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Atheist Community of Austin
Is not believing in God enough to hold an atheist community together?

As it says in the subject box really. I'm from the UK and our situation is very different with Christianity dwindling consistently across the country. I think an atheist community is very much needed here also, but I wonder how you frame your commonality, how your togetherness as non believers has evolved?

I have been to groups, but I didn't think much of them. I guess I have enough aggravation in my life! I haven't been to any groups in the Austin area, but from what I saw at other groups I'm sure they were formed as a leftover from going to church. I didn't meet anyone who was not raised as a Christian. They had just switched affiliation from belief to non-belief.

Their reflections and behaviors of a lifetime of religious convictions still lingered. It seems that the absence of the traditional thinking (brainwashing) in many ways still dominated their opinions, and they tended to apply religious logic to atheistic topics. A more positive approach would be to change the old ways of thinking. Naturally, most of the people spoke contemptuously about religion (religion is snake oil) but it was on a very superficial level, and was usually based on issues that made them look foolish.

I think that most atheists are less socially needy and tend to be more independent (we don't need approval.)

There are some Christians who claim that God holds them together (this proves that God exists.) They also need to spread the word (ignorance) throughout the whole world. Most theistic religions teach that a deity created mankind and the universe and that this deity continues to act in the universe. They believe that there is one true God, and the Bible has all the answers. Just when you think you've heard everything... Someone who called a radio station I was listening to said "if we just put God on everything in America (money, buildings, our foreheads) this would make America great again."

In ancient times people were sentenced to death if they denied the existence of the gods, and were therefore guilty of impiety. This criminal connotation attached to atheistic ideas remains; the right-wing-nuts, equate 'wrong belief' with 'unbelief,' because even now those who are committed to god can't agree on a single system of philosophy. Many people who belong to a minority 'faith' are discriminated against, along with those who do not agree with the ludicrous notion that God can fill in the "gaps" in scientific knowledge. Many people, including both atheists and theists, who feel that this view is in conflict with discoveries of modern science, reject this 'rationale'. Like a scientist, a scientific skeptic aims to decide claims based on verifiability causes rather than accepting claims on faith, and by utilizing critical thinking - opposite of what is known as the true believer. For example, evolutionary science describes how complex life has developed through a process of natural selection acting on random mutations; it asserts that all species of life on this planet, including humans, are products of this process. Modern humans have only existed for the last 0.0015 percent (approximately 200,000 years) of the age of the universe, on a planet that orbits one undistinguished star among billions in the Milky Way, which itself is merely one galaxy among billions of others. It is also now known that humans share 98 percent of our genetic code with the bonobo (officially classified as Pan paniscus), 90 percent with mice, 21 percent with roundworms, and fully 7 percent with the bacterium E. coli. This scientific perspective is quite different from that of most theistic religions. In some Abrahamic religions, for instance, humans are thought to be created 'in God's image' and to be qualitatively different than the 'beasts of the Earth.' Science has provided explanations for most phenomena, slowly eliminating the need to resort to 'god-did-it.'

Some people are atheists because they live in an environment where atheism is relatively common, just as people who grow up in predominantly Christian countries or cultures tend to adopt the prevalent religion. America is a place where religion is big business, and America is in decline in many areas, and their excuses for it would make you puke, unless you are an extreme right-wing fanatic. I think that religious fanaticism has caused a decline in morality in America. And a great deal of violence (warfare, executions, murders and terrorism), has been brought about, condoned, and justified by religious beliefs and practices. The public knows that religious organizations often contradict the teachings of the founders, and this hypocrisy is inseparable from the nature of the organization itself. America has a long history of supporting brutal dictators - Yet, the clergy in America blame the decline in religious zeal on 'Separation of Church and State', instead of their hypocrisy. This has never been the reason for the decline, but they have been working overtime to revitalize religious fanaticism in America, which tends to take over in wartime.

Every major religion (except Islam) is declining in Western Europe. The drop is most evident in France, Sweden and the Netherlands, where church attendance is less than 10 percent in some areas. Industrialization, urbanization, and widespread education are the reasons for the decline in religion. But most of all it is continent's unprecedented affluence. History proves that when the people have opportunities and education religion declines. It changes things dramatically.

To be an atheist most often requires a morsel of independent thought to begin with. There is no belief to which all atheists hold fast, nor does atheism have any institutionalized rituals or behaviors. But, given a common enemy, atheists are joining together, and raising their voices louder, and hopefully we can continue to speak for everyone's right to be free from religious oppression. Common ground can be found in coming together to 'rid the world of religious intolerance.' Without a common ideology atheists do still have many things in common. Many of us find that the common ground is the bad situation in America, and we should be working to change things. I think we need to work to change things drastically in America, instead of just praying for change.

Thank you for your carefully considered and thoughtful response. I take your point that it is natural for people to group together for mutual support in times of difficulty and especially when they feel attacked. I still remain unconvinced that atheism is a 'non' position, simply a lack of belief. For me it is a highly significant position and as such is more than worthy as one to rally around. This may strangely also offer an opportunity. Can atheists, because of the 'unusualness' of our commonality create some looser rules for alliance other than just objection to religious oppressions? Can't put my finger on it yet...may be something worth perusing for a while. Thanks again.

QUOTE - "Can atheists, because of the 'unusualness' of our commonality create some looser rules for alliance other than just objection to religious oppressions? Can't put my finger on it yet...may be something worth perusing for a while. Thanks again."

Religious intolerance is one of the most crucial issues in America today. Knowledge of the attitudes, mindset and views that cause 'religious intolerance' is equally important.

Religious conservatives often believe in exclusivity that their religion is the true faith) other faiths are wrong. Most religious conservatives view religious tolerance negatively.

Example: Christian bumper sticker stating "Truth, not tolerance." The bumper sticker shows a clenched fist on the left side and a Christian cross on the right.

Religious tolerance is a human rights and civil rights issue. Religious tolerance extends religious freedom to people of all faiths, even though you may disagree with their beliefs. Religious freedom means that a person cannot be oppressed or discriminated against because of their belief/non-belief.

Religious intolerance can bring about staggering upheaval. It can motivate people to hate followers of other religions, secularists, other races, women, gays, etc.. This can escalate into actions of conflict, oppression, murder, terrorism and genocide.

The witnessing bystanders taught the most important moral lessons of the Holocaust. Some included Germans who allowed Hitler's rise to power. Others were political leaders from around the world who did not react early to the European persecution of Jews and other minorities by the Nazis. Many were citizens from countries around the world who failed to lobby their governments for more lenient immigration policies during Nazi persecution.

The Holocaust in Nazi Germany murdered millions of Jews, other minorities, and non-conformist. Most of the citizens of Germany in the 30's didn't see what was coming. By the time they did, it was too late to speak out against the Nazis because you would be sent to the concentration camp. (Intolerance leads to persecutions.)

We have to do some thing before it's too late, because we (in this country) are not far from the commencement of persecution. There are groups in danger that do not subscribe to the "moral values" of the state. Those who did not flee Nazi Germany in the years before World War II stayed behind believing that the "Final Solution" would never happen in such a civilized society.

I would have never imagined we would be where we are today. If you think it can't get worse you're walking around with your eyes closed. The way the German government of the 30's picked off voices of dissent, systematically replacing the governing boards of institutions seat by seat, much the way the Religious Right is taking over.

The ugly agenda has reared its head for all to see. America is presided over by a regime that has stolen two elections, controls the news media, the courts and the universities. All their goals have been achieved, andů better not get in their way.

Sorry Linda, I didn't intend to somehow demean the difficulty of your situation. You are right of course, in the UK we don't know how lucky we are. However, I don't think it would do any harm to either of our positions to contemplate our commonality as widely as possible.

On re reading your reply I was moved and shocked. How would you feel about me posting this on Richard Dawkins site. I think UK atheists should understand the situation in the US, it is of international importance.

Hi orandj:

Just to add that we just had a major political event in the U.S., the Iowa caucus for both the Democratic and Republican parties--unfortunately, currently, the only real parties that can hope to win an election in this country. The Republican front runner who emerged has one thing going for him--he's an evangelical Christian, and he makes sure everyone knows how religious he is. In fact, if you look up Huckabee, you'll see that he could just as easily have become a preacher (and likely should have) rather than a politician.

I'm not against a person of faith being elected president; but if you look up Huckabee, you'll find that he has no fear of injecting his religion into his politics. This should frighten anyone in the U.S.--even other Xians (since Christians have a knack for persecuting other Christians who don't "agree" with them). But rather than being slapped down for his attitude, he was propelled to the number one slot.

We still have more events like this to go--in other parts of the nation where people aren't outnumbered by livestock (Iowa); but as Linda points out, I'm sitting here telling myself I'm being paranoid--that Huckabee could "never" be elected by the nation at large...even as I'm watching him take the lead in the current reigning party in the U.S. Denial is very easy for anyone. I just think, "Surely when it goes to New Hampshire, this will resolve itself..." But what if it doesn't? How long will I say, "this will resolve itself"? And if it doesn't resolve, and we get a religious extremist (someone who thinks government and religion need to be combined to further god's glory), what will I do? I'll have to abide by law. But what will such a man do in office? Will Congress stop him? If their constituents voted him in--will they oppose him?

Of all the candidates, Huckabee is the only one who frightens me. Some of the others, I view as inept. But they don't seem driven by 'god'--and a man who believes he's driving political power for god...well, isn't that what we're supposedly fighting in the Middle East right now--fervent religious folks who think they should be making/enforcing the laws for god?

What can anyone do, but speak out?

I think all the candidates are playing the "I'm-holier-then-thou" card (particularly the God-fearing candidate and Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee.) Plus, most of them can't face a real question, and the police state protects them. The fact that they expect people to take them seriously is proof of what they think of the American people. I guess it would just be too hard to get questions from real people. A real debate would have the candidates facing intellectuals and answering their questions very quickly, instead of the dog-and-pony show defending their own made-up issues! I wonder how many of them think 9-11 happened because "people hate us because of all that freedom we have." They don't answer real questions from real people, and only meet real people when they have to run for office again. The reporters never get beyond the "spin" to get anything of significance out to the readers.

Example: Mike Huckabee Baptist preacher (in favor of failed abstinence only) turned politician! And as if that's not enough, Huckabee, plainly hoped to please deranged right-wing supporters, who believe that "Jesus" could turn a murdering rapist into a Saint. (Until they got out.) The former governors' faith-based clemency policies in Arkansas continued for years after the convicted rapist and killer named Wayne DuMond was released (leading to the murder of at least one and probably two more women in Missouri.) Huckabee rebuked the accusation that he pressured the Arkansas parole board into freeing DuMond. The politicization of "faith" has no place in elected office, and that is what caused this tragedy (believing that prisoners guilty of heinous crimes could be 'washed clean or changed' by Jesus.) Rapist and murders are SICK NOT JUST EVIL people who need psychiatric treatment. Therapy for a psychotic is not reading the Bible in prison. (Religious Right President Reagan emptied the mental institutions and put them on the streets to save taxpayers money. I guess that's why in the debates when George Bush Sr. was asked a question about the homeless he commented that all those homeless people are mentally ill. Aha!) Back to Huckabee, a preacher named Jay Cole, pleaded DuMond's case. Huckabee continued this practice with prisoners recommended to him by pastors whom he happened to know from his own previous career as a Baptist minister and denominational leader. Huckabee's dubious incentive didn't change until prosecutors, the media, and almost the entire state of Arkansas rose up in protest against his stupidity. It all came out in 2004, when he announced his intention to release a murderer and rapist named Glen Green because of the endorsement of Green by Rev. Johnny Jackson, a Baptist minister and a friend of governor Huckabee. Most people doubted that Huckabee had even seen the case file before he decided to release Green. In 1974, Green was serving as a sergeant at Little Rock Air Force Base, located in a suburban county outside the state capital. He seized Helen Lynnette Spencer, 18, and brought her to a quiet spot on the base where he assaulted and tried to rape her. She briefly escaped from Green, who then caught her and beat her brutally with nunchaku sticks. He stuffed her into the trunk of his car and drove her off the base to another county, where he pulled her into the front seat and violated her. Since she wasn't dead, he ran over her several times with his car, and finally dumped her corpse in a bayou. This was the series of events, but Green described DuMond as "a humble Christian man" The prosecutors believed that Green was capable of killing again. Only the anguished protests of the victim's family, and the local media, eventually forced Huckabee to rescind the commutation of Green's sentence, which he had already announced. It is very obvious that in order to get out, the criminal professed their salvation (then a minister from Huckabee's circle would swear to their jailhouse conversion) and they got out.

Huckabee is not the only politician who turned out to be thick and destructive, but he is running because it's God's will. The question is why would we jeopardize our safety by entertaining such delusional buffoons?

In 2004, Democrat Barack Obama's Republican opponent for the U.S. Senate from Illinois was Alan Keyes. Obama for sure won the race against Keyes, and Obama is leading the Democratic nomination for president. Keyes is a Christian Right recurrent candidate for state and national office; and was a diplomat in the Reagan administration. Keyes (also black) was considering running for president as the candidate of the theocratic (the name is a joke) "Constitution Party." If he runs, he will almost certainly get the nomination. When Keyes addressed the Constitution Party national committee meeting in December. Keyes declared that, among other things, the Republican Party is falling apart; that the United States is starting to "collapse" -- and oh yeah, one of the main reasons is the 'Separation of Church and State.' I'd hate to guess what's coming next? (I've got my bags packed). Obama started out criticizing the Religious Right (and I was glad) but the televangelist got on his case and the next week they had to show him in church.

Non-belief is what it is (it can't be broadened.) However, the discussions can be (like this one) that has been much more important than arguing with people who are functioning illiterates who don't believe in evil- ution. If you were talking to me I hope you do pass on the information.

Thanks again Linda, (and Tracie) for all your fascinating, if worrying, news. I'll post extracts on Richard Dawkin's site. Hopefully it will bring the UK/European contributors a little US information from 'the horses mouth' so to speak. We get some news in our newspapers of your political events but perhaps a little 'wishful' with Obama portrayed as an agnostic and Huckabee more or less as you describe without the faith-based clemency details.

I guess from the tone of your post that there is a weary and anxious mood for atheists in the US. You have good reason, by the sounds of it, to be more than anxious about certain possible and likely political futures. I have read/seen enough to understand just how impossible rational or even open discussion must seem with many religious folks. This is worrying because it appears that this election (more than previous ones?) may hinge on differences in faith based positions of the candidates and the separation of church and state. Do you think there are any moral positions on which atheists and the Christian right could agree? Even if there were, I guess it would not be in their interests to find common ground, and very much in their benefit to distance themselves in every way possible. Are there any more liberal churches who may be more amenable to such a search for common ground? It just seems that finding allies, even if we still have fundamental differences of opinion, may be one way of softening the battle lines which otherwise tend to exclude any chance of diplomatic progress. 'Non-belief is what it is (it can't be broadened.)' We are discussing such issues in the atheism part of the RD site right now if that interests you.

Did I say I'd posted it in atheist section? I meant current affairs @

http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=33084

It has long been said that journalism's defining mission is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. They used it in the 1960 movie 'Inherit the Wind,' the newspaper editor "It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." Can you believe how far we have plummeted? Don't tell them anything that might offend a simpering idiots. Gah-lee - They even write incoherently for these twits. However, when the public (student at Kerry speech) tries to get them to answer an awkward question they get tasered and thrown out.

Meanwhile, the atheists are the ugly old maid aunts that the journalists are hiding in the closet (we are invisible.) That's the real problem (we don't have a voice) and the religious right owns the media. I have been to "watered-down" versions of groups - they suck.

Being an Atheist is (like being black) you really don't know what if feels like if your not one. Atheists are the last minority group that is still subject to open and acceptable derision and discrimination in America.

People who are not atheist can detest a system that allows this kind of discrimination, especially when that country still has states constitutions that requires belief in God as a prerequisite to holding public office. And many people want them restricted from holding public office because of their lack of 'spirituality.'

The atheist is the most maligned group in America and a polls show that they are the most hated group. We have a lot in common with groups that have been disenfranchised by the religious right because they have lumped us all into the same category in order to attack organizations that they don't like. They insinuate that a liberal is a Godless person (which may are may not be true) If an atheist writes about anything the fanatics go nuts accusing them of spreading atheist ideas. Like they have done over 'The Golden Compass' Based on the first book of a fantasy trilogy, "His Dark Materials," by Philip Pullman, an avowed atheist.

In my opinion the atheist need to become much more visible and let the intellectuals inform the public. There is a very unfair situation in this country that has been manipulated by controlling the press.

If you are invisible you can't get anywhere, like John Edwards who came in second, but they are still only covering Hillary, and Obama. John Edwards: $4.2 million from liberal fundraising group Act Blue, more than any other Democrat. Clinton - donations from Medical/Drug Industry. On Tuesday (when they finally) showed Edwards speaking, as soon as he mentioned health care they cut it off. Both Edwards and Obama have refused to accept money from federally House and Senate fundraising arms to reject lobbyists donations going forward.

Obama is a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, which adopted the "Black Value System" written by the Manford Byrd in 1981. Barack Obama has emphasized ending the Iraq War, increasing energy independence, and providing universal health care as major priorities. An October 2005 article in the British journal New Statesman listed Obama as one of 10 people who could change the world.

Addressing over 8000 United Church of Christ members in June 2007, Obama challenged "so-called leaders of the Christian Right" "Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together ... partly because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right."

Sorry for the few typo errors above (I hope you know what I meant.) I should have looked for typo error, but I didn't have time.

Thanks again Linda for your thoughts and news. I'll look in for any new posts now and again but unfortunately I go back to school tommorrow and I know how it will be....nose to the grindstone till half term...in mid February. You'll hear more from me then! It's been good communicating.

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