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Old 12-12-2013, 06:04 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
14,198 posts, read 9,159,908 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Allen View Post
Rep. Sinema is discussed on page 3 of the linked article. She takes pains to avoid identifying as atheist. Or theist, for that matter.
Maybe this is the way forward in politics for unbelievers. Frame it as a question of impartiality. No agenda either way, but equal rights for all. My metaphysics are a private matter, as are those of each of my constituents.
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Old 12-12-2013, 06:23 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
14,198 posts, read 9,159,908 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tatooine View Post
Perhaps the 'militant' atheists have caused people to associate the word atheist with angry, hostile, anti-religion folks (which some atheists are, and some aren't). I wonder if the polls referenced in the article asking if people would trust a qualified gay or atheist candidate would come out differently if they used "nonbeliever" or "secular" or "non-affiliated" instead.
Probably. But I suspect that the whole purpose of the survey was to gauge people's reaction to a particular label, not its alternatives.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tatooine View Post
I'm in California, too, and I've learned not to mention atheism. I've gotten the response from both friends, roommates, and teachers. In college I went the soft route of "oh, I'm undeclared" in response to people asking about my religion, and it came back to me as "Oh, you're an atheist" in a rather disappointed, disgruntled tone.
You could get away with it in Berkeley, I suspect, but not Bakersfield, if you catch my drift. In pocket subcultures where egalitarianism and diversity are truly valued, it's not a problem; I can testify to that where I live now. But even where I live, I'm mindful in dealing with store employees that they may have commuted in from far out in the country where people still value guns and god.

Wish me luck, over the weekend my wife and I are visiting my two surviving brothers, one of whom is still a very committed fundamentalist. They are meeting my wife for the first time, and she is both indifferent and naive about "spiritual matters" so I think as they ask her about herself her lack of a church backstory will confirm their suspicions that I may have gone over to the Dark Side and they will be gumming around the edges of things like crazy trying to figure it out. Hilarity may ensue.

I think what it comes down to is that particularly in rural areas generally and the midwest and parts of the Northeast in particular, the US is quite insular, culturally. We are a large country and one doesn't feel particularly deprived not traveling internationally, and thus people aren't exposed to much diversity. As such, it's easier to be insular and to otherize people with different ideas and see them as a threat. It's easier to build intellectual ghettoes that are self-sufficient enough that you never have to encounter people who aren't fairly homogenous with your own thinking.

In my own case, I was raised like that and even though I've never had a racist bone in my body, I never encountered nor thought about people of other races as a youngster, and probably seemed awkward when I first did encounter them. I tend to this day to use dated labels, e.g., "oriental" rather than "asian" if I don't watch it, and thus am a bit more prone to faux pas than your average bear.

I think this tendency is amplified in theists encountering atheists for the first time, particularly who label themselves as atheist rather than something with a less militant reputation such as "not religious". Unbelief is a cardinal sin to conservative theists, and leads, in their minds, to all sorts of exaggerated consequences, not just loss of faith but loss of moral compass and actual hatred of god ... that last is a particularly potent taboo, and they never stop to think that you can't hate someone who doesn't exist for you. In point of fact, the opposite of love is not hate anyway, it's indifference, which is exactly what we atheists have on the topic of god. Hatred is only possible when love is disappointed, and someone who is still mad at god, by definition, still believes in god at many important levels.

Actual unbelief and disinterest is something so alien to theists that they can't see it, much less get their arms around it, so they default to explanations that make the most sense to them. Unfortunately those explanations make us far more dangerous and exotic than we actually are.
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Old 12-12-2013, 07:24 AM
 
39,884 posts, read 11,154,715 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
Maybe this is the way forward in politics for unbelievers. Frame it as a question of impartiality. No agenda either way, but equal rights for all. My metaphysics are a private matter, as are those of each of my constituents.
I agree that, while I prefer to be up front with my atheism, using the euphemisms would be a useful tactic. not to make us sound better, but to let people know that they can have religious doubts, opposition to religion, doubts that a god is 'hands - on' the need for secular rule to ensure religious rights for all, without the 'atheist' label being forced on them, which monicker still has a huge amount of bad rap.
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Old 12-12-2013, 11:23 AM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
41,691 posts, read 18,740,308 times
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If the situation were reversed, one where 90 % of the US population classed themselves as atheists, wouldn't most of us be negative about electing someone president from among the 10 % professing religious faith? "You're voting for the guy who prays to an imaginary being before making decisions? Really?"
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Old 12-12-2013, 11:59 AM
 
Location: Somewhere out there.
6,947 posts, read 3,836,445 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
If the situation were reversed, one where 90 % of the US population classed themselves as atheists, wouldn't most of us be negative about electing someone president from among the 10 % professing religious faith? "You're voting for the guy who prays to an imaginary being before making decisions? Really?"
Well its a hypothetical scenario, but I like to think no I wouldn't judge them on their belief in god, I'd judge them on their ability to lead the country, same as now. Obama seems to have at least some belief in god but to me that's irrelevant as I don't think it's what guides his decisions. Might as well put my money where my mouth is and come out and say I think he's one of the best, kindest and most rational people alive. He's the result of his upbringing and experience, same as the rest of us so I don't have any problem with his belief, his having been brought up in a Christian dominated country, so he can't help that, and I think he's doing his best to battle with an inherited system which makes it practically impossible to change anything (but I'll go no further because I don't think the thread is meant to be about politics).

If I judged a person for no other reason than they believed in god, I'd be no better than the person who judged me for no other reason than being an atheist.
I judge people on their character, their actions and their ethics. I actually have no problem with people having a faith in god. I think there will always be people that have a faith in god, no matter how much we think we know. I don't actually think it is that irrational at a fundamental level (I don't mean fundamentalist in that sense, which is whole other kettle of fish).
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Old 12-12-2013, 01:53 PM
 
39,884 posts, read 11,154,715 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
If the situation were reversed, one where 90 % of the US population classed themselves as atheists, wouldn't most of us be negative about electing someone president from among the 10 % professing religious faith? "You're voting for the guy who prays to an imaginary being before making decisions? Really?"
I think we would pick the right guy for the job, on the understanding that he (or she) leave their religion where it belongs. Outside.

We do not believe that people are flawed, unfit to hold office or not entitles to be regarded as a citizens just because they may believe some religious twaddle or other.

That of course means that anyone fitted for the job could get to do it, no matter what religion, denomination or unbeliever- type they might be.

That is what secular government is (or should be) all about.
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Old 12-12-2013, 02:19 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
41,691 posts, read 18,740,308 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AREQUIPA View Post
I think we would pick the right guy for the job, on the understanding that he (or she) leave their religion where it belongs. Outside.

We do not believe that people are flawed, unfit to hold office or not entitles to be regarded as a citizens just because they may believe some religious twaddle or other.

That of course means that anyone fitted for the job could get to do it, no matter what religion, denomination or unbeliever- type they might be.

That is what secular government is (or should be) all about.
Well, ideally, yeah. In realistic terms, in the hypothetical anyone running for president professing to be a deist would automatically become the champion of the 10 % of the population who were religious. Depending on just how annoying those 10 % have been in the hypothetical, the atheist majority would probably have concerns about electing someone who might be promoting their agenda.

In the hypothetical, your present attitude toward matters would be different, it would have been shaped by different societal dynamics regarding religion. You cannot assume that you would be someone with precisely the same levels of toleration as you are now.
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Old 12-12-2013, 04:33 PM
 
39,884 posts, read 11,154,715 times
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That may be, which is why we should have politically correct laws passed to ensure that we act in an even - handed manner, no matter what prejudices might overwhelm us from time to time.
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Old 12-12-2013, 04:45 PM
 
12,540 posts, read 12,615,878 times
Reputation: 28907
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
If the situation were reversed, one where 90 % of the US population classed themselves as atheists, wouldn't most of us be negative about electing someone president from among the 10 % professing religious faith? "You're voting for the guy who prays to an imaginary being before making decisions? Really?"
It wouldn't take the U.S. being 90% atheist for me to feel that way. I felt that way with Bush. He made a big stink about being on a mission driven by his god. As one who feels that deities have no place in government and that we should have a strong separation of church and state, that gave me the creeps.

FWIW, I suspect that President Obama is an agnostic on a generous day, just from the things he says and his comments about secularism and the separation of church and state. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if, after he is out of office, he writes another book in which he says he's an atheist.
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Old 12-12-2013, 05:06 PM
 
Location: Hyrule
8,398 posts, read 9,943,666 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
Probably. But I suspect that the whole purpose of the survey was to gauge people's reaction to a particular label, not its alternatives.

You could get away with it in Berkeley, I suspect, but not Bakersfield, if you catch my drift. In pocket subcultures where egalitarianism and diversity are truly valued, it's not a problem; I can testify to that where I live now. But even where I live, I'm mindful in dealing with store employees that they may have commuted in from far out in the country where people still value guns and god.

Wish me luck, over the weekend my wife and I are visiting my two surviving brothers, one of whom is still a very committed fundamentalist. They are meeting my wife for the first time, and she is both indifferent and naive about "spiritual matters" so I think as they ask her about herself her lack of a church backstory will confirm their suspicions that I may have gone over to the Dark Side and they will be gumming around the edges of things like crazy trying to figure it out. Hilarity may ensue.

I think what it comes down to is that particularly in rural areas generally and the midwest and parts of the Northeast in particular, the US is quite insular, culturally. We are a large country and one doesn't feel particularly deprived not traveling internationally, and thus people aren't exposed to much diversity. As such, it's easier to be insular and to otherize people with different ideas and see them as a threat. It's easier to build intellectual ghettoes that are self-sufficient enough that you never have to encounter people who aren't fairly homogenous with your own thinking.

In my own case, I was raised like that and even though I've never had a racist bone in my body, I never encountered nor thought about people of other races as a youngster, and probably seemed awkward when I first did encounter them. I tend to this day to use dated labels, e.g., "oriental" rather than "asian" if I don't watch it, and thus am a bit more prone to faux pas than your average bear.

I think this tendency is amplified in theists encountering atheists for the first time, particularly who label themselves as atheist rather than something with a less militant reputation such as "not religious". Unbelief is a cardinal sin to conservative theists, and leads, in their minds, to all sorts of exaggerated consequences, not just loss of faith but loss of moral compass and actual hatred of god ... that last is a particularly potent taboo, and they never stop to think that you can't hate someone who doesn't exist for you. In point of fact, the opposite of love is not hate anyway, it's indifference, which is exactly what we atheists have on the topic of god. Hatred is only possible when love is disappointed, and someone who is still mad at god, by definition, still believes in god at many important levels.

Actual unbelief and disinterest is something so alien to theists that they can't see it, much less get their arms around it, so they default to explanations that make the most sense to them. Unfortunately those explanations make us far more dangerous and exotic than we actually are.
Good luck with the relatives. I know I get pegged the instant target when I visit my hardcore religious relatives. Pamphlets come flying at me from all directions. Bibles come out like swords.

I still can't believe we have to hide our non belief if we want a friend. Seems so barbaric and ancient. I'm really starting to see why some atheists get pissed and start pranking around. It's so frustrating. I've never gotten over the comment about my sons Tourettes being caused by his lack of faith. I still get a tick just thinking about it.

Please fill us in for our entertainment when you return.
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