I Don’t Give A Damn!

Yes, it took me a whole 5 seconds to get that title out of …. yeah, my ass.

Today I found a cornucopia (perhaps an exaggeration) of posts talking about how not believing in gods means you have to want society to be better than it is, or things along those lines. First there is Greta Christina’s ‘Why Atheism Demands Social Justice’ post which is not really that bad other than it’s premise.

Now, there’s no reason to think that atheism creates these high levels of social functioning. In fact, it seems to be the other way around. When people are happy, stable, well-educated, empowered, and have high hopes for their children, they’re more likely to let go of their belief in God. A high level of social functioning creates atheism, or contributes to it, anyway.

So if we want to create a world with more atheists—and thus a world that’s safer and better for atheists—it would be very much to our advantage to create a world that’s safer and better for everybody. A world with greater social justice is far more likely to be a more atheistic world. Hey, I warned you that I was going to be crass.

Clearly she has a grip, but she is pushing for all atheists to give a damn. People used to say ‘don’t mess with mother nature’ and I’m going to go ahead and say don’t mess with causality. I think her point is wrong for a number of reasons but lets get the sources of my rant out of the way first.

Then Larry Moran has a post about ‘The Problem of Evolution in America’   where he posits this about Jerry Coyne’s opinion

I think he’s right about this. You can remove the need for religion by creating a more just society. But I don’t think it will be easy. Looking at it from the outside, it appears to me that there are millions of Americans who don’t accept the just society2 as a desirable goal. They call themselves “Republicans” and they vote for people like Rick Santorum.

Lets not hand the award to Moran when Coyne so justly deserves it for these

Creationism in America, then, may be a symptom of religion, but religion in the modern world may itself be a symptom of unhealthy societies.

If you’re thinking captain obvious is using Coyne as a hand puppet… you might be right.

Ultimately, the best strategy to make Americans more receptive to evolution might require loosening the grip of religion on our country.

Ok, all doubt removed, captain obvious IS using Coyne as a hand puppet. Moran is arguing for science and he has always done well in that respect. You can be certain of this when he says:

You will also understand that the problem is not evolution vs creationism but science vs religion. You can’t ever solve the problem of creationism without dealing directly with the false doctrines of religion.

And now I can’t seem to find the third reference in the plethora of RSS feed articles which prompted this little rant. The problem is not uncommon. There are many who think all atheists belong to their own special community which has some kind of movement. Many outspoken atheists also seem think that all atheists must also be humanists or somehow in support of their particular secularist goals. Well, I’m not and I’m tired of the inferred relationships, the distressing insistence that my value to society depends on my agreement with their pet cause(s). I find it condescending and rude to insinuate that because I do not believe in gods I must also believe like they do.

That quickly brings me back to the title. You see, as a human ape I have a certain amount of ‘give a damn’ and it is most profoundly limited by geography, time, and my resources. That is to say that

  1. beyond some geographical range there are things that happen all the time and I don’t give a damn because it’s outside my purview.
  2. I am also time limited as to what I can give a damn about. Seriously, I can only give a damn about things for a certain small number of hours per day. The rest of the time I’m too busy to give a damn.
  3. And finally there are tons of things that I have no resource with which to affect them so whether I want to or not I can’t give a damn, nor a dime, nor my time etc.

My ‘give a damn’ is restricted in these and other ways so for most of these people’s pet causes I just don’t give a damn. If they want me to give a damn they are going to have to fix it so that their pet cause is inside the limitation of my give a damns.

What that means is that if you want to fight social injustice you will HAVE to make it easy for me to help you rather than simply insist that because I don’t believe in gods I absolutely must be out in the trenches with you fighting your bogey men. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all or even many secular causes are bogus or not worthy. I’m saying that you telling me I should care just doesn’t get it. My give a damns are limited. If you want some of them you’ll have to do more than insist that I’m not a good person because my atheism doesn’t lead me into the same trench fights as you.

I don’t agree with him all the time, but in the post ‘On Fundamentalist Reductionism’ Massimo Pigliucci concludes with:

In recent years, the secular movement has learned from the gay rights movement the importance of identity politics. A group cannot gain acceptance when its members are closeted, accepting marginalization. This partly explains the success of last month’s Reason Rallyin Washington, where thousands of seculars took to the National Mall.As the movement gains momentum we can expect more identity-based activism, more reminders from the secular community that nonbelievers are part of the American landscape. Seculars are demanding recognition, speaking out against religious-based public policy, and opposing the vilification of secularity, and they are finding that “coming out” is a powerful means of achieving these ends. It’s unlikely that they will stop until open atheists, like open gays and lesbians, are routinely being elected to office.

Here we see definition or explanation being given with attribution given correctly; secular movement, not atheist movement. Secular ideologies can have a movement. Atheism cannot. Read that again. Write it down. Memorize it. Live and breathe it. No, it’s not a grammar nazi thing. Not believing in gods does not present ideals or goals. Secularism and humanism do. The latter can have a movement and agenda where the former cannot. My atheism is not a handle stuck the side of my head that you can use to lead me around. Quit trying to tell me how to behave simply because you think my non-belief means I agree with you. I don’t agree with you on the basis that we both don’t believe in fairy tales and I don’t give a damn.

I don’t want a world that is safe for atheists. Hell no. I want a world that is dangerous to dangerously bad ideas. All kinds of them, not just religious ones. If you simply set out to get rid of the ‘stupid’ in the world you’d never have to then go get rid of religion. Getting rid of theism is not about making it safe for atheists and never has been. It’s about getting rid of dangerous and bad ideas and ideologies. I could be a deist and still believe those last few statements. I don’t really want to kill baby jesus. I just want him out of my politics and no where near any military leaders etc.

I am an atheist. My ideals are my own. I speak for no other atheists. No other atheist speaks for me. Being an atheist simply means that I am one of many human apes that does not believe in supernatural beings and/or magic. Knowing only that I’m an atheist means that you cannot reliably say more about me than I have just done. You cannot assume that I support this cause or that, nor can you assume that I will agree with you or even that I will give a damn. Mostly … I don’t give a damn because you have not yet brought your pet cause within range of my give a damns. Just the same, good luck to you with that movement thing. Look me up when you get close to my part of the world.

ADDITION:

There is also this post by the Blag Hag about E.O.Wilson where she talks about science stuff. His talk was about group selection versus kin selection and that brings in the other thought for the day. I firmly believe that human behavior, for the most part, can be summarized nicely with maxims. Things like:

  • If there is a loophole it will get used – because human apes are like that
  • If a pair of individuals can copulate, they will and have done so already – completely disregarding your mate selection theories
  • A fool proof design only creates smarter fools – who then graduate and design more fool proof stuff
  • Intelligence is what is left over from billions and billions of failures by stupid. No, this is not the monkeys with typewriters thing, it’s just that intelligence is not a mistake or divine gift, it’s what we seem to be after we’ve already tried all the stupid ideas.

and so on. The point is that if group selection can happen, it did and does – BUT it is limited by the same things that limit my ‘give a damns’ or most probably so.

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  1. Great post!

    “- beyond some geographical range there are things that happen all the time and I don’t give a damn because it’s outside my purview.
    – I am also time limited as to what I can give a damn about. Seriously, I can only give a damn about things for a certain small number of hours per day. The rest of the time I’m too busy to give a damn.
    – And finally there are tons of things that I have no resource with which to affect them so whether I want to or not I can’t give a damn, nor a dime, nor my time etc.

    My ‘give a damn’ is restricted in these and other ways so for most of these people’s pet causes I just don’t give a damn. If they want me to give a damn they are going to have to fix it so that their pet cause is inside the limitation of my give a damns.”

    Exactly 🙂

  2. Some of that is inspired by the sad fact that there are far more things in this world than I can give a damn about. I’m trying to find a way to make my own give a damns mean something useful to me. It’s not an easy thing when there are so many in need. Hopefully, I’m able to make increasingly better decisions about where to spend my ‘give a damns’ as life goes on. It’s a goal… or something like that.

    • iridescentsheep
    • October 20th, 2012

    I feel sympathy for anyone who suffers but I am not donating money, actually I really do not do anything. I am not in a location where I can help anyone nor do I have the reasources. I have always wanted to join the Peace Corps or something like that but I was never in the situation to be able to.

    I agree that we only have so many “give a damns”. I cannot spend my whole day worrying and crying over the starving children on another continent or even another state. If I am ever in the position to help, I would.

    This is why I dislike bleeding hearts, clean the blood off the floor and grow up. It is impossible to ever have total peace in the world, we need some suffering. The same goes for death. We cannot all live until we are 100, people need to die.

      • iridescentsheep
      • October 20th, 2012

      resources*

  3. Great posts. Our give a damns are limited by so many things, I like the truth of this!

    • It seems right to me :0

  4. Nice rant, I enjoyed the whole thing.
    You may not give a damn but I feel a lot better about not giving a damn about a lot of stuff. Yup. We’re good.

    • Thank you emmylgant, I an quite amazed that this post got so many really good reactions. It appears that my give-a-damns are as good as everyone elses 😉

  1. April 25th, 2012

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