Archive for the ‘Responses’ Category

Putting it Simply

Recently this article appeared in the Guardian which appears to be accusing Hitchens, Dawkins, etctera of wanting to take away the liberty of freedom of religion and, therefore, not being liberals.

Russell Blackford has a great response here but as it is something that people could potentially accuse the Atheist movement in general of, I thought I’d sum up Terry Eagleton’s error in one sentence:

In all his fancy wording about the “liberal state” he makes it clear that his flawed assumption is that Atheists want to make our beliefs about the harmfulness of religion public policy.

Well, he’s right insofar as we want a secular state in which religious beliefs which require “faith” don’t form public policy. This is for a good reason. We shape our morality around our perception of reality. If your morality is shaped around something that can’t be empirically demonstrated to people  who don’t share that faith (i.e. God told me that gay marriage is wrong), then you can’t expect them to form morality around your perception of reality.

Yeah, I’d like there to be more Atheists in the world (at least fewer fundamentalists), but I don’t plan on doing that by taking public office and banning religion (although I may tax churches). I plan on doing that by the less effective, but “liberally” permissible means of free speech through debating Christians, writing blog posts, while others add to Atheist literature.

That’s it. All we want. Tell me about how us Atheists are just-as-bad-as-fundies again? “Militant” rationalists? Western supremacists? kthx

Advertisements

Quotes

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve gotten a rather frequent commenter on my posts. This was brought about by me commenting on one of her blog posts and expressing a dissenting view.

These have been posted publicly on the Internet. I therefore have the right to repost them.

Enjoy reading them.

And I never said it’s ok to be stupid!! I’m saying that Bella knows that she is being stupid by being with him since he’s so dangerous. That doesn’t mean she ACTS stupidly! Honestly, “Elles,” you should reread what you wrote and look at how ridiculous it sounds. It really does sound stupid.

Abby

I wonder if any lesbians read the book and voted for “Team Jessica”.

Cassie

Cassie’s not a troll. I’m just quoting her because she’s awesome.

Whoa whoa whoa… you’re saying that there is no God???? Wow. Ok now I’m mad at you for TWO MAJOR THINGS!!!!!!! How dare you??? There IS a God and he is AWESOME!! He created everything. He sent His own Son to die for our sins!!!! And there is also a TON of evidence that there is a God. It’s called the HOLY BIBLE!!! You should read it sometime.

Abby

It would also seem that God created H2G2 to test our faith by providing us with information on logical fallacies.

Ok, well God created the Word, and the Word was life. That comes from the Bible. And if you’re going to start stepping on my beliefs, then you better shut up because… oh I will get pissed like none other!!!

Abby

I admitted I had been a tad bitchy with her after telling her that she should use her brain.

You do come off b****y.

Abby

My favourite bit was what she said before that.

But I will get PISSED so SHUT UP!!

Abby

Well, I, unlike some people, never tell anybody to “shut up” whenever they say something I don’t like. I use well-reasoned arguments to refute things which I disagree with. I’ll slip in some snark ocasionally, but in the end I don’t truly hate anybody just for disagreeing with me.

I believe that expressing dissenting opinions is essential for exercising our free speech. Playing Bill O’Reilly on my blog, though, is a bit different from free speech.

Abby will go on comment moderation until she learns to express her disagreement in a more rational, civilized manner. If she still fails to do this I’ll simply put her on the ‘blacklist’ and she’ll go directly to the spam filter.

In the meantime, I recommend she reads this post.

Update: Abby, yet again you have failed to make a comment that contains any intelligence and it has been deleted. Two more times and I’m routing your comments directly into the spam filter.

Really, if you want people to think of you as an unintelligent, immature brat I’d be happy to keep approving your comments, but for your sake I’m going to keep deleting them.

And the Founding Fathers Rolled in Their Graves…

After a brief hiatus, I returned to check back on the responses my schoolmates were giving me. By this time some of my other friends were also responding in support of me, when one of them gave a small criticism of one of the kid’s personal beliefs (I think it must have been his religion). The kid responded with…

Roy, how DARE you insult my personal beliefs? Where does this bitterness come from? If you believed in hell, I’d tell you to go to it. I’m sorry your life spent on this planet is devoted to bashing faith and being pessimistic. Go find faith in something, somewhere where we can’t hear you.

I can see why they don’t seem to give a damn about the Bill of Rights. That First Amendment is mighty inconvenient right now, what with free speech added to secularism.

But, do you see what I see?

Well, that kid just wished Hell upon my friend.

Hell? Really? Somebody criticises a view which you made publicly and which you even wanted the government to support, and you tell them to go through the worst kind of suffering for all eternity?

Do you understand what eternity is? Eternity. Eternal suffering. He just wished eternal, unending, infinite suffering upon a human being just for exercising his right to criticise a view which you made public.

Even Hitler’s victims only had to live so long.

Let’s say you spent a decade being tortured in a POW camp or something.

Imagine not just the constant pain, but also the humility. Imagine being robbed of whatever dignity you had.

Now multiply that by ten and you’ll get a more than decent human life span. Multiply that by ten and it will take you back to the Dark Ages. Multiply that by ten and you’re beginning to reach the dawn of civilization. That’s an infinitesimal amount of time compared to the time our species has been around, about two million years. The time our species has been around is infinitesimal compared to the age of the Earth, 4.6 billion years. That’s still only a fraction of the time the universe has been around, about 13.8 billion years. And that’s still nothing compared to eternity.

Eternity NEVER ends. It goes on longer than the rise and fall of empires, longer than the birth and death of stars, longer than the collision of galaxies, longer than any cosmic event known to humanity, longer than the universe itself.

So I ask, where does that sort of bitterness come from? Just from a debate sparked by little old me trying to uphold secularism? Can you even be human and give that sort of wish? And, then, why should we listen when somebody that twisted tells me that I should have faith in something? It obviously has done that kid no good if he’s wishing that sort of rotten thing upon people.

I now feel quite sick to my stomach, thank you very much.

Of course, he must have said it without thinking… right?

But, then, that’s the problem I have with faith in the first place.

Unthinking acceptance of fairy tales is one thing. Unthinking belief that people deserve to burn eternally if they don’t have faith, or if they criticise it when you bring it to the public square is an entirely different thing. Unthinking belief that God is going to save you from eternal punishment and give you x number of virgins if you fly an airplane into a building based on what was said in a collection of those fairy tales is definitely a problem.

Am I saying that people who believe in those fairy tales are necessarily going to start killing people? No. That’s completely absurd.

But, if you’re going to say that we should unthinkingly accept something what’s to say we won’t unthinkingly accept racism? There are a lot of beliefs which could lead us to act in ways that won’t make the world a better place. Would you really want me to randomly choose something to have faith in?

We most certainly should not encourage unthought at any level.

Faith is anti-intellectualism in its purest form and the more we’re taught to value it, the worse we react when a belief of ours that ought to be criticised gets criticised. It’s the ultimate dam to a flowing river of ideas. It seals minds shut to exterior influences, yet still allows them to spout out their bollocks, even as it rots from lack of exposure to the changing world.

When a widely held belief needs criticism, it deserves to be criticised. Even if you have faith in it. So do I dare criticise your faith?

I dare. I dare bring reason and enlightenment to the mind of man. So burn me at stake.

I’m sorry, but I don’t need that. I’ve got no faith. I might have once held faith in humanity, but that went hurtling out the window just now at escape velocity and is orbitting the Earth somewhere beyond my reach. Yet, I’m perfectly fine. As shattered as my brain feels after reading all that, I still wouldn’t wish harm upon somebody solely for their beliefs as they would wish harm upon those who would simply support the healthy criticism of their beliefs… much less eternal harm.

Just Read and Weep

*sigh*

So I send out the FFRF lawsuit thing to my friends in the school district. Here are the responses I’ve been getting. I’m not going to bother giving any further responses to the latest two as easily as I could pwn them.

Kid:

this is disgusting
i fail to see whats wrong with an environment that teaches children basic morals and values

Me:

I fail to see why you need to violate the secular values this country was founded on to teach morals.

While I’m at it, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Therefore your argument is invalid.

Kid:

im not christian so i dont follow your argument

besides, said sign is encouraging freedom of religion cuz it encourages religion in general which could range from budhism to atheism
the ffrf is just trying to restrict religion or in other words, violating the 1st secular value this country was founded

and

how is teaching kids values such as the ten commandments not morrally right
or do you have issue with not stealing or being respectful to parental figures

i guess their perfect world would be one in which their is one philisophical belief: nothing
and in this world their would be no guidlines to living a fullfilling and ethical life and any attempt to disrupt this eutopia would result in a lawsuit that helps no one

Me:

You’re all over the place.

First of all, the FFRF isn’t saying you can’t practice your religion. It’s saying you have a right to not practice religion if you don’t want to.

Speaking of the 1st secular value this country was founded on…

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In other words, there shall be no state endorsement of religion.

The Ten Commandments do say a few agreeable things. Don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t be mean to your parents, etc. Let’s ignore for a moment that they recommend the death penalty for all of them (and even if you support capital punishment as I do in some cases, we can surely agree that you shouldn’t be killed for not helping your mum do the dishes cause you have homework), and look at the first four of them.

1. I am the Lord your God
2. You shall have no other gods before me
3. You shall not make for yourself an idol
4. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God

Not much room for polytheists, eh?

Now, if the state were to endorse these four commandments there would be no freedom of religion. That’s why we also need freedom from religion.

I also reject your suggestion that Atheists have no philosophical beliefs about morality, and that we can have a fulfilling life. What have I ever done to you, hm? Are you really going to insinuate that I’m a murdering, raping, pillaging, disrespectful twat based on my lack of belief in a supreme deity alone? What makes you think that kind of sick prejudice is morally justifiable?

I volunteer every weekend in a museum, I give money to charities, I’m polite, and, God damn it, I enjoy life. I think that the universe is an awesome place and I have some wonderful friends, teachers, and family. I’m no less happy than the next person.

Kid:

first of all
you are focusing in to much on specifics zoom out a bit
the ffrf is sueing because a sign was posted by a school district saying that kids can find support in a religious community

if you have ever been to a sunday school type program they dont actually force religious beliefs upon the kids, but teach them essential values such as not to steal and to do right by your mom and dad, not the gory details, so that one day they will be able to make an educated decision on what beliefs to follow

advocating for that isnt a breach of church and state
so if they were forced to take that sign down it would be interfering with their free speach rights

im sure this wouldnt be a problem if their was an established religion called atheism
but since there isnt they can still stand and openly oppose all religion and sucessfully combat moral values

you are twisting my words
i am saying that by the forceful taking down of this sign is setting a precedent by which any good that could come to children by means of religious establishment can not be advocated by a school district, or basically any secular force in society henceforth placing personal beliefs over the common good

also i never said anything about classifying atheist as possesing no morals
i respect all religions, and more importantly the support and good that can come from religious institutions, which is why im advocating the side of what is most likely the lutheran church even though i desagree wholeheartedly with many of their views

i dont respect the general denouncement of religion, which is the problem i have with most atheists
i dont have a problem with people saying they dont believe in a higher power or any of the other beliefs held by atheist, but when they go on to criticize established religion and say that it holds no validity i have a problem

Me:

I have been to a Sunday school program. They told me a story about a guy who got eaten by a big fish and stayed in its stomach for three days, and was told that he was punished for not following the Judeo-Christian god. They then essentially told me I was a sinner and that I was going to Hell if I didn’t keep coming to their church.

Do I necessarily object just because it’s religious values being advocated? No.

I do, by the way, go to a Unitarian Universalist church. I do enjoy the sense of community, and being taught values like being nice to each other without having them invoke their particular brand of god.

Yes, they teach you values, but what makes you think you have to go to a CHURCH to learn those values? What you get support from is having a community and there are other ways to find a strong community without being told you should participate in religion every week. If I don’t want to participate in a religious thingy to learn my values, I shouldn’t be told to.

First of all, taking the sign down is not criticising established religion. It’s just saying that the government can’t endorse an establishment of religion. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech, but everything to do with the first amendment.

Second of all, why shouldn’t we be allowed to criticise establishments of religion? I have no problem with people practicing what they want. No problem with freedom of religion at all. The problem is sometimes those practices include actively screwing with government and taking away other people’s civil rights. There are people just two and a half hours south of Denver who would stone people for privately, in their own home, committing a consensual act of love with a person of the same sex. Would you hesitate to criticise a piece of legislation that advocated that?

The rest was just me pointing out again that I have no problem with community, but you don’t need a religious community to get a feeling of community.

Other kid:

Hey, why dont we go ahead and take more money away from our already poorly funded school systems with a lawsuit. Our state is only 48th in the nation in school funding. So yes, lets take money away, lay off teachers, increase classroom sizes, and neglect building maintenance and upgrading. Heaven forbid the ONE plaintif be offended.
Ive been in this school district for almost 11 years, and not once have those 40 assets had any impact upon my education or the way i live. I have known that they exist for a long time, but hardly any students take the time to read them. Our constitution was also loosely based on teachings from relligion. In god we trust is written on every piece of our monetary system. Why dont you sue the entire government. See how far that gets you.
I am christian, and i dont care if the quaran is referenced in one of those assets, or nothing is referenced at all. Good can be derived from almost any religious text or not from one at all. Borden your horizon

As far as I’m aware the lawsuit has nothing to do with money and I’m not sure where she got that from. I’ll look into whether or not money’s involved anyway, but I’m pretty sure it’s class-action cause that’d make the most sense.

Other other kid:

Sorry, quick question. What are the other 39 “Developmental Assets” implemented by this program?

Also, I fail to see the harm in recommending that a child adopt a religious lifestyle. Please, before you all bitch me out-
All that this program does is RECOMMEND that a child adopt a religious lifestyle, which means that the child gets a choice. By simply recommending that a child make that choice, there isn’t technically any ammendment “breakage” here. If the document flat out said “you must worship this particular god or you will burn in hell,” then there would be an issue. This document doesn’t seem to be laying down a certain set of rules and regulations for a child to follow, just suggestions. It isn’t actively forcing anything on children here. But then again, I can see how that poster could be considered propoganda. In which case, it becomes a matter of what’s legal and what’s right.

For all you students out there who went through the first year of US History with me and forgot the first amendment, here’s the text:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And in case you missed that, I think I’ll make it clearer. The government can’t endorse religion. My school paid for a subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary, but endorse means to support.

If they still fail to see what the problem is… to Hell with it. Edumacation has failed us. This post has a word count of 1776.

Faking Death: Performance Art or Heartless Hoax?

Feel free to not believe me. I’ve done little to earn your trust, and I can’t blame you for your doubt.

Zombie Rystefn

On Saturday, October 11, 2008, I had just gotten out of bed and, for whatever reason that I can’t recall now, started talking to Elyse of The Skepchick Empire on Skype. Anyway, in the middle of our conversation about how inferior Sam Ogden makes me feel with his hotness and his superb writing, Elyse said “oh, Rystefn passed away”.

Rystefn was one of the readers and commenters on Skepchick, Teen Skepchick, and this blog. Oh, how much laughter he used to bring to me when I read through the comments of our posts. What wit, what eloquence, what genius.

I never talked to him on IM, much less met him in person, but he seemed far from a stranger. He might as well have been a part of Skepchick, so constant a name to appear in the blog comments.

Elyse linked me to Rystefn’s blog, The Last Road, and I poked through the posts, reading the story of his last days.

Damn it, I never told him that I loved his commentry, and damn it, I never followed the link in that ever-so constant name to his blog to find out that he was dying. What an arse I felt like!

Given that I hadn’t known that he’d been dying it all came as a shock to me.

Mum came in to my room, and looked upon my saddened facial expression. “One of my mostest favouritest commenters in the world just died,” I said.

I made a post, a clever interweaving of some of the comments I had scavenged for on my blog and on Teen Skepchick with my own words of mourning. But I didn’t post it (a post that wasn’t posted, aha!). I waited for more word from his girlfriend, “Sabrina” who had been the bearer of bad news on the blog, because she seemed to have hinted at writing something else in rememberance of Rystefn. I waited, not wanting to take away her moment of rememberance from her.

As I waited, doubts began to grow. Doubt had already been there, knowing that people on the Internet do create hoaxes, having heard many stories. But, not wanting to be an arse I decided to continue on the assumption that Rystefn was indeed dead, even without evidence.

I was faced with a nasty thought, I would rather Rystefn be dead than for him to be hoaxing us.

I waited, with each passing day thinking that if it were a hoax he would have revealed it. And if it weren’t a hoax Sabrina would surely have posted.

It was a hoax.

By now I had begun feeling pretty apathetic about the whole thing, and more and more doubtful, but I still couldn’t help but feel a strong, powerful disgust as I watched Rystefn’s video. I chose to ignore the urge to vomit, and decided to simply forget Rystefn ever graced even the outer layers of the blogosphere.

What seemed to be most upsetting to people was that in calling it “performance art” they thought that Rystefn might be trying to justify it as being art. He says he doesn’t think it’s justified as art but…

I began thinking… As despicable an act as it was, could it really be called “art”? And if so, could it still be justified?

The most useful thing I was ever taught about art was that art is hard to define. I can make some generalisations about it though, a few of which I’ll summarize here.

  1. Art is often aesthetically pleasing.
  2. Art usually provokes emotion, makes people think, bothers them.
  3. Art tends to have lessons.
  4. Great art is often controversial.

Can writing be aesthetic? I’ve been told that some of my posts are “beautiful” and while I admittedly am not entirely sure I know what that means, I’d argue that there are beautiful pieces of writing and that that could be considered aesthetics. I found The Golden Compass to be strangely aesthetically pleasing although I don’t know what that means even though I’ve just said it was.

The Last Road provoked emotion. It examined the human condition in the face of death. And I suppose this post might be evidence that it provoked thought.

Rystefn seemed to be saying he had the intent of teaching a lesson had he followed through with the rest of the story of The Last Road, but we shall never know what it was, it seems.

And was this contoversial? Controversial in whether or not it’s art? Yes.

But, the major difference between the catharsis of a great play, or a moment at which a great work of literature has played your heart-strings is that you know it’s fiction. Fooling people, while it may give you a good laugh, makes you a bit of a jerk. People tend to have no respect for you.

Lonelygirl15 was an actress on YouTube, though her videos were of less substance.

But maybe that is part of the art. Artists try to make things seem realistic, but making somebody actually believe it’s real… Is that perhaps a new and radical form of art? Isn’t that just controversial, a part of being great art?

And perhaps Rystefn, or whatever his real name is, is simply mentally ill. A plausible enough idea.

Van Gogh once cut off his own ear.

I think that The Last Road could get away with being called art. I will say with weak conviction that I am willing to go along with saying that it was art. Whether it can be justified… While I find the means of provoking emotion in what I suppose Rystefn thought was an artistic manner were definitely deceptive and vile, he did provoke emotion. Whether or not you liked the art, well, that’s all subjective.

Maybe I was enchanted with The Last Road before my disillusionment, but I am certainly now disenchanted with its artist.

Yesterday as David Grinspoon was giving his lecture at Auraria, I couldn’t help but noticing a man in the audience with a pair of glasses, a cowboy hat, blonde hair, and a beard much like Rystefn’s. Having only seen a few pictures, that video, and never having met him in person, I couldn’t say for sure. Perhaps it was the cold fury spilling over into paranoia making me see Rystefn where he was not there.

One question I think we will never have answered and that I am, admittedly, still curious about is how The Last Road would have ended, and what would have happened in between had Rystefn continued with his “art”. But, most curious to me… why would he give up all his friends for this? He certainly must have known that he would be stripped of all his respect and dignity, left with only the pity from a few of our hearts (including my own).

Throughout this post I’ve merely tried to make people look beyond our anger or apathy or whatever (and hell, maybe the story is not even about him dying, maybe it’s about how we react when we know it’s faked) at Rystefn’s distasteful actions and see if, perhaps, there was some taste to it after all. I don’t know the answer to this question, and now more than ever, I’d like to hear from you, the readers, especially if you’ve never commented before.

As much as I think Rystefn deserves a swift, forceful kick in the balls, can we still have appreciation for his “art”? Again, I’m calling it “art” with weak conviction.

However, perhaps the most telling thing he ever said was on his YouTube channel, and I think I shall end with it…

I am not a nice person. Do not mistake me for one.

It Helps to Not Quote-Mine

A comment left on a video I toasted yesterday:

Nope, there is nothing militant about that. But that is not all they are saying.

There is something militant about calling believers “child abusers” (Dawkins), as belonging in cages (Dennet) and saying, “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them.” Sam Harris, The End of Faith, pages 52-53.

One by one now.

Dawkins doesn’t call believers “child abusers” for having children and believing. He calls them child abusers for labeling their child as a “Christian child” or a “Muslim child” or even an “Atheist child” because that’s pretty much indoctrination.

To use an extreme example, say a Jehovah’s Witness has a child and that child has a need for a blood transfusion and the Jehovah’s Witness parent says “you can’t get treatment because you are a Jehovah’s Witness child”. That, of course, is an extreme example. At the very least it should still be the child’s right to choose what to believe and being told what they have to believe or else they’ll go to Hell is arguably child abuse.

You can quote things out of context? Cool! I can too. I can also give you the context of things quoted out of context.

Dennett,

Safety demands that religions be put in cages, too–when it is necessary.

End of Faith pages 52-53,

The power that belief has over our emotional lives appears to be total. For every emotion that you are capable of feeling, there is surely a belief that could invoke it in a matter of moments. Consider the following proposition:

Your daughter is being slowly tortured in an English jail.

What is it that stands between you and the absolute panic that such a proposition would loose int he mind and body of a person who believed it? Perhaps you do not have a daughter, or you know her to be safely at home, or you believe that English jailors are renowned for their congeniality. Whatever the reason, the door to belief has not yet swung upon its hinges.

The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.

Ultimately, Harris ends up making more of a statement of fact about how beliefs do lead to blood-shed in many cases and so self-defense is often necessary.

And who determines which beliefs are so dangerous? The atheist. Of course Sam Harris make excuses for pre-emptive nuclear war, pages 129 on, torture, and anti semtism (the Jews brought it on themselves.)

Yay! More quote-mining!

What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-rage nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are of what their state of rediness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime-as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day-but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe. How would such an unconscionable act of self-defense be perceived by the rest of the Muslim world? It would likely be seen as the first incursion of a genocidal crusade. The horrible irony here is that seeing could make it so: this very perception could plunge us into a state of hot war with any Muslim state that had the capacity to pose a nulcear threat of its own. All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns.

Hey, Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and dancing pink unicorns on the planet of Neptune are real!

Now that I’ve given the context of the quote, I’d like to say that I didn’t see the Jews brought up on page 129 at all so that was really unhelpful.

Can you imagine an officially atheistic government?

I don’t want an officially atheistic government. Neither do Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, or Harris.

I want a secular one. Think America, a pluralistic democracy, without the remnants of the McCarthy era (“In God we trust” on dollar bills “one nation under God” in the pledge) and without fundamentalists being able to get away with in-school prayer and banning the teaching of evolution. People are free to believe whatever they want, they just aren’t free to force somebody else to believe it or live by their rules.

I can. Gulags, “re-education” camps, brainwashing centers, you name it.

Since when did atheism=totalitarianism? Atheism just means you don’t believe in a god. It doesn’t mean a Stalinist society. Could you show how atheism necessarily leads to totalitarianism?

If anything comes close to a totalitarian age in our country I’d bring up the McCarthy era again where we had a lovely little witch-hunt and people’s lives were ruined because they were evil godless commies. That wasn’t very atheistic of us, nor very secular.

You keep at it with that quote-mining and weakening your case, then. Have fun!

Indoctrinate

Recently there has been some nit-pickery over my use of the phrase “support the indoctrination of critical thinking” at the bottom of one of my toasts which had more to do with the blogging networks application on Facebook than that.

And if you want to help support me on my mission to indoctrinate teenage girls with critical thinking, you can join the Teen Skepchick network here.

Skep replied:

The last thing you should be doing is claiming to ‘indoctrinate’ people. Bad choice of words, bad choice of attitude.

Evolved Rationalist said:

Sigh. Some people don’t understand what the phrase ‘tongue-in-cheek’ means.

And an essay was received in the comments from Skep.

No, Evolved Rationalist, some people actually understand the power of language. And know what you’re up against when this casual attitude is seen as ‘the best approach’.

Yes. Language is a powerful thing. To help us understand that power we have dictionaries like my copy of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 9th edition which I am ever so fond of.

indoctrinate v.tr. 1 teach (a person or group) systematically for a long period to accept (esp. partisan or tendentious) ideas uncritically. 2 teach, instruct. indoctrination n. indoctrinator n. [IN- + DOCTRINE + -ATE]

Um, let me make that more concise. Teach to accept ideas uncritically.

So to indoctrinate critical thinking…

If you use words like ‘indoctrinate’ and then try to sell a concept to people who are resistant (e.g, people who are tending to be critical of skeptics or doubtful of what might be the value) – then you’re already starting off on the wrong foot.

Actually, I think that if they’re critical of uncriticalness they’re already on the right track to skepticism.

Especially the very dangerous approach of skepticism = atheism, when that is the last thing skepticism should be touted as. Want to have people who are of an agnostic or faith-based mindset to shut down even before they are considering supporting it? Want to have teachers see it as ‘more trouble than it’s worth’ when it takes the approach of alienating the majority of faithful despite the (uncertain) benefits it claims to have for critical thinking skills?

I did a toast on here which I cross-toasted on Teen Skepchick about how theists can be skeptics too. Short, not really thoroughly argued, but there you have it.

Then go ahead. Use words like ‘indoctrinate’. Fail to have a proper mission statement. Better yet, have no obvious educational links or educators attached to the project or site.

“Indoctrinate critical thinking” is not really the mission statement. Again, that wasn’t serious. And, judging by the definition of indoctrinate, it wouldn’t have made sense if I were serious. The mission is to encourage critical thinking and skepticism in teenage girls. I’m sure I could write something more eloquent and inspiring if I had the brain juice but that’s the gist of it.

Being just another minority-based website with opinions and views… nothing new. And ‘tongue-in-cheek’ isn’t something that wields much weight when you’re trying to explain to students and parents why they should check out a site or assert its authority (on what, exactly, by the way? Opinions of people on topics, with few to no relevant qualifications of the people, none education-based?).

Content is key, Evolved Rationalist. I look forward to evidence rather than more rah-rah advertising. In fact, a solid game plan with realistic ‘what is intended to be achieved’ would be better – than just ‘join for the popularity of joining sake’. If anything, that’s the most constructive criticism I can have of this rush to be popular amongst the already-skeptic-set. Start setting goals and designing the site as such. Start having some product for educators, with their input and understanding of the school systems, if that’s what they want to attract. Start figuring out what they really want to do for students and educators – rather than thinking that getting into schools is that easy. Why should this or other sites benefit? What have they most definitely have to offer?

So… yeah… us skeptics really love appeals to authority but I guess I see how we need that to draw people in. But… what authority would we have anyway? Teen Skepchick is just run by… teens. We don’t have any real authority on any subject so we rely on our reasoning and evidence. I can write posts using examples of how some logical fallacies are logical fallacies. For example, Edward Mitchell says there are aliens but Edward Mitchell could also say there are dancing pink unicorns on Neptune and that wouldn’t be true. If you want to know what the content of Teen Skepchick is, why not go take a look at it yourself? I’ve been linking to it the whole time.

In comparison to women’s magazines, popular books linking feminism to wiccan expressions, alternative cures, popular TV shows, which are resourced and funded to appear with glossy appeal and infinite social support groups. Where are the links to specific educational outcomes, exactly what classes will it suit – any idea of the curriculum strains to fit in content as it is? – and what range of ability will it better address in comparison to textbooks, documentaries and programs that either do the job better or, more challenging, ‘work for the other side’?

The idea, I suppose, is to be interesting. To have style. To be unique. To make it seem more pertinent to the day-to-day lives of teens. Who better to do it than us teens?

Because it’s going to take more than ‘hey, let’s indoctrinate! Tee hee hee!’. Is this really meant to be serious, or is this just more in-joke in-house fluffing about?

If you’re going to appeal to teens you can’t be serious all the time. Of course, I’m guilty of writing posts which are 1,619 words in length for Teen Skepchick, and had it been completely humourless that would have been enough to fry a teen’s brain like an egg on the surface of Venus. Again, I have written quite a bit of serious stuffz for Teen Skepchick if you go check it out, but seriousness 100% of the time is really really unappealing.

Personally, I’d be checking out the work of the National Center for Science Education in preference.

Yeah, I heart NCSE myself but do they really have a section which is just for teens? Or just for kids? Does it really have anything called “critical thinking 101” to teach people how to think?

Why did this need to turn into a whole spiel in defence of Teen Skepchick anyway?

On a much much lighter and cheerful note, Splendid Elles has just hit 200 toasts and is about to reach its 40,000th viewer!

If Skep doesn’t mind a bit of light-heartedness, I’d like to have a party. If he minds then we won’t have a party.

HA! Did you think I was actually going to let Skep keep me from having my frivolous moments?

PARTAAAAAYYYY!!! Wooo!!!