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I’m an atheist… (but only technically)

November 15, 2011

Yes. It’s going to be one of those articles. I was originally not going to publish this, owing to the large number of blogs which have no doubt thrashed this topic to death. However, words are not free and, believe it or not, my time is actually worth something above £0.00 (The cost of a freddo to be exact). So enjoy. Or don’t. I certainly won’t hold it against you.

Let me start by just saying that atheism, when framed as a movement,  is not something I personally align myself with. Frankly I don’t see how any rational person could. As a collection of people  it could include spiritualists, believers of magic and those who would deny history. There are atheists who are perfectly rational and there are atheists who feel the need to consult psychics. There are atheists who deny science as an effective way of gathering information and atheists who just so happen to be scientists. There are those who disbelieve God but still believe in many other things. Some atheists are humanists, some skeptics, others might be mystics or paranormalists.  Some atheists, a minority, are nihilists: they believe in nothing at all.

Simply denying or doubting the existence of divine beings says nothing about what you do believe in. It’s a horrible mistake to think that atheism is a set of beliefs, a way to live life, and not simply what it says on the tin. Doubt in god.

Despite this vast range of beliefs that atheists hold, do you know why atheists are sometimes seen as evil (by religious types, usually in America) or at least unpleasant (by shockingly normal people)? It’s exactly because the term has been misunderstood and misused horribly. Thanks to a variety of idiots who have used the term to define themselves, the image of “the atheist” has developed into a series of crude stereotypes that I will try to summarise for you:

For some people: (read: smug know-it-alls) It’s become a kind of paragon for rational thinking, conjuring up heroic images of the logical, the measured, and the science-literate. However, as I will demonstrate using the following biting satirical cartoon. THIS IS NOT ALWAYS TRUE. Atheists can be just as prone to irrational thinking as everyone else.

For others (read: mad American conservative commentators) the “atheist” is represented by the leftist (Americanese: “liberal”), smug, science-literate, glasses wearing (sometimes), polo-neck wearing, former hippie douche-bag, socialist; hell-bent (somehow atheists are satanists) on banning guns, freedom and apple pie. This is. also, NOT ALWAYS TRUE. There may be douchebags who are atheists, but their godlessness isn’t the reason for this. What makes these kinds of people unlikable is how they elevate a non-ideology to being something that defines them. For what it’s worth, I’m an atheist, but it’s not something i’m proud or ashamed of and I don’t think it should be.

Yes. I actually drew this.

And, for many others (read: the internet) atheism is the domain of the angsty, purposefully edgy, holier-than-thou (lolirony) teenager/manchild. Such people are typically fat, neck-beard-adorned and extremely obnoxious and insensitive (You see, what’s cool nowadays is agnosticism, it’s pretty obscure and you probably haven’t heard of it). Again, THIS IS NOT ALWAYS TRUE (only sometimes).

The opinions of many summarised in .jpg form. The internet is kind of awesome like that.

The overall opinion, that seems to be gaining steam, is that atheism is a negative thing (It’s not, it’s a neutral thing). In fact: you only have to listen to how quickly the caveat: “but I don’t like Dawkins or any of those lot” is added to know that atheism suffers a major image problem.

The source of this problem is that people are stupid enough to identify with atheism at all or even call it a movement. It’s absence of guiding principles (apart from disbelief in a particular thing) makes it a rubbish ideology. When the pope Ratzinger decries the increased “aggressive secularism” and describes atheism as being responsible for 20th century crimes, he’s making the classic mistake of confusing atheism (not an ideology) with anti-theism (definitely an ideology). Atheism is nothing, It says absolutely nothing about you apart from that you don’t believe in God as he/she is commonly defined. You could be an atheist in regards to omnipotent hamsters, but it would say nothing of your real beliefs (except perhaps that you are a bit pedantic). Heck, religious people are almost atheists themselves. They don’t believe in 99.999% of the gods and goddesses that humanity has dreamt up over the years. See Pope Ratzinger? We almost share the same ideology!

So to all the non-believers out there, why don’t you make an actual effort to combat this? The next time you share a deep and meaningful conversation on the way back from the pub and the inevitable “God discussion” intrudes, please respond by talking about what you do believe in (e.g. humanism/rational thinking/ponies etc) and not wax lyrical regarding your disbelief in God. Everyone knows the arguments now and nearly everyone has made their mind up regarding this, it’s boring.

If, on the off chance that you don’t have any  guiding principles, please be accurate and admit that you are actually apathetic or even a nihilist, if you have to.

Still feel the need to describe, in excrutiating detail, why exactly you don’t believe in God? Please restrain that urge and instead say something like ” I have a moustache” (any non-sequitur will do). You might as well, It says just as much about you as the moniker “atheist” ever will.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 6, 2011 10:16 pm

    this is a sweet article bro

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