Thursday, 9 June 2011

Bravery of the Skeptic

Sometimes I peruse some of the older posts on blogs that I frequent and it leads me down some interesting rabbit holes. Going through some of PZ Myers' old stuff I came across a book review, which lead me to an apologist's blog, which lead me to a curious entry from said apologist wherein he claims that skepticism and freethought are cowardly positions to take.

I thought I would address some things about his piece:

1) I highly doubt he makes a good skeptic.

Bob, on the other hand, is making a definitive statement that he is prepared to back up.

Since Bob in this case presents the theist and is willing to make positive statements that he is prepared to back up...where is the backing up of Xianity? Why can no one put forth coherent, cogent, and compelling reasons to actually believe?

3) Um, causality does not always hold in the quantum world - so the gotcha put forth is not really a gotcha after all.

4) The big bang shows that the universe was not eternal and unchanging, not that the singularity popped out of nothingness. But, time is an element of the behavior of light in this universe, and so asking about time "before" the big bang may very well be meaningless. Causality also happens to be a concept that depends on time and the laws of physics, which the author points out break down during the big bang, thus defeating his own argument.

5) The reason for the argument that the universe must have a cause is so that the theist can seize upon the idea that goddidit. This is nothing more than a fallacious god of the gaps argument, however, and further it leads to turtles all the way down once one asks what caused god. (The theist will reply that god is uncaused which is special pleading, or that god is uncaused and eternal and therefore didn't come into being and does not need a cause, which is also special pleading and destroys usual Xian ideas that god is perfect and unchanging in the process.)

But, all that aside, the reason I wrote this is because he seriously misconstrues why it's brave to be a skeptic! Sure, in terms of the belief itself, it's a bit more brave to put oneself out there and make a claim that could be wrong. It's more rational to hold the atheist's position, and therefore safer in a way, but that completely misses the point.

Going against the herd is always difficult, especially for social animals like humans. The easy thing to do is put one's head down and simply agree with the rest of the people around you and mouth your prayers and hymns to a god that you don't believe in. Doing this at least gets you peace and quiet.

People have, throughout recorded history, been killed for the sins of apostasy, blasphemy, and heretical thought. Socrates was killed for his heretical stance that went against the political tides. But, even now people can still be killed in many parts of the world for not believing in a specific deity or conforming to the beliefs of the majority, whether it's fatwas in the Muslim world or people performing abortions in the Bible belt. Being a skeptic raises the ire of the people who fervently believe and puts the skeptic at risk simply for daring to have different thoughts and a rational standard of necessary evidence before swallowing the superstitious claims of theists.

When Madalyn Murray O'Hair stood up to protest school prayer, she was called the "most hated woman in America."

Vocal atheists like Justin Vacula routinely receive hate mail.

Webster Cook was threatened with bodily harm and death for taking a communion wafer and not eating it, which touched off the whole "Crackergate" controversy.

Damon Fowler) has received death threats, intolerance from school officials and fellow students, been thrown out of his house by his own bigoted parents and forced to move 6 hours away to a new state and live with his brother and all for skepticism.

It would be much easier for all of them and all of the rest of us to just be quiet and not rock the boat. We could sit there and watch as the majority runs roughshod all over our rights and tries to silence us all through abuse and threats of violence, but many people don't. Many people take the skeptical stance and stand up to be counted. Many people don't simply accept what's been spoon-fed to them all their lives and don't simply go with the herd. That's what's brave about it.


Tigerboy said...

I think Vashti McCollum was extremely brave.

Imagine being a housewife in a small town, in the Midwest, in the 1950s, and pursuing a lawsuit to prevent the public schools in your town from teaching religion, and taking it all the way to the federal Supreme Court!

Vashti McCollum was also called "the most-hated woman in America". She certainly was the most-hated woman in her small town.

I highly recommend "The Lord Is Not On Trial Here Today". It's an excellent documentary about a case I knew nothing about.

Tigerboy said...

Correction: It was the 1940s.

Very brave.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, Religious leaders get death threats all the time. Anyone who the mass media pays attention to will eventually get death threats. It comes with the modern mass communications world. Folks who try to suggest that only one side gets them, so therefore the other side is the problem, are missing the more serious problem.

GCT said...

Does your benefactor get death threats? I mean, the Xian Reconstructionist that pays for you blog?

Anonymous said...

Sigh. I missed this. That was back when you thought I was part of some wicked and evil conspiracy to tunnel under your home. So since I have no benefactor, no he doesn't. But that doesn't take away the truth of my statement, which I noticed you dismissed - again.

GCT said...

I doubt that religious leaders get death threats all the time. From whom? I guess the gay ministers probably get death threats, but that's for coming out as gay, and those death threats come from people like you.

Regardless, it takes more bravery to come out as a skeptic than to be religious. Period. Going with the flow is much easier. It's people like you that are the ones threatening us. People like you are pushing for theocracy, a theocracy that will see atheists dead, imprisoned, exiled, or forced to recant and become Xians. But I guess you don't see that as bravery to stand up against theocratic tyrants like yourself.

And, it's even more absurd to think that Xians in this country face any sort of persecution. Don't even try and bring that argument - fair warning.

Rocky663 said...

Not sure why u think you are so few. I work with probably 4 to 5 hundred people who are "skeptics". Believe me, me, being a follower of Christ is the minority. Yet I still remain faithful. That's bravery. In case you haven't noticed, living for Christ any more is going against the grain, not going with the flow. When you get laughed at and taunted for your belief, that to me is persecution. You "skeptics" cry every time the word God is said and you eventually get what you want, I would say that the influence that you have in this country would make you the majority.

Rocky663 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GCT said...

"Believe me, me, being a follower of Christ is the minority...In case you haven't noticed, living for Christ any more is going against the grain, not going with the flow."

I don't believe you, because what you're saying here is demonstrably false.

"Yet I still remain faithful. That's bravery."

Sorry, but not true. Believing what the majority of people do and in accord with popular culture is not brave.

"When you get laughed at and taunted for your belief, that to me is persecution."

Being laughed at for having ridiculous beliefs is not persecution. Being throw out of your house for your non-beliefs is. Learn the difference.

"You "skeptics" cry every time the word God is said..."

No, we object to the use of it when it's government sponsored. Say "god" all you want on your own time for all I care, although if you put it out in the marketplace of ideas I may very well tell you how silly it is.

"...I would say that the influence that you have in this country would make you the majority."

Coming from someone who has lived with religious privilege all their can't even recognize it.