Regarding the issue of theism and deism and all that, it seems a bit silly to me, arguing about it. I don't go around saying, "I'm an atheist, and by that I mean... and by God I mean... and by belief I mean..." I've often said that labels are useful or not accurding to the uses to which they're put, that language is just labels, reductive, self-referential, sometimes awful, sometimes useful (if only for my amusement). It's like Mr. Dawkins says, if you define God broadly enough, you're bound to find Him everywhere.
Some people define God as "the force that makes people be the best they can be", or something equally wishy-washy. I don't think I'd call that God. I might call myself atheist. I might call myself "I am that I am". Mostly, I don't call myself. And if I call my angels cats, there's no superstition in that.
I used to have "the dream of a common language", but then I woke up. I see a lot of people sleepwalking and sleeptalking. Good God, I wish they'd shut up.
Most scientists replace the name of "God" (like in a deistic sense) with "Nature". If one defines terms thus, then there is no supernature, naturally. People like Einstein used the other word instead, reaching for common language, I suspect, and living in the past. It's like a Monty Python sketch.
Good report, though I think that I'd heard it before.
One thing I forgot to mention, I'd like to add, that even after giving this story a second listen, I think it was very well done. I don't see the evidence of bias that some are asserting, unless merely reporting on a certain phenomenon is being biased towards it. So Kudos, NPR, for this story.
In response to eric fluger’s comment 21:
The smart ass answer is that it's aTHEISM, not aDEISM, so the arguments aren't directed at deistic gods.
The real answer, is that most atheists I know aren't positive about the nonexistence of any type of diving being. I was talking with a guy the other day who describes himself as agnostic, while I describe myself as an atheist, and the main difference between our positions seems to be what term we think best describes our position. Both of us are very skeptical about any claims of a divine being. We agree that there hasn't appeared to be any convincing positive evidence for such a being, so the default position is to doubt its existence. Where we did differ somewhat, is that he seems to be more open to the idea that there could possibly be some type of god, while I lean more towards the idea that there probably isn't a god.
I put it in the same category as other myths and legends. The concept appears to be an entirely human invention, without any real evidence in support of it. I can't be _positive_ that a god doesn't exist, in the same way that I can't be _positive_ that fairies, leprechauns, or Russell's teapot don't exist. So, I leave open the slight possibility that those things could possibly exist, but I base my worldview on the fact that they probably don't.
"We ALL disbelieve in any other gods but our own (the choice of which god to believe is usually an accident of birth)."
Use Logic that sentence apples we believe in some God, the definition of Atheist is as follows.
"a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings."
I disbelieve in any power beyond Laws of Nature, Universe and our Minds.
"Were Atheism a religion, it would open doors available only to religions, like our freedom to "worship" in our own unique way as guaranteed by the Constitution. We need to be positive!"
The definition of Atheist is as follows."a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp."
No problem to this point of the definition.
"when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."
I do not like this part at all.
Currently, The USA Costitution does not apply to religions, USAns do not want it to. Religions are corrupting everything and I constantly suffering from it; so please do not BS us with The USA Constitution protecting religions. Wake up to the world around you, I mean why do you think you want USA Constitutional protections, who is the enemy. Wake up. No way in BLANK do I want to be a part of that.
I actually like the idea of calling atheism a "religion". Then, there is virtually no difference between me and my Christian (and other) friends. We ALL disbelieve in any other gods but our own (the choice of which god to believe is usually an accident of birth). Were Atheism a religion, it would open doors available only to religions, like our freedom to "worship" in our own unique way as guaranteed by the Constitution. We need to be positive!
I differ from my monotheistic friends by disbelieving in only one god more than they do. Considering the number of versions of god out there, this is a very minor difference.
Bing McGhandi and 'HJ',
I should make know I do not like Internet being taken more serious than just entertianment. Too much crap there, protectionism for the most entertianing and mob like personalities and inexperienced reporters (nice to call them that) allowed to break laws that govern real world reporters.
I just wish Public Media (supported through Public Tax Money) would practice The USA Constitution's principle of Separation of Church and State. NPR's radio shows having segments where ordary people give their religious beliefs or actually having segments involving th host and guests talking about religious issues among the black communities. Of course, the conservative right winger top man in the gov. in control of public media loves this happening. When it hits home, The Public Media does not let it get out. I have never heard this issue brought up. Everytime I have a problem with the way the host(s) and her or his cohost(s) have doing crappy job or go along with selling out. I have taken many courses in Media Entertainment and used to do every to have my Sports' Radio Show up and running and did everything for Sports' Events, except host.
Roger from Virginia offered:My answer to "There are no atheists in foxholes," has always been "There are no atheist suicide bombers either."
"JESUS DIED FOR YOUR SINS!"
Did even one person ask him to do that?
My shirts take longer to get back from the cleaners than Jesus was dead.
If he died, who is talking to George Bush?
When religious stories are examined in the context of everyday reality, believers are forced to offer invectives instead of explanations.
To Roger of Virginia
Awesome distinction. I'm going to borrow it from you if you don't mind."
Please do. (My pleasure.)
A lot of indoctinated minds think in cliched, repititious phrases. (A lot easier than thinking.)
In order to break through that trained brain fog, (sometimes) it is effective to present new and unexperienced concepts and phrases. The implanted religious propaganda viruses may not be able to block the new pathways created by new ways of looking at "old" things.
At least it's better than saying the same old things over and over.
Your welcome, if you are talking to me.
Thanks for putting this forward.
At first I disliked what I heard; however, as the program continued it was fair and really appreciate that. Kepp up the good work.
If you are honest with yourself, you will find out that public media has been slanted towards right wing conservative section of The Republican Party, for many decades now, and with Dictator George W. Bush Jr. it has been less hidden. You will also understand that there was very little asking for moderation (from the media) until Republicans lost their seats. You will realize that every time a Democratic majority negociates and moderates to the Republicans they Moving from an starting place on the right (thanks to this commerical and public media slant it is not the middle) to either inching to the not so far right or farther right. Then ask yourself, how can it not be the situation when the people how the top positions are right wing conservatives of The Republican Party, appointed by Dictator George W. Bush Jr. and almost all the commerical media is owned by right wing conservative supporters of The Republican Party or receive funding from business of right wing conservative supporters of The Republican Party.
Left wing agendia! Learn to be critical thinkers and then critically listen and watch public media. Ask yourself these questions while you listening and watching. How many follow questions of guest taken a conservative perspective or let stay like it is perspective are conviently not asked. Those guest are allowed to debate among themselves for many minutes or until the segment is finished, with absolutely no questions. Lastly, those guest that love to throw out those ideas (most already proven to being lies, misleading or off the topic on other shows) that purposely divide us on a topic, one after the other, until the segment is done and they answer for next nothing.
My main problem with the atheist (or non-believer, or whatever) arguments I'm hearing recently is that the argument is almost always what's wrong with some people who believe in God, not what's wrong with God. I'm a Christian but I readily admit that belief isn't about "knowledge" in the same way that we usually speak of knowledge. Yes, there are lots of nutty, even evil, people who profess belief in God (or gods). Same is true of people who DON"T believe in God. The common factor is PEOPLE! I think that's what any system of belief (even devotion to "just the facts") tries to address: how to deal with the fact that people are REALLY problematic. Christianity (as it seeks to follow what we can make of the teaching of this guy Jesus who lived in the first century or so) speaks to me in that regard, not exclusively, but primarily.
I am a Catholic and belive I will go to heaven when I die and there is an interested God who loves all. However when it comes to public policy I am much more an objectivist. I do not want anyone enforcing religous belifes on another unless those belifes support the right of a person's life liberty and property. Remember public policy is what one is willing to have the state enforce at gunpoint if necesary. Religion has supported, lets say, the end to segregation and abortion and those could be argued the protection of a civil right of a person. The fact a religious group supported it did not make the issue right or wrong.
My problem is religious dogma being supported by force just because it is belived. Alchohol restrictions by religous groups comes to mind. The Nation of Islam taught whites were inferior to blacks. The Christian Identity movement taught the reverse. God help us if either wanted that enforced!!!
Here is an illustration of faith and reason coming together. Across the coutry we find Catholic, Prodestant and Jewish hospitals. They were founded by people of faith but they are held to objective scientific standards. If one goes to a Jewish Hospital with a stomach virus he is not given an IV of Seder Wine he is given medicine. A Catholic hospital wisks the accident patient into trauma, not to sit before the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And I think all are fine with that!
Congratulations to you, NPR for this type of programming.For far too long religion has been held above reproach, and that same religion has managed to screw things up for a couple thousand years.
My answer to "There are no atheists in foxholes," has always been "There are no atheist suicide bombers either."
Usually stops them dead in their tracks.
Awesome distinction. I'm going to borrow it from you if you don't mind.
I sat in my parking area for 10 minutes listening till the segment ended. Terrific radio. I'm a Unitarian Universalist and I remember a ministerial intern telling me, when I asked her if she believed in god, that she was a "nontheist." That she neither believed nor disbelieved, that the existence of god was of no consequence to her either way. That she would live her life through her ideals and that her actions were not affected by god or no god. I found this a very liberating concept and now use that term and idea to define my own feelings on the subject.
I enjoyed this piece on Atheism. I especially enjoyed the parallel of organizing Atheists to herding cats. Perhaps Atheists could get a building designated for their organization, and hold weekly meetings - perhaps on the weekend. They can sing songs and develop a creed where they can all say the things that they believe or disbelieve.
I think the proselytizing Atheists have an uphill battle to fight, however. The problem, I see, is that if Atheists are correct in their assessment of the universe, one needs not to believe in order to achieve the same final consequence. Having nothing to compete with heaven and hell means that the best they can offer a fellow "believer" is that fellow atheists will stop being rude to the convert.
Hey- I look forward to hearing the article again... though I don't agree with the atheists that I heard in the article. It seems sad somehow. Most christians/jews/muslims/fill in the blank that I know use religion as a community and a place of comfort and solace. The atheists interviewed didn't seem to suggest an option for that fundamental piece of what religion has to offer.
However, the thing that really got me was the heavy use of Stephen Colbert quotes. Colbert's openly Catholic, and proud of it.
Great piece. I not only support my local NPR station financially, I will now annually contribute to On the Media, in one form or another.
I feel that the concept of "Theism" has an undeserved but skillfully crafted "value" advantage in its ordinarily use, and needs to be properly classified..
Somehow, a belief in something never proven and never demonstrated, at least to "normal", logical, fact based people has invisibly taken mental center stage as an entity which now warrants "dis-belief" by "dis-believers". There has been a circular loop created which rests in part on the fallacy that if the word Theism exists, it is somehow a validation that an entity commonly called god exists.
This rationale and usage is topsy-turvy.
If one categorizies upward into ever more encompassing groupings, one must encounter the logical containers of what's real, and what's not real. Those two labels would be Reality and Areality. It is a sleight of mind to find Theism placed in the Reality container, and the "dis-belief" in god to be placed in the Areality (Atheist) container.
So let us call ourselves as we logically are. Until there is incontrovertible proof of the existence of ANY god, I am a Realist. And for those who insist there is/are one or more gods, based on too many artifacts to list, and just as much hearsay "evidence", these people are logically and correctly labeled as Arealists.
In matters of gods, I am a Realist. The "believers" are Arealists.
I have no problem with anyone believing what they want to or need to. Their believing does not harm me in any way.
However, to actively have a policy of ridiculing the beliefs of others seems to me to border on hate speech, and if atheists engage in that practice, they shouldn't be surprised at the negative reactions.
And I DID find it interesting that one program had two such negative segments on religion. I'm always amazed that NPR will accuse Fox News of having a right-leaning bias and refuses to understand why most people see NPR as having a left-leaning bias. Nothing wrong with leaning, just be intellectually honest (that's what the segments about religions were about, right?) and admit it.
many of the popular arguments for atheism assume a very narrow notion of god (typically a personal, conscious god) and don't hold up well against a notion of god like those of spinoza or einstein. it's tantamount to setting up a straw man and knocking it down.
some other criticisms seem to attribute problems with formal religion to any kind of belief in any kind of god, when they might might be more appropriately aimed at the falibitlity of social instintutions in general, or at problems with dogma in general. (many of the criticisms of religon also apply to dogmatic political movements, etc.) i'm not sure these have any bearing on questions about the existence of god.
the problem with most of these assertions is not that they're wrong per se, but that they're overly broad, and thus lead to questionable conclusions. (a disapointing style of argument from folks purporting to be rigorously logical.)
the old saw about no atheists in fox holes overlooks the distinction between desire and belief. it's one thing to wish for a supernatural solution to a life-threatening problem. it's another thing to believe in it.
I loved this segment. It's about time for society, generally, to address the lack of respect, if not downright discrimination, dished to those who don't believe in Santa Claus . . . er, sorry, god.
The fundamental problem encountered by those who don't believe in deities is that, unlike those who DO believe in religions, they don't have a multiplicity of tax-exempt (and tax-deductible) institutions promoting their agenda.
Churches, synagogues, mosques and temples all have the 'system' on their side. They promote their tenets, endorse candidates, offer a ready venue and host a plethora of paid staff and volunteers to boost the cause. Atheists, however, are relegated to the quiet sidelines, don't have a weekly gathering of the faithful to support and evangelize the cause, and have no mega-churches in which to gather each week. Instead, we spend Sunday mornings reading the Sunday paper: no hymnals or prayer books required.
Facts over superstition works just fine for me. I like my version better.
Great to hear an article about media's response to the atheism's coming out of the closet in the USA. The American media continue to deprecate atheism and humanism in a manner that would not be accepted if the target were theism. This attitude by the media only reflects the discrimination prevalent in America as a whole. Around the world, America is known as one of the most retrograde, religion-obsessed societies. The BBC recently broadcast a series of programs about how American politics is dominated by theists: over 50% of Americans say they would not vote for an atheist. Such irrational prejudice is one reason many Western Europeans regard Americans as benighted. In my opinion, belief in Abraham's God (that is, faith in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Ba'hai etc.) should be tolerated, but these believers should not be spared criticism of their clinging to these fear-driven self-deceptions, and of the horrendous carnage believers have inflicted on humanity. In response to Rebecca, let me say that most educated Buddhists not only find irrelevant the issue of whether God exists, but also do not believe in souls as self-existing, eternal entities. Of course, at the popular level, uneducated Buddhists do believe in Buddha as an external deity who can reward their belief by granting them wishes. There are also some Japanese derivatives of Buddhism that regard Buddha as a God.
Public Radio is indispensable because it will discuss religion and let atheists present their point of view.Commercial radio is too fearful of offending.An avowed atheist can't get elected President. The founding fathers -in heaven- woudl be shocked.
Thanks for your report on athiesm this morning. I concur with the remarks that it is more acceptable to be gay or lesbian than to be gay. In fact, I made note of this on my Blog on July 28. From the foxhole, fighting the good fight, Jon Weatherman
My blog, "What is Jon doing now?" is at:
Thanks for the informative program. I see that the fact that the "God No!" program aired on the same day as the "Paradise Lost" program has been cited as evidence of nonreligious bias by NPR. Perhaps so. But I see that the program "Down in the Flood" and "Building Blocks", both related to New Orleans, also aired together. Evidence of New Orleans bias?
It is interesting that the term "atheist" exists at all. There doesn't seem to be an analogous term for those who don't believe in ghosts, or the Loch Ness monster, or the efficacy of horoscopes or tarot readings. Why then, is there a specific term for those who do not believe in a supernatural superhero? Any ideas?
Atheism is, of course, a perfectly reasonable and noble philosophical position held by many wise and admirable people. The assertion without qualification that non-atheism is neither reasonable nor noble would seem to me very problematic and ignoble.
One might suppose by this reasoning that all previous generations were fundamentally ignorant of this fundamental metaphysic, that culture progress has been absolute, and that our enlightened generation has somehow freed itself from the primitive evolved psyche that afflicts all those lesser peoples of the world.
Is it a relief Now in the twilight of the Gods we can revel in the purely secular strife of the world? The killing fields, the gulags, the fallout of the much more rational horrors of all final solutions to the curse of irrationality. Oh, I am not much comforted.
Others have said it so much better than I could:
Civilization is a slow process of adopting the ideas of minorities. ~Herbert Prochnow
I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day. ~Douglas Adams
I contend that we are both atheists, I just believe in one less god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all other possible gods, then you will know why I dismiss yours. ~Stephen F. Roberts
Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a fit place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it. ~Bertrand Russell in Why I am Not a Christian, p. 22
I was impressed by your thoughtful segment on atheism. I have had Christians tell me that they couldn't believe that a person with my level of personal integrity was an atheist. They were sure that I was a Christian but just didn't know it yet.
When people complain that coverage isn't of the 80% of the population in the middle, I'm made to think of the history of religion. Were those the same complaints made against those who fought against the religious majority that were burning witches, the marauders during the crusades, the vile murderers during the Spanish Inquisition, the utter destruction of all scientific progress during the Dark Ages? Did being in the majority that make those behaviors right?
I'm an atheist because I found myself at a juncture in the road of life: one path said religion, the other said reason--I chose reason. Since that time I have had only one dogmatic belief and that is that nothing is right, just, moral or good because it is in writing. My critical thought and search for evidence must prove it.
I'm amazed that people are angered by people seeking the truth based upon the one characteristic that separates mankind from all other animals, our ability to think critically. Denying our reason and logic is the most damning characteristic of religious believers and one of the easiest proofs that gods are myths. How could an all-powerful and perfect god create his prize offspring with a mind and reason, only to immediately short-circuit that reason with dogma and faith? Impossible!
This is a simple note of thanks. This story represents one of the reasons I donate my hard earned money to public radio and television. It takes truly unbiased public broadcasting to bring out stories about the 'untouchable subjects' such as atheism. The cultural discussion today is so polarized and vicious that it is refreshing to hear a word from the supressed minority that is the atheist community. We hear plenty from the theist side.
I thought it was interesting that the NPR reporter said that atheists "spammed" him for weeks regarding his "foxhole" comment. "Spam" generally refers to unsolicited (and unwanted) commercial email. It appears he needs a different view of listener feedback in addition to a different view of atheists.
Overall excellent story, OTM. Thanks.
Theism is not religion. This piece fell victim to a widespread basic fallacy; equating theism with religion. Theism is a faith in the existence of a god (or gods). Religion is a practice or set of practices which may (or may not) be based on theist beliefs.
This article took a narrow view of atheism. It is a much more expansive choice than any theism could ever be. It cannot be defined except in what it is not.
And to those who believe that theism is the norm: get real. If people really believed in God and Hell, don’t you think they’d act a lot differently than they do? Think about this the next time one of the “80%” of the “normal” population cuts you off in traffic.
I am a religious person. I am a Unitarian Universalist. I don’t believe in any god. I believe that there are things we cannot understand; there might (or might not) be other dimensions or planes of life, for instance. Since we can't know them from this plane, why waste this life believing in something we can't know, especially a narrow set of theist beliefs? There's lots to explore right here.
I believe in religious freedom for everyone and I believe that totalitarian religious beliefs should not be respected; they should be curbed.
I for one, appreciate hearing a program about nonbelief and the harm being done by mainstream religion that is NEVER reported on commercial radio and TV. There wasn't very much that I hadn't heard before, except for the religion-beat reporter who lost his faith when he was covering a story about the Catholic Church's less than generous response to abuse cases.
Personally, I am offended by people who would rather continue the age-old policy of sweeping these disturbing stories under the carpet, rather than have to deal with them in an open and honest manner. This attitude of the majority of people that religious faith and religious institutions are off limits from criticism has to be taken on directly, and that's why books by Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris have become so popular.
Now, if you don't want to hear stories of why some of us leave church and religion behind, you can keep your radio tuned to your favourite conservative radio station and watch CBN, TCT or Fox News on your television! There you will find only positive stories about religion and condemnations of atheism.
To all of the conspiracy-nut listeners wringing their hands over NPR's "leftist agenda" : NPR most assuredly represents a basal and unbiased voice. If you'd take the time to stop actively looking for something to complain about, you may realize that the decision to take up a religion is a superfluous action. That the majority of the world chooses to indulge in organized wish-thinking does not make it inherently "normal." Therefore, being without a religion is the most basal, most reductionist, most unbiased way to be.
Your broadcasts today of "Paradise Lost" and "God No!" illustrate the unbalanced coverage of religion in America. Much greater coverage is given to the critics of Christianity than to its supporters. When Christian scholars are given voice, the choice is disproportionately the liberal scholars who study Christianity the way anthropologists study other cultures. If conservatives are featured, it is those who customarily put their feet in their mouth. We rarely hear from the many intelligent conservative Christian leaders and scholars, such as N.T. Wright, William Lane Craig, Dallas Willard, Ben Witherington III, and J.P. Moreland. If your religion section doesn't know who these people are, that says a lot.
I was disappointed, and offended, by the choice of "religious" topics presented today: one focusing on a reporter on a religious beat who lost his religion and the other focusing on an atheist. Once again, your programming selection confirms the right wing talk show hosts view that NPR is run by a lot of left wing atheist. Is their no programing for the 80% of America in the middle? Why is the programing so often focused on the societal margins rather than the societal norms? Is being normal just not newsworthy?
This is exactly why the use of a "term" in this case "Atheist" places one into an ideology but the disbelief in god is NOT an ideology it's a disbelief in god!! You can call me what you like, I just say I don't believe in god and do not call myself an atheist just as I am not a christian nor a Jew nor a muslim. Seems these are the folks in foxhole and driving trucks in Iraq; these are the mongers of war and at that wars against each other.
All my life, since at least the age twelve, I have been an athiest. On the point raised about the oft heard statement, "there are no athiests in fox holes", this suggests that an athiest has no firm moral code, that we are all hyprocrites. My philosophy of life is as solid as any religious who desires to cram their form of reason down my throat, if not more so! I will look to the scientific, and provable, answers found in the real world, not the preposterous ramblings of frightened people, scared of tomorrow and searching for a scapegoat.Paul Hedden
Athiesm is not a religion, however, there is at least one athiest religion. It is a Japanese buddhism in which the members believe that there are natural laws, but there are no gods. At the time I practiced, the laymember group was called Soku Gakkai International.
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