Tuesday, December 22, 2009

10 Things Christians and Atheists Can (And Must) Agree On

In the spirit of the holidays and of religious tolerance, I thought I'd post a link to a pretty good list I found at cracked.com called 10 Things Christians and Atheists Can (And Must) Agree On. It's a long article that I won't fully post here but will list the 10 items with highlights from a few:

Can Christians and atheists both agree that...

1. You Can Do Terrible Things in the Name of Either One

... All I need from you is agreement that it's entirely possible for either an atheist or theist world to devolve into a screaming murder festival. The religious leader sends his people into battle because he thinks God commanded it, the Stalins and Maos of the world do the same because they see their people as nothing more than meaty fuel to be ground up to feed the machinery of The State. In both cases, the people are equally dead.

2. Both Sides Really Do Believe What They're Saying

... if there is a God, it appears that some good people honestly don't perceive him. For whatever reason. And there has to be some tolerance in God's rules for the Honest Mistake. Has to be. Otherwise we're all going to get screwed by that thing with the Sabbath being on Saturday instead of Sunday.

So, we've agreed that the other guy, no matter how irritating he or she is, is likely making an honest mistake.

3. In Everyday Life, You're Not That Different

... Well, at the very worst, the atheists are just applying the same common sense, real-world troubleshooting to the God question. At the creation of the universe and in the heart of mankind, they expect to find the same physical, tangible answers they'd find inside a burnt transmission. If they're wrong about God, they're only wrong in that they've taken the tried-and-true troubleshooting we all practice one step too far ...

Well, at the very worst, the Christians are just taking that same moral impulse and applying it to the God question. At the creation of the universe, they expect to find the same invisible hand that pushes us to be fair and loyal and kind. If they're wrong about God, they're only wrong in that they've taken that absolute morality and put a face on it, made an idol out of it. Taken it one step too far.

You think of it that way, and the amount of overlap between the two of us is actually pretty striking.

4. There Are Good People on Both Sides (fairly self-explanatory)

5. Your Point of View is Legitimately Offensive to Them

... So Christians, knowing what we just said about how it is possible to be a true, honest atheist, that people walk around every day and truly see no evidence of God, can you understand why it's offensive to them to hear that they, and their family, and their children, and their friends, are going to burn for eternity for it?

6. We Tend to Exaggerate About the Other Guy

Anybody can memorize facts. But you remain a clumsy, intellectual oaf of a person as long as you keep looking for sheer black and white in every situation ...

... when we get into these atheist vs. Christian arguments, can the atheists stop acting like Christians want to abolish all science and live in grass huts? Just because some Christians reject the science on evolution, doesn't mean they reject all science.

... America has been full of Christians since the day we invaded it, and has been a scientific and technological freaking superpower. So please stop waving your arms and warning that if Christians get their way, we'll all be sacrificing virgins on altars and replacing surgeons with priests.

And Christians, ... stop implying that the atheist lifestyle is one long drug-riddled blood orgy? You take a country like Japan, where just 12% of the people say religion is important to their lives and yet have some of the lowest crime rates in the world.

... we only need to agree that rejecting science on one subject doesn't mean you reject all science on all subjects, and that rejecting Christian morality doesn't mean rejecting all morality.

7. We Tend to Exaggerate About Ourselves, Too

8. Focusing on Negative Examples Makes You Stupid

9. Both Sides Have Brought Good to the Table

... rationalism ... the philosophy that started saying, centuries ago, that it's not demons that cause disease. It's microbes, and genetic defects, and chemistry. And that we can find those causes and we can find cures. Cures in the physical world, without consulting the priest, without going through a ceremony.

... If atheism is wrong, it's only wrong in that it takes rationalism too far, beyond the edges of the universe. But you don't have a problem with the rationalism itself. There are people you love who would not be alive without it. You can pray that grandpa's heart holds out for another year, but rational thinking invented the pacemaker.

So even if you detest atheism, you can at least agree that it grew out of something good.

... In the middle of a religious debate, you may say that religion and superstition are the prime evil in human society. But you look behind it, and you'll find that other monster is bigger. Humans doing the opposite, acting like animals. Treating other humans as nothing but engines for their own pleasure.

Religion - whether it was handed down by God or just invented by a bunch of guys- serves mainly to fight that. It makes humanity sacred, and the moral law moreso. You can hate the methods it uses, you can say that there are other ways, you can say that it only replaces one cancer with another. But most of what it's trying to get you to do - treat other humans as sacred and put morality above your own impulses - you already do ...

10. You'll Never Harass the Other Side Out of Existence

Remember when I said that, when somebody comes on too strong, no matter what they're selling, we tend to run the other way?

... People are not convinced that way. The sarcasm, the disdain, the laughter. It makes you feel better, and rallies your friends, but it does exactly nothing to change minds on the other side. Conservatives may like to read Ann Coulter, but nobody else does.

No, in reality, if changing minds is your thing, there's only one way to do it:

Lead by Example.

... if you want to criticize the Christians' intolerance, then be tolerant. Show them how it's done. Shame them with your tolerance. You won't have to say they're awful. They'll look awful by sheer comparison to you.

And don't show up in a room full of Christians and start making fun of their taboos, immediately talking about boobs or whatever, as if the only reason people adhere to a rule is out of fear of experiencing the awesomeness of breaking it. You've got taboos, too. All of you. ...

Be tolerant. Lead by example.

Both of you.

And don't think of it as a tactic to win converts. Think of it as common courtesy.

Be tolerant and lead by example. Couldn't have said it better myself. Have a great holiday everybody.

"The difference between stupid and intelligent people - and this is true whether or not they are well-educated - is that intelligent people can handle subtlety." -- Neal Stephenson


Scott said...
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Scott said...

I like number 3. All I can say is one thing I've said time and time again. God bless the internets. I know it's personally made a big difference in seeing how the other side lives. And to seeing that there really is no "other side". We're all in this damn boat together.

wunelle said...

Interesting summary. Most of these seem on track, though I wonder at #6. Not at the title of the item, but the content. I think to claim (as I'm sure I've done) that this or that religious sect wants us to be in the dark ages IS indeed probably an exaggeration. But not because any religion encourages and embraces the split-brain thing. Muslims or fundies may be happy to use modern medicine and the cell phone, but there's still an incompatibility with the embrace of science when it suits us and the rejection of inconvenient findings of that same methodology.

I think we must accept that believers really don't want the dark ages; but that's no feather in the cap of their belief.

dbackdad said...

Scott - well said.

Wunelle - The titles all seem spot on and, at the very least, have the sentiment in the right place. I agree some of the explanations maybe go a bit far.

Laura said...

I have to echo Scott. The tubes have made it much easier for people to access opinions other than their own. Most hatred or conflict about ideologies come from a complete misunderstanding about what the other side actually stands for and boiling down the "other" into binary opposites and caricatures. Once you realize that there's diversity of thought on all sides of any ideology, you can start to find common ground - even if you don't agree.

CyberKitten said...

I have a problem with No 1. Although people have done terrible things in the name of various gods I don't think similar things have been done in the name of atheism (if there even is such a thing). The activities of Stalin, Mao and the rest where undertaken because they were homicidal maniacs - not because they were atheists.

Agree with 2.

Largely agree with 3. Religion or otherwise doesn't have much impact on everyday life mundane activities.

Yes on 4.

Regarding 5: I know that some religious people are offended by my public lack of belief. I, however, am not offended by their beliefs. I merely do not understand how they can hold them.

As to 6: I hardly think any exageration is required.....

Not so much on 7.

As to 8: Focusing *exclusively* on the negative certainly won't win you any friends or converts....

Yes on 9.

Yes also on 10.

dbackdad said...

CK - I would tend to agree on #1. I don't believe Mao and Stalin did what they did carrying the banner of atheism. You really can't. You don't carry a banner of what you don't believe in. That doesn't make sense.

On #6, I think that is the point the writer is making. To get in a philosophical argument with a Christian, one doesn't have to resort to bringing up the points of the fringe elements. Those elements don't represent all of Christianity. But I get what you are saying also, in that there are mainstream Christian leaders that have millions of followers that have viewpoints that deserve ridicule. That there is enough money to fund and enough people to visit a Creationism Museum is a perfect example.

But, as a whole, I think the writer is bringing up points that are a good reminder to people of both sides that it's not necessarily a monster on the other side of the argument.