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Standing for…nothing?

January 25, 2009

That Hemant Mehta guy…he blogs like I only wish I could blog. You may have heard of him and his site: Friendly Atheist (in fact, more of you gentle readers will be familiar with his site than mine). Or how he sold his soul on eBay. (To be honest, after reading the details of what exactly that entailed, I really wish I were that clever. Like that guy who had that $1-per-pixel website [the million dollar website])

But really, I’m not that clever. I probably could post multiple articles a day (I have several articles in queue right now just getting old and stale, in fact). But I dunno, I probably won’t. 😦 I probably also won’t have as good an alexa rating. (anyway, I just found out that FA isn’t even a solo job. Cheaters, the lot of them.)

Anyway, there have been a few posts in response the recent inauguration, and about the gesture towards nonbelievers. People understandably wonder if Barack Obama is serious. Some people think he’s a closet atheist (but then again, some people also think he’s a radical muslim or a black-liberation-Christian or whatever). Some people think he just uses the Christian rhetoric to slip by (I mean, he’s black; he apparently pals around with terrorists, was raised in an atheist racially confused household and is the Antichrist [my tongue cannot be any further in cheek here], but clearly, he has to play to the crowd).

Why’s it so bad to be atheist? Darwin’s Dagger thinks:

The problem is that nobody likes atheists. The reason is that, as atheists, the only thing we ever do is tell people to stop doing or saying something that we find offensive, or in violation of our own sense of constitutionality. And let’s face it, if the theists behaved perfectly, practiced their religion within the boundaries set by the Constitution and didn’t meddle in affairs of science or organize against the rights of others, there would be no organizing principle around which atheists would gather. Our shared lack of belief in God just isn’t so big a deal that any of us would give a flying fuck about each other. So we exist not as a force that stands for anything in particular, but as self appointed morality police determined to stop the theists from violating our own sense of the place they should keep in our shared society.

Unlike African Americans, Jews, and the LGBT community we have no cultural or social connection which binds us together outside of our own sense of victimization. If the theists really wanted to unwind the coiled threat of atheism, they would give us everything we want and just watch how fast the whole atheist community would vaporize.

I feel that this seems to apply not only to the atheist community in general but also to the Exmormon community (duh, these two often coincide~) [generalization alert]. When Bruce Nielson made this comment at Mormon Matters, I could identify with it…even if when I posted about it on Main Street Plaza, there was some gnashing of teeth…

In many ways, our position, whether as exmormons specifically or as nonbelievers in general, is a position taken from reaction. When it comes to a foundation outside of this ‘victimization’ as this commenter says, we don’t really have so much in common.

Now, we do have some things in common. For example, not believing in God. (let’s include weak atheists too, guys) But this is in opposition to the theist position, so that’s no good. REALLY, while Darwin’s Dagger’s position is true in a sense, things aren’t so clearcut. It’s not just that bad Christians or bad Mormons or bad theists make atheists (that’s angstheism or just a teenage anti-theism). Really, there’s just an entirely different picture of theism in general. What an atheist proposes of “theists behaving perfectly” and what the theist proposes are quite different and sometimes impossible to reconcile.

For example, at most charitable, an atheist would just like theists to leave them alone and stop bothering people. At a little less charitable, they would would like them to quit forcing views that are not empirically based on others. But at the least charitable, the atheist concept of the “perfect” theist would exclude theism from the public sphere completely. (Unfortunately, this is what some people consider the “boundaries set by the Constitution”)

So, really, it’s not so simple as playing nicely, because indeed, there are theists who want to play nicely. There are some who try hard, but miss the mark. I wish I could find the youtube video, but there was a guy who was advocating for a new Christianity with things that you might expect are good: live better; preach by example; don’t mess with people; don’t be hypocritical; love catches more flies than hate and brimstone; etc., Ah, how refreshing! But this particular youtuber had some choice scriptural words about atheists…as he put, atheists should be allowed to live their lives in peace (sweet, good), but this is because us weeds will be cast out divinely, so Christians need not do it (bad, awkward).

Oops! All the good acts in the world just feel dilapidated when someone’s beliefs still get in the way. And it goes all ways, unfortunately.

I would talk about things that atheists can stand for (and which some groups do) (popular things: science and “scientism”, “secular humanism” [still not quite sure what that even is, even after I read definitions], that all popular nihilism-and-existentialism one-two punch, rationalism, the church of the flying spaghetti monster, etc.,), but I’m over my comfortable blogpost size limit.


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  1. Unlike African Americans, Jews, and the LGBT community we have no cultural or social connection which binds us together outside of our own sense of victimization.

    I disagree with this as applied to atheists.

    It’s true that atheists often insist on the most inclusive definition of atheism (absence of belief in God(s)) which means that our ranks will include quite a bit of diversity of thought. But, in practice, atheists do typically share quite a number of common values that bind us together: a respect for scientific rationalism and evidence-based thinking, a love of life for its finite, fragile beauty, and a sense of responsibility towards humanity because we can’t count on some magic deity to rescue us from our own mistakes.

    By contrast, what do “people of faith” share to bind them together as a group? A respect for “faith” — which leads them to an array of diverse beliefs and values….

  2. see: my last paragraph.

    The thing is that while these are things that atheists can stand together for, they are not exclusive for atheist or even particularly binding in the same way religion is.

    I mean, I guess you could say (as you did) that the “respect for faith” leads to a diversity of beliefs and values, but this tends to lead to a *lot more churchgoers* than an appreciation for scientific rationalism and evidence-based thinking does. I mean, there are groups that meet precisely for these reasons, but they aren’t as prevalent (and I’m not necessarily saying they should be — if I wanted to go to some church, I would.) as, for example, hierarchical churches.

  3. Rough truth is, from that whiny lady in Sacrament Meeting who keeps complaining about her wayward son, to that kid in the neighborhood who’d always cry every time you didn’t let him play with his favorite GI Joe –

    nobody likes a victim.

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