I will point out that the term "bright" is a first step toward the non-religious putting up symbols of their own. They have a word. A symbol next would be nice.
Then maybe all this howling about religious displays could die down, as the non-religious could then simply ask to put up their symbols to mark things like the solstices or whatever else they'd like.
Because as a bright, I am truly repelled by the move to ban religious displays from public property. It sickens me deeply, for it shows an intolerance toward our fellow citizens that is, truly, an ugly thing.
Also, what he means to write in his opening sentence is we brights. Forgive him for that: they don't teach writing well in the colleges these days.
Erm, "us" is correct there, not "we." Read the sentence without the word "Brights" it. Heh.
1. "Us" is correct.
2. Ben, you're only seeing this from one side. Why is it more obnoxious to say "I believe God is a fictional character created by man" than to say "I am a follower of a religion [whose tenets teach that my membership entitles me and my fellow followers to eternal life, and doom non-followers to hell]"? Yes, to say that "God does not exist" is to imply "Your belief that God does exist is wrong." But that's just the nature of holding a different opinion. You automatically infer that Dennett is rude and obnoxious to believers--when there is nothing in his essay that indicates that.
The fact that you find the assertion of non-belief "arrogant" demonstrates precisely Dennett's point: it is next to impossible for a bright to participate in the public debate -- he'll get shouted down in a way that someone who says "I think war in Iraq would be immoral [and thus you are immoral for supporting it]" or "It is our patriotic duty to wage war in Iraq [and thus you are unpatriotic for failing to support such a war]" wouldn't.
3. Dennett is a leading philosopher at Tufts University who has written the definitive works on understanding consciousness and naturalistic views of free will; he was nominated for a National Book Award and a Pulitzer for "Darwin's Dangerous Idea," which is the best popular book on evolution published in the last ten years. That you haven't heard of him reflects more on you than him.
4. You miss the tongue-in-cheek nature of the essay when you criticize Dennett's discussion of "outing."
Well, look at this, I scooped Ben Kepple. :-) Your training is almost complete, young Jedi....
Damn... Ben has HTML shut off in his comments...
*I'm probably going to partially use the wording I've used here for a post on my own blog on the subject.
I'm about ready to divorce myself completely from the "atheist" appellation. It confounds me. My atheism/agnosticism (who cares?) was not a *choice* I made. In a way, it was a *failure*. I was "raised" Lutheran, went to church three times a week, completed Confirmation, played lead guitar in a Christian rock band at my friend's church, went on retreats and camps, and read my Bible.
Yet round about the time I turned 18 or so, it just became apparent to me that if I was going to avoid hypocrisy, I'd have to admit what I'd suspected for quite a while: I had no faith. Faith is believing in something that no one in his right mind would believe in otherwise. I didn't have it.
I'm still fascinated by certain aspects of religion and its history of thought (I took theology classes at a Catholic university, for instance), but that realization and admittance pretty well ended my active participation in religion.
But gee whiz! I'm so tired of the self-righteous, bellicose atheists out there who want to feel embattled by their "plight". I guess I'm not as sophisticated as folks like Dennett, because I just sort of stumbled into my lack of belief. Just know that there are faithless individuals who have a great deal of respect for those who do believe and have not a thing against saying "Under God" in the Pledge, being prayed for, or even attending a church service at Christmas Eve or Easter.
I'm on board with evolution, by default, but so is my mother, a devout and highly-involved Lutheran. But I recognize that for a lot of folks, science books engender the same sort of *faith* as the Bible does for true Christians. I can understand the idea that certain specimens are selected for and that over the course of X generations, this can lead to adaptation and evolutionary change. But I'm not in there in the lab doing the experiments and using carbon-dating data to form a null hypothesis. I'm accepting it based on faith.
"If my neighbor to my left believes in no god and my neighbor to my right believes in one hundred gods, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
Your diatribe is support for everything Dennett says in that editorial. Enough said. But I can't stop there. You've never heard of him? He's been publishing since at least the 70's. His work is taught in many fields, including Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence), Evolutionary Psychology, Cognitive Science, and Philosophy (Free Will, Consciousness). Read anything current in any of these areas and you'll find references back to him. He is also well-read by the general population. Check any bookstore.
"Inquisitive"? Yeah, right.
"Most Christians and other religious are by their nature inquisitive folk, and we see the hand of God at work in every new astronomical discovery or scientific breakthrough. "
Well, that is very inquisitive of you. Except most of these astronomical and scientific breakthroughs are the result of the scientific community, not the religious community. Come to think of it, what discovery or breakthrough has the religious community achieved lately? Your quote simply points out that others do the actually research and discovery while you give credit for their work to God.