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The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics

The Vatican is losing the war, and they know it

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Hello all, Dave Muscato here again!

According to a Washington Post article published yesterday, the Vatican is holding a closed-door conference February 6-9 to discuss “emerging youth culture.” They are concerned that they risk losing future generations to nontheism if they don’t learn how to get with the times.

The internet is absolutely butchering religion. Religious belief necessarily depends on ignorance of science, logic, reason, history, philosophy, ethics, and competing mythologies. It becomes very difficult for a pastor to get away with lying for Jesus, when anyone—especially young people—can whip out a smartphone and find real answers on Wikipedia faster than you can say the Lord’s Prayer.

preacher

There was a time not so long ago when young people wholly depended on their parents, teachers, and pastors for information about the world. If a suitable bubble is maintained, it becomes nearly impossible to break free once the indoctrination is set into motion. This is why many Christians and other religious groups isolate their young from mainstream culture. They publish and use their own textbooks. They homeschool and attend their own schools and colleges. They have their own museums. They have their entire own Wikipedia. They have their own YouTube. They have their own television networks, radio shows, musical genres, you name it.

These parents do this, even if they can’t articulate why, because they understand that a few hours on Reddit or YouTube is potentially all it takes to spoil a child’s faith in their parents’ religion. For some children who haven’t been fully indoctrinated, just learning about the very concept of atheism for the first time is enough to break the spell. It is vital, therefore, that religious parents quarantine their children. When this is not enough, they vilify atheists, supply misinformation (that we are Satanists, that we are immoral/amoral, they we hate God, etc), or in some cases even deny that atheism exist (e.g. they claim that we know God exists but deny it).

We are winning. Unless parents are willing (able?) to keep their children away from Google, it is only a matter of time before the truth about religions—that they are manmade, that they are a substandard source of ethics, that they are factually incorrect—becomes mainstream. One in three—one in three!—Americans aged 18-29 report no religious affiliation. This is not to say they are all atheists, of course, but these people are informed about religion, science, history, and so on. This is a progress. This is a step in the right direction. And the Church knows it. And they are afraid.

Until next time,

Dave

P.S. I know that not all religious parents quarantine their children in this way. Some even go out of their way to expose their children to other points of view and other cultures. Those that do end up with children who have much more liberal beliefs, and this is no surprise. I maintain that if everyone waited until adulthood to pick up a Bible for the first time, people would consider it laughable that anyone actually believes it’s true. As the saying goes, like circumcision, if religion were only offered to adults, no one would be interested! Thanks for reading.


dave_bio_pic4
Dave Muscato is the Kansas/Missouri-Area Volunteer Network Coordinator for the Secular Student Alliance. He is also a board member of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A non-traditional junior at Mizzou studying economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, Dave posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday and twice monthly for the Humanist Community at Harvard. His website is http://www.DaveMuscato.com

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and don’t forget… other SASHA members! We are here for you, too!

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About Danielle Muscato

Danielle Muscato is a civil rights activist, writer, and public speaker. She has appeared on or been quoted in Rolling Stone, People, Time, The New York Times, SPIN, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard Magazine, and on MTV News, VH1, NPR, MSNBC, ABC, "The Real Story" with Gretchen Carlson, The O'Reilly Factor, Huffington Post Live, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Raw Story, CNN, CBS, and Howard Stern Danielle is the former Director of Public Relations for American Atheists. She is also a board member of MU SASHA (University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists & Agnostics). Her website is http://www.DanielleMuscato.com. Follow her on Google+ Follow her on Twitter @daniellemuscato Subscribe to her on YouTube at www.youtube.com/davemuscato

33 comments on “The Vatican is losing the war, and they know it

  1. Keenan Crow
    February 1, 2013

    Dave your blog posts are the greatest. Your last one on how to convert an atheist I have shared with countless others.

    I think the one thing we aren’t talking about here is guilt, though. That is what always took me so long to come around. Every time I had one of those thoughts it made me feel so guilty that I would attempt to stay away from that information. I once dated a girl, for instance, who forbade me to read Nietzsche because she felt it would make me less godly and therefore unsuitable.

  2. BigBob
    February 1, 2013

    Personally, I don’t trust the Roman Catholic Church, and that is never going to change. I don’t care if the pope comes out like a gangsta rapper with head-to-toe bling, it ain’t never gonna happen. Reminds of Shrek 3 when the young King Arthur says “Please help me, I’ve kidnapped by a monster trying to relate to me”.

  3. Maria O.
    February 1, 2013

    Your PS was what i was going to reply with. Thanks for taking that extra step. I raised my kids and grandchild in a liberal religious tradition – as they grew into adulthood, they explored faith traditions until one spoke to them (or not). They made conscious, ethical choices and whether or not they ultimately follow in my chosen faith is not an issue. Thanks!

  4. Perry Robinson
    February 1, 2013

    uhm, call me silly, but what is the “standard” source of ethics?

    • Dave Muscato
      February 1, 2013

      Not silly; a legitimate question. The answer is ethics (as a subfield of philosophy), as opposed to allegedly-revealed mandate with no vehicle for improvement or discussion.

      • Perry Robinson
        February 1, 2013

        Dave, Do you mean to say that ethical properties didn’t come into existence until such a discipline was created?

        I can’t see how the existence of a field of study acts as a source for the existence for a thing or establishes its existence. Does literature establish the existence of fictional characters?

        Consequently, what do you think is the source or ground of ethics?

    • Steve Bowen
      February 5, 2013

      Your subsequent comments prove you’re not silly, but you are disingenuous.

      You can philosophise any moral philosophy into a corner as you have proved, but command ethics is the easiest one to discard by any standard of non religious belief.
      I favour a utilitarian stance as the most practical given that the human condition is what it is and there is no pre-existing perfect morality to measure against.

      • Perry Robinson
        February 10, 2013

        Steve, Why would posing objections to atheism imply that I am disingenous?

        If I can argue any moral philosophy into a corner (which I didn’t do for everyone, just Steve’s which bodes badly for Steve’s atheism) then what good is the atheist basis for morality? Somehow that line of reasoning doens’t seem to help atheism.

        I don’t advocate a divine command theory so discard it all you like. As far as favoring Utilitarianism, perhaps you can address the problems I posed for a naturalistic axiology as they directly undermine any form of Utilitarianism?

        And just for giggles, see Ansecombe’s famous article, Modern Moral Philosophy, where she demonstrates that both Deontology and Axiology are built off the assumption of a divine law giver.

    • rocketkirchner
      February 15, 2013

      GREAT QUESTION PERRY ! hey i checked out your blog . fantastic . here is a short synopsis of a speech i gave to SASHA last fall here at the University on Soren Kierkegaard . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JpYiZpzEw4 my e- mail is rocketkirchner@hotmail.com contact me .

  5. Jacob
    February 1, 2013

    // I maintain that if everyone waited until adulthood to pick up a Bible for the first time, people would consider it laughable that anyone actually believes it’s true. As the saying goes, like circumcision, if religion were only offered to adults, no one would be interested! //

    Apparently you have never heard of William Lane Craig, Gary Harbermas, Anthony Flew, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell and a slew of other former atheists turned Christian.

  6. Dave Muscato
    February 1, 2013

    Perry Robinson :

    Dave, Do you mean to say that ethical properties didn’t come into existence until such a discipline was created?

    I can’t see how the existence of a field of study acts as a source for the existence for a thing or establishes its existence. Does literature establish the existence of fictional characters?

    Consequently, what do you think is the source or ground of ethics?

    Ethics is not the same as morality. Morality exists in many animals, and it’s an evolved trait. Ethics is the philosophical study of morality. Studying morality is descriptive, and falls under the umbrella of ethology/anthropology. Studying ethics is prescriptive, and falls under the umbrella of philosophy. Morality preexisted ethics by many millions of years (from the time of the first cooperative animals); humans are the only animals with ethics. Hope this helps!

    • Perry Robinson
      February 1, 2013

      Dave,

      I don’t think this helps. It doesn’t help because I am asking what is the grounding or justification of your moral beleifs? What makes you think that when you have a belief having the content of , X is morally evil, that there is such a thing as evil? The same goes for goodness, wrongness or rightness. What makes moral judgments true?

      Second, if nature is the source of our moral beliefs, isn’t nature the source of religious beliefs too? What makes you think that they differ in truth value? Is one empirically verifiable and the other not?

      In sum, you seem to think there is some set body of moral beleifs that just fall out of the sky that you can then use to evaluate various religious beliefs and that this body of moral beleifs is somehow self justifying in some way. I just can’t see how such a belief is rational. So maybe you can explain or sketch a justification.

      • Dave Muscato
        February 2, 2013

        On the contrary, morals come from the ground up. That was exactly my point—they evolved and were naturally selected for on the basis that pro-social behavior increases fitness in certain species, i.e. cooperative species. Examples of these are ants, bees, lions, humans, and so on. “Evil” behavior can be considered roughly synonymous with anti-social behavior and “good” behavior with pro-social behavior. Behaviors that lead to better group cohesion – not stealing, not lying, not murdering, and so on – come to be seen as good, although via the application of philosophical ethics, we can make exceptions for these (feeding a starving family, professional discretion of doctors/spies/etc, self-defense), and so on. I’m not sure what you mean by moral judgments being “true” or “false.” They are either helpful to the species/to individuals, or they aren’t.

        Nature is the source of religious beliefs, but that doesn’t mean religious hypotheses about the origins of the universe, etc are factually correct. The scientific method is superior in this regard because it is testable and self-correcting. Religion is one tool for understanding how the world works. Science is a better tool because it is more accurate.

        Does this make more sense? Please let me know; I’m happy to elaborate or clarify as needed.

      • Perry Robinson
        February 2, 2013

        Dave,

        Since natural selection is teleologically blind, I can’t see how we get from, nature selected for this behavior (and behaviors aren’t beliefs btw so that is a problem all by itself) to, this is the behavior one ought to have. Perhaps you can explain that. It seems quite possible that nature got it wrong.

        Secondly, it seems to me, and correct me if I am mistaken, that your idea goes something like the following. The referrent for “Good” “Evil” and such terms is a relation. And the relation is between a behavior and a consequence. Anything beneficial and efficient to producing that consequence is “good” and anything that is detrimental to it and gorrssly ineffecient to producing it or inhibits producing it is “evil.”

        That is a consequentialist filling in of the normative content of ethical terms. And that is fine. But it doesn’t help. Here is why it doesn’t help.

        We would first need to know two things. First that there existed such a thing as moral value and second that the end in question had it. So the end you have in mind is the survival of the species or a group. How do you know that the survival of said group is morally valuable and that there exist moral values in the first place?

        Your consequentialist gloss then explains how a behavior can be morally valuable in a world where moral values exist, but it doesn’t establish their existence. I want to know how you establish their existence other than appealing to the beliefs people have and are pruduced in them by nature.

      • Perry Robinson
        February 2, 2013

        Dave

        As to your second point. You write that science and religious beleifs differ in their ability to accurately mirror the nature of the world.

        Well given that you seem to advance global or near global skepticism, I am not sure you are entitled to make that knowledge claim.

        Second, that says nothing as to the metaphysical beliefs that undergird modern science and the scientific method. How exactly does science come to find out that the metaphysical assumptions that make a Realist view of science possible are true without vicious circularity? Are those metaphysical beliefs testable? Self correcting?

        Thirdly and more importantly, we would need to be able to examine the causal forces and mechanisms that give rise to the two different belief sets between science and religion. To do that we would need to get beyond the causal influence of nature to make that comparison,otherwise our resulting evaluative beleifs will in turn be the product of aleathically blind causal mechanisms. How do you propose we do this?

        That is, you think one belief set is false and inaccurate, yet the same causal forces and mechanisms that produces it in some people, produce different ones in you. Why think that they are producing true beliefs in you and false beleifs in others? To appeal to your beliefs about facts and accuracy just restates the problem since those beliefs are also produced by said aleathically blind causal forces. Do you stand outside of nature to evaluate nature or are you stuck with the beliefs nature blindly dumps on you?

      • Perry Robinson
        February 2, 2013

        Dave,

        Lastly, as to what I mean by moral judgments being true or false. I mean what most philosophers, at least of a Cognitivist variety mean by that. Namely that moral judgments express beliefs and beleifs have an attitudinal orientation and have conceptual content that aims to pick out the way things are. So Murder is wrong, is a moral judgment. It is true just in case that murder is wrong and false if it is not.

        of course you can deny this picture and go the route of non-cognitivism. Do you adhere to a Cognitivist or a non-Cognitivist view?

  7. Ken
    February 1, 2013

    Respectfully Dave, this post more betrays your own efforts to confine yourself in a bubble than it has anything valuable to say about religion. You have created a straw man version of Christianity in your own mind that enables you to feel more secure in your own worldview. This entire post is a classic example of the ad hominem fallacy. You attach all sorts of negative labels to Christians, labels that no one would want attached to themselves, to urge people to your way of thinking in a pep rally style of convincing, appealing to emotions and gut feelings rather than logic. In fact, anyone who takes an unbiased look at this debate would have to concede that there are extremely bright intellectuals on both sides and the arguments presented by all parties are worthy of careful consideration. In fact many Christians today advocate exposing children to alternative views, and no, they are not all liberal. Greg Koukl is but one example. Your statement suggesting that adults who consider Christianity for the first time would find it laughable is also demonstrably false. Throughout history there are countless examples of adult converts, from the apostolic fathers to the modern examples a previous poster provided (and allow me to add Augustine and C.S. Lewis to that list). If you continue to use ad hominems and simplistic straw men to close your mind to counter viewpoints, of course your views will remain intact, but ironically you are engaging in the same practice you so cavalierly accuse Christians of doing. Look long and hard in the mirror, sir, and perhaps you may see that the true reason you post things like this about Christians is because you do not want to face the reality that you are really describing your own heart.

  8. Pingback: Dave’s Mailbag: Atheism, defined « The Official MU SASHA Blog, Updated Daily

  9. Yvonne
    February 3, 2013

    Oh dear, They actually believe there is a god.

    • rocketkirchner
      February 17, 2013

      Yvonne , why should that surpise you ? everyone has a god . e.m.cioran , the great Atheist writer said ”no theology protects its god , as we protect ourself ”. ”How can one escape one self ?”
      i think that what cioran was driving at is how subtle the self really is and how it takes upon itself a totalitarian oppression . He goes on to state that the self may get rid of every fixed point of doctrine , but cannot get rid of ”the fixity from which it proceeds”. In that fixity there is sustains a delusion that one thinks that they are free, when in reality one becomes a slave to the self , just as the relgiuos become a slave to their god . in this respect cioran sees the athiest and the relgiuos as being in the same dillemma .
      But who wants to read cioran these days ? he is too confrontational . too Neitzchian . it is much easier to externalize evil like the relgiuos fundamentalist do , and bandy about words than to examine ones deep inner life.

  10. Perry Robinson
    February 4, 2013

    Yvonne, Oh dear. They actually believer there are values.

  11. Perry Robinson
    February 4, 2013

    Yvonne,

    Since you seem so very confident in your atheism, perhaps you can rise to the challenge and give some kind of reasonable reply to the questions I have asked of Dave above?

    • Mike de Fleuriot
      February 5, 2013

      Perry, this is why I hate philosophy. All you are really trying to do, is show everyone that you have read a couple hundred books. Big Deal. It’s nitpicking bright bragging nonsense. As to god belief, I think the best quote is the one from Marcus Aurelius, you know, live a good life, if there are gods and they are good, they will welcome you, if the gods are bad, then why worship them, and if there are no gods, then your life will be remember by those who come after you as a good example to follow.

      What else do you need to think about, unless you want to score points with the cute boy across the table at the Atheist in the Pub meeting.

      • Perry Robinson
        February 9, 2013

        Mike, So what you are saying is a couple of things, if I read you correctly. First, I am dishonest and using langauge to coverup some obvious error. If that is true, then show where I am making a mistake. Otherwise, its an ad hominem.

        Second, you are saying that to be an atheist, one needs to reject logic? Because that is what philosophy uses as its primary tool. That isn’t a stellar reason to be an atheist.

        Third, Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic and so his remarks need to be situated in the context of Stoicism. It is hard to see how they could make sense in just any context. Second, they depend on whether there are any gods or not, and if not, whether any sense can be made of life at all. And isn’t that the point of my remarks to Dave? So far, no one has even attempted to answer the problems I’ve posed and that says quite a bit or so it seems to me.

        Philosophy isn’t about achieving social advantage. It is about solving problems and discovering the truth. Because a life based on error is harmful to oneself and others. So here I think you’ve confused philosophy with Sophistry.

      • Perry Robinson
        February 9, 2013

        What could one possibly have learned by reading a couple of hundred books as opposed to reading nothing at all?

      • Perry Robinson
        February 9, 2013

        It is highly ironic and humorous that atheists complain that the reason why people are theists is because they are stupid and haven’t been educated. Then when a theist gives an argument and shows signs of being educated, the problem is that theists are educated! If this is the best you can do, you’ve got some serious problems.

      • rocketkirchner
        February 15, 2013

        Mike , Marcus Aurelius also said ”That which does not advance goes into retrograde”. To ignore Philosophy is dull the brain . one must keep mentally fit . or one delines into ignorance.

  12. Pingback: Atheism, Defined « The Age of Blasphemy

  13. DYLAN
    February 7, 2013

    Hey Dave, hope you had a pleasant day at the courthouse.

    I’m curious about something. It seems to me from a great number of your recent postings that you have grown increasingly paranoid and irrational in your analysis of information and subsequent conclusions. I assume that as a self-identified activist, you have taken the time to search out and discover things that are important to keep in mind as an activist. In other words, what are some of the key principles that an activist ought to follow in order not to allow their identity as an activist to become all-consuming and deterministic? I ask this because I am concerned for you, for your health, for your sanity, and for your reputation.

    “It becomes very difficult for a pastor to get away with lying for Jesus, when anyone—especially young people—can whip out a smartphone and find real answers on Wikipedia faster than you can say the Lord’s Prayer.”

    I’ve noticed that you enjoy coming up with and using catchy one-liners such as this to add humor and emotionally-charged content to your posts. But I’m going to have to challenge you on this practice. You of all people should know the significant dangers and limitations inherent to the use of Wikipedia and Google for discovering the “truth”. And young people especially tend to be completely ignorant of how to avoid these dangerous pitfalls. Anyone can post information on the internet, and for just a little bit of financial investment, they can also utilize search engine optimization to make their information more highly visible. A lot of this information is of course from activist groups, some much more biased than others, but all significantly biased nonetheless. The fact that we have labeled this the “Information Age” is a horrible joke to me at best. In fact, from the internet, equally as much as from the “pulpit”, young people are told what to believe. This is REALITY, and I dare you to disagree with me.

    • Dave Muscato
      February 7, 2013

      Hey Dylan! Thank you very much for your feedback – I’m going to reply to this as a separate article. Stay tuned!

      • Perry Robinson
        February 9, 2013

        Dave, care to take a crack at the problems I’ve posed for the account of ethics that you’ve proffered?

    • rocketkirchner
      February 15, 2013

      Dylan , right on ! the Wiki technoautistic age cant even hold a candle to the nuances of the masterpeice literature of a multidimensional figure of Jesus of Nazareth .

  14. Pingback: Dave’s Mailbag: Accommodation vs. Confrontation; Avoiding activism burnout; The internet as a source « The Official MU SASHA Blog, Updated Daily

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