I said a while back that I thought cynicism might be the new black since everyone was rushing to get their sardonic on. Now I am wondering if the new black is actually atheism. It certainly seems to be all the rage these days. And by rage, I do mean RAGE. I used to think that atheists were interesting and far preferable to agnostics because at least an atheist has made a commitment. But as it goes with so many cool concepts… I think it is getting a little played out… if not downright hypocritical… a lot like the dogmatic targets of their ire.
Exhibit A: Richard Dawkins and his diagnosis of delusion
Dawkins purports that: belief in a personal god qualifies as a delusion, which he defines as a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence. Correct me if I am wrong, but that just seems like name calling at this point. And the thing is that approximately 90% of people on the planet believe in some kind of god (or if they don’t they are members of a religion that says they do, which seems to be a lot of trouble to go to if you do not.) That’s a lot of people to be delusional… not that it is impossible, just seems… like a lot to prove.
Frankly, I think there are a lot better reasons to call people delusional than a belief in some sort of god. How about people who wear white pumps and think it looks good? Or people who think that the war on terror is actually a war that warrants suspension of habeas corpus? What about all those people who are seriously vested in the outcome of American Idol or think that The Hills is real? Talk about delusion.
Exhibit B: The Atheist Buses in the UK
Now, I thought these bus advertisements were very amusing… that is when I believed they were being tongue in cheek rather than dogmatic, which in the end, it turns out they are. Remember Martin Luther? The first one? Well, he said humans actually had the ability to work it out on their own. Like ’cause they could read good ‘n’ stuff. Suddenly the atheists are every bit as rant-y as the zealots and that seems pretty self-defeating. I have to say that the guy who refused to drive the bus with the ad seems to me like he was just looking for a good way out of work… I mean come on… if it had had one of those tits and ass Armani ads would he have refused on the grounds that it is mildly pornographic and certainly incompatible with conservative Christian ideals? Doubtful.
As a general rule, by the time you can buy the t-shirt you are probably a bit of a cliche (think of all those “Same Same But Different” shirts in Thailand – ouch.)
Exhibit C: The Demand For Proof
The idea that there cannot be a god of any sort because it cannot be proved seems a little short sighted and generally arrogant to me. There are lots of things that I take on faith, and I don’t consider myself particularly religious… Like I believe that my parents love me. Can they PROVE this? I dunno. I believe that crappy things will eventually happen to crappy people. (Yes, I also KNOW that crappy things happen to good people – but there is no scientific reason why this should happen either.) I believe that there are certain things that happen in the world (and in my daily life) that are simply beyond explanation. I know Mr. Dawkins would call me delusional (I doubt he would be the first) but to think that anything that doesn’t have empirical, irrefutable proof is impossible seems frighteningly limited and boorishly arrogant.
Which brings me to my last point, Exhibit D: The Obtuseness of Arrogance
George Bernard Shaw said, The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality. And I have to say, I agree… this has always been one of my primary complaints about organized religion. But atheism is it’s own belief and Shaw’s sentiments could easily be applied to any number of sheep-like tendencies among humanity in addition to organized religion. Now, I don’t want all the atheists to get their knickers in a twist over my calling atheism a belief… but really, what is it if it is not? Don Hirschberg said, calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color. Maybe so Don, but bald is still certainly a style and definitely something we would use to describe you and likely something you would be a bit defensive about. Sounds like, err… religion.
Personally, I like Carl Sagan’s approach to the whole concept a la Contact; the idea that somehow there must be a way that the empirical nature of science and the experiential nature of faith overlap. To think that somehow we know all the answers to all the questions or we have the potential to do so is incredibly ambitious – to the point of being pretentious. And in the words of the late Daniel Boorstin: I have observed that the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress. This is not about religion, it is about mental lassitude.
All four of my points above could as easily be describing religious fanatics as atheists… the parallels are freakish. It reminds me of what a therapist told me once that what pisses us off the most in others is that which characterizes ourselves.
I am still not sure where I fall on the spectrum of belief, I like the idea that there are larger forces at work in my life and in the universe. I don’t think it makes me stupid or delusional. I like a nice glass of wine too, does it make me an alcoholic? In the big picture I believe that it is totally cool to embrace things that make you happy… and for someone to tell me that the thing in question isn’t really making me happy because it doesn’t really exist, well… I don’t know… Ever heard of unrequited love? You feel it, and you alone. Bummer. But does the fact that it is not reciprocated make it less real?
I definitely have my share of issues with religion, and like Mike Fuhrman, “I refuse to believe in a god who is the primary cause of conflict in the world, preaches racism, sexism, homophobia, and ignorance, and then sends me to hell if I’m ‘bad’. But who says there’s only one choice? Stephen F. Roberts said, “when you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” I say fair play. And in the same vein, the atheists should stop taking themselves so seriously and learn to be a little more tolerant of the 90% of the world population that disagrees with them… until then I am putting them on the backburner with all the people who railed against me for saying I didn’t support Israel, the anti-choice people, the Propostion 8 Supporters, and all those people who have killed in the name of some god… right next to those who have killed in the name of no god.
I wonder what next season’s black will be… Any ideas?
[All atheist quotations came from here.]