Author Topic: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post  (Read 530 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Hatter23

  • Fellow
  • *******
  • Posts: 3880
  • Darwins +257/-7
  • Gender: Male
  • Doesn't believe in one more god than you
By Lisa Miller, Thursday, July 26, 1:02 PMThe Washington Post


Quote
With the death of the writer Christopher Hitchens, and the withdrawal of Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, from the front lines into a study of morality and neuroscience, the American atheist movement has a void at the top. A decade ago, atheists were brave, fierce warriors bent on battling conventional wisdom and easy piety. These days, it seems, atheists are petty and small-minded ideologues who regard every expression of public religiosity as a personal affront – not to mention a possible violation of the First Amendment and a sign of rampant idiocy among their fellow citizens.

Last week, such atheist hysteria reached a peak when Tom Flynn, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, publicly over-reacted to remarks made at a press conference by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. In speaking about the devastating drought now facing farmers in the Midwest, the worst in 25 years, the Secretary, who was raised a Roman Catholic, struck a tone both emphatic and personal.

“I get on my knees every day,” he said, “and I’m saying an extra prayer right now. If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance, I would do it.”

Flynn came out churlishly swinging. About Vilsack’s statement, he said, “that’s not just government entangling itself with religion, that’s government publicly practicing it, and wallowing in superstition.” Besides, he added (rather meanly), prayer doesn’t work.

The jury may be out on the efficacy of prayer, but on the question of whether the USDA chief has violated the First Amendment, Flynn is entirely wrong. Vilsack did not say he had ceased doing his day job and was collecting his government salary while devoting himself to prayer. He did not suggest using taxpayer dollars to set up an altar to the rain gods outside USDA headquarters on Independence Avenue, nor  did he – as Texas Governor Rick Perry did last year – use his authority to declare a national day of prayer for rain. Vilsack merely said, in light of the vast consequences of the drought on human life, that he was moved to prayer. And that he wished he had more, or better, prayers to alleviate the suffering of so many.

“If a leader wants to say he’s praying for help, there’s nothing in the constitution that makes it inappropriate,” says David Beckmann, a Lutheran pastor and president of the hunger advocacy organization Bread for the World.

Beckmann adds that he’s praying as well -- not just for American farmers but especially for poor people around the world who need the fruits of those farms to live – and who may not be able to afford the price increases that will inevitably result from food shortages. For his part, Vilsack declined to comment further.

Vilsack and Beckmann (and Perry, for that matter) are hardly the first humans on the planet to pray to God for that life-giving substance, rain. The God of the Hebrew Bible is a cousin, historically, of the Canaanite deity Baal, a sky god who controlled the weather, especially rain. When in the Book of Kings, Elijah proposes a rain-making competition between Baal and the God of Abraham, God wins when he shoots fire down to earth, causing the assembled party to fall on their faces. In celebration of his victory, God makes the sky “black with clouds and winds, and there was a great rain.”

Rain prayers are especially potent among desert dwellers; in the arid Southwest, Native Americans have for thousands of years made prayers, songs, and dances for rain and they continue to do so today.

“Thence throw you misty water,” goes the “Rain Magic Song,” of the Pueblo Indians, “all round about us here.”

Before they make such supplications, says Tony Chavarria, curator of ethnology at Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, Pueblo Indians are taught to “look within yourself, your community to see what needs to be repaired, what you can to make yourself and your community a more balanced place so the deities will be more willing to convey that blessing.”

In addition to the small tempest they made over the Vilsack comment, atheists have also, in recent days, reflexively whined about a tweet from Pastor Rick Warren’s office (which they mistakenly thought was anti-evolution when it was really anti-pre-marital sex) and have questioned the appropriateness of President Obama’s prayers for the families of the victims in the Colorado shootings. In the non-believing community, a search for inward balance might, it seems, be in order.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

An Omnipowerful God needed to sacrifice himself to himself (but only for a long weekend) in order to avert his own wrath against his own creations who he made in a manner knowing that they weren't going to live up to his standards.

And you should feel guilty for this. Give me money.

Offline Traveler

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 2056
  • Darwins +142/-2
  • Gender: Female
  • no god required
    • I am a Forum Guide
    • Gryffin Designs
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2012, 03:49:38 PM »
I find it really, really annoying when public figures pray publically about public issues. If that makes me small-minded, so be it.
If we ever travel thousands of light years to a planet inhabited by intelligent life, let's just make patterns in their crops and leave.

Offline Quesi

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1986
  • Darwins +371/-4
  • Gender: Female
  • WWGHA Member
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2012, 04:15:51 PM »
I had no idea that we were so hierarchical that this supposed "void at the top" would have such an impact! 

Years ago, long before  had ever heard the names Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris, I mourned the death of Isaac Asimov, and wondered if the secular humanist movement would wither away in his absence.  Today, I rarely even hear the atheist community mention Asimov as a leader or spokesperson. 

We are actually a pretty diverse bunch. 

Sectors of the atheist community advocate for issues and causes that other sectors of the atheist community think are irrelevant.  I'm not particularly offended by rain dances or prayers for rain.  So long as they do not detract from questions of climate change. 

I don't really like public servants calling for rain dances or prayers for rain in their capacity as public servants.  And I don't really like sending my tax dollars out into the stratosphere to pay the salaries of people who think that the solution to droughts that are causing crops to die and people to lose their likelihoods is prayer.  When I'm paying the salary of a high level official, I like to think that he or she is a little brighter than that.  But it is not a cause I would take up.

I will continue to do the work that I believe is important.  And Tom Flynn can continue to do the work that he thinks is important.   

And Lisa Miller, (who according to wikipedia, was raised in a Jewish secular household) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_Miller_(journalist) can write stories about imaginary hierarchies and the national tradition of raindances and the constitutionality of tax dollars paying for public prayer sessions. 

And life will go on. 

Offline kcrady

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1250
  • Darwins +369/-1
  • Gender: Male
  • Your Friendly Neighborhood Cephalopod Overlord
    • My blog
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2012, 08:14:46 PM »
I wonder which would be the more patronizing (mean, small-minded, whatever) response: for atheists to react to such religious activity by political figures as if it actually meant something, or if we just shrugged and said, "Awww, that's cute--like the thing where we pretend the military tracks Santa on Christmas Eve!" 

One could make the argument that Tom Flynn was overreacting, because politicians make blandishments about religion all the time and none of that amounts to Congress making a law establishing a religion.  However, that rests on the premise that whether religious beliefs are true or not isn't actually important.  That religion is just something people do, like ballet or crocheting, and it's not really worth opposing when it's promoted by political figures.  Whatever one might say about Tom Flynn's response, he does grant religions enough respect as proposed models of how reality actually works to object to political officials promoting them instead of...well, something that actually works.  Lisa Miller seems to view religion as something akin to square dancing; a quaint, charming slice of Americana that no one could object to without being some kind of uptight prick.

Is Tom Flynn's response really more offensive to religion than the comment that sparked it?

Quote
“I get on my knees every day,” he said, “and I’m saying an extra prayer right now. If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance, I would do it.”
 

So, Vilsack’s devout prayers to Jesus as a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church are pretty much the same as whatever random pagan rain dance anyone might care to teach him?  "Well, heck, I'd kiss Xenu's alien ass if I thought it'd do any good!"  Surely the Saints and Martyrs must be shaking their heads in disappointment, right?  Right?  Actually, I think it would be awesome if somebody would teach Vilsack a Native American rain dance or a Wiccan spell for rain or whatever and invite him to perform it in front of the cameras. 

If the argument over religion these days goes like this:

ATHEIST: "Government officials publicly advocating prayer like this is an outrage!  It doesn't work!  Religion is just plain false!  How about our USDA chief do something useful, like point out that this is what climate change looks like, and isn't it about time we did something about it?"

FAITHEIST: "Oh, come on, don't be ridiculous.  You know this is all just lip service, right?  Nobody actually believes that crap anymore!  It doesn't mean anything!  It's a custom, like the President throwing the first pitch in baseball."

...then we're winning, aren't we?

As an aside, I get a kick out of how Miller waxes nostalgic about the glory days of atheism, when Hitch and Harris were in the game, and "atheists were brave, fierce warriors bent on battling conventional wisdom and easy piety."  I'd bet dollars to donuts that back then (if she was writing comment pieces at the time) Miller was saying that Hitch and Harris were mean and small-minded. 
"The question of whether atheists are, you know, right, typically gets sidestepped in favor of what is apparently the much more compelling question of whether atheists are jerks."

--Greta Christina

Just checking

  • Guest
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2012, 09:05:26 PM »
I find it really, really annoying when public figures pray publically about public issues. If that makes me small-minded, so be it.

It may be a public issue in the broader sense, but remember that many farming and rural families and individuals are suffering. It's a personal issue for them as well as a public issue. And given that it appears the USA has a higher concentration of believers in rural areas, it seems reasonable to suggest that many of those directly affected by drought would be appreciative of these prayers. So really, I think it was a poor choice by Mr Flynn to draw attention to this.


magicmiles

(deleted my other account - again. Crazy busy at work. So 'just checking' what you're all up to from time to time, and may chime in here and there)

Offline stuffin

  • Postgraduate
  • *****
  • Posts: 729
  • Darwins +26/-0
  • Gender: Male
  • WWGHA Member
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2012, 09:27:43 PM »
By Lisa Miller, Thursday, July 26, 1:02 PMThe Washington Post


Quote
With the death of the writer Christopher Hitchens, and the withdrawal of Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, from the front lines into a study of morality and neuroscience, the American atheist movement has a void at the top. A decade ago, atheists were brave, fierce warriors bent on battling conventional wisdom and easy piety. These days, it seems, atheists are petty and small-minded ideologues who regard every expression of public religiosity as a personal affront – not to mention a possible violation of the First Amendment and a sign of rampant idiocy among their fellow citizens.

Last week, such atheist hysteria reached a peak when Tom Flynn, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, publicly over-reacted to remarks made at a press conference by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. In speaking about the devastating drought now facing farmers in the Midwest, the worst in 25 years, the Secretary, who was raised a Roman Catholic, struck a tone both emphatic and personal.

“I get on my knees every day,” he said, “and I’m saying an extra prayer right now. If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance, I would do it.”

Flynn came out churlishly swinging. About Vilsack’s statement, he said, “that’s not just government entangling itself with religion, that’s government publicly practicing it, and wallowing in superstition.” Besides, he added (rather meanly), prayer doesn’t work.

The jury may be out on the efficacy of prayer, but on the question of whether the USDA chief has violated the First Amendment, Flynn is entirely wrong. Vilsack did not say he had ceased doing his day job and was collecting his government salary while devoting himself to prayer. He did not suggest using taxpayer dollars to set up an altar to the rain gods outside USDA headquarters on Independence Avenue, nor  did he – as Texas Governor Rick Perry did last year – use his authority to declare a national day of prayer for rain. Vilsack merely said, in light of the vast consequences of the drought on human life, that he was moved to prayer. And that he wished he had more, or better, prayers to alleviate the suffering of so many.

“If a leader wants to say he’s praying for help, there’s nothing in the constitution that makes it inappropriate,” says David Beckmann, a Lutheran pastor and president of the hunger advocacy organization Bread for the World.

Beckmann adds that he’s praying as well -- not just for American farmers but especially for poor people around the world who need the fruits of those farms to live – and who may not be able to afford the price increases that will inevitably result from food shortages. For his part, Vilsack declined to comment further.

Vilsack and Beckmann (and Perry, for that matter) are hardly the first humans on the planet to pray to God for that life-giving substance, rain. The God of the Hebrew Bible is a cousin, historically, of the Canaanite deity Baal, a sky god who controlled the weather, especially rain. When in the Book of Kings, Elijah proposes a rain-making competition between Baal and the God of Abraham, God wins when he shoots fire down to earth, causing the assembled party to fall on their faces. In celebration of his victory, God makes the sky “black with clouds and winds, and there was a great rain.”

Rain prayers are especially potent among desert dwellers; in the arid Southwest, Native Americans have for thousands of years made prayers, songs, and dances for rain and they continue to do so today.

“Thence throw you misty water,” goes the “Rain Magic Song,” of the Pueblo Indians, “all round about us here.”

Before they make such supplications, says Tony Chavarria, curator of ethnology at Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, Pueblo Indians are taught to “look within yourself, your community to see what needs to be repaired, what you can to make yourself and your community a more balanced place so the deities will be more willing to convey that blessing.”

In addition to the small tempest they made over the Vilsack comment, atheists have also, in recent days, reflexively whined about a tweet from Pastor Rick Warren’s office (which they mistakenly thought was anti-evolution when it was really anti-pre-marital sex) and have questioned the appropriateness of President Obama’s prayers for the families of the victims in the Colorado shootings. In the non-believing community, a search for inward balance might, it seems, be in order.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________




1. Atheists are Popeless? I didn't realize.
2. Vilsack sounds like he would worship any god, poor superstitious bastard.
3. The is no efficacy to prayer
4. "more or better prayers? Efficacy?
5. Siting biblical stories to support her case; sad
6. Siting desert people's superstitions to support her case, sadder
7. Ask the Mayans how praying and sacrificing helped their drought
I'd cut him if he stands, and I'd shoot him if he'd run
 Yes I'd kill him with my Bible and my razor and my gun

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.
Aristotle

Offline stuffin

  • Postgraduate
  • *****
  • Posts: 729
  • Darwins +26/-0
  • Gender: Male
  • WWGHA Member
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2012, 09:34:28 PM »
I find it really, really annoying when public figures pray publically about public issues. If that makes me small-minded, so be it.

It may be a public issue in the broader sense, but remember that many farming and rural families and individuals are suffering. It's a personal issue for them as well as a public issue. And given that it appears the USA has a higher concentration of believers in rural areas, it seems reasonable to suggest that many of those directly affected by drought would be appreciative of these prayers. So really, I think it was a poor choice by Mr Flynn to draw attention to this.


magicmiles

(deleted my other account - again. Crazy busy at work. So 'just checking' what you're all up to from time to time, and may chime in here and there)
I kinda agree with this. He could have phrased it as to project the praying is being or should be done by the citizens and not government officials. I don't want public officials praying on my dime.
I'd cut him if he stands, and I'd shoot him if he'd run
 Yes I'd kill him with my Bible and my razor and my gun

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.
Aristotle

Offline Mr. Blackwell

  • Fellow
  • *******
  • Posts: 2629
  • Darwins +76/-23
  • Gender: Male
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2012, 09:35:16 PM »
hahahahahaha....MWWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

PUNY SIMPLETON FOOLS!!!!!

The MEDIA[1] says you are impotent....SO IT MUST BE TRUE!!!!!

MMWAAAHAAHAAHAAHAA!!

 1. oh...it's just one media outlet? Never mind...it's in the echo chamber now.
I show affection for my pets by holding them against me and whispering, "I love you" repeatedly as they struggle to break free.

Offline LoriPinkAngel

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1200
  • Darwins +124/-6
  • Gender: Female
  • I'm Your Nurse, Not Your Waitress...
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2012, 09:43:24 PM »
I find it really, really annoying when public figures pray publically about public issues. If that makes me small-minded, so be it.

It may be a public issue in the broader sense, but remember that many farming and rural families and individuals are suffering. It's a personal issue for them as well as a public issue. And given that it appears the USA has a higher concentration of believers in rural areas, it seems reasonable to suggest that many of those directly affected by drought would be appreciative of these prayers. So really, I think it was a poor choice by Mr Flynn to draw attention to this.


magicmiles

(deleted my other account - again. Crazy busy at work. So 'just checking' what you're all up to from time to time, and may chime in here and there)

I agree that the farmers probably appreciated his comment.  If he had said "let us pray" and said an actual prayer that everybody had to listen to I think Mr. Flynn would have been justified in his complaint but all he said was that he was saying a prayer presumably in his head since no prayer was quoted.
It doesn't make sense to let go of something you've had for so long.  But it also doesn't make sense to hold on when there's actually nothing there.

Offline Quesi

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1986
  • Darwins +371/-4
  • Gender: Female
  • WWGHA Member
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2012, 10:01:00 PM »
I find it really, really annoying when public figures pray publically about public issues. If that makes me small-minded, so be it.

It may be a public issue in the broader sense, but remember that many farming and rural families and individuals are suffering. It's a personal issue for them as well as a public issue. And given that it appears the USA has a higher concentration of believers in rural areas, it seems reasonable to suggest that many of those directly affected by drought would be appreciative of these prayers. So really, I think it was a poor choice by Mr Flynn to draw attention to this.


magicmiles

(deleted my other account - again. Crazy busy at work. So 'just checking' what you're all up to from time to time, and may chime in here and there)

MAGICMILES!!!   Good to see you. 

Going to respectfully disagree with you here.   If there are all of these believers living in the region, and they are all praying regularly, then why is their god being so mean and denying them rain?  Is he just too busy elsewhere?  Is he punishing them?  Or simply negligent? 

You area believer MM,  Do you really think that prayer is going to impact on weather patterns?   Really? 

You've got kids.  I suspect you are a stricter parent than I am.  When your kid asks for an ice cream and you say no, and the sweet angelic child says "Please!  Please!  PLEASE!  I'm so hot.  I won't get sugar buzzy.  Please?  I'll bring you breakfast in bed tomorrow.  Please?"  - do you give in?  I do, sometimes.  I know I should be more consistent.  I'm guessing you say no.  If you said no the first time, you stick to it.

So is that what prayer is like?  Is it like god decided not to let it rain, but thousands of little voices saying "please please please" change his mind?



Work is important, but many of us miss you.  You can ask a mod to reactivate your account.  And we have a nice new theist named Lori so if people start ganging up on you you've got company.  Please please please? 

Just checking

  • Guest
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2012, 10:30:28 PM »


MAGICMILES!!!   Good to see you. 

thanks. Hope you're doing well.


Going to respectfully disagree with you here.   

A new experience for me, then... ;)


You area believer MM,  Do you really think that prayer is going to impact on weather patterns?   Really? 

No time to get into a discussion on prayer currently. My point was simply that this was probably a poor choice of matters on which to make comment on the appropriateness of prayer, seeing as it appears to have been a personal matter for the Agriculture Secretary, and he didn't appear to be suggesting that his fellow government officials join him.


You've got kids.  I suspect you are a stricter parent than I am.

I doubt it. My kids know I'm a soft touch. Unfortunately I am also inconsistent. I'm working on that.


Work is important, but many of us miss you.  You can ask a mod to reactivate your account.  And we have a nice new theist named Lori so if people start ganging up on you you've got company.  Please please please?

I'm flattered, really. You know my form, though...I get into these discussions and I let them take over from my committments, meaning I end up pulling the plug abruptly and letting people down mid-thread. 

I'll just play it slowly for now.

Online nogodsforme

  • Professor
  • ********
  • Posts: 6220
  • Darwins +783/-4
  • Gender: Female
  • Jehovah's Witness Protection Program
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2012, 11:07:04 PM »
The jury is out on the efficacy of prayer. Sooo, when is that jury going to come back in? Should I sacrifice this goat to the rain gods or not? (arms crossed, foot tapping impatiently, goat trying to escape) ;D
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline kcrady

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1250
  • Darwins +369/-1
  • Gender: Male
  • Your Friendly Neighborhood Cephalopod Overlord
    • My blog
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2012, 11:26:53 PM »
It may be a public issue in the broader sense, but remember that many farming and rural families and individuals are suffering. It's a personal issue for them as well as a public issue. And given that it appears the USA has a higher concentration of believers in rural areas, it seems reasonable to suggest that many of those directly affected by drought would be appreciative of these prayers. So really, I think it was a poor choice by Mr Flynn to draw attention to this.

Well, I do kinda see your point here--if we're treating prayer as a kind of nice-thing-to-do social lubricant like saying "Have a nice day" to a stranger when we either don't really care if they have a nice day or don't think our words increase their probability of having a nice day.  In this context, when a political leader or anyone else gets up and says "our prayers are with those who suffer," then what's really going on is that sympathy is being offered.  It's got nothing to do with actual belief in any deities or the efficacy of prayer.  Vilsack made that plain by equating the prayers of his own religion with a "rain dance" in the sense of "Heck, I'd use anybody's mumbo-jumbo [because I sympathize with people suffering from the drought]."[1] 

So, when an atheist gets up and says, "Hey, you shouldn't be promoting religion like that as a government official!  And prayer doesn't even work anyway!" they sound like a dick because their words are automatically translated into "I don't care about those suffering people.  Bah, humbug!"

That's not what the atheist is actually doing though.  From the atheist's perspective, religion and prayer are statements of belief about how Universe works; that a certain deity or deities exists and that making public appeals in a certain way will actually have an effect on rainfall.  In addition, the U.S. government is not supposed to have any power to explicitly or implicitly promote or suppress any religious belief.  So when a politician, official, school teacher, etc. do this, they're out of order.

Nutshell: The atheist is only being a dick if we all (including the atheist) agree that religion and prayer are just social niceties that have nothing to do with how reality works.  I'll sign on to that, if the believers will. ;)
 1. I wonder if Native Americans would consider this a respectful treatment of their traditions?
"The question of whether atheists are, you know, right, typically gets sidestepped in favor of what is apparently the much more compelling question of whether atheists are jerks."

--Greta Christina

Offline kcrady

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1250
  • Darwins +369/-1
  • Gender: Male
  • Your Friendly Neighborhood Cephalopod Overlord
    • My blog
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2012, 11:29:10 PM »
The jury is out on the efficacy of prayer. Sooo, when is that jury going to come back in? Should I sacrifice this goat to the rain gods or not? (arms crossed, foot tapping impatiently, goat trying to escape) ;D

Well, given that the efficacy of prayer is so incredibly subtle that the jury is still out, in a society capable of detecting neutrinos[1] and the efficacy of aspirin for preventing heart attacks, prayer can't be very efficacious, can it?
 1. Which are so diaphanous most of them shoot through the Earth at light speed as if there wasn't a planet in the way...
"The question of whether atheists are, you know, right, typically gets sidestepped in favor of what is apparently the much more compelling question of whether atheists are jerks."

--Greta Christina

Offline Quesi

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1986
  • Darwins +371/-4
  • Gender: Female
  • WWGHA Member
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2012, 07:53:39 AM »
@kcrady-

This is really a very thought-provoking post.

I like social niceties.  I probably engage in them more than most.  If I am in an elevator with a latino man, or a man from the US South, I will accept the fact that he will step aside and let me pass first.  He considers it an act of courtesy, and I accept it as such.  If I am in an elevator with a Bangladeshi man, I will stand aside and let him pass first, because in his tradition, as a courtesy, men go first because there may be danger on the other side of the door.  There usually isn’t a Bengali tiger lurking on the other side of the NYC elevator doors that I pass through, so the action doesn’t usually provide the protection that it was originally crafted to provide.  But it is still a courtesy.  I am a strong, capable woman, and I don’t need to be either coddled or protected.  But I accept these gestures as courtesies. 

When a Muslim walks into the room and gives the traditional greeting of “al salaam a'alaykum,” I respond by saying “may peace be upon you,” which is my way of saying I have no idea of how to conjugate the proper response (it varies according to how many people are arriving and their gender and my gender and all sorts of stuff) and it signals that I am not a Muslim, (or I would know that stuff) but that I respectfully welcome the arrival of that human being.   I don’t think that the person walking into the room believes that he or she will enjoy a more violence-free life as a result of my greeting, Even if I had managed to get the Arabic right.  But I have extended a socially acceptable courtesy, which, in my experience, is universally received with warm smiles and increased comfort levels, which in fact usually lead to more productive meetings.   

When someone sneezes, I say “salud,” which literally means “health” in Spanish.  I do not think that by saying that word I am protecting the person from some demonic possession that might occur as a result of the sneeze, and I’m pretty damn sure that most people who sneeze in my company don’t think that my statement protected them from some potential demonic possession.  At least I really hope not. 

I also say “salud” when I raise a glass of beer in the company of friends.  Others say cheers or salut or l’chaim.  In this case, I’m almost absolutely sure that everyone raising their glasses understands that our chosen words and momentary ceremony will have no impact on our lives, our short-term or long-term health, or our happiness in the long term or the short term. 

I think that we as a species really seem to like or want or need these social niceties.  And little tiny ceremonial traditions.  And I usually have no problem with them. 

I think a lot of the time, when someone responds to pain or tragedy with the words “I’ll pray for you” or “you will be in my prayers,” they are really just expressing the fact that there is nothing practical that they can do, but they want to express empathy and solidarity.  When the prayer replaces the offer of a ride to the doctor or a dinner casserole to get the afflicted family through the day, it is a cop out.  Maybe it is always a cop out.  Maybe it is a way of getting out of thinking through the ways in which some sort of practical support could be offered.  I’m not sure. 

But when a public official pretends that prayer is the best solution to what is probably a human-made problem, for which there are a wide range of long-term, human made and human implemented solutions, (in spite of the fact that those solutions might impact on long-term profits of certain individuals) that person is being irresponsible. 

In terms of the other stuff – you’ve given me quite a bit to think about.  I’ll process it and post again. 

Offline Nam

  • Laureate
  • *********
  • Posts: 11680
  • Darwins +290/-80
  • Gender: Male
  • I'm on the road less traveled...
  • User is on moderator watch listWatched
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #15 on: July 27, 2012, 10:18:48 AM »
Op,

I agree with only one slight aspect of the article. Making a huge deal out of 'praying for rain", whether an elected official, or not, is pathetic. I mean, let them have such minor occurences and actually make a big deal out of "big deals". Something that actually has an effect on society rather than something minor as publically stating about praying for rain.

Everything else in the article was trite.

-Nam
This is my signature "Nam", don't I have nice typing skills?

Offline LoriPinkAngel

  • Reader
  • ******
  • Posts: 1200
  • Darwins +124/-6
  • Gender: Female
  • I'm Your Nurse, Not Your Waitress...
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #16 on: July 27, 2012, 12:13:17 PM »
Quote
When someone sneezes, I say “salud,” which literally means “health” in Spanish.

I think I'll take a cue from the episode of Seinfeld where in respose to a sneeze they said "you're sooo good lookin'"
It doesn't make sense to let go of something you've had for so long.  But it also doesn't make sense to hold on when there's actually nothing there.

Online nogodsforme

  • Professor
  • ********
  • Posts: 6220
  • Darwins +783/-4
  • Gender: Female
  • Jehovah's Witness Protection Program
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #17 on: July 27, 2012, 01:03:16 PM »
Quote
When someone sneezes, I say “salud,” which literally means “health” in Spanish.

I think I'll take a cue from the episode of Seinfeld where in respose to a sneeze they said "you're sooo good lookin'"

I say salud, too.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline Mr. Blackwell

  • Fellow
  • *******
  • Posts: 2629
  • Darwins +76/-23
  • Gender: Male
Re: Mean and Small Minded Atheists...according to the Washington Post
« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2012, 08:54:33 PM »
I have looked at the person with angry eyes and said "what's your fucking problem?"

I have also looked at the person with compassion and asked "are you okay?"

Depends on the person and the setting. Most often I just say "stop that"
I show affection for my pets by holding them against me and whispering, "I love you" repeatedly as they struggle to break free.