All Believers Are Not Created Equal

HBI distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because notice it always coincides with their own desires – Susan B Anthony

It is important to understand that there’s a difference between a person of faith and a religionist. While a person of faith believes in deity, their interpretation of deity will generally hold a certain degree of allegory. The main purpose of their belief surrounds a search for peace of mind and something or someone larger than themselves.

As a general rule, a person of faith does not require a literal interpretation of their holy book and will usually integrate seamlessly in a post-modern world. This is the person who lives their life amongst the rest of the community without attracting undue attention to themselves. On any given day they do what a vast majority of us do. Go to work or school, run errands, pay bills, etc. On a specific day they will usually attend the worship service that is germane to their deity, but if they miss a couple it’s perfectly acceptable. They may or may not partake in ”worldly” activities like smoking or drinking alcohol. Some may be able to justify using recreational drugs and whether we hear them or not, most will use the occasional swear word. In short, everyday people.

Then You Got Your Fundies…

he other type of believer is a whole different animal that I like to call a “fundamental literalist,” or “fundamentalists.” Others may refer to them as “Holy Rollers” or “Fundies.” While these believers also engage in some of the same activities as the person of faith, they usually hold to a literal interpretation of their holy scriptures, a belief that all other religions, belief systems or different sects within their own religion are wrong, and that atheists are particularly reprehensible. They believe that the rest of the planet is doomed to one type of eternal punishment or another and they are largely incapable of not shoving their beliefs down the public throat.

They often interject their opinions, superstitions and dogma squarely in the faces of anyone and everyone they encounter and are prone to supporting the public admonishment of those who disagree with them, sometimes to include the belief that those people should be murdered. Stoning seems to be the preferred method of punishment. Then, when they are called out for their anti-social behavior, they view it as being persecuted. More on persecution later on.

Interacting With Fundies And The Faithful…

Interacting with a person of faith and a fundamentalist can result in quite different effects on your sanity. Dealing with a person of faith can actually end up being a rewarding exchange of ideas. Even though the conversation might end up with neither changing their ideologies or compromising on their principles, both parties will often walk away with a feeling of accomplishment. Engaging a fundamentalist, however, can be very frustrating because when you present something in a clear, concise, factual and complete package, the feedback bears little resemblance to what you have put forth, and in some cases is the opposite of what you have presented. We all know that one of the more frustrating things in life is being misunderstood, and when truth is exchanged for lies, sometimes all you can do is just walk away and let the fundamentalist bask in their own idiocy, which is something many of them excel at.

While a person of faith may be naïve on a given subject or topic, the fundamentalist is often willfully ignorant or in complete denial. The person of faith is often receptive to information and many of them will go to great lengths to assure that the information they receive is thoroughly investigated. Upon conclusion, they will choose to accept or dismiss what they have learned as real, accurate and truthful. The exercise of disseminating information, the absorption of said information and the integration of that new knowledge into the life of another individual can be most satisfying for both parties. It is what draws people into the teaching profession. It is a noble and fulfilling occupation, and one that is undervalued much of the time.

Willful Ignorance…

Willful ignorance is a horse of a different color. Someone who is not suffering from color blindness and looks up at a clear blue sky and insists that it is green, even though there is an abundance of data that explains why the sky appears blue, pretty much deserves whatever responses they get. When dealing with the lunatic fringe of religious extremism, we are often exposed to those individuals who are convinced that their god is telling them to murder, pillage and rape or any of the plethora of other psychotic beliefs.

I have found that when I come across people like this, it is best for me to just walk away and preserve my sanity, because the level of idiocy that is indicative of what comes out of the mouths of the fundamentally religious can be enough to make you want to scream.

Kings and Queens Of Denial…

The fact is that the fundamental religionist is often in denial, which is basically a defense mechanism in the human psyche that shuts down reception and comprehension of information that poses a threat to their concept of reality. It is particularly common with areas of the psyche that are connected to religious beliefs and when understood within these confines, it is no surprise to learn that many people who exhibit this form of denial may be highly educated in a wide variety of subjects. However, they will construct impervious walls against those subjects that threaten their personal faith. A fundamentalist may hear what you are saying, but comprehension will be blocked and a sortie of pre-programmed responses will be launched. The loss of any meaningful communication is inevitable.

The reaction that fundamentalists have when confronted with unbelief in their particular brand of doctrine can bubble to the surface in vitriol, especially when there is empirical evidence that is contrary to their dogma or doctrine. Successful interaction between a fundamentalist and just about every one who isn’t their brand of fundamentalist (or anyone else, for that matter) is extremely rare.

A strong faith is not the same as a strong religion. Faith is often the result of long-term, sometimes multi-generational interaction with other non-combative, like-minded believers and is often accompanied by positive emotional life-experiences and a perception that god is active in daily life, answers prayers, etc.

The person of faith is not the one who wants a fight. They will often have the same problems and frustrations with organized religion as most do. Much of the time there is more in common between peoples of faith and those of a different faith and even those without faith. Understand the difference between a person of faith and the fundamental religionist and do not deprive yourselves of the company of someone who can otherwise enrich your lives in the myriad of other ways that have little or nothing to do with the cause that many of us activists are so entrenched in.

Denial, delusion and willful ignorance are the ingredients of a genuine recipe for a fundamentalist disaster.

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  41 comments for “All Believers Are Not Created Equal

  1. busterggi
    March 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    “We are all born atheist.”

    I’ve read this many times in many places & until a few moments ago I agreed with it BUT it just struck me that this isn’t true.

    Newborns are unaware of the importance of any being other than themselves – they are the ultimate narcessists. To them the universe, however unaware of it they are, exists to take care of them, i.e.: newborns are the be-all & end-all to themselves – they essentially are gods. I think the belief in gods may be, in part, left-over infantile projection.

    • March 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm

      Atheism is the lack of a belief in deity. An infant does not havve the capability of believing or disbelieving in anything at birth. Notice I did not say a baby was born a humanist, or a secularist, or a Republican or some other philosophy.

      Atheism is not a philosophy. Babies are atheist by default in the same context as they have no position on what a steak taste like. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar (Unless you’re Monica Lewinski, of course)

      • Bob Jase
        March 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm

        Let me explain a bit – while babies don’t recognise anything other than themselves once they start to do it generates the question, subconciously, that if they are not the center of the universe then who is? This doesn’t need to cause belief in a deity but social constructs usually supply that as an answer because religion is so pervasive.

        I don’t think I’m explaining this too well.

  2. Norman Lycan
    March 14, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Newborns have no opinion about philosophy or religion. To call them atheists is to imply that they have researched their philosohical options and made a decision. That’s bullshit, up front. Newborns are blank slates, and can only be nurtured or corrupted. What they really are is “agnostics” not knowing without opinion. Then their parents spend years implanting them with their own philosophy. Gods and goatherder mythology.

    Humans are not born believing god doesn’t exist. We are born freethinkers believing nothing, until we are misled. Let’s get back to our roots, and never, ever, believe anything unproven by science. The alternative is a stumble back into religion.

    NL

    • John Morales
      March 15, 2012 at 5:51 am

      Humans are not born believing god doesn’t exist.

      As I’m pretty sure I’ve already told you (and as Al has noted above), ‘atheism’ refers to a lack of ‘theism’ (just like ‘agnosticism’ refers to a lack of ‘gnosticism’).

      (a- prefix)

      Also, you really should look up the difference between belief and knowledge, which is one of its sub-categories.

      • Norman Lycan
        March 15, 2012 at 8:25 pm

        Newborns are neither born with a belief in a deity, nor a belief in an accidental universe. They are forced to trust their parents to explain the nature of the world. They are agnostics in every sense of the word. They seriously do not know and cannot know. Your argument is ludicrous.

        You said: “Also, you really should look up the difference between belief and knowledge, which is one of its sub-categories.”

        From the viewpoint of a brainwashed individual, they are one and the same. The only thing a freethinker can do is to refuse to believe in anything unproven by science. It’s the only way to keep the bugs and dust off your windshield.

        NL

        • John Morales
          March 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm

          The only thing a freethinker can do is to refuse to believe in anything unproven by science.

          Since science hasn’t proven you know whereof you speak, and since you claim to be a freethinker, by your own claims you should refuse to believe that you know whereof you speak.

          (Nice going!)

          • Norman Lycan
            March 16, 2012 at 11:09 pm

            That’s your best argument?

          • John Morales
            March 16, 2012 at 11:22 pm

            It’s a corollary, and I note you dispute it not.

            (It may say something about its premises, no? ;) )

    • rapiddominance
      March 16, 2012 at 1:55 am

      I’m with you on this one, Norman. Even though atheism is simply a lack of belief in deities I think its probably helpful, more often than not, to hold modern atheism as a studied and thought out approach.

      Babies aren’t born talking–but they eventually do talk. Thus, humans are a “talking species”.

      Babies aren’t born walking–but they eventually do walk. Thus, humans are a “walking species”.

      Babies aren’t able to use tools–but they eventually do use tools. Thus, humans are a “tool using species”.

      Babies aren’t born believing in deities or in any over-arching purpose for existence–but eventually they . . .

      ;)

      . . . begin questioning the nature of their existence.

      OK, I’m being a little more intuitive than we like around here, but I do think we need to at least wait until the toddler is capable of asking, “How did THIS happen?”

      The reason its safer (and wiser) to view atheism as a studied and rational perspective is because that’s the main advantage thought to separate it from religious belief. Nonexistent deities don’t shape cultures, but human activities inspired by belief systems do.

      • John Morales
        March 16, 2012 at 7:10 am

        Babies are non-smokers, too.

        • rapiddominance
          March 16, 2012 at 1:30 pm

          That’s true.

          So even though some people smoke, we don’t necessarily say, “Humans are a smoking species.” If I were to try to force the issue, I might try this one: “Humans are a species of vice (or habbit).”

          Or I might go with this one: “Humans are a species that like to put things in their mouths even when they’re not eating.”

          Regardless, we have to judge human behaviors on a developmental basis. Infantile default positions are fun to word over, but they’re not very useful when we’re evaluating teen/adult behaviors for their constructive and destructive impacts.

  3. abusedbypenguins
    March 14, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    If we are born in the US, we are all liberal atheists at birth. The Constitution Of The United States Of America is the most liberal document describing a government of laws. To be born here is to be liberal, to be anything else is to be brain-washed from birth, which pretty much describes the average consertive/christian. I was born a liberal atheist, am still a liberal atheist and will die a liberal atheist and proud of being resistant to brain-washing. Penguins (Nuns) are nasty creatures.

  4. Theodoric
    March 15, 2012 at 5:01 am

    While I understand different approaches for different people (I mean, it’s always bad to treat people as members of a group instead of as individuals), I’m not one for ‘admitting’ that there is any more validity to a moderate Christian’s religious views than those of a fundamentalist one; they’re both wrong. Sure, there is more validity in their other views (society, morals, etc.), but they do share a belief that’s not backed up by anything substantial.

    Then again, you are right (in my meagre opinion) in stating that discussions with fundies are usually fruitless, and that it’s better not to debate, but just talk with people with different views on the matter. That’s the only way both can learn something and perhaps even come to new insights.

    Anyway, I’ll gladly keep reading this blog.

  5. Hunt
    March 15, 2012 at 5:37 am

    I think I have to side with Norman on that particular point. Children don’t have the faculties, or even the opportunity yet, to assess the world they’ve been born into and say no, I do not believe there is a god or gods, which is the definition of atheism. On the other hand, I think by the same token it’s a bit ridiculous to call them agnostics too, since agnostics are by definition those who deliberate and conclude that there is not enough evidence to say one way or the other. The best descriptor is Norman’s “blank slate.” That is what a person is who has not had the dogma of religion imposed on her. I do think it’s highly probable that left to their own devices, most children would become atheists, or at least not theists, once they acquired the cognitive maturity needed to make that assessment. It is very likely that fundamentalism would be wiped out almost completely if inter-generational indoctrination was ever broken.

    I’ve always liked Steve Jobs’ definition of dogma: living by the result of other people’s thinking. To an extent, all of our lives are framed by the thinking of others. We would probably not prefer it to be otherwise, however, religion is a steady source of a particularly stagnant body of ideas.

    • John Morales
      March 15, 2012 at 5:57 am

      I do not believe there is a god or gods, which is the definition of atheism.

      Atheism is a privative term whose referent is theism; if you’re not a theist, you’re an atheist.

    • Hunt
      March 15, 2012 at 6:31 am

      Yeah, I guess you could do it that way. How, or would you, distinguish between the atheist baby and the atheist 16 year old?

      • John Morales
        March 15, 2012 at 6:39 am

        The atheist baby has not had the opportunity to be exposed to (and reject) the proposition that at least one god exists, the 16-yo almost certainly has.

      • Hunt
        March 15, 2012 at 7:17 am

        I guess it’s the perennial issue about whether atheism is a belief or a lack of belief. I think you’re right etymologically, but still, “atheist baby” sounds a little silly. It might have utility, however, in that calling baby atheist means she has to be indoctrinated into theist child, which is unquestionably what usually happens.

    • Norman Lycan
      March 16, 2012 at 10:55 pm

      Hunt said:

      “I do think it’s highly probable that left to their own devices, most children would become atheists, or at least not theists, once they acquired the cognitive maturity needed to make that assessment.”

      That is totally wrong. You ignore the history of how religion came to be. We do not understand the universe or how it came to be. We long to know how we got here and what is the purpose of life. And some conman decided he could make himself important by pretending he had some contact with the creator. He made up some stories that required people to give him money in exchange for an afterlife, and he sold it to the dictator of the moment by throwing the god’s blessing his direction, and a few bucks. Check the numbers, those under the spell are greater than we are.

      I am a child of brainwash, and making the break cost me my parents, my wife, my children, and my god, in one fell swoop. It is not about arriving at a logical conclusion, it is about making enormous sacrifices, in the state of self doubt, to finally wake up and see a sunrise with your eyes really open. Babies don’t get a choice, they are either liberated or enslaved.

      NL

      • John Morales
        March 16, 2012 at 11:10 pm

        We long to know how we got here and what is the purpose of life. And some conman decided he could make himself important by pretending he had some contact with the creator.

        Heh.

        (Transparent, you are)

        • Norman Lycan
          March 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm

          Without an argument, you are.

          • John Morales
            March 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm

            You imagine noting my amusement at your presupposition of a (singular) creator and its concomitant teleological mindset needs an argument?

            (Funny, you are — if only it were intentional!)

  6. Amadan
    March 15, 2012 at 6:19 am

    […] denial, which is basically a defense mechanism in the human psyche that shuts down reception and comprehension of information that poses a threat to their concept of reality. It is particularly common with areas of the psyche that are connected to religious beliefs […]

    Is there any literature on this please? It would be useful in a conversation (more of a dialogue-of-the-deaf, TBH) I’m having.

    Thanks

  7. JJ7212
    March 15, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Here’s something I realized from this article about how to deal with people of faith and/or a fundie. When I was an active duty Marine, I had about 50-60 Marines under my charge. I was a very strict NCO, for obvious reasons, but I also was reasonable to my Marines, of course. When I had to discipline someone who I knew to be ‘smart’ and ‘reasonable’, I talked to them instead of yelling and I used more intelligent language. But when that young Marine was a bit troublesome or had a bad attitude, I raised my voice and was more authoritative (assertive) about what I wanted them to learn.

    It seems that people of ‘faith’ are easier to talk to and if we have good communication skills, then at least they might let some of what we say sink in. On the other hand, after trying to be reasonable first, maybe there’s a point where ridiculing a ‘fundie’ is just a necessity. Situation dictates, I suppose…

    • Norman Lycan
      March 17, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      JJ,

      I am an agnostic. I can defend my reasons for thinking that way. Do you want to yell at me, or do you want to be my friend?

      NL

  8. Scott Blackford
    March 16, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Why and how does anyone categorize Christians? They are just like you; born in sin, sinful and self involved. The only difference is the saving grace of Jesus Christ, who, by His death and resurrection, changed the course of our relationship to God. Jesus does not ask us to change to meet Him, but to come as we are…right now. We as humans, make too many aspects of our lives complicated and our salvation comes to us way too easily. Whether or not you recognize it – or even want it, Jesus loves you. God will unfold His plans for you and me in His own time. You will play a role in it. Every hair on your head is numbered…and He knows your name. What a joy – He takes me just as I am.

    • John Morales
      March 16, 2012 at 9:05 pm

      Jesus does not ask us to change to meet Him, but to come as we are…right now.

      Jesus was a Jew.

    • jaycee
      March 17, 2012 at 10:35 am

      Scott,

      Being a former evangelical, I know good and well that Christians need to learn to read their own bibles before trying to tell others about their religion. To help you out, here are a couple of verses you might want to consider, before you say Jesus doesn’t ask us to change:

      Luke 13:3 ‘But unless you repent you too will all perish.’
      Matthew 4:17 ‘From that time on Jesus began to preach ‘repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
      Matthew 11:20 ‘ Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they didn’t repent.’

      Repentance requires change, and it is taught as a prerequisite to a genuine conversion.
      So, you see, your own scripture contradicts your statement that Jesus didn’t require people to change. How many other things do you think you have accepted because a preacher said them, even though they are contradicted in your own holy book?

      • Scott Blackford
        March 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm

        Jaycee,

        While you were still a sinner, he died for you. The grace in being a Christian is being changed by Him, not changing ourselves. The Holy Spirit enables us to believe, which otherwise, we could not believe. We must become as a child. He tells us “There is no need to look for me for I have looked for you, and I have found you. Not selection, election.

        • John Morales
          March 20, 2012 at 5:04 am

          Jesus does not ask us to change to meet Him, but to come as we are…right now.
          […]
          The grace in being a Christian is being changed by Him, not changing ourselves. The Holy Spirit enables us to believe, which otherwise, we could not believe. We must become as a child.

          So, believing in Jesus as God causes infantilism in people.

          (You somehow think that’s tempting?!)

        • John Morales
          March 20, 2012 at 5:10 am

          PS I note you don’t dispute that Jesus was a Jew.

          So, if you want to be like Jesus, you should become a Jew, too.

          <Captain Obvious>

  9. rapiddominance
    March 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Atheism is the default position. We are all born atheist.

    I’ve criticized the usefulness or applicability of this “truth” in a few replies to readers. However, it wasn’t a major part of your overall essay and my criticism of this small issue doesn’t in anyway reflect my general attitude towards the whole.

    Overall, I think this is a very positive thread and I found the dialogue to be clear and constructive.

    Its just that my reservations against the “Theory of the Infantile Default Position on Atheism” goes back before I ever knew of you and I thought I should whack at it since it stuck its head out of the hole.

    Thank you for a good entry AND for the opportunity to whack!

    • rapiddominance
      March 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      Self-criticism

      My reservations should GO back–not GOES back.

      I make grammatical and spelling mistakes all the time and they never embarrass me. This type of mistake does, for some reason.

  10. bill walker
    March 16, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    I’m not really an atheist. I have two gods. Their names are Nature & Science. I don’t worship them, but I respect them.

    • Norman Lycan
      March 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm

      Oh, we should get coffee some time. I’m not an atheist either, but I caucus with them, because they share my disgust for religion. Don’t forget, while you are admiring nature, that, throughout history, it allowed several ecosystems to become extinct. It has no compassion, no forgiveness, it’s adapt or disappear. It’s a sociopathic machine driven to see the culmination of evolution. The end product. It will drive right over our human asses if it percieves a sign of weakness, like religion, for example.

      NL

  11. Scott Blackford
    March 20, 2012 at 8:59 am

    I am as a Jew to my Father in Heaven. St. Paul tells us we, as Christians, are as the Jews before the Lord. In other words, we are God’s chosen. The Jews obeyed the Law – Jesus perfected the law and became the gospel. The gospel superceded the law which only endured until the the fulness of the promise from God…Christ. The gospel is forever. The word of the Law was ordained by Moses, a Jew; the gospel, by the Lord Himself.

    • John Morales
      March 20, 2012 at 8:39 pm

      Ahem. Matthew 5:17-18.

  12. remysecor
    March 21, 2012 at 1:21 am

    I, too, make a distinction between believers and fundamentalists/evangelists and I disagree strongly with those atheists who don’t.

    I’ve known many people for whom faith (various kinds) is important. They’ve never tried to convert me, never asked what I believe, never suggested we should pray together or read the bible or Koran. They don’t believe their various holy books are the direct words of a deity. They know the universe is billions of years old and that evolution is how life developed. I know faith is important to them only in the course of normal interactions, a word or two here and there, a phrase. Faith helps get them through the bad moments and days and experiences. And I do not begrudge them that. Nor do I think atheists should treat them with scorn or insist their lives would be better if they did not believe. Life is hard. Some people smoke weed to get through the bad times; some people pray. So what.

    I think atheists should save their scorn for the fundamentalists and evangelists who want to use the legal system and the school system to force their beliefs on others. I figure all legal & emotional tactics are fair in that fight. If they want to convert us, we have a right to try to convert them.

  13. Scott Blackford
    March 21, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Yes John, Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. The law indicts us, the gospel accepts us based on Christ’s salvation.
    We cannot fulfill the law on our own. Christ died in our stead and reurrected to fulfill the law and defeat death.
    Man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
    “You are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:14),

    • Norman Lycan
      March 22, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      Scott B said:

      “Christ died in our stead and reurrected”

      So let me ask you something Scott, from your demented point of view, someone perfect had to die in order to redeem mankind. Why? Since god created Satan, and the tree of knowledge, wasn’t this whole senario invented from the beginning? And why for every sin must there be a sacrifice? Another concept invented for convenience by your delusion. You and those like you inflict your brain freeze on the entire planet because you are afraid to face your inevitable death. You are mentally ill. Seek the advice of a freethinker.

      NL

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