Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Rational Atheism

In this month's Scientific American magazine, to which I am a subscriber, there is an article called Rational Athiesm: An open letter to Messrs. Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens by Micheal Shermer, who is the publisher of Skeptic magazine and

I was very glad to see that it was available on their website because I really had to agree with what Mr. Shermer was getting at and I wanted to share it with some of my more militant atheist friends. The article starts off with:

Since the turn of the millennium, a new militancy has arisen among religious skeptics in response to three threats to science and freedom: (1) attacks against evolution education and stem cell research; (2) breaks in the barrier separating church and state leading to political preferences for some faiths over others; and (3) fundamentalist terrorism here and abroad.

And later he explains:

...we should be cautious about irrational exuberance. I suggest that we raise our consciousness one tier higher for the following reasons.

1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail.

2. Positive assertions are necessary.

3. Rational is as rational does.

4. The golden rule is symmetrical.

5. Promote freedom of belief and disbelief.

Of course the letter goes into more detail on each of the above points, but he concludes by saying:

Rational atheism values the truths of science and the power of reason, but the principle of freedom stands above both science and religion.

I think as atheists we have an automatic bad public opinion. As responsible people we should all strive to display the ability to live happy productive lives without the need for a supernatural spiritual being, to show people as Dawkins is quoted, " be an atheist is a realistic aspiration, and a brave and splendid one. You can be an atheist who is happy, balanced, moral and intellectually fulfilled."

Amen, Brother!


Does not play well with others said...

I think it is just human nature to bite back when you feel you are being attacked. I think most atheists feel that they are being attacked for the very 3 reasons that Shermer listed. He has a very good point, we do need to knock it back a couple of notches and try to be as reasonable as possible, but I've heard Shermer sound pretty militant at times himself.

Saber said...

It's a good point to raise. We should try and guard against any sort of fundamentalism, but I have to break for a second to remember another very good point. Moderation enables zealots the room they need to do the things that Dr. Shermer cites as causing our militancy. If there weren't so many moderates respecting belief for belief's sake, then creationists would have a far more difficult time trying to subvert our education system, terrorists would have a harder time finding safe-havens, etc...

Rusko Elvenwood said...

You are both right. And I think Shermer summed it up also in the last sentence on number 5 of his list. He says, “As long as religion does not threaten science and freedom, we should be respectful and tolerant…”
It is a gentle reminder that we should refrain from, as Sagan said, “…making fun of all those other people who don’t see things as clearly as you do.” Though it is easy to do some times!

Keefer Milton said...

I'm of the mind of 'if you can't beat em, join em.' -but not like that.

Christianity gained favor and superiority in most parts of the world through the actions of missionaries and churches. In my opinion, Logic and Reason need the same marketing tools in order to progress.

How many days per week do you get together specifically with your Logical and Reasonable friends and family to discuss Logical and Reasonable things? How often do you go out with the Church of Logic and Reason to do volunteer work in the community?

I'm not bashing one or promoting another, really. It's no fault of anyone... I don't have a Church of Logic and Reason where I live. Maybe I should start one. Wow... I wonder how much money's in that?

Rusko Elvenwood said...

There are some local groups of atheists and humanists that have study groups and dining get-togethers. I participated for a while, but I didn't think they were doing very much to attract new members. I think there is alot more that can be done locally to raise awareness that you don't HAVE to believe in god. Perhaps we're doing our part by discussing it rationally on this blog.