Sunday, January 13, 2008


One of the issues that has come up from time to time is the issue of atheists fighting each other rather than uniting against a common enemy.

Only, who should we be uniting against, and who is the common enemy?

I do not argue for atheism and against religion - that is not the fight I am interested in. My fight is for true beliefs and good desires. Religion, certainly, represents a body of false beliefs, some of which are extremely destructive. However, it is not the only set of false beliefs that exist, and not necessarily the most destructive.

When it comes to destruction on a global scale, Exxon-Mobile and Altria (formerly known as Phillip-Morris) are two examples of entities that can well compete with Islamic jihadists in the numbers of people they can kill and the amount of property they can destroy. As I watch my teenage nieces and nephews grow up, I can see that the most serious dangers they face do not come from religion. It comes from drugs, disease (esp. sexually transmitted disease such as HIV), tobacco, drunk driving, non-religious violence at school, debt - both personal and national.

Of course, the one thing that the solution to all of these problems have in common is an ability to apply the principles of science and reason - to come up with theories and to compare theories for effectiveness - in order to discover the most effective way to deal with these problems.

It's not really 'religion' (in the form of whether a God exists) that is the most important threat. It is the failure to appreciate the virtues of truth and reason, and to apply those principles to solving real-world problems. Whereas atheists are not immune from illogical arguments in the defense of desired conclusions, or embracing fiction when it is in their interests to do so, I really do not see this as a problem of uniting atheists against a common enemy. I see it more as uniting raionalists against a common enemy, and recognizing that just because a person is an atheist, this does not imply that he defends reason.


Divided By Zer0 said...

I agree but in my experience, religion is the de facto perpetuator of the "anti-knowledge" and trust-in-authority mindframes which they instill into children. A reason why these companies or organizations can do what they do is because people do not care to investigate themselves, distrust science, and trust to what their authority figures say is good for them.
This, religions does and needs to do for without it, their flock would wander.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

divided by zer0

I disagree with your assessment. While religion is a perpetrator of anti-knowledge, I see a great deal of it in politics that has nothing to do with religion.

Global warming, tobacco company research, any issue where somebody thinks they can funnel public funds into their comnpany or to alter government regulation to their advantage is filled with 'anti-knowledge'.

Even debates about such things as moral objecitivsm/subjectivism are filled with arguments that are popular because of their usefulness in spite of their lack of validity.

Divided By Zer0 said...

However, none of these institutes have the power within the school and family environment that religion does.
Nobody would teach their child for example: "Trust in science, except when it dissagress with your religious beliefs".

Divided By Zer0 said...

Not certain why my last comment was not submitted. In any case I repeat it:

Change "religion" in the last sentence with "Corporate".

PhillyChief said...

I think you miss the point of the first comment, Alonzo. It's not an issue of whether religion and corporations spread lies and misinformation to advance their goals, the point is religion creates an environment where such things can succeed with little or no resistance.

I think though that you touch on this in your last paragraph. Certainly a defender of reason and skepticism would be more apt to question claims by people about global warming, smoking, drinking, drugs, and their ramifications. Someone who does not value reason and skepticism would be more apt to accepting authority, trusting corporations, and not looking seriously into issues and their ramifications. Religion, imo, fosters the later mindset and allows these problems you describe to flourish.

I understand how this relates to fighting a common enemy, but I don't see anything in your post really addressing atheist in-fighting. I think your title should be "Who is the common enemy?".