Monday, November 21, 2005

Atheism

The other day I was told that I'm anti-god. That took me by surprise. Yes, I do make the occasional theism joke, but those are on the level of "gay" jokes - it's a quick trope that you can whip out when the situation calls for it, but it's nothing like a reasoned, rational assault on belief or a general mockery of it. The jokes are decent jokes and, I think, deserve expression. However, just like calling a friend gay for liking Harry Potter doesn't reveal any deep bias against the lgbtqqsrtfmnd community, I don't think my little nothings about god to mean much.

A friend and fellow nonbeliever sent me this link to a dailykos'r's experience with atheism. Although the article's long winded, its points jibe with my experience. Back in the godless day, I would engage in discussions of atheism and belief with others. Now I don't bother. I've grown tired of the anger and abuse that I got on the subject.

Not that I've totally reformed, because I'm sure I'd launch into a tirade if anybody brought up Pascal's Wager, my own little area of athei-expertise.

I've also started holding back in stating my affirmation of fellow atheists. It seems to me to be nothing but an engine of discord, and my philosophy has been to avoid fueling it. Which means that people like the article's author are necessarily going to be more excluded. That's unfortunate, because I really do think that we have the rational, proper opinion, and it sucks that it isn't more open and acceptible an option for others.

Having said all that, I think that the article's author misses out on one point. I think that a lot of the hostility directed towards us is the result of theists' own doubt about their beliefs. Atheism is a rational thing, the natural result of honest thinking about the subject, and in the face of this, those believers who recognize the problem but desperately want to believe are driven by cognitive dissonance to scream, yell, torture, and kill us.

Hunter Thompson had a good line on dealing with believers - he said that those guys weren't going to inherit the kingdom, but then neither will we atheists, so let's just let everything be. That seems like a good attitude to take, and I find with lots of devout people, it's an easy attitude to adopt, particularly if you're not asking or telling.

But then again, I suppose that things like referring to god as "an invisible sky daddy" contain an implicit dig on believers. And I find them quite funny. The joke that is, not the believers. It's sort of my way of dealing with something that I just can't quite wrap my head around - how can so many people believe so devoutly in something so devoid of proof that they will hurt others, often in opposition to the principles that they espouse. I mean, does anyone seriously think that Jesus'd be down for torturing heretics?

It reminds me of being a liberal kid listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio. I thought it was a comedy show, that people only liked to listen because Limbaugh was so outrageously stupid. I got chills when I realized that this wasn't the case. I used to feel those chills when I met people, particularly intellectuals, who were strong believers. It made no sense to me that people who were otherwise thoughtful about life were irrational in this one area.

Maybe that's just me, though. When I was younger so much younger than today, I tended to think of people in terms of "us" and "them", "us" being those people who agreed with a few propositions about life that I thought were evident, things like the general goodness of liberal politics, atheism, love of movies and music, and a general dislike of authority. Looking back, this seems like a religious and arrogant assumption. It's as if there are some essential truths which people must agree in order to be ok by me. In reality, there is no essential truth. Instead of masses of people whose awareness of Good resonates through them like a string vibrating in sympathy, there's a dissonent cacophany that sometimes attains the semblance of beauty, but it's all ad hoc, not by design.

Which is to say that you're born alone, live alone, and die alone. Alone with a whole bunch of people who are just as alone as you.

1 comment:

Leo said...

Matt, the song I mentioned to you is apparently called "My Back Pages." It apparently first appeared on Another Side of Bob Dylan in 1964 (so it didn't take him long to renounce his protest singer past).