Exclusive Atheism

In the comments of one of my recent posts Marco once again tries to extend the meaning of atheism to somewhere out beyond Stalin. Apparently, when I insist that the dictionary definition of atheism really is all there is to it, then this is a ‘copout’. I presume it is a cop-out because if the definition is allowed to be extended to whatever Marco wants, then dictators who put the smack down on religion are easily explained away as atheists therefore evil. The other reason is that Marco doesn’t like the definition of atheism I use because has a disbelief in God but doesn’t identify with ideas that are encapsulated by the correlated views.

To the first point, I understand that it’s an easy line to draw between atheism and anti-religious behaviour, but it is a false one. Yes, they may often go hand in hand, but to say that this dictator burned down these churches for the purposes of replacing them with no god is not what atheism is about. As I’ve responded several times with the example of vegetarianism, you can’t blame the ~ism for the bad done in it’s name when the ~ism never supported those beliefs to begin with. There is nothing in atheism which says to do these actions. Nothing. Dictators need to control power, and religion is a powerful social tool that they cannot easily control. Often it gives hope and sometimes it criticizes those who abuse power, so it is no coincidence that anti-religious activity follows dictatorships.

And dictators don’t crack down on only religion, but also on other ways that dissent could fester. Often there are laws baring freedom to assemble or curfews, but nobody ever says that these are the fault of ochlophobia or nyctophobia. That’s not just because few people know the names of these phobias, but also because the connection is not encompassed by their meaning.

Marco, to finish this point I’ll turn your implication about cop-out on its head to explain it to you another way. Just as atheism can’t be blamed for the bad one does, it also can’t be praised for the good one does. I’ve read several atheists talk about how coming to realize there is no proof of god or an afterlife focused them on the here and now, and how they resolved to be better people and to spread happiness because they only had one life to live. A wonderful realization no doubt, but doing good to others and carpe diem have nothing to do with atheism. Atheism is what it is – a disbelief in god or gods.

As to your complaint about not self-identifying with the meaning. Unfortunately, that’s not the fault of atheism, but that is no reason for the rest of us to buy into your definition. If you don’t like the meaning of the word to explain you, I suggest you don’t use it. But if someone says you must be an atheist because you don’t believe in god, and you correct them, then be prepared to field the questions as to why the shoe which fits is not worn. If you don’t eat meat, then you are a vegetarian even if you refuse the term. Likewise, if you don’t believe in god then you are an atheist. These two words have clear demarcation in the meanings – don’t do this particular thing and you are this – which make them easy to understand and obvious when to use.

You have also labelled yourself as agnostic not long ago, and I’ve even a memory of you saying that you’re possibly like a theist, so I’m either confused about something, your own ideas are evolving, you’re uncomfortable with labels, etc. It could be that we don’t have a word for what idea space you inhabit in respect to god, but if that’s the case it would be better to invent a word and definition for it, followed by a website and trademark, than to bend a well-established word into your own definition.

In finishing I’ll look at an example from this very week when corporate shills tried to extend the meaning of a word, and ending up creating a PR storm and backlash because of the confusion. In this post Darrell Gallagher of Crystal Dynamics who is the developer behind the upcoming Rise of the Tomb Raider said:

As you may have seen, we’ve just announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox. We consider all of you to be the lifeblood of Tomb Raider and the work we do at Crystal. I’d like to give you some insight into this decision, and why we feel this is the very best thing for the Tomb Raider sequel we’re creating at the studio.

This doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4.

Tomb Raider is a franchise with a long history in gaming, and with last year’s reboot reinvigorating the franchise the announcement that the next game was to be “exclusively” on Microsoft consoles was pretty big news. PC and Playstation gamers rioted and tech pundits scratched their heads. It seemed marketing madness to alienate most of your loyal customers, and business foolishness to release on the platform with the lowest install.

24 hours later it turns out that “exclusively” doesn’t mean “only” but actually “for a limited time only”. These cases should be called “timed exclusives”, and MS is famous for them. Deep pockets and few development studios of their own mean that MS’s policy is often to pay big bucks to have games released on XBox first, and then (usually 3 to 6 months) later on the other platforms. But in telling PS and PC gamers not to worry because two other upcoming TR games would still be available on those platform, in this case the announcement was clearly intended to appear as ‘only’ on XBox. But now that the cat is out of the bag the reticence with how MS answers questions about how long this exclusivity will last suggests that MS and Crystal Dynamics were in cahoots about the misdirection. Another XBone announcement, another PR gaff for MS.

But to return to my point – play loose with the meanings of words at your peril.

53 thoughts on “Exclusive Atheism

  1. Marco

    Thank you for the long and detailed reply. To start with, I don’t *want* to use the word atheism for “the correlated views that people who identify with atheism have”, but there not being a word that is defined as such, and it being used that way for people who don’t identify with atheism, let me invent a word “ath” which means that. Then we can ask the question “Is the ath views of this person or another a factor in their decision making?”

    If not believing in God was all there is to ath, people wouldn’t write books about the subject – whether explicitly espousing atheism, or attacking, with words, what is wrong about believing in God. Dawkins, nor other writers spend much time around the definition of atheism, but a great deal,on the ath views.

    So, I think I am happy to attribute both good and bad to ath views. Also, I think it is not a huge step from attacking religions (or non-believers) with words and attacking them with actions. “Warlords” are very effective at turning suggestions that are not explicitly violent eg. “It would be better if these people weren’t here” when the foot soldier interprets this as “kill these people and don’t leave a trace” – that really has nothing to do with religion or non religion, but the coded language used with militias. Thus an ath view or a religious one that is innocent under normal circumstances can be duplicated for the purposes of evil, and the warlord can even quote directly the words of anyone famous with ath views or a religious leader, depending on the way the words are coded and the group they are trying to demonise for the benefit of strategic war advantage.

    Thus atheism has nothing to do with evil, but ath views can be harnessed for good or evil in a very similar way to religious views.

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  2. Marco

    As to my own view- I am agnostic as an agnostic defines it, not as an ath person defines it. I do not believe in the God as defined in “the God Delusion” as he specifically excludes Spinozan pantheist God/Nature, which I do subscribe to in a similar way to, I think it was Einstein as mentioned by Dawkins. So I am atheist the way an ath defines it, but in no way am I ath.

    Can one be both a pantheist and agnostic? I think so. Ath people imagine that we are just uncertain, but I know exactly what I believe in relation to God. Reading things like Gods Undertaker really only refines my views on science and ath views. It hasn’t really touched my main philosophical take on God. It may give the impression that I believe more in God because I disagree even more with ath views than before, namely with the sciences of abiogenesis and the mechanisms of evolution. Don’t be fooled, I’m just as atheist as before reading it, just even less ath.

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  3. winstoninabox Post author

    “If not believing in God was all there is to ath, people wouldn’t write books about the subject – whether explicitly espousing atheism, or attacking, with words, what is wrong about believing in God.”

    Again, the analogy of vegetarianism. There are thousands of book about it explaining what is and isn’t meat, how to cook vegetarian food, where to meet others of a like mind, etc. But vegetarianism is still just *not eating meat*.

    Vegetarianism also has ath. Concern for the environment, the morality of eating meat, the effect of meat on the body, the concern for workers in the meat industry who need employment. Now one could subscribe to all those vegetarian ath views, all of them, but if that person still ate meat then they are not vegetarian. Substitute atheism for vegetarianism and change the ath views to how to lead a moral life, a scientific world view, humanism, whatever ath you like, and you’ll see that no matter how much a person may feel an affinity for the ath of atheism the one and only one point which defines them as an atheist is if they believe in gods or not. That person may go on to believe other things like ‘might makes right’ or ‘charity begins at home’, but that is ath, not atheism. And the good and bad ath that they accumulate has nothing to do with atheism.

    I think the disagreement we have on this issue stems from the simplicity of atheism’s definition. This is in contrast to other more complicated definitions which inhabit the same idea space. The definition for Christian – let’s take it as ‘a believer in Christ’s teachings’ – seems as simple as atheism’s ‘doesn’t believe in gods’, but it actually has many more layers to it which atheism’s definition does not have. Is there agreement on those teachings? How much does one have to believe to be a believer? Which teachings are compulsory and which are voluntary? These are debates which 2000 years after Christ died have still no clear answer, as can be seen in the various denominations of Christianity. And there are many ways in which a Christian could label another person as non-Christian, but there is only one way that someone can be labelled as non-atheist. Issues such as abortion, a just war and the death penalty can divide Christians, but have no bearing on atheism.

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  4. Marco

    The long and the short of it is that talking about atheism is of no interest to me. I have a great deal of interest in talking about the correlated views that people who identify with atheism have. You think they are meaningless, when in reality, everyone that I know that would answer “yes” to the question “Do you identify with atheism”, have views that I already know from the answer to the question that means I don’t have to ask questions such as “what do you think of evolution?”. “What do you think of religion?” Etc. I can just read God Delusion and I can get the answer without having to ask it separately. Of course, of interest is where you might disagree vehemently or the most about something that is usually a correlated view. I use the word ath only out of frustration about having to type a whole sentence each time, when I feel I am being quite clear about what I am saying, despite there not being a word defined specifically in the public domain. If it helps, go back in my previous comments and replace the word atheist or atheism with the whole sentence “the correlated views of people who identify with atheism”. Those correlated views *don’t* include violent struggle against religions. Same with vegetarianism – let’s use the word veg. However, the correlated views do make it easier to recruit people to a violent cause depending on the source population. Chinese would be ill advised to recruit anyone but ath to police these laws.

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    1. winstoninabox Post author

      “You think they are meaningless…”

      No, I don’t. I think they are not relevant to the definition of atheism or atheist.

      “when in reality, everyone that I know that would answer “yes” to the question “Do you identify with atheism”, have views that I already know from the answer to the question that means I don’t have to ask questions such as “what do you think of evolution?”.”

      Sure, many people who are atheists also believe in evolution and separation of church and state, but that’s no different than saying many vegetarians practice yoga, and then blaming vegetarianism for increased spinal injuries through people doing downward facing dog badly. Yeah, these ideas all inhabit similar spaces, but those spaces cannot impact on their definitions, which is what I’m debating (or at least that’s what I think I’m debating) with you.

      To extend your example that many atheists are evolutionists, I’m betting that outside the flyover states in the USA many theists the world over are evolutionists, too. But probably very few of all of those evolutionists, atheist or theist, have an affinity for the policy of communist China, or despots in general.

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  5. Marco

    I’m not arguing the definition of atheism. I’m not even arguing that atheism should be blamed for the activities of people who identify with atheism. The disbelief in God has nothing to do with it. I am granting you that point *completely*. Similarly for vegetarianism.
    When a feeling of identity with an ism can reliably tell you so much about a person, this warrants a separate conversation about what this means in the collective.

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    1. winstoninabox Post author

      “When a feeling of identity with an ism can reliably tell you so much about a person, this warrants a separate conversation about what this means in the collective.”

      I’m just not sure what that conversation would be. We make first impression judgements of people that rarely shift, and can even do so on very little information. It doesn’t matter whether we know the person’s particular brand of ath or not. Probably knowing their ath just confirms what we’d already decided about that person.

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  6. Marco

    Firstly, we can discuss whether these correlated views are imagined by me by some kind of prejudice, or actually correlated. At least anecdotally. Find me anyone you know that identifies with atheism that doesn’t identify with secular humanism, or doesn’t believe in evolution, or thinks religions are better than the alternative, thinks logical positivism is quackery- I’m sure I can think of a lot more. Any counter example from people you know or heard of would be evidence that I am wrong, or at least exaggerating. Let’s start with that.

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    1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      I have kind of lost the thread of this discussion, but I am always disspirited by how overwhelmingly people hold correlated views that are not logically connected. In a slightly different context, here is an essay I linked to long long ago that makes that point.

      So, would you be willing to particularise the discussion, winstoninabox (and brighten my view of human nature) by telling us of one strongly held opinion of yours that is at variance with “ath”? 🙂
      .

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      1. winstoninabox Post author

        “So, would you be willing to particularise the discussion, winstoninabox (and brighten my view of human nature) by telling us of one strongly held opinion of yours that is at variance with “ath”? ”

        ‘ath’ is turning out to be a very useful word.

        I’m not sure how holding opinions at variance with ath is any better than only holding views complimentary with ath. I would say that it’s much more important to be open to criticism of one’s ism. In the case of atheism and theism, at this stage of human knowledge about the universe neither can claim to be correct, but there are no shortage of annoying people who make that claim.

        As for me, I can’t think of any opinions I hold which are at variance to the ath of atheism. One point which seems to garner disbelief is my strong interest in the claims of religions and theists. This to me is the only point of debate worth having, but others seem to think I’ve got some other game in mind. I haven’t. Either the claims of religions and theists are true, or they’re not. The complete lack of any evidence is why I’m an atheist. But when you question these claims people seem to think you’re being a troll, you just hate religions or you’ve some other plan. Whatever. So while it’s not at variance with ath, being single-minded about engaging claims is something that has come up more than once.

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      2. Marco

        I’m not sure how holding opinions at variance with ath is any better than only holding views complimentary with ath. I would say that it’s much more important to be open to criticism of one’s ism
        It’s not “better” to have opinions at variance, but if there is a 1:1 correlation between your identifying with atheism and all correlated views, I perceive you are as much a “sheep” able to be shepherded in an analogous ways as a Christian is shepherded by their pastor. Being open to criticism against your ism doesn’t affect this “sheep ness”, as any criticism that cannot be immediately answered by ones logic can be referred to an ath expert, be it Dawkins, Sam Harris or in the Christian case, a theologian. Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with being a sheep. Christians wear the badge with pride. I see a denial that your ath views have anything to do with “ath peer pressure”, yet you have no counter example to prove your point. Any criticisms that you may be open to are answered in a way I find identical to how Dawkin’s et al would.

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      3. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Yes, Marco is making my point exactly. If you have the same opinions as everyone in your peer group, you are either not thinking; you have gone to an enormous and painful effort to bonsai your thought processes to conform your opinions to your peer group; or, you are actually not a member of your peer group, but the secret master pulling their strings. Come on, I am sure you are not any of those things, winstoninabox! There must be some aspect of ‘ath’ that makes you want to vomit.

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      4. Marco

        I don’t know. Groupthink and peer pressure are powerful pernicious processes. I do not fully understand the process, but the results are always to reinforce the feelings of identity within the group, and in some ways, a tidying up of the “logic” that ties the different ideas together happens in interactions between those that identify with the group.
        From the outside the “logic” looks dubious and unreliable at times, but defences of the logic are detailed and rehearsed, making it difficult to make a criticism stick from the perspective of someone in the group.

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    2. winstoninabox Post author

      “Firstly, we can discuss whether these correlated views are imagined by me by some kind of prejudice, or actually correlated. At least anecdotally.”

      I don’t think they’re imagined. I think you’re probably right. Especially in cases like vegetarianism or atheism where one makes a binary decision which has no complexity in defining that state. Once that decision is made, then it’s natural that people gravitate to ath that is not in conflict with that decision. That’s not to say that isms with more complexity to them don’t make strong and clear decisions, just that those isms give the follower more freedom to pick and choose the ath which is not in conflict with the ism.

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      1. Marco

        I know that in recruitment, I ask simple binary questions as a shortcut to know a whole heap about them with correlated views attached to the binary question. If I asked a question about religion, and they mentioned they were atheist, I would hardly need to ask their views on evolution, etc. these shortcuts are in a real way prejudiced, but in recruitment, you do not necessarily have to mention why you chose one person or another. This a particular problem in the recruitment of soldiers in countries with mutually opposing philosophies/ethnicisities/ath. The tendency is to choose only people who would do as you command them. Hard to achieve with opposing ath.

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      2. Marco

        The issue of abortion re Down’s syndrome is far more complex than that which is portrayed in this article. The trade-off is far more morally challenging. The choice is to abort early a foetus that is more probably not disabled, risk a foetus that is more probably not disabled to find out for sure whether they are disabled, and to abort late-ish if you do find out for sure they are disabled. It is a risk management problem combined with a moral dilemma.

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  7. natonoel

    On a slight tangent, here’s the most succinct explanation of Islam’s Jihad from a professor of comparative religion.

    I’m you could rightfully call the two types of jihad as implicit and explicit, but it’s quite clear that Islam’s understanding of peace is diametrically opposed to Christianity’s, and probably (hopefully) quite different what from what an empirical, evidence based atheist would define peace as.

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      1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Well, everybody has to die sometime, right? There isn’t really any moral judgment there about whether it is *right* or not to use the sword.

        …And how can man die better than facing fearful odds
        For the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his Gods

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    1. winstoninabox Post author

      “…and probably (hopefully) quite different what from what an empirical, evidence based atheist would define peace as.”

      Atheism has nothing to say about peace. Gods/no gods. That’s it.

      I enjoyed this video very much, but it’s a shame that title is loaded. I thought the moderator was wrong to say that Stackhouse was judging Islam. The moderator may have been trying to inject a bit of drama into the debate, but I felt Stackhouse answered him well.

      Violence is not an illegitimate action in and of itself. The debate is about when and why to use violence. I don’t find it at all strange that Islam makes provisions for the use of violence.

      Although utility isn’t a concern of the religions themselves, with the number or adherents being about equal but Islam having been around for only about 75% of the same time as Christianity, up to the present day it’d appear to have utilized the more successful methods of gaining followers. But since those numbers aren’t likely to change much now, whatever methods the faiths have used for indoctrination have probably hit a wall in usefulness.

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      1. natonoel

        It’s worth watching the whole Q&A video – Stackhouse is very thoughtful, and all the moderator (and follow-up from a human rights lawyer) proved was that they were putting forward opinions without basis in evidence. Contrast it with the human rights lawyer’s clear expertise in international law on the matter of Julian Assange, and imagine Stackhouse telling her she’s wrong in his opinion.

        The issue is with external jihad and violence is that the use of lethal force to bring people under the peace of Islam is entirely justified. I would hope that anyone would find that strange.
        IS in Irag have actually been more patient than many external jihad practitioners by giving the infidels the option to leave or convert before killing those who remain who refuse to convert.

        For Christians self defence (potentially as far as pre-emptive action where a lethal threat is known and controlled by human agents who will not be deterred from their course of action in any way) is a legitimate option.

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  8. winstoninabox Post author

    “Check Matt 26:51-5r for J-Man’s take on real swords hurting people.”

    But he’s got no problem with calling on dad to set 12 legions of angels on the crowd, except then his pointless suicide mission wouldn’t be fulfilled 😉

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    1. natonoel

      The only disparity here would be a disparity of the power available to enforce a course of action.

      There’s no evidence that any angels would be asked to violently take the life of others.

      12 legions would be a vastly superior force, and the opposition would give way without any further violence and cease trying to take Jesus into custody.

      And careful with your words & definitions – it’s not suicide if someone else takes your life, even if you willingly submit to the procedure by which you die.

      It’s actually a rescue mission that involves the loss and regaining of life, so suicide would be an entirely inaccurate description.

      Judas definitely committed suicide. If only he’d waited a few more days…

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      1. winstoninabox Post author

        “The only disparity here would be a disparity of the power available to enforce a course of action.

        There’s no evidence that any angels would be asked to violently take the life of others.

        12 legions would be a vastly superior force, and the opposition would give way without any further violence and cease trying to take Jesus into custody.”

        All true, but all irrelevant. No life needs to be taken for the action to not be one of peace or a pacifist. The threat of a vastly superior force is still an action of intimidation, otherwise the threat is pointless. That one is willing to make the threat and has the power to back it up is evidence of non-peace. And even if the crowd attacked and were nonviolently restrained, the restraint is also not an action of peace.
        Offering money for the crowd to disperse would be an example of a nonviolent solution to the problem.
        BTW, I’m not say Jesus wasn’t a pacifist. Just that he had the resources and the will to do so if the situation were not the case where his suicide mission would be jeapordized.

        “And careful with your words & definitions – it’s not suicide if someone else takes your life, even if you willingly submit to the procedure by which you die.”

        It can be. We call it assisted suicide. The person who assisted may well end up charged with murder, but that doesn’t alter that we call it a kind of suicide. That’s not the case here, but you should understand that this statement is incorrect in itself.

        “It’s actually a rescue mission that involves the loss and regaining of life, so suicide would be an entirely inaccurate description.”

        I called it a *suicide mission*. A rescue mission and a suicide mission are not incompatible.
        Jesus was on a mission. He did not expect to survive the mission. He took actions that he knew would contribute to his death. He avoided actions that he knew would stop his death.
        It’s pretty much the definition of a suicide mission.

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      2. Marco

        I do want to get this tangent back on topic. I do not think that there are correlated views among atheists about violence. I have known pacifist atheists and ones that feel we should be murderously violent against certain extremist groups associated with religions who threaten and perform murderously violent acts themselves. I am sure that there are pacifist Christians and Muslims also.

        Violence is a recurring theme in the bible and the Koran, but it is in most popular literature. I still think much more of a factor is how recruiters to a violent cause use the corellated views of the source population to shepherd them into units dedicated to the use of violence. Thus, even though there is no specific source text for an ath based warlord to corral recruits into using violence, the general anti-religion sentiment can easily be turned into a peer based demonising excercise to motivate the violence.

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  9. natonoel

    “That one is willing to make the threat and has the power to back it up is evidence of non-peace. And even if the crowd attacked and were nonviolently restrained, the restraint is also not an action of peace.”

    I couldn’t disagree more, If you don’t have you use your power, or non-violently restrain people, you have created a situation where the is no violent conflict, therefore have created peace – if you understand it as the cessation or prevention of violence.

    Peacekeeping forces such as those deployed by the UN or say Australia in East Timor may have superior military force, but it is that very force which creates the conditions where violent acts are not committed.

    If you could define what you believe peace to be, that would help.

    “It can be. We call it assisted suicide.”

    Assisted suicide is an artificial, weasel word construct by people such as Peter Singer to weasel word their way around the fact that someone is killing another person who for some reason are unable to kill themselves.

    Check the dictionary definitions. Suicide is the act of killing oneself.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/suicide?s=t

    And even wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide

    I would contend that a suicide mission can rightfully be called that if the person is the primary agent in their own demise by taking direct action (e.g. a suicide bomber). But if their mission is thwarted by being killed by someone else, then they have not suicided.

    We’re starting to get into technical terms here. Yes, Jesus knew he would die.
    But he did not kill himself.
    Ergo, he did not suicide nor was his mission a successful suicide mission.

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    1. winstoninabox Post author

      “Yes, Jesus knew he would die. But he did not kill himself. Ergo, he did not suicide nor was his mission a successful suicide mission.”

      You’re confusing the nouns ‘suicide’ and ‘mission’ with ‘suicide mission’. As you’re quoting from Wikipedia here’s what you get when you type them in together http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_mission The first sentence says a suicide mission is “a task which is so dangerous that the people involved are not expected to survive”. It’s a broad term which encompasses kamikaze pilots (their death completes the mission), the historical 47 ronin (they committed suicide after the mission’s success) and Luke’s optimism aside the attack on the first Death Star. As he expected to die, he did die, he took actions that ensured he would die and avoided actions that stopped that result, Christ’s mission certain qualifies as a ‘suicide mission’.

      “Assisted suicide is an artificial, weasel word construct by people such as Peter Singer to weasel word their way around the fact that someone is killing another person who for some reason are unable to kill themselves.”

      Assisted suicide is another broad term which means a suicide committed with the help of someone else. Physician-assisted suicide is a subset of the term, although these days the two are used much more interchangeably so I can understand that you’d overlook the broader meaning.

      “Peacekeeping forces such as those deployed by the UN or say Australia in East Timor may have superior military force, but it is that very force which creates the conditions where violent acts are not committed.”

      It doesn’t help your argument when you cherry pick examples. School yard bullies and Al Capone both use the threat of force to create conditions where violent acts are not committed. The threat of force from 12 legions of angels is no different from the crowd’s perspective. BTW, I’m not saying Jesus is a bully or a gangster, just that you’re ignoring less noble examples (cherry picking) to make your case.

      “I couldn’t disagree more, If you don’t have you use your power, or non-violently restrain people, you have created a situation where the is no violent conflict, therefore have created peace – if you understand it as the cessation or prevention of violence.”

      Not the peace itself but how it was achieved is the crux of the matter. Even if nonlethal force is used, the willingness to use force to restrain another, or the intimidation from having a vastly superior force which may or may not use deadly force, shows evidence of non-peace. The arrival of 12 legions of angels would be perceived as an act of aggression by the crowd. As I said above, offering money to the crowd is a non-threatening solution. If you compare that with the 12-legions-of-angels solution, then the disparity should show you my point.

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  10. Marco

    You’re confusing the nouns ‘suicide’ and ‘mission’ with ‘suicide mission’. As you’re quoting from Wikipedia

    How did I know that this aside about violence would turn into an argument about specific meanings of words, as if the whole argument depended on it. Of course in most texts, and in fictional texts beside, the use of violence and the credible threat of violence is the means to an end. It is whether the ends are considered noble or not which gains general acceptance as to whether the means are acceptable. In a court of law, it makes a great deal of difference whether there was actual violence or an implicit threat thereof.

    My point is that the overall theme of violence as a means to an end is independent of religion. My view is that the danger lies in the shepherd convincing the flock that an end is noble, and the means are justified, when from outside the group, they clearly are not.

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    1. winstoninabox Post author

      “How did I know that this aside about violence would turn into an argument about specific meanings of words, as if the whole argument depended on it.”

      There are several different discussions going on. This particular one relies has veered off for a bit because of a misunderstanding about the meaning of a word. I’m sure it’ll come back around when all parties can see the intended meaning.

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      1. Marco

        So it appears I have won the argument and convinced you that ath views can be recruited by a clever “shepherd” into herds of like minded people in a way analogous, and in the same way dangerous, as to religions then.

        My work here is done.

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        1. winstoninabox Post author

          Surely ath applies to religions as well.
          I’m not sure I’ve replied about this, but I’ll assume I did and that it was the opposite of your opinion. But as it seems that you’re saying clever people can twist the interpretation of ath in such a way that they can get others to do what they want based on their ath, I don’t have a problem with that.

          Reply
      2. Marco

        Yes. cath would be the correlated views people who identify with Catholicism, veg for the correlated views people who identify with vegetarianism- you can’t use the same word for a different set of corellated views. You say you had the opposite view to me, but you never even responded to my obvious suggestion that you must be a sheep. Whether with a counter-example or an explanation of why your philosophy is based on none of the three options Chris suggested. I’ve just got to take your word that you are not just mimicking whatever logic and views spout of people you view as spokespersons for science and reason, and that you actually use your own science and reason and it just happens to magically match up with those atheists in question.

        You *can’t* just twist the interpretation of ath. If you are confused go back to the definition, or just replace the word ath with the definition. It is not an insult to be ath. The ath of atheists is the equivalent of the cath of Catholicism in the sense that you can make true judgements of certain things without having to ask each question individually. If someone identifies with Catholicism, it is pointless to ask them their opinion of abortion and a good many other things. It doesn’t make Cath bad, but if you are getting recruits for blowing up the local family planning clinic, it’s an easy rule of thumb to just recruit cath.

        Reply
      3. Marco

        And getting back to the original article to do with the clampdown on religions in China, the official “philosophy” under communist rule is atheism. Ie. what I consider ath views are taught as fact from an early age, along with a lot of other dogma. Thus, the leadership being in control of an army in which all religions are weeded out, can clamp down using torturous means, and the foot soldiers will not be likely to revolt or be open to bribery. Having a majority of the country ath makes atrocities against religious groups much more likely.

        Reply
      4. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Thanks for (among other things) highlighting how difficult my question was, Marco. Although there are several assertions of Catholicism as an ideology that it was very difficult to constrain my thinking so that I could agree with, I did effortlessly map onto the correlated cath views without any significant exceptions, and I still do. The only thing I can think of that I strongly disagree with is government funding for private schools (Bob Santamaria’s signature achievement).

        Reply
      5. Marco

        I did effortlessly map onto the correlated cath views without any significant exceptions, and I still do.

        Apart from the ones in which evidence appears to refute. I note that cath in the US is quite a different set than that in Italy. The way of religion in Europe appears that there is a looser identity felt with the nominal religion. The bombing of birth clinics and such is a much harder recruitment task in Italy. The views are just not as corellated with the religion they identify with. Familial bonds are much more reliable, hence the Mafia.

        Reply
  11. winstoninabox Post author

    “You say you had the opposite view to me, but you never even responded to my obvious suggestion that you must be a sheep.”

    Sorry that my responses aren’t fast enough. In my defense I don’t have a computer at home, and I’m on summer vacation so I can’t use my work PC. I use a 1st generation iPad, which could at any moment be grabbed by my little boy because I’m holding it, so for writing I have to wait for him to be away. At that time my wife could also be using it as we share it. She also may absentmindedly shut the tab I had open with a half-written reply. Or it may just crash while I’m writing as it’s a little unstable in its dotage. And I’m knee deep in 1P Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and coop sessions of Diablo 3, or catching up on the best comedy on TV, Community. And after all that, if I spend time replying then I’m not writing new posts.
    So I will make your thread my next job, but I can’t do everything at once. Sorry.

    Reply
  12. Marco

    I understand completely. I have been using my iPad too, and my whole family has been sick. Fortunately, there are other iPads for the kids to distract them. I did lose a detailed comment due to a glitch, and have taken to doing screenshots just to backup my comments. I did have some things to say about the violence in Islam thread, but I am really invested in the main thread.

    Reply
  13. winstoninabox Post author

    “You *can’t* just twist the interpretation of ath. If you are confused go back to the definition, or just replace the word ath with the definition.”

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to twist the interpretation. I wanted to extend the meaning to encompase all correlated views held by an particular ism. That seemed better than creating lots of new words for each ism, but if that’s the way you want to do it, so be it. But as you can see below, I’m left with the wordy “brand of ath” to talk about what before was, as far as I felt, the elegant “ath”.

    Next:
    “It’s not “better” to have opinions at variance, but if there is a 1:1 correlation between your identifying with atheism and all correlated views, I perceive you are as much a “sheep” able to be shepherded in an analogous ways as a Christian is shepherded by their pastor.”

    I disagree. When a person holds views contrary to their brand of ath, rather than being held up as examples of critical thinking they are weaknessess which are attacked as inconsistencies of logic.
    How can you be a Catholic but support the death penalty?
    How can you be a Scientologist but still see a psychiatrist?
    How can you be an atheist but still have your baby baptized?

    When those inconsistencies of a person’s brand of ath become very large words such as delusional and hypocrite get thrown about. So while I’m sure that the renegade thinker does, as usual, hold a romantic appeal for both you and Chris, that appeal has a better standing in the abstract than seated at the debating table.

    Reply
    1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      When a person holds views contrary to their brand of ath, rather than being held up as examples of critical thinking they are weaknessess which are attacked as inconsistencies of logic.

      Well, yes, you will leave yourself open to this kind of lazy attack. Yes, of course, every little concession you make in the direction of logic where your brand of ath is illogical will leave you open to charges of hypocrisy. But that is a very small price to pay for actually thinking instead of being a sheep.

      Lemme tell you a story about a friend of mine. I’m going to call him ‘Sandor’ because that is his name. Many years ago I was sitting around a table talking about religion with him and one other person whose name I have forgotten. Sandor was arguing doctrinaire “ath”. The other person was arguing doctrinaire “evangelical christianity ath”. I was trying to argue a more rationalist theism that wasn’t really anybody’s ath. At the end, Sandor summed up the discussion using dramatic gestures. “She’s here,” he said, holding out his right hand vertically. “You’re here,” he said, putting his other hand about six-inches to the left. “I’m here,” he said, moving his left hand the full length of an arm away from his right hand.

      A few months after that, Sandor chucked in his unexamined “ath” to adopt uncritically “evangelical christianity ath”.

      The thinker holds an appeall for both me and Marco. ‘Renegade’ and ‘romantic’ we can take or leave.

      Reply
  14. Marco

    When a person holds views contrary to their brand of ath, rather than being held up as examples of critical thinking they are weaknessess which are attacked as inconsistencies of logic.
    That doesn’t quite address my “sheep” assertion, just the perception that “correlation” of one view to a related view is “logic”, rather than my assertion of it being a corralled logic that has nothing to do with what logic is as a scientific or mathematical term. I perceive words such as delusional or hypocritical to be used to pull (or push) people “back to the flock”

    Reply

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