I read all sorts of religious rebuttals online, but don’t normally waste my time responding. I thought I would to this one: 

ann_in_grace responded to a letter in her newspaper in which an agnostic had responded to an anti-abortionist letter. You can see the full transcript of the agnostic’s letter, and her response, here http://sveana.blogspot.com/2007/11/trying-to-understand.html.

I have responded to her commentary line-by-line, her comments are in italics, followed by my responses.

As she seems to confuse agnostics and atheists I’m going to use the term Non-Religious Person (NRP) to include agnostics, atheists, secular humanists, and any other person who is not religious. The letter was signed Heterosexual agnostic (HA) and then she has a go at atheists?

I feel very glad to see that agnostics care about religion, especially Christianity

Some NRPs ‘care’ about religion, in the way that you (I would hope) would ‘care’ about a serial rapist killer wandering your city. Some NRPs ‘care’ that religious dogma can have serious detrimental effects on society. Some NRPs are quite happy for people to be religious and ‘care’ about their freedom/rights to do so, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the NRP’s rights.

, even though they have no idea what they are talking about as well as no desire to learn

Many NRPs have a very good idea what they are talking about; many were religious at one stage; many study the Bible/Koran, often more than a lot of Christians; many NRPs have a desire to learn but want to learn rationally.

Their arguments are very emotional and humanistic, and their shaking their fists to God is so obvious, so well-recognized, that it has become boring.

Well that’s very nice that you think NRPs are humanistic, here’s one of many quotes about what a humanist is/does:

Humanists believe in solving the social and economic problems of society

NRPs get as emotional as anyone else, particularly when they think someone/some group is trying to impose their views on everyone else (i.e. Christians, in general, want to abolish all abortions). I haven’t seen many NRPs ‘shaking their fist to God’, mainly because we don’t believe in god. Any ‘fist shaking’ is at the people who follow a god, especially those that do bad things because of it.

Suddenly they think that the term “fundamentalism” is going to be perceived as a pejorative word.

It is.

Suddenly religion, according to an agnostic, is a social enterprise which can be adjusted to human needs, and the criteria for “natural” are being set dependently on trends and wishes.

Religion is a social enterprise, always has been always will be (I’m going to throw the burden of proof to the religious people to prove to me that my last statement is false). Religion, particularly the Christian religion, has always adjusted itself to human needs, and dictates of science. The church used to say the sun revolved around the earth, the earth was flat, and they used to burn witches and promote slavery. All these and many more concepts/ideas/decrees have changed over the years. See the current debate in Australia within the Anglican Church to allow women to become Bishops, the more enlightened diocese are voting for it, other not. This is a debate purely within the church. Religion has had to adjust itself to human needs to remain relevant in modern society (some cynics may say the church adjusts itself to get more believers, thus more money).

In other words: God needs to get upgraded, He is too dull and old-fashioned, time to rock&roll, right? At least…

“If the church wants to be a part of society, it has to adjust her view to the modern foundations of values, which means that no one may be excluded.” HA

Really? Well, it depends what we understand as ‘the church’. And who is giving the definition.
An atheist? And who cares what an atheist thinks about these things? Another atheist, probably, i. e. another God-hating rebel…

As per my previous paragraph, many of the churches have in the past, and are currently, adjusting to modern views (for whatever reason). Rock & Roll – hey, you obviously haven’t been to a ‘happy clappy’ church lately, that’s all they do!  :-)
What do you understand as ‘the church’? Certainly a lot of different churches can’t seem to define what ‘the church’ is, as evident by the vast number of different ones. Why can’t an NRP give a definition of ‘the church’? You will find that a lot of them have done a lot of research into what a ‘church’ may be.

OK, so far I have been nice and polite and tried to use rational arguments against your statements, but the last bit of the above statement of your’s is downright abusive, divisive, and wrong. Atheists do not ‘hate’ God! We just don’t believe in any gods, end of argument! We are not ‘rebelling’ against anything, unless you are so narrow minded that you think every human being on the planet should bow down to your particular religious way of thinking and belong to your particular church. Sure some NRPs come across sometimes as being a bit argumentative or even derisive, but that is only in response to unqualified claims by religious people, or in some cases (like your ‘God hating rebel’ statement) outright insults or untruths.

Rational arguments? Hardly. But convenient, for sure.

Rational, well thought out, well written, non-emotive (even whilst discussing a very emotive topic) letter. Yes I think Heterosexual agnostic’s (HA) letter certainly was rational and their arguments well put, far more than your response! HA’s letter quite clearly puts their point of view across without actually overly criticizing religion. In fact HA seems happy to accommodate religious views:

I want my children to be educated in a school where the teachers understand that there is a plethora of views and ideas in the world and that everybody has a place in it, no matter what religion or political views they follow.

unlike some NRPs, and some religions towards others (Islam V Christianity).

Religion is for us, another comfort next to a psychologist, a lover, an addiction. Let’s bend it to our needs – because we say so. And if those ‘fundies’ don’t listen – let’s slander them with intolerance and narrow mindedness. That will teach them!

I’m assuming you were trying to be sarcastic with these last sentences?

Religion is a comfort for you, how can you say otherwise? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard religious people say things like “since I’ve found Jesus, I’ve found peace in my life” and other such comments. An addiction? Maybe. Heroin addicts can’t get enough of heroin, some religious people can’t seem to get enough of religious experiences; heroin addicts have been known to commit crimes because of their addiction, religious people have been known to conduct crimes in the name of their religion (the Inquisition, 9/11, etc, etc).

Again, I’ve covered the ‘bend it to our needs’, the churches are constantly doing that, look at the rise of evangelical, happy clappy, churches in America and Australia. All that televangelism, rock & roll, clapping and singing, why have they changed like that? To be more like the rest of society. (MTV generation, anyone?)

You (as in religious people; I’m generalizing a bit here, but for a large proportion of you I believe I’m correct in thinking this) are intolerant and narrow minded. No matter what arguments are provided you refuse to condone: abortions, gay marriages (in fact homosexuality of any kind), condoms (to millions of people dying of aids in Africa, which could, in large part, be prevented by the use of condoms) and thousands of other points of view.

Lastly I’m glad you didn’t send that to the newspaper, I think HA would be very disappointed with your response which doesn’t really argue against any of HA’s statements.

6 Comments to “Trying to Understand? Try Harder!”

  1. OzAtheist,

    Nice post mate.

  2. I have personally responded to your post at http://sveana.blogspot.com/

    I thought you might like to have a look.

  3. Cricket tragic says:

    Hey Oliver,

    I tried to read your response, but couldn’t get very far.

    Firstly, I think that if you want people to read what you post you need to get your spelling and grammar right; it is painful trying to read such uneducated prose.

    Secondly, you have very early on made a link between non-religious persons and a belief in moral relativism. If you don’t know what moral relativism is I strongly suggest you undertake some post-graduate study in ethics. Nothing I have read or witnessed has provided any evidence of such a link and you have not appeared to try to justify such a link with any logic. I would in fact humbly submit that moral relativism, which as an aside has been rejected by thinking academics, is more a preserve of the religious.

    Let me explain myself. Adherents of Islam may believe that a woman must cover herself from head to toe in the interests of religious modesty. Christians may say that their women need not do that, but that it is morally right for followers of Islam. This is obviously a very simple example, but given the level we are at, I thought that best.

    As an atheist, I would say it is morally wrong for any religion to demand that women are dictated to in this way and I suspect that most atheists would likely agree as we do not adhere to either of these delusional belief sets.

    Atheists have the freedom to adhere to a moral code which is based on the writings of some of the great philosophers and thinkers, without being confused by fictional figures. I, for one, reject utilitarianism which appears to be the basis of much religious thought. That is, sacrificing one’s son is appropriate because some god suggested so and therefore one will go to ‘heaven’ if this barbaric act is completed.

    I also struggle with Kantian ethics as it takes away the necessary human side of our dealings with each other.

    As a virtue ethicist, I have an absolute moral standard to follow. Further, I am not so pompous to suggest that I always follow what I know is right. I may know it is right, but I am human, so I sometimes do wrong and then I forgive myself and get on with it.

    It is inaccurate and insulting to try to suggest that atheists do not have an absolute moral standard. It is also the pot calling the kettle black. I could recommend some reading for you if you like to broaden your knowledge in this area. I do believe that if you are going to talk ethics with any authority, you need to be a) literate and b) educated on the topic.

    Good luck with your studies Oliver.

  4. You say that you have moral and ethical absolutes that you can point to. Where are they? You failed to point to anything to suggest what these absolutes are. You mention that a woman being told to cover herself from head to toe is wrong. You also mention that most atheists would agree with you because they do not adhere to “either delusional belief sets”.

    I find your argumentation to be embarrasingly weak. I thought you were going to tell me what the moral absolutes are, and instead you start talking about most people agreeing with you. Since when do moral and ethical absolutes depend upon the opinion of a majority, albeit a majority of atheists? Should not the absolutes stand independant of any agreement? If the absolutes were dependant on agreement, then you have a problem because you were talking about the agreement of a majority, not unanimity.

    You said “I also struggle with Kantian ethics as it takes away the necessary human side of our dealings with each other.” Is the measure of an absolute to be something that someone does not struggle with? Where did this criteria come from? How do you test that certain ethics take away the necessary human side of our dealings with each other? What validates the criteria by which the test was measured? Again, you have only discussed what you have problems with, but you have not pointed to any absolutes. This is disappointing.

    I agree that my blog entry did contain poor spelling and grammar. I was admittedly in a bit of a hurry to get my thoughts out. However, rather than simply tell me that I’m uneducated and that I’m insulting to suggest that atheists have no absolute standards, you might like to actually refute me soundly by actually telling me what those absolutes are. By suggesting that it is the pot calling the kettle black, you seem to be implying that Christians have no standard of absolutes, and therefore who am I to demand them from you? Is this really your position? I find it astounding.

    Our absolutes are based upon a righteous, just, and Holy God who has revealed Himself through His word. You might not believe in this God. You might think that the bible is rubbish, and you will have to live with that, but at least I have something I can point to.

  5. Cricket tragic says:

    Unfortunately Oliver, you are as you point out uneducated and still unable to use correct spelling and grammar!

    Clearly you do not understand my arguments and the points I have made as you have no knowledge of the research into and literature of ethics. If you did have this background you would understand what I have written. I lack the patience to wait for you to catch up to me in your studies. I also fear you may not have the discipline and integrity to apply yourself adequately; I therefore discontinue the ‘argument’ with you. You are unworthy.

    Always remember Oliver, that if you are going to argue on a topic make sure you have the theoretical background to hold your own. If I am to argue geo-physics with a geo-physicist, I will first study geo-physics.

  6. Christian says:

    Ah Oliver what a hopelessly pompous and arrogant position you faithies love to take!! Absolute moral code is do not harm physically or mentally your fellow human beings. Not that out of this world really is it. I note it is a moral code you christians fail abysmally through your bigotry towards homosexuals and you failure to have women as equals. Even your god fails with that lovely little concept you call hell.

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