Over the past decade or so, the New Atheists, including the prolific “Four Horsemen”, have made their non-belief, and their relentless assault on silly religious beliefs, a very public (and very loud) affair. High School students, and others, have subject themselves to harassment and vitriol in order to stand up for the Separation of Church and State. A little over a week ago, ~20,000 atheists gathered for the largest rally of nonbelievers in history. To many, it seems that there is an atheist movement, possibly similar in scope to the Gay Rights Movement or Civil Rights Movements, is on the horizon.
But is it really? Sadly, I’m not very optimistic.
When I was in Graduate School, I took a course that I definitely expected would be (and later proved to be) incredibly interesting: History of Economic Thought and Method (yes, I am a nerd). The Professor was definitely an intelligent man, and, through the course I definitely gained valuable insight on how current economic orthodoxy evolved over time and how economic thinking interacted with history (as well as discovering quite a few heterodox schools). However, the lecture that I remember the most clearly, and the most specifically, had very, very little to do with economics.
I forget what this lecture was supposed to be about (I think we were in the middle of discussing Thorstein Veblen, but it doesn’t really matter), but, almost instantaneously, this normally intelligent, although somewhat eccentric (as academics can be), man descended into an absolutely batty discussion about why he believes that the world will end in December, 2012. Now, why anyone would trust the ancient Mayans (intelligent as they were) to predict our fates when they couldn’t predict their own demise is beyond me, but this otherwise very intelligent man had a seemingly reasonable proof for his belief–that just happened to fall on its face when its premises were made subject to any scrutiny, but that’s not the point.
What does this have to do with atheism or religion? Well, lots, actually. Thousands–no millions–of perfectly intelligent people who whole-heartedly believe the quite silly belief that the God of Abraham impregnated a virgin with himself so he could be born, give a few speeches, perform a few miracles, and get murdered after being betrayed so that mankind would finally be forgiven for one woman (who probably didn’t exist) eating an apple (or pomegranate) that she wasn’t supposed to. Holding this belief, silly as it may be, does not make someone stupid, per se; it just requires a little cognitive dissonance and a lot of mental gymnastics. Continue reading
One of the comments I’ve gotten, both in person and on the internet, is that atheism (and it’s moral equivalent: Secular Humanism) is an inherently egotistical position. I went here, to some sort of Christian Publication, looking for the basis of that belief — only to find the complete lack of an argument (just a series of claims that atheists are arrogant and angry without any real backing and hold Christianity up as the humble opposite). From what I can gather, here is the basic argument for atheists being arrogant:
- Christians (and other theists) believe that their achievements and positive qualities come from Jesus and God (or their theological equivalent for other faiths).
- Believing that their achievements and positive qualities come from a higher power makes Christians (or other theists) humble.
- Atheists believe that their achievements and positive qualities come from their own hard work and introspection.
- Not believing that their achievements come from a higher power makes atheists not humble.
- The opposite of humility is arrogance.
- Therefore, atheists are arrogant.
There are, of course, other arguments as to whether or not atheists are arrogant (including the one that we are audacious enough to say that the majority of the world is wrong, which is absolutely laughable–Who would speak out about something if they didn’t think they were right and others are wrong?), but this is the one that I’ll focus on because it so clearly exposes the arrogance of the belief in a personal god. Continue reading
Now, I tend not to be an angry guy. However, I assume like most people, there are certain things that, well, kind of piss me off. Sentiments like this rank high among those things that get under my skin.
Simply, this guy named Cal Thomas (who apparently gets paid to write his silly beliefs on paper) calls me, and everyone who doesn’t share his belief of the logically impossible benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God of Abraham, a fool, and then wonders why we’re “so angry.” Well, it could be the fact that we’re routinely called fools or that religious people view that atheists are only “about as trustworthy as rapists” because we tend not to believe that the God of the Gaps actually exists.
We have a reason to be angry, and it is, in a word, bigotry.
What if someone was to walk up to you on the street and boldly proclaim that Ron Paul was an illegal immigrant who puts spicy pulled baby meat in his tacos? Well, if you responded at all (would probably just ignore them and keep walking) you would probably ask something like, “What’s your proof?” or, “Why am I supposed to believe you?” If I, for one, was expected to believe the extraordinary claim that Ron Paul eats pulled baby meat as we would eat pulled pork, then I would need some sort of extraordinary proof–say, stumbling upon the Congressman harvesting his tasty, tasty baby meat.
Of course, that was an absolutely ridiculous example (so the Paul supporters don’t mob me–I know that Ron Paul probably doesn’t eat babies), but the concept applies to pretty much anything that people talk about. If you make a claim, then you are expected to back that claim up with evidence or, for moral questions that are do not lend themselves to evidence , a sound argument–the more extraordinary the claim; the more extraordinary and definitive the evidence or argument given must be for me to believe it.
Well, it should apply to everything we talk about, but one of the most important claims people make–their religious beliefs–are oddly exempted from this rule. Even our opinions on politics, the other subject we supposedly shouldn’t bring up at the dinner table, are scrutinized (and rightfully so) by those who disagree with, or would merely want to learn more about, our opinions. There is no reason why religious beliefs, the beliefs that arguable have the greatest impact on our daily behavior, views on morality, and views on politics, are somehow immune to any sort of inspection.
Well, this has to change. Continue reading