Atheists Have Religion,
And Faith, Too
-- Faith In People!
After listening to Wendy on Bill Moyer's NOW on October 31, 2003, I am compelled to write to advise Wendy to not use language that suggests that atheists are without faith. Nearly all the atheists with whom I am familiar have faith -- in people! They are not without faith. And their faith is actually real, and quite courageous.
Wendy, please stop calling yourself a secularist; all people are sacred humanists, but few realize it. Surely you must be one, too. You will never be properly understood as a "secularist," and you may not even clearly understand yourself that way, either. Actually, nearly all normal people have a "religion." Most atheists have a religion, but it is without a proper name and a helpful identity. You are in a position to help people who describe themselves as atheist. (Actually, there should not be a word for atheism: instead, there should be "theists" and "sacred humanists.")
As an independent scolar and author preparing a series of books about the process of "realization" that includes that human life is about people, I have so much to say about this important step towards achieving human dignity and wisdom. The last of the six books in the series is about sacred humanism -- and yes, it is distinct from secularism and secular humanism.
I could see from the Moyer's interview that you are both well spoken and in a position of influence. Please contact me if you would like an exchange of ideas.
From: "Positive Atheism" <email@example.com>
To: "Larry Standley"
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: November 01, 2003 1:47 AM
I am compelled to write to advise Wendy ...
Who is Wendy?
Why should we be concerned with what she says?
We will respond to a few of your comments in a generalized discussion, but we will not allow ourselves or our organization to be held accountable for words we did not speak.
Nobody from Positive Atheism Magazine ever spoke in interview with Bill Moyers.
... to not use language that suggests that atheists are without faith. Nearly all the atheists with whom I am familiar have faith -- in people!
Knowingly or unknowingly, you are using a deception that is usually called "equivocation," a dodge which exploits the fact that the English language often gives numerous different meanings to a single word. With this ruse, the commentator takes a word (such as faith) which is given a specific meaning in the context of the conversation or commentary, and then switches gears midway during the presentation, giving the word a different definition than was previously accepted during the course of the conversation.
In fact, this particular form of Equivocation (giving multiple meanings to the word "faith") is so common in our Forum that in our FAQ write-up on Equivocation we use the very game you played here as our example!
Atheists are without faith. We lack the kind of faith in al'Lah that would bring to us social acceptance and civil rights in a Muslim country. We do not have saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Yes, many of us are loyal (faithful) to our mates. And most of us have confidence (faith) in humanity and democracy and many other things. This is normal, and warrants no comment in regards to anybody's theism or lack thereof; it is not part of the theistic-atheistic axis.
Most atheists have a religion, but it is without a proper name and a helpful identity. You are in a position to help people who describe themseaalves as atheist.
Why is it that so many religionists are so utterly eager to call atheists "religious" or to say that we have religion? This makes it sound as if you're trying to bring us down to your level. (I realize this is a crude and undignified way to say it, but that's exactly what it sounds like you're doing: trying to reduce our dignity as atheists by calling us theists in one sense or another.)
Positive Atheism Magazine
Eight years of service to people
with no reason to believe
Added November 24, 2003
Dear Cliff @ Positive Atheism,
It was brought to my attention that you posted my email of October 31st on your website, along with your reply and analysis. I realize now that as soon as I got your reply, I should have replied back to let you know that the email was intended not for Positive Atheism but for another site. I am still not sure how I got mixed up on the two. At any rate, I apologize for not doing that immediately. If you wish to have my words on your website, it is not a serious problem to me, but my original message was to a particular individual at another organization about comments she made in a particular context. What you have done is to seize upon my reply as if it were to you and your organization because you did not realize I had made a mistake. Honestly, I would rather not be on your website as you now have it because it is a misrepresentation. From your analysis of my original email, I can see you have no idea whatsoever what my ideas and opinions about atheism really are. Now that you do know the email was misdirected and misunderstood, if you were to choose to leave our exchange on your site, would that not be a form of equivocation? If you still want to leave our email exchange on your site, please add this explanatory email, otherwise I will feel like fodder for your particular cause. Thank you. Larry Standley
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Larry Standley"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: November 24, 2003 2:51 AM
I realize now that as soon as I got your reply, I should have replied back to let you know that the email was intended not for Positive Atheism but for another site.
That would have made you look flatulently pretentious, besides being unable to keep your feelings under wraps (not to mention having the tendency to reply without the benefit of a careful examination).
If you wish to have my words on your website, it is not a serious problem to me, but my original message was to a particular individual at another organization about comments she made in a particular context.
Thanks for giving me permission to publish that which was legally and morally submitted to me for publication.
If I wish to have your words on my web site, all that needs to happen is for you to send them to email@example.com. If George W. Bush were attempting to send sensitive information to John Paul II about his successes in funneling government money into the anti-choice movement, but inadvertently typed "firstname.lastname@example.org" instead of "email@example.com" (or whatever his secret e-mail address might be), then there would be nothing ol' George could do, morally or legally, to keep me from posting what he wrote.
As a journalist, it is my role to be an opportunist in that respect -- as much as I otherwise disdain opportunists and opportunism. But that's the way of this field of work, like it or not. If you still don't understand this, then read our "Guidelines for Submission" page, which has been with us, in various forms, for as long as we've been online.
What you have done is to seize upon my reply as if it were to you and your organization because you did not realize I had made a mistake.
Anybody who even tries to understand my Reply cannot help but notice that I had full knowledge that an oversight of some kind had occurred. But even though it turns out that the only copy was sent to the wrong organ, it was clearly to an organ nonetheless; there was nothing to indicate that it was private business and everything to suggest that it was for some organ's publication.
Many people write to (for example) The New York Times and send CC copies to others, including journals and journalists. Often these go out on the day of submission, with instructions not to publish until the addressee has had a chance to publish first. (Usually we already know better because we see the other journal's name in the "To:" field.) Other times the letter has already been published, and the copies, showing the date of publication, alert the others to its publication.
(Then there are those who take a look at what they just did and gasp, "Oh, my gosh! Look what I've done! I'd better think of a way to convince them to take this thing down!" We can fully depend upon this type to make a mistake and then shout at us as if the whole thing were our fault!)
What I did was take a written opinion and respond to it in a general way -- not as if it were written to us but merely as if it were simply "floating around," as they say. What clearly identifies me as a "Gen-X" journalist is the fact that I didn't even consider hiding the name, context, circumstances, etc., but instead used those as "dressing" to make the presentation that much more interesting or humorous, or whatever.
Read it again and see.
Now that you do know the email was misdirected and misunderstood, if you were to choose to leave our exchange on your site, would that not be a form of equivocation?
Correct. I do know because I already did know, as is evident in my Reply. Again, read it again and see.
And correct again. It would not be a form of equivocation, as equivocation is the changing of definitions of words. What you are talking about is my knowingly taking a misdirected letter, mentioning that fact numerous times and in various ways in my reply, and using the letter nonetheless to make some important statements.
I fail to see how this could equal equivocation.
If you still want to leave our email exchange on your site, please add this explanatory email, otherwise I will feel like fodder for your particular cause.
In this sense, everybody who ever got their letter posted here is fodder for my particular cause. That's why I post their letters. I do not maintain this web site in order to promote bigotry against atheists; rather, I go to the expense and pain in an attempt to find ways to reduce it.
But would this justify my getting ultra-pedantic about it and placing a disclaimer on each letter?
Cliff: "This letter is fodder for my particular cause."
Readers: "Duh, Cliff! That's why we read them!"
I might as well post a disclaimer that says, "Warning: This is a web site! Don't get caught in one, even though that's precisely what webs are for!"
Positive Atheism Magazine
Eight years of service to people
with no reason to believe