his vast campaign network of volunteers, grass-roots activists, and Internet participants, and turning it into a movement to take back our democracy from the lobbyists, naysayers, pork peddlers, and moneyed interests that normally run things in Washington.

    Second, to those like Abhilash Nambiar who keep repeating that the USA were founded on the Libertarian ideals of Jefferson, let’s remind them, in case they might have forgotten, what were the United States at the beginning of the 19th century; an underpopulated agricultural nation of yeoman farmers minding their own businesses.

    Actually, Jefferson even wrote that he didn’t envision, contrary to Hamilton, that the country should move towards a nation of commerce and industry, because this offered too many temptations to corruption.

    You see, that’s the basic problem with Libertarianism, it is based on simplistic assumptions, so it requires that society be organised that way, it starts with the premiss that humans share an innate sense of good and evil, but ignores the problem that when the number of contracts between the participants increases exponentially, these shared values become more and more diffuse and subject to corruption.

    Just try to ask a derivatives trader on Wall Street what he thinks of Good and Evil. He’ll tell you to go to hell.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that this explains the fact that republicans, and by en large their philosophical arm, conservative Libertarians, are far more represented in the areas of the country that are closer to Jefferson’s ideal vision for America, lower population density, agricultural society, bound with simple contracts and shared values, possibly kept in place with strong religious communities.

  234. #234 Walton
    November 9, 2008

    … it starts with the premiss that humans share an innate sense of good and evil, but ignores the problem that when the number of contracts between the participants increases exponentially, these shared values become more and more diffuse and subject to corruption.

    At risk of flogging a dead horse, I don’t think that’s necessarily correct. Rather, the essence of the capitalist system is that, assuming each person acts in their own rational self-interest with the information available to them – which requires no particular moral or ethical standard – the outcome will be beneficial to everyone. In other words, we expect people to be selfish. If they choose to behave altruistically, it’s a bonus – but the system doesn’t rely on them doing so.

    So it doesn’t really matter whether a Wall Street trader has a developed sense of good and evil. Simply by acting in his own interests and making money for himself, he’s contributing to an overall positive outcome.

  235. #235 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    Kel, credulity -> credibility. But you knew that :)

    Whoops

    Fair enough, Kel. I take your point. The discourse here between economic right and left does seem to be going round in circles.

    tbh Walton I’ve found you better than most, but in the end it does get tiring that every single political thread becomes a discussion of libertarian ideology. And because it’s ideology, we can never get past that position. Surely by now we can agree to disagree and move on to more pragmatic topics of discussion.

  236. #236 clinteas
    November 9, 2008

    RevBDC @ 211,

    now that is the most hilarious thing Ive seen for a long time,thanks for posting the link !
    Ive been assigning warriors to Pharyngulites for the last hour LOL

  237. #237 negentropyeater
    November 9, 2008

    So it doesn’t really matter whether a Wall Street trader has a developed sense of good and evil. Simply by acting in his own interests and making money for himself, he’s contributing to an overall positive outcome

    Oh yeah ? You gotta be kidding ! We can all well see how positive the outcome is : $ 15 trillion of asset devaluation in the US alone which is going to cause the worst recession in 80 years.

    If you had been a speculator on Wall Street between 1990 and 2007, your own self interest was to bet that the market would continue to go up. And the more such speculators made that bet and took vasts amount of credit to pump into the market, the more that propelled the market up, like a miracle. And it made everybody happy, corporate executves paid with stock options, the traders themselves, bankers, shadow banking institutions, and the govt itself of course.
    They had no incentive whatsoever to stop the bubble from growing, and growing, and growing… Even the Cassandras like Roubini who were trying to call people’s attention to the evident fact that this would one day reverse itself were ignored.

    So, sorry Walton, you theory that the invisible hand is going to take care of it, and that by miracle, everything will turn out to be a positive outcome, is simply ridiculous.

    And to put ALL THE BLAME on the money supply side is another one of those simplistic notions. It’s evident that the fed shares part of the blame, but all those who let everyone consume that easy credit with absolutely no consideration for the risks they were taking, and vastly profitted from it for many years, are equally responsible.

    I don’t know on which planet you live to insist that the outcome has been positive. For whom ? The few who exited the markets on time and have the money safely on some offshore account ?

  238. #238 clinteas
    November 9, 2008

    Toxic granny,muhahahahahaha……

  239. #239 MartinM
    November 9, 2008

    In other words, we expect people to be selfish. If they choose to behave altruistically, it’s a bonus – but the system doesn’t rely on them doing so.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t things like healthcare for the poor supposed to be provided by charity in Libertopia?

  240. #240 Nick Gotts
    November 9, 2008

    Abhilash Nambiar,

    If you are an honest seeker after knowledge, look through the following recent threads, in which there are extensive discussions of libertarianism, both in general and in relation to specifics such as the current financial crisis, the Great Depression, and the puzzle (from a libertarian point of view) that Scandinavia is not full of people going about in rags scavenging food from garbage dumps:

    Purple America
    Context
    One difference: these zombies are repelled by brains
    Where’s Charlton Heston when you need him
    Sarah Palin: ignorant and anti-science

    I choose these because I did a lot of the arguing of the anti-libertarian case, so I found them relatively easily, but look also for the names negentropyeater and Bill Dauphin on the anti- side, Walton and John C. Randolph on the pro-.

    If, as I suspect, you’re just another libertarian troll, come to waste everyone’s time, be so good as to go and boil your head.

  241. #241 Nick Gotts
    November 9, 2008

    the essence of the capitalist system is that, assuming each person acts in their own rational self-interest with the information available to them – which requires no particular moral or ethical standard – the outcome will be beneficial to everyone. In other words, we expect people to be selfish. If they choose to behave altruistically, it’s a bonus – but the system doesn’t rely on them doing so. – Walton

    Three problems with this:
    1) As discussed before, the capitalist system as it has actually developed historically bears rather little resemblance to the libertarian ideal, so the latter is in fact an entirely imaginary construct. That doesn’t mena it’s necessarily wrong, it does mean you can’t claim any of the successes of capitalism for your ideas.
    2) We see numerous cases, as neg pointed out, where everyone behaving selfishly in the economic sphere does not lead to the general good.
    3) We know that in fact people are not purely selfish, nor anywhere near it; nor are they anywhere near pure rationality. There is abundant empirical evidence for both these divergences from the “libertarian” picture of human nature, and abundant reasons from evolutionary theory as to why pure selfishness (or rationality) should not be expected. Hence if you really want the general good (which in itself seems to undermine your assumptions), it makes sense not only to try and ensure that selfish behaviour has good outcomes where possible, but also to devise institutions that encourage unselfish behaviour. In point of fact, and I admit to my initial surprise, recent cross-cultural work by Samuel Bowles and colleagues suggest that individuals from mass capitalist societies actually show high levels of equity-seeking relative to individuals from most small-scale societies, in experimental interactions with strangers. “Foundations of Human Sociality” edited by Henrich and others is a good reference for this.

  242. #242 negentropyeater
    November 9, 2008

    We can focus on the many things we do agree on: good science education, civil liberties, freedom to marry, less state interference with people’s personal lives and lifestyles.

    Yeah, let’s only discuss the things we all agree upon, caus’ you know, how we’re going to get out of the hole we’re in, that will take care of itself. In the grand old American tradition, let’s avoid conflicts of opinions !

    Because of course, we can all trust that the Pharmaceutical lobby, and the miltary lobby, and the oil and coal lobby, and the banking-wall street lobby is going to keep nice and quiet and will not try to influence this administration’s economic, healthcare and foreign policies.
    And of course, we can all rest assured that noone is going to try to stop this administration from rasing taxes on the rich and the large corporations.

    Oh, let’s just all forget about these minor details and assume that it will all turn out for the better, caus’ you know, we voted for Obama, so, that should be enough.

  243. #243 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    Why can’t there be any compromise between turning every political thread into a discussion on libertarianism and all hugging rainbows? Surely there’s a line between idealist rhetoric and discussing pragmatic applications of change.

  244. #244 Dean Booth
    November 9, 2008

    Just the other day, someone called the wart on the end of my nose “prominent.” [wink nudge nudge]

  245. #245 Nerd of Redhead
    November 9, 2008

    AN, I’m not going to do your work for you. At the top of each thread, and readily visible during an archive search, is the category of each thread. Any thread with politics in the category for the last three months will be infested with libertarian prose.

    I briefly investigated libertarianism 25-30 year ago, and saw it as a morally bankrupt endpoint on the continuum of politics. The libertarians are so worried about personal freedom and incentives that they ignore the collective good. The communists, at the other end of the continuum, are so tied up in the collective good that they ignore personal incentive. I recognized that a moral system would provide both incentives for individuals to prosper, but also do collective good in building the infrastructure and providing a social safety net for those who need it.

  246. #246 negentropyeater
    November 9, 2008

    Kel,

    because curing this malady that seems to have affected the brains of so many Americans, distrust of Government, will probably be the most important battle of the next four (eight?) years.

    Can’t help it, exactly as the Evolution/ID battle only exists because there are IDiots in the real world, this battle, which will affect Economic, Healthcare, Environmental, Foreign, Research and Education policies, only exists because in the real world there do exist an awful lot of people in the USA who profoundly distrust their Govt.

    Call them Libertarians, actually they are all more or less of the same breed.

  247. #247 negentropyeater
    November 9, 2008

    Kel,

    if you’d like a more pragmatic note, and forget about Libertarians for a while, I recommend this piece by Paul Krugman :

    “New Deal Economics”
    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/08/new-deal-economics/

    Implications for Obama: be inspired by FDR, but don’t imitate him slavishly. In particular, your economic policy should be bolder, not more cautious.

  248. #248 Nick Gotts
    November 9, 2008

    How about Krugman for Treasury Secretary? Anyone know whether he’d have the necessary political nous, and might want the job?

  249. #249 negentropyeater
    November 9, 2008

    Treasury secretary is above all an operational job, that’s not the best use of someone like Krugman.
    I hope that he will be one of Obama’s closest policy advisors. Seems much more likely.

  250. #250 whomever1
    November 9, 2008

    Bet you can’t remember what the topic of this thread was!

  251. #251 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    November 9, 2008

    no shit.

    fucking thread derailing libertarians.

  252. #252 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    Nick Gotts has made the best attempt so far to give a reasoned argument against libertarianism. Everyone else has more passion than reason. I find this very telling. In other threads too I found arguments against libertarianism to be weak. This argument too is flawed but I won’t address it. I am not a libertarian nor do I care to be an apologist for one. However in my opinion this ideal has proved to be pretty robust and able to withstand high level of scrutiny. For those of you who consider libertarianism to be a threat to freedom, this is going to be a problem in the near future.

  253. #253 Nerd of Redhead
    November 9, 2008

    AN, you are welcome to your opinion. I have expressed mine, that it is a morally bankrupt system that provides no social safety net. Keep that in mind the next time someone you know loses their job due to actions beyond their control.

  254. #254 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    Nerd of Redhead – We don’t live in a libertarian society. If my friend or I looses our job you cannot blame the libertarians for it.

  255. #255 Nerd of Redhead
    November 9, 2008

    AN, you missed the point. Libertarian principals do not set up a social safety net. If somebody loses his job under libertarian rule, he gets no unemployment. Under our present system, they do. That is why I call libertarianism morally bankrupt. It’s not the act of losing the job that is important, but what is present to help people until they can find another job.

  256. #256 Nick Gotts
    November 9, 2008

    This argument too is flawed but I won’t address it. – Abhilash Nambiar

    What despicable intellectual and moral cowardice.

  257. #257 negentropyeater
    November 9, 2008

    However in my opinion this ideal has proved to be pretty robust and able to withstand high level of scrutiny.

    That’s of course if one decides to put one’s head in the sand, completely ignore this crisis, its causes and the way we’re going to get out of it.

    Of course if you don’t understand how this the bubble that just exploded has been fuelled by Libertarian ideals and laissez-faire policies, it doesn’t surprise me.

    Here’s a good place to start :
    http://www.finfacts.ie/irishfinancenews/article_1014734.shtml
    The Credit Crisis: Denial, delusion and the “defunct” American economist who foresaw the dénouement
    (based on the theoretical work of Hyman Minsky)

  258. #258 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    if you’d like a more pragmatic note, and forget about Libertarians for a while, I recommend this piece by Paul Krugman

    excellent, thanks.

    And as for Abhilash, fuck you! All I ever wanted was this not to turn into another libertarian discussion. But you just had to keep going and now another thread has descended into it. And you taking that as my own inability to form arguments is low, it’s really low. You are just another pathetic cultist who couldn’t see the arguments when they were written above. You’ve done nothing to address the points I did raise, only complained that I got frustrated. After months of this fucking discussion, of course I got angry. But you still ignored my points.

  259. #259 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Abhilash @252:

    I am not a libertarian nor do I care to be an apologist for one.

    Well, your second clause is patently untrue, and your first I adjudge highly unlikely based on the level of honesty you’ve so far demonstrated.

    All you’ve provided over multiple comments is opinion and allusions to arguments – this, when contrasted to your demands, shows you are hypocritical.

    I find this very telling.

  260. #260 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Kel,

    But you [Abhilash] still ignored my points.

    He’s ignored everyone’s points – his behaviour is indistinguishable from that of a troll.

  261. #261 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    He’s ignored everyone’s points – his behaviour is indistinguishable from that of a troll.

    Exactly. What an intellectual coward!

  262. #262 Yeah Right
    November 9, 2008

    in my experience, atheists have been far friendlier, while the religious have been downright vicious

    Does this include calling people “demented fuckwits” and “world class assholes”? Does it include assuming everyone who disagrees with you has a mental illness? Just wondering.

  263. #263 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    November 9, 2008

    When they deserve it yes.

    Demented fuckwit.

  264. #264 Nick Gotts
    November 9, 2008

    Yeah Right,
    Well, usually only if they are demented fuckwits and world class assholes. We get a lot of these here.

  265. #265 Yeah Right
    November 9, 2008

    When they deserve it yes.
    Demented fuckwit.

    Case in point.

    Well, usually only if they are demented fuckwits and world class assholes. We get a lot of these here.

    Case in point.

    Yes, those atheists are so nice aren’t they? After all, they only call people names when they are right (which is only all of the time, since they have been endowed with the attribute of infallibility).

  266. #266 negentropyeater
    November 9, 2008

    We don’t live in a libertarian society. If my friend or I looses our job you cannot blame the libertarians for it.

    Because Libertopia is just impossible in the real world, not in a diverse densily populated inter-connected world of trade, services, manufacturing and agriculture.

    The USA under Bush is hopefully the closest you’ll ever get to Libertopia.

  267. #267 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    John Morales – It is not moral cowardice. It is the fact that I do not want to be an apologist. Plus also the fact that people have been begging me not to. In this thread. So that is my situation. People like Kel have begged me not to turn this into a libertarian debate and when I respect their request, I get called a moral coward for not addressing their points. That is the double standard that I have to put up with.

  268. #268 negentropyeater
    November 9, 2008

    Yeah Right,

    I don’t know about your manners, but usually, if you visit someone’s house, if you start by being impolite, you don’t expect those who live there to answer nicely, do you ?

  269. #269 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    People like Kel have begged me not to turn this into a libertarian debate and when I respect their request, I get called a moral coward for not addressing their points.

    No, I called you an intellectual coward because you sniped that I was not refuting libertarianism when I gave valid points that you didn’t adequately address. If you are going to snipe from the sidelines, at least have the guts to address the issues that people bring up rather than just pretending they aren’t there.

    You have not respected my request btw, all you have done is talk about libertarianism. Not addressing the points raised is not being respectful, it’s just avoiding an answer.

  270. #270 Yeah Right
    November 9, 2008

    I don’t know about your manners, but usually, if you visit someone’s house, if you start by being impolite, you don’t expect those who live there to answer nicely, do you ?

    Shorter version:

    THEY DO IT TOO!!!! THEY DO IT TOO!!!

  271. #271 Nerd of Redhead
    November 9, 2008

    I had a suspicion that AN was hiding his L word tendencies. The whole “not well refuted” game was a cover. AN, if you want people here to respect you, don’t hide your agenda. But you also need to be able to defend yourself if found out–which always happens.

  272. #272 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Yeah Right, you appear to have failed to notice that the apellations applied to irritating posters are accompanied, in the first few responses, by substantive opinion and/or argument.

    Yes, those atheists are so nice aren’t they?

    When compared to theists’ malevolence, yes indeed. Refer to some of PZ’s “I get email” posts (particularly in Crackergate) for examples – for outright hatred, intolerance, scatology and especially self-righteousness, they’re hard to beat.

  273. #273 Yeah Right
    November 9, 2008

    When compared to theists’ malevolence, yes indeed. Refer to some of PZ’s “I get email” posts (particularly in Crackergate) for examples – for outright hatred, intolerance, scatology and especially self-righteousness, they’re hard to beat.

    Shorter John:

    THEY DO IT TOO!!! THEY DO IT TOO!!!

  274. #274 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Abhilash troll:

    People like Kel have begged me not to turn this into a libertarian debate and when I respect their request, I get called a moral coward for not addressing their points.

    So, about a dozen comments by you, talking about talking about “L”, but nothing substantive.

    So, you’ve dragged the thread towards meta-talk about “L”, and all you’ve contributed is your opinion and faux-indignation. How proud you must feel!

  275. #275 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Yeah Right, you want more feeding? Fat chance, this is the last of your dole.

    Bah. A one-trick troll.

  276. #276 Yeah Right
    November 9, 2008

    Yeah Right, you want more feeding? Fat chance, this is the last of your dole.
    Bah. A one-trick troll.

    Case in point. “Everyone who disagrees with me is a troll.” So nice.

  277. #277 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    John Morales – I was not discussing anything, I was asking a simple question. All I got in return for sure was empty claims and name calling.

  278. #278 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    I was not discussing anything, I was asking a simple question.

    Of which you got an answer yet it’s been dragged out over 90 posts. You can hardly claim you were being passive about the whole thing, you were pushing your agenda quite hard.

  279. #279 negentropyeater
    November 9, 2008

    Abhilash Nambiar,

    you asked for a refutation of Libertarianism, I wrote several times that this crisis was such a refutation.

    You don’t seem to buy the argument, that’s either because you don’t understand this crisis and its causes, or because you don’t understand the basis for Friedman’s Invisible hand theory and its relationship to Libertarian ideals, or because you still believe that the the USA ressembles the kind of ideal society envisioned by Jefferson.

    So you might want to explain why you don’t believe that this crisis has anything to do with Laissez-faire policies and the morally bankrupt ideals of Libertarianism.

  280. #280 former pharyngulite
    November 9, 2008

    So you might want to explain why you don’t believe that this crisis has anything to do with Laissez-faire policies and the morally bankrupt ideals of Libertarianism.

    How about because:
    The Fed has monopoly control over the money supply and interest rates.
    Banks were encouraged and given incentives to write loans to people with bad credit.
    Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae had government guarantees to prevent their failing.
    Other large institutions have implicit guarantees that the government will prevent their failing.
    The entire mortgage market is distorted by many government policies designed to encourage homeownership.
    Land use regulation contributed to the bubble in housing prices.

    How could “this crisis” possibly be a refutation of libertarianism when the banking industry is one of the most highly regulated in existence? If libertarianism is “morally bankrupt,” what would you call a political philosophy based on stealing from people and preventing them disposing of their own property as they see fit? And why are you so threatened by a minority of people who just want to leave you alone?

    Please consider applying some of your evidence-based reasoning to economics and recognizing that incentives matter, and that whatever benevolent technocracy you want to create will be wielded by your enemies at some point. It always happens.

    And to everyone complaining about how libertarians just keep hijacking every damn thread: see post 21, the first to mention the “l” word.

  281. #281 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    what would you call a political philosophy based on stealing from people and preventing them disposing of their own property as they see fit?

    Imaginary.

  282. #282 Nerd of Redhead
    November 9, 2008

    Sniff, sniff, is there some conspiracy theorist nearby? I detect a foul odor.

  283. #283 Kel
    November 9, 2008

    And to everyone complaining about how libertarians just keep hijacking every damn thread: see post 21, the first to mention the “l” word.

    Yep, that truly set the scene for an intense debate on the merits of libertarianism…

  284. #284 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    John Morales it is called socialism and it is not imaginary.

  285. #285 abb3w
    November 9, 2008

    I’d say the other key benefit of religion is intimately connected to the first: Religion provides a basis for morality. Not the only one, but one easily passed to human children, and thus having a strong selective factor for evolution. Societies with craptastic morals tend to (eventually) die out. Note that I’m not saying science is incapable of addressing such questions; however, it requires a formal definition of “moral” founded on and tested by evidence, instead of merely pure philosophical theory. (This, by the way, is one of the main problems with Libertarianism: the Randite streak.)

    It’s not that science can’t answer such questions; it’s just that it hasn’t… yet.

  286. #286 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Religion provides a basis for morality.

    I make it more “Religion provides a justification for ad-hoc morality.”

  287. #287 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Abhilash, I’ll bite.
    You’re making the positive claim that Socialism is a political philosophy based on stealing from people and preventing them disposing of their own property as they see fit.

    Care to support that claim?

  288. #288 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    John Morales – Let the record state that you opened this can of worms. Check your pay stub the next time. You will see how much of what you make you actually get. Some of it may be because they go into a 401(k). The rest that my friend is your money that the government decided you are not fit to use. Who else is allowed to do that?

  289. #289 former pharyngulite
    November 9, 2008

    And even if you refuse to concede that taxation is theft, you certainly put up with severe abrogation of your property rights. Unless you live somewhere without zoning laws, liquor licensing laws, a drug war, etc. Can you start growing marijuana in your back yard as a cash crop? Could you open up a brothel if you bought the nearest street corner storefront? If you ran a bar or restaurant, could you even choose whether or not to let people smoke in it?

    Probably not, just as you probably can’t choose whether to wear a seatbelt in your car or a helmet on your motorcycle. And I hope your city planning commissioner isn’t friends with a developer with his eye on your neighborhood, or you might find yourself out of your property altogether.

  290. #290 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    former pharyngulite – When you put things that way libertarianism becomes more repulsive to people who already find it repulsive. Because you are familiarizing them with the ‘dark side’ of libertarianism. The right of people to ruin their own lives provided they don’t force you to ruin yours as well.

  291. #291 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Me: “Care to support that claim?”

    Abhilash: <evade and obfuscate>

    Yeah, thought so. Troll.

  292. #292 Nerd of Redhead
    November 9, 2008

    More L-word trash talk. Big ten second yawn after the last few months. What if they gave their idiotic talk and nobody came?

  293. #293 Abhilash Nambiar
    November 9, 2008

    John Morales – Calling a person a troll doesn’t make a troll look at yourself in the mirror once in a while. I found few valid arguments and lots of name calling. I will remind myself that people who admire scientists are not scientists themselves and excuse such behavior.

  294. #294 Wowbagger
    November 9, 2008

    I will remind myself that people who admire scientists are not scientists themselves and excuse such behavior.

    Your concern is noted.

  295. #295 John Morales
    November 9, 2008

    Abhilash troll, you’ve been exposed and your whining now merely amuses. You want to be further derided? Carry on, then.

  296. #296 negentropyeater
    November 10, 2008

    The Fed has monopoly control over the money supply and interest rates.

    FAIL. There’s been central banks fixing interest rates and controling money supply (Nota : for their own country, it’s easy to ignore that they don’t have monopoly on world money supply) for the last century, and there hasn’t been this kind of massive credit bubble before.
    Of course, when the fed is irresponsible and also practices a laissez-faire policy by just opening the valve, keeping interest rates low, and refusing to regulate the inflation of the bubble, that doesn’t help.

    Banks were encouraged and given incentives to write loans to people with bad credit.

    Who encouraged them ? Show me the bills ! They didn’t need to be “given” incentives, they acted in their own self-interests, their incentives were in the profits they made from these loans, as long as the market was going up, it worked. It’s because Govt refused to regulate and impose stricter controls that they just followed their own interest. Here again, the invisible hand theory didn’t work.

    Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae had government guarantees to prevent their failing.
    Other large institutions have implicit guarantees that the government will prevent their failing.

    How did this cause the largest credit bubble in history ?

    The entire mortgage market is distorted by many government policies designed to encourage homeownership.

    Encouraging homeownership to the poorer households doesn’t explain why the rest speculated. EPIC FAIL again, the subprime mortgage market doesn’t even represent 2% of the value of the credit bubble. Of course, Libertarians like to focus on that 2% and ignore the 98% rest.

    Land use regulation contributed to the bubble in housing prices.

    Here agan typical Lbertarian idiocy. Because we failed to prevent the largest credit bubble in history by properly regulating and controling the consumption of credit, let’s just deregulate even more, build everywhere, destroy forests, parks, everything that is not conform to the Lbertaran ideals of “freedom”. How pathetic !

    How could “this crisis” possibly be a refutation of libertarianism when the banking industry is one of the most highly regulated in existence?

    Because the govt completely closed an eye to the place where most of the credit got funelled, and where most of the damage was done, the shadow banking system, those who operate like banks but aren’t regulated like banks (hedge funds, broker-dealers, derivatves traders and other speculators). Govt let hedge funds operate with leverage ratios of 30 to 1 on average, that credit money was pumped in the market, helped to accelerate its growth, everybody closed an eye because as long as the market was going up at an unfettered rythm of 15%+ per annum, everybody was happy, investors, corporate executives pad with stock options, traders, speculators and the goct of course. Noone had any incentive at all that the govt starts intervening and regulating, because this would have slowed the growth, so it just continued without interruption for 17 years.
    That’s where the vast majority of the $15 trillion asset overvaluation (which we just had a correction for recently, causing the worst recession in 80 years) came from.
    But of course, that’s something you conveniently chose to ignore, and focus instead on the poor subprime mortgage households.

    As I always say, Libertarians only offer simplistic solutions based on simplistic assumptions which could only work in a simple environment, that of the USA of the begining of the 19th century, an isolated, underpopulated, agricultural land of yeoman farmers minding their own businesses. Not exactly a world of global trade and complex financial systems and instruments, which will require constant monitoring, constant regulation, and careful balancing.

  297. #297 Walton
    November 10, 2008

    This, by the way, is one of the main problems with Libertarianism: the Randite streak.

    I completely agree. I dislike Ayn Rand’s philosophy in the extreme. It’s certainly an influence on my socio-economic thinking (in the same way as Marxism has influenced that of the left), but that doesn’t make me an adherent of Rand (any more than Tony Blair or Barack Obama are adherents of Marx).

    Rand rejected conventional morality and altruism altogether in favour of rational egoism. This is certainly logically coherent; but I find it morally repulsive. I believe in helping my fellow man. I just don’t believe that I should be compelled to do so via the coercive power of the state.

    To put it another way, Rand didn’t believe in morality (in the conventional sense); I do believe in morality, but I believe in separating morality from law. (In the same way, I believe in God, but believe in a total separation of church and state.) I would argue that the state has no innate moral authority, because moral beliefs are individual choices; the state, even if its decisions are approved by a majority, has no right in any circumstances to impose moral values or religious beliefs, or to tell me how to use my person and property. Everything the state does rests, ultimately, on coercive force of some kind, not on legitimate moral authority. As George Washington put it, “Government is not reason or eloquence; it is force!”

  298. #298 negentropyeater
    November 10, 2008

    even if its decisions are approved by a majority, has no right in any circumstances to impose moral values or religious beliefs, or to tell me how to use my person and property.

    Yeah, that’s sounds about right, so if I want to use my person raping underaged children, or turn my flat into an ultra-loud discotheque every night, the state shouldn’t have the right in any circumstances to tell me not to.

  299. #299 Nick Gotts
    November 10, 2008

    Yeah Right@265,
    I did not call you a demented fuckwit or a world class asshole@264. I was giving you the opportunity to prove otherwise by raising some substantive point. However, I will now remedy the omission: “Yeah Right”, you are a demented fuckwit and a world class arsehole. Now go and boil your head like a good troll; you have nothing to say, and you’ve said it quite enough times.

  300. #300 Cormac
    November 10, 2008

    It struck me as I read that Slate article, that he mentions those Scandinavians as self-identifying as christians. He cites their attendance at church, and their giving some of their income to their local church.

    It is compulsory for them to pay a portion of their income to their church, because it is an established state church. All working people pay to that church, whether they are members or not.

  301. #301 Emmet Caulfield
    November 10, 2008

    Cormac,

    I think it’s fairly safe to say that you’re mistaken about much of your #300.

    I don’t think it’s possible in any country that submits to the jurisdiction of the E.Court.HR (as do all the Scandinavian countries) to compel individuals to fund churches, since (I’m pretty sure) there are precedents to the effect of that such would violate the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by the E.Conv.HR. These rulings were, if I understand correctly, part of the motivation for some of the reforms in Scandinavia over the last 10 years or so.

    The Church of Sweden was disestablished in 2000. The Danish National Church and the Church of Norway are still formally “state churches”, but only in a pretty weak sense.

    The Church of Norway is (AFAICT) still funded from general taxation and “religions” (including Secular Humanists) are funded pro-rata according to their membership. I think there’s a mechanism for individuals in Norway to get a tax refund if they don’t support any “religious” group.

    In Sweden and Denmark, there is an optional church tax (~1-2%) which goes to the church of your choice, or you can opt-out entirely and not pay it by ticking the appropriate checkbox on your tax return.

    In Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, membership in the respective churches runs around 80-85% (declining about 0.5% per annum) and weekly attendance is ~1% in Sweden, ~3% in Norway, and “less than 5%” in Denmark.

    E&OE ;o)

  302. #302 abb3w
    November 10, 2008

    John Morales: I make it more “Religion provides a justification for ad-hoc morality.”

    Actually, it’s the religion’s ability to survive the test of time (and thus, the competitive selection of variations, aka, Evolution) which provides the justification for the ad-hoc morality. To wit, “well, it worked for a while….” This is separate from the putative basis for the morality.

    Walton: I believe in helping my fellow man. I just don’t believe that I should be compelled to do so via the coercive power of the state.

    I think the words “I should” might be more precisely phrased “it is moral for me to”… and the key being the nature of “moral”.

    As I understand matters, from an evolutionary standpoint “states” (tribal, theocratic, monarchial, democratic/republican, or whatnot) is merely the mechanism evolved to allow societies to enable the use of disutility (eg: force) not only to regulate the direct production of disutility (eg: violence against others), but also to address the problem of altruism tending to be an underproduced commodity within the membership (EG: making people pay for central services via taxes). Societies that allow (but restrict) such production have an advantage over those which don’t (or do so further from the “optimum”, whatever that level is), improving the chances of survival for the members. Under the thermodynamic/information theory expression of “morality” I’m noodling with, this looks to mean it indeed can be moral for the state to coerce you to stop acting like a selfish bastard and work for the good of the society, in some circumstances and within definable limits.

    Such morality, like science, is competitive. Systems are tested relative not only to the null system (which is roughly universal war of extermination), but to each other. So of course, if you can propose a “better” mechanism for addressing the underproduction of altruism that has not previously been attempted, you should suggest it. While American society looks to me to be very “good”, I’m far from convinced it represents the ultimate pinnacle possible for social evolution.

  303. #303 Ige Panda
    November 10, 2008

    J C, you’ve been punked. Encyclopedia Dramitica is a Joke wiki, loosely associated with the old Live Journal–> Something Awful gang of crazies. Everything on there is total bullshit, they make up outrageous stories mostly about Internet people, Memes, YouTube characters, etc etc.

    Scooter, while ED tends to be total BS, the article on the RRS is reasonably accurate. Pictures of Kelly having sex with other men is just a lookalike, but pics of her getting it on with her stripper co-worker is real.

    There is also some stuff on the RRS on http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/New_York_City_Atheists

    Let’s evaluate what’s what.

    Internet Media Whores – Opinion but not inaccurate

    FreethinkingTeens – for 30 something pervs – Accurate. multiple sources verify that Nikki did masturbate for users in stickam early feb 2007, some suspected of being under age. Everything suggests she did this before she turned 19.
    Legal threats – Sopoena[sic] Google for the IP addresses – Again accurate. Rantsnraves.net have a spoof Rook and Mattshizzle account.

    Financial – The RRS is freedom from getting a damn job – Near as I’m aware this is accurate. Their house is $340,000. One of their members (who will remain nameless for now) owns the house and lets them live in it. The official explanation is Sapient owns 39% selling 1% to Rooks GF to pay for the new server early 2008. They do offer to funnel money through nonprofits so you can get a tax writeoff. The FSGP has been made aware of this.

    Youtube Drama – “Theism is a Mental Disorder” – That is a fact. They promote the idea that anyone who believes in gods is mentally ill and as such should be treated as a sub human. They don’t see the problem with this.

    The Dawkins Foundation distancing themselves – That is a fact. At AAI Dec 2007 they couldn’t be bothered buying their own table so they thought it was OK to dump a bunch of their thongs on the Richard Dawkins table. They were not amused. They tried to get the chick fired by claiming Dawkins and she were having an affair.

    RRS vs Dawkins – Who’s #1? – Again accurate though out of date. From time to time their Alexa rank is greater than rd.net, but they were blocked access from alexa for reasons they can’t explain. They encourage users to download firefox, an alexa toolbar, and a pre-fetch tool for firefox which would screw the results.

    RRS E-mail posted – Sapient Calls Police – This is real where Brian Cutler phoned the cops because someone posted his phone number. They don’t have a business phone, and they should have one.

    Paranoid Sapient won’t participate in Anonymous CoS protests – real. In fact the RRS is very much anti-anonymous.

    Greydon Square Squarely punches Sapient in face – This is real. Sapient did beg for money on a Christian website.

    Rook Hawkins speaks to NYC Atheists – described as “scholarly” – Real Much of this is covered on
    http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/New_York_City_Atheists
    where Jane Everhart of the NYCA grossly misrepresented Rook’s credentials, and refused to check her facts. It was her claim he translated the bible from Greek, and as shown on ED, Rook made a ton of Rookie errors in his presentation, not the sort of thing you would expect from someone who could translate THE WHOLE BIBLE from Greek. Most embarrassing is he was quoting the Bible and the Odyssey, available online in Polytonic Greek.

  304. #304 Ige Panda
    November 10, 2008

    If you look at my posts, or read my blog, you’ll see that I have an entirely different kind of approach than some of the other members. I’ve noticed that most of the detractors of RRS are not members, and don’t seem to have looked very closely at the diversity within our group. That’s the whole point. We have some loudmouths, and we also have some PhDs, philosophers, mathematicians, and physicists. We let everyone have their say, and if that offends anyone, we are truly sorry.

    Firstly Hambydammit, how does the RRS define member? Two years ago BS claimed over 20,000 members, even last year he claimed over 20,000 members. Youtube only lists 12,688 “subscribers”. Now it may be possible the website “now” has 20,000 entries, but this doesn’t equal “member” in any conventional sense of the word. I’m sure you’ll find members of a given church with a few people with PhDs and experience in esoteric fields, but this doesn’t add credibility to the church.

    Secondly, the RRS doesn’t let people have their say. It’s one of the more heavily censored ‘free thinking’ forums on the net. Anyone critical of certain ideas is banned very quickly.

    It’s dishonest to claim that the RRS has “some PhDs, philosophers, mathematicians, and physicists” when there isn’t really any contribution made by these people to the official position. Let’s do a lowdown on the members.

    Kelly – A 30 something stripper. She claims to be an ‘expert’ in psychology but has no formal education unless you count two years of university (University Of Scranton). The vast majority of her information comes from secondary sources like self help books, yet she feels she can define belief in god(s) as delusional even though it’s patently obvious if you get an idea from your culture, subculture, parents, peers or whatever it isn’t delusional. She continues to misrepresent Psychology in order to justify her own personal bias. She fails to understand that she’s simply not qualified to diagnose people any psychological disorder.

    Rook – He claims to be an expert on ancient texts but without a basic understanding of any of the biblical languages. He doesn’t even know how to spell Koine (?????) Greek in Greek. Hell, he did a presentation in New York and used
    35 words in Greek to an audience that didn’t understand Greek. To make things worse, 23 of those were spelled incorrectly featuring errors like using the Latin spelling covered in an obsolete Greek font (SPIonic). Other cases are copy and pasting things rendered in 7bit ascii and didn’t bother to correct vowels that were not rendered as Greek in SPIonic. To make things worse, the Bible and the Odyssey are available online in Polytonic Greek, yet he still couldn’t render them correctly. He also likes to claim his “book” in being “peer reviewed”. I think it was Frank Walton who investigated this claim and it seems the people who he claims are going to ‘peer review’ his book have have little idea what’s going on.
    http://atheismsucks.blogspot.com/2008/09/rook-hawkins-just-got-caught-in-another.html
    http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/New_York_City_Atheists

    “I am not helping Tom (rook hawkins) and, as Robert Price told you, it sounds like he is giving off the wrong impression.”—Eric Schumacher

    Brian Sapient – As the defacto leader he spends a lot of time soliciting for money. He doesn’t really spend much time justifying what it’s used for, an in fact it’s unclear why money collected in RRS subscriptions don’t actually pay for the RRS site. He enjoys telling theists to get medicated, and in fact has a list of medication that he recommends to those who believe in god(s).
    “Aripiprazole (marketed as Abilify)
    Clozapine (marketed as Clozaril)
    Olanzapine (marketed as Zyprexa)
    Olanzapine/Fluoxetine (marketed as Symbyax)
    Risperidone (marketed as Risperdal)
    Quetiapine (marketed as Seroquel)
    Ziprasidone (marketed as Geodon)”
    http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/rational_response_squad_alerts/rational_response_squad_alerts/12041#comment-131552

    Brian is not a doctor and has no business recommending medication to anyone for any reason.

    He claims there is a ton of evidence on the site to backup the assertion god(s) don’t exist, which is obviously bullshit since it’s highly unlikely to be able to prove such a negative assertion. He also claims that they have “converted” hundreds of theists, have scientific evidence to this fact, yet can’t produce the evidence. I think he’s confusing anecdotal evidence with scientific.

    The RRS – It’s all fine and good to say there are intelligent and educated people who are “members” of the RRS, but what is the RRS? What do they do? I ask this question often but the core don’t have an obvious answer. Near as I can tell, it’s just a website with a forum and a net radio show where the host begs viewers in Stickam to justify their belief in god(s), and proceeds to insult them, and some how feel this is doing something for atheism.

    What is the RRS – Near as I can tell it’s a business based on activism. Near as I can see the ultimate goal is to make it into a hosting company, where they make their money offering Druapl webpages to other activists. This is not a bad thing. What is a bad thing is Brian, Rook, and Kelly have no clue what they are doing, yet expect top dollar for a grossly misconfigured mickey mouse box. The RRS project seems to be “freedom from work” as in they want to get paid for doing nothing.

  305. #305 Ige Panda
    November 10, 2008

    [blockquote]One of the essentials of community building is the construction of principles of tolerance. We don’t have to agree with each other on everything, nor can we, and as we all know, freethinkers are going to be especially diverse and fractious. Learn to take the best that each subset of us offers — you do not have to swallow all of the Communist party line to see that some of what they say is useful. You do not have to be a member of the RRS to see that we share some common goals, and that we can work together. [/quote]

    Dear pz myers,

    I find that the RRS’s goals are 100% incompatible with my goals. I like to promote the idea of making the ecclesiastical inclined aware of their extremists. Most people with religious beliefs, well, 1/2 don’t even attend church. I’d wager most of the other half of moderates, those who belief, get something out of it, and don’t really bother anyone else. It’s the extremists among them that I have an issue with, and I feel it’s in the best interest of those choose freedom of religion and those who want freedom from religion to keep these extremists in check. But my opinion would have no meaning if I wasn’t willing to do the same thing to those who claim to share my philosophical belief.

    My goal is to promote the concept of freedom of religion and freedom from religion as something even the moderate Christians can accept as being in the best interest regardless of of your personal beliefs. Given Christian sects often disagree with each other on matters of faith, it’s important to reinforce this difference when dealing with matters of government, and continue to support separation of church and state. This to me is a paramount ideal that should be shared by all humans.

    The RRS are fundamental atheists. They promote the idea that theists are mentally ill and support the idea of treating them as less than human. They use the existing social stigma of mental illness to promote their beliefs, which only makes an existing social problem worse and creates a new one. They actively promote the idea that it’s the duty of any Atheist to ridicule Theists for their silly beliefs. The very foundation of the RRS is building a web community of intolerance.

    If you choose to associate your self with the RRS, that is your choice. However I do recommend doing some research on them before you make such statements. I don’t support the RRS, I don’t support any organization ecclesiastical or not that supports bigotry and intolerance of others. I support the idea of getting people to question their faith, and getting people to employ critical self reflection whether their group serves to improve themselves, their community, their world.

  306. #306 Azim Shariff
    November 13, 2008

    Hi all, since Paul Bloom cited our work in his article, Ara Norenzayan and I posted a short response on Slate (to which Bloom replied). It gets into a few of the issues that you are discussing here, so I’m going to repost both our and his responses below.
    One thing I want to stress is what we say at the end. I agree with Professor Myers here that there are certainly member benefits to any community, and I especially agree with his call for tolerance within these freethinker communities. But I’m worried about this viability. Having watched the growth of atheist communities over the last two or three years, I’ve found them to be falling prey to a lot of the nearly inevitable characteristics of group psychology. In doing so, they may be reproducing some (though not all) of the things they hate most about religion. This has been a pattern that has been repeated countless times in history and I think we each individually need to be cognizant of the risk.

    Okay, here’s what we said, followed by what Bloom said back (excuse the length):

    Paul Bloom tackles a critical issue in his thought-provoking piece on religion’s contribution to a moral and happy populace. We wish to clarify two issues that directly pertain to the evidence in our Science article that Bloom cited.

    First, surveys asking people to report on their own virtuous behavior can be unreliable. Many people tend to inflate reports of their own good deeds, but research shows that this may be especially true for the religious. When we set aside these surveys, and instead consulted experiments of actual behavior, we found that only in contexts where the reputations of participants are at stake–either in the eyes of their community or their deity–do religious folk tend to act more generously than their nonreligious peers. Strip away accountability and religious people are no ‘nicer’ than the non-religious.

    Our word jumble experiment is a good example of this. Though participants who played a word game which unconsciously aroused thoughts of religion did indeed become more generous, when you look at the control condition, where participants received a neutral word jumble, believer and non-believers were equally generous. Moreover, religion is not the only motivator of good behavior. A third condition had participants complete a word jumble that primed secular justice, rather than religion. Those receiving this prime became just as generous as those who received the religious one. These studies, and other pertinent evidence, do not support Laura Schlessinger’s claim that morality requires a belief in God. One need not travel to Denmark to see that religion has no monopoly on morality.

    Second, we hope to urge a note of caution to Bloom’s endorsement of the ‘community component’ of religion. Bloom argues that the capacity to build social bonds, not belief in a moralizing God, is what accounts for religion’s positive effects on trust and emotional well-being in the United States. This may be so, but let’s not forget that communal solidarity can benefit members while wrecking havoc on those who fall on the wrong side of group boundaries. For example, studies measuring popular support for suicide attacks show that religious attendance contributes to support whereas religious belief does not. In a religiously diverse world, the community component of religion is both the proverbial arsonist and the fire department.

    Were American atheists to form moral communities in the way that religious folk do, it might make them happier. But it would also make them likely to adopt many of the unsavory aspects of groupishness that many of their banded religious brothers exhibit. Religion is not the only thing that can poison everything.

    Azim Shariff is a PhD student in the Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia

    Ara Norenzayan is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia

    Bloom:
    I appreciate the thoughtful response by Azim Shariff and Ara Norenzayan, and I recommend their excellent Science article to anyone interested in reading more about these issues.

    We agree on some main points. It might make you happier to be part of a community, and you might be generous to the other members, but the downside is that belonging to a group can lead to indifference — or worse — toward those outside of that group. And, of course, even people who are thought to be immoral and unpatriotic by most of their fellow citizens can live good and happy lives. As an atheist living in the United States, I certainly hope that this is true.

    I’m puzzled, though, as to why Shariff and Norenzayan are so skeptical about the survey results that I mention. After all, they are strong advocates of the view that religion makes people more generous. As they put it in their Science article, they defend “the hypothesis that religions facilitate costly behaviors that benefit other people.” Presumably, then, they believe that religion has effects outside of their word jumble laboratory studies. Doesn’t their own theory predict that a church-going Christian should be, on average, more generous than a solitary atheist?

    Shariff and Norenzayan propose that the effects of religion arise through additional accountability–people want to seen as nice in the eyes of their community and their deity. I agree with them about the importance of community-though, as I discuss in the article, the benefits of religious association are likely more general than they propose. We are better, happier people when we are surrounded by those who care about us.

    Our big disagreement is about God. There is no evidence that, when you factor out community, those who believe in a deity are any better than those who don’t. The important part of religion is the people who are around you, not the gods above.

  307. #307 Yeah Right
    November 16, 2008

    I did not call you a demented fuckwit or a world class asshole@264. I was giving you the opportunity to prove otherwise by raising some substantive point. However, I will now remedy the omission: “Yeah Right”, you are a demented fuckwit and a world class arsehole. Now go and boil your head like a good troll; you have nothing to say, and you’ve said it quite enough times.

    Yet another case in point. My, these atheists are such nice people, aren’t they? And anyone who disagrees with them is a troll.

  308. #308 Ige Panda
    November 18, 2008

    Yet another case in point. My, these atheists are such nice people, aren’t they? And anyone who disagrees with them is a troll.

    You bring up a valid point. The problem with small communities is they are subject to group thought and the cult mentality. The RRS is actually no exception. Anyone who disagrees with the leader or the ultimate purpose is flagged as a “dishonest Christian pretending to be an atheist”. Actually I had a similar issue with Jane Everhart of New York City Atheists, I tried to get her to correct her press release regarding Rook Hawkins, mainly her claim that he translated the bible from Greek, and she accused me of working for the Vatican and molesting alter boys (I’m not kidding). This is their communications director, not just some random member.

    So far I’m NOT impressed with organized atheism. The problem seems to be those who reject religion but still need to find the comfort in believing in something. Nothing wrong with that, but there is a problem with unqualified uneducated bozos seeking to control others.

    There is nothing “wrong” with the RRS, they are exactly what they are, a bunch of uneducated bozos pretending to be anything but a slacker, stripper, and a pretender. There is something wrong with them trying to be the face of the atheist community.

  309. #309 Adornosghost
    January 27, 2009

    So many Christians, so few Lions.