Why Engage In
Long Debates With Morons?
Andrew Boyle

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Andrew Boyle"
Subject: Re:
Date: September 05, 2001 2:17 AM

I engage in long conversations for various reasons, depending on the moment.

Sometimes it's as simple as this being a very effective form of self-therapy. Sometimes it's something that I think some of the readers might enjoy, sometimes its something that I think some of the readers might benefit from. Sometimes I'm practicing either my delivery, my thinking skills, or my writing skills.

Sometimes I am doing what Anthony Burgess described when he spoke of reading the classic Freethinkers to try to purge what he called "the vestigial fear of Hell." Several times I've just been in a lot of pain and writing takes my mind off that, as does performing music.

Many times, I start off a response thinking that I'm just showcasing the depths to which some of these cretins will stoop in defending against criticism a dead philosophy that isn't even their own idea but is someone else's thinking. I showcase this behavior not only for the sake of the target audience, but also (perhaps) a few who are there, doing the same things themselves. Maybe one or two of them will see this behavior for what it is.

Often, I just cannot believe that some of these people are doing what they're doing! I just cannot fathom people doing this to themselves (or to me, when they're being abusive). This is more about the Twelve Steppers than the Christians, but both groups have produced some real dillies on our Forum.

At no time, though, am I trying to convince the clown on the other end of the dialogue of anything.

That is the one thing I have never done. It's not that they're beneath my contempt -- they aren't. I do not think of people that way. I am actually hoping for the best of everybody I deal with. However, I know better than to think that most of them are even capable of listening to me. Also, it is wrong for me to think that I can offer anything to them as far as recommending that they change their core outlook on life. I have no business telling somebody what to think or what not to believe. However, when somebody raises a challenge, I feel obligated to at least respond to the challenge.

So, if you want to think of this as a sport, of sorts, be my guest. I'll step into the ring and you can watch me duke it out with some of these people. It's fun, but I do it for me, and perhaps a few readers who might get something out of it.

Mostly, though, I wish I'd had even five of my Forum responses when I was in the thick of coming down from religion (or even while I was being enticed to join in the first place). If I'd had even the Zawadzki letter (which so many people hated but I still love), I could have avoided a lot of pain. I can make the case that my life expectancy might be greater if I'd had some of this stuff as a teenager.

If I can think that I've helped even one person adjust from the clutches of a faith-based outlook to a viewpoint centered in human Reason, then perhaps during those final moments when I realize that it's time, I will be able to know that I've done some good. I will be able to duck out of here knowing that I was able to develop and make available to others what I so dearly needed at one point in my life but was not there for me. Ideally, such individuals will never need to even appreciate what I've done for them, they will have so completely avoided the hell that I went through.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Andrew Boyle"
Subject: Re: Extended Dialouges
Date: September 06, 2001 7:15 AM

I get it mostly from Steppers, Christians, and agnostics, believe it or not.
 

Because we have a completely different meaning for the same letter sequence, we avoid using "positive atheism" to describe the insistence that no gods exist. The alternate, which we use frequently and discuss in our FAQ piece, "Introduction To Activistic Atheism," is "strong" atheism, which holds strongly, in the philosophical sense, that no gods exist, as opposed to "weak" atheism, which simply lacks a god belief for whatever reason (including being a "strong" atheist!). Thus, "weak" atheism is the entire set of atheists, and "strong" atheism is a subset of "weak" atheism. "Weak" atheism can also specifically refer to deliberately falling short of asserting that no gods exist.

As for dogmatic atheism, I refer you to my December, 1999, column, "Atheism and Fundamentalism." This describes a thinking style which transcends theism and can affect one's atheism. Most commonly, one who was a dogmatic theist who deconverts to atheism will retain the thinking style behind theism after rejecting the theism itself. I see this as no improvement at all, because it is at least possible to be happy as a fundamentalist theist because theism lends itself to fundamentalism. But I cannot picture a fundamentalist atheist being happy. It is possible
 

Christianity is indeed an enemy to be overcome -- not simply an enemy but in these parts Christianity is the enemy. We must be ever-watchful lest we ourselves fall prey to their wiles. And just as the skilled swimmer who is most at risk during a casual dip across the river, we "strong" atheists are, in my opinion, most at risk as far as losing our autonomy and our humanity to a religious conversion.

However, what little Liberty we do enjoy was hard won and can vanish in a puff of smoke from the faggot of the auto-da-fé. In order to increase the likelihood of us retaining what little Liberty we now enjoy, I will continue to insist that those who believe have valid reasons for believing the way they do, and I will continue to refuse to tell others how to run their lives -- particularly in matters of one's core world view.

I can console myself with compassion for them by remembering that when all is said and done, when it turns out that they have wasted their only-ever opportunity to exist by chasing shadows and browbeating their fellow humans into brutal submission to a wholly ghost and terrifying their only children with fearsome tales of wailing and gnashing of teeth -- after all this, death will be as if they had never existed in the first place. There will be nothing to remember and nothing to feel because there will be no nervous system with which to remember or feel anything. Thus, they will never have to face the fact that they wasted their only chance to live by asserting the truthfulness of an idea that they did not know was true -- and was not even their own idea to begin with, but was somebody else's idea altogether. I think having to be conscious of the fact that I had blown off my only opportunity to exist like this -- even if I had to realize it for only a moment -- would be much more excruciatingly painful than any worm-dieth-not Hell that any religionist has ever described to me.

If you want to write about home schooling, be my guest. I would appreciate a copy of the Time article, if not an e-text version from their web site (grab it now, before they pull it) then a clipping in the post office box will do. I do not watch commercial television, listen to commercial radio, or subscribe to commercial magazines or newspapers.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Andrew Boyle"
Subject: Re: Extended Dialouges
Date: September 07, 2001 12:24 PM

If you check the FAQ piece "Introduction To Activistic Atheism," you might see that I may have moderated my views on dogmatism and "strong" atheism a bit since 1999. Also, the piece "Two Questions From A Youth Minister" may have some more insight on related issues, and was written very recently. I'm sorry but acute lethargy is making it difficult for me to think right now or I'd be able to talk more about it. After a few hours of sleep I may do better.

I don't understand your question about commercial media. I don't accept advertisements because I loathe commercialism, particularly advertising.

If I can put a regular stamp on a less-than-one-ounce set of pages, folded and stapled, that costs $24. If I have to place it into an envelope at U.S. rates or mail to Mexico or Canada at Mex/Can rates, that costs $28 (for now). If it goes overseas at overseas rates, that's $32. If I can ship every other month, we can work something out, but I'd need to see what that would be because nobody has yet tried it.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Andrew Boyle"
Subject: Re: Extended Dialouges
Date: September 07, 2001 5:21 PM

I only have so much of an attention span. If I put too much of that stuff into my field of awareness, there tends not to be much room for my own thoughts -- or, it tends to influence me in ways I do not like. I'm not sure of which theory best describes what happens, but I still do not like it.

Also, the sheer arrogance of the commercialism gets to me: just who do they think we are, anyway? I mean, I was at the bar and the screen was silently watching us (or whatever) and this fellow was shopping around one of those huge "Depot"-type hardware stores. He goes over and checks out the display of crappers -- and then he looks around, pulls down his pants, and sits on one of them! Right there in the display! What the fuck!? In 1967 or so, they banned a Mamas and Papas album because there was a toilet on the cover, and in 1968, the Rolling Stones put one on theirs as a statement and they banned it, as well! Banned an album cover! I can see banning Blind Faith's cover with the nude 12-year-old on it, but what are they doing? I just don't like being treated like television treats its audience. I also don't like being lied to, and that's why I don't watch the news or read the newspaper.
 

There are any number of e-lists that you can subscribe to. If you already know the listmaster's bias, you can sort out the information and have a pretty good idea what's going on. By subscribing to all the separationist lists, I can keep up on most of what I need to know to do this work. The rest of what I do is not covered anywhere, and can only come from inside my head. However, most of what I know is not about current events but about the deeper matters -- stuff that comes from personal philosophical reflection.
 

Yup! Americans won't buy papers that tell them what their country is doing to the rest of the world. It upsets their complacent little sensitivities. They also don't like to be reminded that they're actually doing better than anybody ever has since the Big Bang.
 

You mean the ones you're talking about aren't tabloids!?
 

This has been going on for at least as long as I've been alive. Grab an old copy of the Woodstock album of film and listen to the banter between the Joan Baez tracks. She talks about how a number of anti-war protesters were rounded up during the Moon shot -- July 20, 1969, when everybody's eyes were focused in Neil Armstrong and his side-kick Buzz (as that Jefferson Airplane album cover so aptly put it).

This is still going on, but the motif has changed slightly (because of Joan Baez and a few others, perhaps). I think part of this fiasco about faith-based charities is to divert our attention so that they can get away with some slightly less controversial but infinitely more destructive shenanigans in the Defense Department. I mean, he is so absurdly out in left field with the faith-based thing that even he knows it will never fly. We know it will never fly. But we gotta fight it anyway -- and they know that! So while we're busy fighting this blatant affront, he's up there taking care of some things that are a little closer to being within the law and definitely having precedent.

Alas, since my business is to pay attention to the faith-based things, I cannot speak fluently to the other things!
 

Yeah, but look who patronizes the media!
 

You can only do it on a personal level. If enough of us can figure out how to develop our own information sources, we would do better, but to get away with that requires each person receiving the information to have a thorough education. And look who controls education, for the most part!
 

With PayPal, you need to belong to PayPal, but it's free. You can conceivably sign up, shuffle a little money into it, buy what you want, and then close your account. PayPal is like an additional bank account that's used for purchasing things over the Internet but it's also great for sending money overseas or to kids at college or in the military. You're limited to X amount of money over Y period of time or it's something like two percent for the transaction.

Remember, though, that I haven't figured out what it will cost to send to APO. If you're sure it's just regular postage as if I were sending to New York, and if it's okay to send a stack of pages folded and stapled, then go for it. If it doesn't work out, I'll let you know. I'll keep at least your amount in my PayPal until we're sure this is going to work (that is, until I've sent something and given it long enough to come back and it doesn't come back).

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

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