The ‘ism’ Chasm – Exclusion of Deities Won’t Prevent ‘Religious’ or Devout Behaviors

Jul 21, 2013


Discussion by: SilverWun

How important do you think it is for groups to avoid the 'ism' mentality that so infects Theological Fundamentalism.  

Fanaticism is alive and well in many 'Religions' because of doctrinal solidarity and destructiveness manifesting in behaviors motivated by accepted doctrines.  Functionally, many other isms free of deities differ only in degrees of destructive practices. 

Idealistic movements, especially in the form of political parties and national dictatorships have wrought atrocities in the advancement of idealistic causes comparable to the worst of the Inquisitions.  

I've seen the blending of state sponsored/supported religious practices here in the US as a child.  At about the same time school prayer was abolished, 'under God' appeared in the Pledge of Allegiance.  The pledge exercise differs little from a prayer in that it is an act of worship and it alleges endorsement of a deity.  Prayer was simply consolidated in an exercise of faith and loyalty to the state.  The secular state stole organized religion's 'air time' and they've been sore about it ever since.

I think, for example, shoving chopsticks into the ears of children so they won't hear Imperialist Propaganda rivals the vile practices the Papacy and Caliphate.  Conditioning school children to 'worship' political leaders by teaching them songs of praise for a Lenin, a Mao or an Obama is functionally as religious and dangerous as the Jesus loves me crap dished out in Sunday schools.  

How can Atheism immunize itself from 'religious' coopting by politically motivated devotee's who wish to use it as a means of spreading idealisms that function like religions in almost every way; save absence of a deity or substitution of it by a 'man or woman of destiny'?

 

22 comments on “The ‘ism’ Chasm – Exclusion of Deities Won’t Prevent ‘Religious’ or Devout Behaviors

  • 1
    The Jersey Devil says:

    As far as individuals, the best immunization is a scientific education. The more folks that can think scientifically the better.

    I’m not sure how ‘atheism’ does much of anything as I don’t view it as an entity. On the other hand, governments can have constitutional laws that safe guard against tyrants. There are real world examples which can be studied and discussed. In turn, humanist institutions can and likely do have by-laws which can be similarly designed. RDFRS has a mission statement and a ‘terms and conditions’ page that work nicely.

    But I don’t think that is what you were gunning for in this discussion.



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  • 2
    Fouad Boussetta says:

    It’s important to understand that no person or system is perfect. Healthy doubt is essential.
    As for Obama, I wouldn’t compare him to Mao. Actually, while many people idealize him, as many demonize him: he’s Satan himsellf and can’t be credited with anything good at all. That’s very religious behavior indeed.



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  • 3
    SelfAwarePatterns says:

    Avoiding group think is tough since we, as social animals, have evolved programming for it to some extent. I think as individuals, we have to insist on understanding the reasons for important beliefs or practices. We also have to be careful about our own biases. Often, the most dangerous things to believe are things we desire to be true, since those are the ones we won’t be inclined to scrutinize. In other words, be a skeptic and question everything, including your own assumptions.

    For atheism more broadly, I think the only thing we can do is call out group thinking when we become aware of it. That said, it’s always best to start with questions, assuming you may be missing something at first. It’s also good to choose your battles, since calling out everybody on every perceived flaw is just a quick way to get labeled a jerk. Finally, I think it’s also important to understand that sometimes smart people look at the same agreed facts and draw different meanings.



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  • 4
    downshifter says:

    I don’t understand what ‘ism’ mentality you are talking about in theological fundamentalism. Are you talking about “Us” vs. “Them”? If so, then that is a mentality that exists independent of religion. If anything, I would suspect that group mentality co-opted religious identity rather than the other way around. Other types of “isms” under that understanding would be national, sexual, and ethnic/racial.

    “Isms” can be useful when viewed strictly from a definitional point of view. The problem is that humans are capable of very fine distinctions to the point that it becomes confusing trying to sort them all out. (Witness the multiplicity of defined varieties of atheism, the bewildering array of sexual/gender identities, and the even more bewildering array of ethnic/racial combinations, as examples.) And, having made these fine distinctions, group identity kicks in, and the “outgroups” tend to be demonized to at least a small degree.

    I’m a little disturbed that you would include Obama with Lenin and Mao. First, I’m not aware of any songs in praise of Obama. And I’m pretty certain there aren’t any such state sanctioned songs. Second, the fact that you associate him with historical Communist villainous leaders seems to strongly echo the belief that “Obama is a Socialist danger to the very fabric of American society”, which is definitely a “ingroup” requirement for groups like the tea party phenomenon. In other words, it at least sounds like an “ism” on your part.

    I also think your use of the word “religious” in your last paragraph is definitionally wrong. A belief system isn’t religious, or even pseudo-religious, just because it’s a belief system. Again, I suggest that puts the cart before the horse. Religious belief systems are a subset of belief systems in general. And you don’t give any examples of what you mean.

    Whether or not atheism can immunize itself from co-opting depends upon your definition of atheism. Today, I think most atheists would find it easy to prevent such co-opting. Today the definition of atheism is usually given as simply the absence of a belief, not a coherent belief system. There is a strong tendency to reject the notion that all atheists think alike.



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  • 5
    Alan4discussion says:

    How important do you think it is for groups to avoid the ‘ism’ mentality that so infects Theological Fundamentalism.

    The “ism” mentality is a false equivalence strawman, often used by theists and religious fundamentalists, to try to equate political “isms” – (Capitalism, communism, socialism, free-marketism, Conservativism etc) with their faith based fundamentalism. There are certainly confirmation biases in some of these areas, with dogmatism in more extreme forms, but usually not the 100% faith-thinking.

    The give – away is when they come up with their asserted fantasy claim that : “atheism, ‘evolutionism’, and ‘scientism’, are just faith alternatives”, to their theological literalism!!!!!!



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  • 6
    SilverWun says:

    ‘Gunning for’ is a bit of a reversal. What I’m attempting to do is caution those who wish to identify themselves in group terms against both the tendency to set criteria for others and the danger of falling into the trap of for example: He/she isn’t a real Atheist because they just said ‘God forbid!’ or He/she isn’t an Atheist because they don’t commit to Science as their only source of dependable information.
    Every group is subject to these kinds of decay from within. The intolerance of subtle differences and the penchant for elitists to set themselves up as determiners of the quality of others’ membership. The ‘gunning’ is more often done by those who wish to compromise a good idea to serve personal ambitions.In reply to #1 by The Jersey Devil:

    As far as individuals, the best immunization is a scientific education. The more folks that can think scientifically the better.

    I’m not sure how ‘atheism’ does much of anything as I don’t view it as an entity. On the other hand, governments can have constitutional laws that safe guard against ty…



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  • 7
    SilverWun says:

    In reply to #2 by Fouad Boussetta:

    It’s important to understand that no person or system is perfect. Healthy doubt is essential.
    As for Obama, I wouldn’t compare him to Mao. Actually, while many people idealize him, as many demonize him: he’s Satan himsellf and can’t be credited with anything good at all. That’s very religious behavi…
    Dehumanizing a flawed or damaged member of our kind who happens to present a danger only serves to make us less so ourselves. Any of us might be a Barack Obama in appropriate sets of conditions. Good can be and is very subjective. Religious behavior doesn’t require a deity. An ‘ism’ will suffice for most bold actions. Mr. Obama (his title is fraudulently gained and I’ll not accord it) is doing a great deal of good for a cause that is close to his and his associates’ hearts. It is a march backwards for all it touches and is very dangerous. He is still a great guy if you are on his side; very loving and human, like the rest of us. There were great guys in the trenches of both sides in WWI. Evolution seems to ultimately prevail. We’ll see.



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  • 8
    SilverWun says:

    In reply to #3 by SelfAwarePatterns:

    Avoiding group think is tough since we, as social animals, have evolved programming for it to some extent. I think as individuals, we have to insist on understanding the reasons for important beliefs or practices. We also have to be careful about our own biases. Often, the most dangerous things t… Firm agreement.



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  • 9
    SilverWun says:

    In reply to #4 by downshifter:

    I don’t understand what ‘ism’ mentality you are talking about in theological fundamentalism. Are you talking about “Us” vs. “Them”? If so, then that is a mentality that exists independent of religion. If anything, I would suspect that group mentality co-opted religious identity rather than the ot…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJFC1qFCgyA, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gtfizIbBDI This is only a forum. My two examples are of many others if you or anyone wants to look; to see what your obvious party doctrinal conditioning retards.

    I’m not a teabagger. I do, however, agree with their positions on a number of important challenges to our way of life; as I agree with the left on some of those same kinds of things. This is because when my feet are inserted into shoes the toes go first, not the hooves.

    Polarization is a very magnetic force. One must overcome the gravity of ‘group think’ just to begin thinking independently. Inform yourself is the best suggestion I have for you. The second best is to resist the temptation to pigeon hole those who don’t share your views; especially when they don’t lead with talking points.



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  • 10
    SilverWun says:

    In reply to #5 by Alan4discussion:

    How important do you think it is for groups to avoid the ‘ism’ mentality that so infects Theological Fundamentalism.

    The “ism” mentality is a false equivalence strawman, often used by theists and religious fundamentalists, to try to equate political “isms” – (Capitalism, communism, socialism, free-…I agree that they are not and begin not as ‘herded’ equivalents to theological doctrines. The warning I offer is to guard against the all too human propensity of some ‘members’ to contain and harness the group for personal control and benefit via proffering of ‘authoritarian’ doctrines. This is the first touch of decay for any group whether religious, political or something as simple as a home owners’ association. History clearly shows this and the founders of the American secular republic knew their history.



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  • 11
    Fouad Boussetta says:

    In reply to #7 by SilverWun:

    Mr. Obama (his title is fraudulently gained and I’ll not accord it)

    Any proof of what you’re advancing?
    I now clearly understand that I am much closer to a progressive Christian than to your type of atheist.
    I also totally concur with comment #4 by downshifter.



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  • 12
    downshifter says:

    Interesting YouTube videos you linked to in your reply. I have never seen that before. Having now seen it I acknowledge that they exist. Although I find the first more disturbing than the second – the first appears to be done in an actual school, whereas the second appears to be privately part of the Obama campaign effort. In either event, I personally never like seeing children used as mouth pieces for their parents’ beliefs.

    I can’t claim to fully understand the rest of your response, but it was a bit too vitriolic for my tastes.

    In reply to #9 by SilverWun:

    In reply to #4 by downshifter:

    I don’t understand what ‘ism’ mentality you are talking about in theological fundamentalism. Are you talking about “Us” vs. “Them”? If so, then that is a mentality that exists independent of religion. If anything, I would suspect that group mentality co-opted relig…



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  • 13
    Red Dog says:

    How can Atheism immunize itself from ‘religious’ coopting by politically motivated devotee’s who wish to use it as a means of spreading idealisms that function like religions in almost every way; save absence of a deity or substitution of it by a ‘man or woman of destiny’?

    You seem to equate religious with bad. I don’t see it that way. I think religion is wrong and I think there is a lot of terrible stuff done in its name but I don’t think anything associated with a religious movement is automatically evil. The US civil rights movement was driven primarily by religious people both from the black and white communities and I think that was one of the coolest things in recent history.

    And I feel the same about idealism. Yes, it can easily be abused and used to justify all sorts of terrible things but it can also be an important part of movements that work for more just social orders. There was a lot of idealism in the civil rights movement and in the abolitionist movement before that.



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  • 14
    SilverWun says:

    (This site is difficult for me in terms of ‘navigation’ because some replies to these comments seem to not appear. Some disappear amid construction. Here’s a second try at a reply.)

    Idealism has brought about improvements in the human condition in all endeavors; science being one of the most beneficial. Political, ‘religious’, social and non-categorical improvements for humankind are owed to various forms of idealism. My cautions are about the very influences that inevitably occur within idealistic movements that interfere with ‘good’, even altruistic improvements by short circuiting and re-defining base purposes. The two idealistic movements you mentioned were strong influences for change in a positive direction but they also serve as examples of precisely the kind of thing about which I’m warning.

    Abolitionists accomplished provided vital support for an end to slavery in 19th. Century America but they also had their murderous John Browns. The Civil Rights movement I witnessed in my youth made great strides in protecting people with African ancestry from Jim Crow rooted laws and customs only to be replaced by a leadership consisting of ‘neo-plantation owners of color’ posing as leadership and punishing any who would escape or advocate escape from the plantation of lowered expectations. Judas goats have dominated leadership roles in what is erroneously labeled the ‘Black Community’ for their own self aggrandizing and enrichment ever since the loss of Dr. King.

    The very same kinds of derailing usually happen in any group of people when they grow and prove successful at inspiring others. Ever vigilant internal parasites exploit any opportunity to ‘steal the thunder’ and vitality from new movements to employ it for what I’d describe as LESS than idealistic purposes.

    This is what I’m sensing could jeopardize the progress of what we are calling Atheism. It is better to have broad unity, sympathetic to basic purposes. With elitist insiders who begin setting criteria and judging qualities of other members comes division and diversion. They are a slow acting poison.

    MoIn reply to #14 by Red Dog:

    How can Atheism immunize itself from ‘religious’ coopting by politically motivated devotee’s who wish to use it as a means of spreading idealisms that function like religions in almost every way; save absence of a deity or substitution of it by a ‘man or woman of destiny’?

    You seem to equate religi…



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  • The problem is belief without evidence. The other problem is lying. I heard Doug Batchelor’s creationism lecture that could have been persuasive to the uneducated. The catch was not a word of it was true. Everything he said was a bald lie. A naive person watching that lecture would imagine their creationist beliefs were based on evidence. It is not that Batchelor is mistaken, he knows even better than you why evolution is true. He has made a dishonest living, as a sort of magician, pretending to debunk evolution for money.

    The notion that every nation on earth is the best, as expressed by patriotic fervour, is an extreme example of Garrison Keillor and Lake Woebegone where all children are better than average.

    What should you tackle first? The isms based on the craziest, most obviously false premises, you would think would be the low hanging fruit.

    Some of the people I most want to stop:

    1. destroyers of the planet and its ability to sustain us.
    2. female circumcision
    3. people to try to block female children from getting an education and being treated equally.
    4. people who advocate killing gays
    5. people who recruit child soldiers and child sex slaves.
    6. people who force children into sex with beatings or threats.
    7. people who interfere in the end of life decisions of others.
    8. people who interfere with others using birth control or first trimester abortion.
    9. people who make their living encouraging war and war spending.

    There church is right up there as a source of evil. I don’t know what motivates the rest of them.



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  • 16
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #15 by SilverWun:

    (This site is difficult for me in terms of ‘navigation’ because some replies to these comments seem to not appear. Some disappear amid construction. Here’s a second try at a reply.)

    There have been problems where sometimes people would accidentally edit someone else’s comment (something of course that should never happen) when they meant to reply to that comment. I think it was a bug in the software that allows each user to edit their own comment. Somehow the permissions were broken so that in some circumstances on some browsers you would click on a comment meaning to reply and inadvertently edit that comment. That’s what happened to me though I thought the problem was supposed to be fixed though.

    Idealism has brought about improvements in the human condition in all endeavors; science being one of the most bene…

    Getting to the substance of your comment, first I don’t agree that the black movement has been completely corrupted by self agrandizers. IMO that comment indicates you spend too much time watching main stream news like CNN and ABC. If you get most of your information from those sources I can see how you would say that because those are pretty much the only people they bring on, people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson who I agree are more about their own self promotion and just generating rage without thought. But there are still a lot of great leaders in the black community. As with the peace and justice community they seldom get a voice on the main stream news.

    As an example from the peace movement, if pundits were invited based on their track record Noam Chomsky would be the number one invited guest and Thom Friedman would be exiled to working in a Taco Bell in Muncie. Friedman has pretty much been wrong on everything and Chomsky has been right but when you look at who gets invited its the guy who is always wrong. I think the same thing has gone on with the black movement.

    Although I don’t think we disagree much. I’l paraphrase what I think you are saying to see if I’m right. You are saying its a danger for any movement that it can be diverted from rational goals and true idealism to become a platform for people interested in their own self promotion. I agree. In fact IMO Sam Harris is already pretty far down that road and I predict that within five years Harris will have a full or part time gig on CNN or elsewhere as their “house atheist”. What Sanjay Gupta is to health Harris will be for the atheist, rational point of view. I could be all wrong of course but that’s what it feels like to me he is aiming his career towards.

    So my answer to your question is “yes”. I.e. yes its a danger, its a danger in any movement and its soemthing people need to be aware of but there is no magic bullet to stop it from happening.



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  • 17
    SilverWun says:

    That is all my piece was about. The jeopardy any movement faces by self-interested parties masquerading as leaders who are genuine in their dedication continued advancement. As for my take on the state of our people who have African ancestry, it wasn’t a perspective spoon-fed by Conservative propaganda. As a matter of fact, I supported Jackson back in (I think it was) ’84 when he had his ‘Rainbow Coalition. In those days I was also a member of NOW until it was also taken over by people less interested in equality for women and more interested in privilege to go along with that equality and advancement of Socialist revolutionary goals; as happened later to the Democrat Party. (hope this reply appeas right. this is a very frustrating site to figure out the prmat)

    In reply to #17 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #15 by SilverWun:

    (This site is difficult for me in terms of ‘navigation’ because some replies to these comments seem to not appear. Some disappear amid construction. Here’s a second try at a reply.)

    There have been problems where sometimes people would accidentally edit someone else…



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  • 18
    Fouad Boussetta says:

    In reply to #18 by SilverWun:

    advancement of Socialist revolutionary goals

    Are you sure about that? It’s important not to make a religion out the free market forces. Like a cult of the Holy Invisible Hand that never does wrong.



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  • 19
    SaganTheCat says:

    as a guitarist i often get accused of fundamental guitarism.

    How can Atheism immunize itself from ‘religious’ coopting by politically motivated devotee’s

    shouldn’t be hard. the thing about most atheists is the position is reached through critical thought so has some built in immunity. plus most atheist groups promote human rights, a wonder for science and care about nature. i think if such a movement came out to subvert atheism into anything idealistic would soon be called out on its reasoning. most likely case i think is such a movement would be a front for something cultish



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  • How can Atheism immunize itself from ‘religious’ coopting” …?

    If ones atheism is simply the result of a vague feeling that religious people are wrong, then their atheism will be susceptible to co-opting. If ones atheism is one of the many conclusions arrived at because of a sound underlying epistemology (methodological naturalism), then it is very difficult to co-opt atheism.

    My personal opinion is that we need to keep hammering religion, but that soon we will need to start having public discussions of the big ideas in Philosophy. Studies have shown that mere education in the sciences is not enough. I know that theologians have silenced that philosophers, and that modern philosophy is 50% crap and 45% esoteric/useless, but we will need to fill the intellectual void with something positive. We need emphasize that ethics, aesthetics, epistemology, etc. thrive completely outside of theology.

    But humans will never be immune from the SSUV (silly savior/utopia virus). They trigger too many of our pleasure responses and make us far too susceptible. However, if we can get to the point where the population is broadly educated (for example a high school class) in comparative religions and philosophy/critical thinking, then we could limit the spread and mortality rates of the SSUV in all of its forms.

    We are making progress but have a long way to go.



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  • 21
    Peter Grant says:

    How can Atheism immunize itself from ‘religious’ coopting by politically motivated devotee’s who wish to use it as a means of spreading idealisms that function like religions in almost every way; save absence of a deity or substitution of it by a ‘man or woman of destiny’?

    Atheism, as simply the absence of just one type of ideology, cannot. Atheists, however, can learn from the experience of thoughtfully rejecting one ideology to be more suspicious of idealism generally.



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  • 22
    SilverWun says:

    Please forgive my perhaps troubling or confusing use of the word religion in describing something that could be better put as religious-like. My use of the word religion applied to coopting is descriptive; meant in a comparative sense to what happens in theological organizations, in that self-appointed vanguards seem to crop up to set doctrines and other criteria for qualifying as a ‘true’ member of the fold. Who controls doctrine and judges membership ultimately controls the group. This is at the root of break-away sects and parties (in the so-called secular world).

    Atheism has demonstrated it in subtle ways in which I’ve even participated. I prefer a self-identity closer to anti-theist than Atheist. My problem isn’t with religion in terms of beliefs about our reality and living by those beliefs. It is about religion psychologically captivating and exploiting ignorance to gain personal or ‘leadership’ power and wealth.

    Political ideologies, political parties and nationalism itself are no less religions for their absence of deities. Such phenomena and ‘religions’ differ only on the bases of style and degrees of ruthlessness. In reply to #21 by eebee:

    How can Atheism immunize itself from ‘religious’ coopting” …?

    If ones atheism is simply the result of a vague feeling that religious people are wrong, then their atheism will be susceptible to co-opting. If ones atheism is one of the many conclusions arrived at because of a sound underlying episte…



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