Atheists Crying Wolf, Part 2

This is the second post in a series addressing common complaints of so-called “anti-atheist bigotry,” as characterized by atheist blogger Alonzo Fyfe:

(2 & 3) Next we have two familiar bones of liberal contention: “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” on our currency. Fyfe argues that these are unjust and demeaning to atheists by implying they cannot be good Americans.

In
Part 1, I explained how God was vital to America’s founding principles. The nation also has a long tradition of turning to God in times of crisis and recognizing His hand in the course of history, such as Abraham Lincoln’s speculation that the terrible devastation of the Civil War was divine punishment for slavery, and his declaration that the United States’ “new birth of freedom” would come “under God.” Even the scientifically-minded Benjamin Franklin argued:

I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

This is the true motivation behind “Under God” and “In God We Trust”: first, to remind the people of America’s philosophical roots to preserve the sacred status of individual liberty; and second, to honor this tradition and keep it alive in the hopes that God will continue to steer us through troubled waters and bestow His blessings upon the land.

To infer from these phrases a malicious intent to ostracize atheist citizens and impugn their love of country is fantasy, and smacks of paranoia. (This is not to say nobody wishes to denigrate atheists, or tries to do so via these phrases. But to take individual examples of intolerance and extrapolate from them conclusions about all, or even most, people who support them is a classic logical fallacy that indicates either weak thinking or rank demagoguery.)

Admittedly, this conclusion begs two questions: (1) What about the offense some atheists take at the implications, even if they are unintentional? (2) Just because something is tradition doesn’t make it right, so why does tradition matter in this case?

(1) Does the Pledge of Allegiance impugn the patriotism of atheists? Does it imply that “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” is an all-or-nothing deal, that rejecting God means rejecting the rest? No—it is a matter of historical record that America is “one nation under God.” Granted, nobody should expect atheists to say the country is literally under “God” in the sense of an omnipotent being who created and surveys the universe. However, there is no reason an intellectually-honest atheist cannot acknowledge that our society is under “God” in the sense of a set of philosophical assumptions about the source of human rights, reflected in our founding documents and the men who wrote them and fought for them. Likewise, “In God We Trust” was true of our Framers, and has been true of the overwhelming majority of Americans who have lived throughout our history. True, atheists don’t trust in God, but frankly, it isn’t a case of the nation not valuing atheists, but of atheists not valuing a particular element of the American fabric. As long as we’re the same nation we were in 1776, atheists should resign themselves to the fact that they’ve chosen a worldview that is, in part, simply incompatible with their nation’s identity. Which leads us to…

(2) A nation’s identity isn’t automatically a good thing; why should the mere fact that something is tradition be persuasive? Alone, it shouldn’t be (a point jovially-yet-morbidly demonstrated in a line from
this song). But every society has a basic right to keep its foundations alive through ceremony and tradition, and as long as that foundation is sound (as I’ve argued the founding’s religious component is), the tradition should stand. It seems to me that, in order for one to advocate abandoning such a tradition, one must also argue that the foundational element it reflects is flawed, and should be rejected.
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13 thoughts on “Atheists Crying Wolf, Part 2

  1. <>This is the true motivation behind “Under God” and “In God We Trust”: first, to remind the people of America’s philosophical roots to preserve the sacred status of individual liberty<>The “sacred status of individual liberty” is not mentioned in the bible. It wasn’t until the writings of the renaissance free-thinkers that this “sacred status” was even argued to exist. You can attribute it to god, but you’d be denying the facts of history.<>and second, to honor this tradition and keep it alive in the hopes that God will continue to steer us through troubled waters and bestow His blessings upon the land. <>I honestly think I must be reading this wrong. Are you ACTUALLY saying that you can effect whether or not the creator of the universe “steers us through troubled waters and bestows his blessings upon the land” merely by putting a few words into the pledge? That’s the impression I get from your comment, but I can’t imagine that this is what you intended to convey.<>As long as we’re the same nation we were in 1776,<>Fortunatly, we’re not the same nation we were in 1776. It’s no longer legal for you to own a black man, for example. And women have the right to vote. If the picture on your blog is you then I can understand why you might want to go back to this. After all, a white middle-aged male had a lot of privledges back then. You could enslave blacks and no uppity women had any voice in government. But that doesn’t make it right, and most people are very happy we’ve progressed in the 2+ centuries since then.I respect our Founding Fathers. I think they were incredible men of insight and inspiration. And I will say this – they were VERY advanced FOR THEIR TIME. Which honestly is the best you can say about anyone. I’m sure I do something every day that I don’t even think about, but which will be viewed as horrid 200 years in the future. But I’m doing the best I can with the knowledge we have at present. So I admire these men, for being so ahead of their times. You, however, do not wish to be advanced for your time. You wish to regress to the understanding of morallity that we’d achieved 200 years ago. I cannot believe this is something the Founding Fathers would view kindly. If they held to the same ideals, they would have advocated a monarchy instead of a democratic republic of the people. Live their words, or live their legacy. You can’t do both, and I doubt they would want you to do the former.

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  2. “The ‘sacred status of individual liberty’ is not mentioned in the bible. It wasn’t until the writings of the renaissance free-thinkers that this ‘sacred status’ was even argued to exist”.The idea that all people are sacred and equal is a very simple inference from the teaching that all people were created in God’s image. The ramifications were obvious to the Framers. No offense, but I’ll have to go with their judgment over yours.No, I don’t think the inclusion of these words is enough to sway how God treats the country. What I meant was they remind the people saying them that God has blessed the America, and is not indifferent to what America does.“Fortunatly, we’re not the same nation we were in 1776.”Things about America change. The degree to which we respect and remember various aspects of our heritage changes. But at our core, we’re still the United States of America. We’re still under the same flag, the same Declaration of Independence, the same Constitution. “If the picture on your blog is you then I can understand why you might want to go back to this. After all, a white middle-aged male had a lot of privledges back then. You could enslave blacks and no uppity women had any voice in government.”Well, I didn’t know your were so repugnant as to insinuate, without the slightest hint of reason or evidence, that somebody might be a racist and misogynist. Thanks for demonstrating what kind of person you really are.“You wish to regress to the understanding of morallity that we’d achieved 200 years ago.”No, I simply agree with President Coolidge:“It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.”(http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Calvin_Coolidge's_Speech_on_the_Occasion_of_the_150th_Anniversary_of_the_Declaration_of_Independence)

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  3. Attempting to repost:<>The idea that all people are sacred and equal is a very simple inference from the teaching that all people were created in God’s image. The ramifications were obvious to the Framers. No offense, but I’ll have to go with their judgment over yours.<>It’s funny that no charecter mentioned in the bible seems to have made this simple inference. From the subjugation of women, premisibility of slavery, mass slaughter of other tribes, and divine right of kings to rule there doesn’t seem to be any inkling in the biblical world view that humans are, or even should be consider, equal. Have you bothered to read this book you base your life on?<>But at our core, we’re still the United States of America. We’re still under the same flag, the same Declaration of Independence, the same Constitution.<>Then why don’t we restore the pledge to how it was back before red-scare reactionists altered it? Trying to invoke the founding fathers to defend this dessicration is shooting yourself in the foot. They deliberately left god out of the constitution, were the first country in the world to do so, and caused a major scandal in doing so. That most of them were believers in private life should be an even greater testament to how important they thought it was to keep religion away from government.<>Well, I didn’t know your were so repugnant as to insinuate, without the slightest hint of reason or evidence, that somebody might be a racist and misogynist. Thanks for demonstrating what kind of person you really are.<>I’m glad you are disgusted, at least we have some common ground. I will assume from this statement that you agree that we (as a people) have managed to progress our understanding of morality and ethics over the years, and that we can continue to do so.<>No, I simply agree with President Coolidge<>I’d like to draw your attention that he specifically mentioned that there have been advances in some areas, and that there are only a few areas that he feels we’ve reached the apex of progress and any deviation from that will be regression – those being 1) all men are created equal, 2) and have inalienable rights,3) and government derives it’s powers from the consent of the governed.”He did not (at least in the section you quoted) say that we must infuse religion into every aspect of the government as you are trying to imply. Another case of this creative interpretation you claim not to engage in?

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  4. “Have you bothered to read this book you base your life on?”More so than you, I’d say.“Then why don’t we restore the pledge to how it was back before red-scare reactionists altered it?”Because it was a change for the better. Nobody’s saying “never change anything” here. (Oh, and when you use loaded terms like “red-scare reactionists,” you only betray your tenuous grasp of history.)“They deliberately left god out of the constitution, were the first country in the world to do so, and caused a major scandal in doing so.”The absence of religious references and/or religious regulations in the Constitution is irrelevant to what I’ve written.“That most of them were believers in private life should be an even greater testament to how important they thought it was to keep religion away from government.”Wow, your historical ignorance is stunning (public school?). Frankly, I don’t think you’re qualified to discuss this issue in any capacity.“…there are only a few areas that he feels we’ve reached the apex of progress and any deviation from that will be regression…all men are created equal, and have inalienable rights, and government derives it’s powers from the consent of the governed.”Of course. Those are the principles I was talking about. You just described the heart of the Revolution. We haven’t discovered any newer or better principles since then. Every subsequent civil rights battle in this country has been about the PRACITCAL APPLICATION OF the moral conclusions we reached back in 1776. For example, everybody knows the Founders were disgusted by slavery and wanted to end it, but it couldn’t simply be done with the stroke of a pen. Consider how people like Frederick Douglass & Martin Luther King didn’t demand a new promise of America, but that America honor the promise she already made during her founding. Or Lincoln’s observation that putting human equality in the Declaration was of no practical use in severing ties with Great Britain; he believed the Framers placed it there not for that reason, but for future use.“He did not (at least in the section you quoted) say that we must infuse religion into every aspect of the government as you are trying to imply. Another case of this creative interpretation you claim not to engage in?”Look who’s talking about “creative interpretation,” hypocrite! First, I quoted him strictly in response to your statement, “You wish to regress to the understanding of morallity that we’d achieved 200 years ago,” NOT about the religion argument. That was obvious.Much more importantly, to say I’m trying to imply “we must infuse religion into EVERY ASPECT of the government” is so totally, blatantly divorced from anything I’ve written that I can only assume one of two things:Either you’re just an unscrupulous liar and are saying whatever you think sounds good, truth value be damned. If that’s the case, then you really have no business opening your mouth about morality at all.The other possibility is that your own prejudices about faith and believers are seeping into your thought processes, biasing everything you hear and making you see what you want to see, rather than what’s actually there. If that’s the case, you’re committing the very mistake you accuse me and mine of.That was another of my points you misread—when I said “They make their arguements based on what they already believe, and then read into the scripture whatever supports their pre-existing beliefs. Therefore whatever the scriptures may say is, in fact, trivia, as it has no relation to what people actually believe” described Alonzo. You and he make your arguments based on what you already believe, and then read into things whatever supports your pre-existing beliefs. You took the second sentence, but ignored the first.Prejudice, subjectivity and fanaticism are never good, but they’re especially bad when they come in the name of reason and objectivity.I’ll admit that the crap you’ve pulled in these debates has ticked me off, but I don’t feel anger now; just pity. I hope you find a way to overcome it; until you do, it’s clear that further debate with you serves no other purpose.Goodbye, Eneasz.

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  5. OK, now that the heat of passion has subsided I must admit I’ve overstepped in a few cases, and I apologize. I also beg indulgence because quite frankly I’m starting to get some of these threads mixed together (I’m following several blogs at this point).<>“Then why don’t we restore the pledge to how it was back before red-scare reactionists altered it?”Because it was a change for the better. Nobody’s saying “never change anything” here. (Oh, and when you use loaded terms like “red-scare reactionists,” you only betray your tenuous grasp of history.)<>I’m not convinced that red-scare reactionists was hyperbole. It certainly wasn’t the only motivating factor, but it was a big one and I’m willing to say it was the dominant reason that this legislation was passed. However I will gladly and VEHEMENTLY argue with your statement that this change was “for the better.” The only way this could be for the better is if A) The christian god actually exists (which I view as an impossibility) and B) he would approve of such divisive language demonizing a substantial portion of the population (plausible, based on the OT, not at all based on the NT) and C) this blatent flattery could either convince him to protect us more (again, plausible based on the OT, much less so based on the NT) or could make Americans better citizens in general (disproved by empirical evidence). Seeing as A is impossible and I view the OT as a collection of quaint and bloody myths, I cannot agree that this was a change for the better in any way, shape, or form.<>“…there are only a few areas that he feels we’ve reached the apex of progress and any deviation from that will be regression…all men are created equal, and have inalienable rights, and government derives it’s powers from the consent of the governed.”Of course. Those are the principles I was talking about. You just described the heart of the Revolution. We haven’t discovered any newer or better principles since then. Every subsequent civil rights battle in this country has been about the PRACITCAL APPLICATION OF the moral conclusions we reached back in 1776.<>Seeing as you just said I described the heart of the Revolution, and that none of this is in any way dependant upon belief in a god, didn’t you just conceed the point?<>Much more importantly, to say I’m trying to imply “we must infuse religion into EVERY ASPECT of the government” is so totally, blatantly divorced from anything I’ve written<>Aren’t you argueing that infusing religion into the Pledge of Alligance and the National Motto are good and desirable things? Fine – that doesn’t include EVERY ASPECT of the government, but it is among the most fundamental and basic aspects which a lot of the others are derived from. It wasn’t a streach to extend this to “every aspect”, ESPECIALLY not when you consider the arguements of those who support these (which often can be paraphrased as “Everything in our society is based on god, so it should be represented in every aspect of governemnt!”).<>I’ll admit that the crap you’ve pulled in these debates has ticked me off, but I don’t feel anger now; just pity. I hope you find a way to overcome it; until you do, it’s clear that further debate with you serves no other purpose.<>I hope you change your mind. 🙂 I’ll admit as well that you also tick me off (should be obvious). But I enjoy these exchanges, possibly because they do spark such emotion. If you don’t want to continue I understand, I’ve abandoned more than a few debates with people I viewed as unreasonable and not worth the spike in blood-preasure. However I do consider you to be a far better opponent than most, you are obviously much more intelligent and well-read than the run-of-the-mill christian fundamentalist, and I respect you for it, even if I strongly disagree with your conclusions (even to the point of emotional outbursts)./flattery. 😉

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  6. Apology accepted, and I rescind my insults as well. Thanks for the kind words.I think it’s safe to say neither of us is going to convince the other about points A and B, but I’d like to see what empirical evidence you think disproves the idea that religion tends to make a populace more moral.“all men are created equal, and have inalienable rights, and government derives it’s powers from the consent of the governed…Seeing as you just said I described the heart of the Revolution, and that none of this is in any way dependant upon belief in a god, didn’t you just conceed the point?”Not at all. Even in that language, we see hints of the Framers’ religiosity. By whom/what are “all men created equal?” Why are their rights “inalienable?” The Declaration (and Locke’s writings on which it is based) posit that a Creator made us that way, and “endowed” us with our rights, and that they are alienable by neither man nor government because they were given to us something higher than both.“Fine – that doesn’t include EVERY ASPECT of the government, but it is among the most fundamental and basic aspects which a lot of the others are derived from. It wasn’t a streach to extend this to “every aspect…”I think there is a major difference between the presence of words on symbols and voluntary (I’m against forcing people to recite the Pledge, FWIW) ceremonial references on the one hand, and actually forcing people to partake in religious practices, or formulating public policy strictly “because God wants us to,” on the other.

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  7. <>but I’d like to see what empirical evidence you think disproves the idea that religion tends to make a populace more moral.<>Informally, there is the fact that 1800 years of religious-based society failed to make anyone who lived within it any more moral (see: slavery, brutality to “out-groups”, subjugation of women, extermination of those not of the majority religion, etc). Also the fact that the most religious societies currently on earth are also some of the least moral (Iran, Sudia Arabia, etc). Obviously you can argue that either A) it actually IS moral to do what they do or B) they just don’t have the RIGHT religion, but you can understand why I’d flatly reject both those claims.On a moral formal note, there is this study (http://www.virtue-politics.net/docs/paul_social-health.pdf) which correlates religiousity with social ills such as murder rate, teen pregnancy, and abortion rates. Obviously corrlation does not equal causation, and the major outlier in this set is the United States. There have been a LOT of interpretations of this study and discussions about what it may or may not imply. However, if nothing else, it demonstrates that increased religiousity does NOT result in increased social good (morality).On an extremely informal note, I assert that in the US the more religious you are, the more likely it is that you are opposed to equal rights for homosexual or trans-gender humans (no data for this, just anecdotal observation) and thus the more immoral you are (obviously I realize you’ll argue that this is not immoral, but you’re wrong).<>Not at all. Even in that language, we see hints of the Framers’ religiosity. By whom/what are “all men created equal?”<>If you’re asking me for an answer, I’d say by the fact that we’re all 99.9% genetically identical, since we’re all the same species. And that it is a GOOD bias to have, as it produces the best results for all members of our species. If you were to ask the Founding Fathers, all of them would certainly cite some sort of creator, whether it be a personal christian god or a deist entity who doesn’t even realize humans still exist (those views and all in between where present at the time). At this point in time a formal theory of how the universe could opperate without some magical creator did not yet exist, so it is completely fair to recognize that these men where advanced <>for their time<> even if they might have gotten the details wrong. Fortunatly their ideals and methods of thinking and discovering the truth survived their generation, and better ideas were presented in due time.<> Why are their rights “inalienable?” <>Because men fought and died to make them so. They certainly weren’t “inalienable” in the centuries of kings and emperors that were guided by religious texts. It was humans that made them “inalienable”, and they’ll only stay inalienable as long as humans continue to fight to keep them that way (I despair for our “inalienable” principles when I see the travisties in Gitmo and how no one seems to care. 😦 )<>The Declaration (and Locke’s writings on which it is based) posit that a Creator made us that way, and “endowed” us with our rights, and that they are alienable by neither man nor government because they were given to us something higher than both.<>This is a wonderful sentiment, and I wish it was phrased in such a way that people would be likely to fight to keep it true. Unfortunatley by describing these rights as something given by the Ulitimate Power In The Entire Dang Universe the Founders left an opening for apathy in the form of “Well… God will take care of it, since they are His princples and we don’t have to do any fighting ourselves to preserve them.” They made an error. Hopefully we can still fix this.BTW, if these actually WERE inalienable rights, wouldn’t God come down to make sure they weren’t ever alienated? Our rights are inalienable exactly to the extent that we fight to protect them. God has nothing to do with it.<>I think there is a major difference between the presence of words on symbols and voluntary (I’m against forcing people to recite the Pledge, FWIW) ceremonial references on the one hand, and actually forcing people to partake in religious practices, or formulating public policy strictly “because God wants us to,” on the other.<>You are mostly right, and I conceed the point. I overstepped. However I consider any claim that these references are merely “ceremonial” and have no effect of demonizing and dehumanizing atheists to be complete lies. Even if these actions do not create a theocracy on their own, they do help to make the way easier for any who would wish to do so, and to denigrate any loyal atheist citizens who serve their country.

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  8. *** Comment deleted and re-posted to fix lack of quotation marks. Sorry! ***“…1800 years of religious-based society failed to make anyone who lived within it any more moral (see: slavery, brutality to “out-groups”, subjugation of women, extermination of those not of the majority religion, etc).”The evils that often get assigned to religion were by no means unique to Jewish or Christian culture. They’re universal evils that have transcended every society. Admittedly, religious cultures have partaken in them, but I would argue that the spread of Judeo-Christian values has been the major agent in elevating the West above them. It sure as heck wasn’t the ideas we got from Rome or Greece—these cultures had valuable insights on popular government, logic, and the natural sciences; not so much on the morality front (see: Aristotle’s defense of both slavery and the concept of human IN-equality, the coliseum as entertainment, leaving babies to die on mountains, etc).For more, see Chapters 5-7 and 18 of Dinesh D’Souza’s “What’s So Great about Christianity” and Dennis Prager’s series of “The Case for Judeo-Christian Values” columns: http://dennisprager.townhall.com/columnists/DennisPrager/2005 “Also the fact that the most religious societies currently on earth are also some of the least moral (Iran, Sudia Arabia, etc). Obviously you can argue that either A) it actually IS moral to do what they do or B) they just don’t have the RIGHT religion, but you can understand why I’d flatly reject both those claims.”Well, you’re not gonna find a defense of Islam here. Obviously, “religion” in the broadest, most abstract sense is meaningless. For the most part, I think it’s pretty clear that those of us on the religious right are talking specifically about the Western Judeo-Christian worldview when we use phrases like “religion” and “faith” in these conversations. (Another example of the value of context ;)…)“There have been a LOT of interpretations of this study and discussions about what it may or may not imply. However, if nothing else, it demonstrates that increased religiousity does NOT result in increased social good (morality)”On the other hand, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that Americans “combine the notions of Christianity and liberty so intimately that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other…there are certain populations in Europe whose unbelief is only equaled by their ignorance and debasement; while in America, one of the freest and most enlightened nations in the world, the people fulfill with fervor all the outward duties of religion…there is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America…while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash or unjust.””…I assert that in the US the more religious you are, the more likely it is that you are opposed to equal rights for homosexual or trans-gender humans..”The homosexuality debate is a whole other issue, but in short, yes: I would argue that same-sex marriage and gay adoption do not constitute “rights,” and that the conservative position on these issues is not immoral. But I can play that card just as easily: I assert that the less religious you are, the more likely it is that you support abortion—and if that isn’t immoral, nothing is.“If you were to ask the Founding Fathers, all of them would certainly cite some sort of creator…”BINGO! That’s the crux of the matter at hand: what the Founding Fathers believed, what they founded America upon.To be honest, I’m not all that interested in rehashing the debate over the comparative merits of Judeo-Christian morality vs. desire utilitarianism, but if you want my opinions on the matter, I debated it in excruciating detail long ago with G-Man & Thayne in the comments section of this thread (http://rightcal.blogspot.com/2007/07/case-for-life-part-ii.html), which wrapped up in this post at G-Man’s: (http://thelockeronline.blogspot.com/2007/12/addressing-some-questions-from-last.html).”…the Founders left an opening for apathy in the form of ‘Well… God will take care of it, since they are His princples and we don’t have to do any fighting ourselves to preserve them.’…BTW, if these actually WERE inalienable rights, wouldn’t God come down to make sure they weren’t ever alienated?”True, in Christianity there’s a general sense that things will work out in the ultimate scheme of things, because of an afterlife that overshadows this imperfect, fallen world. But we are also called to act rightly in THIS world, and God has left the course of earthly history largely to free will.“Our rights are inalienable exactly to the extent that we fight to protect them. God has nothing to do with it.”No, our rights are SECURE to the extent we fight for them. Inalienability means, the degree to which they are absolutes, immune from compromise or rationalization. This is more ground I covered in the aforementioned desire utilitarianism debates.”However I consider any claim that these references are merely ‘ceremonial’ and have no effect of demonizing and dehumanizing atheists to be complete lies.”Sorry, but I can’t muster the same level of sympathy for claims of discrimination against ideas and philosophies that I muster for things like race or gender. There’s no obligation to treat all ideas as equally valid, or equally important to society. I would sum it up thusly: “Atheists, you are one of us, but you ascribe to certain ideas that aren’t.”

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  9. <>“…1800 years of religious-based society failed to make anyone who lived within it any more moral (see: slavery, brutality to “out-groups”, subjugation of women, extermination of those not of the majority religion, etc).” The evils that often get assigned to religion were by no means unique to Jewish or Christian culture. They’re universal evils that have transcended every society.<> You’ll get no arguement from me over this. I was pointing out that having religion (even Christianity (and please, don’t affix “judeo-” before it, it’s transparent dishonesty)) does not make a society more moral. Religion, at best, has no effect on the morality of any given nation. Don’t try to change the subject. <>I would argue that the spread of Judeo-Christian values has been the major agent in elevating the West above them.<> And that would be a very flimsy arguement indeed, based (very very strongly) upon human history, and also upon nations that exist right now (even if you take only christain nations in your sample set). <>For the most part, I think it’s pretty clear that those of us on the religious right are talking specifically about the Western Judeo-Christian worldview when we use phrases like “religion” and “faith” in these conversations.<> It’s only clear if the person on the religious right you’re talking to is a Christian. Those who are Muslim, or Hindu, or whatever, use phrases like “religion” and “faith” to mean their own religions. I will, however, accept that you are talking about christianity for our conversations now that you’ve clarified. And in response I submit that if you claim that your religion is better than any other religion that you are required to give some sort of reasonable evidence for this claim. Simply saying “because it’s my religion!” doesn’t cut it. <>On the other hand, Alexis de Tocqueville observed…<>(cut for brevity) In that case Alexis de Tocqueville is deluded. Those quoted lines were pure nationalist jingoism. Rather than mindless chants of “WE’RE NUMBER ONE!!!” would he like to provide some sort of evidence to back up his claims? Something like the Survey of Social Ills Across Prosperous Nations? <>The homosexuality debate … the conservative position on these issues is not immoral.<> It is, in fact, highly immoral. But we’ve covered all this ground before and I won’t rehash it. In 30 to 50 years the religious right will catch up with basic decency again and will loudly proclaim that their holy book supported the rights of homosexuals all along! (see the very slavery article you linked earlier for a stellar example of this). Of course by then they’ll be busy stopping the advancement of morality on some other front. <>I assert that the less religious you are, the more likely it is that you support abortion—and if that isn’t immoral, nothing is.<> I don’t “support abortion”, and no other decent human does either. So kindly stop spreading lies about us. I support abortion RIGHTS in certain circumstances. As does every other pro-choicer. As does almost everyone in America for that matter (ask anyone on the street if he would force his daughter to carry a child to term if she was raped and the birth would almost certainly mean death for both her and the child). Stop being an extremist, and stop trying to portray us as the polar-opposite extreme. <>“If you were to ask the Founding Fathers, all of them would certainly cite some sort of creator…” BINGO! That’s the crux of the matter at hand<> Actually it’s not. You already conceeded that the Founding Fathers (while advanced for their time and to be respected for that) were not perfect in every aspect and did get some things wrong. This is one of those things. If you wish to argue the facts of the matter (that being: if they were right or not about some sort of supernatural creator existing) I believe you’ll find you are losing badly in the evidence department. <>what the Founding Fathers believed, what they founded America upon<> Ah, again the naked assertion that they <>founded American upon<> relgion, when the exact opposite is true (please see: the Constitution). I’m amused that the religious right boldly spouts such a bald-faced lie, and appalled that so many people simply accept it without thinking. <>True, in Christianity there’s a general sense that things will work out in the ultimate scheme of things, because of an afterlife that overshadows this imperfect, fallen world. But we are also called to act rightly in THIS world, and God has left the course of earthly history largely to free will.<> Hey, it’s meaningless religious gobbledy-gook! Joy! The only meaningful response it deserves is mockery. <>There’s no obligation to treat all ideas as equally valid, or equally important to society.<> Very very true, nor would I ever ask you to do so. However if you recognize that some ideas are better than others (and some ideas are great and should be promoted, while others are repugnant and should be discarded), then you also admit that it is possible to discern which ideas are good and which are bad. For reasons already stated, it should be obvious that inserting “under god” into the pledge is bad. The arguement that “our god likes it better this way” is bankrupt, as you already conceeded when you attacked the Extremist Muslim justification for their acts (“our god likes it better this way”). The remaining arguements of “Well, many of our founding fathers were christians” and “It makes our society better” have both already been discredited (I hope) in this comments section. All that remains is naked bigotry, which I call a poor reason.

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  10. “…and please, don’t affix “judeo-” before it, it’s transparent dishonesty…”Now this claim is just weird. Though the theology is different, Judaism and Christianity are largely similar in terms of values (why, it’s almost as if they shared a whole Testament or something…). “Judeo-Christian” has always been a recognized descriptor of the value system. “Religion, at best, has no effect on the morality of any given nation.”And I would argue that you need a refresher course in Western history.“Don’t try to change the subject.”Umm…what?”And in response I submit that if you claim that your religion is better than any other religion that you are required to give some sort of reasonable evidence for this claim. Simply saying ‘because it’s my religion!’ doesn’t cut it.”OK, off the top of my head there’s the fact that Christian culture has modernized to an enormously greater degree than Muslim culture…and the fact that the US, a nation founded in significant part on Christian principles, was the freest, most forward nation of its time.”Those quoted lines were pure nationalist jingoism.”Jingoism? Uh…Tocqueville wasn’t an American. Nor was his famous work, “Democracy in America,” by any means devoid of criticisms of the US; there were plenty. But it’s still noteworthy that, amidst his critiques, he saw religion to be a blessing to the society. To challenges that one of the premier sociologists and historians of the past few centuries “back up his work” (Democracy in America would be a great summer read), I simply have to chuckle.“30 to 50 years the religious right will catch up with basic decency again and will loudly proclaim that their holy book supported the rights of homosexuals all along! (see the very slavery article you linked earlier for a stellar example of this). Of course by then they’ll be busy stopping the advancement of morality on some other front.”Either that, or we’ll have plunged into anarchy thanks to the secular Left. Should be a fun future. ”I don’t ‘support abortion’, and no other decent human does either. So kindly stop spreading lies about us. I support abortion RIGHTS in certain circumstances. As does every other pro-choicer. As does almost everyone in America for that matter (ask anyone on the street if he would force his daughter to carry a child to term if she was raped and the birth would almost certainly mean death for both her and the child).”Touched a nerve, did I? I love it when pro-choicers hyperventilate over semantics. Talk about “supporting abortion” to any sane person, and they’ll take the phrase to mean “supporting the legality of abortion” or “supporting to legal right to abort,” and they’ll recognize it doesn’t necessarily mean in EVERY circumstance, just as most people understand that people who call themselves pro-life often have exceptions, too.“Stop being an extremist.”If defending human rights against savagery earns the moniker “extremist,” I’ll wear it as a badge of honor, thank you very much. But my point stands: the more secular someone is, the more likely he is to support abortion’s legality in more circumstances.”Actually it’s not. You already conceeded that the Founding Fathers (while advanced for their time and to be respected for that) were not perfect in every aspect and did get some things wrong. This is one of those things. If you wish to argue the facts of the matter (that being: if they were right or not about some sort of supernatural creator existing) I believe you’ll find you are losing badly in the evidence department.”Of course what the Founding Fathers believed is the crux of the matter if we’re discussing the significance of these phrases. As to whether or not they were right, as I said in the body of the post: “It seems to me that, in order for one to advocate abandoning such a tradition, one must also argue that the foundational element it reflects is flawed, and should be rejected.” If you wanna take that case to the American people, go for it.”Ah, again the naked assertion that they founded American upon relgion, when the exact opposite is true (please see: the Constitution). I’m amused that the religious right boldly spouts such a bald-faced lie, and appalled that so many people simply accept it without thinking.”See, this is what I mean when I say you need a refresher course on history (I’ve taken the liberty of linking to a whole bunch of stuff that’ll get you started in the body of this post, and of Part 1).”The only meaningful response it deserves is mockery.”Funny, that’s increasingly how I find myself feeling about your responses. Sadly, it seems things are degenerating back to the vapidity, hyperbole, and talking in circles that characterized the first half of this debate. What a pity.

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  11. <>“Judeo-Christian” has always been a recognized descriptor of the value system.<>You need a more accurate definition of “always”. And I find it a strange value system that condemns the “Judeo” portion of it’s adherents to an eternity of torture.<>“Religion, at best, has no effect on the morality of any given nation.”And I would argue that you need a refresher course in Western history.<>I’d say you need to learn history from people that don’t make a living by lieing to others (priests). All of western history up until the Enlightenment puts lie to your claims. And let’s not forget that 30’s Germany was primarily Catholic and Lutheran, that didn’t seem to have any positive effect on their morality.<>OK, off the top of my head there’s the fact that Christian culture has modernized to an enormously greater degree than Muslim culture…and the fact that the US, a nation founded in significant part on Christian principles, was the freest, most forward nation of its time.<>Perhaps you’d explain what Christianity has to do with modernization? What you are praising is the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Sounds like christians are trying to co-opt the advances of secular society AGAIN. Next thing you know we’ll be hearing claims that it was christianity that was behind the civil & women’s rights movements.And at the risk of repeating myself, America was founded on the secular values of the Enlightenment, and literally was in direct opposition with the traditional values of christianity. This is getting ridiculous. I fully expect to hear in a few decades that it was actually christianity that discovered and popularized evolution.<>To challenges that one of the premier sociologists and historians of the past few centuries “back up his work” I simply have to chuckle.<>Bah, you’re right here, I flew off the handle. What I’m saying is that heaping praise on something you love has nothing to do with collecting data. And correct me if I’m wrong (I’ve never read the actual work, only summaries of it) but wasn’t his primary arguement that the cultural differences between America and Europe were due to land-ownership laws? Picking out statements in praise of his own religion in a book that mainly focused on economic factors could be considered decietful.<>Either that, or we’ll have plunged into anarchy thanks to the secular Left. Should be a fun future.<>Yes, those European nations are such a terrible place to live, what with their respect for justice, avoiding wars of aggression, and universal healthcare. I’d much rather live in a theocractic dictarship!<>Touched a nerve, did I?<>You’ve been touching nerves for a couple comments now, with your disregard for the truth, and I’m tired of letting it slide.<>I love it when pro-choicers hyperventilate over semantics.<>This coming from the guy who hyperventilates about semantics in a dead language. But let’s run with this….<>Talk about “supporting abortion” to any sane person, and they’ll take the phrase to mean “supporting the legality of abortion” or “supporting to legal right to abort,”<>That is exactly what I’m talking about as well. The legal right to abort under certain conditions.<>and they’ll recognize it doesn’t necessarily mean in EVERY circumstance, just as most people understand that people who call themselves pro-life often have exceptions, too.<>Are you implying you have exceptions too? You seem to be a big fan of ALL. I’m not intimately familiar with them, but from what I gather they are opposed to abortion at any time for any reason, including discouraging abortion for a 14-year-old rape victim. AND they consider birth-control to be abortion. This is something that “any sane person” would agree with??<>If defending human rights against savagery earns the moniker “extremist,” I’ll wear it as a badge of honor, thank you very much<>As well you should. But first you have to start actually defending human rights rather than supressing them.<>But my point stands: the more secular someone is, the more likely he is to support abortion’s legality in more circumstances.<>You caught me. I admit it. I WOULD support a 14-year-old rape victim’s right to get an abortion.<>Of course what the Founding Fathers believed is the crux of the matter if we’re discussing the significance of these phrases.<>Yet again I find myself repeating my own words: These phrases were not supported by the Founding Fathers. They were inserted long after they died, to demonize atheists. The Founding Fathers had the ability to put these words in. They were under a lot of pressure to put god into the constitution, often they were called atheists for refusing to, and heard dire predictions of god’s wrath. Yet they chose not to put in these phrases, or anything similar to them. If you try to invoke the Founding Fathers to support this travesty then you are shooting yourself in the foot. Stop lying about this nation’s founders.<>It seems to me that, in order for one to advocate abandoning such a tradition, one must also argue that the foundational element it reflects is flawed, and should be rejected.” If you wanna take that case to the American people, go for it.<>I do believe that the foundational element of hatred towards the non-religious is flawed, yes. And the men who wrote the constitution certainly seemed to agree. I am taking this case to the American people (as you’ll recall from Alonzo’s Pledge Project). It won’t be an easy fight, but a fight for human rights is one that is worth fighting.<>See, this is what I mean when I say you need a refresher course on history (I’ve taken the liberty of linking to a whole bunch of stuff that’ll get you started in the body of this post, and of Part 1).<>Sounds to me like you get your history from the pulpit. You should invest in a history book that doesn’t have promotion of propaganda as it’s primary goal. Let me guess… you get your news from Faux News as well?<>Sadly, it seems things are degenerating back to the vapidity, hyperbole, and talking in circles that characterized the first half of this debate. What a pity.<>Yes, this is going nowhere. It was fun while it lasted, and remember not to question your own beliefs too much. You wouldn’t want to upset them.

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  12. Folks, the latest round of posts were gonna be the last of Eneasz’s comments I published, but I found the self-righteous chest puffing, hypocrisy, and sheer stupidity of his latest offerings so entertaining, I just had to share it with y’all.The moral of the story? Patiently wading through debates with fanatic, poorly-educated clowns like Eneasz can be useful in that you can use them to diagram the numerous flaws in their thinking and conduct, but don’t expect to change their minds. Know when to prefer clarity to agreement, as Dennis Prager would say.It’s been fun, Eneasz!

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  13. Whoops, I forgot to put “severe illiteracy” to that run-down of Eneasz’s flaws. I’m STILL finding new areas where he flat-out doesn’t understand what I wrote.

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