A Response to Pat Condell

by Luke Muehlhauser on May 29, 2010 in Criticism of Atheists,Video

In this video, Pat Condell speaks directly to atheists like me who engage religion seriously.

He says:

[I've had some criticism] from some atheists who’ve told me… I’m giving atheism a bad name… I’m not contributing to the debate… “You won’t convert anyone to atheism by insulting people.”

[But] I think if we did a bit more insulting and a bit less pointless debating then religion might not have such a falsely inflated idea of its own importance…

Dogma is blind and deaf to anything that reason has to offer… so where exactly is “the debate?” You obey the rules of reason; religion ignores them… [Religion isn't] interested in anything you’ve got to say. It’s just waiting for you to draw a breath so it can say, “Yes, that’s all very well, but you’ve still got to submit, because it is written in this book”…

Maybe you think the way to deal with [the abuses of religion] is to engage it in polite debate and to make all your little points and counterpoints and show us all what a clever dick you are, and that’ll be great fun for you… You haven’t got a cause. What you’ve got it a hobby.

[I wish I could be saved from] the curse of polite and deferential atheists. Religion is out of control right now precisely because too many people have been too diplomatic for too long. If we’d had the balls to do some straight-talking years ago when we should have and put this insulting nonsense in its rightful place with astrology and palmistry, we wouldn’t be talking about this right now. We’d be doing something more useful with our time. What a waste of an Enlightenment.

…I’m not interested in arguing about whether God exists or not… So I’ll carry on giving [religion] the verbal finger, and you can carry on with polite debate – and who knows? You might come to some amicable compromise where you only have to spend half your life on your knees. That might work for you. And if not, well, at least you’ll have something to keep you occupied, which is the main thing, really, isn’t it?

I haven’t sent Pat Condell any criticism, but I do engage in lots of polite debate with religion. Often, I insult the stupidity of religion and go on tirades against its moral outrages, but at other times I take its claims seriously so that I can examine them without assuming they are false.

Pat’s videos are always entertaining – for people who are uninterested to be “offended” at things, anyway – but they are so full of insincere hyperbole and black-and-white thinking, I sometimes wonder if he’s serious or if he says what he does merely because it’s rhetorically effective. Maybe I’ll write a serious response and he’ll come back to say “Oh come on, man, can’t you see I was only joking?” But if so, this would be a useful revelation to many of his viewers, and if not then I am indeed engaging him for what he really means to say.

The Power of Insults

So let’s start at the top. Some people have told Pat that he won’t convert anyone by insulting them.

Those people are wrong. Insults are very powerful. In fact, they were influential in my own deconversion.

In my deconversion story, I mention that I’d been listening to an atheist radio show for a few months before my deconversion. Actually, it was that show that finally got through to me, precisely because it insulted me.

I had heard what friendly atheists had to say. I had read some books about history and logic and comparative religion. And I had been able to shrug it all off. It hadn’t affected my faith too much.

Then, I came across that radio show, The Atheist Experience. The host, Matt Dillahunty, takes calls from Christians, and responds carefully and patiently to their arguments.

But sometimes, he mocks the absurdity of their beliefs.

And that was what really got through to me. He hit me with a load of bricks, and finally made me realize:

“Holy shit. I actually have an invisible friend who grants me wishes. I actually believe in magic. Maybe those things are real but woah I’d better look into this.”

Of course, the church had taught me different names for these things, so they didn’t sound so ridiculous. Jesus was my “spiritual companion” who “answers prayers.” I believed in “supernatural power,” not magic. But there it was. I finally admitted that I really had an invisible, wish-granting magical friend.

That didn’t destroy my faith, not by a long shot. But it changed the way I studied things. When I read about the Historical Jesus or the philosophy of religion, I read with the perspective that it was possible I was wrong. And in my case, it took mockery to get me there.

Being mocked changed my life forever, and for the better. Sometimes, ridicule is the only thing that will get through our stubborn cognitive biases. So I say: Go on insulting, Pat! You’re probably making a difference.

Religion and Reason

Next, Pat says:

Dogma is blind and deaf to anything that reason has to offer… so where exactly is “the debate?” You obey the rules of reason; religion ignores them… [Religion isn't] interested in anything you’ve got to say. It’s just waiting for you to draw a breath so it can say, “Yes, that’s all very well, but you’ve still got to submit, because it is written in this book”…

In my experience, atheists do not particularly obey the rules of reason any better than theists do. Dogmatism and intellectual laziness are human conditions, not religious ones. Religion is just one manifestation of these human weaknesses.

I write a lot about theistic arguments on my blog, and I always get comments from dozens of atheists who offer ignorant and irrelevant counter-arguments, quite confident that they’ve decisively refuted an argument that is still being debated by some of the smartest philosophers in the world. Sometimes I take the time to explain why their rebuttal doesn’t work, or why they’ve misunderstood the argument because they didn’t bother to read it. But sometimes there are just too many confusions I just move on and hope to clear things up in future posts.1

Likewise, atheists defend lots of bad arguments of their own. Cognitive bias is rampant in all humans. No one is immune. So I disagree with Pat’s us vs. them model; the religion vs. reason model. Many theists are quite reasonable, and many atheists are quite unreasonable.

Besides, a great many people are not waiting for the atheist to draw his breath just so they can shove their Scriptures down the unbeliever’s throat. Some believers really do care about getting at the truth, and really can be swayed by argument and evidence. They may be in the minority, but even if so, they certainly number in the tens of millions.

A Hobby?

Pat continues:

Maybe you think the way to deal with [the abuses of religion] is to engage it in polite debate and to make all your little points and counterpoints and show us all what a clever dick you are, and that’ll be great fun for you… You haven’t got a cause. What you’ve got it a hobby.

Pat seems to be saying that if you insult religion and fight against its abuses you’ve got a cause, but if you engage it in polite debate then you’ve got a hobby not a cause. That doesn’t fit with any definitions for ‘hobby’ and ’cause’ that I know of, but in any case I’m pretty sure I have a cause. I’m very passionate about making the world a better place, both by understanding ethics better and by influencing others to be more careful about securing their beliefs and more. I also want to help atheists see the possibility of enchanted naturalism.

A Waste of an Enlightenment

Pat goes on:

Religion is out of control right now precisely because too many people have been too diplomatic for too long. If we’d had the balls to do some straight-talking years ago when we should have and put this insulting nonsense in its rightful place with astrology and palmistry, we wouldn’t be talking about this right now. We’d be doing something more useful with our time. What a waste of an Enlightenment.

I agree. One of the best things the New Atheists have done is to remind people that it’s okay – in fact, crucial – for people to insult stupid and harmful beliefs, even if they happen to be stupid and harmful religious beliefs. I definitely want to see more straight-talking about religion – but let’s do some straight-talking about how atheists are misled by cognitive biases, too, please.

I do so badly wish we weren’t still arguing about Yahweh and Allah and Shiva. What a waste of time. But there are so many believers left, we have to do it. Many of them are using their dogmas to block humanity from working on what really matters – things like climate change, scientific medicine, genetic engineering, and political progress.

On my knees?

Pat concludes:

So I’ll carry on giving [religion] the verbal finger, and you can carry on with polite debate – and who knows? You might come to some amicable compromise where you only have to spend half your life on your knees. That might work for you.

I haven’t spent any time on my knees since I left the faith. I stand tall, and superstition rarely gets in my way.

Like I’ve said before, different tactics are effective on different people. Atheism needs Richard Dawkins and Bruce Sheiman, Pat Condell and Luke Muehlhauser. Some people will respond more to one approach than to the other.

In my particular case, I needed insults and ridicule to break through my hardened defenses, but then I also needed somebody to present the serious arguments for unbelief in a clear and simple manner. I needed both things before I could leave the faith in which I had been indoctrinated. I suspect many people are the same.

It’s also important to remember that one of the best things atheists can do to promote atheism is to make the world a better place. According to the best-supported theory of secularization, people lose their religion most readily when they just don’t need it as comfort food anymore. When people have secure employment, secure health care, and safety from violence, they just don’t need gods anymore, and their religiosity gradually fades.

And that, my friends, is a strategy to which we can all agree: Help make the world a better place.

  1. Of course, there are also many atheists who comment on my blog with insightful objections that really do understand how the arguments work, or they are phrased as skeptical questions and not confident rebuttals. []

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike AKA MonolithTMA May 29, 2010 at 7:17 am

“You won’t convert anyone to atheism by insulting people.”

I don’t want to convert anyone to anything, I was the same way when I was a Christian. I will share what my views are if asked, but I like to draw my own conclusions and let others do the same.

This post echoes many of my feelings. Another good one, Luke.

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Faithless May 29, 2010 at 7:19 am

commonsenseatheism, I’ve been reading your writings for quite a lot of time and must say that you have a strange tendency of bashing the atheism movement. You have all the right not to like the way it is going on. But is it the right time for us, the atheists, to criticise each other? There have to be lots of ways to spreading our ideas and you may prefer one or a few of them and dislike the rest, but please don’t critically criticise or bash the ways others have chosen. You can express your opinion by saying what would be better instead of what. But please don’t attack others for the way they have chosen. Please, remember we are doing the same thing and other methods that you dislike can also be quite effective. There wiil be enough time for criticising after we reach something significant.

Thanks a lot.

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Charo Serventy May 29, 2010 at 7:56 am

Great post (as always).
I find the idea that “religious people are just stupid and dogmatic” a complete cop out, often tinged with intellectual laziness.
One concern is that while respectful criticism can be ignored and useless, insulting criticism can be outright counterproductive stopping peoples willingness to consider your points. In your own experience, was there anything particular about insults that really hit home(or the people making them)?

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J. Quinton May 29, 2010 at 8:46 am

It’s a hard line to walk. Sometimes, the only proper response to the ridiculous is ridicule.

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Ajay May 29, 2010 at 9:00 am

This may be a bit tangential, but the entire field of theology is based on an assumption that all atheists reject. So Pat is kind of saying, “My assumption is that God does not exist” and then he proceeds to give the ‘verbal finger’ to theists based on this assumption. I think there is a parallel there.

His videos are pretty entertaining. I liked this post, Luke.

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al friedlander May 29, 2010 at 9:30 am

Something I find interesting is a type of ‘comparison’ between ‘different types of’ atheists and religious people.

Could we theoretically say that, kind and non-pushy Christians could be compared to Luke-type atheists, whereas caustic/insulting atheists could be compared to crazed sign-holders and vitriolic preachers.

I’m an agnostic atheist, but I still find the possibility of this being valid chilling. Is it possible, that maybe, the comparison is legit?

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lukeprog May 29, 2010 at 9:46 am

Faithless,

Yeah, I’m fairly comfortable thinking that self-criticism is a good thing.

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lukeprog May 29, 2010 at 9:47 am

Ajay,

His videos certainly are entertaining!

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Mark May 29, 2010 at 9:49 am

I agree with J. Quinton. Sometimes it’s important to call people (here, the religious) out on their idiocy, especially when their idiocy is harmful and being aired in public. But abusiveness is itself a form of idiocy when it’s a response to more thoughtful, honest and serious theists. Basically, to be abusive well requires you to be able to distinguish between intelligent and unintelligent representatives of theism, as well as to correctly apprehend whether or not you yourself are a sufficiently intelligent representative of atheism capable of refuting their arguments to anyone else’s satisfaction. But being able to recognize these things is a skill that surprisingly few people possess (though all overly abusive atheists think that they do, sadly). Or they may have it in some contexts, but not in others.

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Hansen May 29, 2010 at 10:04 am

Although Pat thoroughly disappointed me by supporting the UKIP, I did very much agree with the following from his latest video:

Although I’m an atheist, my argument with religion has always been political and not theological. I think debating whether or not God exists is about as pointless as arguing about football or Star Trek episodes. Everybody is right and everybody is wrong and none of it matters. What does matter is what people do with their beliefs. And the license they take from them to behave in ways that impinge on other people’s freedom is really what concerns me about religion. Yes, of course I think it’s all nonsense. But if that’s all it was, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Unfortunately it’s dangerous nonsense because the privileged status we give religion out of respect for the spiritual is always exploited politically especially by the two fascist religions of Christianity and Islam.

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Chris K May 29, 2010 at 10:44 am

I agree that insults are very powerful. But does this imply that they ought to be used? I would contend that insults hinder reason rather than support it. Whenever I see an insult in atheist/theist discussions, it usually signals to me that the argument is going badly for the insulter. This is because insults usually attempt to change the game by substituting inflammatory rhetoric and misleading terms for careful argumentation.

For example, if someone mocks me by telling me that I believe in an invisible, wish-granting magical friend, I would be uncritical to accept this as accurate. Indeed, the church does teach us different names for these things, not only so they don’t sound so ridiculous, but because the different names actually are different things!

So let’s break it down:

1. Invisible: This term on its own is a correct predicate of God; it’s biblical and all that. As a point of mockery, it wouldn’t quite make sense to make fun of someone who believes in an invisible person, since this is just what is being argued.

2. Wish-granting: This term is highly suspicious to begin with in that it connotes an entirely different mythological narrative: genies. And of course, there are more than a few important differences between genies and God. So while it is true that the Bible talks about God answering prayers, wish-granting and prayer-answering are not interchangeable. The Bible makes it clear that our wishes and desires don’t often line up with God’s wishes and desires. So our request/grant relationship to God is no less complex than parent/child relationships, and often more complex. Reducing our relationship to God in this area to “wish-granting” is highly misleading.

3. Magical: I see this term used often on this blog, and I confess I don’t really know what users suppose it to mean. In any case, I take it that it is supposed to refer to some impersonal supernatural force, possibly to trick or to give an advantage to someone. But Christianity is set up in opposition to such ways of thinking – see especially Acts 8 and the story of Simon the magician. There is of course a basic distinction between impersonal supernatural force and personal supernatural agency. It baffles me as to what meaningful connection people draw between magic and Christianity.

4. Friend: There is biblical precedent for relating to God as a friend, but there are also many other models for how we relate to God: Father/child, master/servant, etc. There are good theological reasons for not reducing our relationship to God to one model, and especially for not seeing our relationship to God as primarily as one of friendship.

My conclusion is that insults of this kind are not only false, but highly misleading. One who is “converted” through them might do well to ask if they were not also misled by them.

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piero May 29, 2010 at 10:58 am

I also think Luke’s post was great (as always), but I disagree with most of it.

To me, religion is far more than belief: it is a moral code, a worldview, a certificate of sanctity for the most abhorrent actions you can think of. So I have to agree with Pat: if the Ayatollah’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie had been met with a decisive response we would certainly be much better off by now.

Philosophical argument is entertaining and elightening; alas, it won’t protect the likes of Salman Rushdie, Theo Van Gogh, Hayan Hirsi Ali, the Danish cartoonists, South Park scriptwriters and animators, women endeavouring to get an education in Afghanistan, gays everywhere in the Muslim world, abused children in Catholic hell-holes, foreign citizens beheaded on camera, and millions in the West who have been cowed into silence through fear of reprisals. Sometimes the only reasonable answer is self-defence.

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Mazen Abdallah May 29, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I can’t debate them because when they talk I hear lying. They’re far too disingenuous to be taken seriously. I’m certain they’re constantly saying to themselves ‘I’ve got to jump through these loops and use this stuff to get another convert to my religion.’

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Anders Branderud May 29, 2010 at 2:05 pm

“Historical J…..”!?!

The persons using that contra-historical oxymoron (demonstrated by the eminent late Oxford historian, James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue) exposes dependancy upon 4th-century, gentile, Hellenist sources.

While scholars debate the provenance of the original accounts upon which the earliest extant (4th century, even fragments are post-135 C.E.), Roman gentile, Hellenist-redacted versions were based, there is not one fragment, not even one letter of the NT that derives DIRECTLY from the 1st-century Pharisee Jews who followed the Pharisee Ribi Yehoshua.
Historians like Parkes, et al., have demonstrated incontestably that 4th-century Roman Christianity was the 180° polar antithesis of 1st-century Judaism of ALL Pharisee Ribis. The earliest (post-135 C.E.) true Christians were viciously antinomian (ANTI-Torah), claiming to supersede and displace Torah, Judaism and (“spiritual) Israel and Jews. In soberest terms, ORIGINAL Christianity was anti-Torah from the start while DSS (viz., 4Q MMT) and ALL other Judaic documentation PROVE that ALL 1st-century Pharisees were PRO-Torah.

There is a mountain of historical Judaic information Christians have refused to deal with, at: http://www.netzarim.co.il (see, especially, their History Museum pages beginning with “30-99 C.E.”).
Original Christianity = ANTI-Torah. Ribi Yehoshua and his Netzarim, like all other Pharisees, were PRO-Torah. Intractable contradiction.

Building a Roman image from Hellenist hearsay accounts, decades after the death of the 1st-century Pharisee Ribi, and after a forcible ouster, by Hellenist Roman gentiles, of his original Jewish followers (135 C.E., documented by Eusebius), based on writings of a Hellenist Jew excised as an apostate by the original Jewish followers (documented by Eusebius) is circular reasoning through gentile-Roman Hellenist lenses.

What the historical Pharisee Ribi taught is found not in the hearsay accounts of post-135 C.E. Hellenist Romans but, rather, in the Judaic descriptions of Pharisees and Pharisee Ribis of the period… in Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT (see Prof. Elisha Qimron), inter alia.

To all Christians: The question is, now that you’ve been informed, will you follow the authentic historical Pharisee Ribi? Or continue following the post-135 C.E. Roman-redacted antithesis—an idol?

Since this an atheist blog:
I recommend an article in my blog (http://bloganders.blogspot.com/2009/08/proof-of-existence-of-intelligent-and.html). It contains a formal logical proof, based on scientific premises, that proves the existence of an Intelligent and Perfect Creator of this universe (i.e. the Prime Cause of this universe (the cause of Big Bang)); and it also proves that His instructions are found in Torah, and that His purpose of humankind is for us to practise those Instructions in Torah.

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noen May 29, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Pat Condell is a vicious hate filled shit stain of a human being.

He is a racist.

He is a bigot.

He appears to suffer from dementia.

He deserves nothing but utter contempt.

He is the poster boy for everything that is wrong with atheism and will drag everyone else down into the cesspool he inhabits.

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noen May 29, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Kinda interesting what you failed to quote from Pat’s video Luke:

“Well, I’ve had quite a large response to my video about the Islamo-Nazis who are attempting to drive a fundamentalist wedge into Brittish society with the conivance of our corrupt “dhimmi” polititians.”

Yes, what a warm wonderful human being. This is the same kind of right wing extremist paranoia that I see on many places on the internet. The man needs a good psychiatric work up, a big bag of thorazine, a comfy straight jacket and a nice quiet place to rock back and forth drooling from the corner of his mouth for the next 10-15 years.

But it does puzzle me why people come to his defense. After all, I am told that there is no Club of Atheism. Atheism is just the lack of belief and therefore any single human being on earth could be an atheist.

Jeffrey Dahmer was probably an atheist. Ted Bundy also probably an atheist. John Wayne Gacy again, probably an atheist. It would be wrong of me to say of any murderer, psychopath or rapist that because he was also an atheist (assuming they were) that therefore atheism is to blame.

But then if that is true then it also must be true that it is wrong for any atheist to excuse someone who holds racist and bigoted views, and Pat Condell most certaiinly is a racist, simply because he also just happens to “lack belief.”

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t make an exception for some bigot just because he is also an atheist. Club members do not get a pass because, as you claim time and time again, there is no club of atheism.

Unless of course you’re lying. You see, I think there really is an ideology of atheism and that just like the Catholic Church makes excuses for pedophile priests you also make excuses for racist bigots like Pat Condell. And you do it for the same reason the Church does it, because they are good old boys who are members of the club.

Oh, and here is the lovely Pat in high dudgeon about the hordes of evil brown people over running sacred England:
Appeasing Islam and The trouble with Islam

If you as atheists wish to gain some respect, you have little right now, you need to denounce the fascists, bigots, racists, white supremacists, neocons, neonazis and other assorted loons from your ranks.

You can start with the walking shit stain that calls itself Pat Condell.

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Justfinethanks May 29, 2010 at 3:38 pm
Atheist.pig May 29, 2010 at 4:07 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSbh2MsxdNs

lol, very good.

The scary thing though, is that noen is just echoing what a large part of liberalism also thinks. If you say female genital mutilation, honor killing or sharia law is wrong, your a racist.
There’s a good book on this called “While Europe Slept – How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within”.

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Mike AKA MonolithTMA May 29, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Clearly there are racists who hate on Islam, I’ve never heard Pat be racist. In fact he had some nice words for the kind Muslims who wrote supporting him.

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piero May 29, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Noem, you are wrong. I am not defending Pat Condell because he is a club member: it just so happens that I agree with his opinions (well, some of them, anyway).

If you as atheists wish to gain some respect, you have little right now, you need to denounce the fascists, bigots, racists, white supremacists, neocons, neonazis and other assorted loons from your ranks.

I do not think any of those epithets applies to Pat Condell. Unless you equate criticism of stupidity, bigotry and violence with fascism and racism. If you do, then that’s goodbye from me.

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J.C. Samuelson May 29, 2010 at 7:08 pm

But is it the right time for us, the atheists, to criticise each other

Dissent is a critical aspect of any movement that professes to value freedom of thought and conscience.

noen,

Pot + Kettle = Black.

Deal with it. Goodbye.

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Thoaar May 29, 2010 at 10:02 pm

IMO there are different tools for different tasks in completing a job. Luke’s approach is the fine pointed chisel of reason, Pat’s is the pneumatic hammer. Both can be used to carve stone into a fine sculpture, and each is used to achieve different results. Sometimes you need to bust off the big chunks before the fine points can continue the shaping.
I’ve watched quite a few of Pat’s videos, and my overall impression is he’s fine with coexisting with religious folks until they try to enforce their religion on others (ultimately him), especially via political means. I’m with Mike’s and Piero’s assessment that Pat is neither racist nor bigoted, just loudly critical of religious bigots/racists.

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noen May 29, 2010 at 10:44 pm

atheist pig
“The scary thing though, is that noen is just echoing what a large part of liberalism also thinks.”

Yes, that is because the beliefs and attitudes of Pat Condell, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris are bigoted and racist. When you make prejudiced statements about people based on their religious or ethnic origin that is what racism and bigotry are.

There’s a good book on this called “While Europe Slept – How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within”.

Ah yes, right wing paranoid conspiracy theories about how “Teh moooooslims gonna take yer wimmins!!”

Debunking the Myths and Stereotypes in Middle-Eastern History

piero
“I do not think any of those epithets applies to Pat Condell. Unless you equate criticism of stupidity, bigotry and violence with fascism and racism.”

Lets try that out and see if it works in real life shall we?

I think blacks are stupid, Jews are greedy and spics are violent. According to you then I am not a racist because what I said is true! Everyone knows that Jews are greedy, how could that possibly be racist???? I’m just telling the truth!

You see, to the bigot his opinions about others appear to him to be the truth. He cannot understand why all those dirty liberal Jews in New York get all upset at the things he says because to him they are just a feature of his reality. That is why you get right wing racists like yourself complaining about how oppressed they are by “the PC crowd”.

Yes, that’s right, you are oppressed. You need to be. You are just using your status as an atheist to hide your bigotry and racism.

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lukeprog May 29, 2010 at 11:42 pm

noen,

You win the prize. I don’t think there’s any regular commenter with whom I disagree more thoroughly on more things.

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Mark May 30, 2010 at 12:02 am

Yes, every comment he makes on every subject in every post is wrong. It’s quite an achievement.

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Atheist.pig May 30, 2010 at 2:07 am

When you make prejudiced statements about people based on their religious or ethnic origin that is what racism and bigotry are.

Then your a racist and a bigot under your own definition for your previous generalizations about atheists and atheism since atheism is considered a religion under US law.
But don’t worry noen, you won’t be sent death threats or charged with blasphemy.

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noen May 30, 2010 at 10:53 am

lukeprog
I don’t think there’s any regular commenter with whom I disagree more thoroughly on more things.

That’s because you are a right wing conservative atheist. Try posting your praise of Pat Condell on any liberal political blog and the atheists there will see your praise for the racist Islamophobic hate it is.

Atheist extremists are no longer welcome on the DailyKos for example. Any atheist who posts anti-religious or anti-Islamic hate there is quickly banned. Rightly so.

atheist pig
“Then your a racist and a bigot under your own definition for your previous generalizations about atheists and atheism since atheism is considered a religion under US law.”

I’ve always been careful to use the phrase “New Atheists” or to directly name those I disagree with such as Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens an here Pat Condell. It is not bigotry to decry bigots when we encounter them. That is a typical complaint made by the Right. They engage in homophobic or racist speech and then when liberals criticize them they whine about how they are being oppressed.

I am not required to tolerate intolerance.

There are one billion people of the Islamic faith worldwide. Only a very tiny minority, mostly the Wahhabis, are in conflict with Western values. To smear all of Islam with broad stereotypes as Pat Condell does here is religious bigotry. To label all people who “look Muslim” because they are of the Arabic ethnicity is racism.

Besides, how can I be a bigot about something that doesn’t exist? I am repeatedly told that Atheism does not exist. That is has no dogma, no organization, no creed. It is held by no group, no club, no church. Atheism, I am told, consists only of those individuals who “lack belief”. They share no further properties, beliefs or ideals. Everyone from newborn babies to serial murderers could be atheist since they all share one and only one property, that of the absence of belief. It is logically impossible for me to be bigoted against that.

However I can be opposed to the subset of atheists who call themselves New Atheists and who agree with the political positions of Sam Harris (pro torture, Islamophobe, pro nuclear first strike in Islamic states), Christopher Hitchens (supports Holocaust denial, right-wing neocon fascist) or Pat Condell (early stage senile dementia, racist, Islamophobic bigot, fascist). To the extent that you agree with these ideologues, and the vast majority of online atheists do, then you will receive a beating with my clue stick.

I can’t imagine why you (third person plural, those atheists who comment here) would object to this since as Luke himself says:

“Insults are very powerful.”

Unless of course you are lying yet again and that for you (3rd person again) insults are only ok when it is you who gets to do the insulting. Here again we see the gap between what you say and what you do. This is called hypocrisy. You say that insults are acceptable, even desirable and yet you object when you are insulted. Why is that?

I could give an answer here but it is probably better if you discover it on your own.

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lukeprog May 30, 2010 at 11:49 am

“There are one billion people of the Islamic faith worldwide. Only a very tiny minority, mostly the Wahhabis, are in conflict with Western values.”

Holy crap that is false. There should be a new word for it: False++. The Qur’an itself and much of near-universal Muslim dogma is in conflict with Western values.

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Wade May 30, 2010 at 2:21 pm

“I am not required to tolerate intolerance.”

So does that mean that we are not required to tolerate your intolerance of intolerance? Can you not tolerate yourself, since you seem very intolerant?

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J.C. Samuelson May 30, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Only relevant insults have power, noen. As yours are lacking in that area – you don’t even seem to have actually read and understood the article you’re posting on – they’re rubbish.

I am not required to tolerate intolerance.

No one is required to tolerate tolerance for it’s own sake either. If you value freedom, nothing should be exempt from criticism, not even for the sake of tolerance. That includes religion, atheism, what have you.

It is not bigoted to demand accountability.

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piero May 30, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Noen, so you do equate criticism of stupidity, bigotry and violence with fascism and racism. In other words, your neurons have given up on you. Bye.

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al friedlander May 30, 2010 at 9:22 pm

“I’ve always been careful to use the phrase “New Atheists” or to directly name those I disagree with such as Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens an here Pat Condell.”

http://i43.tinypic.com/2dlvfiq.jpg

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ken May 31, 2010 at 12:49 am

The content of commonsense atheism site is excellent and i look forward to receiving daily updates and audios. However, every sentence from Pat is spot on. Perhaps the US has a different type of muslim immigrant, maybe from a different part of the world than those flooding Europe,but my view is the ‘polite debate’ is exactly what the theist want. Like Pat i think we should be going for the jugular. When a theist defends the indefencible we neglect our duty when we refuse to ridicule and denounce their notions out of respect for politeness. Even today, christian edicts are costing lives (denial of condom use in africa, abortion for 9 year old rape victims on health grounds etc). Its an affront to my sensibilities when i hear of these things. Of course, the theist wants politeness, they know its harder to make a case when someone doesn’t let them off the hook for politeness’ sake. Sean McDowell got away with similar when he declared the bible didn’t demand stoning of homosexuals. Pat’s right too when he contends the debates are mear hobbies. If they say something shameful then its our responsibilty to shame them and rhetorically sink the boot in when they’re down. It matters less whether they have the fortitude to admit their evil fiend is malevolent than it is for the listener or reader to hear or see the point rammed home. God B. Less

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ken May 31, 2010 at 1:06 am

Luke, When Sean McDowall said, ‘I know the bible doesn’t teach that homosexuals should be stoned’ you added that ” i should clarify that it isn’t christian doctrine that they be stoned, thats just Leviticus doctrine’. Not only was he allowed to get away with it, you helped him. Leviticus, OT or not, is the inspired word of the Christian God. Or are you, like McDowell, able to work out when God was serious and when he was only jesting?
I nearly choked listening to you.

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noen May 31, 2010 at 6:43 am

wade
“So does that mean that we are not required to tolerate your intolerance of intolerance? Can you not tolerate yourself, since you seem very intolerant?”

You are not required to tolerate my intolerance. However my intolerance flows from my liberalism. Pat Condell’s intolerance flows from his right wing paranoia and fascist ideology.

If I seem intolerant that is because I am intolerant. I do not tolerate racism or fascism even if it cloaks itself in atheism. I’ve been consistent in criticizing Sam Harris for his support of torture, Christopher Hitchens for his neocon fascist political ideology and Pat Condell for his right wing nativist paranoia that borders on dementia.

I suppose that one could say that their political ideologies have little to do with their atheism but no one has attempted that argument so far. Near as I can tell every one of the atheists here are in full agreement with the right wing extremist ideology exemplified in Pat Condell. My guess as to why that is so is that it feels good to hate. When one is a frighten little man it feels good and connotes a kind of safety to lash out at a racial or ethnic group that the larger culture has given you permission to hate.

Big Brother loves you ya know.

We have always been at war with the Middle East.

Hate is the truest form of love.

Your two minuet hate is over. Please return to your cubical.

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Hansen May 31, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Near as I can tell every one of the atheists here are in full agreement with the right wing extremist ideology exemplified in Pat Condell.

Near as I can tell you are a presumptuous idiot for making such a statement.

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Hermes June 1, 2010 at 5:52 am

Chris K, insulting the person isn’t effective very often, though that depends largely on the person and other details. Mockery of bad ideas, though, frequently can be effective if the mockery has some bite and is not just abrasive. Luke’s summary covering the same points you noted was spot on and is not unique, so I’m wondering why you would discard what he said when he was so clear about the impact it had on him.

That said, there are some attempts at mockery that are more difficult to pull off even if they accurately reflect an issue that deserves being mocked. For example, I think that there is quite a bit of merit to pointing out the anti-free-market and pro-communist aspects of Christian religious texts including the words attributed to Jesus Christ. Some people have been effective in this, but not many because the mockery requires that the audience knows enough about economic systems and the religious texts that show communist tendencies.

References: [1], [2], [3], [4]

* * *

Additional comments…

Unfortunately, there is a compulsion by many theists — an instinct almost — that the honor of a god needs to be defended.

Blasphemy on a biscuit!

What need of any kind would a deity require from a mortal? So, any comments are between humans or between gods, but none of any value can meaningfully cross between the two groups.

* * *

That said, let us return to human affairs, or more exactly the impersonal observations of absurd ideas and beliefs.

So, besides the mockery of ideas that had an effect Luke, why else is mockery a valid form of discourse? Here are a few reasons;

I. It is honest. One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh. Really. I get an untold number of giggles each week reading and listening to the rabid insanity of many theists.

But, how about a few serious comments? The only types of theism — the *ONLY* types — that I find somewhat credible are the deists (that often disassociate themselves from the other theists) and pantheists and even some of them have additional ideas that are worthy of being mocked. Even though I can say in detail why I think this is the case, I don’t have to provide those details anymore than various theists have to say why they dismiss other theisms and associated religions they disagree with.

Face it, most theists (not just theistic Christians) are myopic and have not considered anything beyond their religious sect. They rarely seriously consider how apt ‘an invisible, wish-granting, and magical friend’ is as a description, and it is one timid observation out of many.

I mean, think about the names religious leaders frequently give to their job descriptions; father? mother? elder? brother? sister? prophet? This nonsense doesn’t deserve anything but mockery, though with the number of sexual assaults of children and trists with the laity perpetrated by religious clerics it’s probably accurate in some situations.

II. People do not listen. They often think that anyone who is pleasant to them wishes them good will. Nonsense. Often enough, a kind word is followed by a con or a scam while a vigorous conversation invites examining what someone else actually thinks and why they think it. The nuances someone wants to express can’t be discovered if the core message is never understood or taken seriously.

Mockery can show if the person employing it understands a position they do not support. ‘An invisible, wish-granting, and magical friend’ is *exactly* what people say they worship — they just use different words to make it sound nicer. If a Christian can’t see the truth in that mockery, then they aren’t paying attention.

Does this mean that the only valid description is ‘an invisible, wish-granting, and magical friend’? Of course not, but it is not invalid because there are other ways to say the same thing.

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Chris K June 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Hermes,

I agree that the impact of mockery depends mostly on the background of the person and other details. I didn’t mean to discount out of hand Luke’s experience with mockery – that it took him to a place where he considered that his beliefs could be wrong, or just plain silly. I was reacting directly to the line, “Holy shit, I actually have an invisible friend who grants me wishes. I actually believe in magic.” Perhaps these are things that he did believe, but these are not things that Christians should believe. Of course, I could be taking him too literally here – maybe that line is just meant to express his realization that his beliefs could be wrong or silly. But I do still think that there can easily be a subtle misdirection of what our beliefs actually are when we hear them through mockery.

Mockery is also a poor form of discourse when it just plain misunderstands what it is mocking. So, for example, I enjoyed the examples relating Jesus to socialism. They’re funny. But I would contend that they exhibit a lack of understanding of the Bible: the quotes are pulled out of context and don’t easily lend themselves to re-insertion into our socio-political context.

I agree that the honor of a deity doesn’t need to be defended – I prefer my Lord wrapped in bacon!

Mockery may be honest – but that doesn’t mean it gets things right.

Finally, mockery of the form “an invisible, wish-granting, and magical friend” is NOT exactly what people say that they worship, just using nicer words! My entire previous comment was intended to demonstrate that this is not the case! The different words amount to different things. Mockery ascriptions of this sort are not apt just because they describe something very different than the Christian self-understanding of God.

I agree with you that “mockery can show if the person employing it understands a position they do not support.” Only it most often shows that the person employing mockery does not understand the position.

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Hermes June 2, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Sorry for the delay. I use quite a few links as references to support what I’m posting, and I was tripped up by the link filter that seems (???) to be enabled. This message should appear as I’ve stripped out all links.

Mockery is also a poor form of discourse when it just plain misunderstands what it is mocking. So, for example, I enjoyed the examples relating Jesus to socialism. They’re funny. But I would contend that they exhibit a lack of understanding of the Bible: the quotes are pulled out of context and don’t easily lend themselves to re-insertion into our socio-political context.

I agree with the sentiment — mockery without understanding is a poor form of discourse — but not with the example. Jesus Christ and his followers, as described in the Christian Bible, did advocate communal socialism/communism. It even went as far as being promoted using thinly veiled threats of death if not actual murders for those who did not comply. ( see: Acts 5:1-11 )

After that dry review, mockery is the least that could be brought to bear on such texts. Mockery doesn’t work as well as the ‘invisible man in the sky’ references because people get ‘invisible man in the sky’ immediately, but have not read the NT and have not thought about how it advocates socialist and even communist ideas as a social and even godly requirement. In all seriousness, these socialist/communist tendencies in the NT were quite a concern to me when I read them myself in my youth. They seemed anti democratic and anti free market — two things that I strongly supported then and still support now even though I admit that they fail to live up to the ideals in some situations. (see Adam Smith and Winston Churchill for capitalism and democracy respectively)

I find it ironic that such an anti-capitalist, pro-socialist or even pro-communist book would be advocated by people who in the next breath talk about free markets as if Jesus invented usury, Amway, and where caveat emptor is the phrase of the day not ‘being together and having everything in common … [distributing wealth] based on need’ (Acts 2:44-45).

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Hermes June 2, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Mockery ascriptions of this sort are not apt just because they describe something very different than the Christian self-understanding of God.

Mockery doesn’t need to be scripturally or ideologically pure to be correct and accurate. I find the summary to be both accurate and in the finest tradition of thoughtful mockery as opposed to just another snide comment. If Luke — and many others both those following Christian ideology and those who do not — did not see the truth that the mockery embodied, then they would have just dismissed them as invalid analogies as opposed to accurate descriptions.

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Hermes June 2, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Perhaps these are things that he did believe, but these are not things that Christians should believe.

Why? The tone or crassness of the simplified mockery may not be subtle, but the substance is not far off the mark either from the texts or in how it is said to be practiced. Keep in mind that Luke was a Christian at the time. *That* is why it’s valid and thoughtful mockery — subtle and nuanced don’t come into the picture.

Mockery can be a fresh and finely honed surgeons blade, but more often it’s a serrated fisherman’s fillet knife, or a vintage ’60s electric carving knife with green stylized flowers on the handle.

If this one comes across like a sledge hammer, it only demonstrates the impact it carries.

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Pkpost January 18, 2011 at 8:29 am

When neo-atheists berate Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism and any other non-Christian religion with equal hostility and disdain, I will respect their point of view. Until then, I’ll continue to view their singular focus on Christianity as the actions of gutless liberal pussies who won’t attack other religions out of fear of being called racists for deriding the religious beliefs of people who are mostly not white males of European ancestry.

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Zoe November 18, 2011 at 4:02 am

I do not see how it is “racist” to say that I think the beliefs of Hindusim, or Islam, or Christianity, or paganism are utter rubbish, if you are defining “race” as the amount of melanin in one’s skin. There are dark skinned people who are Christians, there are light skinned people who are Muslims (as in Chechnya). You cannot change the melanin in your skin (unless you are Michael Jackson), but the melanin in your skin has nothing to do with your ideas and beliefs. The two are not congruent categories. The genes you are born with (for melanin, for heart disease, for height) cannot be changed, but ideas and beliefs are not part of the genetic complement, so they have nothing to do with “race”.

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