Clever, but I say it’d still be a waste of money as hardly anyone actually reads Bibles left in hotel rooms. And who would it be attempting to convince? Fundies? Not a chance. Who does that leave? A small percentage of people such an endeavour might effect. I still can’t find a justification for the cost and effort. I think modern atheists should concentrrate on getting through to the “we should tolerate religion” crowd. It’s this attitude that allows the follies of the religious mindset to continue to exist and thrive.
[quote author=“Dan Rowden”]I think modern atheists should concentrrate on getting through to the “we should tolerate religion” crowd. It’s this attitude that allows the follies of the religious mindset to continue to exist and thrive.
Couldn’t agree more, but the religious moderates seem just as hard to convince as the fundies. The moderates are the ones who say that Sam doesn’t depict religious as it REALLY is, i.e. moderate, kind, gentle, etc. That Sam is directing his argument at irrational folks who haven’t kept up with the times. The problem is that there are a shitload of those irrational folks. Religious moderates just gloss right over that. It slays me that Time and Newsweek have religion editors and sponsor discussions about (moderate) faith. They also regularly have the cover story on Jesus or the Bible or whatever. Ratzinger’s new biography of Jesus was in Newsweek in the same issue with the “gender” cover story.
Predictably, that cover story was greeted with cheers from most but a representative letter from someone who thumped the Bible and pointed out that God got things right when he originally created Adam and Eve, too.
What’s your suggestion for reaching moderates? Conversational intolerance is a good first step, I think…
[quote author=“made_maka”]What’s your suggestion for reaching moderates? Conversational intolerance is a good first step, I think…
Although Christianity and Islam had fundamentalist elements for many years, fundamentalism grew in popularity in the 20th century. Believers were terrified of modernity and social turmoil and fundamentalism offers a false sense of order and security. As I wrote in another thread, it’s the same motivation that leads people to believe in conspiracy theories.
Perhaps our challenge is to promote rational ways of dealing with such fears.
Well, I’m actually writing a book, tentatively titled “Beyond Atheism” in which I deal with the failures and weaknesses in the way in which the atheist and secular community address issues of how to relate to and “undermine” the delusional aspects of the religious mentality. One of the problems is that we all too often don’t set a very good example in some areas and make hypocrites of ourselves in the course of our criticism of the religious. As an example of this I recently say a video debate between that dolt Kirk Cameron and his trusty Pastor off-sider and a couple of members of Rational Responders (who I find somewhat lame and crass in a typical snot-nosed college way). Near the end of one them made the point about the habit of compartmentalization - that the religious apply reason in certain parts of their lives but not when it comes to their faith-based beliefs. That point is fair enough of itself; it’s obviously true. However, the problem is that the speaker is guilty of that too. I’m sure there are areas of her life which she protects from the glare of rational analysis and philosophic critique (e.g. all her emotional attachment, her love life etc). I suspect she would even go so far as to mount an argument that certain things ought be immune to such analysis. But if we adopt that kind of attitude and that kind of “as I say not as I do” behaviour, we lose the power of our point. We have to be consistent with respect to the folly of compartmentalization. We have to get serious, as serious as any philosopher, about uncovering the truth about every aspect of our lives and existence, otherwise we are left making what amounts to an aesthetic argument about religious belief and compartmentalizing.
Also, atheists have to do much better at addressing the psychology of religion instead of being more or less dismissive of it. For example, there’s a lot that needs to be said about the difference between the spiritual impulse and the religious impulse and the battle that tends to be fought between them in each individual. The spiritual impulse is something to be encouraged and nurtured because it is essentially that which gives rise to all the basic questions of philosophy. It’s the religious impulse that fucks things up and derails the potential of the spiritual. I get sick and tired of hearing about how “religious” Einstein was. He was nothing of the sort. People who make this statement have no comprehension of those impulses of which I speak and their differences. Einstein’s spiritual impulse was alive and well, but he had no religious impulse at all (or not much of one). What do I mean by “spiritual impulse”? Simply the personal feeling of connection to the universe and the questions that naturally arise about the exact nature of that connection…. etc. It is, really, a very rational impulse, though mixed with certain emotional and aesthetic elements.
Anyway, this will be a strong theme in my book. I do think atheists and the secular community in general need to get a better grasp of the psychology of what they’re dealing with, because that’s the area in which they will be able to more effectively speak to the so-called “moderates”. Such people don’t need to hear arguments about God’s non-existence or about the obviousness of evolution - they all know those arguments. They need to know that the psychological elements of their religiosity can be more than satisfactorily a) shown to be detrimental to them, and b) replaced with a saner set of outlooks.
Imagine yourself a motel owner in a town like Palm Springs, where the ‘Spring Break’ party-goers congregate. You might find yourself taking Gideon out of the drawer and putting it in a more obvious place, or you might go to a Catholic Supply store and get a bunch of crucifixes to tack up in all the rooms - anything to try and save your premises from the drunken carrousing that is about to descend on your property.
On another tack, fundamentalists these days are more likely to turn on a TV Bible rant, Benny Hinn, or the like, before getting the Gideon Out. Intellectual moderates are more likely to watch a nature program on PBS or the Discovery Channel, especially if they have kids with them, than getting out the Bible, or Letter to a Christian Nation. Interesting that all the good nature shows about evolution, archeology, physics, biology, astronomy, make no dent in Fundy’s brain - let alone Sam Harris’s clear expose.
If every tenth motel customer was a fundy, which seems a reasonable guess, I think they (every tenth motel guest) would simply look for the Harris book and throw it away - doing their part for God - their part in foiling the devil. Luckily, although they can personally ignore it, or tune it out, they can’t stop the steady flow of science and reason appearing in the media as a whole, and they can’t foil the success of societies, like many European countries, that are happier, more prosperous, greener, healthier, better educated, better managed, have better transportation, than our plodding, gridlocked theocracy - - - societies where hotel rooms and B&Bs; are much less likely to be trashed than in America the Beautiful.
Someone said something on this thread about the wisdom of not adopting the confrontational tactics of religious bigots - not ‘cornering’ religious people with reasonable arguments vs their violent or ridiculous Bible stories etc. Recently I read a magazine review of the new popular ‘atheist books’, (Harris, Dawkins, and the others) and the writer mentioned the philospher, David Hume, and how he could present these same ideas in a more palatable form. A little sugar to help the medicine go down? If I’m not mistaken, I think there are more cartoons appearing in our magazines making light of Christian fallacies. This bears on Sam’s point that Religions have enjoyed an immunity from criticism long enough. Time to expose the unctuous rascals and their tricks for bilking the gullible.
Also, atheists have to do much better at addressing the psychology of religion instead of being more or less dismissive of it.
Dan, it seems clear to me as well that an effective escape route for people who feel trapped in religious ways is knowledge about the cognitive sciences—psychology in particular. When you start understanding how mental habits and ways originate, insightful change becomes possible, though I suspect for most people (such as it was for me at least), never easy. Unfortunately, we’re not really in the right thread.
I was interested in Dan Rowden’s post, and homunculus’ response. I agree that this would make a good independent topic.
Another thought on the idea of leaving copies of ‘Letter to a Christian Nation’ in motel rooms, is that motel maids are probably instructed to remove any items left by guests, especially anything like advertising material, political or religious proselytyzing etc.
As has been said, motel owners probably allow Gideon Bibles to be left in a drawer as a kind of talisman, to try and help protect their property from theft, vandalism, trashing etc. Public Television recently aired an Elvis special - and there he was wailing gospel songs, sweating profusely with showman’s emotion and the ‘sincerity’ of his faith, the audience rapt and near tears - yet we know that he fired a gun in his motel room (shooting the TV) and probably trashed his rooms on a regular basis. It would be interesting to monitor the motel/hotel rooms of famous people after they checked out, and see what the score was - Christians vs atheists. (the score for neatness, respect for other people’s property, and the task of the maids who clean the rooms.
Incarceration institutions hold a lot of people who are searching for a way to rationalize life. And so, religion is the answer. And, in the early days of Christiandom, the jails were places of many conversions. Recently, in the past decades, Islam has made considerable strides among American blacks.
Now, I agree, theist religions are flawed!!!
But, if humanists were to put together some literature pamphlits and actually enter the jails as ‘ministers,’ perhaps, things may progress in a positve manner.