Polls have shown that atheists are the “least trusted minority”, and that people would likely not vote for an atheist. The God Delusion cites (in the preface) a 1999 Gallup poll:
A Gallup poll taken in 1999 asked Americans whether they would vote for an otherwise well-qualified person who was a woman (95 per cent would), a Roman Catholic (94 per cent would), Jew (92 per cent), black (92 per cent), Mormon (79 per cent), homosexual (79 per cent), or atheist (49 per cent).
Now here’s the thing, irrespective of whether I’m a theist or an atheist, I would have serious reservations about voting for someone that does not understand the language that the majority of his countrymen speak. I don’t care about his personal views. If he doesn’t understand his countrymen and cannot communicate well, how could I vote for him in good faith?
Until now, I suspect that publicly donning the “atheist” label served as a decent indicator to identify people that lack an understanding of theistic language. From an old post of mine:
South Africa long had the policy of not accepting blood donations from non-whites, purely because statistically, “white blood” was more likely to be AIDS-free. How is that for a can of worms? Statistics, dangerous stuff. Naturally, this policy was forced to change. I don’t know what statistics they now use to determine what blood is “safer” and what is “less safe”.
People do not distrust the label “atheist”, they distrust the things that “atheist” is currently an indicator for. The Out Campaign is then merely trying to dilute the word to the point where it no longer serves as that indicator. Why do you care so much about the label? I also believe comparing it to the Gay Pride movement is a logical fallacy. That movement was about fighting the marginalisation of people with a particular physiology. (Physiology? There must be a better word?) The Out Campaign is, in my opinion, merely destigmatising a label, nothing more. Yay. A label that many say shouldn’t even exist. (I suspect one might even be able to find a Richard Dawkins quote that includes him in that “many”.) OK, yes, I understand. You would like to be “united”. You want your voice heard. I have another idea to complement the “Out Campaign”. It’s on its way.
Now on to a statement Richard Dawkins made at AAI. He mentioned he would have been a bad choice of witness at the Dover trial. He said if confronted with the question “does evolution lead to atheism?”, he would have to answer “yes”. I’m convinced he thereby illustrates his lack of understanding of theistic language. What is the question really? The question is this: “Does evolution lead to an absolutely meaningless existence? Does evolution lead to a lack of hope? Does evolution lead to nothing to base your morality on?” This is what Richard Dawkins would have answered “yes” to. You must understand that people cannot trust politicians that go around saying “Your existence is meaningless! There is no point in behaving morally! Life is hopeless! Hopeless, I tell you!”
When communicating, what the recipient hears is much more important than what the speaker is trying to say. What would be the more valuable way of answering that question? Sidestep the word, if you are unable to communicate in theistic language. Use better words. “Well, evolution does not lead to a lack of hope, morality or meaning in life. If that is what you mean by ‘God’, then clearly evolution cannot lead to a rejection of God…”
Yes, one potential snag: “Please answer the question Mr Dawkins: Yes or No?”. Now the problem with the legal system and society as a whole: it assumes we are all talking the same language. And so we build a Tower of Babel, and we kill each other because we do not even realise we’re not speaking the same language. How about this: “I’m sorry, I do not understand what you mean by the question, as there are so many different definitions of ‘God’. Can you define ‘God’ for me?” (Hehe… nasty, that. God is beyond definition, not so?)
The language of angels, the language of men, and apparently no-one that is able to translate? Fools!
I need to get some more pro-science posts out, in preparation for the launching of the P-campaign. That pig better start running soon, else I’ll go mad. Again. A bacon-related deadline passes on Monday so hopefully I will have time to work on getting the pig flying next week. I’m hoping it will succeed at its first flight before the next full moon.