Thursday, September 02, 2010

James Lee, Discovery Headquarters Terrorist and Atheist

It appears that a some nutball atheist has committed an act of terrorism.

It is easy to imagine what would have appeared on atheist blogs if James Lee, who took hostages in the Discovery Channel headquarters, had issued demands that the station change its programming to provide more "creationist" or other fundamentalist religious programming.

A substantial number of atheist blogs would have then written posts saying, "See how evil religion is that it is responsible for stuff like this."

However, it seems that James Lee was an atheist - somebody quite convinced that, on Darwinian and Malthusian terms, we are sewing the seeds of our own destruction and who wanted to put an end to it. So, without any promise of an afterlife or a heavenly reward, he took matters into his own hands and performed a terrorist act.

So, instead of atheist sites blaming "religion" for this crime, we have theist sites blaming "Darwinism".

And how are the atheists going to respond to this accusation?

They are probably going to accuse those who want to blame all of atheism for this crime that the theists are guilty of making bigoted, derogatory overgenearlizations - that many atheists would never endorse and certainly never commit this type of act. Many would, in fact, use these derogatory overgeneralizations as proof of the immoral nature of religious people in general, that they cannot think straight about these issues and cast blame only on those who are guilty.

None of them will think of taking their response and holding it up as a mirrir where it reflects on their own writings on similar issues where somebody performs some act while ranting about "God".

As atheism becomes more and more common, more and more acts such as this will be put in atheist terms and fewer will be put into religious terms, simply because these types of people with these types of problems must borrow from the ideas that permeate their society.

If that society is substantially religious, then these type of people will wrap their acts in religious terms. If their society is mostly atheist, they will wrap their acts in atheist terms. At least, this is a quite plausible interpretation unless and until somebody can come up with proof that there is an actual cause-and-effect to be had.

But people are not waiting around for scientific proof of an established causes and effects. They are rushing past that step and going straight to, "Person performed acts of violence mentioned God/Darwin. This just proves the moral bankruptcy of all of religion/atheism."

So, let's say we give up this practice of blaming all of religion for every crime committed by somebody who mentions "God", and save our criticism for those people who blame all of atheism or Darwin for every crime committed by somebody who does not mention God?

10 comments:

Amanda said...

We should all stop blaming groups or labels for these things and blame only the person(s) responsible.

Regardless of anyone's beliefs, the individual made a choice to perform acts of...terrorism.

One person made a choice; not a group of people.

And that's true whether the person was atheist, Christian, Muslim, or Pastafarian.

Ketan said...

Perhaps, a distinction has to be made between whether a particular theist is a follower of a highly personal God who 'talks' to him on a daily basis, comes up with do's and dont's, OR is more like a deist God. Here, the problem lies in exalting one's personal God to the level of divine and thus considering his/her exhortations as unquestionable. This kind of personal God thus takes over the morality of the believer. And moreover, certain religious texts and leaders actually lay claim to being guides to morality, meaning, they tell what one should do and what not.

Contrast that with, scientific principles like Darwinism, which are merely means to try to understand the world better, they do not make such exhortations on morality. Moreover, such principles are not to be considered divine and much less, unquestionable.

So, I feel differences between the two situations are plenty for those who would like to see them.

Fletch said...

I have been discussing bigotry on a debate channel and I am a bit confused by the term. If I hate and am intolerant of immoral people am I a bigot? If I hate and am intolerant of bigots am I a bigot? It seems like bigotry can be a good thing.

Ron said...

Well, that was comparing apples to oranges. If a member of any organization with a professed set of common set of beliefs and standards commits a crime based on those beliefs and standards, it would be entirely appropriate to examine said beliefs and standards in terms of rationality and whether or not they would encourage such behavior.

An atheist does not have a professed set of common beliefs or standards in the arena of religion - to compare it seems to miss that point entirely. What, in fact, does this person believe in that caused him to act this way? There are many non-religious beliefs that also promote violence, and it appears he subscribes of these. There are many political beliefs that are non-religious in nature - it seems that the obvious has been missed.

I'm sure both he and I both share a lack of belief in unicorns, but to suggest that this lack of belief increases our propensity for violence would be equally silly.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Fletch

As I use the term "bigot" it is any person who makes an unwarranted, unsupported derogatory overgeneralization about a group of people.

Accurate generalizations are perfectly legitimate and do not count as "bigotry". But, one has to be able to back them up with true premises and valid inferences.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Ron

If a member of any organization with a professed set of common set of beliefs and standards commits a crime based on those beliefs and standards, it would be entirely appropriate to examine said beliefs and standards in terms of rationality and whether or not they would encourage such behavior.

Absolutely.

But it WOULD NOT be legitimate to condemn anybody who does not share those beliefs and standards.

People who believe, "At least one God probably or almost certainly exists" do not share a common set of beliefs and standards - so blaming all people who believe in God because one of them commits a crime is bigotry.

Ron said...

Alonzo,

"People who believe, "At least one God probably or almost certainly exists" do not share a common set of beliefs and standards"

It feels to me that I would interpret that as a strawman: the example you gave is too generalized.

Many believe, for example, in an afterlife, which is both irrational and without evidence and can (although it is not sufficient in itself) be used to devalue actual life on Earth. It is not bigotry to question a the rationality or consequences of a belief - although the theist demand that such beliefs be 'respected' and uncritised and intolerant of those that do not certainly would be.

The charge of bigotry is not synonymous with being the subject of critique with respect to ideas.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Ron:

Many believe, for example, in an afterlife, which is both irrational and without evidence and can (although it is not sufficient in itself) be used to devalue actual life on Earth.

I see nothing wrong with this statement. It fact, I agree with it. Not only does it not represent a bigoted statement, it isn't even false.

It is a perfect good well qualified statement.

It is not bigotry to question a the rationality or consequences of a belief - although the theist demand that such beliefs be 'respected' and uncritised and intolerant of those that do not certainly would be.

Yep. Again, I agree completely. It is not bigoted to question the rationality or consequences of a belief. I do it all the time. I got hundreds of blog posts that do exactly that.

And some of those blog posts protest against the idea that beliefs need to be "respected" and "uncriticized." I can't count the number of times I said versions of: "The right to freedom of belief/speech does not imply an immunity from criticism for what one beliefs/says."

The charge of bigotry is not synonymous with being the subject of critique with respect to ideas.

Again, I agree completely.

Bigotry involves making derogatory overgeneralizations about people and this denigrating people by accusing them of things of which they are innocent.

Ron said...

Well, then we agree :)

I then found the article a bit odd, as I don't interpret many atheist blogs as saying "see how evil religion is that it is responsible", I see them saying "see how the consequences of a belief in heaven can be evil - rational beliefs are better". I am cognizant and humble to the notion that we automatically overestimate the reasonableness of people who profess beliefs similar to our own, but in this case I do think it's an apples/orange case. It's a bit like comparing blogs attacking the lack of medical evidence for homeopathy with blogs attacking the lack of medical evidence for vaccines. One is correct, and one is incorrect, although both may be using the same language from a superficial perspective.

No specific examples were given, but in general the atheist blogs that blame religion have a rational basis to do so: they are discussing a formalized belief system, even if it is with generalizations. Theists blogs may do the same, but it is without a rational basis: an atheist does not denote a belief system (unlike, for example, the term "Mennonite" would).

In agreement :)

Ron

Anonymous said...

What would you call yourself? Atheist? If so, what do you mean when you call yourself that?