How tolerant do we have to be?

65


Discussion by: jenog
Walking through the town centre this Saturday I encountered a woman equipped with a microphone telling the whole street how God and Jesus had helped her cope with her mother’s lung cancer.  Her explanations were emotional and extremely loud but rather short on logic.  

A few steps farther on an Islamic leaflet was thrust at me, five more people tried to hand me identical leaflets during my short shopping trip.  

None of this is particularly unusual, but my attitude towards it has been gradually changing.  As a child I was frequently told how important it was to respect others’ beliefs, and I took that message to heart, accepting it without question.  These days however I find myself increasingly irritated by those people who inflict their beliefs on others, and to use a loud speaker seems like pure rudeness.  While I do respect anyone’s right to hold beliefs that differ from my own, I wish that it was not necessary to tolerate the intrusion of other people’s beliefs whilst going about my daily life.  I know that these people would claim their right to free speech if I complained about their presence, but I wonder how they would feel if I brought along my own microphone and pointed out the flaws in their arguments.  

I feel that religion is like defecation: best done in private and without drawing unnecessary attention to it.  My early training on respect and tolerance has left me feeling guiltily uneasy about this attitude.  Am I justified in feeling like this?  Am I simply being monstrously intolerant?  Am I alone?

65 COMMENTS

  1. The Muslims with leaflets are fair enough on the High Street – I don’t have any problem with them. They don’t generally come at you, but stick around their stall. I will sometimes engage them and argue, maybe also talk about cricket, then walk away leaving them in no doubt about my atheism. I’ve found that Muslims are poor debaters and I think they have the wrong idea about non-belief and non-believers. I always keep it light and have a laugh. There’s plenty of good soil in which to sow the seeds of doubt there and reverse their sales pitch.

    But the microphone women is too much. I think it’s best to talk to her and ask her if she has any literature, and if not, politely ask her to stop and explain that (like the Muslims down the road) she should have a stall and no micophone. Where you go from there, I don’t know, but I suspect she will be short lived on the High Street.

  2.  I’ve found that Muslims are poor debaters

    I’ve found that Muslims don’t know the meaning of ‘debate’. To the Islamic faithful the need to defend the koran and its utter lunacy demands lies piled upon denial, with a thick coat of delusion.
    Complete waste of time!

  3. There is a big difference between tolerate and respect. We should tolerate pretty much anything that is not directly harming other people. On the other hand you don’t have any responsibility to respect anyone or anything.

    If the ignorant person with the loudspeaker is disturbing the peace it is reasonable to ask her to turn down the volume. It isn’t reasonable to expect her to not try to spread her message at all. It is reasonable to try to engage her in a polite discussion.

  4. I had a similar experience a few weeks ago at a street fair.  It was just Christians ranting very loudly on various corners but I found it very disturbing as I approached these areas simply to buy fruits and vegetables.  I first went to the main tent to lodge a complaint.  I was advised that everything they could do was done.  No megaphones was about it. They of course were also annoyed. I guess you could say it was free speech at it’s (worst). So, as I exited, near where one of them was ranting, I simply smiled and said to him “There is no god” and left.  It left him speechless for about 5 seconds only.  but I felt better and still do.

  5. “…and I believe people who identify themselves as Muslims can be good people
    only to the extent that they eschew Islamic teaching, but your
    unevidenced generalisations are valueless.”

    I read that as:  “Muslims can be good people only to the extent that they are willing to stop being Muslims.”  Is that what you meant?

  6. I’m tolerant up to the point where someone says something I know to be false.  The other day my landlord and I were working on some rotten decking at his house. He popped off about gays being ok with stuff Jerry Sandusky did and I laid down my tools and walked away. He stopped me and asked what was the matter so I gave him the five minute version of my rant about rape not being sex and what that means in the context of talking about gays and child molesters. He stood gaping then tried that good old nugget from Leviticus so gave him shaving, mixed fabrics and shellfish. He said interpret what they were really trying to say and I said judge not lest ye be judged. he says Sodom I say Lot offered his daughters to the crowd whereupon he said that’s a lie. A bet was made, now he keeps his thoughts on gays and religion in general to himself. You can stop being tolerant at the point where people start lying, they are free to voice their opinions they are not free to make things up.

  7. Human communication is not unlike a syringe of sedation. Dose the right amount and a wonderful discussion ensues. A well known, and inexpensive, way to relieve anyone’s pallor is to simply inject it carelessly. 

    Mike

  8. @ JimJFox

    “I’ve found that Muslims don’t know the meaning of ‘debate’. To the
    Islamic faithful the need to defend the koran and its utter lunacy
    demands lies piled upon denial, with a thick coat of delusion.  Complete waste of time!mment here”.

    In the UK the young Muslims are often 3rd generation Brits – their
    grandparents migrated in the 60s and they are born of parents who were
    also born here. In a largely non-religious culture, their religiosity is
    falling and imho plenty of muslim-identifying “muslims” are really
    non-believers. If asked they say they are Muslim, but never go to the
    mosque. I agree they are not on the stalls, but those on the stalls know
    many of their own have now abandoned their faith, and know their
    arguments are poor.

    There’s some low hanging fruit amongst “Muslims”, that’s all I’m saying.

  9. When ever somebody shouts (like the old lady) theistic BS in your ears— Just smile.  This  actually makes them think that we know better ( which we do :) )
    Arguing with them is useless ( especially if they are old). its just a matter of time when this GOD meme will run out of steam. It won’t happen tomorrow but it would happen for sure.
    Of course there would be a lot of opposition from the right wing nuts, but in the end they would be a minority. Its just a matter of some decades.

    So guys don’t be angry over Muslims/extreme Christians, our anger actually makes them insecure and hold on to their belief much more strongly. Just keep spreading the rational, atheistic meme and soon or later it be dominant in the meme pool.

  10. You have my sympathy. I encountered one guy recently in my high street shouting (even though he had a microphone) and actually berating passers by who “Clearly haven’t found God”. It really annoyed me. Why should we tolerate these idiots? If I grabbed a mic and started screaming at people for their religious beliefs you can bet I’d be arrested within 10 minutes (OK probably 30 because the police are THAT slow).

    So don’t feel guilty. There’s a time when militant atheism should be left on the shelf – for instance the daft lawsuit by American atheists recently trying to prevent the ‘girder cross’ from being put in the 9/11 museum – but generally if we don’t speak up we’ll be drowned out.

  11.   Walking through the town centre this Saturday I encountered a woman equipped with a microphone telling the whole street how God and Jesus had helped her cope with her mother’s lung cancer.  Her explanations were emotional and extremely loud but rather short on logic. 

    Perhaps the mother was having to cope with an mentally immature daughter, as well as her own  lung cancer.

  12. You’re not alone, I get pretty annoyed with church bells now, going on for like half an hour before service on sunday,(don’t they know by now when story time starts?) or when someone has a funeral like today, it feels like an intrusion.

  13. Jenog,

    I just think that you have to chill out. The unfortunate truth of our societies is that we are constantly bombarded by some smuck trying to sell you something; used cars, time share apartments, pills that make your pipi stiff as a board, god, cell phones, dish washing detergent chocolate truffles, etc, etc, etc.

    I just ignore it and walk in a different direction; except for chocolate truffle, I like those.

  14. It’s absolutely essential in a free society that we should accept free speech on any topic and in public. Everyone has a right to have their views heard or to hand out leaflets. However, there must be limitations to ensure it doesn’t become harassment. It’s a question of what is reasonable. If you can’t walk 10 yards without having a leaflet (especially the same leaflet) shoved in your face, or if someone is constantly yelling through a megaphone in a normal high street, that is excessive. At specific and short-lived demonstrations, using a megaphone may be acceptable. Common sense should prevail.

  15. Am I justified in feeling like this?  Am I simply being monstrously intolerant?  Am I alone?

    You can think what you want, what matters is what you gonna do about it. IMO, as long as it’s not causing too much trouble, I don’t care. Just another street weirdo looking for attention. 

     I wonder how they would feel if I brought along my own microphone and pointed out the flaws in their arguments.

    Hey, that could be fun…

  16. Your parents also probably told you it is wrong to tell lie. This is what all these religious folk are doing, quite knowingly in this day and age. They use blatantly dishonest debating tactics. I believe you are thus mildly obligated to express disapproval for liars, though not necessarily to have have a no holds barred debate every time you encounter one.  Just wag your head disapprovingly to let them know you think what they are doing it wrong.  It may never before have occurred to them.  They surely know others disagree, but disapproval for lying is stronger.

    Then of course you can tease them. They don’t come to the door now a days, but that could just be because I now live in an apartment.

    To the question “Have you read the bible”, answer “No, but I saw the movie”.

    I told one elderly gentleman that Jesus had just whispered some private message for him in my ear.  I then told him some bit of turgid twaddle.  He bit and literally danced down my front steps, sure he had won his toaster.

  17. Sydwal
    You have my sympathy. I encountered one guy recently in my high street shouting (even though he had a microphone) and actually berating passers by who “Clearly haven’t found God”. It really annoyed me. Why should we tolerate these idiots?

    Such people are not open to reason, so ridicule is the best response.

    Last time I encountered one who was directing his Hell-fire at dissenting passers by, I waited until he repeated “Jesus saves”, and then commented – ” and Rooney scores on the rebound” (While standing next to a group wearing football shirts).  A section of the crowd burst into laughter and the clown with the mic thought they were laughing at him! 
    It totally destroyed the “grave, threatening  atmosphere” he was trying to create!

  18. I’m not hurt by people talking to other people about God (with or without mike), nor by people offering me leaflets. How could I be; how could anyone be?

    The whole idea of not tolerating people handing each other leaflets and talking to each other I think is, well, insane. What would you do, or have done? Grab their mike? Have them arrested for leaflet dispersion?

    If not, then what is your point?

  19. Lapithes
    I’m not hurt by people talking to other people about God (with or without mike), nor by people offering me leaflets. How could I be; how could
    anyone be?

    The whole idea of not tolerating people handing each other leaflets and talking to each other I think is, well, insane. What would you do, or have done?

    I have no problem with being handed religinut leaflets in the streets.
    There are plenty of litter-bins nearby!

  20. It’s not quite as simple as that with the religio-ranters. In Glasgow, where I’m from, we get quite a few of these characters. On a number of occasions I’ve seen them heckled by passers-by; the resulting fracas almost always ends up with the heckler being asked to move on – either by the police or another group.

    What bothers me about this is the thing that always bothers me about religious people – they want special privilege. If I grabbed a loudspeaker and started ranting at people to follow MY favourite hobby (golf), I’d very quickly be asked to stop. As long as it’s JC you’re drivelling on about, it’s seen as acceptable.

  21. A couple years ago as I was passing under the local train station, a guy offered me a tract. I said, “No, thanks.” He replied, “You’re going to burn in a lake of fire!” I said. “Christ, every weekend I go water-skiing on a lake of fire!” As long as he was at that location, he never offered me another tract. :-)
    Steve

  22. No, you have every right to be angery. I was in some church over the weekend. Don’t ask me why. And these people were yelling, “Jesus saved me,” or “Jesus you changed my life.” I felt like turn around and yelling, “Shut the fuck up, he did not.” Now I understand that alot of these people were reformed drug addicts and things of that nature, and they convinced themselves that an unknown entity had saved them. My question is, did Jesus come down out of the Heavens or something and pull the needle out of your arm? No. No he did not. So, if anyone saved you, it was you. It was you that saved you. Even if Jesus was real, I’d still think that he was an asshole. Because you have these people struggling to change their lives and here you have the almighty Jesus taking credit for it.

  23. As a person who is quiet by nature,  people with a religious agenda feel they need to inflict  their beliefs on me (especially when I was younger).  I support freedom of religion and I also support freedom of speech.  Like you I find the insistence of the religious fervent overbearing at times, but that is the all part of the deal of these freedoms.  I don’t think you are intolerant, just realistic.  After all, any person in the general public with the loudspeaker or who shoves things into your hands is plain rude, no matter what the message.
    http://forumforreason.wordpres

  24. This is a really interesting issue. How tolerant should we be? I think the answer is quite simple. We should be as tolerant to others as we want others to be tolerant to us. A modified version of the golden rule in other words. If people actually lived by this rule I think this world would be a much better place. Take the Muslim who is offended by some amateur video about Muhammad. In order to have the right to be offended then he/she should be equally tolerant with regard to atheists, Christians, Buddhists, gays, women or other social groups. This is the main problem. People demand respect but offer none in return. Hence, as atheists we should tolerate the same amount of criticism as we feel entitled to when we criticize others. 

  25. I don’t think you are intolerant, just lazy and prefer complaining to taking action. Hand out your own pamphlets demonstrating logic.

    You wonder on how they might react to that. Me too. Go find out and report back. As a rationalist, I need data, not your imagination. You are the same as them, making unqualified and uncharitable statements with an ideological set of assumptions in a sermon to the choir.

    They are not intruding on your life because you are entering the public sphere. The world should not cater to your personal tastes.

  26. It seems to me that on the question of religion people fall into 6 groups. Non-believers fall into two groups. Those who have actually thought about the question of God and come out the other side as atheists. Most of the people on this site belong to this group.

    Then there is the group of non-believers who don’t believe because they have never thought about it. They are often intellectually incurious or just plain stupid and often spend their time in nihilistic ways. This is the second most dangerous group and despite what Christopher Hitchens says about the perils of visiting places beginning with B, are more dangerous than default-believers simply because of their nihilism.

    Then there is the group of believers who believe because their parents believe, though they themselves have never really thought about it. They also are incurious or just plain stupid but are less dangerous than the aforementioned group because they lack the nihilistic element. They feel that God’s presence gives purpose and structure to all of this rather than there being a gaping abyss at our feet.

    Then there are the people who have thought about it and decided that there is a God. These split into two groups. The civilized ones keep their religion more or less a private affair and are harmless, while the uncivilized ones become evangelical, proselytising or malicious. This is the most dangerous group, which nowadays comprises almost exclusively Muslims.

    The final group, represented by the Four Horsemen, is often accused of sharing the same murderous extremism as the previous group, but this is not right. They are always reacting rather than acting and would disappear in a puff of smoke if their adversaries would only do the same, something that is not true in reverse. Richard Dawkins is Britain’s Air Force to religion’s Nazi Germany. The accusation of fundamentalism is thus a silly one.

  27. Numerous British town and city centres have – in the name of “regeneration” and “redevelopment” – been swallowed up by unaccountable private land-owning corporations who immediately set about sterilising their quasi-public space from any unwelcome distractions that might disrupt the all-important business of placid consumerism.

    So consider yourself fortunate enough to have access to a real town centre, a genuine public space. One in which all citizens – yes, even the slightly mad and deluded ones – can gather freely and use for whatever purpose they see fit. Should one wish to somnambulistically float through an environment bombarded exclusively by messages telling you to consume, consume, consume then you’re better off spending your Saturday afternoon in the former location.

    Megaphones? Great. Consider bringing your own and slugging it out with your opponent.

  28. Respect is a word that is used too loosely nowadays. I respect the right of people to practice their religion, just as I respect their right to vote for whatever political party they wish. However, that does not mean that I respect their actual views. If these people in the town square are not supposed to be there or their actions can be seen as harassment, then maybe you have a case. Perhaps the best you can do is place a complaint with city hall or something. As for taking on these corner preachers directly, I don’t think it’s smart to argue with the mentally challenged (and I do literally mean they are mentally challenged, as most people who do this sort of thing usually are). Also, folks like these are not taken seriously even by most of their fellow believers, so you’re probably not alone in your irritation. So my advice would be to do like the old Burt Bacharach song says and just “walk on by.”

  29. I was once walking down the street and a guy, without a micro,came shouting at me: “Jesus is the answer! Jesus is the answer!” I looked at him and asked him politely: “What was the question?” I left him standing up speechless and he didn’t follow me.

  30. The Woman has the right, the leaflet distributors too.

    There were three things going on during your shopping trip that illustrate how free expression fits into a progressive society.

    The first is that these people have the right to express their views. To exercise that right they do not HAVE to be factually correct, polite, respectful, logical, considered, or even coherent. It just damages their ability to get their message across when they don’t embrace those aspects of making a good argument – as your reaction demonstrates.

    The second is the most often forgotten aspect of free speech; your right to hear alternative views. The fact is that we live in a less polite society than we did (at the risk of sounding like every old duffer since Hessiod in 700 BC: “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for they are reckless beyond words. When I was young, we were taught to be discreet, respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient”)

    We can trace the roots of this to a little-recorded social change post WWII. The period 1945 to ~1975 was a time of rapid social development. In particular we saw the rise to prominence of people with strident attitudes towards public discourse. It used to be quite common to hear people of my parent’s generation say things like: “People must take me as I am.”, or “I’m only being straight with you.” (There’s a particularly frequent and apposite expression that was used, if I remember it later I’ll come back and edit in). The upshot of this – to cut a long story short – was that being blunt and lacking in diplomatic skill, formerly a barrier to entering public life, became acceptable.

    While I sympathise with you on how this grates, like fingernails on a blackboard, I urge you to embrace it. The principle that we are only free if we are free to hear alternative views is key to democracy.

    I submit that there is no free market of ideas in the ‘West’ at present. You have touched on two reasons why, and the first is that, of course, the majority of citizens do not receive a democratic education – which must include the development of critical thinking skills.

    Without those skills the majority have become fodder for political and social engineering on a, literally, industrial scale.

    Unable to apply, let alone react with as reflex, critical thinking to what they are told – the majority accept and absorb ‘information’ uncritically. However, to therefore conclude that those who attempt to promulgate ideas outside the mainstream must be restricted would be a huge mistake. Not only would we be limiting our own ability to hear alternative voices, not only would we be privileging minority views with undeserved respect (because you cannot critique an argument you have not heard), we would be playing into the hands of the political-industrial complex.

    The third thing that was happening on your shopping trip, and the second aspect you have highlighted of a lack of a free market of ideas is that the people you met were convinced that the ‘audience’ was receptive to both their content and presentation style.

    Expressing views that are clearly founded in ignorance, indolence, boorishness, banality, rudeness, or even stupidity cannot be a barrier to entry to the public square. In addition, consider; those who present such ideas are merely advertising how unfit those ideas are – thus, actually, turning people against those views.

    We are overdue a return to a polite society. A set of principles, not rules, by which people can measure the acceptability of their social interactions. I’m not talking here about some twee method by which a minority feel empowered to be snobbish. Nor do I advocate limiting swearing or the possibility of giving of fence.

    But we do need to give that Woman you met using an amplifier a reason to consider if a leaflet might not be more appropriate, and the guys handing out leaflets a way to think about how many we’re simply thrown away. In both cases these people were operating on assumptions that their approach was productive. In fact it was, in most cases, counter-productive.

    Peace.

  31. Well, I sympathize.
    I live in France where religious freedom is expressed differently than in Anglo-saxon countries.
    The only people here who seem to have a free pass on annoying the living crap out of you are those who try to guilt you into subscribing to one charity or another.
    There are some religious people here and there with a little stand and leaflets and little books (mostly Jehovah’s witnesses around here) but they are really quiet.
    They just stand near the entrance to the rer station and wait for people to come and ask questions.

    I don’t think it’s because French religious nuts are more agreeable than the British ones, I think it’s because they learned their lessons a while back.
    I can picture the reactions of the passers-by very clearly here were they to act like that megaphone woman. I have the feeling it would probably end in a caricature of a village fistfight like in Asterix you know ?
    We don’t take kindly to public display of religion here. Laicity (secularism ?) is very very important here.

  32. I live in France too, and I always take as much time as I have to talk with Jehova witnesses. First, I take as many leaflets as they offer, and ask for more. The more expensive, the better. I almost never buy toilet paper and the Watchtower is very soft.  Then I begin asking seemingly harmless questions and if I can make them waste a couple of hours, I do. They used to ring my doorbell on saturday mornings, but they don’t anymore, since my wife shouted the crap out of them, because she likes to sleep on saturday mornings. Too bad ; I loved having them for breakfast. They have to understand that, if they want to talk religion in the street, they might not all the time preach to the choir. Some days are hard days. Sometimes, they meet me. If they use their freedom of speech, sometimes they meet mine. Fair deal. Maybe I deconverted a few, I’ll never know. If they can convert, then I can deconvert. If deconvertion was impossible, then religions would not be so keen on censorship. And while they are talking to me, they are not harming anybody. But I would really enjoy living where Jenog lives ; seven preachers on a shopping trip would really make my day. I love my freedom of speech.

  33. That makes me think, there are people I have spotted in several different places in France that I haven’t been able to identify yet.
    They always go about in pairs; young men, well and identically dressed, dark pants, white shirt, identical bags and shoes with a little blue name tag. Mostly, they look foreign, American according to their accents.
    What are they ? Have you ever debated with them ?
    I’m always very curious whenever I come across one such pair but I’m always too creeped out to directly ask them anything. They remind me of an X-files episode. 

  34. I was in London’s Leicester Square the other week (not the one in Todmorden) and the Christian nutters were out in force: bible-behanded, bemicrophoned, and tub-thumping about repentence and sin. Thankfully they were all on the fast-track to paradise, and were imparting their pearls to “save” us hell-bound folk, which was very nice of them I’m sure.  

    I happened to be waiting for a friend, so stopped to watch the freak show for a couple of minutes. I didn’t mind the nonsense-spouting loons, but when an irate Scot took the microphone and started to trot out well-worn creationist lies (he beseeched the passers-by to cite an example of a building without an architect – the usual ignorant guff) I found my dander rising.

    However, I was much encouraged by the reaction of the crowd. In the three-five minutes I waited there I was the only audience they amassed, and most people walked past sadly shaking their heads.

    Very few (probably 15-20%) took their literature, and of those that did, the streets were littered with discarded pamphlets like confetti gathering in a gutter after a wedding.

    I was relieved that nobody cared. By the time I returned later in the evening they were gone. Only a few lonely leaflets, trampled into the ground, lay as a reminder that they had ever been there at all.

    Has anyone ever seen these nutters win a single convert? They do it to satisfy their own egos. I bet even quiet, dignified people of faith give them a wide berth.

  35. To be annoyed by these people in the town centre, on bus stops, or tube stations is OK. I just ignore them. BUT some have the gall to ring thye door bell at 7:00 AM and ask if I mind discussing their saviour Jesus Christ and God, and yet get their noses out of joint when told off?? Where does it stop??
    You also have such people standing around in front of pubs and clubs, in the middle of the night, calling to people to “repent!! Jesus loves you!!”

  36. I feel that religion and the “faith” in some deity and/or prophet is nothing but a psychological crutch people form in their infected (remember religion is like a virus) minds because of their abject terror of death! They just don’t seem to get their minds around the fact that life is finite and we all die, without exception, and get “recycled” by nature .
    Furthermore they cannot, or refuse, to accept that there is not MORE to life than just a journey twixt the cradle and the grave… they want more!! They want an “afterlife”, not realising that life is but a sextually transmitted 100% terminal disease and the virus of faith and god will nor save them from this fact!
    Instead, they should make the best they can with the little they get!!

  37. The volume of the Muezzin’s loudspeaker calling the faithful to prayer five times a day is directly proportional to the percentage of the population that is Islamic. 

    That rule also seems to apply to the outrageousness that American Christians impose their faith on their fellows too.

    This is probably something fundamental to our species.

  38. Christians are not much different.  When you corner them in debate by quoting the bible, they will claim either the words don’t mean what they say or that the verse for some obscure reason does not count, even though it is supposedly part of the inerrant word of the creator of the universe. 

  39. Please ,do not debate any Muslim, I am a Ex-Muslim (Secretly converted on my own to half Agnostic and Half Atheist), and I am in Qatar, believe me, you really wouldn’t want to waste your time!
    I just hope I get here before I get beheaded for being an Infidel.
    P.S: I am 17 years old ,I can still prove them all wrong, and they get enraged! 

  40. You are not alone.   I know exactly how you feel and I too feel the presence of guilt as I seem to be slowly abandoning my childhood views of tolerance and respect.  I don’t know if I have any answer for you, but I can tell you: You are not alone. 

  41. I don’t believe that the tolerance should be granted when and if the other part(y) begins imposing their beliefs on other in a way that they are invading you personally. It does not matter if they are standing on the street corners handing out leaflets whilst preaching, nor when they are gathering in a rally against a certain cartoonist or if they venture to your doorstep with a bunch of nice paper for the cats bed.

    Any person should only be tolerant to the extend that their privacy is not crossed which may certainly vary from individual to individual. The problem with others wanting to impose a more tolerant nature from you will only grow wider each time you give in and in doing so will strengthen them in their belief, which again will come closer to you personally. Its a cycle that will not seize just because you allow them their wanted level of tolerance, on the contrary, they will most likely not stop until their model of beliefs is embraced by all.And no your guilt is only present because you have re-evaluated your actions and in doing so actually have done what most “believers” will seldom come close to, that you have looked inwards and found your consciousness needing justification for your actions. A most praised trait if I may say so, and a very rare one indeed.

  42. The only reason religion in the west  is benign (for the most part)  is because it has been battered and bruised by its encounters with science.  It ridicules its self every time it opens its mouth.  So keep it up and don’t feel guilty about it.  Remember that when the religious had power they would have burnt the likes of us at the stake!  So keep on taking the proverbial.  

  43. Try living in a wheelchair and going down the street.   For Christians I quote the Sermon on the Mount about not by words but by deeds you will know them and all you preachers got is a big mouth.  If you were a real Christian you would volunteer to empty bedpans, that is a real comfort.

    I still find it very offensive when old Latino women cross themselves when they see me. 

    Islam does not have a big converstion effort in west coast white communities, most I meet seem to be Methodists with out Jesus.

    The greatest thing I learned for all of you here and Professor Dawkins is, you just don’t have to take their patronizing ego triping anymore. 

  44. No you’re not alone!
    As it seems there must be something written on my forhead that sais: PROCELETYZE ME!
    I try to ignore the indirect active attempts to provide me with information I don’t want like the leaflet you mentioned. But the moment I’m forced into a conversation (last time directly in front of my door)i try to make my point of view as clear as possible.
    This usually ends not with understanding of the other side. It’ not the point that they believe. It’s much more the point that they need me to believe too, so that their beilef gains value. A strange concept from my point of view.
    I take these conversations like a sportsmen. It is quite fun to watch someone tangling up in inevidential explanations.

    So take it not so serious …

    Joe

  45. No you’re not alone!
    As it seems there must be something written on my forhead that sais: PROCELETYZE ME!
    I try to ignore the indirect active attempts to provide me with information I don’t want like the leaflet you mentioned. But the moment I’m forced into a conversation (last time directly in front of my door)i try to make my point of view as clear as possible.
    This usually ends not with understanding of the other side. It’ not the point that they believe. It’s much more the point that they need me to believe too, so that their beilef gains value. A strange concept from my point of view.
    I take these conversations like a sportsmen. It is quite fun to watch someone tangling up in inevidential explanations.

    So take it not so serious …

    Joe

  46.  If they want to wave their beliefs in your face, I think it is more than justified to politely argue with them. I’ve been conflicted for a long time on whether to back down quietly or debate at the risk of being intolerant-but if they have no quarrel with offending you, don’t hesitate to respectfully tell them off. I try to be nice, tolerant, and respectful at all times-but this is like someone slinging their feces in the street. If it should happen to hit you, wipe it off and politely ask them to stop.

  47. I had a weak moment the other day (let’s hope this thread is not dead, yet)

    There was this guy the other day, in the shopping streets (in an open space) on a little soapbox holding a bible in his hand up high, yelling out Jesus saves, and jesus this and jesus that, and get this, he was doing so in English (I’m from the Netherlands and not even remotely close to a touristy area) so he was standing there in an open space, literally everyone was ignoring him, except for three kids they were prancing around and mocking him.

    As I walked past (from a distance 8 yards or so) I just couldn’t resist to yell out “shut up” and “fuck off” not very intelligent I know, but it annoyed me.

    My wife said it just makes you look stupid, she went on to make a nice analogy, “if you see a stray dog and it barks at you you don’t bark back do you? it’s stupid and pointless and makes you look stupid as well”

    damnit I thought, she’s right, I married a smart women. 

    I thought I’d share that here, have a nice one!

  48. to Kikiat:
    There are some differences between a dog and a man. A dog can’t carry weapons, can’t vote and is not able to influence others to bully you. On the one hand I understand and aggree totaly with you (besides keep your smart woman!!!). It’s a personal thing ’cause insulting only works from above-. someone who is obviously less intelligent than I am cannot insult me. But the religious thing has another quality. It catches people who seem to be relatively bright and do important jobs with great responsability. Just think about the situation with Israel and the Palestiniens. Or even worse think about the Indian Pakistani frontier where two atomic forces play games with each other. Add religious ardor to it and the shit hits the fan! I’m really fed up with stupidity of all kinds. It makes life much more complicated than nescessary. Religion is one of the worst way to deal with the own handicap. 
    B. th. w. if there had been not an uproar against slavery I would still be in chains like my great grand parents were in their carribean home. So I admire if people go against bad situations openly and in public.
    Here in Germany the situation as an atheist is much easier than in many places of the world. But you can find
    people in the city standing and yelling their beliefs here too. Besides I’m asked  again and again in the streets: “We want to talk about god with you!”,  are very comon here. They come to your house and ring at your door. I usually tell them: “No you don’t! Bu you don’t know this yet. Wait ten minutes and you will know!” And that’s usually how things go: they start, I answer, embarrassing silence for a moment and than they decide to search someone who is easier to challange. But as I said it’s not such a great deal to be an atheist in Germany. Our constitution garanties the possibility to live religion and atheism as you like. The only thing here is that you pay a lot of money to the churches even if you are no member. It is hidden in the taxes and payed to the catholic church for about three centuries a compensation for expropriation at the time. But since I left church (I was baptized catholic and left the week after the pope was here in my hometown) I don’t pay the direct taxes – so I’m fine!

    Joe

  49. to Kikiat:
    There are some differences between a dog and a man. A dog can’t carry weapons, can’t vote and is not able to influence others to bully you. On the one hand I understand and aggree totaly with you (besides keep your smart woman!!!). It’s a personal thing ’cause insulting only works from above-. someone who is obviously less intelligent than I am cannot insult me. But the religious thing has another quality. It catches people who seem to be relatively bright and do important jobs with great responsability. Just think about the situation with Israel and the Palestiniens. Or even worse think about the Indian Pakistani frontier where two atomic forces play games with each other. Add religious ardor to it and the shit hits the fan! I’m really fed up with stupidity of all kinds. It makes life much more complicated than nescessary. Religion is one of the worst way to deal with the own handicap. 
    B. th. w. if there had been not an uproar against slavery I would still be in chains like my great grand parents were in their carribean home. So I admire if people go against bad situations openly and in public.
    Here in Germany the situation as an atheist is much easier than in many places of the world. But you can find
    people in the city standing and yelling their beliefs here too. Besides I’m asked  again and again in the streets: “We want to talk about god with you!”,  are very comon here. They come to your house and ring at your door. I usually tell them: “No you don’t! Bu you don’t know this yet. Wait ten minutes and you will know!” And that’s usually how things go: they start, I answer, embarrassing silence for a moment and than they decide to search someone who is easier to challange. But as I said it’s not such a great deal to be an atheist in Germany. Our constitution garanties the possibility to live religion and atheism as you like. The only thing here is that you pay a lot of money to the churches even if you are no member. It is hidden in the taxes and payed to the catholic church for about three centuries a compensation for expropriation at the time. But since I left church (I was baptized catholic and left the week after the pope was here in my hometown) I don’t pay the direct taxes – so I’m fine!

    Joe

  50. You are definitely not alone. It’s shocking that believers assume its alright to share their thoughts with the world but the minute an Athiest suggests an idea they throw a fit.
    I often try to keep my thoughts to myself because from what I’m concerned, if God is what makes people stronger then so be it.

  51. My view on this would tend to be that everyone is entitled to air their opinions up to the point where they become abusive towards others. On many topics many religions  involve holding opinions I find medieval and the product of a total lack of critical thought. But, people are entitled to hold them and repeat them if they wish and I would not change that for a second. The flip side is I of course am equally entitled to criticise mock and dismiss their views if I wish. Freedom of speech and opinion does not mean you cannot offend other or have to give their views equal merit.
    The point where I think we do not need to be tolerant is when individuals or groups either become abusive or only accept freedom of speech in one direction. The religious do not always do well at this! The best way of thinking of it is  a person of religious faith (muslim, christian or any other) may not like what atheists do or say but they can call us whatever they want back and feel pretty comfortable that they won’t be kicked out of their job, harassed, threatened, imprisoned, beaten or killed because of it. Anyone who follows that approach is to my mind entitled to hold, repeat and debate whatever view they wish.

  52. You are not alone. I feel the same way when religion is thrust upon me while waking down the street, specially when “it’s that time of the year”. You don’t need to be rude to such people but never back down from making your voice heard when approached directly. Remember, these are people who not only are morally quite alright to believe you are going to hell because you don’t believe in their god, but they look forward to it. 

    You can’t stop people from doing these things, but you don’t have to take it when approached directly. If some one gives you a leaflet before you realize what that is, give it back to them and say I don’t want it (dont say “no thank you” – why would you thank someone for it?). If they don’t take it back, throw it in their direction softly (make sure there are no cops around to give you a ticket for littering), you can also rip it up and throw it in the trash in front of them. 

    About the lady with the microphone, call 911 with a noise complaint and a erratically behaving woman. Of course you can get your own mic and counter her, but why waste your precious time :)

    Remember, be calm, be reasonable, be nice and smile …. but don’t take shit from no one !!

  53. A local church comes to my house every sunday to give me tracts and try to give me a bible. ive printed off some atheist tracts and will take anything they bring to my door and read it if they promise to read mine. the other option is to call the cops and it just isn’t worth it.

  54. I wonder what would happen if a scientist were to pick up a megaphone declaiming creationism and espousing the scientific explanation? That would be a true test of freedom of speech! How long would it be before such an individual were hounded off the streets by someone of a religious persuasion? How can we justify such duplicity? I wholeheartedly support your intolerance of manic street preachers who seek to proselytise. To proffer a leaflet allows the option to refuse, but an amplified assault on the ears cannot readily be spurned. Street preaching should be regarded as a form of noise pollution!

  55. We have to pick our battles.

    Someone spouting about their faith like this is probably doing more harm to their own cause than good.

    Additionally, taking on someone who is going to garner sympathy from passers by because of cancer is not going to be especially productive because many will feel sorry for them first and prefer to see you as the antagonist regardless of your arguments.

  56. It’s only natural to get irritated. Where I live people do this in the main square all the time. How many times must I politely decline the leaflets?
    I heard a joke once about religion, similar to this defacation one: Religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one and it’s fine to be proud of it. But don’t go whipping it out in public, and certainly don’t shove it down our throats! lol

    But seriously. Unfortunately this is the world we live in and it won’t change overnight. The best things we can do are to calmly, rationally explain our non beliefs to people when they ask us– for instance “Why don’t you want this leaflet?”
    I was taught the same thing when I was younger. It doesn’t really bother me anymore and I think it depends on the individual. If someone is respectful, that’s fine. If someone isn’t, they’re not worth your time anyway.

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