This Could Get Ugly


I follow a blog called “The Friendly Atheist,” written by Hemant Mehta. He generally deals with the news stories surrounding atheism with tact and dignity, thus earning his self-appointed title. Today, he directed his readers’ attentions to an article in the “Rant and Rage” section of the Daily Vanguard, Portland State University’s newspaper. The article is written by Dick Richards (a fake name as far as I can tell (as far as Facebook and Google can tell me (and yes I realize I’m nesting parentheses))) and is titled “Believe it or not, this pisses me off.” It’s about atheism. Now, Mehta says that the entire article is ridiculous, and not worth the time rebutting. Well, my time is a lot less valuable. And I’m not nearly as friendly.

Remember the puppy.

I’m going to take this article apart piece by laborious, ignorant, ranting piece.

They yammer on and on about their way of life. Endlessly trying to convert those who don’t believe as they do. Given the chance, they will preach on and on about their life-changing dogma and the good it will do for others.

I agree with most of this. We do tend to talk about atheism a lot, to the point where people who aren’t really serious about it call themselves atheists to sound edgy and rebellious. We do try to show people that they should believe as we do. But then there’s that word: dogma. Apart from on bumper stickers that say “your karma ran over my dogma,” which doesn’t make sense except as a pun, dogma is a serious word. It means “An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true,” and that’s where Dick is wrong. Only religious people (and Siths) deal in absolutes. Science and rational thought are constantly open to change, and I would be delighted to provide further examples.

Get this straight all you condescending, egotistical atheists: You dipshits most certainly do have a religion. It’s ironically called atheism! You witness its creed whenever you try to convert everyone around you to your way of thinking.

Now that’s journalism. The idea that atheism is a religion on its own is one of the most common and ridiculous points that religious people bring up. It’s not. Atheism stems from the idea that the best and only way to look at the world is through the lens of rational thought. Most people are absolutely reliant on reason every second of their lives, whether indirectly through their use of technology or directly through their own thought processes. If you pull up to the curb and I tell you you can’t park there, you’re not likely to believe me unless you see a sign. If the sign is made of crayon and construction paper and stapled to a tree, you probably still won’t believe me. If it’s made of metal, mounted on a metal pole embedded in concrete, and looks like every other No Parking sign you’ve ever seen, you’ll believe it. That’s logic, and it’s how atheists come to the conclusion that religion is false and, in most cases, harmful. We don’t (and this is crucial) accept it on faith. That would be accepting my word about the parking in the first place, and it doesn’t make sense. Logic, experimentation and science is how the world and every organism in it functions, whether they know it or like it or not.

It’s one thing, in general, to not believe in higher powers, and that’s fine. Plenty of people live their lives peacefully believing as such. However, your frantic attempts to spread your word makes you just as guilty of the annoying superiority complex held by some believers you so despise.

It’s a poorly worded sentence, but you’ll get it eventually. Dick doesn’t. Atheists aren’t mad at religious people for being outspoken, though that is annoying. You know what makes us mad? The fact that religion lies to people. It tries to garner support by arrogantly claiming to have the answers to questions that, frankly, no one has the answers to. It’s likely that no one ever will, either. It shapes public policy. It decides what signs can go up on buses and in public places. It decides what our children are taught in school. Joe Barton, a sitting US Senator with degrees in industrial engineering and administration, has the unbelievable arrogance to look Secretary of Energy Steven Chu in the face and scoff at his explanation that plate tectonics are responsible for oil under Alaska.

Chu has a bachelor’s, master’s, and a Ph.D. He also was the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and won the Humboldt Prize. Oh, and he’s a fucking Nobel winner for physics. Why does a fat Republican from Texas think he knows more than Chu? Because he wasn’t taught plate tectonics. It’s not compatible with young earth creationism, which is still taught as a viable scientific explanation in Texas schools. It’s contemptible, really. But back to Dick.

Hmm, let’s see…I could either listen to someone pushing their religion on me, or listen to you aggressively espouse how not to believe. Either way, guilt is involved and, sadly, you come off a hell of a lot more like a pompous and arrogant bastard!

Dick clearly hasn’t been exposed to many true believers. Not surprising, as Portland is notoriously moderate and not as full of evangelicals as, say, Colorado Springs or Salt Lake City. It seems as though the deciding factor for Dick to decide whose argument is more valid is how annoying they are. He’s OK with religious people pushing their beliefs on him because they’re less pompous (I can hardly believe I just wrote that), but not OK with atheists because we’re arrogant. Here’s the thing, though. Religion is nothing without evangelism. If a person were born and raised in a cave, alienated entirely from all religious belief, they’d never discover it on their own because it’s not there. They’d have the serious questions like “why does all of this exist?” and “what happens when I die?” but no one to answer them with some bullshit story about a virgin birth and a resurrection. Atheism, on the other hand, does not depend on the outspoken nature of its proponents to survive, because it makes sense. An atheist accused of being irritating can just stand back and say hey, I don’t have to convince you. Look around. The aggressiveness and/or friendliness of the subscribers to a belief system has nothing at all to do with the truth of their beliefs.

I really don’t care what you say; it takes as much “faith” to not have spirituality as it does to have a belief. The burden of proof that you so pathetically shove off onto believers is as much your burden as it is anyone’s. You’re still trying to prove something.

Ah, finally. There it is. “I really don’t care what you say.” That’s why religious people can’t be argued with; as soon as something threatens their ideas, they block it out and rationalize it any number of ways. Dick also brings up the idea (certainly not his own, don’t you worry) that it takes faith to be an atheist or that science relies on faith. The only assumption that science as a field has ever made is that the universe follows a set of rules. Luckily for us, virtually all data ever gathered supports that. Granted, we have faith in our instruments, but that’s based on exhaustive testing and calibration, which demonstrates that they work. Isaac Newton took that one step further and said that we couldn’t trust our own visual observation unless we knew how our eyes worked. To that end, he stuck a fucking knitting needle between his eye and the socket, wiggled it around, and wrote down what he saw (the picture on the right is an excerpt from his notes). He then created a model for how the eye worked that was pretty much dead on, centuries before anyone actually cut one open.

The idea that it’s our burden of proof simply isn’t true. The world—and every truly scientific method that humankind has ever used of quantifying it—points towards a distinct lack of supernatural power. Anyone who suggests otherwise has the burden of proof. We’re not trying to prove that the world is rational; it does that for itself. We’re just pointing out (aggressively at times) that religion doesn’t make sense.

Just admit it, you’re as organized as any church. For example, the American Atheists, a group where one can tithe, er, I mean buy a membership. They have support for youth and family, oddly similar to church.

I don’t even feel like spelling this out anymore, so I’ll be very brief. ORGANIZATION DOES NOT A CHURCH MAKE. For god’s sake, the mere fact that some people don’t know that is more baffling and infuriating than the misspelled Facebook group for people who hate school.

This one. Are you crying yet? You should be.

Used car dealerships are organized. Schools are organized. The fucking DMV is organized, to a point. THAT DOES NOT MAKE THEM CHURCHES, you pathetically, benightedly, cripplingly unintelligent piece of man-swine. Supporting youth and family does not make atheist organizations churches, it makes them charitable, and not because they’re trying to spread the word of Christ, because they’re trying to help people in the here and now. Reading about Jesus feeding thousands on one loaf of bread is a cute story, but it won’t keep a homeless family from starving to death, cold and alone, in the streets. You know what will? Actual bread. And donations to support these organizations, unlike donations to a church, don’t go to choir robes or candles or communion wine or wood polish for the pews or a new crucifix (or website design, apparently). They go to buying hungry people some goddamn bread. That’s not religious, that’s decent. That’s humane. That’s just plain right, and you don’t have to believe in a big man in the sky for that.

They even have winter solstice parties to combat the holiday season. That’s right, solstice parties. That event traditionally celebrated by, um, religions!

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Or at least what I’m thinking, and that’s in the name of all that is pure and good in this world, why won’t it stop? That’s what you were thinking, right? I don’t feel like writing a Christmas rant, but I feel that I must clarify a few points. I won’t offer sufficient evidence, and I apologize, but it would take books. If you feel like doing the research, you’ll find that I’m right on these points, and if you don’t do the research and then attack me on these points, well, you’re entering a world of verbal and rhetorical hurt. So here’s the points:

First of all, if you’re a Christian, you’re not supposed to be celebrating the solstice, you’re supposed to be celebrating the birth of Jesus. So you’re already doing it wrong. And according to the vast majority of secular historians (and even a lot of religious ones), Jesus never existed. Using the Bible to prove that he did is like using Twilight to prove vampires are real. He is an amalgamation of myths from dozens of other cultures’ myths, used as a symbol for Saint Paul to base Christianity off of around 400 years later. So if we’re not celebrating his birth, what are we celebrating? The goddamn solstice. Think of a Christmas tradition. If you thought about a Christmas tree and/or decorating it, feasting, drinking, Santa Claus (and the chimney and sleigh and reindeer business that goes with), giving presents, the Yule log, caroling, any of that, you’re not thinking of Christian traditions. Those have been cobbled together in the great melting pot that is our world from Turkish, German, Viking, Russian, Gaelic, French, and other pagan celebrations of the winter solstice and the fact (scientific) that now the sun will finally come back. You can imagine that, being a Viking living in the bitterly inhospitable forests of Scandinavia 1500 years ago, you’d be pretty damn excited to see the shortest day of the year go by and know the sun was coming back.

Vikings party by eating, drinking, boning, fighting, and burning shit.

Here’s a fun party fact. Remember that poem about the night before Christmas? The night where T’was? That’s the first physical description of Santa as a big fat man in red. All of the descriptions before that had him in green, and he didn’t come down the chimney, he used the front door like a normal person. Henry Livingston just made that up (possibly, as Phil Jupitus put it, “off his face on laudanum”), and now it’s fucking gospel. All of these traditions are completely unrelated to Christianity and many of them predate it. Then Christianity came along, tweaked their holidays to line up with the pagan ones so as not to piss them off, and everyone forgot about it. Except me.

Who really gives a shit if a manger shows up during the holidays? Or the Ten Commandments, a historical reference to law (usually misprinted anyway), pop up around buildings of law! True, America is definitely not a nation of any religion.

Atheists give a shit, you idiot, otherwise you wouldn’t put that in. It’s not the mangers we object to, it’s that most people seem to think that Christian displays have a right to be there and atheist ones (and ones about the Flying Spaghetti Monster) do not. That’s legally and logically untrue. As for the Ten Commandments, they’re not a historical reference to law. They’re a biblical reference, taken from a book that was written thousands of years ago by people who knew less about the natural world than today’s average kindergartner. The fact that they’re usually misprinted does not excuse them. Even within the context of that book, there are several sets of commandments that contradict each other and those ten are by no means set apart from or above the others. The ones that follow deal with slavery and selling your daughters. Not only that, but the Constitution prohibits the integration of church and state, so ignoring all moral and religious implications, it’s illegal to have the Commandments at a courthouse. End of story.

Militantly standing up for your rights as a non-religious person doesn’t mean religious people, in turn, lose theirs.

This is not a question of rights. We don’t hang the Talmud or the Q’uran or the Bhagavad Ghita in our courtrooms. And no atheist is trying to take rights from anyone. This is about openness, rationality, honesty, and the constant and unending battle against ignorance and uninformed decisions.

Well, that’s all I can really say at this point. I don’t know if the person behind Dick Richardson is an agnostic (a somewhat cowardly but understandable view in my opinion), a religious person (which I’m inclined to believe), or just grossly uninformed about the tenets of both religion and atheism (I’m also inclined to believe that).

It’s worth pointing out that the newspaper actually published this, which is pretty shocking as there isn’t a whelk’s chance in a supernova that they would have done the same for a rant about Islam or Judaism, but no atheist is under the delusion that we’ll ever be treated with the kid-glove-like delicacy that religions get. No one’s afraid of offending us, and quite frankly, most of us can take it. Calling evolution a myth doesn’t faze a person who knows (again, based on evidence) that it isn’t. Calling us Satanists is even more laughable. You’re judging us on a scale of good and evil that we ignore the very foundation of. That’s like saying that it’s a million degrees out using a definition of “degree” that you just made up in your head.

So no, the article shouldn’t have been published, but it was. Now whoever he is, Dick Richardson’s not a policy-maker of any clout, he’s not an especially important person, and he’s not very influential, so it doesn’t make a big difference, realistically, if he’s allowed to spew like this. It’s just another example of an ignorant person with a soapbox and a megaphone. They’ll never go away, but I’m not giving up either. And like I said at the beginning, I’m more articulate, smarter, better informed, and a hell of a lot meaner.


5 Thoughts

  1. Some good food for thought. Makes me want to dance around a bon fire and chant and sing with the Vikings! One thing I would be interested in seeing (which I know you already do, but would like more of) are link, printed, or both references backing up as much as possible. For instance, backing up the claim of “…according to the vast majority of secular historians (and even a lot of religious ones), Jesus never existed.” The next point about using Twilight to prove vampire existence is hilarious and insightful, bonus! Keep it coming.

    By the way, I left a comment about your April John Tesh blog earlier that hasn't appeared. Just wondering if you got it?

  2. Just wondering, did you get that stick figure comic from if you did then awesome but if you didn't the i suggest that you check it out.

  3. I almost (underline that) don’t want to mention it, because I like the logic you use (and the Star Wars reference near the top) but there is significant evidence that Jesus existed. He may not have been the Son of God or have come from a virgin mother but using birth records (they were actually a thing in Roman-ruled Judea) and the writings of 1st century historians we can tell that there was indeed a bloke named Jesus of Nazareth.

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