Try Appealing To the
Disenchanted Atheist
Tim Lowe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To:
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: November 27, 2002 10:40 AM

I guess we're even, then. How could anybody go around telling others that thus-and-so is true when he doesn't really know whether he knows what he's even talking about? I couldn't live with myself! If I cannot show a proposition to be true (or at least likely), then I will not go around telling people that it is, in fact, true!

For example, it is well-known that during the last half of the nineteenth century a popular form of charlatanry involved forging quotations and other reports, putting words into the mouths of America's heroes. It is also rather easily established that a great majority of this activity involved placing pious sentiments into the mouths of heroes whose orthodoxy was widely qustioned or openly doubted. The heroes who have been victim to this fraud the most have been Lincoln and Washington.

I also have positive testimony showing that both men did not act the way you'd expect a pious Christian to act (prayer; public proclamations; widely known as religious).
 

Shocked!?

(Shudder!)

Oh, no! Here comes some of that emotionally charged language!

When can we get some mail that sounds like it was written by a human and addressed to a fellow human, rather than by that company which, for a fee, supplies two-bit newspapers with "letters to the editor" and phone-in talk shows with "callers"?
 

and

and

Umm,

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Out of context!  Out of context!  «»Squawk!«»
Gimme a gaud-damn cracker, will ya!?

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Alas! The seeming-to-be-everywhere-at-once cry of a certain brand of fundamentalist Christian who writes to the Positive Atheism Forum.

And never once has such a Christian demonstrated the truthfulness of this accusation against anything that we have allegedly taken out of context. (As a matter of fact, never once has any Christian even bothered to try!)
 

How come I couldn't find a trace of you or any of your work on the Internet, having exhausted the strings "tim lowe" and "timothy lowe" in four major search engines?

Are you a real historian or are you a lay historian (one who does not work in the field and likely does not have a degree in that field, but, rather, gets his education by reading the works of real historians and others)?
 

and

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Here is an example of the kind of Christian we deal with often in this Forum: We have been told by this Christian that we use these quotations in order to "support the cause of atheism," that we feel the need for "credence" from historical figures to "justify [our] position." He says we are trying to "further [our] cause" (which he says is "atheism"). Finally, in order to "attract atheists" (new atheists, we presume), he says that we utilize "forms of recruitment."

Ummm -- that is the exact opposite of what we say about our motives in our FAQ and elsewhere. Do you think that (perhaps) this fellow simply stumbled onto a couple of quotations while using the search engine, saw the word "atheism" at the top, and then, while scrambling to look for our e-mail address, noticed the big, bold "Webmaster" link on our Front Page? We designed this link to alert us to the high likelihood that whoever uses it has not spent very much time checking out what we have to say about ourselves, about those who take it upon themselves to oppose us, and about the rest of our sleepy civilization. It turns out that the vast majority of people who clicked this link have tended to be in a great big hurry to dash off an angry letter in an attempt to "show those people a thing or two." Of course! That's why we made the link so huge!

This is not to suggest that this is what you did, only to point out the strong, very strong connection between that "Webmaster" link and hastily written condemnations of us which have little if anything to do with what we actually say. The connection is so strong that I like to point it out every time I can remember to do so.
 

First off, we do not propagate atheism!

We even recommend not becoming an atheist unless truthfulness means more than dignity, yea, more than life itself!

We are here to serve only those who are already atheists, who already lack a god-belief, that is, those who already are no longer theists. Since the Big List of Quotations section does not reveal its own purpose, where do you come up with the idea that we constructed it for the purpose of "supporting the cause of atheism"? Since what you say not only doesn't appear anywhere on our entire web site, and since the opposite of what you say appears throughout the project's self-description, and since you've already gotten several things wrong here, there remains but a single choice:

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Big money on the likelihood that you're probably making this up as you go along!

Alas! Be there no takers from among the regular readers of Positive Atheism!?

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(If this be the case, then rest in the comfort that you are not alone in this behavior: you have plenty of company.)

We do give some clues, however, as to a possible motive for creating the Big List of Quotations: Besides trying to eliminate the bigotry that we endure (antiatheism is the most widespread and thoroughly legitimized [read: "institutionalized"] form of bigotry on the scene today), we also serve as a resource for those atheists (not fundamentalist Christians) who wish to study their heritage as atheists!

So, in lieu of trying to squash antiatheist bigotry (our first goal) and in lieu of stumping for State-Church Separationism (our second goal), all that's left is our third goal, serving as a resource for those atheists (not fundamentalist Christians) who wish to study their heritage as atheists.

But this Christian insists that we do it for the purpose of "supporting the cause of atheism."

Here is how much this Christian has paid attention: One of the primary tenets of this project is to point out that

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ATHEISM IS NOT A CAUSE!

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and that

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ATHEISM HAS NO CAUSE!!

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So then, are you suggesting that we (1) believe a proposition because to believe that way would bring us personal advantage (as individuals or as a species) and (2) disbelieve other propositions because believing that way would bring us personal disadvantage (again, as individuals or as a species)?

No. As a man of morality, as a man of integrity, and as a man of honesty (the main points of the philosophy of Positive Atheism as we advocate it here), I prefer believing a proposition either because it can be shown to be true or because it is simply likely to be true. Similarly, my favorite reason for disbelieving other propositions is because they cannot be shown to be true, because they can be shown to be false, or because they are simply likely to be false.

I challenge you to jettison your faith and give truthfulness a try: experiment with the concept of assenting only to those propositions that either can be shown to be true or that are likely to be true.

At minimum, you will be much more likely to avoid the embarrassment of having written letters such as the above!
 

In light of the exchange immediately preceding this one, I feel that appealing to the disenchanted might be appropriate if and only if I felt that the majority of atheists and materialists were, in fact, disenchanted. According to my experience and my studies, those who simply lack a god belief and who do not trust claims of the supernatural are not disenchanted at all.

The ones among us who are disenchanted are usually those who act the way you accuse us (me) of acting. The disenchanted atheists are those who pretend to know best how others ought to run their lives, who go about trying to recruit others to this or that set of core values. They are disenchanted because doing that simply does not work! The reason I refrain from doing this is not to avoid disenchantment. Rather, I refrain from trying to recruit people because I think it is just plain wrong to do that to people.

This is what you appear to be doing to me, however! According to the Bible reading I have done, this is precisely how Christians are commanded to act!
 

I am not disenchanted. The reason for this is that I frankly don't give a dying duck what you or anybody else believes. I would consider it a monumental waste of my time to try to change you even if I thought you were capable of change!

However, if you should ever snap out of it; if you should realize that religion is a bunch of hooey; if you should that the "history" books you purchased at the Bible store and in the church foyer were lying to you, that they are nothing more than political propaganda, plain and simple, designed to exploit you for political gain; if you should come to understand that you don't really know that a god exists or that a Jesus lived and rose from the dead or that the Apostle Paul was not an opportunistic charlatan (as was commonly reported by several early Christian sects who rejected the claims of Christ's divinity), if you cannot verify any of these claims but are "just taking it on faith," and if you come to realize that it is dishonest of you to assert as true claims such as these, the validity of which you actually know little or nothing (the incidental or accidental truthfulness of such assertions failing to justify or excuse a person who behaves in this manner); in short, if you should wake up and see that you, as a human, innately demand of yourself a much higher moral standard than what is taught and practiced in any expression of the Christian faith; that is, if you decide to become an atheist, then we will (hopefully) be here for you -- we ozr someone similar.

I repeat: if you should ever become an atheist and need some grounding during this most harrowing of experiences, the deconversion process, then some hardy atheists will have committed themselves to the sacrifice of making themselves available to you.

This latter aspect is a rather dangerous occupation, to be sure, and the tables are decidedly stacked in favor of the Christian. Very few Americans need to walk more than a mile or so to find a Christian whose job or calling it is to help former atheists adjust to the faith-based mind-set.

However, just mount a shingle at your door stating that you offer services helping former Christians learn to make decisions using only their own powers of reason combined with the opinions of others in a form of consensus reality and you are in for some big trouble -- I promise!

I wonder why that is!

I wonder why Christians go about their business unmolested, for the most part, but atheists must still remain in the closet even in the most casual of circumstances. I wonder why so many atheists wouldn't even reveal their atheism to the cashier at the market! Why is it that the atheists so afraid of the Christians? What have the Christians done to the atheists to prompt them to act this way?

Do Christians have that little faith in their own faith that we atheists have, as a result, developed a conditioned reflex to keep our mouths shut about our atheism?

Why can't atheists be free? Why can't we openly admit our atheism without fear of serious repercussions

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Seven years of service to people
    with no reason to believe

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