Posts tagged humanism
Posts tagged humanism
The atheists I know love to bring up issues like religion and politics that touch on the very roots of common world-views. The problem we know about, however, is that these issues immediately cause people to get defensive and arguing with them will often reinforce their beliefs. The weight, accuracy, or validity of your argument or beliefs becomes completely irrelevant to your opponent (or those in the audience). Those of us who believe in rational discourse can be discouraged by the kind of polarization documented in the sociological, psychological, and political sciences. In the face of this knowledge, some people reach exclusively to accommodation tactics in order to achieve their ends, but confrontational tactics can find hope by laying a foundation on shared values.
Because reality can be an unforgiving place, many popular ideas tend to have something right, even though some may only be correct “by accident” or misattribution. Anecdotally, I’ve found that most deconverted atheists still have most of the same fundamental values that were stressed during their religious upbringing. In fact, I think a lot of these values are what cause many people to change their beliefs.
There are many goods that come about when you start a conversation emphasizing shared values. You’re overcoming any in-group/out-group distinction (demonization) when you can show your overlapping humanity. This gives you worth, and you are now able to introduce ideas on a level playing field. Even if your arguments fail, you’ve succeeded in breaking their demonization of the out-group, and this alone may cause doubts in some extremely conservative religious contexts. However, if you’re talented enough with your argument, you can even leverage the shared values against the very foundations of their world view.
Not every one of these shared values are going to exist, and sometimes only lip-service is paid to them. But their existence in the world-view you’re arguing with is more than sufficient, even if they’re not always observed. Please don’t use these shared values if you don’t actually share them, but feel free to find your own.
Shared values are also stepping stones to move from one world view to another. By standing on these shared values, you can show that there is something solid on which they can stand while they re-evaluate their life in search of truth, and because you also stand on these shared world-views they feel safe standing with you. Questions of transcendental purpose and meaning, transcendental morality, transcendental truth, and other arguments can be evaluated with a safety net of objective moralities and objective truth (even if it may be only approximated through discovery), and a journey of creating your own meaning and purpose. Rather than a blanket conversion, your goal should be for the people you argue with to refine their own beliefs through the fires of rational discourse. When you can remove a lot of these fears, more people are willing to temporarily occupy your beliefs and “try them on” to see if the world makes more sense.
I’d love to hear comments and criticism on this topic from all sides.
The Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008 is probably one of the most deceptively-named bills. It allows teachers to bring in “supplemental materials” to approved texts in order to promote “skepticism and critical thinking”. This is code language for allowing creationist teachers to bring in creationist teaching materials.
Because of the way the law is structured and because of the way the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled recently, standing against a teacher will be very hard to acquire in order to file a lawsuit. Enter Zack Kopplin, with an effort to repeal the law for his senior project at Baton Rouge Magnet High School. This finally seems to be gaining momentum. Congratulations to Zack Kopplin, The Louisiana Coalition for Science, and the National Center for Science Education. Hopefully our students in Louisiana can see some changes on this soon.
Damon Fowler stood up for his 1st Amendment Rights on Tuesday night in requesting a graduation without inducement to pray. Members of the Bastrop community think they have won a battle against him, but they have only started a battle which will likely end up in court. A student used the PA system induced attendees to pray. There is no way that this does not fall under public non-protected speech. The student while on the PA is an agent of the school, and the school system bares the responsibility of her actions. Particularly because on the night before, she had done the same thing in rehearsal. The school officials were given an opportunity to issue corrective action, and failed.
Here is the video of the graduation prayer
And here is from the rehearsal last night
This was premeditated, this was sanctioned, this was facilitated, and this is illegal. Damon’s contribution is going to be a lengthy, expensive civics lesson, but I get the feeling that these people had poor teachers in the past and will lose interest in their failing grades.
I issued a press release to the local media about this, let’s see if anyone picks it up. Forgive the odd third-person bullshit, but apparently this is the style format for press releases.
May 19, 2011
For Release: Immediately Upon Receipt
Contact: Alex Songe, 337-322-7300
Student Removes Prayer, Town Upset
Atheist Student Asks for Prayer’s Removal
BASTROP, LA - An atheist student at Bastrop High School requested that school officials remove prayer from the graduation program on Tuesday.
On Tuesday night, Bastrop High School senior Damon Fowler sent an email to the superintendent Tom Thrower asking him to remove prayer from his school’s graduation program. Adding that he may go to the ACLU for legal redress, Damon compelled the school to replace the prayer with a moment of silence.
Some in the town are upset, asking why a student should be able to change things. Damon knew there was a possibility he was going to be persecuted, stating “Though I’ve caused my classmates to hate me, I feel like I’ve done the right thing.” Damon’s religious parents have limited his farther communication.
“Damon is a very brave young man” says Alex Songe, President of the Lafayette Atheists and Freethinkers. “Damon knows that there are probably more than the three atheists he knows of in Bastrop and they are scared to be honest with their neighbors. We support Damon in taking this stand for the Bill of Rights as far as he wants to take it. He is helping to create an environment where people can feel comfortable discussing their non-belief.”
Alex Songe sees this as a trend among high school students looking to end school support for religious-based bullying in schools. This year, Jessica Ahlquist is fighting to remove a prayer banner hung at Cranston High School West. Eric Workman successfully sued to prevent school-sponsored prayer at his graduation as the valedictorian of Greenwood High School in Washington, Illinois. There are dozens more cases like these, Songe says. “This is really encouraging coming from the younger generation. They are thinking for themselves.”