Sunday, June 17, 2012

So You Want To Misrepresent Atheism?

I haven’t written a dissection in a while and then I read So You Want to Be an Atheist Apologist? by Stephen J. Bedard. I don’t typically think these types of posts need any kind of intro so I’ll just get to it.

Somehow you have found yourself believing that there is no God.  Perhaps you never had faith, perhaps you lost faith along the way.  At first it was just nice to sleep in on Sundays and to not worry about any religious rules stopping you from having fun.  But passive atheism has become boring and now you want to do more than just not believe, you want to encourage other people to stop believing as well.  That is what this post is all about, training you to be an atheist apologist.
Yes. Somehow I found myself not believing in god; as if belief in a deity is the default and non-belief is mind-bogglingly weird. As if disbelief is totally irrational. Also, the only rules that stop anyone from having any fun are religious rules? Religious rules like  Deuteronomy 13:13-19, Deuteronomy 20:10-14, Deuteronomy 21:10-14, Deuteronomy 22:28-2, Deuteronomy 22:23-24, 2 Samuel 12:11-14, Judges 5:30, Exodus 21:7-11, Matthew 10:14-15, Matthew 10:21, Matthew 10: 32-37, Mark 7:9-10, Romans 1: 31-32, Romans 5:12, etc. just to name a sample.  Has anyone read the book? Lest someone respond with “Well, that’s the OLD Testament. Jesus fixed all that!” I’m sure you are already aware of Matthew 5:17 and Hebrews 10: 28-29. People that think Jesus was all rainbows and kittens are deluded.

It takes gall and ignorance to think that morality comes from the Bible and can only be achieved via religion.

For the record Rev. Bedard, “passive atheism” didn’t get “boring.” It became a liability. I don’t know you and will not make assumptions about your beliefs, but there are many religious folk that would love to force their belief and “morality” on everyone else. There maybe even be religious people you disagree with and you wouldn’t want their beliefs and “morality” forced upon you. The aggressive atheists or atheist apologists are a reaction to growing fundamentalism and infringement on freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. It is not the other way around.
The first thing that you have to work on is attitude.  Some of your atheist friends will tell you to ignore religious people and let everyone believe what they want.  Do not listen to them.  It is not enough for you to not believe, other people must join you in unbelief.  In some ways your atheism is unfulfilled when there is even one person still believing.  Look for any opportunity to tear down someone else’s faith.
Pretty rich coming from someone whose job and “passion is to present the truth of the Bible…” Do you not get paid to spread the Word?

People are free to believe what they want. You have that right and whether you accept the next point is irrelevant: I want you to have that right. I defend it. However, my disbelief and “atheist apologetics” is not an attempt to take the right of that belief away. I have every right to try and show what I think of faith and religion just as you have a right to preach.  Your point is a double standard.
One of the atheists greatest weapons is that of offence.  One of the reasons religion must be destroyed is that it is offensive.  It is not just stands on moral issues or specific ethical rules that are offensive.  Anything religious should be seen as offensive.  If you are driving down a road and you see a cross that has been placed where someone has been killed in an accident, you should be filled with anger.  They might claim that they placed it there to remember a lost loved one but their real reason was to shove religion down your throat.  Do not let them get away with that.  As an atheist apologist, it is your job to seek the removal of any public display of religion.  You have the right to never encounter anything religious and you should fight for that right.
No. Again you are equating a lack of belief with a lack of morals. This is pathetic and false. More to the point of this paragraph; I do not care about public displays of religion as long they are not intertwined with the government. That’s it. Individuals and groups of individual’s have the right to public displays of religion. They do not have the right to use the state, state agencies or agents of the state, in any capacity, to further a religious agenda.
One of the things that atheism has going for itself is that it is the only intellectual worldview on the market.  All religion is based on faith, atheism is based on fact.  Sure, we don’t know how the universe started or how life began, but those are still facts, just facts that we don’t know yet.  Every once in a while religious people will put forward a religious scientist or other academically recognized person.  There is an easy way to respond.  The fact that they are religious removes any clout they might have based on their intelligence, education or credentials.  Religious people are uneducated, no matter how much education they have.

Yes, all religion is based on faith. You may be surprised to learn that atheism is not based on fact. I know! Crazy, right? An atheist…a scary antitheist...just said atheism is not factual! Well, that is because atheism is a lack of belief in a god or gods. One can neither prove nor disprove god’s existence. Facts are sadly lacking in that regard. However, the lack of facts obviously doesn’t make it impossible to have position on the matter. The premise of atheism is that there is no reason to believe in god so I don’t. Simple. The lack of facts also leads me to not believe in Vishnu, Odin and Xenu. You can see how this works if you try.

The other advantage of atheism is that atheism is the only ethical worldview.  All religion is evil and history proves it.  Century after century, religion has always been responsible for millions of deaths.  Now every once in a while, a religious person will try and pin you down on this.  Do not get caught up in the details of how many people died or what the actual role of religion was.  Focus on on the big picture that religion kills.

Atheism is neither ethical, nor unethical. It just means that one doesn’t believe in a deity (I know I said this already, but I think I need to drive the point home). Individuals, and dare I say cultures, are ethical or unethical, regardless of religion. I won’t pretend to know the exact reason why, but morality is internal. You ignore plenty of Biblical laws and teachings. Why?

I think you are confusing the criticism from atheists that the religious have a tendency to be high and mighty when they have plenty of skeletons in their closet just like the rest of us.
What about examples of religious people who do good things and atheists who do bad things?  Fellow atheist apologists have taken care of this.  When we see religious people doing good things, they are either secret atheists who are afraid to admit their atheism or they are religious people who are acting like atheists and are acting in spite of their religion.  What about bad atheists?  That is easy as well.  Those so-called “atheists” are either people who have made another worldview (such as communism) into a religion or have made atheism itself into a religion.  Once they make that move into religious thinking and doing, they are setting themselves up for being as dangerous as religious people.  So we see, even in this case it is religion that is bad and atheism that is good.
I have no idea where you got this. I have been around the block on the whole atheism vs. religion debate and have never heard the “secret atheist” conspiracy theory. Actually it’s a “No True Scotsman” fallacy and I have never seen it used in that regard. Plenty of Christians pull the “Oh well he’s not a real Christian…” shtick.

The second half of your paragraph here seems to be alluding to Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Well, yes, they used "atheism" as a means to subdue religion since religion, as a powerful political force, would have inevitably gotten in the way of their totalitarian political agenda. It was about power. Not about disbelief. Attributing this to “atheism” isn’t intellectually honest. It’s just lazy.
Here are just a few more hints on how you can be a good atheist apologist.  Reject the Bible as a historical source.  Once it was acknowledged as a religious text, it lost all historical value.  Whenever you get confused, just bring up crusades, inquisition and Jihad.  Those words answer just about anything.  Do not listen to the actual arguments of religious people.  This is not a conversation about seeking out the truth.  You know the truth.  Your job is to argue, ridicule, mock and whatever else you need to do to show that religion is bad.  Do not get caught up in arguments about freedom of religion.  Freedom of religion should be freedom from religion and therefore supports your position.  Do not be tolerant of moderate religious people who mind their own business and feed poor people.  As long as they are religious, they are as guilty as a Jihadist who blows up a plane.

C’mon, the Bible is an awful historical document. It’s not devoid of history. It’s just not a good a historical document. There is plenty of it that is provably false. C’mon…

By the way, I do listen to the arguments of religious people. I have for all 35 years of my life, but as of yet not heard a single argument that convinces me that religion, any religion, is valid. I find no truth in religious claims. Do I not have that right? Do you have some superior argument or evidence to the contrary that makes my disbelief invalid? Are you not arguing for the validity of your position while rejecting my ability to do so? Furthermore, is your post not mocking atheism? I don’t care that it does. I’m fine with that. Go right ahead. Obviously I am taking an opposing stance right now and to a degree mocking your position. So what? I find nothing sacred in religion. Rejecting and mocking religion is freedom of and from religion.  Do I not have the right to ignore religion? That never happens since it is foisted upon me, but in theory should that not be the case?

Your straw man notwithstanding, tolerance of “moderate religious believers” is on a spectrum and I have yet to understand what “moderate religion” is. Can someone only believe “moderately”?  Too often that is an excuse to not take a stand when their religion is used to condemn, discriminate and persecute “others.” Yeah…I’m not apologizing for that judgment.
There is so much more that could be said but this should give you a start.  There is a big job to be done.  While church attendance is down, belief in God is stubbornly solid.  Do what you can to bring this world to atheism.

Good times, Stephen. 


WalterKnaub said...

Well said, my good man. More people need to read your shit. I'll do what I can by reading it and sharing it. Your counter points are on point. Thanks.

Steve said...

Thanks, Walter. I appreciate that.

Andy said...

*insert clever remark about deluded Christians here* I'm too tired to crank one out right now.

Stephen Bedard said...

Thanks for your interest in my post. It was not meant as an attack on atheism or a misrepresentation of atheism. On one hand, it comes from my own experience as an atheism twenty years ago or so. I was that passive atheists who did not care if other people were religious. I know find myself confused as to why atheists spend so much time attacking religion.

On the other hand, some of the things found in this post come from my own recent interactions with atheists. You asked for references to some of what I said, while I do not have the books with me right now, they did come from reading Hitchens and Dawkins. Things like dismissing the Bible, come from conversations I have had. A historian will look at the Bible, not as an inspired text but as a historical document similar to other texts of the time, with strengths and weaknesses. Some of the atheists I have spoken to have dismissed this and have said the religious status the Bible has removes it from the discussion. I hope you do not take that position.

By the way, I am planning a similar post on Christian apologists as well. I believe sarcasm should be shared with everyone.

Steve said...

Please see my response: Friendly Response to A Christian Apologist

Shelley said...

I think, Stephen, that I'm gonna have to call "Liar, liar, pants on fire." You clearly DID mean it as an attack on and misrepresentation of atheism. Tsk.

Anonymous said...

Shelley, Stephen's blog was addressed to "The Atheist Apologist," i.e. "the modern overzealous atheist missionary," so to speak. It was not addressed to all atheists, otherwise it would have been titled "So You Want to become an atheist" and would have been a broad-stroke sarcastic rant against all unbelief (educated, uneducated, reasonable, unreasonable..etc) which it clearly was not.

With this in mind, the real problem that both factions (Christians/atheists)often have with each other is when one of them (or many of them)start to employ perhaps one of the worst kinds of sins mankind can perpetrate on another no matter what belief or ideology they are touting, and that is the sin of coercion. Religious and non religious literature almost universally deplores this. Lord of the Rings absolutely resounds with this theme, i.e. the horror and folly of one exerting their will over those of others, forcing them to a new system of belief or subjugation. C.S. Lewis' Space trilogy depicts atheistic scientists bent on bringing the world to its knees to accept scientific materialism. Agnostic and atheist authors like Orwell, Huxley ( and countless others) depict the horrors of a totalitarian world government that perpetuates an elite class over the systematized mindless, oppressed classes and forcing them to accept propaganda and lies...etc. It is an ingrained facet of the human condition to abhor subjugation. This is why overzealous Christian missionaries or atheists who try to force or shame or ridicule you into their standpoint are seen as horrible perversions of righteousness by practically everyone. This is why one could theoretically lump together Mao, Hitler, Crusades, Inquisition, Stalin, Salem Trials...etc and place them on the same unholy pedestal of "Brutally forcing ideas on Others."

I think that Biblically, this message coincides on a few levels. God never forced mankind into belief in Him (that part was already established with the first human pair since they were in already in communion with Him), nor did God force obedience. However, with the first opportunity to aggrandize himself, mankind CHOSE to disobey and it was only after that point that the earth donned its sin cursed nature. God does not force obedience and he warns humanity of the repercussions if they choose to disobey, and when He follows up on bringing judgment, many people cry foul and accuse God of bullying and terrible things. The OTestament is replete with this theme of God telling people what is right, what is good, what is pure and that they have a choice to follow them or not, but if they CHOOSE to disobey, there will be consequences. However, you'll notice on such occasions, God always invokes a "repentance clause" so to speak where He promises to withhold judgment if people (or enough people) repent.

Jumping to the New Testament and the Apostles, they went into the world as missionaries and SHARED in love, peace and understanding..etc. They never ridiculed or shamed their listeners, nor did they FORCE the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why in Galations 5:15, you hear them say:
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another."
This biting and consuming is the depraved human nature which mocks, backbites, denounces and forces itself on others and this is what true Christianity at its root meant to intellectually and spiritually fight against through the message of the nature changing power of Christ.

Anonymous said...

...(continued from above)

The Apostle Paul particularly always got to know the people and culture he was about to preach to on a human/personal level, learning what values and traditions were important to them. He did this because (if all good things are from God and all truth is His truth) he would pick out the good things and the pure things that each culture strived for so that he could relate to them from where (or rather from WHOM) such good desires and endeavors truly came from. Then Paul could move on after this connection was made to present the truth and good news of Jesus Christ. Only after this open acceptance and respectful exchange was made did Paul then help explain to those who believed how they could remove the impure, sinful or antagonistic things they did which were against the perfect will of God. We see this peaceful kind of missionary method when Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22:

"I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it."

One of the biggest problems was when Constantine adopted Christianity as the official religion of Rome. It was a mixed blessing and curse in a way because it was good that Christians would now stop being hunted down, tortured, killed or thrown to the Lions (Rome's way of FORCING them to abandon their faith and accept the all-powerful authority of Caesar) but bad in the sense that the Christian message was integrated and synthesized into the imperfect manmade institutional government of Rome so that all the old Roman tactics of coercion, denouncing and cruelty that were used against Christianity were suddenly (well, not suddenly, there was a long term integration and rise to prominence of the government authorized version of the Catholic Church) being used against anyone who was not a "Christian." This government sanctioned/tainted version of Christianity was then used in the coming years for horrific land grabs, political games, grasping for money and power with the Crusades/Inquisition..etc(all things related to the fallen human nature) but used under the supposed moniker of "Christianity." It utterly broke from the Jesus & Apostolic message of loving and peaceful understanding and then persuasive conversion of mankind using logical and spiritual reasoning to the Pure, Loving, Holy nature and message of God/Christ. Though it may have sounded like it, I was not intending to say that anyone who is a Catholic is wrong, but I do think that the true nature of the gospel is often tainted by the corrupt nature of man and that there are plenty of Protestants and Catholics who are either right or wrong with God depending on if they have personally truly accepted Him and been changed by Him. Simply saying you belong to a certain sect (Protestant, Catholic..etc) does not guarantee a changed spirit and heart, nor salvation. Again, the Bible speaks of this and warns the world of it as well:

"21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On [Judgment day] many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Anonymous said...

(continued from above. This is the last installment, I promise, haha).

This is why Christianity can easily be seen as an institution of hypocrites and liars in the eyes of those in the world who witness such people professing to be Christians. The hypocrites are usually the high profile types like televangelists or historic movements (keeping in mind that these instances are usually a "cultural Christianity" attached to and promoted by a secular government with ulterior motives) rather than the unseen groups of believers who are trying through the workings of the Holy Spirit to fight against their sin nature and are prompted into good works like feeding the poor, helping with charities and not making themselves public examples of "see how holy and good I am"..etc." And yes, of course atheists and agnostics and other religious adherents can do these good works too, but then one needs to ask "Where does this feeling of goodness and rightness and justness come from when I do these loving things for other people?" It can't be culture-specific because there is a universal ethical rightness to these things so that when dictators or tyrants (religious or non religious) rise to power and inhibit or squelch these good acts and place one group over others through unjust laws, then the world rightfully sees them as "wrong and evil." Again, God is not like these dictators, he does not crush you into submission, but offers choice to believe in Him and follow the universal holy codes of rightness and goodness (which believers and non believers can adhere to) but if they choose to miss the mark (this is what the word sin means "to miss the mark" of God's intended holiness) then there are repercussions. the Christian however, has the ability, only if they are genuinely penitent and God sees their hearts, to repent and be forgiven only because of the perfectly atoning spotless life and death of God's son, Jesus Christ. Man can not earn holiness or rightness before God.
Ultimately, it all comes down to whether people use coercion or rational, loving, respectful debate. When atheists or Christians employ the latter, there can be disagreement without damaging or hurting the other, and it will come down to choice to believe or not believe (though there will be consequences if the Bible is in fact true of course) but God respects the individual enough to have his or her way. Hell of course is understood to be eternal separation from God, which is ultimately what an atheist chooses. he is not punished, but literally given what he/she asked for. When the prior method of coercion, backbiting, name-calling and denunciation is used, it will win nobody to your cause because even if someone forces someone to say something, it does not change the inner soul/mind/heart of the person. THAT has to be a DECISION, a CHOICE and THAT is true change through respect love and reasoning no matter which side you are coming from.