Proselytizing atheists give atheists a bad name

Most people know that I am a Christian. I don’t hide because it is my belief that Christians all too often forget that we are supposed to spread the good news….that we are saved.

I personally can’t stand proselytizing and evangelistic Christians, I think they give Christians a bad name.

But there is another equally annoying group of proselytizing and evangelistic morons out there who are trying desperately…for some reason or another to convince people like me that we are mad, crazy, stupid or all of the above for daring to believe in something.

The thing is they also believe in something, and somewhat more fervently than most of us who believe in what we believe.

One atheist is somewhat annoyed with what he calls “In-Your-Face Atheism”.

The president of American Atheists, David Silverman, defines firebrand atheism as simply telling the truth about religion, with the emphasis on the telling. He says we should make clear that it’s religious beliefs we’re attacking, not the person. He says, “I’m not attacking humans; I’m attacking those humans’ silly beliefs.”

That word “silly” is the problem, as is Silverman’s whole take-no-prisoners assault on religion.

Think about what religion is—a total worldview that lets each believer feel like she’s found meaning and purpose in a bewildering universe. So, it’s not much of a stretch to argue that people are reluctant to give up their religious beliefs when they are intimately tied to their sense of self-worth.

It’s one thing to give up a belief about a political or scientific fact that doesn’t directly affect your life—like whether or not global warming is caused by humans. But it’s another thing to give up a belief that you think determines whether you’ll be strumming a harp with angels or stuck on the business end of the Devil’s pitchfork after you die.

So, if we’re going to change someone’s beliefs, but we’re going to have to resist the temptation to roast them while we’re doing it. But listen to what Silverman has said in his talks promoting firebrand atheism: “Religion is a lie—all of it—that’s the truth.”

“Respect is earned, and religion hasn’t earned any.”

Even if he’s right, the tone of these comments is just going to raise the emotional hackles of your average believer.

You bet it will and does.

Like any sales campaign, movement atheism is selling a worldview, and so, we should not only point out the deficiencies of the competition, but we should also highlight the positive attributes of our “product.” And the old adage that people don’t buy from people they don’t like certainly applies to atheism as well. How we go about attacking what’s bad and wrong about religion as well as promoting what’s good and right about atheism matters.

Like any good marketer, Silverman says he has sales figures proving his approach is working. In a talk he gave about firebrand atheism, he claimed that his data, based on an analysis of Google searches for the word “atheist” performed over the past several years, shows that his in-your-face approach is working. He claims there have been “942,000 new self-described atheists and 1,250,000 agnostics” in the past several years.

However, those numbers are suspect; Silverman told me over Twitter that those new atheists and agnostics represent so-called “closeted atheists,” not those who have de-converted because of firebrand atheism.

Gee he sounds like he trying to convert people…you know like a religion.

In 2005, research was published by Tiziana Casciaro of Harvard Business School and Miguel Sousa Lobo of Duke University that studied 10,000 work relationships across five organizations. They ended up classifying work partners into categories that ranged from the “incompetent jerk” to “competent jerk” to “lovable fool.” What they found was that most people preferred to work with the lovable fool rather than the competent jerk.

As the authors wrote in the study: “Because they are liked by a disproportionate number of people, lovable fools can bridge gaps between diverse groups that might not otherwise interact.” That likeability factor is exactly what is needed in order to improve atheism’s image—and shift the Overton Window. The authors also say that since people are more likely to listen to likeable colleagues, we should “have widely liked individuals serve as evangelists for important change initiatives.”

I don’t think that only lovable fools should be the ones working for change, just that they should be the majority—they should be the voices that get the most media coverage. I realize that this is going to be a challenge, especially with the Bill O’Reillys of the world, but I think the case made here is reason enough to cut back on an approach that relies on ridicule and contempt for others’ sense of belief and identity. It undermines the kind of self-affirmation that is needed for sincere believers to be open to changing their beliefs—or at least be more accepting of atheism.

In other words, don’t be a jerk, competent or otherwise. Also realize that you don’t have to be a lovable fool—just focus on the lovable part.

Proselytizing atheists are jerks, that’s why no one really listens to them, just like no one really listens to bible banging preachers either.

The very thing they despise is what they have become. They have brought religiosity to atheism…they are now believers in their very own religion and are every bit as nauseating as the same types in Islam, or Christianity, or indeed any other religion.

 

– The Daily Beast

 


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  • El Diablo

    I’m an atheist but I long ago learned not to try and change other peoples beliefs. If believing what you do makes you happy, then go for it. I will however never back down from an argument if someone comes along and tries to convince me that creationism or other pseudo-scientific nonsense is real.

  • Geoff

    People in this country are free to believe in what they like. However, if you have read Richard Dawkin’s, ‘The God Delusion’, I find it difficult to believe there is a grand creator. I have no trouble living by Christian values without having to believe there is a god.

    • Hamiltonoldman

      That is the key, the God hypothesis is not needed to live a good life

    • Ilovelife

      And Richard Dawkins comes across as a sad, miserable human being…just saying.

      • Rodger T

        That is just projection on your part.

        “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.” – George Bernard Shaw

  • Damon Mudgway

    Understanding the Universe is impossible for man. If there is eternity in front of us, then there is also eternity behind us. In that context, how did ‘it’ begin? Everything by definition has to be created. I believe in creationism (God, or whatever you want to call it). Heaven not so much.

    But here’s the stumper: who created the creator?

    • Nige.

      I think that’s a point that is almost arrogantly over looked by religious and non religious types alikelife is supposed to be LIVED. Not everything has to be explained Enjoy the journey if you can. I don’t HAVE to know everything to satisfy my curiosity.

  • Randy Thaddeus Prosepon

    ‘..for some reason or another to convince people like me that we are mad, crazy, stupid or all of the above for daring to believe in something..’ Well, you make fun of homeopathy and islam, so what’s the difference?

    • I debate the salient FACTs about homeopathy…ie it is just water.

      As for Islam, i challenge the dogma, just as I challenge the dogma of unreconstituted Old Testament bible thumpers.

      • Well said. Something that most people who are anti-Christian don’t understand when they spout out “but the bible says” when they are trying to show that Christianity is “just as bad as Islam” with it’s calls for murder of unbelievers and so forth. The New Testament supercedes the Old Testament.

        • twr

          In whole, or just the inconvenient bits? If so, why don’t they remove it? Would save all the awkward arguments about creation and arks.

        • old dad

          Therefore you can change(at least amend) a belief system if required. Unfortunately belief changes take a long time, whereas changing behaviours can be achieved fairly quickly. Alas our only method of altering the behaviour of fundamentalist types relies more on stick than carrot.
          I personally don’t believe in any deity, each religious belief system has good and bad bits and people. If it is organised faith that gets you through life then that’s your choice, just don’t try to ram that down my throat. After a discussion with miss 10 year old this morning even she came to the conclusion that the concept of ‘god’ explains the hard stuff easier than trying to figure out that in your head e.g. how could we all come from a puddle and dirt!? Out of the mouths of babes.

        • Dan

          The New Testament doesn’t so much supercede the Old Testament as much as it fulfils it. As far as I understand it, the God of the Bible didn’t change his mind (or his plan) between the OT and the NT; it’s still the same story.

  • twr

    Many people try to make this an argument of opinions, similar to the proponents of homeopathy. It’s not a matter of opinion whether god exists – either he does or he doesn’t. The atheists get annoyed and shouty when the religionists can’t see this.

    • Or don’t want to…atheists miss the point that religion is about “belief”, once you believe something changing your mind isn’t an option.

      • The Accountant

        I think you are confusing belief with faith. Belief can be based on factual data as well as some thing you chose, without factual data, to believe.

      • Gaynor

        I don’t even call it a belief but a “knowingness” nothing can ever move that…. Usually because of a personal experience .

      • JAFA Gazza

        And so…about Islam and our tree hugging friends that want to change the Muslim belief structure? I think you have hit the nail on the head as to why we cant continue with “understanding”…”tolerance”…”inclusion”..when the Islamic view is that they believe that all non-muslims should be dispatched for not complying with their beliefs.

  • Hamiltonoldman

    The problem with all religions is their immovability in the face of overwhelming evidence. Take Creationism as an example, evolution is so much more exciting as a proposal for the variety of life.
    If all religions acknowledged that their raison d’être was the accumulation of power then maybe their followers would be a bit more sceptical.
    However trying to undermine someone’s beliefs will only result in antagonising them and no communication will occur.

  • Michael

    Why attack silly beliefs? Explain to me why I as a taxpayer should be subsiding the activities of people who have an invisible friend in the sky by granting them tax exempt status? You are welcome to have your irrational (I think that is what faith means) beliefs so long as they do not impact me – feel free to pay for them yourself.

    • Tax status is a red herring, but since you plucked out that straw man let me enlighen you…tax status and tax exempt status isn’t just for religions…it is for Not For Profit organisations…and many unions qualify as do sports clubs. The premise is they don;t pay tax because they do good deeds.

      Now if you want to take it away for churches and the like then i’m all for it…but take it away from everyone…and watch the volunteer sector dry up completely and the demands for government funding exponentially rise.

      • MrBarrington

        I think Michael is going after Sanutarium… the perennial “whipping boy” for tax exempt status…. swing and a miss by Michael…

        • Damon Mudgway

          Remind me again why Sanitarium is tax exempt?

          • Because it is owned by the Seventh Day Adventist church, which as about 12,000 members but via Sanitarium pays out much more than 12,000 members could ever do alone to charity.

            They fund Food in Schools and support Kids can amongst other charitable gifting. On top of that they support ADRA significantly and run healthy heart eating course. ADRA is the Adventist Disaster and Relief Agency which is one of the more active aid agencies in the Pacific and Asia, with a very small staff.

            If it wasn’t for Sanitarium then they wouldn’t exist.

          • Michael

            That’s great but doesn’t that mean that a third of all that generosity is taxpayers money, re-labelled as SDA? Would they stop doing “good works” if they were not tax exempt?

          • Kelvin

            Much of that tax exempt status also has to be shown to be assisting NZ people, OR NZ strategic initiatives like the Pacific Island. The money can’t go off to helping the poor in another part of the world. BUT, by a statute of park
            Ligament certain charities are exempt. About 17 organisations including, World Vision, Tear Fund, CCF. All other organisations have to separate the funds, and only allow donation deductibility on the National amount. Lots of rules, and the IRD is actively monitoring this. ACTIVELY.

      • Michael

        Fair point. I would love to know how much money goes into the NFP sector this way (including churches). I’m not sure why you contend that that the volunteer sector would dry up completely (although demands for government money rise all the time regardless). Somehow the extremes really irritate – Sanitarium, Destiny. How much taxpayers money is going to New Zealand Islamic groups? How much “good” do these groups actually do for the money they receive? Has Treasury modelled the effect of removing tax exemptions for NFPs? What would really happen?

        • You are only basing your opinion on Sanitarium from slanted news reports. Would it surprise you that they pay more in charity than they would pay tax? They do…they don;t make a profit plus they employ hundreds of people who do pay tax.

          • Michael

            As you always say, it would be a shame to let facts destroy a good whinge – my apologies to Sanitarium!

  • Stephen Fuller

    I was brought up a Christian, and lets not forget that had I been born to a Muslim family I would have been muslim, a Catholic Family a Catholic and so on so therefore as a child we have no choice until later in life as to what religion we support. I am now an Atheist which I don’t believe to be a religion but an extension to science. I don’t force my beliefs on anybody, I don’t knock on anyones door trying to convert as many religions do. At some time a child learns or is told that Santa and the tooth fairy aren’t real and reasons are given, I came to the decision for myself that God isn’t real, that there is no Heaven or Hell for me and that the Religious systems of this world are Man made. I believe the sooner people realise that the only Heaven available is our place on this Earth, then maybe we would look after it and everybody in it much better.

    • Thersites

      Probably 95% or more of the world’s Christians, Muslims, Buddhists etc follow their religion only because of where they were born and their family environment. I have great respect for those who reach the age of reason and then look into the various religions, compare their beliefs and the ethics they promote and then chose the one which appears to be true.

  • nath

    this is where you lose me everytime cam….why not ban all religion ?

  • The problem with most atheists (and I am one of them) is that they fail to see that the environment that we live in now that allows us to be atheists has come about as a result of two thousand years of history – and Christianity is a massive part of that history.

    I don’t believe in God, Gods or devils – but I really enjoy the pomp and ceremony of Christian festivals especially and enjoy a good rendition of Jerusalem or the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

    Try being an avowed atheist in Saudi or Iran or any Muslim country for that matter.

    • You can’t they put unbelievers to death before anyone else.

      • I just think that militant atheists are actually threatened by overt displays of religion – be it Easter festivals, prayers or even the sight of a cross on a hill. They are as religious as those they deride as delusional. I take a more live and let live attitude to my atheism. It doesn’t affect you and your beliefs don’t affect me.

  • JAFA Gazza

    All religions are man made constructs. They are sets of rules and regulations devised by one or more individuals to control the way of living of the general populace. There is no “one” real religion – just a set of different rules. And the followers – the ardent baseline protagonists – will do the usual mankind thing and argue that “their” rules are better than yours…to the point of killing each other.

    A bit like politics really…..

    • Nige.

      Yeah and some sets of rules make more sense than others….and are less barbaric.

      • JAFA Gazza

        To the people who believe in that paradigm….to the fundamental Muslim their rules make more sense than the views of the Jews/ Christians….so how do we get to tell them “our rules” make more sense than theirs? There Will Be Blood…..

        • Damon Mudgway

          Those with the biggest guns wins. Simple really. Always has been.

  • bristol

    My religion requires no church, mosque, temple, or other place of worship, but consists of these eleven simple words, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Otherwise known as the golden rule.

    • ex-JAFA

      Me too, but watch out because at least one religion claims those words as theirs… making you one of their followers. Much like I could start a religion with the commandment “don’t eat food that’s gone off”, and could then claim that anyone with a modicum of common sense was a member of my religion.

  • Ratchette

    Just another group telling the rest of us how to run our lives. If they are atheists, that is their choice, leave the rest of us alone to get on with whatever we believe. Wind yer necks in.
    As for me I have long standing science background and have constantly debated with colleagues about our existence. What is it all about ? There has to be a reason. So to all you believers and non believers I leave you with a poem I wrote many years ago …

    We live,
    We die,
    I wonder why ?

  • Jimmie

    If I wanted to stir a devout atheist up I would say that they are trying to sell a polished t..d. Think about it, a missionary atheist comes to you and tries to sell you the advantages of being an atheist:

    1 You are all alone in this world – a complete mis chance of evolutionary nature. You have no purpose in life, your life means nothing. When you die your contributions and endeavors in life mean nothing.

    2 if you happen to be born (or suffer an accident) and are left paralyzed for the rest of your life then tough cookies for you. That is all you are until you die, you have no hope for any kind of future.

    3 When you die you are burnt or buried and within a few years you are forgotten. You have no hope for any kind of universal existence – just bones in the ground.

    4 As a human you are just a highly evolved animal, survival of the fittest rules. Do what you want as your life is short and when you are dead you are nothing.

    So having considered all these points, what advantage does the atheistic convert have? None really apart from having a smug attitude that they are better than all the stupid religious folk, and removing any sense of conscience in respect of lifestyle behaviours.

    • Damon Mudgway

      All depends on the salesperson Jimmie. It ALL comes down to the salesperson :-)

    • ex-JAFA

      But you have to concede that each of those four points is 100% true. Trying to tell people anything different is blatant lying – a breach of the Fair Trading Act at the very least for the non-atheist salesman/missionary.

    • JAFA Gazza

      I’m unclear here….so you are saying that believing in a God wil alleviate all these? Kid gets hit by a car and is paralysed for life…unles…!!! He/ She believes in god then it is all made better?

      Point 1. Yes. When you die you die. Your endeavours in life are remembered through your actions/ discoveres or emotional contributions.

      Point 2. Completely correct. Can you provide a resource to show that believing n a God alleviates such trauma? If so – could you email it to all the affected families of car accidents/ accidental deaths/ people born with severe disabilities?

      Point 3. Absolutely correct. We are carbon based life-forms.

      Point 4. Within socially acepted parameters ( whatever society you live in geographically speaking) this is true.

      What advantages are there? None really. But at least I will lead a life without the false hope of getting a pair of wings and sitting on a cloud or being at the wrong end of a marshmallow toating fork.

      Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Faity…..all stuff told to us as intellectusally absorbant kids….just to discover/ be told that they were constructs to keep us “good” while young and naieve.

      Jesus? God? Whats the difference?

      • Jimmie

        In my post I was being deliberately provocative to make a point.

        The point was that a folks selling their belief systems tend to have attractive/positive aspects which can attract new converts.

        For example, Christianity provides the believer with a faith that provides answers as to why good things and bad things happen in life and also why this world is a contrast of beauty and evil.

        It also provides a hope that humans aren’t just random accidents but have an individual purpose in God’s creation and that at the end of our time in this physical World there is a promise linked to eternity.

        The question I was trying to make for those who push atheism as the in belief system is what are your positive selling points?

        • JAFA Gazza

          Jimmie – I dont need any religion to tell me the good/ bad things on the promise of an “eternal life” Its still the same ol same ol…if you do it OUR way – you get eternal life. Islam trumped that with Eternal life PLUS 64/ 40/ 20 or whatever number of virgins they are flogging off at the moment.

          Easy to promise something you will never have to deliver on.

          As Russell. He can sell as many brilliant “ideas” as he wants – he’ll NEVER have to deliver. Just like any religion…..live our way and when yu cark it – you’ll live forever!!! You get Steak knives! And a Shark Vacuum Cleaner! But wait…there’s more!

          Pfft. Religion is a man made construct to control the masses…with promises that will never be delivered.

          Ed: To answer yur last point – Ihave no selling points. Simply because I am not trying to sell anything. And I aint buying either .

      • paul468

        The difference is that Jesus was a real person. He was not the “son of God” that many say but “son of man” as he said it. That means he was just like us, nothing more, salt of the earth kinda guy. He never said he was the son of God and although there is some proof there was a guy called Jesus, there is no proof of any God.

  • JC

    Its one thing to point by point refute the existence of a God and encourage atheism, however the message is received differently by different groups of people.

    Tell that to a European Christian and he might well be persuaded. However, that Christian who might become an Atheist won’t change his behaviour much because he comes from an incredibly strong *culture* built from the ground up over thousands of years.. from Paganism, Judaism, the Ancient Greeks and Romans, Catholicism, the Reformation, the Counter Reformation, Protestantism, The Enlightenment and yes even the wars.

    Now look at the effect on peoples like Maori and Negroes who have lost their religion of Christianity.. they have no culture but Paganism to fall back on.. they have regressed mightily as people into tribalism. Here their new religion is depravity or the Treaty.

    You want to see massive inequality? look at the different lives of Maori solo families compared to Maori families firmly rooted in a European culture. By removing Christianity from the former group we took away a mighty anchor that allowed them to operate and progress in a modern world.

    JC

    JC

    • JAFA Gazza

      JC – you are interloping “culture and society” with Christianity. By someone “losing their faith” doesnt mean that the values of living in a modern progressive society will also be lost. This is the sort of fire and brimstone used to control the uneducated masses of Northern Pakistan….do it our way and you will be sainted…dont do it our way and you will sufffer. Pfft.

  • Radvad

    Nobody can prove there is a God. Likewise nobody can prove there is no God. Both beliefs are decisions requiring an equal amount of faith.

    For the record, I believe there is a God who not only created us but also came to earth in human form to redeem a fallen world but leaves that choice to us. God does not force us to accept that redemption.

    That is what I believe but cannot prove. We all know what atheists do NOT believe. Can someone tell me what they do believe?

  • Korau

    This subject is one that will always get the cranks on both sides of the fence waving their particular banner.

    Most of the admitted small number of religions I have had contact with (including atheism) seem to be keen to promote two things:

    Our “Religion” is the true faith, and all the others are wrong.
    We want to convert non believers to our faith.

    My problem with religion is not the accompanying folderol (the weird hats, men in frocks, rituals without any sense and so on) which is bad enough, but in the concept of “god”. To believe in a superior being is impossible for me when you realise that most religions promote that their God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. for example). To do this the creator would necessarily be outside the creation. Can’t be done!

    And yet, I do believe in a god. I know it sounds counter intuitive but my god is female, not male like most of the old religions. She is called Mother Nature and her rules are the rules of nature and matter.

    My beliefs are my own. What others do is their business as long as they don;t try and foist their belief system on me.

    • JAFA Gazza

      Exceptionally well said. My thoughts exactly. Maybe we should set up a church or something – get some tax breaks? ;)

    • Nic C

      I couldn’t agree with you more Korau… and exceptionally well put too.

  • Mrs_R

    To believe in something greater than yourself is always difficult for a person who believes that everything begins and ends with themselves. Has a person not ever marveled at the cycle of life, or the intricately woven web of interdependency of the planet and the plant and animal kingdoms? Have you never pondered the complexity of the human mind and it’s body and then been amazed at the human spirit? Was all this just some random result of an explosion? If so, isn’t it amazing how the complex human eye just randomly got created out chaos, never mind the rest of the human body. Some people say science is the answer, yet science still has so many questions about what it does not understand. Whatever your opinion the fact is no one knows all things, so therefore no one can speak authoritatively. For an individual to be confident to dismiss the possibility of a creator then they would need to have complete knowledge of all that is in the universe. Anything else is just guesswork. Therefore we should be considerate of other view points because they may indeed be correct.

    • bristol

      “… isn’t it amazing how the complex human eye just randomly got created out chaos, never mind the rest of the human body.”
      To quote naturalist David Attenborough. when asked why he did not give ‘credit’ to god, “They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.”

      • TonyM

        Hmmm … so if the world is not perfect there can’t be a God.

        This is not a reasonable line of argument. I’d encourage you to do a little bit of research on this topic, the Bible does not say that the world is perfect. While creation was once perfect it is not now.

        Evolution remains a theory with big holes. Intelligent design is a far more sensible explanation but for either option you put your faith in something (there are no “facts”).

        • ex-JAFA

          There’s nothing sensible about the need for a creator which, by definition, is more complex than anything in “Creation” – and therefore, by definition, would’ve required a yet more complex Creator of his/her/its own… and so on, and so on.

    • Cadwallader

      Being an atheist does not require “a complete knowledge of all that is in the universe” it simply needs an ability to skeptically interrogate the universe. By believing in a divine creator you are deleting an ability to seek and discover, it is at this point when you begin to rely on “guesswork” rather than identifiable facts.

      • Cadwallader

        I should add; I am not interested in disparaging anyone else’s faith. Faith is utterly personal. The only religion I have a difficulty with is Islam for the blood spattered reasons we are presented with almost daily. If those with divine faith leave me out of their personal equations then I am more than content. Best wishes.

      • Rubbish, I am constantly seeking and discovering…just because you believe doesn’t mean everything stays constant.

        • Cadwallader

          The difference being that one quest is faith based while the other is pinioned on identifiable facts. I agree that the “science” of theology delves ever deeper into the nature of existence with an under-pinning of a recognisable faith, but will it ever portray the kernel of reality? I accept that reality is not the impermeable core it was once regarded as, now we are in the age of uncertainty as identified in the field of quantum mechanics, but for me discovery needs to be unfettered by faith in a divine creator. This is not a position I could ever be accused of forcing on another, as it is one I live within and not one I necessarily choose to share.

  • corporate refugee

    Like most atheists I find it baffling that intelligent educated people can believe in the existence of gods with superpowers. But clearly many people do believe, so I figure they must feel something I don’t. And it can surely only be a feeling, as religious based versions of the world we live in cannot withstand more than a few minutes reasoned fact-based analysis before they unravel.
    So, you either “feel” there’s a god or you don’t I guess. And as long as we don’t try to impose our feelings-based beliefs on others then fine.

    • Jimmie

      You could apply that same ‘reasoned fact-based analysis’ to show that atheism is as much a religion as any others.

      The definition of atheisim is a belief that God/Deity does not exist. It is a belief that cannot be proven simply for the fact that by definition to prove God doesn’t exist you would have to be God yourself.

      (Think Omnipresence) You would have to exist in all known and unknown dimensions, inside and outside of space (at the same time) in order to prove that God wasn’t hiding in some other part of the Universe.

      I have more respect for agnostics than atheists as to say that you don’t know if God exists is a lot more honest than ‘rational’ atheism.

      • JAFA Gazza

        Jimmie – yoour last statement tells a lot. “I have MORE respect for agnostics…” because they are on the fence and can be swayed? They have a possibility of thinking and believing more like you than an atheist? And yes, I guess Atheism is a “religion” because of its belief – or “non compliant” belief structure …but because it doesnt resonate with yours (even in part) you have less respect for them? Do you have less respect for others religions…Ba’ha..Buddist…?

        Religion is a set of man made constructs.

        You subscribe to a religion – you are free to believe in whatever you want – even if it doesnt have a labe.

        • Jimmie

          No not really. I disrespect atheists that decry any religion as an offence against ‘reasoned fact backed analysis’ when their own atheism is as much faith/belief based as any ‘normal’ religion.

          This makes them sanctimonious hypocrites of the highest order (think the green party) and untruthful in their ‘rational rantings’.

          • JAFA Gazza

            Not all Atheists are ” Fact based Analysts”. It just means that most (who do not proslytise theirs views) dont see any flavour that they wish to subscribe to. If i dont believe in your “god”…what “fact based Analysis” can you offer to prove that he/ she is real and thus I should subscribe? Not believing in YOUR God/ religion doesnt mean Ihave a different moral compass or value set to you.

          • Jimmie

            I would never attempt to persuade anyone to believe in God by trying to draw up a scientific list of facts that prove God is real.

            It is impossible as science/facts deals with the physical world/dimension.

            Christianity (and most other religions) place God as existing in a spiritual dimension who influences/interacts with the physical world at times and places of his choosing.

            Dry reciting of religious tenants of faith never converted anyone.

            The best evidence of the realness of faith comes from seeing that faith put into action in peoples lives and actual interactions of God in peoples lives.

            One example: When I was a kid one of my older brothers used to give me the bash all the time as he had major anger issues. I remember one time when I was around 11 years old he continually banged my head against the concrete garage floor for calling him a poofter (I didn’t know what that meant)

            When I was 18 years old he came to me and said that God had told him to ask me to forgive him for how he had treated me as a kid. I did and have got on really well with him ever since.

            That is one of many experiences I have had that not only shown God working in the real world to bring healing to people.

            It doesn’t fit in with dry and dreary scientific pontificating but it was an experience that dealt with a lot of trouble from my childhood and showed to me that God is real and cares about people.

          • JAFA Gazza

            Or maybe his internal moral compass and a dose of guilt over what he had done was a contributing factor? Saying “God” told him to say the things he said is – in my opinion – a way of not taking direct responsibility personally…saying that a “superpower” had told him it was wrong.

            personally I have had similar experiences – but the perpertrator said sorry – on reflection it was wrong and he was fully apologetic. No God principle involved there.

            The “God made me do it” discourse is just a convenient way to explain away your sins ( whatevere that means).

            I dont begrudge or judge your beliefs Jimmie – I guess that the “hand of God” hasn’t reached me yet. Or the Prophet of Islam…or the workings of the Book of Mormon…or anything else.

            I live my life “godless” ( and yes when ISIS takes over I will be the first to have his head seperated from the body as an Infidel) but I am happy, content, dont do anything illegal, have a positive outlook on life and will gladly help out others in need without requirement of my input or acknowledgement of any sort.

            It just called looking out for people and looking out for yurself. Idont need a plastic statue nailed to a cross in a wooden building to tell me thats the right thing to do. I just know it is.

            Is having a Moral Compass a religion?

          • jonno1

            You make some good points Gazza. I’ve known professing Christians whose moral compass is way off, and moral non-Christians whom I’d trust with my wife, bank account and car (well, maybe not my car). So clearly it’s not what one says that matters, rather it’s what one does.

            But all this misses the point. Christianity is not a religion in the sense of being a set of rules as there are no rules, it’s total and complete freedom from rules. What it is, is a relationship with a person, Jesus Christ, that influences your behaviour in every sphere of life. I say influences rather than dictates, as we stuff up big time most of the time; that’s something to do with free will (there’s that freedom thing again).

            As a simple albeit imperfect analogy, think about your relationship with your wife and what it’s grounded on. Over the years a number of friends have commented that they see my wife and myself as virtually the same person (they obviously haven’t seen us in the throes of a domestic dispute!). But the point is, we’re completely in sync over the big issues, although not necessarily the trivial ones. We love each other’s company more than anything else in the world, and the last thing either wants to do is to hurt the other.

            The bible actually uses the same analogy, referring to the church (meaning individual Christians collectively) as “the bride of Christ”. Anyway, that’s my rather poor attempt at explaining my understanding of Christianity and why it differs from both religion and morality.

          • JAFA Gazza

            Thanks Jonno. Look – I dont try to persuade people from their belief system…whatever works for you is good. There is a line, however, where “Good living”…”Being a stand up citizen”…”A good father”…or whatever label you wish to annoint gets confused at time as “being a good Christian”.

            My (female) partner and I disagree on a lot of things. Day to day things I guess. But we love each other and that cant be discussed in rational terms. Its an emotional and chemical reaction…or whatever.

            I dont *subscribe* to a religion…..just like I dont subscribe to a nudist colony or a golf club.

            Doesnt mean I cant appreciate both without judgement.

          • Alright

            No. Having a moral compass is about being a civilized human being, and not buggering children.

      • I’m with you, agnostics seems ambivalent, whereas most actives atheists are shove it down tyour throat types.

        I usually just laugh at them and their attempts to convert believers to unbelievers…in many respects they are the opposite of Islam but without the head hacking

      • twr

        Atheism isn’t a belief that god doesn’t exist, it’s lack of a belief that he does, and there’s a BIG difference between those things. It’s up to the religionists to prove that god exists, not the atheists to prove he doesn’t. From what I’ve seen most Christians don’t really care, they just like believing it whether it had basis or not. And most Christians I’ve seen don’t really believe in god and the afterlife anyway, otherwise they would act very differently.

      • MichaelW

        I can understand why you may think some atheists act like they are religious but I’m sorry your argument has a bit of a logical flaw. You state atheism is a belief that cannot be proven but belief does not need to be proved. It is just someones own person view/position/belief. It’s what they feel and normally we don’t ask people to prove such things. We don’t put people on lie detectors and ask them about their belief in god. Being an atheist says nothing about if god exists it is just what we think. We do not have to be omnipresent to be an atheist.

        Atheism is a lot more common than most people think because it comes in many strengths from weak to strong. If you stop someone on the street and ask them ‘Do you believe in god?’ then their answer will give you an idea of how much or not they are an atheist or a theist. If they say Yes straight away then they are a strong theist and if they say no straight away they may be a strong athiest. A long delayed answer may mean they are a weak theist or a weak atheist.

        Agnostics are a different but similar thing. It is about your belief that god can be known to exist or not. An Agnostic believes that the existence of god is unknowable. Many Agnostics are also atheists and believe that there is probably no god but that you can’t really ever prove this. There are also agnostic theists who want to believe in god but think you can’t really know if he really exists.

        And finally we have gnostic atheists who I think are the small subset of atheists that may be thinking about. They believe you can prove god exists or not and they believe the answer is he doesn’t.

        • Alright

          Re your comment: “If you stop someone on the street and ask them ‘Do you believe in god?…..” I ask most of my friends if they “believe in (a) God. I am closest to the ones (including a number of scientists and a medical doctor) who say no. And I went to Sunday School and Bible Class.

    • JAFA Gazza

      That, CR, is the crux of it. Its the imposition of “our way is right – yours is wrong” that fuels most of the discomfort and violence in this world.

      I am an atheist – not a prolytizing one – and I dont decry anyone else their belief structure – their right to believe what they want. But dont let it impact me or my “belief- or non-belief”. I dont shove my views down people’s throats and all I ask is that others respect that and dont try to force, coerce or manipulate me into their way of thinking.

    • Korau

      Perhaps it’s genetic. Are atheists missing a “religious” gene, or perhaps they have a “sceptic” gene that is missing in others?

      In any event, we are privileged to be living in a time where a god was demoted to mere mortal status. I think this is a most unusual phenomenon!

  • I am an atheist, have been since 3rd form at St Pats Silverstream when i realised that the Christian story matched far to closely the pattern used in most saga stories (Goody discovers hes special, has a major setback and returns to conquer the baddy, Star Wars was the story i noticed it with, but most sagas follow it). now growing up in the Catholic world I was aware that Religion offers a moral and ethical framework that give a lot of people support to be a better person, so i would never try and take peoples religion from them or question it.

    However there are many people who question their religion and to lose that framework can be a very difficult time. I know it was for me, I had to build a whole new moral compass and had to re-evaluate every authority figure I had ever known. Understand this was before the internet was commonly available, so almost everyone I could ask was Catholic so I couldn’t ask them, this was something I had to do myself and on the quiet. Some people have compared the process to coming out Gay for the kind of emotional turmoil it can cause.

    So I do support people that make it known there are others out there who see no need for a god figure in their life or in the world. But I will not support trying to inflict the stress it put on me on anybody else by proselytizing. Nor do I support proselytizing for any other religion.

    • redherring

      Most saga stories came along after the Christian Story (wouldn’t Star Wars have been far more likely to have copied the Christian story than vice versa give the small matter of 2,000 years?)

      • ex-JAFA

        Inasmuch as Christianity was copied from earlier Egyptian religions.

    • ex-JAFA

      I was also raised in a very closeted Catholic environment, and became an atheist at 15 when I was seriously looking into joining the priesthood. Such a monumental commitment required considerably more reasoned thought (“soul-searching” to the theists out there) than anything else I might have explored at the time.

      When it dawned on me that – apart the blatant contradictions and scientific impossibility of much of the Church’s teachings – the character of “God” was deeply flawed with the worst human attributes (jealousy, vindictiveness, ambivalence, etc.), I had no choice but to conclude that a god didn’t and couldn’t exist, and was merely a human construct for control.

    • I.M Bach

      “…have been since 3rd form at St Pats Silverstream…” That’s scary. It was the same time for me, 3rd Form at St Pat’s Town. I had a mate, Mark, whose father was supposed to be a pillar of the community but every Saturday he’d get drunk and bash the wife etc, sometimes Mark and his brother also. Then on Sunday he’d be passing the plate around at mass with his suit neatly pressed by his subservient wife, his hair drenched in Brycream and chest all puffed out. Oh what a man! It was this hypocrisy that turned me and I decided that an hour spent fishing with Mark on Miramar wharf was an hour much better spent as it was time invested in real friendship, not imaginary. Nothing has changed since.

  • Ilovelife

    I have a number of atheist friends and they are constantly trying to promote their cause via email or FB. I get the impression that they have very little confidence in their beliefs and are desperate to have affirmation from others. I also know many Christians and none of them push their barrow in this way. They just quietly live a Christian life.

    • corporate refugee

      In my experience most atheists are more confident in their beliefs than Christians, as they are facts-based, not faith based. I have known many Christians who have “lost their faith” but am yet to meet a declared atheist who has then decided to start believing in a god. But maybe we all just see what we want to see.

      • Ilovelife

        I also know of many professed atheists who start praying when in danger.

        • old dad

          Ahhhh,the ol’ ,”there are no atheists in a foxhole” maxim….

        • FredFrog

          I don’t know any. But I do know quite a few christians who think they can do what they like, including actions harmful to others, as long as they go to church on Sunday.

          • JAFA Gazza

            I had a catholic neigbour many years ago. He beat his wife. But apparently if he went to confession on Sunday all was forgiven.

            One celebate man telling a wife beater that “God” forgave him.

            Anyone see the ridiculousness of this?

        • JAFA Gazza

          Really? please tell. I’d like to understand what perilous sitation they were in that they suddenly realised they had no control over – and that only a “God” could sort out for them…..did any of them “convert” after the event? Or did they use the “pray” thing as a desperate call for help..from anywhere and anyone…

          • Ilovelife

            You clearly never watch the news. Time and again someone rescued will say when interviewed “I don’t believe in God but I prayed” Seems deeply hypocritical. Watch out for this in future. Mrs ILL is telling me to stop commenting on this thread. I think she is right. It is a pointless exercise.

          • JAFA Gazza

            Well if God talks to you through television…..Well lets start the Church of TV3/ TVNZ/ whatever. Of course people in deep trauma and shock will give off sound bites like that. Its “normal”. But has anyone gone back years later to see if they are now a happy clappy fully subscribed member of a church? I think not.

            Dont be preaching to me using the TV and MSM as your bedrock. They lie and Edit.

          • Rodger T

            Fair enough , I blame Jesus when I hit my thumb with a hammer.

          • andrew carrot

            That would be Jesus fornicatin’ Christ, to use his full name?

      • Kelvin

        Haha. Meet me. At a BBQ, during a discussion, two of us declared there was no God, and if there was, he was invited to prove it. Six months later, God slapped me across the ears and I became a Christian.

        • Bob D

          Reminds me of what C.S. Lewis wrote of himself:
          “…the most dejected, reluctant convert in all of England . . . dragged into
          the kingdom kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in
          every direction for a chance of escape.”

  • BlitzkriegNZ

    Not believing in a god shouldn’t even need a label, I hate being classed as an atheists, it’s not even a thing let alone a religion as others try call to call it to somehow group it in with other religions. I couldn’t care less about what goes on in other peoples heads. As long as they don’t try force it on to me, I’m happy. Religion is dying a natural death in some countries, there’s no need for militant atheists to go on a crusade. Some of the Facebook posts from those pages are hilarious though, but I don’t bother sharing them.

  • RightofSingapore

    The eco-fascists /Green Taliban have that same zeal and religiosity.

  • corporate refugee

    If there was just one religion, and had only ever been one, then I would feel more inclined to think that there might be something in it. But given that there are (and have been) many different “choices” of alternative sets of beliefs I struggle to get past the notion that they have all just been made up by different people at different times.

  • JAFA Gazza

    Ok..as I have said in below posts, I consider myself an Athiest. If people want to label that as a belief/ religion then so be it.
    I dont believe in a deity/ superpower/ god or whatever. However, I will say this. If “religion” is a set of parameters in which you as an individual find solace and a values based moral compass – then all the good to you. But it is an *individual* decision – not a global phenomenon to which all others *must* subscribe.

    That is the problem with religion…subscription. Why have door knockers trying to sell me Jahova Witness..Mormon…Christianity…if any of them were *The Thing* I pretty much think I would have found out for myself – dont need preachers/ salespeople.

    I think we should “de-label” religions, look at it as a moral smorgasboard….take from i t that which fits well with you…and I reckoon you will come down to a few fundamental points….Dont kills anyone, dont intentionally harm anyone….be kind….let others feel free to think what they will without judgement.

    I dont need any religion to tell me how to live my life.

    • BlitzkriegNZ

      Your fundamental points pretty much parrot some of the rules that La Vey’n satanists follow haha have to say I agree with your whole post, I hate preaching atheists as much as any religious force feeder.

      • Reaper

        Actually those fundamental points remind me of the Wiccan Rede: “An it harm none, do as ye will”. I like that – nice and simple, one rule, and it pretty much covers everything.

        • JAFA Gazza

          Bang! Reaper – Ithink you win the internet today. Its all very basic huh? Respect the earth, respect each other….do no harm….

    • Alright

      Could not have said it better JAFA Gazzza.

  • Cadwallader

    Actually, given religion is on topic I look back on the clustering together of part of the left around Mr KDC in 2014. In certain parts of the third world ie New Guinea the phenomenon of the Cargo Cult emerged last century. The point of these cults was to deliver goodies to the supporters and believers who modified their lives to suit. The cult believed a beneficent God would arrive with assorted riches and believers would prepare for the arrival by building airfields and dressing in a particular vein. Is this a fair parallel to the Coatsville Cult?

    • FredFrog

      Or any other cult – like islam, christianity, etc.

      • Cadwallader

        Yes but what particularly got to me with the Coatsville Cult were the Star Trek uniforms and the somber faces preparatory to their Teutonic Rapture.

        • Effluent

          yes, but they missed out the kool aid final stage

    • Korau

      The Prince Philip Movement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Philip_Movement) on the island of Tanna, worships Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

      This is one of several surviving cargo cults still in existence. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult

      I remember talk of the cult expecting The D of E being expected to deliver the goods 50 years ago. Some entitlitis never changes.

      • Cadwallader

        That’s right. Tanna is the volcanic island in Vanuatu. I think the bungy idea was spawned there too?

  • andrew carrot

    I watched an episode of “Family Guy” during the Christmas break that followed Stewie as he travelled to some of the infinite number of universes quantum theory suggests exist. He arrived in one where it was 2012 but unlike the 2012 we experienced people had hover-cars, etc. Why? In that universe, religion hadn’t stifled scientific endeavour over the previous two thousand years. I bet the Fox Channel phone lines went into melt-down after that episode was broadcast.

  • Rodger T

    Only Judy can Judge me.

  • Shane M

    What happens when you believe yourself to be god?

    • Cadwallader

      You become German and get fat!

    • Jimmie

      Oh that’s easy, Take King Carnoote’s example. Try telling the tide not to come in and see how you get on.

      Or alternatively when you grow old and frail are about to fall off the perch just use your god powers to stop yourself dying – then you can put your belief to the test.

      • Shane M

        Is that not just projecting someone else’s God onto the self? My god can’t do those things.

      • Logo

        Actually, Jimmie, you are wrong about Canute. He knew he did not have the power to prevent the tide coming in, and did it to demonstrate to his sycophantic courtiers that he was not omnipotent. A wise king indeed!

  • TomTom

    “I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    • Backdoor

      Is evolution a fact or a theory? While I accept that there is some evidence to support the notion of evolution there are still many unanswered questions.

      And while the theory of creation has many flaws, there is some evidence to support it.

      Both evolution and creation make an interesting study.

      • JAFA Gazza

        So what “label’ fits you? Theist? Atheist? Agnostic?
        I hate labels. Believe what you want…..its cool…

        • Backdoor

          In hate them too JAFA, that is why I do not apply them to myself. However, most other people are more than happy to provide me with a variety of labels.

      • TomTom

        Not sure why you’ve focussed on evolution when I’ve not really said anything about it?

        You misunderstand the term “theory” when applied to science. It doesn’t mean what you think it means. From Wikipedia:

        “A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly onfirmed
        through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not “guesses” but reliable accounts of the real world.”
        The theory of evolution has been tested against many experiments and agrees with what is known. It does not have any flaws.

        Most Christians, particularly Catholic, agree that the theory of evolution is factual and has strong evidential support.

        What you probably really was hoping to focus on is the whole how the world came to be – and how the first organisms on Earth came to be and so on – which could be explained through the process of abiogenesis (and I think I read somewhere scientists had managed to some sort of process like that in a lab but possibly not.)

        • Backdoor

          Can you explain how my use of the word “theory” is wrong? Even Wikipedia calls it the “theory of evolution” as in your comment suggests.

        • CouchKumara

          Many people assume that evolution is a fact and I support adaptation at a micro level but there is zero proof of macro evolution that turns one species into a completely different species, the fossil record should be teeming with supportive proof of this and it is silent. Most life appears to have come quickly into existence, i.e. the Cambrian Explosion and not at all as it has been theorized as slow and steady mutation and adaptation. Marco evolution has not been based of facts but on theory. It has never been observed in nature or by some experiment. Remember this is the evolution of one species to a completely new species. Name one species that has been observed to have evolved from another species and don’t mention stickleback fish, Darwin’s finches or Peppered moths. The fish is still a fish, the finch is still a Finch and the Moth is still a moth. Show me a fish that is now a bird or a rabbit and I’ll be impressed. Marco evolution to this day remains a theory and not a fact.

          • Frank Davis

            have a look at the great variety of dogs and figure that’s what men can do in a measly few thousand years then extrapolate that over millions of years of selective mutation in nature . It is purely a function of time and mankind simply cannot think in those terms as it is too close to unimaginable infinity

      • la la land

        even the pope has dismissed creationism…

  • Mikex

    Atheism needs proselytisers in the US. The vast majority there believe in a god and a majority don’t accept evolution as a scientific fact. If it wasnt for active atheists many schools would be teaching intelligent design in their science classes.
    We in NZ fortunately have a more secular based society, even so preaching religion has sneaked in at a number of schools.
    In my opinion ramming fantasy stories from the bible or the koran down the throats of impressionable children is a form of child abuse.

  • Rocket

    I do not care if god exists or not.
    It is the existence of religions that upset.
    Personally I see all religions on a spectrum from relatively harmless though to absolutely abhorrent.

  • I’m loving this debate, as i do most intelligent atheist/theist debate that doesn’t decend into name calling. It seems we have among commenters about a 50/50 mix, which is about right by the statistics nz website (they claim 34% have no faith). However I think much of the debate here has slipped off the message that Cam was trying to say into just the type of proselytizing he was arguing against. I’ve stated my position earlier today, i am an atheist, but i do not proselytize for it, i will make myself known as being one, but trying to dissuade someone from their faith is a cruel thing to do to somebody . Proselytizing is in itself the problem, whether it be for a religion, atheism, a political party or a cause.

    • JAFA Gazza

      Well said chap. Believe what you want…but let others believe what they want.

  • Nebman

    Hopefully this link posts – http://youtu.be/fCNvZqpa-7Q Tim Minchin’s song White wine in the Sun sums up both sides very eloquently I think.

    Well worth a listen if nothing else.

  • friardo

    What a lot of fuss about nothing. Not that i have anything against nothing, non existence has many merits but none worth extolling or damning.

  • david

    I find it hard to understand why anyone would believe there was a god, and in particular
    be convinced that something wonderful will happen to them when they die.
    But I agree entirely that proselytizing atheists are jerks. What people believe is up to them. Mind you if I was in America and my kids were being taught “intelligent design” or that dinosaurs were there on the Ark I might change my mind.

  • Lord_Montrose

    I was an Anglican because my mother was. When I was a teenager the church sent my sister and I to an Anglican conference. There were lots of bishops there in their impressive purple robes, and the food was wonderful.
    My sister and I were put in a discussion group headed by an enthusiastic girl who said “Why are we Anglicans?” The answer she wanted was “Because the Anglican religion is the only right one”. But the rest of us said “Because our parents are Anglican”. Enthusiastic girl tried hard to persuade us but we we wouldn’t budge. At that stage I gave up religion, having read the bible with some horror. My sister went on to marry a deeply religious Anglican who died after falling off a ladder, and my sister died of cancer. God didn’t seem to help them at all.

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