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On myth 4, "religious" as in religious belief may have a broader scope than just religion. Many sceptics are opposed to religious, faith or non-evidence based belief of any kind. In this sense, marxism, gaia, animal rights, humanism, environmentalism can all be seen characterized as religions when they have their absolutes, their fervent believers, charismatic leaders and evangelism.

Myth 2) As you yourself note "I'm not familiar with this purported "silent majority" of religion- loving atheists that Scofield is talking about". Perhaps that is because most of these atheists are not Atheists, i.e., having adopted the Atheist collective identity. Most scientists are nonbelievers without being activists. About two-thirds of libertarians are atheists, but would probably identify as libertarians first. Religion and a propensity to religious beliefs seems to be the modern human norm, while nonbelief is the outlier. The attitude of the silent majority of atheists might be one of acceptance of religion rather than hostility towards it.

In this sense, marxism, gaia, animal rights, humanism, environmentalism can all be seen characterized as religions[...]

Some of the items in this list are pretty different from the others. Being in favor of animal rights is a values thing; we have a pretty good consensus that certain animals experience pain and suffering, and the disagreement is about whether or not that's something we should care about.

Religions often try to market themselves the same way, but tend to skip over the part where the basic facts that their value claims rely on are what's under contention.

Humanism, marxism, and environmentalism seem somewhat in the middle; they say "We should do X so that we get benefits Y and Z", and that's a factually testable claim. There's still a value judgement in whether the particular Y and Z are actually important, but in most cases they aren't controversial goals (wealth, liberty, and happiness, typically).

Andrew Hall

"Atheists are aware that different religions are different."

True enough! Different religions are like different types of mental illness. The amount of damage that they do diifer, but all are harmful.


I agree, many of the people that know I'm atheist invent any kind of stupid thing, say that I'm unhappy or than I feel all-mighty like a God, really stupid things, buts is not the worse, a friend of mine, also an atheist, their parents didn't give food to him, he had to purchase his own food (he is only 18 years old, and still studying) and I ask to ALL THE MINDLESS BELIEVERS, Who is the real BAD people, and atheist whom doesnt hurt anyone or the believers that invent everything bad about them, don't feed their own children and hate them, even when your "imaginary friend" said that everyone is equal??? Ask me please



You chose to be dimissive by emphasizing the differences among marxism, gaia, animal rights, secular humanism and environmentalism. Yes people have different subjective values, but what these have in common with religions is the presumption to prescribe behavior for others, and among the fervent believers the right to impose their value system by force upon others.

The animal rights movement is more than just knowledge that animals can experience pain and suffer, presumably the sickos that torture animals know that. The assertion of rights and the purpose of the movement is their belief that the behaviors of others is not right and that something should be done about it.

Marxism is part of the Hegelian philosophical school that believes massless collective identities such as nation states, classes and races imbued with rights that supercede those of the individual. It has an eschatology and a mystically powerful dialectic.


Robert B

@ Africangenesis:

Practically every system or theory of ethics since Plato has "prescribed behavior for others." Every code of law since Hammurabi has done the same thing and backed it up with threats of force. There are political/legal limits on who can prescribe what behavior by force, and social guidelines on who can prescribe what behavior by argument and reason. But the basic act of saying what people should do is entirely uncontroversial.

Similarly, every ethical or political school in history has had charasmatic leaders and people who believe in it strongly. When you say "evangelism" in this context, I gather you mean "trying to convince others to your point of view," which is also pretty universal (and, incidentally, vital to the political process in a democracy.) And while I don't agree with absolute rules for what to do in ethics, ethical principles and objectives are almost always phrased as absolutes. See: "We hold these truths to be self-evident..."

Your basic point seems to be that if non-religious philosophies make the same kind of mistakes that religions do, we should reject those philosophies. That's a good idea. But the things you mention aren't mistakes, nor are they specific to religion, they're what everyone with an opinion does all the time.

What you're doing here is like denouncing baseball as being essentially a religion, because baseball players wear hats, and the Pope wears a hat.


@Robert B.,

The "philosophies" go beyond "trying to convince others", the seek to impose their views by force. The truths the founders held to be self evident, were to be free of such people. Most religions as practiced in America are benign compared to these philosophies as expounded these days.

The "philosophies" go beyond "trying to convince others", the seek to impose their views by force.

That's not really characteristic of most of the things you listed. Marxism has the worst history of using force, but the rest of them tend strongly towards far more benign tactics, with the exception of some extreme fanatics at the edge (i.e. some of Greenpeace, some of PETA, and... well, actually I can't think of any examples of extremist humanism or extremist Gaia-belief, but I'm sure they both have at least a few jerks).

The assertion of rights and the purpose of the movement is their belief that the behaviors of others is not right and that something should be done about it.

For the majority of animal rights activists, that something is writing angry letters, boycotting stores, and holding protests. This is a pretty low threshold for "impos[ing] views by force"!

We can't use the presence of fanatics as a way of deciding which belief systems to denounce, because every belief system, whether true or false, whether sensible or incoherent, has some ridiculous frothing fanatics.

So: it has to be about the content, not the means of delivery, unless that means is actually violent, not merely aggressively outspoken.

Seth Strong

I like this post but I couldn't find a like button anywhere.

UC Icaarus


Thank you

This will be added to my go to collection for directing people instead of re-answering the same question a million times

Thank you



You seem quite reasonable, are you from Pittsburgh by any chance? How many reasonable dsimon's can there be? If so, I'll contact you as my human identity via another channel.

It isn't just extreme humanism or gaia believers that want to impose their morals by force. Humanists have been active in promote sex and diversity education in the public schools and with compulsory education many who had different values and few means had little choice before homeschooling gradually became a accepted option. The gaians have generally bought into the global warming fears and support imposing cap and trade type solutions through government coercion. If these positions don't seem fanatical to you, perhaps that is a demonstration of how difficult it can be to see things through someone elses eyes.



Africangenesis, I've never been to Pittsburg, you're thinking of somebody else.

Regarding education: at some point, if we have a standard curriculum (which we certainly should for public education), some things will end up in it and some things won't. I sympathize with those who feel trapped into sending their children to schools they don't like, so I support home-schooling, private school vouchers, and similar systems which allow school choice. However, when it comes to actually setting the public school curriculum, some stuff gets in and some doesn't; it's not coercion to put sex ed in schools any more than it is to put science in.

Regarding environmental regulation: this is in the category of things that government is properly there to deal with, as a smaller part of a legal system designed to protect people from being hurt by others. If you disagree with whether or not a particular environmental regulation is a good idea, that's one thing, but it's not effective to say that government should exert no "coercive" force to protect the environment, any more than to say that police should exert no force to stop crimes in progress.



Regardless of what you think it is the proper role for government to fulfill, the issue was whether these groups and philosophies seek to impose their values on others by force. They embrace propagating their values with government means that would cause great concern about separation of church and state if they were traditional religions instead of other religious type value systems.

Fat Cow

What a boring conversation, you two !! C'mon, step it up here, I'm falling asleep.


Africangenesis, the implication of the standard you're using is that government shouldn't do anything whatsoever! Anything government does, it does because some people thought it was a good idea and petitioned it effectively enough. Should government avoid performing any action or setting any policy if the impetus behind that change comes from any kind of named group?

Religious beliefs are singled out as specially prohibited from government endorsement or discrimination because they're best handled as personal beliefs. That doesn't apply to issues like environmental regulations, school curriculum standards, or economic policies. People certainly strenuously disagree with each other on those issues, but the disagreements are on matters of objective fact and prediction, on what choice will provide the best result for everyone, not on irreconcilable differences in matters of personal faith.


@Fat Cow: What a dull complaint! Come on, you can come up with a more poetic way of expressing your kvetching. I'm yawning here.



government should protect from outside attacks, it should protect us from each other, and most of all, it should protect us from itself, by adhering to checks and standards imposed upon its power. If you ask for more from it then you are asking for trouble and you are mooching off of others.


@africangenesis, environmental regulation and financial regulation definitely qualify under your list. Education doesn't, but regardless since public schools do currently exist, their curriculums are part of the government's duty as long as that continues to be the case. Even a big debate on the existence of public schools wouldn't justify locking down all public influence on the oversight of government-ran schools still operating. That would violate our right to representation.

It's crucial that citizens be able to petition the government for changes in how it sets laws and regulates public projects. I still don't see how such petitioning is coercive.


Regarding item #3, I find it difficult to imagine that Jews would have been persecuted as much as they have if it weren't for the pervasive notion that the Jews were notionally responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. And even if we can point to some very mundane motives underlying the Crusades, it's doubtful they would have gathered the same degree of popular support if it weren't for the claim that "God wills it." And would have Osama bin-Laden's getting bent out of shape at the American military presence in Saudi Arabia been quite as vehement if not for the status of Mecca and Medina as "holy cities"?

Sure, for every atrocity that has been committed in the name of religion, we can point to underlying mundane motives, but I don't think anyone can honestly argue that inserting a religious aspect into the conflict doesn't facilitate and exacerbate such behavior by allowing the perpetrators to assuage their objections and salve their consciences with the idea they were doing God's work.


I'd like to remark, by the way, that upon first seeing the term "deepity," I thought it was a portmanteau of "Deepak" and "deity"; that is, the kind of vague, impossible-to-disprove (and impossible to distinguish from non-existent) oh-so-sophisticated model of deity Deepak Chopra claims to believe in.


...portmanteau of "Deepak" and "deity"...

I Love it! that isn't the definition, but maybe it should be! Maybe it could be a new word: "Deepakity". e.g:

"You are not the drop in the ocean, but the ocean in the drop.”

“You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.”

So not all deepities are deepakitites, but all deepakities are deepities...


Steerpike, reminds me of all the "wise sayings" from The Sphinx in Mystery Men.

"To learn my teachings, I must first teach you how to learn."

"He who questions training only trains himself at asking questions."

"When you can balance a tack hammer on your head, you will head off your foes with a balanced attack. "

"The Sphinx: Your temper is very quick, my friend. But until you learn to master your rage...
Mr. Furious: ...your rage will become your master? That's what you were going to say. Right? Right?
The Sphinx: Not necessarily."

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