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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Atheism Revisited

Thanks to YouTube, here are some clips from recent episodes of the Paula Zahn Show that I referred to last week. Now you can see the broadcasts for yourself.

The first show (featuring no atheists) produced this debate. Thank goodness for Steven A Smith (who is primarily known as an excellent sports commentator.) Otherwise, this would have been a pure witchhunt.

After sparking a major controversy, CNN offered a follow up, featuring Ellen Johnson of American Atheists and some douchebag posing as a reverend. I'm shocked that the Reverend Jessie Lee Peterson is allowed to represent anyone anywhere. He should join Tim Hardaway in his hole somewhere.



At 2/22/2007 10:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh for God's sake... strike me down, I am an athiest.
True separation of church and state in this country should mean an acknowledgement of what 'church' is, whether it be Christiantity, Judiasm, Islam, Hinduism, Paganism, etal. Including athiemism. State should stand alone and whatever the hell one wants to worship/follow individually/privately is fine as long as it does not interfere with the rest of us in our ability to live our lives.

I am shooting off the hip here, reacting to so much scary stuff. Think I will cogitate and respond more later.

Still an atheist,


At 2/22/2007 11:54:00 PM, Blogger Jimmimoose said...

The thing that I'm most horrified by is the fact that Johnny referred to Steven A Smith as an excellent sports commentator in a venue in which many people reading him might not know that he's (hopefully, GOD I hope!) being facetious. That guy is ridiculously awful.

But I think, in the end, what this conflict essentially boils down to, in an odd fashion, is jealousy. I think that a lot of religious organizations react so negatively to Atheism and its goals and concerns specifically because our government is designed to benefit Atheism so much.

This isn't an intentional thing, I don't believe, Madison wasn't sitting around pondering how best to please the future disbelievers. But Atheism by its nature is expressly non-spiritual, and as such is entirely in conjunction with the idealized version of government that we believe in (whether that's really what our government is designed to look like/actually is is another debate for another time!).

My point is simply that Atheism bugs religious groups, but particularly Christian religious groups in the United States, specifically because they don't and basically can't suffer any restrictions under American law. Without a firm basis of orthodox belief, there can be no orthopraxis, no established practices for the people to indulge in. Since Atheism has no beliefs, it has no practices, and without practice, the government is powerless to restrict it. I think a number of Christians just wish they had the same thing going on.

At 2/23/2007 11:04:00 AM, Blogger John said...

Jimmi, I hope YOU are the one being facetious. First of all, I think Steven A. rocks. He's opinionated without being an asshole... which is exactly what I want in a commentator. If you don't like him, it's probably because you are a racist. ;)

And as for your theory that Christians are jealous of athiests because we get to walk around not being restricted in our practice by the government... bwahahahahaha. I don't see Christians being restricted in their practice at all. And where do you get off repeating the same old lies: "Atheism has no beliefs" or "Atheism by its nature is expressly non-spiritual". Those are blatant misrepresentations of atheism.

Ah, but I suspect you are baiting me. You are, after all, a master baiter.

At 2/24/2007 12:25:00 PM, Anonymous jimmimoose said...

Actually, no, I mean what I said here. I certainly don't mean to imply that Atheism is without a belief structure, that's not right at all. But it is lacking in dogma. There's no established canon of belief for Atheism in the same capacity that there is for traditional religions, particularly monotheistic ones. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all have certain behavior patterns that are dictated by historical and metaphysical justifications. They do certain things simply because they are told to do so. Atheists suffers under no such geis, but instead get to feel like they approach each question with a firmly rationalistic mindset, and can deduce the answers so that they suit themselves accordingly. There's a lot of versatility in that.

I certainly don't see Christianity as being particularly restricted throughout American society, either, but it's easy for the two of us to feel that way. The more important thing to note is that many many Christians, and in particular fundamentalist Christians, have a tremendously persecuted mentality. They feel that modernity is an aggressive attack on their belief structure, and that the secular government is at the forefront of that assault. Atheism suffers from no such institutional conflict, and that, I'd argue, is where the jealousy comes in a bit. I think mainstream Christians are angry that despite being in the majority population, their government seems to be more in alignment with a tiny fraction of the public interest.

That's all I'm saying. Oh, and I'm also saying, have you ever actually seen "Quite Frankly, with Steven A Smith?" This is a man that's given several sports blogs, including such prominents as Deadspin and Kissing Suzy Kolber, an almost endless stream of material with which to lambast him. All he does is shout at the camera and eat cheese doodles, Johnny! I mean, honestly, this guy makes the Best Damn Sports Show Period look pretty decent in comparison.

At 2/24/2007 12:27:00 PM, Anonymous jimmimoose said...

Oops, I didn't mean to say "public interest," just "public." Sorry bout that. I need to start proofreading more often.

At 2/24/2007 12:46:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Hmm... an elegant defense of your position. I admit I'm forced to reconsider.

Yes, fundamental Christianity does find itself persecuted by modernity. And modernity is personified by government (and probably even moreso by the media.) But as an atheist, I am constantly beseiged by media and governmental references to God and Jesus and Our Lord and the Heavenly Father and the Bible, etc. etc. etc. And not just in incidental ways. Christians have significant influence on many of our governmental policies.

I think any jealousy felt by Christians is misguided.

At 2/24/2007 12:48:00 PM, Blogger John said...

And I have watched Quite Frankly, and I find the opinions of Steven Smith far more informed and thoughtful than those of anyone on Best Damn. I don't think he "shouts at the camera" but he certainly does state his points forcefully. I think that's part of his charm. He's a master debator.

At 2/24/2007 01:10:00 PM, Blogger Jimmimoose said...

Oh, I'm not trying to defend Christianity, or say that they legitimately suffer from persecution in the name of modernity! I'm just saying that that's how they feel, from what I understand. I still think a lot of 'em are nutty than a fruitcake.

And if you like Steven A Smith, are you a big fan of Jim Rome? UGH! :-)

At 2/25/2007 02:20:00 PM, Blogger molly said...

This was eloquently written by Roisin Ingle of the Irish Times:

Believe it or not

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column about how I didn't have much faith in the major and minor religions and their associated beliefs. Some people were annoyed.

Some were offended. Some seem to believe their beliefs should be respected but don't believe the same respect should be afforded to those of us who hold what could be described as non-beliefs or alternative-beliefs. With the exception of a correspondent called Paul Daly, the response from Christians seemed to me to be mostly unChristian, which I've found is often the case.

In my column I said I was mellowing, that I was starting to care less about what other people believed, however unlikely I thought those beliefs to be. I was then accused of rubbishing people's sincerely held beliefs. And I have to put hand on heathen heart and agree that I did that. I just don't understand why anyone with sincerely held beliefs cares what I, or anyone else, thinks of their beliefs.

Believe what you like. Or don't believe. Believe that little children should be told what to believe. Believe only men can be priests and that sex outside marriage is a sin and that a woman should not have control over her own reproductive system. Believe the use of condoms, which prevent diseases and unwanted pregnancies, is wrong. Believe the church administration always did the right thing by the children of this country. Or don't believe.

Believe that divorce is a sin. Believe the world is only a few thousand years old. Believe the Vatican is entitled to treasures beyond our wildest dreams while 30,000 children die every day, every single day, around the world. Believe religions don't cause wars, people do. Or don't believe.

Believe what you like. Believe sinners will burn in hell. Believe homosexuality is wrong. Believe in holy wars. Believe Buddha was right when he said life is suffering. Believe what you like.

Believe that without organised religion, the world would be a more peaceful place in which to live. Believe women have always had a raw deal from male-administrated religions. Believe children shouldn't be brainwashed. Believe schools should be open to everyone. Believe in love. Believe, like John Wesley, in doing all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can. Believe in the Four Agreements. Or the Ten Commandments. Believe. Or don't. It's nobody's business but your own. If your beliefs or your non-beliefs are rubbished, just make like Jesus and turn the other cheek.

I'd like to come out of the spiritual closet now, mortifying as I know it will be. The truth is I have a sincerely held belief in a power, a spirit that lives inside each one of us, that is each one of us. I believe in one doctrine. Love. Yourself and each other. Just love. It's mortifying because it's a relatively new belief, as tender as the early days of a new relationship, as fragile as the snowdrops that have just appeared and just as beautiful.

I believe this power, this spirit, call it He or She or We, moves in mysterious ways. I believe that because I've been in full anti-religion mode recently it was arranged for me to have some thought-provoking encounters with religious individuals. At Daniel's christening last week the priest talked about chakras during what was the most informal, easy-going baptism I've experienced. His gentle manner made those heathens present see past all the bizarre trappings of the religion - that exorcism bit really is bizarre - and allowed us to be touched by the joy of our gathering together in order to officially welcome Daniel into the world. It wasn't particularly important that this was a Catholic ceremony. The message from the priest was about loving Daniel. Or that's how it seemed to us.

I have a sincerely held belief that He or She or We, wants us to celebrate life. Last week I was introduced to an inspirational young woman called Breda and she told me about the gospel choir mass in Gardiner Street every Sunday at 7.30pm, and so I went and felt the presence of the spirit inside me and inside everyone else packed into the church. And I ignored parts of the ritual that are part of someone else's belief, not mine. And I said my own prayers, the ones that make sense to me. So rubbish my belief. Or don't rubbish it. It's only love. It's all, it's everything, we have.

© 2007 The Irish Times


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