Tuesday, August 08, 2006

So, are You an Idiot or a Maniac?

Have you ever noticed... Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? --George Carlin

Much of my extended family are Conservative Jews. When I "came out" to them as being no longer Orthodox, the uh, less subtle ones were pleased. One said, "That's good -- you have to live in the modern world!" Then he asked me if I still planned to go to some kind of services or if I'd left the religion altogether. When I told him I didn't really believe in any of it, he was disappointed again.

Carlin's talking about driving, but it's true about religion, too. People think those to the right of them are crazy and those to the left are ignorant or immoral. And of course the level of religion they practice (which they were most likely born into) is the right way.

I guess you can't please many of the people any of the time.


BaconEating AtheistJew said...

I couldn't find the original, but this will do.

Just me said...

JA: Good point. I've experienced the same thing, myself. And the last line of the post says it all. Got to be your own man.

CyberKitten said...

To Thine Own Self Be True.

asher said...

Your atheism is a religion. It encompasses a certain code and rules. You bow to the God of rationality (or what you think is rational and logical) and are certain everyone who is worships a diety is either wrong or stupid or both.

And where do you get your moral clarity from? Or do you dispute there is any moral clarity on anything?

David said...

Let's not forgot all the crazy lefties and ignorant fundamentalists.

Jewish Atheist said...


Can you ever stay on topic? :-)

Baal Habos said...

I guess if you think about it it's not too surprising. People are looking for validation of their own beliefs, so orthodox or athiest, you are a thorn in his side.

asher said...


I thought I was on topic

skcorefil said...

JA surprised me in that he isn't

"certain everyone who is worships a diety is either wrong or stupid or both. "

Laura said...

Athiesm is not a religion as defined in the most traditional sense of the word religion (see below) and only loosely in the last:

1a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order. 3.
A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

Especially when you take into account that most usages of the word "devotion" in conjunction with a belief system have a spiritual connotation and the fact that the popular usage of the word religion, within the context of this blog, revolves around the spiritual realm.

That JA has conviction in his beliefs, yes, I agree. Does he follow an organized leader or central authority as most religions do? I can't think of any "Pope" of the Athiests, except maybe Stephen Hawking?

Random said...


Maybe you're thinking of Richard Dawkins? Hawking as far as I'm aware is an agnostic as much as anything, but Dawkins is definitely someone who gives the impression of making atheism into a religion.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your post. You really can't please many of the people many of the time.

But for those who are in the middle and not fanatical, the bottom line is this: ANY branch of religion that is "over the top" is not going to have an open mind to anything. No matter how big or how small the issue is.

Re-born Christians and Orthodox Jews do not want to hear diddly squat about ANYTHING that goes against their basic archaic teachings. You could present an argument in the most intellectual and non judgemental way imaginable, on any topic, (abortion, homosexuality, evolution, etc.) and they will blindly follow a script on how they are SUPPOSED to view it.

One example. I work in NYC and we have just been through some horrendously dangerous heat. Still,no matter what, you will see all these Orthodox Jews, especially women, covered from head to toe (I know, I'm exaggerating)and not caring about their own personal comfort.
Apparently there is no room for any thought either. In other words, "it doesn't matter that it feels like I'm on Mercury, I need to blindly follow that God wants my erotic elbows, hair, and most of my legs covered at all times."

Another example. I'm watching television the other night and this ridiculous Christian Talk Show is on. The topic is homosexuality. A Right Wing Christian woman caller states that she is married to a gay guy and her husband has admitted to countless gay affairs. Her response? Well of course it's not the obvious. Instead it's "Please God help my husband change through Jesus Christ. I know that divorce is NOT an option for you. Give me the stregnth and courage to survive your test of my faith."

Equally humorous. Equally bizzare. Equally zombie-like.

Finally, as a side note to Asher, I think it's absolutely PATHETIC if you think you need to go so over the top with your beliefs to gain a moral compass. I am not religious and, admittedly I am far from perfect, but I know that I am a fine and decent fellow human being.

Plus, MY ADDED bonus is that I get to have free will AND freedom of choice.

Hmmmm.... Robotic-like allegiance to a religion OR recognizing that IF there is a God all he/she wants from us is to treat those as we would like to be treated.

Pretty much of a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned.

Laura said...

Random: Maybe. I just pulled Hawking out of my A** :)

Marina Grace said...

One of my favorite quotes: "Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear." --Thomas Jefferson

I don't know if it's necessarily true, but I like it anyway. :)

UberPropagandist said...

*serious grumble* @ asher's comment. THere are so many things wrong with it I don't even know where to begin.
Using a rational argument to describe the "God of rationality" is absurd. Examining things rationally isn't about dogma, it is the only thing we have to ascertain actualness.

asher said...

And in the words of Issac Batsheva Singer, "We must believe in free will. We don't have any choice."

Laura said...

Annnyway. Back to the real topic.

Actually, there was an episode of 30 days last night where an Athiest went to live with a christian family and the stereotype of immorality came up. The stereotype of athiests as being immoral because they have no higher authority to instruct them on what is and is not moral is very common. This fits with the recent research that suggests that those who are religious conservatives are more likely to follow leaders than be leaders... they're constantly asking someone (or something) else to tell them what is right.

Anonymous said...

I saw that same scenario on WIFE SWAP!

I totally agree with your observation, Laura. That's why my post touched upon not only two individuals with fanatical backgrounds who deny to, or, refuse to, question anything other than a script that was handed to them but also, offered a retort to the poster who seemed to suggest that ONLY religion can offer a moral compass.

Laura said...

anon: That wife swap was just horrifying. I saw that one. The 30 days was much better - because they found people who were playing with full decks.

FrumellasGoneWild said...

It's so right on that you use the language of "coming out." I've come out to family about being gay, but I've yet to emerge fully in my current glory of being less-than-observant. And you'd think I wouldn't give a toss, having certainly seen at first-hand the damage that frumkeit can cause. But old habits do die hard...

Jewish Atheist said...


First of all: LOL. Great screenname.

It's funny you say that -- I used to joke that I would tell my parents about my leaving Orthodoxy by saying, "Mom, Dad... I'm gay." And then after I'd pause and add, "Just kidding! I'm just not frum anymore!" they'd be relieved. :-)

If you need a nudge: go, be yourself. If they've accepted you (to some degree) as gay, surely being less-than-observant won't be too awful.

dbackdad said...

I think my absolute biggest pet peeve is when someone define atheism as a religion. Those people (not all Christians or Jews) can only define faith/non-faith and morality through their own narrow window. As an agnostic/atheist, I understand why people are Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. I don't try to define them in terms of my own lack of faith.

And just because I didn't get my "moral clarity" from a crusty old book filtered through 2000 years of religious politics doesn't mean I don't have morals.

... and to do a reasonable job of getting back on topic -- I'd have to agree with you JA that I see far too many people that believe they have the right way. It's kinda ironic, but I've been working on a post talking about skepticism and found a nice article on the Secular Humanist website from a skeptic that made a nice point: " ... If two statements are mutually contradictory, they cannot both be correct. This may seem obvious, but is often ignored, particularly by those religious believers who would like to display their tolerance of other religions by stating that every religion represents the truth for its adherents. Unfortunately, in many cases this is not possible, e.g. either Jesus Christ was the divine son of God or he was not. In a logical world, both positions cannot be true. Orthodox believers tend to be more in tune with the law of contradictions by stating that their belief system represents the only real truth while all others are false. Unfortunately, the laws of probability are against them; e.g., if there are ten equally plausible religions, there is, at best, only a 10 percent probability that any one of them is exactly correct. Of course, there is a very real possibility that none of them is ..."

As for myself, I'm not saying it is the "right" way, but it is my way. That's probably the most that any of us can do.

asher said...

Sorry, and what does atheism do for the world? I'm still looking for the Atheist Low Interest Loan Society, the Atheist Hospital and the Atheist Orphanage. If you want to compare the two, compare the best of the two. The best of religion has given people solace, grief counseling, and rehabilitation. And the best of athiest has produced what?

dbackdad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dbackdad said...

"Low interest loan"? -- isn't there some religious tenet against usery? :-)

The Gates Foundation is well on it's way to exceeding any religious based charitable foundation. And not being bound by religious-based concepts like "abstinence-only" education, it will actually do some good intead of just making those who push it feel good.

The best of religion has given people solace ... -- and how many have been killed in the name of religion?

Jack's Shack said...

The best of religion has given people solace ... -- and how many have been killed in the name of religion?

Does it matter.

Jack's Shack said...

The best of religion has given people solace ... -- and how many have been killed in the name of religion?

Does it matter.

dbackdad said...

Does it matter. -- First of all, did you mean that as a statement or a question since your post is ambiguous? Second of all, does what matter? People being killed in the name of religion? I would hope that would matter.

Anonymous said...

I agree, dbackdad. That comment had me scratching my head as well!

I would hate to think that someone would think it is somehow OK that people are being killed in the name of religion.

I'm sure the relatives of doctors who were killed at abortion clinics can back me up on that!

Irviner Chasid said...

>Does it matter. -- First of all, did you mean that as a statement or a question since your post is ambiguous? Second of all, does what matter? People being killed in the name of religion? I would hope that would matter

Where does your hope come from? What are you hoping, that random events will produce a desired result?