Sunday, August 30, 2009

Conversation Topic 03: Anti-Atheist and Anti-Theist Bigotry.

I am away from my blog for a couple of weeks. This is an experiment in posting some conversation topics while I am gone.

The two questions to answer relevant to the statement below is are:

• Is it true?

• Is it important?

(3) Anti-atheist bigotry is found whenever a person begins an argument with statements that are true about this or that atheist and then makes an unwarranted leap to generic conclusions about 'atheists'.

Anti-theist bigotry is found whenever a person begins an argument with statements that are true of this or that theist or this or that religion, and then makes an unwarranted lap to generic conclusions about 'religion'.


Luke said...

I think the meaning of such statements are often misinterpreted. Frequently, what one is doing is giving an example and then giving a demographic estimation based on other knowledge that may indeed be accurate, not making the argument that:

(1) Allen is an atheist and immoral.
(2) Therefore most atheists are immoral.

For example, I might tell a story about how a Christian believes in magic, and then remark that most Christians believe in magic. Of course, I did not mean the following:

(1) Judy is a Christian and believes in magic.
(2) Therefore most Christians believe in magic.

Rather, I know of poll data (which I did not mention) that demonstrates that the vast majority of Christians believe in magic, and I prefaced that with an illustrative example.

Cpt_Pineapple said...

I would say that both are accurate.

For example a racist would say this person of race did this like all people of race

Emu Sam said...

Luke, then I would be justified in asking for "Proof, please" to remind you that we might not be familiar with your poll.

Ways of recognizing bigotry is very important when it comes to pointing it out, condemning it, and thus reducing it.

Anonymous said...

The way this topic is presented ignores a significant aspect.
Frequently it's a theist who begins an argument with statements that are true of this or that theist or this or that religion, and then makes an unwarranted lap to generic conclusions about 'religion'.
Thus some Christians [or Muslims, etc.] say that, as they themselves believe in peace and goodwill to all men, all theist are peace lovers. And all too often they get a way with it.
For example in the current BBC radio series called 'The Atheist and the Bishop' this week A C Grayling let Bishop Richard Harries do just that in their discussion on values.

Cpt_Pineapple said...

Anonymous, that is irrelevant to the topic.

I don't think that is what Alonzo is saying.

It's about atheists doing to Theists and Theists doing it to atheists

The Will to Power said...

Until both the anti-atheists and the anti-theists are both required to introduce the same levels of evidence for each of their claims, it is a very untrue argument to reduce both situations to such equivalency.

Anti-theists make general conclusions about religion because it is quite easy to do so; theism commonly makes many of the same logical and evidentiary mistakes repeatedly ad nauseum. For example, theists commonly use scripture as a justificaiton for everything they have to say, whenever they are cornered by rational inquiry, despite the fact that anti-theists' entire argument is that such scripture is an insufficient and dubious source of facts. Thus, when one theist or one religion makes the mistake of relying on such scripture, and the anti-theist points out that this is a typical error of religious thinking, they are not being a bigot, by any definition of the term. They are simply reporting a widespread phenomena.

Anti-atheists, however, are typically the same theists who are described above, and are not required to present any evidence for the claims that they themselves advance. They usually know very few atheists, and because they cannot escape the prism of religious dogma and superstition, they cannot understand the atheistic way of viewing the world, and thus rely on preconceptions, logical and historical falsehoods and yes, bigotry.

Atheists are advancing a factual, logical and rational belief system, and are rampantly discriminated against in society for doing so without including religious myth into their worldview. Anti-theists are pushing back against this oppression and bigotry by identifying the logical and historical flaws in theistic belief, and some find it possible to draw a moral equivalence between the two? Such an equivalence is illusory and ignores key facts.

I discuss this double standard often here:

Emu Sam said...

Many theists do not quote scripture. You are generalizing from literalists and hypertheists to the run-of-the-mill, don't-know-if-they're-theist-unless-you-ask sort who may never try to defend their religion at all, may freely admit they are unsure about the reality and only stick with it because it's easier than admitting or becoming atheist, it's more pleasant to believe in a god, it's more pleasant to occasionally go to church and not think of it as a Dungeons and Dragons game.

Saying that all theists will not support an atheist's right to be free of religion is exactly what Alonzo referred to in his last sentence of this post. Coming to a false conclusion merely because it is easy is a form of intellectual laziness.

I do not know the proportion of theists who would quote scripture to prove a point unrelated to scripture. I do know it is not 100%.

The Will to Power said...

Emu Sam-

The entire problem with this criticism of generalizations is, a generalization implies that there will be outliers along the margins that do not fit into the general rule. A generalization is like an average; it represents the "norm" but not every possibility. Thus, as you correctly state, there are "theists" out there that are living in a perpetual state of self-denial, and who merely cling to their religious upbringing because it is easier than becoming an "official" atheist. But I wonder if it is even proper to call such people theists? Aren't people with this type of worldview actually nonbelievers, who are just living a lie? They kind of remind me of gay men or lesbians who refuse to accept reality and try to live a heterosexual life, in an attempt to deceive themselves. They aren't REALLY straight, they just pretend that they are. So I'm not sure it's a fair rebuttal to state that my example of scripture loving theists does not account for these people; there's a really good chance that these people aren't theists at all.

Whether or not a theist quotes scripture, theists who have religious identities (an extremely high percentage of theists) invariably end up referring to scripture when describing their beliefs, whether or not they can freely quote chapter and verse. Christians for example, might want to discuss Jesus. Since there is no actual, legitimate, non-interested historical record of the alleged life of Jesus outside of the various gospels, anything they tell you about him is derived solely from scripture, or interpretations thereof. Scripture is at the root of any religious belief or custom; after all, where else would they be getting this nonsense from?

Also, my discussion of scripture was a mere example. I could do this all day with theists. How about this virtual truism: theism exists as a result of beliefs formed upon insufficient evidence.

If we're going to describe "bigotry" as drawing general conclusions based upon large percentages or trends, then how could we ever describe the world we live in without being a so-called bigot? The world is not black and white; life exists as percentages, probabilities and trends. Mathematics is virtually the only area where absolute truth exists. The rest is varying shades of gray. Most "knowledge" we have about the world is a complex calculation of probabilities. For example, you state at the end of your comment that you don't know what percentage of religious people rely on scripture to prove points unrelated to scripture, but you know that it is not 100%. Well how would you even go about trying to determine that number without relying on generalizations based upon probabilities or trends? You would likely try to resolve this inquiry by consulting various studies, or surveys. But aren't such studies merely calculations of probability? They don't interview everybody for these studies; they ask questions to a "representative" sample, thus leaving the huge possibility that there will be individuals at the margins who do not conform to the study's findings. Under the definitions that we are dealing with for "bigotry," wouldn't that make every statistician a bigot?

Now, if we truly want to avoid "intellectual laziness" and try to add qualifying statements to every single thing you have to say, then you can have at it. I will leave such talking in the courtroom or the laboratory, where it really belongs. It's nearly impossible to have relationships and conversations with normal people in this world if you have to result to qualifying every single thing you say to take account for often minuscule exceptions to general rules. Regular people don't get it, and I would like to be able to have interactions with them as well. I for one have no problem with averages in every day life.

Emu Sam said...

The Will to Power,

You said, "For example, theists commonly use scripture as a justificaiton for everything they have to say, whenever they are cornered by rational inquiry...".

I think you are right that many if not most theists will use scripture or an interpretation of scripture during certain discussions. A survey could be taken. I think you are not right that the majority of theists will revert to scripture or interpretation whenever they are cornered. Many will move the goal posts, or admit they are wrong about that one thing, or become dogmatic without reference to their holy book. A survey could be taken about that, too - it might show I am wrong.

On second thought, I'm not comfortable making that statement about theists worldwide and across all religions. My guess is that a majority of Christians in America (Protestant, Catholic, and assorted Orthodx, plus perhaps other groups) do not fall back upon scripture under the circumstances you described in your first post. Again, this could be tested in scientific polls or even by putting people in such a circumstance to see if they do use scripture. Then we would know for sure. Such polls may exist already.

Bigotry is unreasonable and unevidenced generalization. Lawyers can argue all day about whether something is reasonable or not. Once a survey has been taken, some evidence exists. Whether it's reasonable to believe that survey is good evidence may be another matter.