Why Do Atheists Care About Religion?

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How does religion impinge upon each American's rights? This video should open your eyes to the ridiculous, backwards and utterly nonsensical laws that control our lives because of someone's religious beliefs.

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I must say, for a scientist, your intro to the video is remarkably unscientific. Although I largely agree with many of the sentiments in the video, I vehemently disagree with the use of appellations such as 'backwards' or 'ridiculous' with regards to religious beliefs. A well respected scientific approach to understanding the motivations of religious belief can be found in anthropologists and psychologists who study the evolution of religion. Check out http://evolution-of-religion.com/aims/ to get an idea of this.
Again, kneejerk reactions to religion does nothing to promote the cause of science.

"Again, kneejerk reactions to religion does nothing to promote the cause of science."

A kneejerk reaction? Would you care to explain how blue laws are not backward, nonsensical, or ridiculous?

As an unreligious (though not labeled) person, my gripe with religion in America is that too many see it as the root of morals. From there, many jump to the premise that one cannot be moral without religion and that their individual morals are correct.

For example, I am pro-choice (which is a linguistic difference from pro-abortion, for a reason). When my political leaders tell me that they are against abortion because human life is sacred, blessed, a gift from God or anything of the sort...I place mental bookmark to note vote for them.

Why? Because religion, morals and government are three different matters. Combining them indicates to me a leader that cannot compartmentalize and segregate a different between his own opinion and what may be best for his people. If we cannot seperate the opinion out of abortion, my hopes are lost that said leader would be able to seperate his opinion out of other matters, from state funding to farming.

When one elects to be elected to a role of public service, they need remember that their opinion is representative of a body of people--not just the thoughts in their head. A good leader makes a decision and places a vote against his personal opinion because he knows and trusts that it is best for the people he serves. A good leader also does this because he sees legal and illegal clearly. Tracing back to the prior abortion example, many tend to forget that most abortion 'laws' on the books have little to do with the physical act of abortion or God and are issues of privacy. If a politician cannot seperate his opinion from a matter mildly related to the bill at hand, I fear for his politic motives elsewhere.

Then again, I like to think government in this country aims to work for the people and not for the largest monetary supporter.

I agree with the points made in the video, but whoever made it should reread the quote from the PA constitution. It only says if you believe in God, you can't be disqualified from public office. It says nothing about atheists.

Bobbie (#4) - the Pennsylvania constitution says "No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office " (article 1, section 4). That pretty clearly implies that people who don't believe do not have the stated protection.

The North Carolina constitution is more explicit: "The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God" (article 6, section 8).

North Carolina is my home. In the last election, then-Senator Elizabeth Dole attacked her democratic challenger by smearing her as a "vile atheist." She ran TV ads showing pictures of the challenger with voice-overs saying "god doesn't exist" (which weren't quotes from the challenger at all). Fortunately Ms Dole lost. Sadly, the challenger (Kay Hagan) didn't have the guts to counter the ads by saying there's nothing vile about atheism. Her response was that she (Hagan) was in fact a good Christian.

The problem that I have with this video for the same reason I dislike PETA videos. It is very one sided. It seems that the narrator has only had interactions with religious people who are irrational and not at all tolerant. That is not how I perceive religion.

That being said, however, I think that the fundamentalist laws and regulations infringing on the rights of atheists are completely out of line, as is fundamentalist idea of creationism.

As a fellow scientist, I have no problem balancing my scientific research with my religion. I hope that you see it that way.

I never made it through the first minute.

Why do so many people add stupid music over voices that makes it harder to hear what's being said? The music doesn't add anything, and is not neutral: duh, all that'd left is doing harm.

It's as stupid as adding the Crazy Frog or dancing hamsters to narration.

By Snarly Old Fart (not verified) on 15 Nov 2009 #permalink

We are still grappling with traditions handed down to us from medieval times, when religion and governance of kingdoms and empires were closely intertwined. From Abraham, to Pharaohs, to Moses, to Constantine, and pre-Enlightenment Europe, western civilization has traditionally made religious authority a central part of governance.

Four hundred years later we still struggle with people whose mindset is influenced by that kind of thinking.

And to compound the issue, it isn't just Western society. Chinese Emperors cemented their authority by close cooperation with religious figureheads. Tibet, of course, stands as the most famous medieval governance system still in place. The Catholic Church, although no longer directly controlling a particular state, still wields vast influence to this day. The Mayans and Inca in Latin America did not separate religious authority from the state at all. This is why conversions were such an important part of Europeans conquering the New World. Whoever controlled religion controlled the state. It was that simple, because as soon as the local people converted to your religion, you could use that authority to impose your system of governance on them.

And that thinking still persists, in the USA (among MANY other countries, to be sure) to this day. The religious right believes that by asserting religious authority, they can get laws passed that force the society to live by their standards of governance. And it works to some degree even today.

And religious belief distorts judgment, there is no question about it. Severely. If the devotees of a Christian nation accept that Christianity should be the foundation of US governance, they should also see that an Islamic Caliphate, by their own reasoning, should be the proper form of governance for the entire Arab world.

They should be able to see that what they are trying to create is, in fact, a Christian caliphate. Exactly - a superstate based on interpretation of a religious text. By definition.

But they refuse to see that. This is because in their vision, they want to create a Christian caliphate, which then engages in a super-world-war with the Islamic caliphate that causes at least 2/3 destruction of the planet.

The purpose of organizing the planet into two opposing religions to blow it out with all their nukes is simply to fulfill their belief in an apocalypse.

In other words, they want to organize the world for the sheer purpose of materializing their religious beliefs.

I'm with the Grrl on this on - that is dangerous as hell. There's no two ways about it.

By the way, I am not an Atheist. I am not sure whether there's a god, but I realize two things: 1. my brain is only evolved to entertain certain dimensions of experience, so there's probably much of existence I don't comprehend, including where the existence came from, or how universes are formed, etc and 2. I can identify when people are reacting to creations in their own minds, which do not have anything to do with a real god, even if such a god does exist.

Trying to shape society for the purpose of fulfilling a distorted belief system has nothing to do with a real god, even if such exists.

That's easy to see to anyone who understands that beliefs are not reality, but are shaped by people responding to external stimulus from the realities they encounter.

Anyone who is emotionally mature enough to accept that what you believe may not necessarily be the truth about reality can see how religious beliefs affect society.

Unfortunately, there are still large swaths of humanity who are not able to make such a distinction.

And we are already paying a terrible price in terms of human suffering for failure to rise to that level of emotional and psychological maturity as a species.

@josh, #1:

Grrlscientist did not actually say that religious belief is "ridiculous" or "backwards" (though I suspect she believes it). What she [i]did[/i] write, if you actually parse the statement fully, is that the [b]laws[/b] based on religious belief are "ridiculous, backwards and utterly nonsensical" -- which is a statement I think even a lot of [i]religious[/i] people would agree with.

aaaaand I screwed up the tags. Bollocks.

okay, Snarly Old Fart, what exactly do you hate about dancing hamsters? you offend talented dancing hamsters everywhere.


Call me back when you begin to give a shit about the massive unconstitutional federal leviathan that suppresses the liberty and freedom of ordinary Americans on a daily basis, or when you begin to give a shit about our children being indoctrinated in radical environmentalism and faggotry in public schools, or when you begin to give a shit about the suppression of non left-wing speech on college campuses, etc.

By McVeigh was a … (not verified) on 15 Nov 2009 #permalink

I agree with everything said in the video. And the poster "McVeigh was a Patriot" is so far off the mark that it isn't funny.

As someone who is active in the fight for full equality (Particularly marriage equality) I enjoy knocking down the arguments of the bigots.

The music in the video sucks. It makes the narration harder to follow (not everybody is a native speaker with perfect hearing watching the movie in a quiet environment).

Of course I agree with the sentiments expressed in the movie. In my opinion every law that has anything to do with religion should be scratched or revised. Actually, I think we can even go as far as not really acknowledging that religion exists. Of course it's there, but in no way, shape or form should there be any special consideration for christians as opposed to for instance pastafarians, satanists or any other crackpot belief group. What you believe is your own business and nobody else should be forced to take it into account.

Such a system would not preclude churches from getting government funding as long as it is also possible to get funding for other social meeting groups. Laws against shopping on sunday (or another day), abortion etc. could still be passed as long as they are based on real arguments (not "my make-believe god-person says it's bad"). And if you want to wear a burqa or pray five times a day at work, people should be able to sort it out with their employer. The point being that everybody can still have their (religious) beliefs, but that religion itself should have no special status for the government or in society as a whole.

Thankfully I live in the UK, where atheism is considered a valid viewpoint (as are religious ones) I don't know what worries me most, Fundamental Islam, Fundamental Christianity (the end of days type funding fundamentalist judaism as well) or the fact they see themselves as doing "God's" work/will

Of course it is one sided, it is talking about how religion is used to impinge on rights. It is not arguing that all of religion is bad. It is more of an awareness thing about how there are laws imposed by some religious people telling others how to live.

Wow, I haven't seen an explicit pro-terrorist commenter on this blog in quite some time, "McVeigh was a Patriot".

If killing military personnel, law enforcement officers, and little children by blowing up a federal building deep in the US heartland was an act of capital-P patriotism, that makes radical environmentalist faggot dancing hamsters look pretty good, y'know?

MwaP, do America a favor: find yourself another country to be part of.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 16 Nov 2009 #permalink

This blog really does draw all types. I agree that there are a lot of idiotic laws based on religion. What is really interesting is that there are a lot of Christians who believe they are being discriminated against. There are several conflicting agendas at work with regard to religion in the US, both in legislation and in day to day life. None of them are the right course of action, in my opinion. Oddly enough, the only solution that will give equality (treating all religions, cults, atheist organizations, and the like the exact same, so long as they don't cause harm to either their adherents or the general public) will make no one happy.

By Aeiluindae (not verified) on 16 Nov 2009 #permalink

The video misreads the PA law. It says you can't be disqualified for believing in a God. Not that nonbelievers are disqualified.