Monday, February 19, 2007

Tough Sell

I laud this approach in principle:

Instead, us progressive atheists should be engaging in that faith-based discussion more vigorously, laying out our belief systems and helping make voters comfortable with our viewpoint as part of the menu of "religious" options, not in order to convert them but just to integrate it into the terrain of debate that people are more familiar with.
but I think that secular value systems are so fundamentally different from their theistic counterparts that its going to take more than just a simple "laying out" of their tenets to convince people that atheists don't eat puppies.

The general mass of humanity, and this is true not just here in the US but across the world as well, has been conditioned for generations to accept "because God says so" as the ultimate legitimizer of behavior. Before we begin getting into the specifics of secular value systems we must first convince them that "because humanity says so" is an equally good basis for organizing society. I've touched on this topic before here and here, highlighting the relatively simple metaphysics of theistic systems as opposed to the somewhat slippery and difficult mental gymnastics needed to justify such systems from a secular, materialistic perspective.

What has happened, and what will continue to happen, is that the public is going to ask "why?" and (honest) atheists will respond with contingent answers. The masses don't like contingency, which is one of the reasons why organized religion is so popular in the first place. My fear is that, in order make secular views more palatable, secularists will have sugar-coat them in some fashion, concealing the essential arbitrariness that is their foundation. Though I suppose its better than nothing, it still makes me cringe to think about people making vague, hand-wavey references to "community" or "humanity" or "society" or any of the other phrases that commonly serve as stand-ins for theistic certainty.


Anonymous Jim said...

Marginal ideas are always a tough sell, but I say "go for it!"
So you want to replace one belief system that promises an afterlife for the 'righteous' with one that promises death for everyone.
OK, got it!
I'm sure the American public will be lining up 'round the block for that message.
Ya just gotta set those simpletons in "Jesus Land" right on those 'secular values'.

I think you "progressive atheists" really need to get out there front and center in the Democrat Party and make your ideas known to everyone in earshot.
Demand that your message be heard.
Please, make the message as strident as possible while you are at it.
I wish you luck.
No really, I do!

2:49 AM  

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