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Wed Aug 1, 2012, 01:11 PM

'Where was God in Aurora?' comments show Internet as church for atheists

August 1st, 2012
12:03 PM ET

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – The Internet has become the de facto global church for atheists, agnostics and other doubters of God, who of course don’t have bricks-and-mortar churches in which to congregate.

We see this phenomenon in motion every day on the CNN Belief Blog, where atheists/agnostics/humanists are among the most zealous commenters.

Recent string of posts around the question of “Where was God in Aurora?” (such as this and this) drew especially large waves of comments that show atheists are using the Internet to commune with one another and to confront religious believers in ways that they don’t usually do in church.

Atheists and other secularists have offline organizations that stage in-person meetings – the Secular Student Alliance has seen its number of campus chapters quadruple in the last five years, to 368 – but the Internet has probably played a bigger role in the rise of the so-called New Atheism. The movement’s adherents evangelize their godlessness, just as many religious folks evangelize their God, often taking to the Belief Blog to do so.

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/01/where-was-god-in-aurora-comments-show-internet-as-church-for-atheists/

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Arrow 30 replies Author Time Post
Reply 'Where was God in Aurora?' comments show Internet as church for atheists (Original post)
rug Aug 2012 OP
cbayer Aug 2012 #1
KurtNYC Aug 2012 #3
cbayer Aug 2012 #4
KurtNYC Aug 2012 #5
cbayer Aug 2012 #6
skepticscott Aug 2012 #25
cindyperry2010 Aug 2012 #2
mr blur Aug 2012 #7
trotsky Aug 2012 #8
Goblinmonger Aug 2012 #9
humblebum Aug 2012 #18
dmallind Aug 2012 #19
humblebum Aug 2012 #20
MineralMan Aug 2012 #10
rug Aug 2012 #11
MineralMan Aug 2012 #13
rug Aug 2012 #16
MineralMan Aug 2012 #17
cbayer Aug 2012 #12
MineralMan Aug 2012 #14
skepticscott Aug 2012 #26
MineralMan Aug 2012 #15
cleanhippie Aug 2012 #30
dimbear Aug 2012 #21
cbayer Aug 2012 #22
dimbear Aug 2012 #23
cbayer Aug 2012 #24
trotsky Aug 2012 #29
Manifestor_of_Light Aug 2012 #27
Kalidurga Aug 2012 #28

Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 01:18 PM

1. Really interesting assessment here. I am interested in what others think

about it.

I think we see that phenomenon here as well.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #1)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 01:28 PM

3. I don't think any group has a monopoly on the "where was God in Aurora?" question

I think it is a valid question for people of faith to consider.

As for the internet being the "church" of atheists or whatever, I think that is a very confused line of reasoning. The internet isn't a church of anything. The biggest difference between most churches and the internet is that the internet is many-to-many communication while a church is top down.

I'll stop there because I don't want to put more thought into this than the original writer did, and that wasn't much.

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Response to KurtNYC (Reply #3)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 01:34 PM

4. He makes some good points about anonymity and the need for groups

of like minded people to have a place to gather. Calling it a "church" may be inflammatory, but I think his points are valid.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #4)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 01:48 PM

5. To me he describes a world where you are either part of a church or you are

a "closet atheist" who is seeking to be part of a group that reacts to churches.

Churches and atheism are separate, overlapping granted but separate, from spirituality. I think if one is pursuing a satisfying sense of spirituality then it MAY be helpful to put religion aside. Religion is about groups, rules, heirarchies, traditions, rituals and money -- all of those can be impediments to spirituality.

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Response to KurtNYC (Reply #5)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 01:53 PM

6. That's a valid personal opinion but not fact.

Some of the things that keep people in churches is the sense of community, the ability to share some ideas and debate others and the opportunity to be inspired. While some of the things you describe may be impediments to spirituality for some, for others it sustains their spirituality.

At any rate, I think the growth of atheist and secularist organizations speaks to the desire of some people to be a part of a community of like minded people. And many of these new organizations are rapidly developing their own rules, hierarchies, traditions, rituals and need for money.

As there are many believers who choose not to belong to any particular group, there are those kinds of atheists as well. But it's not true for all.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #4)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 09:42 PM

25. Inflammatory, insulting

and downright asinine. Why this desperate need for religionists to paint atheism as needing "faith", "belief", a "church", and all of the other trappings of religion, when none of it is remotely true? The only reason I can think of is that they know their own religion is ultimately indefensible from either a moral or intellectual perspective, so they try to paint those they perceive as their critics with the same brush, hoping that it will serve as a deflection.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 01:24 PM

2. No i do not believe he was

but man's capacity for evil against each other is everywhere and seen everyday. my theory (strange i know) is that hell is on earth and we have our own chance to redeem ourselves from it by acts of kindness and decency to and for each other eveyday. where we go after we die or what happens i do not know but we have to make the best of what we have now.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 02:00 PM

7. Yawn. Must try harder. nt

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 02:07 PM

8. As many of us atheists keep trying to say in this very group,

despite being shot down and mocked for it every time, anti-atheist discrimination is real. Confronting religious believers, even just admitting our atheism, can have serious real-world repercussions like loss of relationships, jobs, or worse.

Is it any wonder, then, that many of us embrace the Internet as a public forum where we can finally speak our opinions about religion and religious beliefs without (significant) fear of retaliation?

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 02:18 PM

9. Why, oh why, why do believers need to paint atheism as a religion.

It isn't. The Internet isn't our "church."

And I really dislike the phrase "doubters of God." It assumes that God is real and we just don't really think so (but probably secretly do believe).

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Response to Goblinmonger (Reply #9)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 04:17 PM

18. If it walks like a duck. nt

 

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Response to humblebum (Reply #18)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 04:25 PM

19. Since it definitionally lacks a duck, it can neither walk like one or be one.

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Response to dmallind (Reply #19)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 04:53 PM

20. Ducks gather where ducks gather, atheists gather in the religion group. Looks

 

pretty cut and dried to me.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 03:11 PM

10. Nice touch of Gilgoff to use "closeted atheists"

later in the article. In doing that, he's trying to tie atheists to another group the fundamentalist Christians despise. Would that fundamentalists would take Jesus' words to heart and go into their own closets to prey (spelling intentional, of course).

Isn't it fun to find atheist-bashing stuff on the internet and then post it without any comment? I think that's fun for you. You get all the bashing without any effort on your part. Bravo, rug, bravo! Plausible deniability...what a concept.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #10)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 03:15 PM

11. Isn't that the obverse of coming out atheist?

My, I've never seen you so sensitive.

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Response to rug (Reply #11)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 03:24 PM

13. I have no idea, rug.

I'm an atheist, albeit not an evangelical one. It's really interesting that so much attention is paid to the tiny percentage of people who have no belief by the huge majority that do. And you're right there, seeking out writings about that very thing and posting them here on DU. I'm not sensitive, at all. I just find it interesting, and like to point out interesting things to people.

Am I an "out atheist?" Not really. I don't volunteer the information except in places where it's being discussed. If someone asks, I'll tell them, but if it doesn't come up, I don't. I'm typical, I think, of the majority of atheists. It's not a belief, after all. It just is. I'm not a "New Atheist" either. I became an atheist in 1965. That was a long, long time ago. At 67 years of age, I'm pretty much an "Old Atheist."

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #13)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 03:37 PM

16. You must have had a birthday recently. Happy birthday!

I find atheism interesting but not nearly as interesting as religion. As to posting what I find interesting, why not? There are at least as many atheists here as theists. I find that interesting too.

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Response to rug (Reply #16)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 03:50 PM

17. I did, yes. Just this weekend. As usual I continued my work.

Being 67 is not particularly significant to me. I'm still able to do all the things I ever did, albeit a bit more slowly sometimes.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #10)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 03:21 PM

12. While he uses a few terms which are questionable, I don't think this is really an atheist

bashing article at all. He seems very supportive overall.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #12)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 03:26 PM

14. I disagree. Perhaps we're looking at it from

two different positions. We often seem to be doing that. But you didn't post the article, so I'm not really talking about you, anyhow.

Most atheists aren't asking the question, "Where was God in Aurora?" Why would they? Atheists don't have to ask that question. It's a meaningless one, really.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #14)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 09:48 PM

26. Not meaningless at all

It is a way of asking religionists "If the god you believe in really existed, wouldn't you expect him to prevent tragedies like this? Doesn't the fact that they happen all the time tell against him existing, at least in the way you claim he does? What is there about Aurora that looks any different than you'd expect a world without you god to look?"

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Response to cbayer (Reply #12)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 03:35 PM

15. Aside from the "closeted atheists"

crack, the article begins with the often-stated nonsense about atheists needing an equivalent to a church. That's patronizing. We don't need any such thing. My fellowship is with my friends and acquaintances, most of whom hold some religious beliefs. Like most atheists, I'm not looking for a group of atheists to associate with, nor do I know any atheists who are.

The author also implies that we really do believe in some sort of deity, but that we're not willing to admit it. That's insulting. I would not say that a religious believer is just an "atheist in waiting." That would be insulting. Some believe; some do not. Some can believe; some cannot.

You don't think it's an atheist-bashing article. It is, though. If you substituted the word "gay" for atheist in that article and posted it on DU, you'd hear from the LGBT community quickest. But, my beef is not with you, anyhow.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #12)

Thu Aug 2, 2012, 10:11 AM

30. Of course you don't.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 05:30 PM

21. Evangelism? Don't think so.

Look, we're all sophisticates here. We know that the word "evangelize" means "to spread the good news." Atheist don't have good news for anybody. We don't believe there is any magical force looking out for us, and we believe that when we're dead, we're actually dead.

Far from good news, it's a dare to live your one life in reality.

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Response to dimbear (Reply #21)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 05:34 PM

22. Another meaning is attempt to convert.

When there are those who are telling believers they should leave their churches, that they are delusional, that their lives will be freer and more real if they give up religion, that might meet the definition.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #22)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 05:42 PM

23. It would have been a better choice of words had the author chosen what you choose,

neutral terms rather than charged terms. Or was the original author just trying to get nonbelievers to bristle?

Mysteries......

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Response to dimbear (Reply #23)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 05:45 PM

24. I agree about some of the language he used here.

It is provocative and either meant to be so or just careless.

The rest of the article seems to be very understanding and supportive of atheists, so it comes across as confusing.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #22)

Thu Aug 2, 2012, 07:38 AM

29. I don't believe you really thought that post all the way through.

Telling someone to leave their church is attempting to convert them to atheism? Baloney. I would love for every liberal Catholic to leave their church - and then do whatever the hell they want. Join the Episcopal church. Meditate on Sunday mornings. Sleep in. Don't give a flying fuck. I want that corrupt evil old institution to change or die, and getting people to leave and stop giving it their time and money is going to be the most effective way.

The other items you mention could easily apply to ANY situation in which one person is trying to influence another. I.e., ever heard of something called politics? Everyone on this board is then attempting to convert others to another political POV, by merely advocating their own.

No, it seems you have specifically intended your post to accuse atheists of the "same" behavior as annoying, proselytizing Christians. Why is that?

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 09:52 PM

27. Wait until he finds out about the Unitarian Universalist Church!!!

I know lots of atheist, agnostics, pagans and the not-sure-what-I-think crowd who hang out at UU churches for discussions and activities.

That's a real church and a real denomination.

www.uua.org

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 09:59 PM

28. So, where was god in Aurora?

I actually never thought to ask that question before. I don't see how anyone can answer it, so it is kind of a non-starter of a question.

As to the internet being like church, I had no idea that you could get porn and streaming movies at church. Or look up recipes, or go to message boards, or play video games. So, I might have to check out this church thing. Except for the porn, I am not into that. But, whatever floats yer boat.

And as for trying to convert people. I never have. But, then I am not like a pure atheist. I believe there is more that we don't know than we do know. But, I definitely don't think any religion has a clue about what started the universe, what started life on earth, or what happens when you die. It sure isn't anything like what religious people think of that I am certain.

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