"Timothy Bates" <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
> Adrian noted that some people are vehemently opposed to religion.
> Anders Sandberg asked
> > I wonder about that vehemence, why does it occur? Is it just a natural
> > reaction towards the fairly religious US society by rebellious
> > thinkers, or are there other reasons. I see no reason to become
> > emotional about the non-existence of things, or even the presence of
> > institutions that might be harmful. I think it is better to remain
> > calm and think about them, how awful or wonderful they might be.
> Anders, do you really see no reason to have a vehement opposition to
> institutions that may be harmful?
> Do you really think the best thing to do when confronted with a institution
> that is harmful is to think calmly about how wonderful it might be?
No. The best thing is to think *rationally* about what to do.
The problem with everybody who sits here complaining about the evils of government, religion, irrationalism, luddites and everything entropic is that it is mostly vehemence and complaints, very little constructive action.
The thing to do is of course to build alternatives that are better, find ways around the problems and most important of all, to get a clear picture of what is going on. Emotionality interferes with that a lot.
<please turn of your amygdalae>
Just look at how people react even to the mention of the nazis (Timothy mentioned them first ;-). It usually makes them more emotional (which in turns make well-rehearsed quick reactions, i.e. knee-jerk reactions, more probable), they want to distance themselves from whatever the nazis were associated with and they want to stop whatever nazi-like stuff is going on. It is quite understandable given what the nazis did. The problem is that the actions taken in this heat of emotion often make matters worse: freedom of speech is limited more than necessarily to protest against racism, laws are instituted allowing tracking of suspicious groups, reputations are dirtied by association and so on. Even more subtler, many of the information programs against racism and nazism that have been instituted (as well as movies and popular culture) help spread the image of "nazi == total evil" and other memes that make people even less rational about the quite real threat from totalitarian groups - I have encountered otherwise well educated people who cannot believe that Hitler was actually democratically elected and well liked by a sizeable part of the german population, they had been so conditioned that they had to think he did it by a direct coup and total repression (the real story about how he did it is rather interesting and worrying). This is dangerous, since it makes people think that things like nazism are a remote evil, not anything connected to what they themselves might do or cause to happen.
<you can turn on your amygdalae now>
Do you see now why I dislike atheists who get vehement about the evils of religion? A rational atheist would look at the phenomenon of religion as a whole, try to understand it, see its good sides and bad sides, and then use this information to either create an alternative, find ways around religion or decrease its bad sides. There is nothing passive, nothing appeasing about this.
-- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension! email@example.com http://www.nada.kth.se/~asa/ GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y