An atheist (me) has a whinge about (some) other atheistsMarch 4, 2013
The main topics I’m going to whinge about are these: misogyny, accommodationism, and attempts at creating an “atheist alternative” to supposed benefits of religion. This is a bit tangential to the main focus of this blog, but as I label myself an atheist I want to put a couple of things on the record.
Before starting I want to say that this is not an “atheist blog”, but a blog run by an atheist. As the blog name suggests, the primary aim is to oppose the use of spirituality as a cloak for exploitation of believers. I think people should be safe to explore spirituality without being used, abused, financially ruined or killed. Spirituality and religion are things for serious and honest exploration, and I think people should be able to explore and experience them as safely as possible. This blog is my contribution to that aim.
I acknowledge my atheism mainly to avoid misunderstandings. I assume — and as will be seen below, I differentiate myself from some other atheists in this regard — that non-atheist readers will not be particularly bothered by the fact that we disagree on some things!
I will briefly say why I label myself an atheist. (Sheesh, this is getting long winded. I’ll get to the point eventually, I promise!) ….I don’t see any reason to believe that any of the information I have received from others about God is true; and after a decade or two of exploring meditation and ruminating on the subjective experience of consciousness, I can’t find anything in my inner world that compellingly deserves to be called “spiritual”.
Atheism for me was not born of bad experiences with religion or spirituality. In fact I’ve had largely quite valuable experiences with spirituality. Socially I know a lot of believers of one sort or another, and I felt part of some kind of “community of spiritual seekers” for a long time, and it’s this feeling that motivates this blog. There are however, three main areas of disagreement and even disgust that I have with the current popular incarnation of atheism.
The first is a tendency towards — at times even a gleeful and sadistic commitment to — misogyny. I don’t want to discuss that further here. It is being dealt with within the atheist community (including, thankfully, by two bloggers featured on my blog roll), and I just wanted to make it clear that I’m disgusted by it. It has made me seriously think of disassociating myself from the term atheist completely. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, you don’t want to find out. If you are looking for evidence that it’s not religion but male weakness, infantilism, sexual fear, violence and stupidity that causes misogyny, you’ve just hit pay dirt. I will not link to any of it.
The second is what’s been termed accommodationism, in which atheists condemn other atheists for supposedly being intolerant, merely by expressing their views in public. I call this the “don’t upset granny” approach to atheism. Certainly there are situations where decorum should be upheld or words carefully chosen, but such situations usually only involve grannies. Public discourse among consenting adults is most certainly not such a situation.
Accommodationists often talk about the need for finding “common ground” with religious believers, but in doing so sound patronizing towards the faithful. As if they expect that the average religious person will instantly collapse in despair if they encounter the idea that God doesn’t exist. Guys, just because you’re completely convinced of your intellectual superiority and invincible rhetorical prowess doesn’t mean that everyone else is too. No need to pull your punches with those spindly arms, I’m afraid.
Even more stupidly, accommodationists often pronounce that “religion and science are compatible” or “evolution is compatible with a belief in God”. Now there’s a nasty trick to play on believers if ever I’ve seen one! — Believers, if you want to keep your belief that God created man, stay away from anything concerning evolutionary theory okay? Seriously!!! Some people can do the mental gymnastics that allow them to defuse the time-bomb of scientific understanding, but don’t try it unless you are highly disciplined in the arts of sophistry and compartmentalization. Evolutionary theory, if you understand it properly, is poison for religious and spiritual belief. That is one thing you can believe Creationists about!
Alternatively, you could just say that your faith is your faith and you’re not concerned with clearly defining your beliefs and squaring every jot and tittle with science; and therefore you also feel no need to feel threatened by science or oppose its conclusions or its pursuit.
Just as foolishly, accommodationists have failed to recognize the true common ground between atheists and believers: civil rights. Religious freedom and freedom of speech is common ground for citizens of all faiths and faithlessnesses. Accommodationists would do better to spend their time encouraging the religious to join us atheists there. Secularism is rarely seen by the religious for what it is – protecting religious people from other religious people!
The third thing that some atheists do that I don’t like is trying to replace the things that have been lost through the loss of religion. Atheist cathedrals, atheist emotional support groups, atheist ten commandments etc. (I’m thinking of Alain de Botton for example.) It’s ridiculous. By all means organize, meet, form groups and support each other etc, but trying to compete with religion is stupid. Religions regularly sell themselves out by trying to cater to human needs in order to promote themselves and maintain the power and privilege certain individuals have won. Atheists don’t need to try it. The atheist movement has plenty to offer in the fields of ethics, human rights, secular charities, and other things, but there’s no need to try and fulfill the private personal needs of atheists. What’s next — atheist rock?
While I do think that it’s worth trying to develop some kind of philosophy for living, I don’t think that such a thing grows all that naturally out of atheism. More importantly, I don’t think that people who are good at seeing through the deceptions and delusions of religion will necessarily be particularly wise in other areas of life.
But what atheism can do is provide some good boundaries. A philosophy of living should be amenable to reason and critical thinking, (which are good guides but poor motivators in my opinion).
Atheism also holds a vitally important lesson for spiritual believers and anyone who wants to develop a philosophy for living: don’t include magical claims about the nature of reality in your spiritual beliefs! You don’t need them. And every magical claim any religion has ever made has eventually been overthrown by science. (Don’t take it personally, guys: exactly the same thing happened to the vast majority of scientific theories too. It’s not because your ideas were religious, but because they were wrong. And it’s not science’s fault if you painted yourself into a corner.)
A good philosophy of life comes from life experience, reflecting on life experience, from noticing that some things inspire or touch you more than other things, and learning value and keep in touch with those things in a way that doesn’t suffocate them. Atheism won’t teach any of that stuff, nor did it ever set out to.
Posted by Yakaru