Saturday, May 5, 2007

Taking one for the team

One of the biggest problems we face is misunderstanding. I can't even remember how many times in high school I had to clear up the fact that being an atheist does not mean that I worship the devil. I am particularly fond of reading of reading stories from atheists who deconverted from being very religious. One of my favorites is Primordial Blog, especially Brian's "What the Bible Really Says" posts, and his four part series on being an evangelical faith healer. Lynn's Daughter also has some excellent tips coming from a "recovering evangelical."

Hearing about the lives of Christians (and followers of other religions as well, I just don't hear from as many of them) is interesting, albeit sad, but I like to think I have a better understanding because of it. Hearing about these lives from the perspective of atheists that have deconverted is one method of gaining this perspective, but obviously one must also discuss things with real theists! The is a sisyphean task, though, because of the amount of material. Some people, though, have committed the time and energy to really "take one for the team" and delve into the theist psyche. Or... at least their message boards!

Lya at Escapee from the Meme Machine has done this very thing, and we should all benefit from it. She visited 35 boards over a two month period, and generated some very good data. Her entire post is a must read, but the sections covered are:
  • The 11 most common misconceptions about atheists
  • The 5 most common excuses for having no evidence of the existence of god
  • The 14 most commonly used fallacies
  • The 4 most commonly used bits of known hoaxes/forgeries
  • Some notable outcomes
The most interesting section for me was the 14 most commonly used fallacies. I have been trying to brush up on my logic skills here and there over the last few months, and am especially trying to learn the common fallacies. This is a great list of what to start with. What I was most surprised with were omissions -- the lack of the "atheists worship the devil" misconception that I've personally come across, and the lack of a misunderstood "piltdown man" reference in the most commonly used hoaxes. Of course that's more about evolution but evolution is always a popular topic for theist/atheist debates. (I saw a post from a theist just a few days ago that confused Lucy with the piltdown man, and claiming that Lucy had been determined to be a hoax, and that therefore evolution was false and creationism is true. Of course, anyone that even uses the piltdown man itself against evolution has fallen into a trap -- it was the application of our knowledge of evolution that brought the piltdown man hoax to light, making it a triumph for evolution, instead of a disgrace.)

Thank you Lya for taking the time to do this. I know this must have tried your patience, but you have helped us all.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. I'm glad you enjoy my stories. Your blog is part of my regular reading as well.

Sometimes when I'm blogging I wonder if it's reaching anybody so it's nice to get the feedback.

Jude said...

I grew up with theists, so I've never felt the desire to learn more about their arguments. I don't see any point in arguing with people about faith.

Last week, the devoutly Christian secretary at a school where I substitute teach told me that she thinks it is appalling that people take their dogs into the cemetery because it is disrespectful to the dead for them to go to the bathroom there.

I replied that the cemetery manager had never complained about it as a being a problem--that he mostly complained about gophers.

After the atheist science teacher and I left the room, he shook his head in wonder that she could possibly think it mattered (or was disrespectful) for dogs to urinate or defecate on graves. I completely understood his perspective and was bewildered by hers. Neither of us felt it was worth arguing with her about it. The science teacher and I accept that we see the world in very different ways from that secretary. Amen.

David W. said...

Nice story Jude. I not only don't understand the secretary's point of view, I don't understand it in light of my understanding of Christianity! Don't Christians believe that the body is just a shell that gets left behind as the soul travels on to heaven/hell?

Naomi said...

David, what a surprise to see Lya's name and old website mentioned here! She seems to have dropped out of sight, after leaving GifS, where she was a contributor for quite a while. (Columbia Journalism Review spotlighted one of her GifS' posts!)

On June 13, she moved her blog (she links to the new one) and on June 28, 2006, she posted for the last time. I've searched on the 'webs and found the occasional comment by her on others' blogs.

Frankly, I miss her...

But I had also read her survey and its results. Boy, she had more stamina that I could ever hope to muster! What a woman! What an atheist!