Monicks: Unleashed

Thinking Critically

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Neil deGrasse Tyson: Sir, you have failed me.

I was so disappointed to hear this argument by Neil deGrasse Tyson, that I’m almost sorry I am posting it, but I need to talk about this. Please, watch the video — it’s less than four minutes long.

[Agnosticism] and [atheism] are not the same thing, and I’ll tell you why. Atheists I know who proudly wear the badge are active atheists, they’re like in-your-face atheists, and they want to change policies and they’re having debates…

Yes, sir. Agnosticism and Atheism are not the same thing, but the reason you are giving in your speech is painfully inaccurate, you have explained it, not only subjectively, but also very poorly.

The only accurate explanation is that Agnosticism refers to knowledge, and Atheism refers to beliefs. That’s it. An Agnostic does not know, because he or she can’t prove a god exists, everyone is an agnostic in that respect. An Atheist doesn’t believe a god exists because there is no evidence to back this claim. I am _certain_ you know this.

“Agnostic” separates me from the conduct of atheists, whether or not there is strong overlap between the categories.

No, sir, it doesn’t. “Agnostic” only describes your lack of knowledge about the god-question. Just so you know, some agnostics are activists, too.

The really disgraceful thing about all this, sir, is that you sound like you are buying into the idea that atheism is a synonym for activism, and spreading this misconception.

For the record, I like this approach of yours much better:

We have the same goals, sir. Seems to me you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

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Jesus loves you! What does that even mean?

One of the most overrated and trite phrases believers ultimately shout at atheists and skeptics, in their frustration when we retort with our evil reason and logic to their attempts of proselytizing is “Jesus loves you!”

Jesus loves you? What does that even mean?

When someone loves you, they go out of their way to show you their love for you. Think of your parents, your siblings, your closest friends, your life partner. Think of the people you love, you worry about their wellbeing, you do things to please them, you want them to be healthy, content, their needs taken care of, in a word — happy.

What could Jesus ever do for you? Does he look after you? Does he feed you when you’re hungry? comfort you when you’re sad? heal you when you’re sick? or at least if not magically, does he remind you to take your meds? Does he stay up until you get home to heat up dinner for you, and keep you company while you eat? Does he worry about you and give you a call when he hasn’t heard from you in a while? No, he doesn’t.

These are some of the things that anyone would do for the people they care about, and you probably do some of these things for the people you care about. Even if Jesus had existed, and was a real person and demigod two thousand years ago, he can’t do anything for you today. Heck! If Jesus had had the power the bible says he had, he could have done so many amazing things for all mankind; instead of healing a couple of blind men and a couple of lepers, he could have eradicated blindness and leprosy, and done so with much less effort than our scientists eradicated poliomyelitis; instead of turning water into wine for a wedding, and feeding a few hundred people with bread and fish, he could have appeared a freaking river full of fish for all Ethiopians to feed off; wouldn’t that be something awesome and worthy of someone with such powers and love?

 

But Jesus loves you.

According to the Christian doctrine, no matter who you are, whether you believe in him and his heavenly father or not, whether you’re good or bad, if you’re worthy or not of his holy love, Jesus loves you just the same. Deservedly or not, you are loved by Jesus. Jesus loves everyone, and does exactly as much for everyone — nothing.

Love without a single demonstration is not love, it’s just a word. Now is when I should remind you of the millions of people suffering and dying from disease and famine in the world, right? I don’t think I need to.

What makes love meaningful and wonderful is precisely its uniqueness; you are loved because you are special to the one who loves you.

Jesus loves everyone.

Jesus’ love is meaningless.

You think differently? Prove me wrong, and I’ll change my mind.

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“Militant Atheism” — I don’t think that means what you think it means.

There is this new tendency to label outspoken atheists as “Militant Atheists.” Here’s why I think it’s wrong.

I wish I could renounce the label Atheist, to begin with. In case you didn’t know, “atheist” is a label given to us by believers. It used to be a derogatory label, a Christian slur against us coined used in France in the 16th century as a reaction to growing free thought, skeptical inquiry, and intellectual criticism of religion. When someone called you an atheist it was not a good thing. “Atheist” was used exclusively as an insult. 

Nobody in their right mind would have called themselves an atheist back then, if you were an atheist, you were an outcast.

No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.” We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

— Sam Harris,  The End of Faith

I concur.

I can’t singlehandedly ditch the label entirely, as it is a way to identify our lack of belief in deities. Until we unbelievers get to a consensus on what would be the best term to describe ourselves, I am in some way forced to keep it, sadly.

But on top of that, now I am labeled “militant.” This is totally inaccurate, and I – and hopefully you – won’t take it silently.

Let’s look it up. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Militant:
1. engaged in warfare or combat
2. aggressively active

We might be loud, we might be strident, we might be angry, but we are not militant. Advocacy, rational inquiry, is not militancy. We are not aggressive, we are not violent, we are not at war, we are not fighting, we are not blowing ourselves and our detractors up to make a point, we don’t fly plains into buildings. Heck! we don’t even knock on anyone’s door to dis-indoctrinate them. Our only weapon is our rationality. We have rational discussions, we challenge irrational beliefs. That is what we do.

We have to speak up — we need to! It is the only way to normalize a concept that has been considered taboo for ages; that’s how we de-demonize a label. Furthermore, it’s been scientifically proven that the more we force people to think about their beliefs, the more we force them to justify their ideas, the more cognitive dissonance we generate, more and more people will break free from their dogmas. Once they abandon one dogma, there goes the rest of their belief system, and they start walking their path toward rationality.

That feeling of discomfort when an atheist points out facts and evidence that obviously contradict your strongly held beliefs, is not us hurting you, it’s your cognitive dissonance at work.

But there is more to it, it has an ulterior motive. It’s the fallacy of disambiguation, or poisoning the well: a technique that by disparaging the source deems all that comes from it worthless and unreliable.

There isn’t any inherent dogma in atheism that advocates any violence in the defense of non-belief; so, no, I won’t take it. I am not militant. I am not violent.

Next time you want to come up with yet another derogatory term to label us unbelievers, check your facts before applying your unsolicited labels wrongly.

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