My Old Kentucky Homesite

Why Some Atheists Get Agitated

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 07/25/2010

My last post received a comment from Catch, whom I consider a bright and clever woman. Her comment isn’t unique; it poses the very same kind of question I get asked frequently. She wondered why some of us atheists get “as agitated about religion” as we do. She doesn’t understand why we don’t have more of a laissez faire attitude toward theists.

Personally, I rarely give any of them a second thought. If they are so weak that they need a god for strength to deal with life, so be it. If they want to pray for me, let them waste their time. I’ve better things to do, including creating my own nonsense, than to rally against stupidity of religious zealots.

Here’s my response to her:

Your ideas would be fine … if everyone lived in a vacuum. But we don’t. It’s the theists who are making it harder and harder for women to get abortions, the theists who demonize homosexuals, the theists who seek to prevent America’s public school children from receiving a decent education in both the sciences and the humanities, the theists who nourish racial prejudice and xenophobic discrimination, the theists whose perverse idea of Christianity perpetuates environmental and economic disasters. On top of which, it’s the theists whose zealotry leads to the international sanction of child abuse, to the bombing of buildings, to the worldwide subservience of women, and to repeated calls for “holy” war in just about every country on the globe.

So that’s why — even though you may not give any of them a second thought — you ought to do so. Yes, if they want to pray for you, fine. Who gives a shit? If they want to knock on your door at seven o’clock on a Sunday morning, big deal. You can say something snide and go back to sleep.

But if they want to blow you up, or gun you down, or rape your children, or prevent women from having the same freedom as men, or obstruct medical research, or curtail anyone’s Constitutional rights because his or her liberty doesn’t accord with the “teachings” of their primitive “sacred” text, that’s not so fine. It’s a threat to everyone on the planet.

So that’s why some of us atheists get so agitated. How could any decent person not?

33 Responses to “Why Some Atheists Get Agitated”

  1. Don’t forget Blue Laws, and those poor folk in the South who can’t buy sex toys. Praise Jesus!

  2. John Evo said

    Well, you _know_ I agree with you. I’ll just say that where you said “It’s the theists who…” I’d re-frame as “it’s more likely to be the theists who…”.

    We already know there are all kinds of asshole atheists, and for each of those reprehensible examples of you gave – there are atheists who _also_ could be counted among the proponents.

    But we have a numbers game. For whatever reason (and I think we have some bloody good ideas what those reasons are) a theist is _more likely_ to be behind denying female rights, denying gay rights, fighting advancements in knowledge (re: evolution, cosmology, age of earth, plate techtonics), invading our public sector with calls for prayer, insisting on Christians for public offices, teaching religious fallacies in our schools and on and on.

    Since statistically the theists are the group that can most be associated with these retrograde views of society, all thinking non-believers should have some concern with these beliefs.

  3. Philly:
    And don’t forget that the Bible Belt is swimming in “dry” counties.

    Evo:
    Good point, and I expected that someone would make it. That’s why I didn’t say “it’s only the theists who …” etc. But I think it’s pretty clear that none of those evils I mentioned would have staying power if “true believers” didn’t support them wholeheartedly.

    Religion paves the way for those who would grab power and wipe out their enemies — by force if necessary. As I’ve argued in the past, states that are dictatorial always find some otherworldly entity through which to justify their atrocities. Authoritarian regimes may make a religion of the state itself, rather than of a god; but whatever their alleged philosophies, they still need to offer the idiot population some object of worship, be it “Jesus” or “Mohammad” or “the Master Race” or “the Workers of the World.”

    In America today, “God” is the magic password for those seeking to establish national, state, or local forces of thought-police. Obviously, not every god-believer is a potential tyrant. But enough of them are to make the overwhelming religiousness of our country pretty fucking scary.

  4. Wonderful site and theme, would really like to see a bit more content though!
    Great post all around, added your XML feed! Love this theme, too!

  5. Philly:

    Thanks to the powers of mail order and the Internet, those poor Southerners don’t have to stay stuck in the missionary position forever, but they may have to provide their own batteries. Getting around Blue Laws may be a bit tougher.

  6. Success:
    It’s not a good idea to leave spam here, but I thought your comment linked to a wonderful site with a great theme. But I’d like to see a bit more content.

    Chappy:
    I think you’ve come up with a great title for a country/Christian song, although it needs some spelling in it to make it authentic:
    “Stuck in the M-I-S-S-I-O-N-A-R-Y Position with Y-O-U.”

  7. John Evo said

    Now you know why Darwin had to replace the ladder of life with the tree of life. Fucking obviously we never would have made it to here on a ladder.

  8. Larry:

    I think you’ve seriously overestimated the number of C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N-S who can spell the word M-I-S-S-I-O-N-A-R-Y.

  9. Chappy:
    The question is: Can they find a singer who can do it?

  10. Evo:
    Well, all those theists keep talking about what it was like before the fall. So there must have been a rickety ladder somewhere in the garden.

    On the other hand, maybe Adam and Eve were sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

  11. BrentH said

    Why I get agitated with religion? Because religion teaches two completely incompatible ideas:

    1. the certainity of being right.

    2. their faith has a special status of respect that exempts it from criticism.

    If believers are so confident in their views they should be able to shrug off satire, mockery and blasphemy. Since most lack this confidence, they try to comfort themselves by incorporating their certainity of being right into legislation and policy (like the many examples cited above in your original post). So I will blaspheme on and challenge them. It’s a public service that we atheists provide – a metaphorical dope slap that says “Think you idiot!” or at the very least a symbolic slam of the door that says “Get the hell off my doorstep and out of my life!”

  12. Brent:
    It’s a public service that we atheists provide …
    Yes, we’re sort of uncivil servants.

    I’m always irked by the religionists’ catchphrase: “all we ask is respect.” That’s a load of crap. They don’t want mere respect for their superstititious nonsense, they want — and insist on — special privileges for it. So regarding their blatantly deceitful p.r. gambit, I’ve recently begun to quote back one of their very own mantras at them. “Just as you say that you love the sinner but hate the sin, I’d say that I respect the idiot but disrespect the idiocy.”

  13. On the other hand, maybe Adam and Eve were sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

    I’ve never heard anyone mention that Adam and his pet rib-woman never officially got hitched.

    So by this:

    “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

    (King James Babble, Genesis 1:28), their creator was suborning fornication.

  14. Ralph said

    You are correct. Theist are a threat. They will use whatever means necessary to force their version of religion on the entire populations. And yes it has happened here and will happen again if we ignore them. We can’t say live and let live to these people. They don’t understand the concept.

    I’m not sure “Stuck in the Missionary Position” is what Stealers Wheel had in mind. But who knows?

  15. Des:
    Yeah, you’re right. Genesis never says specifically that they got married. Too bad, because I’m sure that Yahweh and the serpent would have chipped in to buy them a nice set of china.

    Ralph:
    Since Christianity is all about what happens after death, “live and let live” isn’t applicable.

    You got me. I confess that I had to look up “Stealers Wheel.” Now that I know who they are, I agree that they may have had something else in mind. After all, the missionary position is not precisely “in the middle,” is it?

  16. Ralph said

    As I remember it the missionary position had more to do with who was closest to the ceiling than the middle.

    You are correct ‘live and let live’ doesn’t apply. Perhaps I should have said peacefully coexist with theists. I’ll try to do better next time.

  17. Ralph:
    I’ll try to do better next time.
    I hope that’s not what you said when last you found yourself grazing the ceiling.

  18. cl said

    I’m always irked by the religionists’ catchphrase: “all we ask is respect.” That’s a load of crap. They don’t want mere respect for their superstititious nonsense, they want — and insist on — special privileges for it.

    Yeah! Get ‘em!! Get ‘em I say! Get THEM!

    Seriously though, are we really stooping to high-horse moral clarion calls laden with pronouns and generalities these days? Switch “religionists'” with “Jews” and you’ve got yourself some pretty authentic-sounding propaganda there, Ex.

    I think I get the gist of what Catch was trying to say. Sure, theists do some things that deserve criticism, but so does every other organized group with an agenda vying for power. Yet, many atheists spend the majority of their time blogging and whining about theists. Psychologically, it seems like some weird, “I’m morbidly fixated upon that which I claim to detest” -type complex.

  19. Cl:
    Atheists are fixated on theists because essentially we’re a reaction to them. If the most vocal theists were not constantly working to turn America into a theocracy ruled by Jesus, most of us atheists would just shrug and smile smugly when someone mentioned how “wonderful” his or her superstition was. But, alas, we’re not free to leave religion alone — because the Christians here have an agenda that involves forcing everyone to live his or her life according to biblical precepts.

    But, of course, it’s not only Christians who threaten our peace and freedom. The fundamentalist Muslims of the world have a global “mission.” The ultra-orthodox Jews insist that their desert god wants them to have a certain tract of land, and reason be damned. All around us, we’re threatened by self-appointed representatives of vengeful sky-beings.

    In case you haven’t noticed: There’s a culture war that has been declared by the forces of ignorance against anyone who thinks freely. We didn’t necessarily choose to be in this war; but, having been thrown into battle, we will marshall our troops — not to fight with weapons, but with words and ideas. That’s what atheist blogging is all about.

    By the way, I no longer write as “Ex.” I’m not ashamed of my previous work, but I’ve chosen to set an example by announcing my real name, loudly and proudly, in every post and comment that I create. Perhaps, if you really stand behind what you say, you’d like to follow my example.

  20. cl said

    The PNAC’rs, dominionists and Rushdooneyians creep me out, too. I honestly don’t believe those people are Christians. I know, I know… accuse me of making the “no true Christian” argument if you want, but the fact of the matter is that Christian has got to mean something, and if we’re going to start somewhere, I suggest defining it as neutrally as possible: Christ-like. That way, we can skip the doctrinal squabbles. If we define Christian as Christ-like, I don’t see that the aforementioned fit the bill. Christ refused Earthly political power and exuded a certain aloofness to authority.

    Still, at the end of the day, there are so many other issues out there that are equally or more important than the prevalence of religion in society, IMO. The whole “theocracy” thing is just a front anyways. The real end-in-sight is something like a single religion, if you ask me.

    Mind you, I don’t really think you’re one of the atheists Catch was alluding to. Yeah, I’ve heard you go on your little tirades here and there, but by and large you keep your writing mixed up really well. I would actually say you’re not like one of those annoying atheists that’s always whining about how they’re oppressed by religion.

    Perhaps, if you really stand behind what you say, you’d like to follow my example.

    Uh, don’t fall into the false logic hole, because you’re awfully close to the edge there. Anonymity is no reliable measure of sincerity.

  21. Cl:
    Anonymity is no reliable measure of sincerity.
    I agree. Anonymity is usually a reliable measure of insincerity. Or maybe just insecurity.

    Your definition of “Christian” as Christ-like is ridiculous. You probably know that, and you’re just being what you think is cute. For the record: To atheists, Christ-like means nonexistent.

    Usually, a Christian is a person who believes in Christ as the son and/or representative of Yahweh. Simple. But, really, anyone who calls himself or herself a Christian is a Christian. Just as anyone who calls himself or herself an atheist is an atheist.

  22. cl said

    Anonymity is usually a reliable measure of insincerity. Or maybe just insecurity.

    Ah, I see. Poor logic in the other direction. That’s nonsense. Any given anonymous person can have any one of several reasons behind their decision. To imply that the reason is “usually insincerity” is unfounded. Further, since you appear to be a bit self-righteous about your newfound level of maturity sincerity these days, perhaps you can tell me: how sincere was Trinity?

    Just as anyone who calls himself or herself an atheist is an atheist.

    Sure, and this works for making the basest of generalities, but doesn’t work for making accurate judgments, as by that logic Satan is a Christian.

    Whatever we think about the dominionists aside, I agree with Catch that many atheists are seemingly fixated on religion, though I don’t think you’re really among them.

  23. Cl:
    You’re right. Anonymity may not necessarily mean insincerity or insecurity. But it’s always suspect. You know as well as I do that some people are comfortable being outrageous only if they create a persona. False identities in BlogWorld allow many commenters to be more extreme than they really are. My attitude is: If people are gonna spout their opinions, they should come out from behind their masks and take responsibility — and credit — for what they have to say.

    I’m particularly adamant that atheists should come out of the closet. How can we be taken seriously if we don’t have enough courage in our own “free” thought to express it freely, without having to hide behind a secret identity?

    End of rant.

    Man! Poor, long-dead Trinity really got under your skin, didn’t she? That character was an obvious joke, picked up on by just about everyone except you), and clearly not a serious anonymous commenter. In fact, Cl (whoever he is!) was the only seemingly intelligent person who ever responded to “her” repeatedly as if she were real. Sheesh! Get over it. Don’t mention Trinity again here unless I revive her on this blog.

    As to your final point: Philosophies and Religions are almost impossible to define, because each practitioner shoehorns the definition to fit his or her own biases. Non-practitioners adapt the definition to their own prejudices. So I long ago decided that anyone who self-identifies as an atheist is, in fact, an atheist. Because there’s no definition that isn’t tendentious in some way. If you care to, you can read my further thoughts about that here.

    Similarly, I think that anyone who calls himself or herself a Christian is one. There’s no way that you or I or Pope Benny or Pat Robertson or anybody else can make a judgement about whether or not a person believes that he or she is a Christian. “Christian” is not a one-size-fits-all term.

    Maybe Satan is a Christian. Does he call himself one?

  24. John Evo said

    CL – those of us who choose anonymity will NEVER be taken as seriously as those who don’t. THAT is a fact. Whatever else you may say in anonymity’s defense, you (by nature of the beast) can NEVER be taken as seriously as some equivalent commentator who stands by her name.

    It’s funny to see you bring up Trinity, since she is just one of countless examples of why I’m right. ;)

    You DO obsess on some of the STRANGEST things, lad.

  25. cl said

    Larry,

    You’re right. Anonymity may not necessarily mean insincerity or insecurity.

    I know.

    But it’s always suspect.

    Are you borrowing Philly’s 2×4 for your arguments? That’s ridiculous. At best, you mean something like, “I and many others are always suspect of anonymous commenters.” Well, good for you. That doesn’t mean every anonymous commenter deserves suspicion. Don’t think so rigidly.

    I’m particularly adamant that atheists should come out of the closet.

    That’s your opinion; why do you imply that others should adopt it?

    Man! Poor, long-dead Trinity really got under your skin, didn’t she?

    Not at all. She made me laugh. She made me realize, “Oh, some of these atheists are just a bunch of pranksters, more out to get a rise than actually present an intelligent argument.” I laugh every time you [and folks like Evo, above] imagine that I’m hung up on Trinity or something. Not at all! Now, on the other hand, I do have a thing for Gideon, that masculine hunk of thimbel-head, him! Tee-hee!

    Honestly though, it’s hard for me to take all your talk about transparency seriously when I know your past. Can’t you see how that would be the case? I mean, wouldn’t you chuckle if Paul Reubens came out preaching against public masturbation?

    Don’t mention Trinity again here unless I revive her on this blog.

    You’re not my boss, I’ll do what I want, and I’ll accept the consequences.

    John Evo,

    …those of us who choose anonymity will NEVER be taken as seriously as those who don’t. THAT is a fact. Whatever else you may say in anonymity’s defense, you (by nature of the beast) can NEVER be taken as seriously as some equivalent commentator who stands by her name.

    The problem, Evo, is that as a freethinker, I don’t let silly little standards like yours govern my acceptance or rejection of intellectual material. Rather, it’s the quality of the material itself that matters, not the author’s name [or lack thereof].

    Your approach seems shallow, even dogmatic.

  26. Cl:
    What a load of horseshit. Are you interested in commenting seriously or just seeing your name?

    You’re not my boss, I’ll do what I want, and I’ll accept the consequences.
    Now, you see, that’s the kind of stupid statement that has gotten you banned from so many blogs. I’m not your boss. You’re right. But I am the “owner” of this blog. Although I’ll never ban anyone except a spammer — because I believe that blogs should be free-speech zones — I will refrain from paying any attention to comments from you that dwell on your past infatuation with a non-existent person. And I’ll urge my readers to similarly ignore you.

    Look. You were hosed. Man up and admit it — and then let it go. You weren’t the first person that I ever hoaxed and you’re unlikely to be the last. But your two-and-a-half-year obsession does not reflect well on you. Grow up. You actually might have some interesting things to say if you would just stop nursing your delicate ego and join for real in a discussion.

    One of the great things about BlogWorld is that it offers many opportunities for the exchange of ideas. Do you have any? Or perhaps you’d rather be perceived as a trollish, dismissible buffoon (or a buffoonish, dismissible troll). Your call.

  27. John Evo said

    CL said “I don’t let silly little standards like yours”

    Oh… ouch. You sound so… superior. ;)

    “Your approach seems shallow, even dogmatic.”

    and yet, you can’t even comprehend what’s being said. Maybe I DO have this approach… maybe not. But all I indicated was the reality you and I face in being “anonymous”. I can see you don’t LIKE that reality, but don’t confuse it with being “my approach” unless I tell you that it’s my approach. Please.

    Into straw men, such is built. A superior, enlightened one such as yourself should know that.

    By the way, do you think Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins? Do you think he was the living incarnation of god? Do yo think you’ll spend eternity in heaven for repenting of your “sins” and accepting him as your “personal savior”?

    By the way again… I wouldn’t ban you either, CL. How’s Trinity doing?

  28. John Evo said

    Oh…. one other thing, CL.

    You said to Larry, “Honestly though, it’s hard for me to take all your talk about transparency seriously when I know your past. Can’t you see how that would be the case?”

    Can you clarify for me what you mean by this? I mean, I can’t make you. I’m not the boss of you, no sir! But I think it’s potentially a very interesting comment coming from you, if it means what I think it does.

    Just amused and curious. ;)

  29. cl said

    Larry,

    Are you interested in commenting seriously or just seeing your name?

    Think about the problems there: while accusing me of anonymity, you ask if I’m interested in seeing my name. Now that’s interesting. Further, I do comment seriously. You yourself have admitted such on more than one occasion, so don’t play the “cl isn’t serious” card just because it suits your convenience at the moment.

    …I will refrain from paying any attention to comments from you that dwell on your past infatuation with a non-existent person.

    That statement is a contradiction all in itself, as here you are paying attention to said comments.

    Look. You were hosed. Man up and admit it — and then let it go. You weren’t the first person that I ever hoaxed and you’re unlikely to be the last. But your two-and-a-half-year obsession does not reflect well on you. Grow up. You actually might have some interesting things to say if you would just stop nursing your delicate ego and join for real in a discussion.

    Who’s got the delicate ego if such a simple mention can elicit such a harsh response? I know I was hoaxed; that’s the whole point! That you’re a hoaxer, a charlatan, an intellectual imposter who decided he was an atheist at age 5, a man of retirement age that plays child’s games. You write posts called “Embodying What We Hate” that ironically embody what you hate, and when called on it, you resort to misinformation about copyright infringement instead of justifying your vapid assertions. Don’t try to school me; I’m paying attention.

    As far as this “join in for a real discussion” trope, please. I’ve attempted “real discussion” with you and your teammates time and time again. You guys can hardly listen let alone respond [cf. SI: "wait a minute cl, you mean the games actually shot across the room as if throw?"]

    Do you have any? Or perhaps you’d rather be perceived as a trollish, dismissible buffoon (or a buffoonish, dismissible troll). Your call.

    I’m going to comment whether you’re paying attention or not. You seem to think that your attention is some gift I should feel privileged to have. Sure, conversation’s great, and even better with someone articulate and witty like yourself, but at the end of the day I don’t care what you think about me and I’m not here for your reactions.

    You’re free to think whatever you wish. That’s part of what being a freethinker is about. If you want to take the easy way out and label me a troll like the rest of your buddies, whatever. Again – at least as far as the superficialities of the blogosphere are concerned – I don’t care how your perceive me. However, it’s obvious to me that you no longer wish to be perceived as an infantile hoaxer, with all this recent high-talk about internet transparency. I suppose that’s a good thing.

    Sorry to be so harsh, but you asked for it.

    John Evo,

    Oh… ouch. You sound so… superior. ;)

    It’s not that at all. It’s that you guys put up this pretense of “we’re not into dogma,” then you give me dogmatic statements about inferences we can draw from anonymity [or the lack thereof]. In short, you’re betraying your own appeals to reason in that regard.

    I can see you don’t LIKE that reality, but don’t confuse it with being “my approach” unless I tell you that it’s my approach.

    If you’re trying to say you don’t actually endorse that position, fair enough, that certainly was not made clear the first time around. That doesn’t make it any less lame or dogmatic.

    How’s Trinity doing?

    I don’t know, ask Larry: after all, he created her.

    Can you clarify for me what you mean by this?

    That calls for transparency are odd at best from a known hoaxer.

  30. John Evo said

    “That calls for transparency are odd at best from a known hoaxer.”

    Yeah….

    That’s what I thought. How ironic….

  31. cl said

    It can’t be ironic, John: I’m not calling for transparency. I don’t care if you comment as “John Evo” or “John Doe.” In fact, I’d rather not know who you are, so that I can focus on what you say.

  32. cl said

    Besides, what’s really ironic is that you seem to want to fault me for 2 or 3 comments I made at SI’s and then took immediate accountability for, yet, you apparently don’t have anything to say about Ex / Trinity / Larry / Gideon[?]. Is there a double-standard at work there? Show me there’s not.

  33. John Evo said

    As always – cometh the straw man. *sigh*

    ” what’s really ironic is that you seem to want to fault me for 2 or 3 comments I made…. ” blah-biddy-blah-blah-blah…

    No. I don’t CL. In no way does that come in to play in my thinking! *grin and head shake*

    You just can’t keep yourself from doing that, can you? I have to assume you’ve done it with great success in other areas of your life and think it will work everywhere. However, as many times as you’ve been called for doing it at these blogs – well, I’m surprised you’d still try.

    No, CL, I’m simply amused and find it ironic that you would tell Larry that you can’t trust him due to the Trinity prank given, as you admit to – your own forays into the territory. That’s all. I don’t mind that you have done it. Where in my comments here have I made an issue of you doing it? Where have I specifically said that YOU can’t be trusted because of it, while letting Larry slide for the exact same thing?

    Straw man.

    Anyway, buddy, at worst you and Larry are exactly the same in that particular area and it would be ironic of you to hope people would take you at your word while denying it to him. As your old phriend philly would say, at this point… capice?

    Now, back to my original point and connecting it with this little excursion – someone on the ‘outside’ peering in might hold those activities against BOTH of you. But if they had to trust someone, it’s likely they’d lean towards the one they KNOW. Your much earlier point about the “quality of the material” being evenly distributed, that is.

    Hey, it’s just something you have to deal with. Don’t get angry with me over it. I don’t make the social rules, I just break them. Clearly you are a rare theist who does the same, but don’t deny the FACT of the rule, man!

    You’re OK, CL. If it weren’t for your strange beliefs about the supernatural, I could probably have a beer with you… without slamming the bottle over your head. :D

    Incidentally, I know I hardly ever post anymore, but I DID partially dedicate the last one to you. Just sayin’…

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