There have been some interesting debates recently in regard to the tactics Rational Response Squad (RRS) use. Some do not like the very “in your face” style that RRS use in ‘promoting’ atheism. Others, like myself, can see that various tactics are necessary in order to promote a point of view, whatever that point of view is. I don’t agree with everything that RRS says and does, however, I read their blogs and essays and find some of them very good, hence the link on my site. I also read a lot of other atheist blogs and don’t agree with everything they say, or the way they say it, either. Such is the diversity of life and views on everything, from religion, to sports, to cars, to whatever.

We can agree to disagree on some of the tactics used, but we (all atheists) need to remember that all that binds us together is no belief in god(s). The main aim, I see, is to reduce the power and influence religion has on everyone’s daily lives (separation of Church and State, conflicts between different religions, etc).

Which made me think – What do people want to happen to religion, I’d love to hear your views.

Co-incidentally I have recently started reading Daniel C. Dennett’s book ‘Breaking the Spell’. Dennett, like many others, is of the opinion that science can, and should, study religion. Like many others I am also of the opinion that religion should be held up to scientific, philosophical and general study and debate. Religion should not be above criticism when it is warranted.

In Dennett’s book he poses the question: “What do we know about the future of religion?”. Three of Dennett’s proposals are:

Religion is in its death throes… in which religion plays at most a ceremonial role.
Religions transform … into … creed less associations selling self help… … more like a sports fan.
Religion diminishes in prestige and visibility, rather like smoking…

I particularly like the last proposal and his analogy to smoking:

…it is tolerated, since there are those who say they can’t live without it, but it is discouraged, and teaching religion to impressionable young children is frowned upon in most societies and actually outlawed in others….

Where I live (and in most parts of Australia) smoking is banned in all indoor public places, in fact some local councils are looking at banning smoking in some outdoor public places. Advertising is banned in all media (though the movie industry has been clever/evil in promoting smoking) and cigarette packets carry health warnings. It has been proven that not only is smoking harmful to the user, but also to the innocent bystanders. It is getting to the stage where smoking is only permitted in the home or special places for smokers (it’s even banned in cars if children are on-board). Thus as much as possible, without actually banning it, smoking has been greatly limited and the impact on young impressionable people has been reduced.

I quite like the analogy between smoking and religion and would like religion to go the way of smoking. Where it used to be thought of a good idea, but has since proven to be not so, and also not necessary. It is still permitted but severely frowned upon if you try and inflict it on anyone else.


So what do you want to be the future for religion?

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12 Comments to “RRS, Breaking The Spell and Smoking”

  1. AV says:

    I also agree with Dennett’s third proposal, although I’m not sure that the smoking analogy works. A lot of people have quit smoking because of consciousness-raising about its deleterious health-effects, but the habit is also subject to severe restrictions (of necessity). In other words, there is an element of compulsion that needs to be factored into the equation when we consider the decline of smoking, and there are doubtless many smokers who object to this. I don’t think I’d be comfortable with a similar element of compulsion in the decline of religion: I want it to die a natural death (if die it must). Or at least to decline to a state in which it has the same level of social prestige as water divination and Tarot-reading.

    Basically I want us. as a society, perhaps as a species, to be able to have serious discussions about ethical, philosophical and scientific questions without somebody feeling the need to appeal to a sky-god.

  2. Ray says:

    I like the analogy to smoking (though as AV commented it may not be a perfect analogy. The parts I picked up on are the negative health consequences for both the smoker AND those around the smoker. Picture the child or close relative of a highly religious person, and the influence of one person’s religion (esp. a key figure person: parent, teacher, etc.) on those who, by reason of age or mental capacity, may have no way to block that influence.

    I would like to see religion given its proper place — the teachings can be relegated to the shelves to be studied with all the other creation myths and social studies materials or wherever else it may belong. The social, communal, emotional support features can be fulfilled by other community/societal means, imo, by adequate education about the role of science in understanding how life (and death) works. When people understand what’s going on, there is less risk for superstition and acquiescence to unreasonable beliefs.

    Don’t take the Taliban approach of blowing up and destroying everything you don’t personally agree with, of course. This method has never been effective in putting religion in its place.

  3. Frank Walton says:

    You have any idea who the RRS are? They are embarrassments to atheists. We even prove it in our blog on them:

    Bear in mind, neither Brian Cutler, Rook Hawkins, or Kelly have college degrees. Some of them even dropped out of high school. They are not academically trained!

  4. ozatheist says:

    In reply to Frank:

    Yes I have an idea who RRS are, that’s why I posted. I was active on some of the other blogs discussing their methods.

    I don’t think RRS are ‘embarrassments to atheists’, sure, not all atheists agree on some of their methods ( I don’t agree with everything they say or do, but then again I don’t agree with everything anyone else says or does), but they have had some success in getting the message across.

    You haven’t proved anything on your blog, quote mining only the bad comments from other sites, but none of the positive ones, doesn’t actually prove anything.

    I have not viewed any of your videos (to be fair, I don’t view anyones videos) because, thanks to Hel$tra, I do not have broadband. So I can’t comment on anything you may have in your videos.

    I also don’t have a ‘college degree’ and I don’t think you have to be academically trained to have a point of view on something. You also don’t need a degree to say something in a clear, concise and ‘educated’ manner, as evidenced not only by some of RRS’ essays and blogs but also by the many other atheist blogs on the net.

    methinks that RRS threaten your religious views, and that worries you?
    it’s also interesting how you copy RRS so much on all your different blogs?
    it’s also interesting how you, at first come across as some sort of atheist, that just doesn’t like the methods some atheist use, when you are just another Christian apologetic?

  5. AV says:

    Bear in mind, neither Brian Cutler, Rook Hawkins, or Kelly have college degrees. Some of them even dropped out of high school. They are not academically trained!

    Argumentum ad hominem

  6. Richard says:

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency produced one publication that said second-hand smoke was dangerous. No study since then has been able to demonstrate the veracity of that study, let alone repeat it. Nonetheless that first study has been echoed millions of times in the media, with additions to it that are matched only by additions of miracles and rules to the Bible by its various scribes.

    Given the impossibility of proving that one person’s smoking habit was the cause of his lung cancer. The link between smoking and lung cancer in smokers is drawn from the statistical correlations of demographics, not from direct cause and effect analysis.

    I consider all laws against smoking to be a violation of individual rights that is far more dangerous to our children than smoking itself. Such laws destroy the very important social structure that made America the one nation on Earth where men were able to dramatically increase human longevity and happiness. Now both are waning.

  7. Paul says:

    I’d rather not see compulsion used as a means to discourage religion. It would only make martyrs.

  8. Cricket tragic says:

    Richard, can you possibly be serious?

    Ultimately it does not matter to me if second-hand smoke is dangerous to my health; I don’t want to breathe it because it smells disgusting. This is no different to me than if I were standing next to you and you hadn’t had a shower in the last twelve hours. I don’t want to smell it. This alone, for me, justifies the laws against people perpetrating their filthy habit in public.

    As for America being the only nation (and only the men apparently, please spare me the crap) to dramatically increase longevity and happiness, you really are joking now. You Americans need to get over yourselves, the rest of us are over you be assured. We could debate how you would formulate a test of happiness which would be valid across cultures, but I do like the measure used at the link below which looks at the number of healthy years of life people can expect. Health could be a relatively objective surrogate measure for happiness which could stand up across cultures. (Believe it or not, in some countries having a bigger car than the sad-act next door is not an indicator of happiness.) Admittedly it is a few years old now, but it is interesting to note that the USA comes in at number 24! By way of contrast, Australia is second behind Japan. This is hardly surprising given that Americans seem intent on eating themselves to death.

  9. arthurvandelay says:

    This alone, for me, justifies the laws against people perpetrating their filthy habit in public.

    Just to play devil’s advocate . . . are there laws (in Australia or America) against going about unwashed in public?

  10. @ delusional scumbag of the century
    1. My name is “Sapient”
    2. We all have high school degrees, more slander from you
    3. I hope when they garnish your wages after our successful lawsuit against you, you’re reminded of your slander and dishonesty for the rest of your life.

  11. Cricket tragic says:

    Hey Brian, my favourite garnish is that one where you make the tomato look like a rose; very clever, very pretty. It would look very nice next to my pay slip.

  12. briansapient says:

    Thanks for the nice article Oz.

    Read this blog to learn all about Frank Walton and his stalking ways:

    - Sapient

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