I’ve just read this series of posts, on the general subject of why all us nasty atheists should shut up and leave the religionists alone. Well, to be fair, only three of them are; the first one makes a pretty good analogy for religionists’ attempts to bring the disbeliever back to the church, though there’s a sentence in the final paragraph that seems a tad dodgy to me:
But somehow, despite the fact that I view both Santa and God as man-made, myth passed down by word-of-mouth to a select population, I perpetuate both of these existences as equally true in order to allow my children to discover the truth on their own.
It might just be faulty phrasing, but if we take that at face value, the author is telling her children that God exists, just as she’s telling them that Santa exists. Problem is though, they’ll find out eventually that Santa isn’t real without any help from her. Whether the same can be said of any belief they have in God is a tad more problematic, as it’s not considered crazy for an adult to do so, and there’s a lot less likelihood of them eventually getting straightened out on the point. If you want evidence, just look at the number of people in the world willing to believe in invisible sky-daddies compared to the number willing to believe in Santa.
That’s not the main point though, and the author quickly moves on to berating the ebil atheists in Ye Second Parte…
The very first sentence, though I’ve seen many statements like it and have no reason to doubt it, still has the power to stun me with culture-shock. “I met my first atheist when I was 19.” To me, and to most Western people outside of small-town USA, that sounds more like a diary-entry from the 15th Century than something we’d expect to run across on the 21st Century intertubes. But I digress. We continue:
That conversation disturbed me for a long time. … It made me question my own beliefs and questions are not allowed in religion. I felt like … I’d done something terribly wrong just for having the conversation. And I did what any rational person would do. I buried myself deeper in my church. I thought this would quiet the questions. For a while, it did.
I have no idea where Susan gets her definition of ‘rational’ from, but my thesaurus doesn’t suggest ‘close your eyes and hope it goes away’ as a synonym. Asking questions and judging for oneself would be a better idea, but, as Susan says, that’s not allowed in most religions. Don’t look behind the curtain!
We’ll skip a bit, and get to the meat of the argument in this post:
Even before I became a non-believer, I have separated atheists into two groups: 1) atheists, and 2) angry Christians. Agnostics don’t count because they are just sitting the fence until they figure out which side to come down on. Agnostics have commitment issues as far as I’m concerned. They just don’t want to be wrong or make anyone mad.
True atheists believe that this is the life they have to live. They find inspiration in the things they see in nature and science and art and people. They are intelligent and driven and kind. And…if asked, they will be honest about where they stand on the existence of God. While some might explain the problems with religion when it fuels wars and justifies killing people, they will not attack those who find hope in faith. Hope is a good thing. If someone finds hope in the idea of a supreme creator and an eternal life, bully for them.
Angry Christians (a.k.a. people who claim to be atheists) are really just rebelling against God because they didn’t get something they wanted. They are like the member of a divorced couple who really didn’t want the divorce. Bitter. Angry. Lashing out. But…still, on some level, they believe.
And so on.
How to even start sorting this mess out?
Susan, you really need to buy a new dictionary. Agnosticism is merely the statement that the existence of gods cannot be proven. Most atheists you’ll meet are also agnostics. I have no belief in gods, precisely because there is no evidence, or possibility of evidence, that shows, or could show, otherwise. The notion that agnostics are merely fence-sitters who can’t make their minds up is a fallacy.
And here’s another common canard; the good old angry-Christian argument. Rather presumptuous, don’t you think, to assume that all atheists are ex-Christians? There’s plenty of ex-Muslims, ex- or secular Jews, and so forth, too. And outside of your 15th Century America, Susan, there’s plenty of atheists who’ve never had any religion at all. I’m one of them. And some of us, Susan, are very much angry atheists. We’ll get to the reasons for that anger later, I promise.
Ye Thirde Parte
This one’s a response to Amanda Marcotte’s recent alternet piece, 10 Myths Many Religious People Hold About Atheists, Debunked, which is well worth reading for its own sweet sake, if you’ve not already seen it. Obviously, I’m only concerning myself, here, with the bits Susan takes exception to. Her first point:
One of her “myths” is that atheists are rude. Yeah. They’re people. Rudeness abounds in the human race. And saying someone is just “outspoken and unapologetic” as a defense to rudeness is like saying a boyfriend who is “jealous and controlling” is really just “passionate and caring.”
She neatly avoids the myth by making it about atheists as individuals, whereas the accusation most commonly levelled at atheists is that they’re all rude. With the insinuation, of course, that lack of god-given morals is what inevitably causes that rudeness. No need to look at the evidence by seeing what atheists are actually like; just presuppose the lack of morals, and run with the idea. This is just a subset of the whole ‘where do you get morals from, without God?’ rubbish.
The other myth she debates is the one that says atheists are just angry at God. Her faulty logic is that atheists can’t be angry at someone/something that doesn’t exist. Yet, there are many atheists who have created a mission to delete religions from our society. There are many atheist websites that do little more than create pithy quotes about why believing in a god is stupid and childish. Do they offer equal criticism to other popular myths like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy? Are they proposing protests at maternity wards to prevent parents from spreading these myths further to innocent children? No. That would be seen as cruel and hateful. But…the religion field is seen as fair game. So while Amanda poo-poos the notion that atheists are angry at god, she would have to admit that there are many atheists who are pretty outspoken about their anger with people who do believe in a god.
Susan, it is impossible to be mad at a being one believes to be a fiction. It’s very possible to be angry, however, at the effect that belief in fictional beings has; at the religions and dogmas that surround those core beliefs. The effects that you, Susan, appear to be either blindly unaware of, or uncaring about. We’ll deal with that later.
And the implication that atheists would gladly ban religion is also untrue. The occasional unthinking person might espouse it, I’ll grant you, but they’ll get jumped on as hard as any fundy if they say so. Most of us are actually more in favour of religious freedom than many religious people. (Like, maybe, people who constantly say ‘Christian’ when the conversation is about ‘religion’, eh Susan?) We just don’t want unevidenced ideas based on mythology and supernaturalism to have any place in government. Sure, if religion was to fade away and die of its own accord, I’d be happy as Larry, but ban it? No way. I’ll leave the thought-policing to the Inquisition.
The reason some people see atheism as another form of religion is because it has fellowship groups, a unified title, revivals in the form of “free thinking seminars” where speakers preach about their enlightenment, a plethora of quotations from people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens that are thrown about like holy scripture, and a symbol which resembles a backward, capital letter ampersand.
By this reasoning, most sports are religions. Rambling-clubs, subcultures based around music genres, motorcycle clubs, artistic movements, trades unions; all religions. Really though, turn it around. The statement then becomes “Religious organisations share many features with other social groupings”. It’s only if we unconsciously make religion the standard-metre which every other activity is measured against, that we create such nonsensical comparisons.
Yes, we quote Hitchens, Dawkins et al. Why not? They, being professional writers, can be assumed to have said some quote-worthy things. Unlike religious authorities, though, they are also questioned and disagreed with. Vehemently.
“A symbol like a capital ampersand”? Took me a while, but I finally realised Susan means the almost-circled ‘A’ for atheist. (Not to be confused with the fully circled capital ‘A’, which belongs to anarchists.) An ampersand, Susan, is the ‘&’ symbol, and cannot be lower or upper case. You mean the ‘at’ symbol, which has no formal name as far as I know. But anyway, why does a symbol of any description confer religiosity? “Some symbols are religious in nature” ≠ “all symbols are religious in nature”.
The next paragraph shows complete lack of reading comprehension, and/or a lack of understanding of how statistics work. And possibly a marked USA-centric view of the world, wherein there are more Christians than atheists everywhere, because, well that’s what’s true in her country:
In her attempt to debunk the myth that atheists are immoral, she uses the argument that “atheists are under-represented in prison.” This is kind of like saying that homosexuals are under-represented in prison. There are fewer OF them. That statistic is meaningless. Not to mention, who wants to be represented in prison?
If she’d bothered with some basic research like, oh, I dunno, clicking even one of the links Amanda included in her post, she’d have seen that:
Indeed, the data examined in this study demonstrates that only the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come closest to achieving practical “cultures of life” that feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion. The least theistic secular developed democracies such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia have been most successful in these regards. The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator. The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.
As for “Who wants to be represented in prison?”, well no one does. That’s why it’s so laughable that relgiots, who often claim that atheists can have no morals, are over-represented. It’s kinda the whole point of the argument, Susan.
To me, the bottom line is still this: Jewish people aren’t suing the government to keep Santa off the television at Christmas – even though they celebrate a different holiday. Nor do you hear about Jehovah’s Witnesses suing to abolish all holidays since they don’t celebrate any of them.
Now, I’m not American, but I do know many American atheists, and none of them appear to be trying to ban Santa, Christmas in general, or any other nominally religious holiday. Some of them do have this thing about the establishment clause, and how it is being regularly abused by governmental bodies promoting and taking part in religious activities and ceremonies, but that’s both their right and, you could say, their constitutional duty to defend the laws and practices enshrined in the founding documents of their country. (It’s also worth noting that the separation of church and state was originally campaigned for by religious people, who apparently had more of an idea what freedom means (or at least cared more about it) than many of their modern neo-conservative Bible-bashing counterparts. See: most of the current GOP candidates.)
Truly, there are far bigger issues in this country than whether or not a kid has to be “forced to listen to a prayer or the name God.” Believe me, kids willingly listen to a lot worse. So do adults.
Tell that to any political hopeful who doesn’t at least pay lip-service to the Christian religion. Tell it to your president, shamefully harassed with accusations of having a non-Christian faith, as if it mattered. Tell it to the right-wing Christian nutjobs who appear to be trying to woo fundamentalist voters by competing in some sort of “I’m more Biblically-pious than you are” competition. Don’t tell it to the atheists; we already know that it shouldn’t be important. What worries us is that these people make it important.
Which brings us neatly to Ye Fourth Parte…
…Which also neatly sidesteps the main point, by making it all about not hurting the poor fragile feelings of believers.
I would not give a tinker’s damn about people’s religious beliefs, bar being saddened by their delusional state, if religious people kept their religion in their churches and their heads.
But they don’t. And though I’ve said this before, and I’ve no doubt that this won’t be the last time, I’ll say it again.
Atheists aren’t shooting abortion doctors and bombing their clinics, because a contorted theology based on a bronze-age book gave them the idea that an unevidenced ‘soul’ inhabits a blob of cells it would be impossible to see without a microscope. Religious people are.
Atheists aren’t trying to make laws based on the completely evidence-free belief in the existence of that soul, in order to curtail women’s rights. Religious people are.
Atheists aren’t telling millions of poverty-stricken women around the world that condoms spread AIDS. Religious people are.
Atheists aren’t denying women the right to drive cars, or appear in public without being covered by a small mobile tent. Religious people are.
Atheists aren’t promoting an ‘abstinence only’ sex-education policy which has not only been proven to be ineffectual in lowering teen-pregnancy, but has been shown to actually increase it. Religious people are.
Atheists aren’t leaving land-mines on beaches to maim women who have the audacity to wear a bikini. Religious people are.
Atheists aren’t trying to force a completely nonsensical ‘Creation Science’ into classrooms. Religious people are.
Atheists aren’t telling LGBT people that they have no right under law to call themselves married (and in America, that’s more than ‘just’ a matter of principle. It has financial consequences). Religious people are.
Atheists aren’t stopping American students from forming clubs to discuss their religious beliefs, or lack thereof. Religious people are.
Spotting a pattern yet, Susan?
I don’t hate God. God doesn’t exist. I hate the shitty, nasty, ugly things that are done in his name.
If a doctor says “Don’t do such-and-such; it’s bad for you”, I’ll listen to her. She could, if asked provide evidence to back up her assertion. If a religious person says “Don’t do it; God commands that you don’t”, they have no bloody evidence that God exists, that any existing god is necessarily the one they worship, or that their version of his word is the right one.
Keep their unevidenced god out of my life, my classrooms, my labs and my parliament, and I’ll stop arguing with religious people about whether the basis for their assertions exists or not.
So I agree:
Neither side should be like Carlos. No good will ever come of that.
But it takes two to play that game, and if I retire from the field so as to be ‘nice’, the other side wins by default, and we all end up back in the 15th Century.