Do you think it would be helpful or harmful for atheists to become a team in the league? Why?
I think it would be harmful. If I am right about this, then one of the critical elements of religion is the social agreement that it be deceitful yet fully believed.
I was thinking more in terms of the "clan identity" aspect of it, with regard to Davedave's desire that atheists "unite." So you're not saying that a strongly united atheist movement in which atheists self-identify as such and fight as a united front would necessarily be a "team" in the game, right?
The only problem religion has with us is that we stand up in the middle of the movie, walk right in front of the screen, and yell "This is only a movie!" at the top of our lungs. Once you agree to ignore the deceit, it doesn't matter what show you put on.
Ah, OK. The metaphor for this I had in the back of my mind is that religion is a Live-Action Role-Playing (LARP) game. LARP (as I understand it) is pretty much the same thing as a regular role-playing game (like Dungeons and Dragons), except that the players don costumes and act as their characters in an open physical setting. I don't know exactly how they do the dice rolls and the monsters, etc..
In religion, the "player" becomes a spiritual warrior, saver of souls, holy man, miraculous healer, etc. instead of the D&D classes like figher, cleric, bard, magic-user, and so on. Through their prayers, they can help insure that the gas pipeline God wants :
gets built, etc.. Instead of being merely human, the religious person is an immortal superbeing acting out an important role in a cosmological drama.
The atheist is one who barges in and says, "No, you guys are just a bunch of dorks in silly costumes."
In your recent thread "If you became an atheist tomorrow, what would you miss?"
Wherein you are trying to get at the point of religious belief, one of the theist replies simply consisted of the following statement.
The fun of believing.
At first, this may seem like a sarcastic throwaway statement, but I think it may actually be the most honest and significant reply. Like theater or sport, they do it because it is fun.
Yes, I think it has to do with finding an escape from the mundane-ness of reality. There is a reason that the fiction industry (books, movies, TV, theater) rakes in billions of dollars every year. Reality is either miserable, or boring and pointless most of the time. We crave ways to escape and/or transcend it.
The difference between religion (and other things, like belief in the paranormal) and movies and novels is that in religion, the story isn't boxed into a theater or book. There is no last page, no rolling of the credits. When you go to your boring job with the boss you hate, you can take your unexpectedly convenient parking space as a little "Hello!" from Jesus or the transcendent superbeing of your choice. or maybe as a synchronicity that validates your ability to create reality a la The Secret
or What The Bleep Do We Know
Atheism denudes the world of this superimposed layer of magic, leaving the cubicles and the car payments as the only reality. Atheism is popular with scientists, but then scientists are generally doing work they're passionate about, having direct contact with the frontiers of knowledge. I don't know what the percentages are with other creative professions like designers, engineers, artists, writers, etc.. However, my impression is that atheism will never be as popular among janitors, garbage men and insurance salespersons as it is in more directly creative and meaningful lines of work.
The point is that playing the game at all, regardless of how you play it, tacitly acknowledges the validity of the game. The game cannot be changed by playing it. If we put together a dream team and completely dominated the game, all we will accomplish is to amplify its significance.
On the other hand, it may be that trying to stop people from playing the game would be like trying to stop people from ever reading novels or going to movies. If that's the case, then finding a new way to imbue daily life with significance, meaning and "magic" that does not threaten our survival or our planetary ecosystem may be the only way to go.
It seems to me that the problem is that we play the game too much as it is. When we get into discussions with theists about the historicity of Noah's Ark, for example, we are no more working against the game than we would be working against baseball by getting into an argument in a bar with a Yankees fan about whether or not Dimaggio was the best hitter of all time.
We need to find a way to call out the bulls**t one level higher than we usually do. Rather than opposing specific truth claims, which assume that both parties are genuinely trying to pursue truth, we need to respond by saying "You're not just wrong. You're lying. Not about this thing you believe, but that you are trying to believe truth as opposed to owning it. You don't want the truth. You simply want to be right."
Could you clarify the distinction (as you see it) between wanting the truth, and wanting to be right?