Fellow Atheists/Agnostic Atheists - Let's Chat: Do you feel it is risky being "out" these days?

I would think that the current line in conservative thinking (and they don't get much more conservative than the Holy See) is to double down on the hard line attitudes. I would expect an even more hardliner as the next Pope. Most likely an Italian as they surely can't go 3 in a row from outside.

In the UK there seem to be quite a few TV personalities these days who say '...I don't personally believe in God but....' as part of their talk to camera. It sounds such a casual thing but it's actually pretty momentous. It's little acknowledgements like that that help people realise/admit that they've never actually believed in God.

Meet the Izzards is one example. A nice look at humanities genetic history with Eddie Izzard.

I've been watching a lot of QI on YouTube recently, and although Stephen Fry is well known for his atheism, it seems to feature quite a bit, and is tossed out casually. That an entertainment show can get away with that speaks volumes for how many in the UK simply don't believe.

NSMike wrote:

I've been watching a lot of QI on YouTube recently, and although Stephen Fry is well known for his atheism, it seems to feature quite a bit, and is tossed out casually. That an entertainment show can get away with that speaks volumes for how many in the UK simply don't believe.

I often get the feeling that the majority of the audience is respond enthusiastically to such comments on QI, etc but I may be projecting :).

I think you are, Higgledy. Atheism has been mainstream in British public life for decades now its just, as DanB points out, impolite to make a big deal of your belief or lack of in polite company. Evidence of this goes back to pre-WWII where the Labour and Liberal parties for various reasons gave atheists a save haven to come out in. Even in strongly Catholic Ireland, our Labour party was and still is predominantly atheist or agnostic. Having a large political party behind you gives you a lot of security.

Its not perfect. In Ireland, for example, atheist parents more or less are forced to baptise their children, like I was, because almost all the school system is run by religious orders and they are allow to discriminate by law. However I know I can contact a member of the Labour party to lobby on my behalf if something were to happen based on my beliefs. So can many citizens across Europe lobby their party that would counts atheists as its voters.

From over here it appears that due to the duopoly of parties in the US system means that if you are too small a voting block you can be treated quite poorly. Perhaps atheists should be looking at the South American first, second and later generation immigrants voting block to understand how large they have to become to be taken seriously? Or look at how the Irish voting block organised itself? Just a thought.

Higgledy wrote:

In the UK there seem to be quite a few TV personalities these days who say '...I don't personally believe in God but....' as part of their talk to camera. It sounds such a casual thing but it's actually pretty momentous. It's little acknowledgements like that that help people realise/admit that they've never actually believed in God.

Well yes and no. "Talking about your belief" has never really been regarded as especially polite in the UK. It really is the old adage of "in polite company never talk about money, religion or politics". Which in turn means that public discourse in the UK has this veneer of rationalism and a fairly secular tone. People rarely make direct assumptions about what others may or may not believe and I can think of no point since I've been alive that it wouldn't have been completely acceptable and wholly unremarkable for any celeb to go on TV and state that they were an atheist. Even when it comes to politics the British press invariably treat a politician's belief (or lack thereof) as a wholly private matter and it is seldom brought up as an issue. Plus there are a great number of atheists in the British intellectual canon who are, somewhat ironically, nearly beatified (Bertrand Russell, Keynes, Orwell etc...)

That said it is certainly true that celebs making a point of declaring they are atheists is something of a newish trend. I may be wrong but I feel this has more to do with the way the internet globalizes media so public discourse here is increasingly led or cued by the talking points of US media.

Axon wrote:

Evidence of this goes back to pre-WWII where the Labour and Liberal parties for various reasons gave atheists a save haven to come out in. Even in strongly Catholic Ireland, our Labour party was and still is predominantly atheist or agnostic. Having a large political party behind you gives you a lot of security

This is in no small part because a lot of early socialist, marxist and communist philosophy directly rejects religion. And much of the early labour and social democracy movements were founded in the light of such writing.

NSMike wrote:

That an entertainment show can get away with that speaks volumes

To flip that around, that you find that astounding speaks volumes about the pervasive religiosity of American society.

Didn’t say I found it astounding, I just know that it wouldn't be risked on a popular US show.

NSMike wrote:

Didn’t say I found it astounding, I just know that it wouldn't be risked on a popular US show.

I don't think that's true at all. I recall "House" lambasting religion on multiple episodes and generally being proven correct when he suspects religious people of being idiots.

And that was a show on FOX.

gore wrote:

And that was a show on FOX.

Well, keep in mind, Fox News nearly sued a Fox-Entertainment-broadcast tv-show before, so this part of your comment doesn't really apply.

gore wrote:
NSMike wrote:

Didn’t say I found it astounding, I just know that it wouldn't be risked on a popular US show.

I don't think that's true at all. I recall "House" lambasting religion on multiple episodes and generally being proven correct when he suspects religious people of being idiots.

And that was a show on FOX.

I didn't mean to put words in Mike's mouth. I thought he was honestly surprised that broadcasting standards in the rest of the developed world were more secular-friendly.

As for "House," I would venture Mike wasn't thinking specifically of fictional, scripted shows.

H.P. Lovesauce wrote:
gore wrote:
NSMike wrote:

Didn’t say I found it astounding, I just know that it wouldn't be risked on a popular US show.

I don't think that's true at all. I recall "House" lambasting religion on multiple episodes and generally being proven correct when he suspects religious people of being idiots.

And that was a show on FOX.

I didn't mean to put words in Mike's mouth. I thought he was honestly surprised that broadcasting standards in the rest of the developed world were more secular-friendly.

As for "House," I would venture Mike wasn't thinking specifically of fictional, scripted shows.

With a show that starred a habitual prescription pain pill abuser who was tagged as kind of a huge jerk... I would say it actually doesn't surprise me that FOX broadcast him as an atheist.

I was only using House as an example. There are countless shows on American TV with characters of various faiths held in various lights. In most cases on network TV religion is just ignored completely, but there are exceptions. On cable you have very extremely non-Christian viewpoints from people like e.g. Bill Maher who are quite successful.

If you're using a really narrow definition, and you're looking for a non-scripted comedy panel like QI... well, keep in mind that this format is very.. British. It's true that you won't see many shows like that in the states, but I don't think this fact has much to do with religion. Indeed I can't really even think of anything very much like that at all (Wait Wait Don't Tell Me pops into my head, but that's of course radio).

Maybe I'm mischaracterizing QI, but I get the feeling that it's got very different audiences than examples like Bill Maher and House, M. D. House is a character who relies on you to love to hate him, or just love his curmudgeonly nature. Bill Maher is a pundit playing to his very specific audience. I get the feeling that QI is more like British Jeopardy.

QI is more like a televised dinner conversation without the food.

There is no actual competition despite the scoring, other than the ability of contestants to throw up interesting answers. Alan's job is to throw in the wrong answer if things aren't going anywhere and get the conversation moving again.

I know this... I've watched several dozens of episodes. I was referring to audience, only.

I am an agnostic. Prior to becoming agnostic, I was an atheist for basically my entire life. I have always been extremely skeptical of religion and of the supernatural. The only reason I am agnostic now is that it would be foolish of me to make absolute claims. Even so, I lean heavily towards atheism. Despite this, I am quite open to certain concepts that have long been in the realm of religion. I am perhaps one of the very, very few atheists that are also strongly against supernatural phenomenon that believes in immortality of a sorts. I am of the opinion that the universe is infinite and eternal. And with that, I think the same conditions that led to me and all of us will occur again. It is a form of pseudo-immortality in that we will exist an endless amount of times, yet we will also die an equally endless amount of times. While I cannot offer incontrovertible evidence for this, I think it is likely enough that I am willing to accept it.

Atheist and agnostic are not exclusionary terms, as they answer different questions. Atheist/theist specify belief, whereas agnostic/gnostic specify knowledge. Most of the atheists I know are also agnostic, as am I. I don't believe in gods, but I don't know with certainty that there aren't gods. Theists can also be agnostic, but due to the nature of most modern religions its not as common.

IMAGE(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_QdYoufb0UsQ/TAimA3truGI/AAAAAAAAAA4/pcR-muRgp8c/s1600/Agnostic+v+Gnostic+v+Atheist+v+Theist.png)

Certainly, sir!

Yeah, sorry. The misconception around those terms is one of my pet peeves. /pedant

I completely understand. I sometimes just use terms like that because it is what most people associate with them. I'm lazy.

I would technically consider myself an agnostic atheist, as it is more desirable to seem somewhat open to possibilities, and I don't actually know, however...

In actuality, I'm probably much closer to gnostic than agnostic, for the following reasons:

  • Humanity has a multitude of god claims in its history, not one of which has ever proven true.
  • Based on this, it is far more likely that the entire concept of god(s) is a human construct to begin with.
  • Based on THIS, any agnostic theist claims (i.e. disinterested being), and many claims of those atheists who are more strongly agnostic (i.e. we really can't know, therefore we have no right to claim it doesn't exist) seem based more in diplomatic wishful thinking than logic.

My skepticism about any god claim likely to arise in the future, even if something walked up to me and claimed to be a god, and demonstrated some extraordinary power would still force the question of why this being deserved that title. As Arthur C. Clarke said, any sufficiently advanced technology would appear as magic to less advanced observers. It is more likely that this being is an advanced alien with some unknown technology taking advantage of the human penchant for seeking explanations in god claims before observations than it is that a god has manifested itself to us after an entire history of going unproven.

ruhk wrote:

Yeah, sorry. The misconception around those terms is one of my pet peeves. /pedant ;)

The problem is that words mean what "people" broadly decide they mean, and the distinction you've provided (while useful) doesn't necessarily align with most people's actual understandings of the words.

I hate that quadrant thing, because it misses, to me, the point of atheism; I don't claim to "know" God doesn't exist any more than I claim to "know" fairies, unicorns, and magic fire-farting space turtles don't exist. The concepts of those things are simply irrelevant and not worth bothering about. I'm not an "a-magic fire-farting space turtle-ist". I don't care, and I don't feel the need to evangelize I'm an apatheist.

People don't hedge their bets about fairies and unicorns, yet do about the concept of a "God". Seems pointless to me.

Eh labels tend to get somewhat silly, particularly with self ascribed labels. It tends to not be pedantic, so much as semantic. Have you ever heard a Libertarian talk about why Penn Jillette is not really a libertarian?

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

I hate that quadrant thing, because it misses, to me, the point of atheism; I don't claim to "know" God doesn't exist any more than I claim to "know" fairies, unicorns, and magic fire-farting space turtles don't exist. The concepts of those things are simply irrelevant and not worth bothering about. I'm not an "a-magic fire-farting space turtle-ist". I don't care, and I don't feel the need to evangelize I'm an apatheist.

People don't hedge their bets about fairies and unicorns, yet do about the concept of a "God". Seems pointless to me.

Exactly.

I recently stumbled across the notion of Absurdism, which seems to capture my slant on atheism particularly well.

Wikipedia wrote:

Absurdism, therefore, is a philosophical school of thought stating that the efforts of humanity to find inherent meaning will ultimately fail (and hence are absurd) because the sheer amount of information as well as the vast realm of the unknown make certainty impossible.

It seems particularly apropos when it comes to the realm of the supernatural, which is, by definition, ineffable. And religion is the express attempt to explain the unexplainable. What is that if not absurd?

Sounds like Douglas Adams. I am nearly finishing the complete Hitchiker's Guide, and it is making me lean more absurdest-atheist.