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Author Topic: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement  (Read 7591 times)

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Offline Kythia

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #200 on: April 21, 2017, 08:51:52 PM »
I imagine so, yes.  But in answer to my question?

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #201 on: April 21, 2017, 09:07:10 PM »
I can't speak for Mathim, but I can understand the reason for anger.  Much like any minority that is maltreated by a dominant majority, resentment is going to be generated among some members of the minority.  I've been fortunate enough to experience being in a majority as well as a minority in my life.  This has developed my sense of empathy--emotional intelligence, really--and that, I feel, is an often overlooked segment of human intellect.

Really, being smarter would improve the human condition worldwide.  Specifically, though, emotional intelligence and empathy would probably go further to making the world a more understanding and peaceful place.

Seeing injustice and maltreatment as an individual towards yourself or those you care for is going to breed anger and resentment in many, if not most, people.  I can handle a lot of it towards myself, for example, and not feel angry...but when I see my trans son treated like crap, that sets off an almost impossible-to-control hostility.  I've known a lot of people who are atheists who have similar hostility towards religion.  Not so much towards religious people in general...but individual religious people who are bigots can easily set off the anger.  Personally, I dislike most religions that I've studied for their propensity towards compartmentalizing and minimizing people who don't belong to their own group--but that same dislike can be said of most political organizations, or nationalistic groups, etc.  Really, I have a dislike of othering people.  Especially othering people based on a gut feeling or conditioning done before the age of reason, rather than an evidence-based reasons.

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #202 on: April 21, 2017, 09:16:30 PM »
Yeah, there's certainly plenty of reasons to feel angry - that dislike for Othering is an excellent way to describe my own antipathy towards organized churches. But like Kythia, I had noticed the rather stark contrast between the general tone-of-posts of different people. It seems to be extremely, hyper-passionately personal for Mathim in a way it doesn't seem to be for, say, you or Virgil, and have also been curious why, if not enough to specifically ask.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #203 on: April 21, 2017, 09:24:45 PM »
Yeah, there's certainly plenty of reasons to feel angry - that dislike for Othering is an excellent way to describe my own antipathy towards organized churches. But like Kythia, I had noticed the rather stark contrast between the general tone-of-posts of different people. It seems to be extremely, hyper-passionately personal for Mathim in a way it doesn't seem to be for, say, you or Virgil, and have also been curious why, if not enough to specifically ask.

Yes, this is it precisely.  Obviously though, Mathim, no one is asing you to spill your guts in an open thread to people you don't know.  If it is super personal then I don't want you to feel hounded or anything - it really never occurred to me to give that caveat when i asked originally, sorry about that.

However, this:

I can't speak for Mathim, but I can understand the reason for anger.  Much like any minority that is maltreated by a dominant majority, resentment is going to be generated among some members of the minority.  I've been fortunate enough to experience being in a majority as well as a minority in my life.  This has developed my sense of empathy--emotional intelligence, really--and that, I feel, is an often overlooked segment of human intellect.

Really, being smarter would improve the human condition worldwide.  Specifically, though, emotional intelligence and empathy would probably go further to making the world a more understanding and peaceful place.

Seeing injustice and maltreatment as an individual towards yourself or those you care for is going to breed anger and resentment in many, if not most, people.  I can handle a lot of it towards myself, for example, and not feel angry...but when I see my trans son treated like crap, that sets off an almost impossible-to-control hostility.  I've known a lot of people who are atheists who have similar hostility towards religion.  Not so much towards religious people in general...but individual religious people who are bigots can easily set off the anger.  Personally, I dislike most religions that I've studied for their propensity towards compartmentalizing and minimizing people who don't belong to their own group--but that same dislike can be said of most political organizations, or nationalistic groups, etc.  Really, I have a dislike of othering people.  Especially othering people based on a gut feeling or conditioning done before the age of reason, rather than an evidence-based reasons.

is interesting (and thanks for answering).

It seems one could split your atheism from your anti-theism (and rename "anti-theism" to something more appropriate) then?  Let's say, to pick one at random, the Catholic God exists.  In precisely the way the Pope says He does.  Clearly it would be possible for that to be the case and the Catholic Church not to exist (for example, in Oniya's hypothetical the disappearance of every religious institution wouldn't affect the existence or otherwise of the God any more than the disappearance of every person who knew where my house was would affect the existence of my house).   Am I right in thinking that the "anti" part of your label is actually about the social impact of religion, then, rather than being hostile to the idea of gods per se?

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #204 on: April 21, 2017, 09:32:01 PM »
Quote
Am I right in thinking that the "anti" part of your label is actually about the social impact of religion, then, rather than being hostile to the idea of gods per se?

That would be it exactly.  I'm not anti-theist about all religions--the harmless ones, like Jainism or Paganism that don't suppress women's rights or deny the poor the right to seek an improvement in this life.  Perhaps anti-theism suffers from its own name, much how feminism does--'Feminism?  That sounds like you only agree with females, and are against males!'

If people practiced their religion to an extent that laws were never enacted to prefer one group of people over another, or prevented certain minority populations from being stigmatized because their religious texts told them to...well, I'd have no problem with most religions, then.  For most of the world's large religions, though, I see the same structure as any new cult, just writ over the centuries--'we have the only cure for a disease we're telling you that you have...and if you don't accept it, our deity will punish you.'

I'm not a strong atheist.  I could be wrong.  A deity could exist. However, from my perspective, it seems folly to choose to worship or believe in any particular deity, especially one you were raised to believe, simply because of the vast numbers of possible deities there are out there, many of which are diametrically opposed or contradictory.  I feel it is better to withhold judgement on the existence of any of them until acceptable evidence is presented that would verify one or another.  Now, realistically, I don't think any of that evidence is forthcoming or likely to ever occur, but it would be foolish to me--as a rational person--to deny the possibility of something without any likewise convincing evidence that it does not exist.  It just seems ridiculous to me to look at the multitudes of faithful followers of the myriad of gods over the millennia, and say one group of worshipers was more right than another, simply on the strength of their faith.  There is no way to measure faith, as it seems to me to mostly be based on personal emotional responses we all have in our own ways.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 09:40:12 PM by HannibalBarca »

Offline Blythe

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #205 on: April 21, 2017, 09:35:58 PM »
Probably about to ramble. <_<

I know for me, I'm agnostic atheist, but I'm not an anti-theist. I generally find that mindset would leave me too closed to the possibility of a deity existing and being presented of proof a deity (or deities) could exist. That's just for me, though--I'm sure others more easily can balance those two particular stances. I've just found I can't.

I do tend to have deep skepticism of religious institutional structures, but this isn't related to how I feel about an actual deity (or deities) existing. It's related to my generally skeptical nature about people who co-opt such institutions as a form of harmful social control. Which at its core has to do with a willingness of worshipers to accept harmful irrational beliefs.

I'm probably unusual in that I've had bad experiences with religious individuals & institutions...but also really good ones. A local Presbyterian church my father attends had an interesting sermon about doubt--they are aware I'm an atheist and actually encouraged me to doubt them and question them--I've been known to attend with my father simply as a courtesy since he doesn't like going alone, though he knows I don't believe in any of it. I'm not out as trans to most of them, but they also gave out some interesting pamphlets about accepting trans individuals without any caveats trying to other or shame trans individuals.

It was certainly a strange but interesting experience well outside my experiences with other churches that was well outside the norms familiar to me. Many of my experiences with religion before that point were ones that were hostile, with individuals treating me poorly. I still wonder how much of that Presbyterian encounter was because of the institutionalized structure of that church vs. how much of it was just the individuals that made up that particular local church, if that makes sense. The pamphlet they distributed was one that had some funding from elsewhere, not the local place I visited.

I think it's probably experiences like the Presbyterian one that have generally kept me from saying all religions are harmful or any other such blanket statement. I've seen some good from them. Sure, I think that good could likely be accomplished by other means, but I don't necessarily feel that 100% detracts from the actual good some of them do.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 09:43:04 PM by Blythe »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #206 on: April 21, 2017, 09:42:39 PM »
Sure, I think that good could likely be accomplished by other means, but I don't necessarily feel that 100% detracts from the actual good some of them do.

Yeah, this argument comes up a fair amount and it's always seemed relatively weak to me.  You can learn everything you learn at school from textbooks, so we should abolish schools and let textbooks take their place!  Well, no.  Obviously not.  People are different and just because one route can give all the same benefits as another route doesn't, in itself, mean we should narrow our options down to just the one because that fails to take in to account that different routes suit different people/personalities better. Obviously that's a bit off topic for "atheism" per se - as I say, religions can cease to exist and that has no bearing on the existence of gods, but you started the rambling and you have a purple badge so I figure I'm not gonna get banned fro continuing the diversion. ;D

Offline Mathim

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #207 on: April 21, 2017, 09:47:15 PM »
I'm not sure who brought it up, but what sense is there in hating the actual gods of a religion? That's like hating Voldemort. The underlying mindset of religion (dogma, faith) is an unhealthy, unsound position in the first place whether or not it holds any truth. Yet I hear debate after debate about whether or not it's reasonable-that's not even a question. Or that it does people good even if it's laughably preposterous. The lengths to which its parasitic tendrils have dug into people's minds is way, way past alarming.

Also I wouldn't call Jainism 'harmless', if it means you watch your family murdered in front of you because you believe you should never bring harm to another for any reason, even in defense or your own life or the lives of others.

Yeah, this argument comes up a fair amount and it's always seemed relatively weak to me.  You can learn everything you learn at school from textbooks, so we should abolish schools and let textbooks take their place!  Well, no.  Obviously not.  People are different and just because one route can give all the same benefits as another route doesn't, in itself, mean we should narrow our options down to just the one because that fails to take in to account that different routes suit different people/personalities better. Obviously that's a bit off topic for "atheism" per se - as I say, religions can cease to exist and that has no bearing on the existence of gods, but you started the rambling and you have a purple badge so I figure I'm not gonna get banned fro continuing the diversion. ;D

First, thanks for reconsidering how your previous question might have sounded without the caveat (though I felt it was implied anyway).

The issue you outlined above, however, neglects in full the harmful effect of religion. Educational methods do vary in success for different people but you can't say any of them are BAD or even have the potential to be. Religion doesn't have that luxury nor a clean slate to just squeak by as a means of doing good on par with any other. That's the problem, this is overlooked every time because of how people are conditioned. Frustrates the fuck out of me. Does that kind of help with getting at why this is such a toxic subject? Hitchens didn't even need to say that he wasn't exaggerating when he titled his book Religion Poisons Everything.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 09:51:35 PM by Mathim »

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #208 on: April 21, 2017, 09:51:29 PM »
I've had many good experiences with religious individuals and groups.  I'm glad you've had positive ones too, Blythe.  I think most human beings are, at their core, good people.  I also believe human beings, in general, tend to go with the flow, and if that flow is comforting, even if it has some negative connotations for certain other individuals, they will overlook the bad to go along with the predominant good they receive from it.

In my own personal experience, my parents went from fairly moderate-to-liberal minded Catholics, who didn't accept the infallibility of the Pope, used birth control, and even thought priests should be able to be married and accept women in their ranks...to very serious evangelicals who believe homosexuality is evil and atheism is the worst of all sins--'blasphemy of the Holy Spirit'.  Having two grandchildren who are trans has softened them the smallest amount, but that slight softening is, in many ways, even worse, because it feels like only an accommodation, rather than an acceptance of two people they had always loved since birth.  It is true that not all religions are of a like mind.  The last religion I belonged to was the United Church of Christ, and our pastor, aside from being incredibly Liberal, also trained a new pastor who happened to be trans.  I had no fault with them as far as their acceptance and openness...I just didn't accept the divinity of Christ, or any person, or a deity, at all.

Quote
Also I wouldn't call Jainism 'harmless', if it means you watch your family murdered in front of you because you believe you should never bring harm to another for any reason, even in defense or your own life or the lives of others.

No, in that case I wouldn't call it harmless, either, whether it causes harm directly or indirectly, much like denying a child a blood transfusion based on religious beliefs.  However, as often as Sam Harris brings up Jainism as an example of a religion that does not get worse as it becomes more extremist, it is one of the mildest of religions, and I think in most ways its benefits outweigh its costs.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #209 on: April 21, 2017, 09:54:07 PM »
Also I wouldn't call Jainism 'harmless', if it means you watch your family murdered in front of you because you believe you should never bring harm to another for any reason, even in defense or your own life or the lives of others.

You wouldn't call a religion harmless that forbids harm? Sorry, I get what you mean (though I disagree), the wording just made me chuckle. 

Anyhoo, Blythe - meant to mention in my response but forgot and now don't want to go back and edit - that's doctrine in the US Presbyterian church (which is what I assume you were in, the actual Presbyterian church believes transgender..ism(?) is a sexual sin)

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #210 on: April 21, 2017, 09:55:04 PM »
Quote
Yeah, this argument comes up a fair amount and it's always seemed relatively weak to me.  You can learn everything you learn at school from textbooks, so we should abolish schools and let textbooks take their place!  Well, no.  Obviously not.  People are different and just because one route can give all the same benefits as another route doesn't, in itself, mean we should narrow our options down to just the one because that fails to take in to account that different routes suit different people/personalities better. Obviously that's a bit off topic for "atheism" per se - as I say, religions can cease to exist and that has no bearing on the existence of gods, but you started the rambling and you have a purple badge so I figure I'm not gonna get banned fro continuing the diversion. ;D

The subject I worry about--particularly in the United States--is that there is, to an extent, a vacuum that would be created without religion.  To many Americans, religion is not just about deity, it is also social and cultural.  A society needs a vehicle to pass on moral values and religion serves as the primary one in the U.S.  While a secular and humanist upbringing can instill moral values--my son is an example of this--I see children in my own classes who have neither sort of upbringing, and lack sound ethical judgement on many levels.  In this way, I often consider the idea that perhaps some religion is better than no ethical system at all.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 09:56:51 PM by HannibalBarca »

Offline Mathim

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #211 on: April 21, 2017, 09:59:28 PM »
You wouldn't call a religion harmless that forbids harm? Sorry, I get what you mean (though I disagree), the wording just made me chuckle. 

Anyhoo, Blythe - meant to mention in my response but forgot and now don't want to go back and edit - that's doctrine in the US Presbyterian church (which is what I assume you were in, the actual Presbyterian church believes transgender..ism(?) is a sexual sin)

Remember Bishop from Aliens? He could not bring harm, not allow by omission of action to allow to come to harm, any human being. So just by virtue of that second part of his statement, Bishop is (excepting the fact that he's an android and has no free will to disobey his programming) more moral than a Jain. So really, being a Jain means being a hypocrite by deciding that standing idle and watch others be brought to harm is moral to a greater degree than not willfully inflicting harm for even justifiable reasons. This is why moral absolutes or moral objectivity is so aggravating in debates.

The subject I worry about--particularly in the United States--is that there is, to an extent, a vacuum that would be created without religion.  To many Americans, religion is not just about deity, it is also social and cultural.  A society needs a vehicle to pass on moral values and religion serves as the primary one in the U.S.  While a secular and humanist upbringing can instill moral values--my son is an example of this--I see children in my own classes who have neither sort of upbringing, and lack sound ethical judgement on many levels.  In this way, I often consider the idea that perhaps some religion is better than no ethical system at all.

That being said so casually almost made me throw up in my mouth. Morals ONLY come from secular and humanist systems. Because no one is a true fundamentalist, no one is actually really getting their morals from a religious system (or if they do, it ceases to be moral because it's a command rather than a choice decided upon).
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 10:02:18 PM by Mathim »

Offline Blythe

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #212 on: April 21, 2017, 09:59:39 PM »
Anyhoo, Blythe - meant to mention in my response but forgot and now don't want to go back and edit - that's doctrine in the US Presbyterian church (which is what I assume you were in, the actual Presbyterian church believes transgender..ism(?) is a sexual sin)

 I know back in 2014 individual US Presbyterian churches got permission to decide for themselves whether to officiate same-sex weddings. Back in 2010 LGBT people were eligible for ordination in the church.

Still, though, I suppose it does mean my experience was just a localized one after all, which saddens me.  :-(

Edit: I'm getting pretty off-topic, though, so I'll stop now.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 10:01:47 PM by Blythe »

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #213 on: April 21, 2017, 10:02:20 PM »
There is a comforting blanket that moral absolutism brings many people.  To me it feels more like an abrogation of their own will or mind, which should consider every event on a moral stand--situational ethics.  I'm quite comfortable standing in the grey middle, making my own decisions on what is right and wrong, rather than having it dictated to me by another human who claims to have had divine guidance.  For my own peace of mind, I need to be the arbiter of what is right and wrong, not someone else.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #214 on: April 21, 2017, 10:04:11 PM »
Remember Bishop from Aliens? He could not bring harm, not allow by omission of action to allow to come to harm, any human being. So just by virtue of that second part of his statement, Bishop is (excepting the fact that he's an android and has no free will to disobey his programming) more moral than a Jain. So really, being a Jain means being a hypocrite by deciding that standing idle and watch others be brought to harm is moral to a greater degree than not willfully inflicting harm for even justifiable reasons. This is why moral absolutes or moral objectivity is so aggravating in debates.

No, that doesn't follow.  I haven't seen Aliens but I'm assuming you're referencing the Laws of Robotics and they would also forbid harming a human - the first part takes precedence.  Bishop couldn't defend his family in a way that brought harm either (again, going from the Laws of Robotics, not Bishop's specific implementation of them).  Jainists, on the other hand, are allowed to use violence in self-defense, that's a common misconception.  The concept is called Ahimsa


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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #215 on: April 21, 2017, 10:05:35 PM »
Quote
That being said so casually almost made me throw up in my mouth. Morals ONLY come from secular and humanist systems. Because no one is a true fundamentalist, no one is actually really getting their morals from a religious system (or if they do, it ceases to be moral because it's a command rather than a choice decided upon).

I agree.  My point, though was that I see children who have neither a religious foundation that preached to them moral and ethical beliefs, nor the humanist system I espouse myself.  Their parents do not attend churches, but neither do they teach their children anything but the most amoral lessons of life lived for mere existence.

Offline Mathim

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #216 on: April 21, 2017, 10:09:19 PM »
No, that doesn't follow.  I haven't seen Aliens but I'm assuming you're referencing the Laws of Robotics and they would also forbid harming a human - the first part takes precedence.  Bishop couldn't defend his family in a way that brought harm either (again, going from the Laws of Robotics, not Bishop's specific implementation of them).  Jainists, on the other hand, are allowed to use violence in self-defense, that's a common misconception.  The concept is called Ahimsa

But that pertains only to Bishop being an android and not a human. I was simply pointing out that sitting idle rather than preventing harm is not morally superior, and the absolutist ideal of complete nonviolence is flawed. A person can fully ignore the law of robotics and, upon those immediately guilty of harm to others (especially, one would think, against one's own loved ones) bring harm as a preventative measure; now, just how much harm is necessary to accomplish it is subjective and situational but if one wants to be more like Batman and take everyone alive, as long as it doesn't result in the loss of those who were only victims in the situation, would be more praiseworthy than the Punisher who would get the job done without a thought to sparing the lives of the instigators. That's the nice thing about being able to critically examine moral issues, and not adhere to an unshakeable doctrine. Obviously doing harm in general is not a good idea but never doing harm for any reason is naive and harmful in its own way. Almost every issue has its grey areas and that's where religion disagrees on almost every one of them, it's either black or white.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 10:15:18 PM by Mathim »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #217 on: April 21, 2017, 10:20:28 PM »
But that pertains only to Bishop being an android and not a human. I was simply pointing out that sitting idle rather than preventing harm is not morally superior, and the absolutist ideal of complete nonviolence is flawed. A person can fully ignore the law of robotics and, upon those immediately guilty of harm to others (especially, one would think, against one's own loved ones) bring harm as a preventative measure; now, just how much harm is necessary to accomplish it is subjective and situational but if one wants to be more like Batman and take everyone alive, as long as it doesn't result in the loss of those who were only victims in the situation, would be more praiseworthy than the Punisher who would get the job done without a thought to sparing the lives of the instigators. That's the nice thing about being able to critically examine moral issues, and not adhere to an unshakeable doctrine. Obviously doing harm in general is not a good idea but never doing harm for any reason is naive and harmful in its own way. Almost every issue has its grey areas and that's where religion disagrees on almost every one of them, it's either black or white.

No, again.  Jainists are forbidden from certain types of violence and from performing violence in certain emotional states but not from violence per se, its not a matter of "never doing harm for any reason".  I see nothing terribly wrong with having a moral code.  I would imagine that not every Jainist follows it all of the time, but having an ideal moral state to aspire to doesn't strike me as particularly problematic.  "I want to be a good person where I define 'good' as living up to the following values: x, y, z"

Regardless.  I'm for the gym.  Bye.

Offline Mathim

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #218 on: April 21, 2017, 10:32:55 PM »
No, again.  Jainists are forbidden from certain types of violence and from performing violence in certain emotional states but not from violence per se, its not a matter of "never doing harm for any reason".  I see nothing terribly wrong with having a moral code.  I would imagine that not every Jainist follows it all of the time, but having an ideal moral state to aspire to doesn't strike me as particularly problematic.  "I want to be a good person where I define 'good' as living up to the following values: x, y, z"

Regardless.  I'm for the gym.  Bye.

Seems unnecessary if they have their exceptions then, that's just logic. The point is, the necessity of being flexible which dogma generally prohibits, and sometimes even prohibits the questioning of it. Sam Harris pointed out that a certain philosophy of committing suicide to send a message to one's aggressors was actually suggested...the thought process behind that is horrifying but not altogether different than simply refusing to commit violence of any kind for any reason (except the only victim of said violence would be one's own self rather than letting someone else do it to them).
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 10:56:49 PM by Mathim »

Offline Noisekick

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #219 on: April 24, 2017, 03:19:49 PM »
Mandaeans are strictly pacifist.

Offline Mathim

Re: Ask an Atheist--An Opportunity for Engagement
« Reply #220 on: April 25, 2017, 12:21:42 PM »
So if they saw some guerillas tackling their daughters and ripping their clothes off, and holding knives up to their necks, what's their reaction? I mean, how fucked up is it that I have to ask that question even when presented with a statement that at first glance seems so innocuous?