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Hogarth judge

February 2018



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Why atheism simply does not work

WM wrote:
I maintain that Communism is a religion; it has its own sacred texts, it brooks no contradiction and it selects its major prophets for placement on a pedestal.
It's always been bloody obvious to me that Communism is a religion. Sacred texts? Check. Cult of its prophets? Check. Apocalyptic prophecy? Check. Incorrupt bodies? Check. Liturgy? Check.

This is why atheists amuse me. You can tell the people that there is no such thing as a god. If you repeat yourself often enough, some may take it to heart and make it a movement. For atheism must always be a movement; without constant reinforcement of the faith, people will backslide and accept the supernatural the way people always have.

But even atheistic faiths end up with sacred totems, liturgy, ritual, public worship, mass rallies, and apocalyptic prophecies. All of the oppressive orthodoxies they got rid of God to be free from just came right back. Since we're human, we're stuck with that kind of mummery.

Getting rid of God accomplishes none of the goals atheists say it will. It just annoys your neighbors. People do that mostly because they fancy themselves endowed with a special understanding of precious and saving truth, which is why atheists tend to be evangelical. Why bother? You're right back to square one, and you don't even get to go to heaven.


Every time these trendy-atheists pop up on comments to anything, all saying the exact same thing, this is exactly what I think of. Each and every one of them thinks they're witty and clever with terms like Santa Claus, "sky daddy" and so forth. It's very clear they're quoting a sacred text written by a prophet, although I can't tell who it is.

What I do know is that when I do a google search on "imaginary friends" for other reasons, I get inundated with their bologna. I'll heave a big sigh of relief when they find another fad phrase.

I respect actual atheism, I'm talking about these people that just kind of jump on the bandwagon like it was zoot suits or wingtip shoes or tailfins on your car. Being an atheist is a lot more than saying "ha ha God's not real".

Nice icon btw.
I think most of the catchphrases are Richard Dawkins's coinages, but they're enough over the Internet to take on a life of their own.

I get the impression that the New Atheists want, like many of us do, a world where people are less oppressed by taboos, militant conformity, and intergroup violence. Because they see religion involved in these things, getting rid of religion will make progress towards those goals.

It isn't like I disagree with the goals. But this is something I find very naive.

Edited at 2013-02-13 04:36 am (UTC)
I suspect that the strident voices are the ones you hear because they're strident; most of us just go about our lives without chatting a lot about atheism because we've figured out that people really hate being challenged about their belief systems, and if they're going to change their minds, it's not going to be because somebody insists. (If the reason they change their minds is that somebody insists, that's not a particularly strong basis for a personal philosophy).

I find that colleagues, students, not-very-close friends, etc., typically assume that I'm a Christian because obviously everyone should be, so if I'm a nice person and am not running around being offensive, I must be a Christian. Presumably I ought to disabuse them of the notion, but since atheists are the single least trusted minority in the US, right up there with felons, I don't have a lot of incentive to do that.
I suppose that, at least for me, an 'atheist' isn't simply someone who does not believe in God. An atheist is a person who has decided that belief in God is the cause for much of the evils of the world, and therefore makes it their cause to spread the gospel that there is no God. Simply being a non-believer is not quite enough.
See, this is where I draw the line. People claiming to be atheists say there is no God because so many horrible things are done in the name of God and religion. Just because people do these things doesn't mean God her/him/itself doesn't exist. What you're describing sounds more like they want people to boycott.
So you've defined atheists as only those nonbelievers who are evangelical, then you gripe about how most atheists are evangelical?
I'm not really even complaining that atheists are evangelical; they have every right to be, as much as any other evangelist does.

What I am complaining about is that I think they seriously overstate the benefits of getting rid of religion. Because religions are involved in various kinds of tyrannical conformities and intergroup conflicts, they seem to imagine that religion causes them, and getting rid of religious beliefs will prevent them. This is what I disagree with.

Edited at 2013-02-14 03:32 am (UTC)
See, I can get behind the idea that evangelism is largely annoying, whatever the evangelizing is for, and that it's usually ineffective or, when it is effective, is often effective for exactly the wrong reasons.

But I've never actually run into somebody who thinks that people do stupid stuff purely due to the influence of religion. In the name of religion, yes. But religion is just one attribute of culture, and people can do horrid things on the basis of all kinds of aspects of identity. Whether religion exacerbates conflict or ameliorates it is going to depend on a lot of different factors, none of which have any bearing at all on whether there is a God or not.

I'd see the fact that truly horrific and unjust things do exist on earth as being basically incompatible with the existence of a divinity that is both omnipotent and good, but obviously many people disagree with me on that front.
Yes, evangelism tends to work about as well as any other kind of cold calling. Fervent belief in a cause induces a moral blind spot.

But if you've never run into somebody who thinks that getting rid of religion and belief in God will get rid of war and oppression, you probably haven't read Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion or much of the late Christopher Hitchens. This is why I associate that position with evangelical atheism.
I wouldn't consider Dawkins or Hitchens to represent "mainstream" atheism (if there is such a thing) any more than I'd consider Westboro Baptist Church to represent "mainstream" Christianity (if there is such a thing). I would certainly never expect my Christian friends to share opinions with the more intolerant voices in their communities, nor would I think it reasonable to define them as not being Christians just because they weren't lunatics.

But I also don't share your belief that activism is inherently a bad thing. I rather appreciate, on a personal level, the activists whose work made the 19th amendment possible, and I do admire the (trained and very effective) activism of Rosa Parks. Much activism is based on a distorted view of reality, and much activism is ineffective, but when it's done in a savvy way and is able to raise awareness of and lead to the righting of a substantial injustice, I'm all in favor.