Freedom of and from religion

By Phil Plait | November 30, 2008 9:45 am

This post sat as a draft for a long time, and I should have posted it ages ago. It’s about the election, but it’s something we should all keep in mind anyway, for now and forever.

Watch this video. We need more like it. And I’m amazed some people can’t figure this out. it’s really pretty simple.

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Religion

Comments (83)

  1. Excellent video. Here is something that I have been repeating in a lot of forums and places. I think the last paragraph sums up what I think is going on in their minds.

    The most important thing to remember is that freedom of religion, if it is going to apply to everyone, also requires freedom from religion. Why is that? You do not truly have the freedom to practice your religious beliefs if you are also required to adhere to any of the religious beliefs or rules of other religions.

    As an obvious example, could we really say that Jews and Muslims would have freedom of religion if they were required to show same respect to images of Jesus that Christians have? Would Christians and Muslims really have freedom of their religion if they were required to wear yarmulkes? Would Christians and Jews have freedom of religion if they were required to adhere to Muslim dietary restrictions?

    Simply pointing out that people have the freedom to pray however they wish is not enough. Forcing people to accept some particular idea or adhere to behavioral standards from someone else’s religion means that their religious freedom is being infringed upon.

    Freedom from religion does not mean, as some mistakenly seem to claim, being free from seeing religion in society. No one has the right not to see churches, religious expression, and other examples of religious belief in our nation — and those who advocate freedom of religion do not claim otherwise.

    What freedom from religion does mean, however, is the freedom from the rules and dogmas of other people’s religious beliefs so that we can be free to follow the demands of our own conscience, whether they take a religious form or not. Thus, we have both freedom of religion and freedom from religion because they are two sides of the same coin.

    Interestingly, the misunderstandings here can be found in many other myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings as well. Many people don’t realize — or don’t care — that real religious liberty must exist for everyone, not just for themselves. It’s no coincidence that people who object to the principle of “freedom from religion” are adherents of religious groups whose doctrines or standards would be the ones enforced by the state.

    Since they already voluntarily accept these doctrines or standards, they don’t expect to experience any conflicts with state enforcement or endorsement. What we have, then, is a failure of moral imagination: these people are unable to really imagine themselves in the shoes of religious minorities who don’t voluntarily accept these doctrines or standards and, hence, experience an infringement on their religious liberties through state enforcement or endorsement.

    That, or they simply don’t care what religious minorities experience because they think they have the One True Religion. And maybe that’s their point?

  2. I am rolling the dice for 2018, point.

    And LarianLeQuella, well said.

  3. tacitus

    The point that is utterly lost on the religious fundamentalists who seek to inject their religion back into the public square is that in many countries where it never left — e.g. most of western Europe — religious belief is on the verge of dying out.

    The only other way to maintain a religious society is to form a theocratic state which, thankfully, only a small minority of Americans want to see.

  4. jess tauber

    Couple of questions, though….

    Where do we draw the line? Here come a bunch of Aztec revivalists who wanna chop out hearts- IIRC traditionalist practitioners at the time of the Conquest didn’t really care whether sacrificial victims were also believers, or were willing. Many other less extreme possibilities here, which bleed (if you’ll pardon the expression) into the next issue…

    How do we differentiate between what a religion actually calls for and what really are cultural norms only loosely tied to religion- people tend to be rather ignorant of the cline here, and this includes radical clerics of all stamps. What do we do when our norms clash with those of some other group? Female circumcision in Africa comes to mind, as do honor killings, and many aspects of Sharia law, though I’m not picking on Islam here- history is rife with examples from other religions, major and minority.

  5. In an ideal world Jess, humans would have given up childish superstitions, then your question would be moot. 😛

  6. minty fresh

    The only part I disagree with is the idea that we have to respect religion by not talking about it. There should be no taboo about discussing ideas and beliefs of any religion. If we are can have a Presidential debate on faith then we should be able to discuss the merits of the ideas behind faith. This can be done in a respectful way, as we would with any other topic.

  7. lexcarter

    Due to the lousy fast paced cutting from one face to the other,I could only stand watching 31 seconds of that i dont even know what its about.
    it was the most confusing 31 seconds of my life,and was clearly aimed at people, having less than a onesecond attentionspan.A good example of how you can cut clip and paste a message to death.what a bunch.

  8. Seabhag

    That’s easy Jess. Because religious freedom, and other basic human rights are applied tot eh sacrifice as well as the sacrificee. Since (IIRC, and you bring this up as well) most of the Aztec/Myan sacrifices were captives from wars they were most likely unwilling. Therefore, *their* freedom from religion is violated if they are sacrificed.

    But I agree with Larian :-) maybe someday the human race will grow up and ‘put away childish things’.

  9. Danniel B.

    Actually, in the freedom of religion law it says (More or less, this is not word-for-word): “To be able to practice ones religion without discrimination, as long as it does not violate social laws”, this means you can do whatever you want in a religious context, as long as this doesn’t clash with anything else in the penal code (For example, human sacrifice)

  10. Rodney

    Well said Larian,

    While there never will be a perfect world. I’d settle for a world that was just a little more perfect than this one.

    I mean, COME ON PEOPLE! We can do a little better than this, can’t we?

    Keep voting,


  11. Brad

    The vast majority of this country is christian. It’s how it was founded. Politicians know this and that’s why they say they are christians whether they really are or not. It’s politics. Get over it, it’s not going to change any time soon. That is unless all the hollywood libs on their high horses are successfull in convincing all of us in fly over country why we should stop believing our “superstitions”. I guess living near the ocean just makes you smarter.

  12. Rodney

    Danniel B.

    Good point!


  13. IVAN3MAN

    This article came to my attention via PZ Myers’ blog at Pharyngula:

    Anti-terror law requires God be acknowledged

    Under state law, God is Kentucky’s first line of defense against terrorism.

    The 2006 law organizing the state Office of Homeland Security lists its initial duty as “stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.”

    Specifically, Homeland Security is ordered to publicize God’s benevolent protection in its reports, and it must post a plaque at the entrance to the state Emergency Operations Center with an 88-word statement that begins, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”

    State Rep. Tom Riner, a Southern Baptist minister, tucked the God provision into Homeland Security legislation as a floor amendment that lawmakers overwhelmingly approved two years ago.


    Has it never occurred to them that terrorists also believe in god?

  14. So how do people feel about baptism by proxy?

  15. Danniel B.

    The one hikkup I can find with the whole thing, is that some religious practices that are accepted now, will probably have to be illegalized. The one example that pops to mind is circumcision. (And before people start calling me a racist or something, I would like to point out that I myself have been circumcised, so I think I have the right to debate the topic)

  16. Bonjour Larian,

    I don’t think it is sufficient that lots of people tell endlessly they want to have freedom to believe. Because even in Saudi-Arabia you can believe what you want as long as you keep your mouth shut.

    Thus it might be useful to comment loudly on the beliefs of other creeds, simply based on reason or common sens. That is liberty.


  17. justcorbly


    “Where do we draw the line?”

    We draw the line by distinguishing religiously motivated thought from religiously motivated behavior.

    Thought — belief, faith, whatever — is inside your head. It’s sacrosanct. It also cannot have any affect on anyone else, being locked up in your skull.

    Behavior, however, obviously does affect other people. I’m not prepared to give people a pass on their behavior simply because they say it’s religiously motivated, or even required.

    So, if someone starts the Revived Aztec Church and starts cutting hearts out of children, I say we arrest them for murder.

  18. tacitus

    So how do people feel about baptism by proxy?

    You mean what the Mormons do? Eh. Can’t get worked up about a bunch of mumbo-jumbo spoken over lists of names of people who are dead or live hundreds or thousands of miles away. That’s very different from being pestered at home or at work by people who are concerned for my soul and insist on telling me face to face.

    I can see how what the Mormons do might concern other religious types since they may believe that the Mormon incantations have some mystical (satanic?) power to interfere with their soul’s fate or something like that, but for non-believers it should be a non-issue.

  19. I’m all for allowing male circumcision. he risks are low, and the effects are minimal. Then again, I’m a cultural relativist- and while I’m not a fan of it, I don’t think that even FGC should be knee-jerk demonized.

  20. stopgap

    “How do we differentiate between what a religion actually calls for and what really are cultural norms only loosely tied to religion”

    It’s a simple line that has been drawn out a million times over. So long as the practice of any religion does not infringe on the rights of another. That goes for everything in life.

  21. tacitus

    The one example that pops to mind is circumcision.

    There’s nothing racist about being against the barbaric mutilation of helpless babies for no good reason other than tradition and/or some four thousand year old religious myth. In England, where I was brought up, the practice of circumcision all but died out decades ago in non-Jewish households. I was amazed to find out that Americans are still routinely mutilating their newborn males, usually for no better reason than carrying on a family tradition.

  22. I have the best solution: Let people do whatever they want, provided they don’t harm anyone else or infringe on other people’s right to do whatever they want.

    Catholic’s taking mass? That’s ok.

    Muslim honor killings? Nope. That does not pass the test.

    Aztec revival as specified by jess? That too fails to pass and so should be banned.

    It also doesn’t just apply to religion, but to anything:

    Eating a sandwich? That’s cool.

    Smoke a bunch of pot and shoot up heroin in the privacy of your own home? You’re not harming other people, so that’s ok.

    Going for a drive afterwards? That’s putting other people at risk so should rightfully be outlawed.

    Owning an array of assault rifles that are stored safely in your house? Ok.

    USING said assault rifles on people? Not so ok…

    It’s remarkably universal.

  23. IVAN3MAN

    Why is it that Jehovah’s witnesses, after ringing my doorbell (which I ignore and don’t answer when I’m aware that they are on the prowl), always stand outside my bloody door for about five minutes’ or so chatting amongst themselves? Is this behavior unique to the British species of the Jehovah’s witness, or is it typical of all of them in the U.S. and elsewhere? Why don’t they just bugger off when nobody answers the bloody doorbell?!

  24. Annette

    The Chemist Says: “I’m all for allowing male circumcision. he risks are low, and the effects are minimal. Then again, I’m a cultural relativist- and while I’m not a fan of it, I don’t think that even FGC should be knee-jerk demonized.”

    The way I see it, people should have freedom of religion as long as it doesn’t harm another person. This makes male circumcision completely different than female genital mutilation. Male circumcision is mostly done with proper medical precautions taken into account and there are no deep physical effects (like pain for the rest of your life)… so to me, its no different than piercing the ears of a little girl. Its a tradition that while rooted in religion, it especially had its usefulness health wise throughout history where hygiene was terrible… as well, now it is becoming widely accepted that it cuts risks of AIDS and the WHO backs up the benefits.

    However with FGM the procedure is mostly done with unsanitary conditions and without anesthetic (which is required when you slowly and painfully perform a procedure like that). The mentality behind it is different as well – it is done to prevent a woman from having sexual pleasure and to prevent promiscuity because sex is too painful to bear. The woman carries this physical pain her whole life and even child birth becomes dangerous. In all, it has no hygiene or medical benefits and is just a means to break down women and keep them in line… the WHO also condemns it.

    Big difference between the two. However I do believe that we should let cultures deal with their people in the ways that they know how – it is then up to its people to fight back if they feel mistreated. Its the same reason why I think the Afghani women will never be free as long as we are fighting for them…. they need to go through the fight for womens rights the same way our ancestors did in order to change their culture. This is the only way it would truly take effect. I’m not saying we should stand by and watch if genocide was committed in another country, but for the average civil rights we cannot impose our religious/cultural beliefs on theirs.

    Ugh… religion has its use in society (imagine how many people wouldn’t have a ounce of moral fiber without their belief in some vengeful god), but at the same time it is constantly misused and often holds us back.

  25. Kate

    This was the point I was going to make, but Arik Rice beat me to it! (but I’ll post it anyway… because I’m that kind of girl…)

    It’s not about what you do, but the effect it has. I could do something I thought was very “nice” or “good”, but which caused harm to another if I did not think through the consequences of such action.

    I notice all too often that religion does harm, but it’s followers feel justified in their practices because no harm comes to them or their group. That, to me, ought to be the sole distinction when discussing whether an action or practice is right or wrong. Does it do harm? To me it matters not to whom the harm is done, just that it is harm done to another.*

    …and it’s really all about consequences, isn’t it? Too often you hear: “I just didn’t think that this would happen” Usually because they didn’t bother to think about it at all! It’s about being mindful of yourself and those with whom you share the planet. Being mindful isn’t hard, it simply requires being aware of what you’re doing and why. Okay, so it requires a little more self-examination than most people engage in, but it’s not difficult. It might be slightly uncomfortable when you find you need to carefully examine your own motivations and you might not always be popular because of it, but I guarantee you will feel much less regret in the long run.

    *I’m not talking about offending someone, however. Offense is often simply hatred or fear born of misunderstanding or ignorance and is not genuine harm. I can offend you all day and the worst that’ll happen to you is you’ve wasted a day listening to someone you find offensive.

  26. Sometimes I think this planet is too small.

  27. Crux Australis

    I love the video, but, with all due respect to Americans, I think the word “American” in the video should be replaced with “human”.

  28. @IVAN3MAN: Donate blood and get a sticker promoting blood donations and put it on your door, that’ll keep them away. Two flies with one swat.

  29. BaldApe

    The fly in the ointment is that many religions require their members to try to convert members of other religions. If we were talking about civilized logical discourse over metaphysics (if that’s not an oxymoron) then that would be fine, but we’re not.

    The assertion that the gods I believe in are the only ones is an affront to believers in other gods. By denying me the right to insult their gods, you are keeping me from practicing my religion. In preventing them from killing me for insulting their gods, you are prohibiting the free exercise of theirs.

    Just consider the perpetual feuds (not to mention deliberate abuse) that can be caused by such measures as the UN anti blasphemy measures.

  30. IVAN3MAN

    @ Thomas Siefert

    Heh! I’ll try that.

  31. Blaidd Drwg

    Brad mentioned that this country is predominately “Christian”. However, if you listen to most of the individual sects, that statistic becomes highly debateable. Luthernas, for example, according to official church doctrine, have declared the Catholic Church to be non-Christian. That eliminates about 30% of nominal “Christians” from the mix right there.
    Since the percentage of Atheist/Agnostic/Muslim/Jewish/Bhuddist/Wiccan/other is more than 30% to begin with, according to the Lutheran church, the country is NOT predominately “Christian”.
    Baptists have similar beliefs about which “Christian” groups are excluded from their club, and I’m sure so do most of the rest (Charismatics, 7th day Adventists, JW’s, and Apostolics are even more exclusionary – they exclude just about everybody).

    Of course, when it comes to defining the country, no matter how extreme and exclusionary the church, they are more than willing to put everybody (EVEN MORMONS!!!11!1!!!) in their big tent of “Christianity”.

  32. tacitus

    No surgery is without the risk of complications, and this paper indicates that complications can occur in between 2% to 10% of circumcisions. Most may be minor, but it’s a risk their newborns need not face at all, except for some nebulous, ill-thought out concept of tradition by the parents.

    Why parents would subject their babies to such risks when the surgery is completely unnecessary is beyond me. Looking at recent figures from placed like the U.K. and Scandinavia, it looks as though the practice of mutilating babies’ genitals has all but died out (<3% in both places) but Americans still take a sharp knife to more than 50% 0f little boys' penises in America. It's high time that changed — and perhaps a more secular America will help that happen.

  33. Quiet Desperation

    most of western Europe — religious belief is on the verge of dying out.

    Not really if you factor in immigration patterns.

  34. Lawrence

    I get very offended every time someone claims that this is a “Christian” country. Most of the founding fathers – though somewhat practicing Christians, were very much against any religion that would interfere in the creation of & running of the country. Religion has no place in politics (and cheapens itself by getting involved) & politics has no place in religion – thus, never the two should meet.

    In general, people understand how to be “good” citizens – treat others how they would be treated, don’t break laws, etc – they don’t need a preacher or a book to tell them what they should and should not do. Overall, I completely understand the need for religion – people feel insignificant compared to the Universe & need to feel like they belong or have something to look forward to. In the Dark & Middle Ages, serfs had very little to live for, hence the need to believe in religion that would give them everything in the afterlife that they didn’t have in their own lives.

    Today, people feel overwhelmed by technology & the advancement of science, hence they need to grasp to something (i.e. religion) that gives them some sense of stability. That’s fine – just please, please, please, don’t force those beliefs on me. I only need to look at my son (1 year old on Nov. 3rd) to see the wonder of creation – I seriously, don’t need you shoving commandments, ideologies or whatever, down my throat to try to make me believe what you believe.

    Trust me, you’ll have the same issues with Islam in a few decades, as economies change and the wealth is distributed a bit more evenly (a rise of an Islamic middle class, in the Middle East) – religion will have less and less to do with the real world.

    And Mormons are nowhere near Christian – seriously on the very weird side.

  35. Briney


    There are fair arguments on both sides of the circumcision debate. Calling it “mutilating babies” is zero intellect propaganda speak of the lowest form. Shame on you.

  36. Daffy


    This country was NOT founded to be be Christian…many of the founding fathers were overtly hostile to Christianity. It is true that many of the colonies were founded that way, but that is not the same thing at all.

  37. Danniel B.

    I’m not against male circumcision (That would be rather pointless, right?), but if you look at it from a purely legal standpoint, some pretty serious problems start to emerge: Willfull causing of harm, willfull disfigurement, performing unregulated surgical procedures, and could even be stretched to child molestation (Let’s face it, they do mess around with some pretty private areas, with some pretty young kids)

  38. Brad,

    even if what you said was true, the Roman Empire was founded on Roman religion and at a later stage another religion made inroads into it (and later into Europe – and by less than peacefull means, I might add). It took over the empire and eventually the Roman Empire fell.
    Reigns of empires and religions will rise and fall, nothing is exempt. If you take comfort in either or both, the only reason you will not be disappointed is when it does not happen in your lifetime. That, however, is no consolation to realists and anyone else looking beyond oneself.

  39. Richard

    Meh, the circumcision is only necessary because of a badly designed instrument. Had it been properly designed there would be no need for it.

    The Founding Fathers knew all to well the evils that crop up when religion becomes the government. From the Inquisition to the witch trials, they were wise enough to realize that allowing people to believe as they want, without reward or punishment from the government, would free the government from doing stupid things.

    Of course, it wasn’t perfect. With Manifest Destiny, the government failed to keep the wall up and idiots began to insist that there was a “divine” need to conquer the rest of the continent. Evil cropped up via the “Trail of Tears.”

    The surest way to great evil is hatred then dehumanization. It’s easier to kill people when you don’t consider them human.

    I’m okay with people having religion, organized or not. If it helps one during the day, then whatever. Once you use your religion to justify the slaughter of an ethnicity, a people, a nation, or anyone else you would consider beneath you, then I have a problem with you and your laughable position.

    Yes, this extends towards any Atheists who would dare utter “kill all religions.” You would be no better than a hateful radical religionist.

    I have to concur with those who said that freedom of and from religion includes discussing religion. So long as a segment of society insists on influencing greatly our society, we have the right to examine their views and dissent when necessary. That’s also part of the 1st Amendment.

  40. Male circumcision is not nearly as barbaric as female circumcision, but it is still problematic. There is a famous case in the seventies where it went wrong, and they tried to “repair” the damage by making the boy a girl. Needless to say, psychological problems ensued, and the girl had a sex change to become a boy again. All this, for what?

    On the lighter side, here’s the story of my uncle’s circumcision in the Philipines: when he was twelve, he and his friends went to the village “doctor” who, for a packet of cigarettes, would circumcise them with a razor. They were told to chew guava leaves, which were to be used to numb and disinfect the wound. My uncle was first or second in line. When his foreskin was cut off, he accidentally swallowed the guava leaves, and had no disinfectant / pain killer. He was in agony for days. The boys next to him in line decided not to go through with the procedure at this junction. True story! (told with gusto by my uncle) The other boys returned later to the village doctor to have their foreskins removed in the traditional fashion. Peer pressure…

  41. I just realized that my uncle is an anaesthesist. I wonder if that has anything to do with his formative experience…

  42. Ian

    Man, some of the comments on this are so damn frustrating. The video is great, but the hypocrisy in the comments is not.

    Telling somebody that their religious beliefs are “childish superstitions” is hardly freedom from religion. Just because your spiritual beliefs don’t involve a book or weekly meeting, doesn’t give you the right to belittle others.

    If it’s no OK for nutjob evangelicals to enforce jesus on you, why is it ok for you to attempt to enforce atheism on them? I personally find both sides equally offensive and equally against our rights.

  43. David Petticrew

    I was utterly appalled at this video. This video is not about freedom of religion, it’s about censorship. According to this video I shouldn’t share my religious beliefs with you for fear it might offend you. So I can be offended by all sorts of TV content, by magazine content, by what others say as long as it’s not about religion. Come on, there is no right not to be offended.

    Also what do we mean by religion. If we think it is something private and personal, then we are so far from what the word meant when the constitution was formed that we might as well just admit the constitution has been rewritten. Religion is public, it’s about practice not just beliefs that stay inside your head. If we are only free to believe things that don’t affect our behaviour then that’s religious discrimination. Of course my religion influences the way I vote. That is completely seperate from saying you can’t follow your religion or you have to follow my religion to be elligble for office.

    Also, there is no requirement in the constitution for me to respect someone elses religious beliefs, just for me to allow them. People should be free to observe whatever religious beliefs they want to as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, which is basically what the constitution says. It says nothing about other people having to respect you while you do it.

    I wish people would stop spouting this ridiculous nonsense of what freedom of religion means.

  44. Bystander

    “Religion has no place in politics (and cheapens itself by getting involved) & politics has no place in religion – thus, never the two should meet.”

    I was compelled to note that the xtian bible does in fact state that you should obey your government. Also, I attended around a dozen schools for my elementary education(weird drawn out family drama led to moving every 2 years between 3 states) and only two of them did not include a daily regimen of God praising, manifesting itself either at the beginning of every day with the Pledge of Allegiance or at lunch times with a school wide meal prayer.

    Almost every day of my childhood and teen years were filled with force feedings of ‘praise jesus’ and ‘love god’ in school and out. I have never been privy to Freedom from religion. Today, however, I find myself on the side of ‘how can people still believe in something so absurd and only at the word of mouth tradition?’

    Personally I think it may be better if people would instill a trust and love for fellow man with a side of respect and discipline(in the real sense of the word) into their children from a young age instead of into something I tend to group with Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy.

    In reality, the majority of these Christians always eventually come to the subconscious decision that their special ‘God’ is in fact nothing more than imaginary(even if they choose not to admit it to themselves) and they lose the values of their religion and tend to cause more harm than good in the long-run throughout the degradation process of their moral foundations.

    I don’t, yet, understand why so many humans can’t just simply accept that they are a part of this world and not the imaginations. I understand that change takes a great deal of time for things so ingrained in society but it doesn’t stop the anguish that people like me experience living in the knowledge that religion stands in the way of advancement. Believe what you want. Just stop harming us over differing opinions.

    I’m neutral on circumcision. Yes, it is mutilation but it is also very sanitary. For anyone who’s ever performed a ‘female circumcision’… Inhumane and brutal. I decided at a young age, despite being raised in a Pentecostal household, that females are equal to males and I was not destined to be an uneducated housewife.*dons the ‘Go Lillith’ tshirt*

    As for Mormons… it’s hard to get more primitive than that. Marrying girls off at puberty and stopping their education among the more horrid atrocities allowed by these outrageous troglodytes just fills me with disgust throughout.

    So yeah, freedom From religion yay! Scrotum hacking *shrug* Clitoral removal reflects the worst in those societies. Mormons lol

  45. “Religion has no place in politics (and cheapens itself by getting involved) & politics has no place in religion – thus, never the two should meet.”

    Very lofty… and completely misses the point. Religion was (and to a very large extent still is) a very important tool in politics. What better way to rally the masses? Even the bible itself: the choice of which gospels to include was very much influenced by the political situation of the day, namely the Christians in hostile Rome. The emphasis in the canonical gospels is on the suffering of Christ, which would have appealed deeply to the Christians who were persecuted by the Romans (source: a docu whose name I can’t remember). So religion and politics are deeply intertwined, because it is beneficial to both the political and religious leaders. The most recent example I can think of is the use of Rev. Wright in the McCain election campaign (don’t vote for this guy, he’s with a scary church). But also the civil rights movement had a strong religious component to it (the african americans were able to get organized through their church communities).

    PS. I second the “Mormons lol”.

  46. Bystander


    That’s the thing. It doesn’t occur to most religious people that others may choose a different path. I wish I had a picture of one of the local church marquees here that reads,” Athiest tombstone: All dressed up and nowhere to go.” Every Halloween I see children running around as the ‘Evil Witch’.

    All throughout school I was ostracized and hated for not sharing the majority christian beliefs. I was once even “Stoned” for being an accused witch by a schoolmate and his friend who had come across me while I was walking to a friends house.(luckily I was quick footed enough to escape with little more than a few scratched and a welt on the back of my head) Ha! I was even disinherited by my father and his family because of a temporary study of Wicca!

    Last I checked it was unfair to treat someone like a nasty substance on the bottom of your shoe for not believing in God in the sense that you do. No Atheist I’ve ever known, including myself, has ever tried to ‘force Atheism” on anyone. As far as I know, any educated Atheist will only Offer knowledge…. no attempt to force conversion, which I assure you, likely all monotheistic religions indiscriminately have.

    Like I said before, I don’t care what you or anyone believes in. I just don’t want it rubbed in my face on every other street corner or in the schools or in the tax dollars… don’t forget that all employed Atheists help pay for your untaxed church establishments. ^_^

    Point being, both sides are guilty of name calling. *shrug* Nothing to get worked up over but try to look at the bigger picture when talking something controversy. You think I’m the only person out there who’s suffered because of religion? Do you think that ‘non believers’ are incapable of the same emotions as you?

    I want religion to become a more private thing. I want it out of the spot light, out of the government, out of the schools, and out of the national holidays… and ffs off of US currency. By all means, continue your worship and your traditions and keep it to your family/friend groups and out of mine. Everyone wins.

  47. Machine_Elf

    Ian wrote: “Man, some of the comments on this are so damn frustrating. The video is great, but the hypocrisy in the comments is not.”

    You took the words out of my mouth Ian. The video’s message is that every person should have the right to practice religion – or not practice religion – free from persecution. Yet a number of commenters seem to be from the P.Z./Dawkins school of belittling and mocking people who hold religious beliefs, and don’t realise that they’ve entirely missed the point of the video.

    I think it once again points out a problem with the ‘militant’ school of atheism – crossing the line from defending freedom of and from religion (a vital and necessary thing, with the power of evangelical organisations and the like), to imposing your belief/lack of belief on others…in which case you end up becoming the thing you despise most.

  48. Brad,

    It is a common argument from Christians that this country was founded on Christian beliefs, and that our Founding Fathers were Christians.

    It is unfortunate that those who make this argument haven’t researched their argument. History is clear and many quotes have been documented that clearly state the opposite.

    A Deist is a person who believes in Deism, defined by as: n. The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation.

    It has been clearly documented that many of our founding fathers were deists, which was a common belief system during the time in which they lived. (Especially as it was nearly immediately following the Age of Reason in England.) The Constitution of the United States contains no mention of God whatsoever. In fact, Alexander Hamilton was questioned by some about the omission of God. In an article published in The Nation in February of 2005 titled “Our Godless Constitution,” the author, Brooke Allen cites that on one account, Hamilton responded that “the new nation was not in need of “foreign aid.”

    In the same article it is pointed out in the essay series (eighty-five in number) “The Federalist” mentions God just twice, both times by James Madison, and only in the sense of “only Heaven knows,” per Gore Vidal. In the Declaration of Independence, the only mentions of God are: “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” and the more frequently recited line about men “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” In both instances, the context agrees with the idea of Deism, not the ideas of Christianity.

    Too many people forget about Thomas Paine. Known as “the father of the American Revolution,” it as arguable among some as to whether Paine was a Deist or an Atheist. Regardless, Paine wrote such works as “Common Sense,” that pamphlet that strongly urged an American independence from England; also the author of “The Crisis,” about the American Revolution, “The Rights of Man,” and “Age of Reason.” Thomas Paine was among the most important of the Founding Fathers, and his “Age of Reason” was very anti-religion and highly controversial.

    Ferrell Till, an author who wrote “The Christian Nation Myth,” published on, points out that other Founding Fathers who subscribed to a deistic thought were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, James Madison and James Monroe. As Till mentions in this piece, Thomas Jefferson was highly anti-cleric. In an 1814 letter to Horatio Spafford Jefferson wrote: “In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes” (George Seldes, The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey Citadel Press, 1983, p. 371).He wrote in another letter to John Adams: “To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, God, are immaterial is to say they are nothings, or that there is no God, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise” (August 15, 1820). And in another letter to Adams: “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter” (April 11, 1823).

    In 1797, there was an instance in which a recorded vote was required from the Senate, and it was the 339th time that this was so. At that time, the United States Government had finished a “Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, or Barbary,” now known simply as the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 of that treaty contains this passage: “As the Government of the United States…is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion–as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen–and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” This document was signed by both Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams, and then it was sent to the Senate for ratification. In all of the 339 instances for Senate vote, this was only the third time a vote was unanimous.

    Thomas Jefferson was the man who said that we must have “a wall of separation between church and state.” It was John Adams that commented that if not for legal restraints placed against them, that the Puritans would “whip and crop, and pillory and roast.” (Note: the Puritans were the fundamentalists of those days.)

    James Madison said, “religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise,” and he noted “almost fifteen centuries” during which Christianity had been on trial: “What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.”

    Following are a few other quotes (found on from Founding Fathers regarding the issue:

    “The appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies, [is] contrary to the article of the Constitution which declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment'” (James Madison, Veto, 1811)

    “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses….” (John Adams, 1787)

    “If Religion consist in voluntary acts of individuals, singly, or voluntarily associated, and it be proper that public functionaries, as well as their Constituents shd discharge their religious duties, let them like their Constituents, do so at their own expense.” (Madison, detached memoranda, 1820)

    “Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform” (Madison, Annals of Congress, 1789).

    I could continue; and entire article could be comprised of quotes from Thomas Jefferson alone. And in fact, Thomas Paine wrote lengthy articles about it! But let the truth be known, the Founding Fathers were NOT CHRISTIANS, nor did they create this country from Christian doctrine. Let is also be known that “In God We Trust” was not added to the United States currency until an act of Congress on January 18, 1867 during the time of the Civil War. It was not until 1954 that “under God” was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance. Don’t blame that business on the men who built this country.

  49. quasidog

    @IVAN3MAN Says: “Why is it that Jehovah’s witnesses, after ringing my doorbell (which I ignore and don’t answer when I’m aware that they are on the prowl), always stand outside my bloody door for about five minutes’ or so chatting amongst themselves? Is this behavior unique to the British species of the Jehovah’s witness, or is it typical of all of them in the U.S. and elsewhere? Why don’t they just bugger off when nobody answers the bloody doorbell?!”

    I know these people and their religion. I was raised in it, but I do not currently attend conregations, nor am I baptised.

    The reason they do, simply, because somebody else might answer the door, and actually be interested in the message they are preaching. They try to imitate the early Christians that were commanded by Jesus to do exactly that, at the time. Different religions have different ways of preaching, but they find this method, face to face contact, the most effective. They are well aware of the opposition they will receive by angry people that find them annoying, but they are also aware that sooner or later they meet people that are receptive to the message.

    The point brought out here in this post about religious freedom is why they preach, and why they are ALLOWED to preach. Many of them have been persecuted in many countries just for going door to door to give a message (something the early Christians did) some have been jailed and even killed for it. In most cases where this practice has tried to be stopped, and its been taken to Court, the prevailing argument that has won the case and allowed them to continue is … the right to religious freedom, in most cases protected by the Law of the Land. These people preach in public places. If they come to your door, on your property, you can then kindly ask them to leave if you wish.

    In most countries people have the freedom to go up to a persons door, knock, and speak to the person inside. It is the house-holders right to ask them to leave, and in that case they will do so. All they are doing is preaching. Politicians do it. Charities do it. They are within the rights of the Law of the land in most cases to do so, and you have the the right to ignore them, or tell them to go away. However for every 10 people that hate being bothered by some harmless Christians with a message of peace, 1 person may be interested. Everyone is different. It is a choice everyone can make of their own accord. The reason they return after some time, is because they preach to every house they can. People may have moved in or out of that place. Sometimes peoples lives change and viewpoints change so they will try again. A lot of times it is a different person doing so, and they are not aware of a previous Witness calling. There are many reasons.

    As far as gathering outside and chatting afterward, I’m sure that doesn’t happen everywhere, but after a few hours canvassing an area, they do regroup for prayer at a certain pre-determined meeting point to discuss any interest they found in the area with members of the other group. They are not causing any harm, except maybe to bother people from whatever they are doing at the time. Some people that are really determined to have them not return make it clear to them, and it is noted by the Elders of the conregation. However times change and they may be in the neighbour-hood again at another time not knowing if they might meet somebody new at the same residence.

    The point here is they do so to meet and talk and preach the ‘Good News’, as they call it. I see no harm in it and really, with so much hate and anger in the world, it is nice for many people to hear a hopeful message, whether they are receptive to it or not. Sure you might despise them for being annoying, but everyone is different. They are not going to stop. Ever. As far as they are concerned, they not only have their God backing their effort, but they also have the Law of the Land they live in giving them the right to religious freedom. In the USA, I am sure this ties in too with the right to .. free speech.

    They may be annoying, but they are good people.

  50. @Bystander:
    “Last I checked it was unfair to treat someone like a nasty substance on the bottom of your shoe for not believing in God in the sense that you do.”

    I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. I’ve done my best in the comments on both Phil’s blog and Melissa’s blog to be fair and respectful.

    My biggest problem is that many people are making a problem where there shouldn’t be one. Most religous people and most atheists are completely normal, accepting people. Unfortunately, there is a very vocal minority on both sides that makes the issue worse.

    My point was that implying that all religion is bad or that every religion is a childish superstition doesn’t help the situation. I think this is an opportunity for rational people to come together, regardless of religious belief. Phil posted a video that made a solid point. Larian wrote a well written response and then a few comments later mocks religious beliefs as childish. This is what frustrates me.

  51. Please separate what the secular government of the United States upholds versus my personal opinions. My first post is the official stance. The second is my personal opinion (mirrored by others; atheists and Einstein to name a couple). However, don’t mistake my dismission of your religion as intolerance. What I will NOT tolerate though is hypocrisy. It’s a fine line, and perhaps sometimes I may cross it only based on the sheer stupidity of the fundies that make religions look so good (note the sarcasm).

    There is an increasingly popular attitude that religion and theism deserve automatic respect and deference from everyone — even those who don’t share that religion or that theism. People attack atheists for failing to show the “appropriate” respect to religious and theistic beliefs. Atheists shouldn’t say things which constitute pointed, direct, or harsh challenges to religious and theistic claims. At the risk of further accusations of being intolerant and disrespectful, this is nonsense.

    To be fair, religious theists typically put their religion and their theism at the center of their lives; when something is so important, it’s natural to become defensive or upset when those beliefs are criticized at all, never mind harshly. However understandable such reactions may be, though, they aren’t a good reason to insist the criticism not be made — just because a person takes criticism of their religion or theism personally doesn’t mean that others are obligated to protect the believer’s feelings by not speaking out.

    First, religious believers who object to atheistic critiques of religion and theism, demanding more deference and respect, don’t typically apply this standard consistently. They don’t claim that political beliefs should be accorded more respect and not be criticized harshly. They don’t demand that movie or restaurant reviews be less harsh and more deferential. Atheists’ criticisms of religion aren’t more harsh or intolerant than analogous political, movie, or restaurant criticisms.

    Religious theists don’t even apply this standard across the full spectrum of religious and theistic beliefs. Richard Dawkins writes in The God Delusion: “As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect from the faith of Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers.” Most religious theists don’t respect the beliefs of bin Laden; that, however, requires not treating religious beliefs as inherently and necessarily deserving of our automatic respect; instead, we evaluate those beliefs on their own merit and react accordingly. This is what the so-called “new atheists” or “militant atheists” do, but they do so to all religious and theistic beliefs.

    Second, beliefs themselves do not merit automatic respect and deference. Humans certainly deserve some basic level of respect and respectful treatment, but beliefs aren’t people. We should be polite and respectful towards the person, but we are justified in being harsh and critical of a person’s claims. However much a person might take such criticism personally, we must separate ourselves from our beliefs. An attack on one shouldn’t be treated as an attack on the other. If a belief or idea is to be respected, it must earn that respect.

    Third, treating a belief with respect or deference sends the message that one considers the belief worthy of respect — that one holds the belief in high or special regard. Synonyms for “respect” include: admiration, esteem, favor, honor, and reverence. These may be the opposite of what an atheist critic really thinks; thus a demand that atheists show more respect towards religious and theistic beliefs is a demand that atheists change their minds about religion and theism, adopting a new perspective on them. This is not achieved through counter-arguments, refutations of, or rebuttals to any of the atheists’ critiques; instead, it is achieved by insisting that insufficiently respectful “criticisms” need not be addressed at all. In a sense, religious theists are saying that unless you approach their religion and theism from something like their perspective, they can dismiss your comments without a second thought.

    Fourth, the mere existence of atheists is considered an affront to some. We don’t have to criticize their religion at all, much less harshly, in order to be treated as if we are insulting believers and their religion. Simply by calling ourselves atheists, we are telling people that we not only reject the important beliefs upon which their lives are based and don’t place those beliefs at the center of our own lives, but we go out and live full, interesting, and happy lives without their religion or theism. We demonstrate that their religion and theism simply aren’t necessary.

    Atheists in America represent a specter of doubt, questioning, skepticism, criticism, and even blasphemy. Irreligious atheists are like metaphysical anarchists who do not submit to the authority of any religious institution, not even those of “false” religions, and thus feel free to criticize all religions. Irreligious atheists call into question the validity of religion generally by merely existing. Some people just can’t handle this and that’s why they object to people being vocal, unapologetic atheists at all. It’s also why some people are bullied into not even admitting that they are atheists, preferring instead to use the label “agnostic” because it’s perceived as more “polite.”

    Atheists are not responsible for making religious believers feel better about their religion or their theism. Atheists are not responsible for helping validate religious theism by treating it with a respect or deference that it hasn’t earned. Atheists are not responsible for protecting the feelings of religious theists by not speaking out, showing where theists haven’t supported their claims or where they have used poor arguments.

    Theists who believe they can’t handle pointed, direct, and even harsh criticism of their religious and theistic beliefs always have the option of just not bringing them up. This is precisely the same choice facing every person and every belief: you can either put your belief out in public for comment and critique, or you can keep it to yourself. You don’t have the option of putting your belief out in public and then insisting that everyone respect it or not criticize it.

  52. And keep in mind, disagreeing with someone is not intolerance; saying someone is wrong is not intolerance.

    Many religious theists insist that irreligious atheists who criticize religion, religious beliefs, and theism are being intolerant and disrespectful. What are these irreligious atheists doing — are they calling for religion to be banned? For religious believers to be put in jail? No, nothing of the sort. All of this alleged intolerance and disrespect occurs because irreligious atheists disagree with religious theism, say it is wrong, argue that it’s harmful, and want people to change.

    For most religious theists, their religion and their belief in god are very important to them — even constituting the very center and focus of their lives. Given just how important religion and theism are to people, it’s not surprising that people will react to criticism negatively and become defensive.
    That, however, doesn’t justify labeling disagreement and criticism as “intolerant.”

    The reasons people have for being atheists may be as numerous as atheists themselves, but in the West at least the irreligious atheists who are critical of religion tend to share a number of perspectives and attitudes — including with regards to religion. It would be fair to say that a significant majority regard religion and theism as wrong, irrational, unfounded, and at times silly or even dangerous (though to varying degrees).

    They believe that religion and theism have been forces for violence, bigotry, and many other harms in society throughout human history. Their criticisms of religion are designed to explain what the problems are, why they are problems, and convince people to change by giving up religion and theism in exchange for secular, godless, atheistic philosophies.

    Atheistic disagreement with religion and theism can range from mild to vociferous — even the same atheist may disagree with some religions much more strongly than others. None of this, however, is the same as “intolerance.” Saying that someone is wrong is not intolerance. Telling a person that they have adopted a belief which is irrational, ill-founded, or even dangerous is not intolerance — even if the criticisms happen to be mistaken or stated too strongly.

    Even mocking, ridiculing, and making fun of beliefs isn’t intolerance. Some beliefs, claims, ideas, and opinions really are quite silly and deserve mockery. Sometimes, the absurdity of and idea is better demonstrated through mockery than through a reasoned, logical analysis. Sometimes, beliefs shouldn’t be treated with the seriousness of a logical analysis because that imparts to them a respectability they don’t deserve. Political humor and political cartoons are an entire genre of criticism that is founded upon just these principles and which, to my knowledge, no one has argued should be eliminated.

    In fact, politics is an excellent example of how disagreement and criticism are not normally treated as forms of intolerance. If it’s legitimate to use ridicule and mockery to point out problems in a political leader, institution, or ideology, why should it suddenly be illegitimate to do the same in the context of religion, religious leaders, religious institutions, and religious beliefs? Liberals aren’t told that they shouldn’t say conservatives are wrong. Conservatives aren’t told that they shouldn’t say liberals have adopted irrational beliefs. Democrats aren’t told that they shouldn’t say a Republican policy is ill-founded. Republicans aren’t told that they are intolerant for making strong criticisms of Democrats.

    It’s true that politics and political attacks can get out of control, but if you look closely you’ll find that “out of control” is a label applied most often when people engage in personal attacks, advocate violence, demonize opponents, or behave in other very extreme ways. Strong disagreements, harsh critiques, pointed criticism, and even irreverent mockery of political beliefs, ideas, principles, positions, and opinions are accepted as completely justified. Why? Because once a person places their political beliefs in the public arena, they have to expect all manner of criticism and cannot demand that others treat those beliefs as if they were special. There’s no good reason to think that the standards and rules for dealing with religious beliefs should be any different.

    Irreligious atheists should be fair in whatever criticisms they level against religion and theism. If ever they are shown to have made an error, they should accept this and retract any criticisms based on that error. Irreligious atheists should also strive to treat religious believers themselves with basic respect, dignity, and consideration — no matter how wrong they may be, being wrong doesn’t mean that someone should be treated badly as a person. It’s possible for “hating the sin” to become “hating the sinner” if a person is not careful, so while being critical of religion and religious beliefs is entirely justified, it’s something that can go wrong if one isn’t careful.

  53. minty fresh

    “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.

    “No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this…”

    “For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people.”

    –Albert Einstein, 1954

    Ian Muir,

    So what if I say religious beliefs are childish superstition. It’s my legitimate opinion, one I happen to share with Albert Einstein. To express my opinion is necessary for a free exchange of ideas. You don’t have to agree. You don’t have to like it. You may express your disagreement as you see fit. But don’t say I can’t say what I think, even if that means offending someone in the process. You don’t have a right NOT to be offended by me. I shouldn’t have to tailor my statements to please your fragile sensibilities. You say “it’s not helpful”, but is it helpful to have my freedom of speech and expression held back? Words are harmless, get over yourself.

  54. I have to say that while I am atheist and believe in the separation of Church and State, I do feel that France has taken it too far, in banning any visible signs of religion from public institutions.

  55. John Phillips, FCD

    Ian Muir, what isn’t helpful is the religious implying that criticism is an attempt to censor. After all. what they really mean, usually at least, is that they are allowed to criticise whom they like, those who believe differently or not at all, but cannot be criticised in return. Additionally, if we don’t call them on it when they do step over the line, they invariably take this as tacit admission that they are allowed to do what they like, and they do. If the religious, or at least a very vocal and usually least tolerant segment, didn’t constantly try to impose their belief on others, us atheist would simply let them get on with it. Admittedly, we would still think them deluded, but we would simply consider it a harmless eccentricity. Until then, unfortunately, they cannot be allowed free reign to decide our freedoms and so we must speak out. Tolerance doesn’t mean allowing the intolerant to decide what is and isn’t tolerable.

  56. Jeffersonian

    “Has it never occurred to them that terrorists also believe in god?”
    (Though I understand yr point) are all terrorists Muslim? Re: America’s 2nd greatest terrorism tragedy, Timothy Mcveigh wasn’t particularly religious in outlook.

    Good point. People have pointed out to me that “god” is on our money and in our allegiance pledge as proof without realizing who/when designed the currency or the history of the pledge.
    I can’t agree however that the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS is “nowhere near christianity”.

    “the xtian bible does in fact state that you should obey your government”
    Yet the story in the gospels is one of a man in defiance of his government to the point of receiving the death penalty as a criminal.
    He spoke of fulfilling Judaic law but spoke against his government:
    Mark 10:42-43
    Mark 8:15
    and elsewhere

  57. Jeffersonian

    “I do feel that France has taken it too far, in banning any visible signs of religion from public institutions.”
    It doesn’t have a noticeable effect since France is so loaded with Catholic imagery everywhere you turn. The US was closer to this ideal than France from the start, and from what I have seen in both countries, nearly the same now.

  58. Frank Ch. Eigler

    Someone better tell Obama about this “freedom of religion” thing. His 63-question questionnaire for appointees specifically includes disclosing what religious organizations the applicant/spouse has ever belonged to.

  59. >>They may be annoying, but they are good people.

    I wouldn’t say that they’re necessarily good. Deliberately doing something that you know annoys (or worse) 90% of the people you do it to doesn’t exactly rate on my “good” scale.

    I called the police on the last bunch that came here. They had a school-age child with them during school hours. I thought it best that they explain to the nice officer why their child wasn’t in class, rather than explain to me why I should take a copy of the Watchtower.

    Strangely enough, they’ve not come back in years.

  60. >>My point was that implying that all religion is bad or that every
    >>religion is a childish superstition doesn’t help the situation.

    I’d never IMPLY either of those ideas. I’m happy to state them outright. I can see no way that any religion is not childish superstition on par with a belief in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus or lucky rabbits’ feet. That lots of people faithfully and irrationally believe something deeply doesn’t change the fact that it’s still supersition.

    Actually, I’ll meet you part way. Religion is not childish superstition… childish superstitions are actually better than religion because nobody started a war over the Tooth Fairy. The Easter Bunny does not demand jihad against the infidel, and kids who believe in Santa Claus don’t try to force that belief to be taught as fact in science classes. Eventually, children get over the childish superstitions and chuckle at their silliness. One day maybe adults will get over their superstitions and do the same. When that happens, the world will be a better place.

  61. A jihad on your Tooth Fairy infidel.
    The Easter Bunny

  62. hehe, ES said things much more concisely than I did!

    BTW folks, Digg this one, I’d like to see it get a lot of exposure (as would Dr. Plait and the Hive Overmind I’m sure).

  63. IVAN3MAN

    quasidog, thanks for taking the time and trouble to write your post above, in response to my rant against Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  64. IVAN3MAN

    LarianLeQuella, I’ve already Dugg It a few hours ago.

  65. Hmm… Lots of buzzwords in that video, but very little to genuinely go on. If religions were just strongly held personal beliefs arising from unique life circumstance, this would make perfect sense, and I would be behind it one hundred percent. It’s rational and respectful to provide people with space and freedom to believe what they wish, and challenge them only when and where they want to be challenged.

    But religions are by definition communal. They are shared beliefs and they often have active outreach as either a formal element of doctrine, or an informal bi-product of doctrine.
    Religions unavoidably bump against one another, contradict one another, and provide growing people with conflicting moral structures to think about. They’re unavoidably vocal and broadcast, and they unavoidably affect legislation and government.

    So, how about some PERSONAL religious freedom, but COMMUNAL religious caution, because this matter is by no means as simple as letting the religious think what they want to think.

    I think there needs to be a dividing line between the idea of respectful challenge and persecution/discrimination, because there is a difference, and both happen frequently. No-one should be free from respectful challenges to their beliefs, because that is how communities of people grow and learn and pool knowledge… but everyone should be protected from aggressive persecution. The two are so often confused or co-implied in blanket sentiments.

  66. Radwaste

    All you need to know about “faith” is that a sweaty madman can claim it justifies mass murder.

    Go further, and you realize that most people don’t even have a firm grasp of what “faith” is. The irony of faith is that it cannot exist without doubt. No one has faith in a thing they know for sure. Religion demands a leap of acceptance, with no evidence. So embracing this schizoid thought, that faith = certainty, poisons the mind. You can see this in debate.

  67. quasidog

    @Evolving Squid .. when I say they (JW’s) are ‘good people’ I mean that the majority of them have good intentions. Annoying someone with a simple message of peace might be irritating, but I wouldn’t say it makes them .. not good. I call some of my neighbours good people, yet they do things that annoy me, like park illegally in my street etc, but they are still nice and good people. I think you are being a little over critical.

    Ringing the cops is fair enough if the boy should be in school but maybe you didn’t know all the details? Maybe the boy was a visitor ? Maybe he had time off with relatives. I think that is up to his parents to decide. Maybe he had permission to leave school. If the police deemed that it was some sort of truancy, ok , maybe that’s how the law works where you live .. I don’t know. I feel however you might have been a little presumptuous to assume he should have been at school at the time. Maybe he was home schooled ? … Maybe he was in special needs care and has different school hours ? Who knows. However it does not invalidate my comments about them. They are generalised comments. As a group of Christians, most of the people I meet respect the Law, don’t steal, don’t cheat on tax, don’t condone violence etc etc. I rekon that is pretty ‘good’.

    Every person, or group has a flaw, no one is perfect nor any group of people .. look hard enough and anyone can be made to look bad, or be seen to be making mistakes. If we focus on a person or groups small flaws, it is easy to blow things out of proportion. The media does it every day. We all know that. As a whole however, I find them highly respectable and decent citizens that try to make a real effort at living a ‘good’ life.

    There are certainly ‘groups’ out there all over the Earth, violent groups, religious terrorists etc, that are …. not good people. I rekon there is a pretty obvious difference.

  68. quasidog

    @IVAN3MAN … np .. I hope I didn’t offend. It’s just my viewpoint. Others will see it another way. :)

  69. The Yorkshire Sceptic

    I really don’t care what religious beliefs people hold – Christian, Buddhist, Muslem, Jew, Pagan, Atheist, Daoist, Cargo Cult of John Frumm – just so long as they don’t try to impose them on me! I’ll make up my own mind.

  70. Jim

    Ah, I wondered how long it would be before someone pulled out the “wars are caused by religion” chestnut. Anyone who applies a microgram of critical thinking to a study of history will realize that wars are fought over resources, pure and simple. The Crusades? Fought to open up spice routes. The “wars of religion” were not over papal infallibility as much as they were about those nice, juicy church lands. The Inquisition? Jews had money, the Crown needed money. Easy peasy.

    But, but, people SAID that the wars were to free the Holy Land, convert the heathen, etc., etc! Well, then, I’m sure you take that nice Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney at their word when they say the current conflict in Iraq is about freedom, right? RIGHT?

    If you want folks to throw off their “childish superstitions,” start with your own. Religion has been a pretense, but never a cause. NEVER. It’s an easy answer, and like most easy answers, unsatisfactory and even dangerous. As long as we ignore the root cause in favor of convenient straw men, we will never solve the problem. Remember, we must keep doing the Critical Thinking Thing, even (especially?) when it DOESN’T help up grind our personal axe.


  71. Chris A.


    Interesting what your post becomes when a few word substitutions change the subject from religion to race:

    “The vast majority of this country is . It’s how it was founded. Politicians know this and that’s why they . It’s politics. Get over it, it’s not going to change any time soon. That is unless all the hollywood (sic) libs on their high horses are successfull (sic) in convincing all of us in fly over country why we should stop believing our “”. I guess living near the ocean just makes you smarter.”

  72. Chris A.

    Whoops, let me try this again (the words substituted disappeared for some reason):


    Interesting what your post becomes when a few word substitutions change the subject from religion to race:

    “The vast majority of this country is [white]. It’s how it was founded. Politicians know this and that’s why they [are mostly white]. It’s politics. Get over it, it’s not going to change any time soon. That is unless all the hollywood (sic) libs on their high horses are successfull (sic) in convincing all of us in fly over country why we should stop believing our “[prejudices]”. I guess living near the ocean just makes you smarter.”

  73. Azdak

    I’m with David Petticrew on this one. The video looks to me to be another play to keep religion off the table of open discussion, to protect it from the criticism it so richly deserves. Nothing should be protected in this regard — especially not something that informs the actions of so many people. This isn’t about pointing fingers at individuals and trying to make them feel silly for what they believe; it’s about stripping everyone of their innate tendency toward credulity; to insist that people make informed decisions about what they believe based on rational and defensible arguments.

    “Because it’s what I believe” should not be a stoplight for any conversation; it should be a point of departure. If you’re really so insecure about your beliefs holding up to scrutiny, you should be seriously examining those beliefs yourself, not trying to insist that no one is allowed to question them. To insist otherwise is not just ludicrous, it’s dangerous. If we’re permitted to continue down this path, I fear we will not survive as a species.

  74. Martin Moran

    “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”

    – Albert Einstein

    “There are people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.”

    – Albert Einstein

  75. The Yorkshire Sceptic

    Whatever one’s belief system, absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence. I also heard it said that they are poor sailors who say there is no land because all they can see is sea.

    BTW, whatever happened to agnosticism? You know, the one that says roughly, ‘I don’t have enough evidence one way or t’other, so I’ll just sit here on this fence until some testable evidence comes along.’

    I’m thinking there’ll be a long wait on that one! 😀

  76. Lee

    When an atheist gets elected President then we, the rest of the world, will know that religious discrimination is dead in the US.

  77. RBH

    Sorry, Phil. There’s one line in it that rings false

    This basic respect for each other’s beliefs is what I love most about being an American.

    Nope. The “respect” is for people’s right to hold beliefs, not for the beliefs. To suggest that someone else’s beliefs should be respected merely because they hold them is antithetical to skepticism and is a pernicious distortion of what I love best about being an American: The right to say of someone else’s beliefs, “That’s loony.”

  78. I’ll start respecting other people’s beliefs when they start making some sense

  79. Lee said “When an atheist gets elected President then we, the rest of the world, will know that religious discrimination is dead in the US.”

    Kind of like how racial discrimination will be dead when you get a black president. 😉

  80. Azdak

    The Yorkshire Sceptic,

    If you can find a sailor who has never seen any evidence of land, I’ll be frankly amazed. I think that for the most part, we *can* take an absence of evidence as evidence of absence, given how long we’ve been looking.

    As for agnosticism, it deals with a subtly different question: atheism involves a claim about one’s belief about the existence of a god or gods; agnosticism is a claim about whether or not one can know that a god or gods exist. It is therefore possible to be both an agnostic and a theist, or an atheist and not an agnostic (I wish there were a decent opposite of ‘agnostic’ given that ‘gnostic’ means something completely different).

    If someone elects to identify themselves as an agnostic*, that strikes me as a bit of a cop out for a couple of reasons. The first is that theism is a positive position: the belief in a god or gods. Atheism is a rejection of that position. If your answer to the question “do you believe that a god or gods exist?” is anything other than “yes,” you’re an atheist — i.e.: you have fallen short of the position of theism. The second is that to claim that it is impossible to know anything with “absolute certainty” (as Bill Maher rather infuriatingly does often) is an equivocation of the term “knowledge” — outside of mathematics or formal logic, this kind of knowledge is impossible. Saying that it isn’t possible to know with absolute certainty about specific things isn’t really saying much of anything because it isn’t possible to be that certain about anything else, either.

    “Real” knowledge (i.e.: knowledge about real-world phenomena) is based solely on interpretation of available evidence. Given that there is absolutely no evidence for any of the theistic positions, to ‘sit on the fence’ and still try to claim some objectivity strikes me as silly. Are you ‘on the fence’ for all mythical beings for which there is no evidence? Come on down off the fence and join the evidence-based community. ; )

    * I should point out that most of my friends and several among my family do identify themselves as agnostic but they could more accurately be described as apatheists — they really don’t care one way or the other. One could argue that this is also kind of a cop out.

  81. @Just about everybody

    I don’t expect any of you to respect a religion for sake of it being a religion. I guess I come from the mindset that people deserve respect and courtesy unless they do something to warrant disrespect.

    If you were debating the validity of string theory, it would be inappropriate to call your opponent childish because their opinion is different than yours. It doesn’t support or oppose any point and it doesn’t add to the conversation.

    I have no problem with debating my beliefs or buddhism in general. I have no problem with people scrutinizing religion. I’ve attempted to come into this with an open mind. As a religious minority, I likely deal with as much crap as the rest of you. However, it’s difficult to have respect for people who refuse to respect me. It’s difficult to listen to people ask for respect for their beliefs while they are disrespecting others.

    In many ways I share the same opinions as the people here. Hell, I’m a buddhist who lives across the street from Mt. Zion Christian Academy. Last year they put a anti-terrorism sign becaue they’re not only too stupid to realize that 99.999% of muslims aren’t terrorists, they can’t even tell the difference between buddhism and islam.

    The freedom from religion issue isn’t just a problem with atheists. Maybe, you can talk to some of the others affected without calling them childish, loony, sensless, intolerant, etc. Those are hardly words I would expect find in a scientific or constrcutive critique. If anything, a group of people engaged in science should be able to put aside personal issues to addres a real problem. But then again, that’s what the video was about to start with.

  82. Jason

    How to weigh in on this one. I am a believer in Christ. I am a Christian, and fairly conservative in my views. I believe them and try to live to the ideals of Christianity as I am able. There seems to be this idea, especially among non-religious, that religion is like a sweater that can be put on, taken off, or hidden away. I cannot speak for other religions, and will not attempt to do so, but Christianity is not something that is a private not-t0-be-seen belief. It is meant to be a way of life. At its core, Christianity has two laws. 1) Worship God with all of your being, and 2) Love your neighbor as you love yourself. This translates to the decision to base every action on those 2 criteria. Does the action show respect and Love and honor to God, and does it show love to one’s fellow human.
    Anyway… On to my point. I may be wrong, but I get the feeling here that the idea is that if you hold religious beliefs you are an anti-science ignoramous who still believes that if you sail too far west you are going to fall off the Earth into the Abyss.

    Do I believe God created the Universe and all it contains? Yes.
    Do I believe he did it in 7 days 6,000 years ago? Not so sure.
    All current physical evidence points toward an extremely old universe. I love to study scientific advancements and the universe around us. God Created an incredibly complex Universe and every new thing that is discovered makes me say WOW, look at how wonderful this creation is.

  83. NotLarian

    LarianLeQuella didn’t write any of the material he posted above. He simply copied someone else’s work and posted it as his own.


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