Dear Mr. Walker,
I don't know if I can express adequately what finding your web site has meant for me. Contemplating theism by myself in a void of other atheists was getting me nowhere. I did that for so long, I only recently thought of looking for other atheists on the internet. Having a place to share ideas intelligently and rationally with other atheists has added new perspective to my life. Your hard work and devotion are appreciated. Thank you.
Based on your writings, I believe I have more of a beef (tofu? I am a vegetarian, which is a whole other bigotry issue) with theism than you do. Inspired by recent events ("'Totalitarian Regimes': Are They 'Godless'?") to contemplate the nature of bigotry and theism, and bigotry and atheism, I am submitting my latest take on the relationship between them.
theist n : believer in god or gods
atheist n : one lacking a god belief
bigot n : one obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his own church, party, belief, or opinion
obstinate adj 1 : perversely adhering to an opinion, purpose, or course in spite of reason, arguments, or persuasion 2 : not easily subdued, remedied, or removed
All roses are flowers. Not all flowers are roses. All bigots are devoted to their own opinion (as a single term inclusive of church, party, belief, and opinion in the above definition.) Not all those devoted to their opinion are bigots. The salient aspect of being a bigot is being obstinate or intolerant. Either make you a bigot. Being a bigot does not require action. Bigotry is not writing a letter, making a speech, or erecting symbols. Bigotry exists in the mind.
Can a theist remain a theist and not be a bigot? I argue that is not reasonably possible.
To be considered rational in the observable physical world you have to play by the rules. One of the best descriptions I know of the application of these rules comes from a lecture given by Richard Feynman in 1964.
In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong.
Theists get the first step. They guess. Theists rarely get the second step, often failing to provide even an adequate and self-consistent model of a god much less what specific implications arise from its existence. If you think you have please reply to this. No theist has ever passed the third step once they complete the second and define a god, although some skip the second step and then claim to have passed the third (the Teleological argument for example). Again, if you think you have verifiable observable evidence of the existence of a self-consistent model of a god please reply. Adhering to the opinion that gods exist when no verifiable observable evidence is recorded in all of human history is perverse. Perversely adhering to an opinion is obstinate. Obstinate devotion to your own opinion is bigotry. All theists are bigots. A few are active in their bigotry and many are not. I liken them to a dangerous iceberg with the active bigots above the surface and the passive bigots below. However successful you are at observing, controlling, or eroding what's above the surface, it is the massive, silent support you really need to worry about.
Can an atheist be a bigot to theists? In terms of obstinacy, this is not testable. A god would have to exist and appear to an atheist with verifiable observable evidence that he/she/it is a god and the atheist would then have to continue to deny the existence of gods for that atheist to be called a bigot. In terms of intolerance, logic is shaky and may be inadequate on this point. One perspective is, strictly speaking, intolerance of bigotry make you a bigot because there is value to be found in the tolerance itself. For me, bigotry is a destructive force to be excised not tolerated. Therefore, in practical terms, with what we know today, it is not possible for an atheist to be a bigot to theists. No amount of devotion to atheism can make one a bigot.
-- Carey Sherrill
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Bigotry
Date: Sunday, January 14, 2001 4:49 AM
Can an atheist be a bigot to theists?
To me, if an atheist judges theists as an inferior class, that atheist is being a bigot. If an atheist approaches a theist and tries to dissuade that theist from being a theist, that atheist is committing bigotry. Thus, I only approach the preachers, the charlatans, and leave the rank and file believers alone -- unless their theism becomes a springboard or an excuse for dishonest behavior or exploitation, such as is described in the letter, "Two Varieties Of Religious Dishonesty."
People are people, and we're all in this boat together (although some people don't realize this). This is why we encourage atheists to accept the fact that most theists have (or think they have) valid reasons for believing that gods exist.
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
people with no reason to believe
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