12. Fundamentalist atheists piss me off even more than fundamentalist Christians. Sure fundamentalist Christians bitch and moan about the secularization of America while the separation of church and state is written right into their constitution yet a candidate needs to present himself as a good God-fearing churchgoing man before he even has a hint of a shot at election and it is not considered unusual for abortion clinics to be locked to keep out crazy redneck Republicans threatening to murder the doctors within. But fundamentalist atheists seem to delight in using essentially the same arguments as their Christian counterparts to definitively prove that they are better than me. When I talk to a "good" atheist, the conversation usually goes a little something like this:
ME: Well obviously there is no way of proving it one way or the other, but all things considered, I think there is probably a God, at least of some sort.
ATHEIST: You are right, it cannot be definitively proven, but all things considered I am pretty sure that there is no such thing as God.
The fundamentalist atheist will reply to my statement with:
ATHEIST: If you are still deluding yourself into thinking that a God of some sort is even remotely possible, you are indoctrinated and incapable of thinking for yourself. Go back to the middle ages!
Dear fundamentalist atheist: I am not saying you are wrong. I am not saying you are right. I am saying please stop being such a big fucking douche about it.
Well, color me a fundamentalist atheist. Truly, we should stop being such big fucking douches. (I'm sure she didn't mean me; I'm inserting myself into this discussion for my own purposes.) Now I’m going to take my own turn on the soapbox:
First, I have a serious issue with how belief in the supernatural is somehow sacred. In normal life, nobody says “Well, you think the moon is made of green cheese, and since that’s your belief, I’ll respect that.” But we encourage people to believe whatever they want (well, actually, we encourage people to stick to a set of fixed beliefs) when it comes to “spirituality” or an afterlife. I’m not saying that science has an answer here at this time, but nothing is really outside the scope of science – it’s a method, not a pre-determined belief system.
Secondly, doesn’t talk of God’s plan make you cringe as if you’re hearing fingernails on a chalkboard? Frankly, God doesn’t matter! If you think God is taking any kind of active interest in your existence, then your conceit is enormous – remember that this is the same “God” that permitted the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, innumerable wars, and endless suffering. I think it’s safe to say that we’re on our own. To think otherwise requires concocting a vast, narcissistic, self-deceiving “plan” that has many switchbacks and gotchas. Don’t tell me that the Jews and Poles at Birkenau were all part of God’s plan. You know that’s bullshit. Isn’t it far more elegant to assume that there is no plan? And if there’s no plan, what’s the point of there being a God?
Thirdly, people’s aversion to atheistic ideas comes down to, in my experience, cognitive dissonance. A key part of most belief systems is being taught not to question them directly, and this often extends to avoiding associations with those that do. You can talk about the weather, Gretzky vs. Orr, or last week’s Lost until you’re blue in the face, but as soon as the existence of God comes up, it’s “Can we talk about something else, please?” Of course they’re reluctant to set aside the ideas that they’re utterly depended on all their lives, even if they’re living on shaky ground. (Sometimes a Mormon or Witness who preys on this weakness comes by at an opportune time, and they trade up to an even more ridiculous set of ideas.)
While I’m not going to be staging protests outside churches anytime soon (for me this would represent an assault on free-thinking, which I’m very much against), I also think the recent backlash against atheists in general (now that they’re becoming more vocal, and not a moment too soon) is absurdly hot-tempered. Yes, there might be some meanie atheists out there who would go so far as to drop gloves with the Dali Lama. That would be a little ridiculous – it’s not as if people possessing religious belief is itself a problem, except when they promote abstinence-only sex education or fly themselves into buildings.
What I am asking people to think of is this: The next time you hear someone promoting atheistic ideas, ask yourself if your repugnance stems from cognitive dissonance – that disquieting feeling when two or more irreconcilable ideas come into conflict in your brain. Are you merely going to maintain the status quo out of your desire to spare yourself the anguish, or do you truly know that the new ideas aren’t any good because [insert reasons here]? If you run away screaming a few times, that’s fine – I did, too.
Sure fundamentalist Christians bitch and moan about the secularization of America while the separation of church and state is written right into their constitution yet a candidate needs to present himself as a good God-fearing churchgoing man before he even has a hint of a shot at election
There’s a point I’d like to comment on: How scary is it that an entire country feels that the more time their leader spends in church listening to someone else’s ideas, the better? That people support a man of prayer over a man of thought?
(THE BIG BAD) ATHEIST: If you are still deluding yourself into thinking that a God of some sort is even remotely possible, you are indoctrinated and incapable of thinking for yourself. Go back to the middle ages!
Indoctrinated, maybe. Incapable of thinking for themselves? I should say not. Heck, sticking to some of these belief systems in the face of contrary evidence requires a great deal of mental chicanery and an intellect that is capable of tremendous self-deceit. There are some extremely intelligent people who adopt or promote religious beliefs. We all lie to ourselves to some extent, and most of us are serviceably intelligent – the differentiator lies in our choices, not our mental fortitude.
At this rate, I’ll have my own “25 things” list finished sometime in April.