In Case Anyone Was Wondering If Atheists Are Still Disliked… Yes, We Are October 17, 2012

In Case Anyone Was Wondering If Atheists Are Still Disliked… Yes, We Are

I would never count myself above criticism.  I certainly have my flaws, and not in a “Zooey-Deschanelleaves-her-house-messy-so-she-can-dance-in-her-pajamas” way.  It’s more like a “I-am-not-going-to-air-my-issues-on-a-public-blog-for-all-to-see” kind of way.  So, while reading this post, please keep in mind that I do not think I am above criticism.  Also keep in mind I accept constructive criticism, not random lists of petty complaints about my community.

On Monday, Timothy Philen wrote an opinion piece at the about atheists. I think he meant it to be some kind of scathing review of the movement but it just kind of came off as pointlessly dickish.  Not to mention he was also super-condescending about the Reason Rally, which got my goat because it was such an amazing experience for me personally.

Oh, and there was the obligatory Hitler reference.  More on that later!  Let us delve into the text!

This is how Philen sees atheists

The acolytes who gathered on the National Mall this past March for the “Reason Rally” are veritable Nietzsches of nonbelief — a thinking man’s Tea Party of the best and brightest white people, drawn by the intellectual vigor of the New Atheists and their messianic mission: to save civilization by stamping out the harmful delusions of religion once and for all.

First of all, let’s take it easy on the alliteration.  Second of all, “messianic mission”?  Doesn’t that necessitate a messiah? You’re barking up the wrong tree there, buddy. Even if you wanted to make an argument calling Richard Dawkins the “head of the New Atheists” (and a lot of atheists would disagree with you there), it’s a stretch to call him anyone’s messiah. But Timmy didn’t make that argument. He just kind of said a thing that he thought sounded clever.

As for the “save civilization” thing, well he isn’t too far off there.  Maybe it’s a grandiose term for it, but fighting against things like, you know, modern-day child-witch hunts in Africa or the people who are anti-anti-bullying, or trying to encourage people to get vaccinated because whooping cough is on the rise are, in fact, things that are saving civilization. And, on the subject, saving it from religious zealots.  Do you think that people think gay kids are killing themselves because of rhetoric like that of Bill Nye or Bill Donohue?

I admit it. I’m annoyed by these people. Not simply because of their fervent lack of faith, or blinding sense of self-importance, but because of their lack of a sense of humor.

Whoa, whoa, whoa buddy.  Let’s stop before you say something hurtful. Lack a sense of humor?! Why don’t you try this on for size, guy!

An atheist and a Christian walk into a bar.  The bartender gives the atheist a beer and the Christian a glass of wine.  The atheist looks at the… um… at the bartender and says… uh … “Blood of Christ!?  More like…”

Okay, fine. I don’t know any jokes. Are you happy now Tim? Are  you?!

After all, you would expect an Elie Wiesel or an Aung San Suu Kyi to be serially somber in the pursuit of their causes, but you wouldn’t expect the same from Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer. It’s easy to understand why these folks needed Bill Maher and Penn Jillette to send in videos to the March rally (not that 20,000 people standing in the rain for six hours celebrating “reason” wasn’t funny enough).

Um, Dawkins is a zoologist, not a stand-up.

And how is celebrating who we are and what we stand for any funnier than going to church every Sunday? A group of people setting aside time to get together and celebrate their worldview is funny? Am I missing the joke?  Maybe I don’t have a sense of humor (since I am an atheist and all). BRB. I have to go shut down my Twitter account as I’m not as clever as I once thought.

Philen goes on to use the trifecta: Comparisons to Nazis, Stalin, and Mao.  I am choosing to ignore it, because it’s dumb and overdone.

Moving on.

After all, in an atheist utopia built on “In Darwin We Trust,” no one can ultimately be trusted.  Without an absolute and sacred moral touchstone, free from the perversions of reason by men and the state, power will naturally coalesce into the hands of the most gifted, educated and Machiavellian — in other words, the “fittest” leaders of any movement. Those, like Singer, sufficiently devoid of sentimentality to be able to make the “hard choices” will in the end triumph — and ruthlessly if necessary — in the absence of religion’s restraining influence.

Even if one doesn’t believe that the common tenets of world religions are objectively true, their utility in undergirding the social contract can’t be denied.

Yes.  All of that.  Because religion has never been used to repress the masses.  And no religious person has ever broken any kind of “social contract.”

And the occasional overreach of religion into the secular square, and even the tragedies of the 12th-century Crusades and the ungodly acts done in the name of Allah today, would be catapulted from any scale by the counterweight of the noble, edifying and sacrificial deeds done daily throughout human history by those who adhered to the dictates of their religious faiths.

No, you’re wrong.  It doesn’t counterbalance.

See?  I can just say things too!

By the way, do you see the irony in calling attacks in the name of a god “un-godly”?  Oh, irony!  See, I do still have a sense of humor!

And he ends with this:

I recall my gregarious grandfather having friendly conversations with agnostics and atheists and people of other faiths. Although steadfast in his point of view, he was always respectful of them and, to my knowledge, they were respectful of him.

I can only pray that if I attend next year’s “Reason Rally,” these libertine lions will show this Christian some of the same respect that they so passionately crave.

So… because you perceive your grandfather as being a nice Christian and Dawkins as being a mean atheist… what?  We’re wrong? All atheists are mean?  There is a god?  Science is bunk?

And that’s a really cool strawman that you have set up at the end there. I don’t recall any Christians getting beat up at the rally; does anyone else?  Is speaking our mind any more disrespectful than this article about how nasty we are? Also, there’s not going to be a yearly Reason Rally. A preliminary Google search could have told you that.

Well, Timothy,  I would like to close by thanking you.  It is reading things like this that remind me why it is so important to do what we do here at Friendly Atheist.  While your article itself was fairly pointless and ill-informed, you did make a larger point clear:

Apparently we are still a caricature to you.  The idea that the voices of a minority deserve to be heard is silly.  You actively chose to ignore the evils that religion can do just because you don’t want to deal with them.  I am not just a mindless drone who thinks that natural selection means that we live in a world without subtlety, beauty, and wonder.  I am not an argumentative jerk who plugs my ears whenever someone disagrees with me.   And I am not the kind of person that thinks that one op-ed piece can paint 20% of the American population with a single brush and then say “this is why the opinion I have assigned to you is wrong.”

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