On being “nice”

I have heard this argument so many times, it makes my ears spontaneously bleed upon thinking about it. The arguments of the nonreligious are “not nice” or “are smug” or “are rude.” PZ posted a link to one such argument, and I don’t think I really need to point out how silly it is to simply call someone rude, smug, or cruel as a refutation of an argument or as the first line in an argument. It really needs a good fisking, but since it seems the server is down while I write this, I’ll just post the cached version:

*note: it’s dull and boring, the bulk of my actual argument is after the silly part

I am trying really hard to cut down on generalising and bagging out “atheists” rather than specific people and streams of atheism.

Really now? Odd, because this seems to be precisely what you did.

They’re not all the same – and they aren’t all out to eat your babies. But atheists (general) keep giving me reason to think bad thoughts about them. Like the two who hijack this thread on Communicate Jesus.

I like babies, they’re delicious and nutritious, very tender, too. They hijacked a thread?  I sure thought they were just commenting… Looks like it to me. Go look at the page for yourself. There doesn’t seem to be anything false in there.

Here are five tips for my atheist friends to help them seem nicer and more reasonable.

Reasonable? He wants atheists to be reasonable? He can’t be serious. He believes a book written over 1000 years ago with no sources for verification, no corroborating evidence from contemporary historians, not a shred of physical evidence supporting the supernatural claims in that book, and he wants US to be reasonable. What drugs are you on?

1. Stop being so smug.

Yes, I’m smug because, let’s see, my arguments aren’t easily refuted? You can’t produce any evidence and therefor must resort to “well, you’re just too proud of yourself.” Really, I’m not, I’ll be proud of myself when I’m part of a project that improves lives for much of humanity. Until then, I’m going to be very vocal about the clear misrepresentations of honest inquiry and attempts to suppress this inquiry.

2. Don’t assume every piece of Christian evangelism is directed at you – we want the undecideds, not the decided-uns.

So do I. I want them to have honest representations of what I am saying. I’m also after YOU. I want YOU to think critically about the things you believe. I also want other atheists to think critically about what they believe. I want honest and informed criticisms. By making dishonest or uninformed criticisms misrepresenting my position or the scientific method or scientific discoveries, I take great offense to it.

3. Admit that the debate about God’s existence is complex – and that it can, depending on your presuppositions, be quite possible for intelligent and rational people to intelligently believe in an intervening deity who communicates through a book.

Except the debate is not complex: “Do/does (a) god(s) exist?” See, simple question. Now, here’s where the rational part comes in. Do you have any physical evidence supporting your claim that a supernatural entity exists?

4. Admit that the scientific method – which by its nature relies on induction rather than deduction (starting with a hypothesis and testing it rather than observing facts and forming a hypothesis) – is as open to abuse as any religious belief, and is neither objective nor infallible.

Here’s this for a refutation: go fuck yourself with a chalice. A hypothesis is not the starting point, it’s not even the end point, nor is it in the middle. Hypotheses are proposed based upon existing evidence and these hypotheses have testable aspects. So, yes, facts are observed, and hypotheses are formed. The experiments confirm or refute the hypotheses and new hypotheses are created based upon these observations. A hypothesis is an assumption, the observations are data, the interpretation of this data confirming or refuting the hypothesis is termed the result. These results are incorporated into new hypotheses and the cycle starts again. Results will always yield more questions than answers. Answering these questions is the goal of writing a hypothesis.

On top of this quite different method than the one you claim, science has a few other tricks, peer review and self-correction. In the event you have never been to a conference where two opposing models are being presented, you have yet to see an argument. Both sides are often VERY well informed, and usually very interesting questions are raised by these discussions as well as courses of investigation for both parties to further support or refute their own claims or the claims of the other party.

5. Try to deal with the actual notions of God seriously believed in by millions of people rather than inventing strawmen

Really, supernatural entity which answers prayers, helps people in need, and so forth? That one? You see, it has been addressed-repeatedly.

(or spaghetti monsters) to dismiss the concepts of God

Better idea, how about figure out that the spaghetti monster illustrates exactly how much evidence you have for the notion of “God.” Similarly, the Celestial Teapot, Invisible Pink Unicorn, and Cthulhu all illustrate precisely the same level of evidence put forth by these believers.

and deal with the Bible paying attention to context and the broader Christological narrative rather than quoting obscure Old Testament laws.

Fine, I’ll resort exclusively to the New Testament:

Matthew 5:18: For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Oops, seems like the “Old Testament” is still valid, doesn’t it?

By all means quote the laws when they are applied incorrectly by “Christians” – but understand how they’re meant to work before dealing with the Christians described in point 3.

I’ll just let SAB point out the absurdities to you. I’ll also let them explain the blatantly wrong parts. Have fun.

A particularly fun comment on the “communicate jesus” website is this one:

Hi Gerry, let’s take God out of the picture at the moment. Assuming (falsely, in my view!) that there is no god…

– why are there weapons of war in our world?
– why is there disease in our world?
– we are we not compassionate toward one another?

How does an atheist respond to these difficult questions of suffering, pain, disease, sickness and the overall problems with the human condition?

God easily becomes the scapegoat for humanity’s woes, yet I am yet to hear an atheist thank God for what is good about humanity and the world we live in. If there is no god, how do you respond to the questions above?

Answers for these questions are quite simple:

1) Weapons of war were created by humans to fight against one another for resources of various types or political power

2) Disease exists because of bacterial infections, viral infections, genetic disorders, autoimmune syndromes, and the like. All organisms struggle for life, mutation exists as a function of life… Disease exists because of these things, there is no cognitive desire for these to exist.

3) We generally are compassionate towards others within our “in-group.” This is because of our empathy instinct. When people are not empathetic, it is generally because the target is outside of the “in-group” either by birth or because they are excluded due to his or her behavior.

4) These questions are not difficult, and they have been answered MANY times.

5) Even if these questions could not be or have not been answered numerous times, it’s still not useful to say “if you can’t answer this, god exists.”

Now for my real post:

If you’re going to argue a point, in this case, for “atheists to seem nicer,” be prepared to support these claims when they come under criticism. In the illustrated case, the points brought up already been addressed quite extensively. Saying “the Earth is flat” millions of times is not a persuasive argument. Similarly, saying “atheists should be nice” thousands of times does not explain WHY we “should be nice.” Furthermore, what, exactly, does it mean to “be nice.” Does this mean we should not criticize your political views which often overlap with your religious views? Does this mean we are allowed to be critical if we don’t resort to name-calling? Additionally, I hope to come off to many Christians as shockingly rude, I have several motivations for this:

  1. I will respond to your opinions precisely in the same way I reply to any other claims or views; I refuse to accept the notion that religion is somehow exempt from criticism.
  2. Presenting shocking arguments are usually the best way to get the attention of the religious. When you present an argument that offends, it is a reflex for the person to read the argument in depth. This is precisely when I will use profanity; for shock-value. Using this too frequently results in attenuation, and hopefully, the attenuation to the shocking views of others will allow the religious to better cope with living in a diverse society.
  3. If you consider my criticisms to be offensive, rude, or “smug,” I encourage you to criticize them with rational, logical arguments which are novel and have not yet been addressed. I want to learn, saying the same thing over and over again is just intellectually dull.
  4. If I find your arguments flawed, and you reword them stating the exact same thing without addressing the critique, I feel obligated to call you out o on that.

6 Responses to “On being “nice””

  1. September 28, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Do you have any physical evidence supporting your claim that a supernatural entity exists?

    You mean other than the existence of the universe? Because you know what? Saying “I don’t know what caused it. I just know that it wasn’t anything outside of nature,” doesn’t cut it. At least not for someone who says s/he follows the evidence.

  2. 2 jaredcormier
    September 28, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    I’m going to leave this up so others can point and laugh rather than remove the blatantly fallacious logic. The reason this is fallacious is quite simple: do you have proof that a supernatural entity caused the universe to exist?

    It’s called an argument from ignorance and it can be summarized as such: “You don’t absolutely know what caused ‘x,’ therefor god did it.” It is also known as a “god of the gaps” argument.

  3. 3 Pliny-the-in-Between
    September 28, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    I suspect a lot of this complaining about niceness (other than the political labeling) is the culture shock of having been able to have their cake and eat it too for so long. Now there is some considerable push back every time religion decides to involve itself in politics. The door swings both ways now. If religion chooses to be a political force then it opens itself to the same kind of scrutiny as any other PAC. You can remain divine only as long as you stay off the school board, etc.

  4. September 28, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Well, if a Cause from outside of nature (remember, nothing natural or material existed at the time of the singularity) didn’t fit the evidence then I suppose you’d have a point re: God of the Gaps. However, since nothing natural or material existed at the singularity, what we have in your case is atheism of the gaps.

    Do I have proof that it was Creator God? Not irrefutable proof. Do we have proof that goes beyond a reasonable doubt? Ya, I think we do.


  5. 5 jaredcormier
    September 28, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    No, actually, what is left is a point of ignorance. Do you have ANY proof; refutable proof is not proof. I think you don’t understand what “proof” entails. Now I suppose I have another of your posts to rip apart.

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