Monday, November 22, 2010

Not. A. Religion.

You made kitteh double facepalm and headdesk.

Did you know that at one point, 30% of conservatives thought Stephen Colbert was serious about the Colbert Report? Almost 1 in 3 failed to see the obvious satire right in front of them. Hell, at one point, people thought Jonathon Swift was totally serious about eating Irish babies.

So it should come as no surprise that an awful lot of Christians think the Darwin Fish is the same sort of symbol as the Jesus fish.

Yet here I am, simultaneously headdesking and facepalming. (Easier on your head, harder on your hand.)

Despite its anti-religious stance and lack of a theistic belief, Secular Humanism is a religion just as Christianity is one, argued [David Noebel].

. . .

For starters, Christianity has the Christian Ichthys as one of its religious symbols while Secular Humanism has a developing religious symbol: the Darwin Fish. And like Christianity, Secular Humanism has clergy members that perform social ceremonies and preach a faith that is just as dogmatic: theological atheism, naturalism, spontaneous generation, and moral relativism, among other beliefs, Noebel points out in his book.

The Darwin Fish, or evolve fish, is not a religious symbol. It's satire. If you were to ask a group of atheists/secular humanists what the symbol of atheism is, you'd get a blank look. Some of us, online, have adopted such things as the scarlet A, but it's not an agreed upon symbol of all secularists. (Trying to get atheists to agree on anything is like herding cats. I once participated in a discussion about whether or not a nonsymbol is as symbolic as a symbol and if it is, is it still a nonsymbol. Don't ask.)

As for clergy members: lol wut? I assume he means people like Hitch, Dawkins and Myers, but clergy? You'd have to stretch the definition of clergy to meaninglessness to consider any of the more famous atheists to be clergy. And dogmatism? See above. Plenty of atheists have little to no opinion on spontaneous generation, we're all (religious or not) morally relative and naturalism? I'm calling that science, and if you post things on the internet, you like it, too.

The author also references in his book the 1943 decision by the Second Circuit to grant conscientious objector status to Mathias Kauten, not on the basis of his belief in God, but on the basis of his "religious conscience."

"Secular Humanism is a religion. It's just as religious as all the other religions in the world," Noebel asserted to students.

"Now, they deny it to the last drop only because they were caught. They caught themselves on conscientious objectors so they had to declare themselves somewhat of a religion."

So, I looked up the Kauten case, and I can't find the original decision, only commentaries on it, or references to it. According to several references, this case is sealed until 2020, so I don't know where Noebel got this from.

EDIT: (big h/t to [redacted])

Noebel is something of a liar, it seems. [redacted] got me a copy of the Kauten case, in its entirety, and the Court stated outright that Kauten was not a religious man:

We hold that Mr. Hardy's interpretation was well founded. [HN3] In order to avail himself of his privilege a registrant must establish that his objection to participation in war is due to "religious training and belief." It must ex vi termini be a general scruple against "participation in war in any form" and not merely an objection to participation in this particular war. Moreover, the conviction that war is a futile means of righting wrongs or of protecting the state, that it is not worth the sacrifice, that it is waged for base ends, or is otherwise indefensible is not necessarily a ground of opposition based on "religious training and belief." Though the registrant may have been entirely sincere in the ideas he expressed, his objections to reporting for induction were based on philosophical and political considerations applicable to this war rather than on "religious training [*708] and belief." They, therefore, were properly overruled, but not because he lacked membership of any sect or organization whose religious convictions were against war. Such a status was necessary to obtain exemption under the Act of 1917, but the provisions of the present statute are more generous [**10] for they take into account the characteristics of a skeptical generation and make the existence of a conscientious scruple against war in any form, rather than allegiance to a definite religious group or creed, the basis of exemption. We are not convinced by anything in the record that the registrant did not report for induction because of a compelling voice of conscience, which we should regard as a religious impulse, but his declarations and reasoning seem to indicate that he was moved by convictions, however sincere, of quite a different character.

In other words, while Kauten was believed to be sincere, and to hold beliefs that one would normally associate with religion, he was not religious. Atheism is not a religion.

In fact, the Court did define religion in its decision, and secular humanism ain't in it:

It is unnecessary to attempt a definition of religion; the content of the term is found in the history of the human race and is incapable [**11] of compression into a few words. Religious belief arises from a sense of the inadequacy of reason as a means of relating the individual to his fellow-men and to his universe - a sense common to men in the most primitive and in the most highly civilized societies. It accepts the aid of logic but refuses to be limited by it. It is a belief finding expression in a conscience which categorically requires the believer to disregard elementary self-interest and to accept martyrdom in preference to transgressing its tenets. A religious obligation forbade Socrates, even in order to escape condemnation, to entreat his judges to acquit him, because he believed that it was their sworn duty to decide questions without favor to anyone and only according to law. Such an obligation impelled Martin Luther to nail his theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg and, when he was summoned before Emperor Charles and the Diet at Worms, steadfastly to hold his ground and to utter the often quoted words: "I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do other. God help me. Amen." Recognition of this obligation moved [**12] the Greek poet Menander to write almost twenty-four hundred years ago: "Conscience is a God to all mortals"; impelled Socrates to obey the voice of his "Daimon" and led Wordsworth to characterize "Duty" as the "Stern Daughter of the Voice of God."

Mr. Noebel, you are a liar.


Mathias Kauten sought conscientious objector status to avoid the draft in 1940 not from religious belief, he admitted to being an atheist or agnostic, but because he distrusted the Roosevelt administration and disagreed with the war.

During and since World War II, political objectors have appealed to the courts for c.o. status, The most significant case has been that of Matthias Kauten, an artist of "atheist or at least ...agnostic" persuasion. In addition to challenging Congress' right to pass laws like the draft which infringe upon the "individual qualities of a person," he disliked the Roosevelt administration and viewed the draft as its answer to unemployment. Further, to quote a Department of Justice Report, "he has stated it is not right to act unfriendly to Japan and now to seek to protect ourselves from the consequences of our wrongdoing.... During his travels [he] has witnessed the animosity which exists among the different peoples of Europe and this has strengthened his opposition to war."

The Justice Department supported the local board's decision to deny Kauten c.o, status. "There is no doubt that the Registrant is sincerely opposed to war but this belief emanates from personal philosophical conceptions arising out of his nature and temperament, and which is to some extent political." An Appeals Court in turn supported the local board's decision, both because Kauten's opposition was to one war and not to all wars, and because "his objections ... were based on philosophical and political considerations ... rather than on 'religious training and belief.'" It observed in passing that "in the early days of the draft, many thousands of the American people distrusted our foreign policy. If men holding such views had been ipso facto classed as conscientious objectors, the military effort might have been seriously hampered."

The significance of the Kauten decision is not that the draftee was denied c.o. status, but rather that in doing so a court ruled that "a conscientious objection to participation in any war under any circumstances ... may be the basis of exemption under the [1940] Act." Kauten's humanitarian convictions might have qualified him for exemption because of a broad definition of "religious training and belief." The Kauten court viewed religion as "a response of the individual to an inward mentor, call it conscience or God that is at the present time the equivalent for many persons of what has been thought a religious impulse." Operating under this definition, that court later reached its verdicts about Phillips and Brandon where humanitarian convictions were also at issue, and the Supreme Court drew on the Kauten reasoning in its broadened definition of religion in the Seeger verdict. Kauten's convictions did not exempt him, however, because "Congress intended ... not to give exemption to the great number of persons who might object to a particular war on philosophical or political grounds." A c.o. may thus be one who opposes all wars on humanitarian grounds but not one who objects to a particular war on political grounds.

Here's what Noebel is hanging his hat on:

The Kauten court viewed religion as "a response of the individual to an inward mentor, call it conscience or God that is at the present time the equivalent for many persons of what has been thought a religious impulse."

So, basically the Court didn't know how to qualify an atheist/agnostic for the purposes of conscientious objector status, so they defined religion broadly enough to include conscience. Um, I kinda fail to see how that makes atheism (Kauten did not identify as a secular humanist, though Noebel does seem to use atheism and secular humanism interchangeably) a religion.

Let me put it another way. Current law regarding abortion puts the woman's right to choose above the rights of a fetus inside her body. Does Noebel believe that to be true? I'm going with no. He's cherry-picking what Court decisions mean to him. Roe v. Wade proves nothing, Mathias Kauten proves I am as religious as the Pope.

Sadly, no.

Now I see Noebel's obsession though, and it ain't Jesus, unless Jesus is spelled m-a-m-m-o-n:

Secular Humanism is among the worldviews taught at one of Summit’s Student Worldview Conferences, a two-week program that teaches young evangelical Christians how to defend their faith and Christian worldview against major competing worldviews.

He makes his money this way. Of course secular humanism must be a religion. Otherwise, he can't charge for a two week program on how to defend against it.

Noebel noted that while the worldviews associated with Christianity and Islam have the largest number of adherents, it is Secular Humanism that has caused more Christians to walk away from their faith.

He attributed the trend to the dominance of secular humanist ideas and teachings in public schools, saying secular humanists "run" the public school system from elementary school to graduate schools.

"Out of Secular Humanism, the one big appeal has always been Darwinism," he said. "More Christians have probably stumbled in their faith over Charles Darwin than just about anyone else, more than Karl Marx."

Oh, you mean science! Okay, then. Sure. As the slacktivist has pointed out, a religion based on the denial of basic science is a brittle faith indeed. You need only to learn the lie of one portion of it, i.e., creationism*, for the whole thing to fall apart. That's not Darwin's fault, asshat.

pic link

*Sadly, it's not just creationism. Watch in amazement as one person defends their faith by positing that our eyes create light, clap with delight as another claims the earth is flat and accelerating, or expanding at quite a fantastic rate.


  1. ... it is Secular Humanism that has caused more Christians to walk away from their faith.

    Damn skippy. I wouldn't really classify what I had so much as "faith" as I would "fear," but, yeah. When it finally dawned on me, "Wait - you mean there's precedent to doing the right thing... because it's the right thing and not because I might burn in hell for all time?" that's when I realized, "..... Fuck this?"

  2. Wait, so some people are just nice? You know, that sounds like the better way to be. Huh.

  3. I say run with it and go for tax-exemption.

  4. So how would these folks refer to someone who simply doesn't have a religion? I mean, I know the implicit assumption is that everyone has/needs a religion, and atheists just have an anti-religion religion; but I'm wondering if a direct question would jar them out of their assumptions. (I haven't tried it, because this isn't the sort of thing that comes up in conversations around me.)

  5. Like... "none" is my favorite alcoholic beverage? I like to have a nice glass of "nothing" to unwind at the end of a hard day.

  6. NOebel is made of fail; it's easy to win an argument when can let words mean whatever you want.

    You have to say what a religion is before you can say if SH is or is not one, and nobody does that. They disagree on whether Buddhism is a religion. Daoism? Tai Chi? Girl Genius?

  7. that "none" isn't necessarily BAD.

    there's the thing about alturism - only people who ARE alturistic *get* alturism. if i see someone who needs help that i can provide, i give it. because...
    i don't know why, really. i mean - i like helping people. it makes me feel good. it wins me friends. it may be paid back in some way, or paid forward.
    but that's NOT why i do it. and trying to explain "Why" to a person who ONLY does things because zie's been told to, is REALLY difficult. it's one of my 3 biggest problems with Christianity - too many people who wear the Christian hat help people because that's what you do to be "good" and get into Heaven. [which, ironically, means that you WON'T get into Heaven, because doing it for reward means that it *doesn't count* as a "selfless act"...]
    they also *NEVER* think that the strange woman giving them her spare tire, or ten bucks at the grocery store to get fruit for their kids, or using her AAA to get them towed home, or whatever, is anything BUT a Christian. then they're appalled, ahast, annoyed, and sometimes REALLY angry that a *heathen* [not even a heritic, a different flavor of Christianity, by a NON-CHRISTIAN HEATHEN] helped them.

    the people i gave my spare to? they showed up at my apartment a week later, with a new spare, $100 and an invite to their church. when i declined both the money and the invite, they asked to attend my church - the woman said "any church that teaches a 21 year old woman to be so generous and kind, with no thought of reward, has got to be a GREAT church!"
    then i told them i was pagan.
    they fled. took the spare tire with them, too.

    the guy i helped at the grocery, he was an atheist. and *HE* got it - well, first, he let me know he was an atheist before he took the money. he said "that's a really awesome offer, but just so you know, i'm an atheist and i like it" i was REALLY confused, and i asked him what that had to do with ANYTHING?! and he said "Oh. just, i guess, that most people who offer to "help" are just doing it to try and make you go to church." i cracked up, told him i was pagan, and i'd be DELIGHTED to help an atheist be an atheist, because A) my dad's an atheist and i know lots of 'em, and B) i don't CARE so long as he's try to be a good person, and CLEARLY he was trying hard, because the first thing he did when his grocery bill was too high was remove the soda [and the single 6-pack of very cheap beer], and then he tried to figure out which things were most important - it was his first time shopping for his family, as his wife had just been diagnosed with stage III cancer, and he was really lost, depressed, and didn't know what was best.

    we're still friends. and he's helped me out, too [took me grocery shopping a few times, once i wasn't able to do it without help]. once he knew that i was just trying to help, to HELP, and not get anything else - well, that was the important thing.
    [there's the joke that his wife survived because "i cast the greatest healing spell ever!" but it's a JOKE. and i didn't - they didn't ask, when i offered they both thanked me for the offer but said they were uncomfortable with it. so i didn't]

    i'd MUCH rather have a guy like Tim - an atheist, but a GOOD guy. who knows what's what and does something because it's RIGHT, not because it's written in a book, or a preacher says to, or because he might "get to Heaven".

    and that's what Secular Humanism *IS* - doing what's right BECAUSE it's right.

  8. "You have to say what a religion is before you can say if SH is or is not one, and nobody does that. They disagree on whether Buddhism is a religion. Daoism? Tai Chi? Girl Genius?"

    Girl Genius should totally be a religion. Or at least a Bible. Can we do this? Anyone who joins get a Perfect Cup of Coffee from the One True Coffee Maker. Forsake this silly modern technology and return to the True Path of Steampunk!

  9. Virzt Commandtmunt: Hyu dun lose de hat.

  10. Second Commandtmunt: Hyu dun buy hyu hat, hyu gots to vin it.

  11. Tird Kommandtmunt: Hyu don' kovet you neighbor's Klenk.

  12. Fourt Commandtmunt: If hyu kill hyu minion, hyu gotta at least harvest de organs. Recyclink is impawtent.


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