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« Humanist Symposium #4 | Main | A Carnival and a Swarm: Theocracy and Crankiness on the 4th of July »



This is brilliant. Really brilliant. Thank you for this.


Well, the main point for me is that a theocracy is an inherently unjust and unfair system, even if the folks running it are swell folks, although they never are. There's also a key difference between being religious and holding allegiance to a religious *institution*. I'm not that concerned about religious folks, who are free to do as they please, it's the theocrats who are the real danger. In the Buffy storyline, folks are picking the promise of peace and happiness at the cost of freedom. That Ben Franklin line comes to mind, " "Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither." You're right that religion often goes hand in hand with authoritarianism, but the real underlying danger is authoritarians. The dogma they preach is somewhat irrelevant.

Ronan Wills

Great post. It's pretty cool to see such an obvious pro-atheism message on mainstream TV.

BTW, do you know who painted the image of the naked woman holding the lantern thing up?


Sharing your religious beliefs with other people doesn't create a "theocracy."

If it did, then given the evangelical nature of so many atheists today, I think atheism wants to establish its own atheocracy. The charge is hypocritical (as most atheist attacks upon religion turn out to be).

I find it interesting that this post finds a "pro-atheist" message out of a TV show that simply bashed religion. Why is it that it that the core identity of atheism is wrapped up in opposing religion? (And why is George Bush always portrayed as the boogeyman of religion? Come back to reality and stop holding false beliefs.)

Whether right or wrong, religion is brimming with positive content that has nothing to do with opposing atheism. Is there nothing positive atheism has to offer besides opposing religion and George Bush?


Sharing your religious beliefs with other people doesn't create a "theocracy."

Reading comprehension failure; this is not what Greta said. She specifically wrote that "And the institutional refusal to allow a belief to be questioned naturally leads to evangelism[...]"

Why is it that it that the core identity of atheism is wrapped up in opposing religion?

Because that's what the word means. Or at the very least, atheism means being dissociated with religion.

Is there nothing positive atheism has to offer besides opposing religion and George Bush?

A commitment to valuing the truth over comforting falsehoods? A sense of pragmatism and realism about the world? An even-handedness that allows any idea to be criticized, rather than unfairly and harmfully reserving some beliefs as taboo and unquestionable?


The previous comment was from me; I'm not sure why it didn't show my name there.

Robert B

Also, Dan, make sure you distinguish between different meanings of "evangelism." One meaning is "strict adherence to a religious text." Atheists are right to denounce this - it's irrational and harmful to thought. We also, for the most part, don't do it or encourage it - as you might expect, it's a very fast way to make enemies of a lot of other atheists, cough cough Ayn Rand cough cough.

"Evangelism" is also used to mean ardent advocacy of a certain position or philosophy, especially arguing for it in public forums. Atheists do "evangelism" in this sense, obviously - it's what this blog is about - though we usually avoid the word evangelism because it sounds religious. OTOH, we don't denounce religions for making their case in public (unless they use the government to do it, which is unconstitutional.) We denounce religions because they're wrong - we refute their case because it's a wrong case, not because we think they don't have a right to argue for it.

(Indeed, the surprising thing is that there are people who believe in hell and don't try to save nonbelievers from it - it would be pretty callous to believe that I was doomed to eternal torture but not try to help me.)

I assume that when Greta argued against "evangelism" she meant "strict adherence to a religious text", which isn't hypocritical because she doesn't encourage strict adherence to any atheist texts.

And, btw, I think atheism does have positive values, but it wouldn't matter if it didn't, because nothing in atheism says it has to be the sum total of anyone's philosophy. In my case, for example, my core values are reason, empathy, and creativity. Atheism is secondary - it's a social/political issue I think is important, not the center of my life. "Anti-torture-ism" is pretty "negative," too, and doesn't have anything in the way of what you call "positive content." But no one goes around saying "You anti-torture people are all so negative. Don't you have anything positive to offer?"

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