Helping with critical thinking….
VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA – I just thought I’d run this little bit of correspondence as an example of the kind of thing that occasionally arrives in my email. This one, despite its tone of superiority and hostility was less offensive than most that come from people who hold similar points of view, and since he or she claims to be a high school student, I didn’t simply dismiss the writer as arrogant and obnoxious. Nevertheless, the writer demonstrates a very worrying tendency that is all too common among older versions of him or herself: an inclination to extend philosophical disagreement to personal animosity. Despite my decision to address my interlocutor with civility (okay, and a little condescention), the hostility in his/her original email is palpable.
I should note that I received no response to my reply.
Religion: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. (according to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion).
According to this definition atheism in itself is a religion. In your articles (that lack logical arguments and correct spelling) you state many “reasons” why religion is “obscene” and should not be allowed and should be turned against. According to this definition your entire beliefs should not be encouraged and your arguments are hurting your own opinion. By informing people of how bad religion is you are saying that your beliefs are also wrong.
If you would like to gain proper knowledge of the subject you pretend to know so much about i am sure the internet would help in that research. Until then enjoy posting the defamation of your own beliefs.
A high school student.
I emailed my interlocutor the following response: (Pagun)
Dear “A high school student”:
First of all, I would like to offer my sincere thanks for reading the articles on my website, and for giving them such intense consideration. I am very grateful, as I want to try to make people think about subjects that are of interest to me; it appears that I have succeeded, in your case at least!
Let me start by addressing your main point.
The definition of “atheism” with which you start your email serves to demonstrate precisely that atheism is NOT a religion.
Let’s start with religious “attitudes”. Atheism doesn’t meet the definition provided since it espouses no religious attitudes; rather, it denies the validity of any god and therefore most religion. Oh, to be sure most atheists have an attitude toward religion, but that is something quite different from having a religious attitude. But since that question of religious attitudes is the most subtle of the three benchmarks you’re using, let’s move on.
As to your (Merriam Webster’s) second test: beliefs; atheism by definition is an absence of belief (in gods, specifically), so it doesn’t meet that standard either. Lack of belief is not a belief.
And finally: practices. Atheists have no defining set of practices; atheists are only discernible by their absence of belief, and then, only if they tell you about it. (Unless you consider critical thinking a religious practice, in which case I would argue that religions actually discourage genuine critical thinking, so I don’t see that as a way to make the pieces fit.)
In any case, the definition you provided requires that atheism meet all three tests; it quite palpably doesn’t meet even one. I’m sorry to say, therefore, that your argument from definition fails at its first premise.
As has been said before, “Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.”
Now, as to the rest of your letter: I will simply dismiss your proposition that “by informing people of how bad religion is you are saying that your beliefs are also wrong” as it rests on a faulty premise. Beyond that there doesn’t seem to be much content other than your expressed desire that I stop posting until I have researched. You’re not entirely clear about just what you would have me research before I post again, but my suspicion is that you mean I should know more about religion if I am going to speak about it in such negative terms. If that suspicion is correct, I have two responses: In the first place, if I am going to proclaim a disbelief in fairies, there is no prevailing requirement for me to read every “expert’s” opinion on the length, span, colour, and translucency of their wings (thank you, Richard Dawkins). In the second place, my suspicion (again) is that I have done considerably more research on the subject of religion and am better versed in its intricacies than most people, including the most vocal true believers, and that quite likely includes you.
I will address briefly your parenthetical criticism of my spelling and logical arguments. As to spelling: I have no doubt that a spelling error – or many – have escaped my editorial eye; for that I apologise. I might caution you, however, about provincialism in your use of the English language. I tend to adhere to British conventions in my spelling, hence neighbour with a “U” and specialise with an “S” rather than a “Z”. The default spellchecker on Microsoft is U.S. spelling; I don’t use that.
This brings us to logical arguments. I see you have tried to formulate one and for that I congratulate you. It doesn’t survive even casual scrutiny, but at least it represents an attempt to think rationally, something which I encourage heartily. Moreover, logical arguments are always welcome on my website…that is the place for discussion of the subjects broached in my articles.
When I get a personal and anonymous email to me criticising something on Pagunview, it is my normal practice just to delete and ignore it. On Pagunview, I have a comment section at the end of each of my articles and I always respond to rational argumentation; I’ve never censored anything except spam and raw abuse. In your case I chose to answer in this way because I admire your passion, and I hope that you fan that spark of critical thinking into a small flame and eventually a genuine fire.
I’d be happy to recommend some sources for learning about logic, argument, and critical thinking if you wish.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to read and think about what I have written.