Friday, May 29, 2009

Divide and Conquer

Here's a Jack Chick tract courtesy PZ Myers, which as PZ said boils down to "Catholicism and voodoo are pretty much the same thing, and any good Protestant boy can beat up demons." One of the successes of the Religious Right has been to level distinctions between faiths so that Catholics and Baptists and Mormons can vote together (note that in 2008 this became an issue for Romney, because many Americans thought he was in the wrong cult). I'm all for this tract spreading anywhere that Catholics and Protestants are needed for the Religious Right to get votes together - like the Southwest for example.

And I ask again: where are our tracts? At what motel desks and grocery store breezeways can regular people going through tough times found positive atheist messages? I keep threatening to put one of these together and distribute it myself, but I challenge the community to beat me to it.


Makarios said...

There's lots of secular tracts out there. One of the most applicable for atheists is:

"Everything I needed to learn,
I learned in kindergarten" :-)

C'mon, admit it! That's funny!

Jason said...

I would love to see some non-theist tracts out there. I think the humanist organizations out there are ready to spport an effort like this.

One concern though... can it be accomplished without giving ammunition to the theists when they all atheism a religion? Do we care?

Michael Caton said...

Jason, theists (and confused unafiliated folks) are always going to call us a religion. We shouldn't commit the vegetarian Hitler fallacy (X person/organization is bad; therefore every individual practice of X, like veganism or tracts, are bad too). Nothing wrong with getting your message out, and there are lots of people that aren't interested in reading blogs but that might pick up a conveniently-placed pamphlet out of curiosity.

Makarios, that's actually not true for me...I still believed in Santa Claus in Kindergarten. And Jimmy Carter. Fortunately now that I know neither exist. :)

Danby said...

"...can regular people going through tough times found positive atheist messages?"

What positive messages does Atheism have for people in a bad situation?
"No-one is out there to care, just give up"?
"This miserable existence is all you will ever have"?
"If it's bad enough, have you considered suicide"?

Materialism is just not very inspiring to somebody in a crisis.

Michael Caton said...

Danby: you summarize exactly the challenge we face. How do you win the sale when the other salesperson can lie to high heaven (pun intended) about their product? I can tell the customer "I know he said his car is only $500 and gets 1,200 mpg, can fly, and in an emergency can be eaten and tastes just like a Hershey bar. But look at it. It's an '81 Chevy Monza, and this one is a brand new Mercedes. No, it can't fly. Stop biting the hood ornament." When people can do a side-by-side comparison, they'll realize ours is the better deal. That's why we have to relentlessly call BS on the competition and give people the tools to make the comparison (public discource and education).

I do think it's an underemphasized correlation that the wealthier and more stable a country, the less religious it tends to be. People don't need the comfort of universal justice and rewards in the next life when this life is good. That's why atheists should be all about poverty eradication and economic growth.

Anonymous said...

The atheist says "there is nothing", the theist says "there might be something".

Michael Caton said...

Anonymous: discussions of definitions are more thorough and nuanced elsewhere. By "there is nothing" I'll assume you mean "with regard to supernatural beings", which is technically correct. An agnostic says "there might be supernatural beings, but I don't know the answer or it's not answerable". A theist says there IS a supernatural being.

Technically, I'm an agnostic, because I regard the question of the existence of something that people call "gods" as so meaningless, unanswerable, and having no impact on how I live my life that I don't worry about it. Bertrand Russel was the first to explain this, that regarding a possible teapot in orbit between Mercury and Venus, he was technically agnostic ("guess it could be there, though I see no evidence and it doesn't affect me") but in practice an atheist.

I go a step beyond Russell, because I've seen teapots and I know that they and things like them exist. I've seen Mercury and Venus, and there's nothing about teapots that keeps them from getting to other places in space and persisting in vacuum. The concept of supernatural beings, on the other hand, nobody has ever been able to explain coherently or give me a concrete example of. So I'm much more prepared to believe in orbital teapots than gods.

So, Anonymous, it's really about humility. You and I are both limited beings who have to live our lives with the barest of clues about what's going on. That's why we have to be careful and be damn sure we think about how we know what we know. So when a theist tells me that such a thing as gods CAN exist (but can't explain it), and that in fact they DO exist (but can't show me evidence of one), and that the specific gods of his ancestors do exist, but the OTHERS are false (without much knowledge about his own gods, let alone the others), and that I and everyone else should live my life based on what that god supposedly said - forgive me for thinking that's a little presumptuous.