I’m not much for sitcoms, but Will & Grace was a masterpiece. There’s this one scene where Will is talking to Jack. It goes something like this:
WILL: Jack, what’s going on? Why’d you run out in the middle of your lap dance? Does your ass have attention deficit disorder, too? JACK: Will, something really bad happened. I got, uh… I got… [WHISPERING] excited. WILL: You mean, excited like “I want to wear what she’s wearing” excited? JACK: No! Excited the way the 3 of the 4 Baldwins and one of the 2 Quaids get me excited. WILL: Oh, my God. It’s finally happened. You’ve gotten so gay, you’ve looped around to straight again.
Lately, I’ve been feeling this way about a lot of atheists. They’ve gotten so atheist, they’ve looped around to being theists again.
But why do you feel this way, Godless Mom?
Over the past few weeks, damn near every time I go to read an atheist blogger’s latest post, it’s a giant straw man constructed to criticize atheists. Now, I’m not afraid of criticism in the least. I certainly am no stranger to self-reflection or finding ways that atheists can be better atheists. You know I’ve spanked your bottoms more than a few times, fellow heathens, but my criticisms are critical of things that are actually true. The recent parade of self-loathing unbelievers appear to be making more shit up than John. Luke and Ezekiel combined.
The latest offender: Kavin Senapathy. She wrote a list of 5 problems with atheist ideas which she shared againt after the CNN special and right off the bat, I’m all:
Atheism is a stance on one claim. It consists of one idea and one idea only. How can there be five problems with atheist ideas when atheism is just the act of saying, “I don’t believe you”? There are no other atheist ideas!
I already don’t even want to go any further, but like a moth to a flame, I must. I leaped in, like a fool, and tried to give Kavin the benefit of the doubt.
Many atheists have the following (perhaps subconscious) attitude: “I was born into a religious family. I was wise enough to see the error in religion. Furthermore, I’m very intelligent, thus I know that belief in god(s) and religion is irrational, superstitious, and unscientific. I am so glad that I was able to see the light and extricate myself from the idiocy that is religion. Bravo, me. If only everyone could be so enlightened, the world would be a better place.”
Kavin is obviously no stranger to the holier-than-thou attitude herself. Perhaps this post is autobiographical. I mean, I certainly don’t feel this way and even after having talked to most of the 6 thousand or so atheists I follow on Twitter, I’ve yet to speak to one who even remotely fits this description. So, I can only guess that she’s speaking of herself in a really, really roundabout and dishonest way. The vast majority of atheists I’ve met, fit these descriptions:
They were raised in a secular household and feel uncomfortable around religion
They were raised in a religious household, explored the idea of God on their own, and found no reason to continue to act as though there is one.
I fall into the first category. I can’t pretend to know how those who fall into the second category feel, like you have, Kavin, but here’s what I have gleaned from speaking with many of them:
Most don’t feel they are any more or less intelligent than anyone else for having left religion behind them. Believing this, would render debate with theists useless, you see. If they’re just too stupid to see the truth, why bother?
Most ex-religious atheists don’t feel enlightened so much as they feel they’ve been lied to.
Many want to help others see that they’ve been lied to as well, out of compassion and empathy.
There’s not one ex-religious atheist I’ve ever spoken with who has the “bravo me” attitude. Rather, they struggle with leaving behind the feeling that they were duped like a fool.
There’s an episode of the Atheist Experience where a pastor calls in and speaks with Matt Dillahunty. Matt calmly and gently challenges the things this pastor says. The pastor is silent until he finally says, “everything you say leaves me speechless…” then another long, silent pause and, “I’ve been in this church for 30 years. I’m supposed to just give up everything I’ve been doing? The members of my church? And just stop going? And what do I do after that? Where do I go? What do I do? I mean…” and it was quite literally heartbreaking. I watched this and my eyes watered, a lump formed in my throat.
This man had just realized that his entire life’s work was a lie. We were literally listening to his world come crashing down around him. Just watch:
Do you think he feels clever now? Do you think he walked away from that phone call, patting himself on the back saying, “Bravo me, I saw the light”? No.
The thing is, Kavin, if you’ve bothered to sit down and actually speak with an ex-religious atheist, with an open mind and no preconceived ideas, you’d know, most of them have experienced their entire world crumbling down around them just like this caller. Their “enlightenment” as you say, is simply the realization that they’ve been lied to their whole lives. They don’t feel clever, or smart or better than anyone. In fact, it’s the opposite. Most of the deconverted I’ve spoken with, struggle daily with feeling stupid for having fell for the lies for so long.
That was just Kavin’s intro, and it left me reeling. Now, she gets into the actual problems she has with “atheist ideas”.
1. Condescending attitudes toward non-atheists and religious people.
Even though this is not an atheist idea, I’ll bite.
I fully admit that there are condescending atheist assholes out there, but they are hardly the majority. We are critical, yes. We make fun of silly ideas, sure. That’s about where the majority of atheists I’ve gotten to know stop, though. I mean, if you’re limiting your social circle to Bill Maher, The Amazing Atheist and Dusty Smith perhaps I can see your point, but also perhaps you should consider expanding your horizons.
2. Seeing atheism as the only belief system compatible with embracing scientific consensus.
You’re not an atheist, are you, hun? Can you list for me, the precise beliefs that make up the atheist “belief system”?
Scientific evidence directly contradicts what is written in the Bible, the Quran and many other sacred religious texts. I don’t believe that you need to be an atheist to accept what science has discovered, however, you must cherry pick what you will believe from your sacred texts. That ultimately begs the question, if we know that a lot of your sacred text is wrong and can prove it, why bother following any of it at all? You can’t cherry pick and accept science and then tell me that the Bible is the infallible word of God. You see how the two ideas don’t really get along?
Further, amongst the several thousand atheists I’ve conversed with over the last year, I have found none that would openly assert that only atheism is compatible with science. In fact, I’ve heard it repeated over and over and over by many atheists, that if religious people would just have an open mind to new facts and discoveries and accept them into their world view as they come to be known, then religion itself wouldn’t be as big of a problem as it is. You said yourself, Kavin,
While I vehemently agree with atheist promotion of ideals like separation of church and state, civil rights, and a secular system of education for all
Why do you think taking this stance is necessary? Why do we need a separation of church and state? Because we don’t want the unscientific ideas of the church negating reasonable, evidence-based legislation. Why do you need to agree with atheist promotion of civil rights? Because the church refuses to accept what science has found: that same-sex attraction is normal in animals and humans alike, and it’s not a choice. Why do you want to promote secular education? Because you want your children to be taught evolution and not creationism, correct?
Kavin, I’m curious, would you send your children to Catholic school? Likely not, so I will ask as well, why not? Your answer to that question, is the very same attitude you’ve just pointed out as a problem with atheism. It’s not that we don’t think they could find a way to be compatible with science, hun, it’s simply that they refuse to.
3. Viewing atheism as a perpetually unadulterated belief system immune to ideology. I’ve repeatedly heard that atheism is not dogmatic. The American Atheists define atheism as nothing more than “a lack of belief in gods and supernatural beings.” Yes, atheism at this most purist level is not dogmatic. Yet the very same organization also endorses tenets that seem like the seeds of dogma. The American Atheists describe themselves as follows: “The only common thread that ties all atheists together is a lack of belief in gods and supernatural beings. Some of the best debates we have ever had have been with fellow atheists. This is because atheists do not have a common belief system, sacred scripture or atheist Pope. This means atheists often disagree on many issues and ideas. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints.” While they assert their non-groupthink individuality, they simultaneously embrace collective objectives and achievements including: -“ to develop and propagate a social philosophy in which humankind is central” -“ Held atheist conventions and gatherings throughout the United States, including “Atheist Pride” marches in state capitals” Do you see the inconsistency?
No. I don’t. What the American Atheists do as an organization has no bearing on what atheism is as a whole. That’s like saying that wanting to end cancer is dogmatic, or that trying to vaccinate the third world is a belief system. The American Atheist conventions are not indicative of “groupthink” any more than a support group for MS is. It’s just people who have this one thing in common, getting together to feel free to talk about it without the judgment we all feel in our normal, everyday lives. There is no pressure during these conventions to be any certain way, or to behave like everyone else, or to live our lives like everyone else in attendance. There is no preacher shouting about what is acceptable to believe and what is not based on little more than an eye twitch, and certainly there is no threat that we will suffer if we don’t accept any ideas presented at these conventions as true.
A convention or a rally is not indicative of a dogmatic belief system. Is that what you think of the civil rights movement?
Over half of Sweden’s population is atheist. Also, Denmark, Norway, etc. How does the so-called “groupthink” of the American Atheists activities affect the populations of those countries? As far as atheists go, a huge majority of us reside outside of the USA. Your americanocentric view of nonbelievers is silly, at best. You’re but a drop on the teapot of atheism.
4. The notion that atheism is a panacea.
Again, I have never come across a single atheist that has ever been so brazen as to assert that if everyone were atheist, all the world’s problems would go away. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess you haven’t either. At this point, you’re just pulling shit out of your ass.
5. Belief that raising children in religious doctrine is harmful, and therefore parents raising children atheist could not harm their kids.
I’m just totally flabbergasted here. Who are you talking to? What atheist has told you that atheists can do no harm to children? Can you send me a quote? A link maybe? I have never heard this sentiment before reading it on your blog, Kavin.
As far as the first part of your point goes, yes, teaching your children lies about the nature of their existence and how the world works, is not a good thing. Striking the fear of hell into them for touching their naughty bits is nothing short of torture. Sexualizing them at a young age by covering them in cloth, is not a good thing. Cutting them up, forcing them through a cannibalistic ritual, or making them believe they were born bad and must spend their lives making up for that, is wrong. How is it not wrong, Kavin? Would you subject your children to this shit? I would certainly hope not.
Let me assure you my fellow atheists, we haven’t won the enlightenment prize.
Thanks, Kavin. No one is celebrating a win. It’s difficult to celebrate a win when we wake up to news a blogger just like you has been hacked to death by barbaric imbeciles with machetes. It doesn’t feel like winning when cartoonists are shot to death en masse. It sure as hell feels more like a loss when I have to cross at least 13 countries off my list of places to travel. It feels particularly defeating to know that the most powerful country in the world includes seven states in which we cannot run for office.
I could go on, but I’d feel like a broken record. I’d rather just point out that your list of “atheist ideas” are not atheist ideas at all. There is only one atheist idea, and that is that it is useless to go on acting as though there is a god, until we have evidence for his existence.
Everything else about atheists is different. Gay, straight, Asian, black, Canadian, conservative, commies, killers, or drunks, we’re all different.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Friday to take care of.