Towards a free society and Thinking Things Through

FSI Thinking Things ThroughOn December 3, the Free Society Institute (the secular humanist NPO that I founded here in South Africa) held their third conference, titled “Thinking Things Through“. It was a one-day event, featuring talks on science, freedom of speech, secularism and more. The channel containing all 6 presentations, as well as the panel discussion that rounded off the day, can be found here on YouTube.

My contribution argued that secular humanists – especially in the context of the developing world – should recognise that religion might not be our most pressing concern. The evidence for a negative correlation between religion on the one hand, and education and financial upliftment on the other, seems to be growing.

Second, the sorts of religion that folk in the developed world adhere to is typically nowhere near as concerning as the fanaticism you’ll find in some parts of the world. In summary, the us/them discourse that permeates much of the atheiosphere could well be confusing far more than it clarifies. Watch for yourself, and feel free to comment.

5 Replies to “Towards a free society and Thinking Things Through”

  1. Thanks Jacques. The problem I have in discussions with faithists is that, evidence is seen as a challenge to their faith. For the faithists, the more strongly one believes in something in the face of a challenge to it, the stronger and better is their faith. So, presenting tools, evidence, and asking that only things that are falsifiable are held as beliefs, results in a faithist declaring that their faith is made stronger by these things.

    It is a terribly frustrating Catch 22 – “the more I believe in things without substance, the greater my rewards in the hereafter”.

    1. Hi David. Though I wouldn’t call them “faithists”, as that seems both derogatory and a generalisation, that is unfortunately a fairly common phenomenon amongst people with firm convictions about anything. It’s called the backfire effect.. The book that I talk about a little above, Peter Boghossian’s “A manual for creating atheists” does, however, offer some useful advice for combatting this tendency in the case of the religious.

      1. The use of the term faithists was in no way intended as derogatory – just as when I use the terms rationalists, atheists, or even philanthropists. It is trivially true that it is a generalisation – any word to describe a group of people is necessarily a generalisation. These points don’t help the discussion though.

        I think there is more to what I describe than simply the backfire effect. In the faith based community that I belonged to briefly many years ago, we were actively taught to rebut logic, facts, and arguments as an attack on our faith. The stronger your belief was in the face of good arguments against it, the better your faith was. This seems to me to be more active than simply the backfire effect. It is a conscious, deliberate, and actively implemented strategy by people who place value in faith (faithists, as opposed to myriad other types of believers) to reject reason, logic and facts.

        1. Right, so there are believers who aren’t even interested in the truth, but merely in defending their position. Agreed, and I’ve come across many myself. They can be challenging, but my sense is that they aren’t in the majority (nor, that they can’t be reached!).

        2. Right, so there are believers who aren’t even interested in the truth, but merely in defending their position. Agreed, and I’ve come across many myself. They can be challenging, but my experience is that they aren’t in the majority (nor, that they can’t ever be reached!).

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