A Response to Dan Reed

Sorry up front for no super awesome topic this week. I saw a good reply to a previous post and thought it’d make a great conversation piece. I have intentionally not fleshed out all the arguments here in hopes that it spurs those that like to discuss this topic into posting and generating more critical discussion. Enjoy!

Edit: How foolish of me not to include his response!

In regards to a quote from your blog post, “First Amendment – Seperation of Church and State”, “[what if] the non-Christian felt that this prohibited the free exercise of his non-religion?”

First of all, “non-Christian”, seriously? Why not non-Buddhist, or non-Islamic, or better yet, Atheist?

Secondly, if you’re going to use supporting documentation from Wikipedia….don’t….just…don’t.

It is my belief that any non-religion should in fact be considered a religion itself, especially considering that atheists commonly state that all other religions are false, and that only they hold the real truth. I also see many atheists going out of their way to put down the views of the religious, upholding only their views as morally superior….remind you of something? (Christian Fundamentalists by chance?)

It is sad that Atheists can’t spend more time being a support for their fellow, and less time attacking those that choose to have differing points of view.

Then again, in the sense of the word Religion I take this definition from wikipedia…just for you!! “A religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”

Atheism. “A set of beliefs concering the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.” -Check.
“Especially [but not solely] when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs” -Check. (see Atheists Prayer below..)

“Our brains, which art in our heads,
treasured be thy name.
Thy reasoning come.
Thy best you can do be done
on earth as it is.
Give us this day new
insight to help us resolve conflicts and
ease pain.
And lead us not
into supernatural explanations;
deliver us from denial of logic.
For thine is the kingdom of reason,
and even though thy powers are limited,
and you’re not always glorious
you are the best evolutionary adaptation
we have for helping this earth now and
forever and ever.
So be it.”

I am Agnostic if you were wondering, and all I know is that I don’t know. I do know on the other hand, that strict Atheists can be just as bad as Christian Fundamentalists, and if you think otherwise, you truly are a hypocrite. Stick with the expositional blog posts, less “watch me whine and cry because I’m not getting exactly what I want”.

-Dan Reed


You’re right, why not non-Buddhist or non-Muslim? I acknowledge that I do use one religion often, and I have repeatedly said on this blog that I will usually speak to Christianity because it is the one religion most of us that would read the blog are familiar with. So I take your point and agree, then ask you to read the posts with a bit more of a discerning eye.

The idea that you equate a “non-belief” in god as a religion shows just how much you have ignored the type of writing that has been here.  Let me put it to you this way, do you believe in Santa Clause? There are tons of kiddos that do, and they would have their world view shaken to its core if you came in on Christmas morning and yelled at him “There is no Santa and no toys for you!”  Now, does this mean you have a systematic belief system that you go through every day in an attempt to get rid of Santa? Do you go to bed at night and pray to the “not-Santa” entity? No, of course you don’t. You don’t believe in Santa because such a being is physically impossible, not because you hate the people that believe in him.  Furthermore, you would be forced to admit that a belief in Santa is harmful to a person that wants to get along in our society-imagine if your college classmates still believed in him! Now imagine they can vote!

I am not sure where you got the definition of atheism there because it seems an awful lot like someone who was trying to straw-man a point of view would do.  Atheism itself is not a religion, it is simply the position of non belief. Just like your position on Santa Clause, that doesn’t mean you “automatically” know exactly where all the toys come from. You may have a good idea based on your life experiences and the observation of parents buying their children the gifts.  This doesn’t mean that you belong to the religion of “non-Santa”, it means you have thought about it and come to your own conclusions.

Furthermore, now that I’m turning this into a blog post, I would argue that any moral theory that is grounded in reality and science is far superior to any kind of divine command morality that any person can concoct.  This leaves room for horrendous moral theories, however, none so horrendous as those that can be created from a religion.  In a truly cohesive, logical, and scientific morality that places Humanity above the individual there is no room for this kind of extremism that we see from religious fanatics.  The key is the rational part, we’re working on that:)

Also, as to your last paragraph, I consider agnosticism a form of atheism.

Atheist means “a” or “not” theist.  Even having the neutral position of not believing in a theist being makes you an atheism by definition. It does not mean you have a belief structure or morality or belief in super natural like the silly prayer you posted claims. I appreciate your post and I respect your position so far as you see fit to defend it, however, I would encourage you to do a bit more research and read some of the other posts and responses here. I think every argument you’ve brought up has been answered in previous posts and replies.

Sorry for being lazy this week on the post, but this got long winded. Hope it spurs more conversation:)

Jason K.

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9 comments on “A Response to Dan Reed

  1. Mark says:

    I would like to expound on that “atheist prayer.” I’m not sure where it was found but there is nothing an atheist would want to do less than pray!

    I also agree with Jason in that not believing in something does not constitute a religion.
    “A set of beliefs concering the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.” The definition of belief is “…a feeling of certainty that something exists, is true, or is good.” Theists have beliefs in these categories; some believe that Jesus rode dinosaurs, others believe that they will go to Heaven when they die. Atheists done deal in beliefs, we deal in facts or admit that we don’t know. Scientists have not yet discovered a cause for the universe, that does not mean that God did it or that we will never know. The nature of the universe is constantly being discovered and written in the laws of nature. A purpose requires conscience, therefore no purpose other than what humans do.

    As for the sentence about the supernatural beliefs, rituals, and morals. Atheism only means non-theism, nowhere are religious rituals or beliefs mentioned. Atheist don’t have a common set of morals, only what we think is good.

    It is inevitable that some beliefs are better than others, and that only one world view is correct. The correct one does not need to supernatural. Just because some atheists declare their beliefs in the same fashion as Christian fundamentalists does not mean they are religious.

  2. Jay says:

    Atheism. “A set of beliefs concering the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.” -Check.

    Not Check. Atheism is simply the absence of belief in a god. That is all. Nothing else necessarily follows. Acceptance of the theory of gravity, the germ theory of disease, the theory of evolution, etc. are their own separate claims. They stand and fall on their own merit. Hey, there are wacky atheists too, that accept some crazy bologna in addition to not believing in gods — look at raelians, objectivists and buddhists. And none of that necessarily follows from atheism as well. They are all consistent with atheism, but then so is secular humanism. While they are all consistent, NONE of them necessarily follow from atheism.

    “Especially [but not solely] when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs” -Check. (see Atheists Prayer below..)

    Not check — again. No action necessarily follows from atheism. It is simply the non acceptance of a claim about the existence of a god or gods. Yes, some atheists think religion is silly in addition to not believing in it, and they wrote a parody of the Our Father. So what? Sounds like that “prayer” is said to the person’s own brain/self instead of a supernatural being. Is any self-affirming phrase a prayer? Is Stuart Smalley praying when he says “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me”? Is the Little Engine that Could praying when it says “I think I can, I think I can”?

    Sorry, but there is no dogma or tenants to atheism. There is no atheist pope. There are no official prayers. There is no atheist bible. When I say “I am an atheist,” it is shorthand for “I do not accept the claims about a supernatural being.” That is all.

    • Dan Reed says:

      You are all absolutely right. However, there is one tenet that all atheists follow but do not acknowledge is that they have to argue their position. =)

  3. Dan Reed says:

    Thank you for your response. I didn’t intend to make you write another blog post! =) I call myself agnostic because there is one thing about Atheism that I cannot bring myself to do, and that is yelling at the kids and telling them Santa(as you put it) no longer exists… I have read many of the posts here and have really enjoyed many of them.

    The ones I do have a problem with are those that seem to have the sole purpose of attacking religion. I agree with many of the things you say, but what right do we have to sit on our throne and pronounce to those that believe in “Santa”, and in fact even use that as their crutch – that “Santa” does not exist? I know I won’t change anyones mind, but this is the problem I see in most Atheist rants today. Offer up the positive, be a support for other Atheists or even the curious believers, and explain the who, what, and why like you do in many of your posts. What is that saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”? It seems to me that Atheists are always trying to persuade people – maybe it is just me. I know it can be easier to persuade people using flattery and polite arguments instead of taking a more confrontational approach, and more often than not coming across as conceited.

    It is my belief that we as human beings are going through an awakening….at least I did. I do know that more and more people are shedding the crutch, and many of those shedding that crutch may still need a helping hand, not a negative – bash all religion rhetoric in my opinion.

  4. Mark says:

    I completely agree with you Dan. I find it is very easy to get carried away blasting religion without purpose.

  5. jastiger says:

    I appriciate your response Dan! However, you ask what authority do we have to criticize those that believe in religion? Well as the writer of the blog here and as an obviously somewhat militant atheist, I’ll tell you!

    The moral high ground that I claim is the grounds of reason and reality. If we let kids believe in Santa Clause for their entire lives and NEVER told them different, wouldn’t we be immoral? The kid can learn, he can know better, but his friends and family continue to let him believe in Santa Clause because “it feels good”. That is immoral because the kid will grow up to be not only socially stigmatized but far more likely to be bamboozled and taken advantage of. His world view will shrink to what he thinks and nothing else if he applied his Santa Clause logic to life. Basically, allowing people to believe in silly things and do dangerous things in the name of those silly things is in itself harmful and wrong. By attempting to stop the things that are harmful and wrong for humanity, you gain moral high ground.

    Now, this is not to say that “only atheists can be moral”. It is instead to say “stopping people from believing in silly things is moral” and atheism does that. Just like a Christian or Muslim mother won’t let their kid stick their hand in a hot oven, we shouldn’t allow our children to do the equivolent with their minds.

    It isn’t about honey and vinegar its about improving the world that we live in.

    • Dan Reed says:

      And a world where religion suddenly left would be an improvement? Can you imagine all those people leaning on the crutch of religion suddenly finding it pulled out from underneath them? Also – we are not dealing with children, we are dealing with adults. You can tell them until you are blue in the face that there is no god, and that will not change their mind. To them it is a matter of faith. To you – a battle to be fought. How long before that fight becomes violent?

      This moral high ground you claim? Rubbish. You basically just defined atheism as “stopping people from believing in silly things”. You can’t force anyone to believe in silly things, well – you can but it won’t be pretty….

      • Jay says:

        “one thing about Atheism that I cannot bring myself to do, and that is yelling at the kids and telling them Santa(as you put it) no longer exists”
        1. I don’t see or hear any yelling. Requiring good evidence for claims of a supernatural being may seem harsh, but that’s only because the burden of proof is pretty hefty.
        2. Adults believe these things, and teach the kids that a god or gods are real. Age doesn’t have anything to do with this. Business leaders, politicians, teachers, etc believe or tell us they believe in a supernatural force.
        3. This is not as trivial as Santa. People don’t make laws about Santa’s rules, what Santa likes and doesn’t like. But laws ARE made solely on the basis of what is in certain holy books. Some also try to suppress ideas that are consistent with reality but inconsistent with their faith (we see this with evolution, sex education, etc).

        “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”
        — Is it rude or negative to tell the fly that he wasn’t eating honey in the first place? Is there a flattering way to tell him that he is currently eating dog poop?

        “And a world where religion suddenly left would be an improvement?
        — Maybe not, but a world where everyone was raised to only believe things with good reason might be an improvement.

        “Can you imagine all those people leaning on the crutch of religion suddenly finding it pulled out from underneath them?”
        — Yeah, might be hard to face reality. Does that make it OK to be complicit in lying? Dumbo could fly weather or not he had a “magic” feather. I’m of the opinion that, in general, it is always better to be truthful than not. I most certainly would rather always be told the truth than be lied to, no matter how harsh or how it might hurt my ego. I want to deal with reality on reality’s terms.

        “many of those shedding that crutch may still need a helping hand, not a negative – bash all religion rhetoric”
        — If you ask a bunch of atheists, many left religious ideas behind for a number of different reasons. For some, it may take logical arguments. For others it may take ridiculing an absurd belief. For others it may take a gentle talking to by a friend. For others, a different or combination of different angles might change their mind. I, like Mark, think there’s room for many different avenues. And if you want to find a certain one, you just have to look for it. For example, if you are looking for the helping hand, you could turn to Recovering Religionists. It’s a pretty positive support group for people leaving the faith. If you want to find point-by-point breakdowns of religious arguments, you can certainly find those. And if you want humorous ridicule religious tenets, those aren’t hard to find either.

  6. Mark says:

    I shouldn’t have said completely agree. I think a question we should ask ourselves is how can we most effectively convince people. Improving the world can be accomplished by different means. Sometimes criticizing is appropriate, other times, just showing that atheists/agnostics are also good people may work better. It all depends on the situation.

    For instance, extremists might deserve ridicule because their actions and ideas are dangerous and need to be removed. On the other hand moderates can be taught that atheists and agnostics are nice people fully capable of living meaningful and fulfilling lives. In my opinion that would create a better public image of atheists/agnostics, which could go farther than simply stating that all theists are wrong. Of course there would still be room for debate about why atheism is better, its just a matter of what to do and when.

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