Showing posts with label angry atheists. Show all posts
Showing posts with label angry atheists. Show all posts

Are We Angry Atheists?

Someone recently wrote this about us here at DC: “I find it amazing how much anger there is on this board.”

I find this to be an interesting charge. People have said this before. Is it true? If it is, does it imply anything important?

I don’t think it’s true, at least not with me. I am not an angry atheist toward anyone. If I have ever shown anger it’s because I was responding to what I considered to be willful ignorance, idiocy and/or attempts to belittle me.

But what if I am angry, and what if others here are angry? What then?

Atheist Arrogance

Atheists are arrogant. Who hasn't heard it?

Arrogance is just one of their repellent qualities, of course. They are also ungenerous, cold, lonely, untrustworthy, amoral, and aggressive. You shouldn't leave them around children. When I spoke last week to a group called Seattle Atheists, the organizer positioned me far from the door, and I speculated aloud about whether I should be worried for my safety, given what we know about atheist ethics.

But the most common accusation hurled against atheists is that they are insufferably arrogant. In my experience, this accusation is rarely about a specific encounter: I was talking with Joan, my atheist neighbor down the street last week and do you know how I was treated by that insufferable witch?!

No, it is more like a mantra.

In Seattle, there's a chain of hamburger joints called Dick's. People who find themselves on the topic of hamburgers will say, "Dick's is great" almost as an opener, before they move on to the details of the conversation. Amazingly, I've heard this even from folks who have never eaten there. Dick's is great. Atheists are arrogant.

The unflinching tones adopted by The Four Horsemen
are not more harsh or critical than what we accept routinely in academic debate or civic life. It is the subject matter that is the issue.
The accusation provides cover for those who want dismiss thinkers like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens. I've often marveled that anyone could read Harris' manifesto--written as graduate student's post-9-11 cry of anguish, or Hitchens' litany of social corrosion and atrocity in the names of gods, or Dawkins' urgent appeal to evidence and reason, or Dennett's nerdy analysis of human information processing, and find themselves reacting above all to perceived arrogance. Images of people jumping from fiery buildings. Mutilated genitals. Radically cool glimpses of our mental circuitry - and the dominant reaction is disgust about arrogance?

Interestingly, the accusation also provides cover for those who agree with the Four Horsemen. Young non-theists writing even for edgy places like Wired Magazine or The Stranger go to some lengths to say I'm not like those atheist guys. We all can agree to loathe them. Mind you, they do make a decent point or two . . . . The ugly atheist stereotype is so strong, that people feel like they need to distance from atheism's iconic figures if they want a shot at being heard--or perhaps, even, liking themselves.

But what's underneath the stereotype? For years, as a practicing psychologist, it was my job to listen for the feelings and needs behind the tone, and I think a host of feelings and yearnings are obscured by the "arrogance" label. Below are some of the emotions I hear in the writings and conversations of self-identified atheists, and some my imperfect hypotheses about where they come from:

Nobody self-labels as an atheist in our culture unless he or she is "out" for a reason. It's like looking white in Alabama and making a point to tell people about your black father. Freethinkers who adopt the label publicly have decided for one reason or another to take the heat, and they are not necessarily representative of the broad range of freethinkers who may choose other labels or none at all.

For some people, being out as an atheist is personality driven or developmental. (All of us know natural born contrarians; many of us experiment with identities on the way to adulthood.) For some it is political. For some it comes from a deep conviction that we must find some way to change the public conversation about what is good and what is real and how to live in community with each other. All self-labeled atheists are braced, steeled against the stereotype, but they have varied reasons for looking society in the eye and saying, This is who I am. What they have in common is a sense of determination and the willingness to pay a price.

Theism gets a pass on the rules of reason and evidence that normally guide our social discourse. In a boardroom or a laboratory, we don't get to say, "I just know in my heart that this product is going to sell," or "This drug works even though the experiment didn't come out that way."

Cartoonist Wiley Miller captured atheist frustration perfectly in a recent Non Sequitur entitled "The Invention of Ideology:"
One caveman stands in the rain.
Another behind him under shelter comments, "Um, why you standing in the rain?"
"It not raining"
"Yes it is."
"No it not."
"Huh? Water fall from sky. That rain."
"That your opinion."
"Not opinion. Fact. See? Raindrops."
"Don't need to look. Already know it not rain."
"If it not rain, then why you wet and me dry?"
(Pause) "Define 'wet' . . . "
"Oww . . . Brain hurt!"
What does frustration sound like? When it doesn't sound like brain pain, it sounds impatient,sharp and distancing.

Believers look at the dogmas of religions other than their own and see them as silly, and yet find their own perfectly reasonable. Atheists, except for those few with formal training in the psychology of belief, find it incredible, almost unbelievable that the faithful don't perceive some higher order parallel between their religion and others--and run the numbers, so to speak. Of course that's not how ideology works, and per cognitive scientist Pascal Boyer, rationality is like Swiss Cheese for all of us. But if you buy the Enlightenment view of man as a rational being, it's easy to get sucked in and expect rationality and then be incredulous when you simply can't get smart people to bind themselves to the obligations of logic and evidence.

It feels obnoxious to have people assume that you have no moral core, that you rejected Christianity because you wanted to sin without guilt, or that you are damaged goods, the object of pity. Fundamentalist Christians, when they have given up on conversion, treat non-believers as agents of evil who reject God, like Lucifer did, out of willful defiance. Modernist Christians express benign sympathy -- and look for early childhood wounding (in particular at the hands of fundamentalists that left the scarred freethinker unable to enjoy the wonder and joy of faith. Both fundamentalists and modernists often assume that freethinkers miss out on wonder, joy and a sense of transcendent meaning. Atheists take offense, even when these assumptions are couched kindly and are well intended.

Atheists, along with the rest of America, listened to a presidential inauguration in which the preachers, combined, got almost as much talk time as the president. They help their kids figure out what to do with the anti-communist, "under God" line in the Pledge of Allegiance(Go along with it? Stand silently? Substitute "under magic"? How about "under Canada?"). They pay their bills with "In God we trust." They listen to born-again testimonials as a part of public high school graduation ceremonies and reunions. They do twelve years of training and then twelve hours of surgery and then read in the paper that a child was saved miraculously by prayer. Sometimes they get mad.

On websites like, doubters often lurk for months or even years before they finally confess their loss of faith. Because apostasy is so taboo, they struggle over how to tell their children, or spouses or parents or congregations--especially the fallen ministers. They wrestle with guilt and fear, just like their religions say they should. They deal with rejection, even shunning. Some of them come out at tremendous personal cost. See "When Leaving Jesus means Losing Your Family." Although this doesn't apply to all freethinkers, for those who are in the process of losing their religion, the pain is real. And pain has an edge. Try selling anything, including dogma, to a woman with a migraine.

Not all atheist pain about religion is personal. Many nontheists feel anguished by the sexual abuse that is enabled by religious hierarchy, by women shrouded in black and girls barred from schools, by the implements of inquisition that lie in museums, by ongoing Christian witch burnings in Africa and India, or by those images of people leaping from windows. Even less dramatic suffering can be hard to witness- children who fear eternal torture, teens who attempt suicide because they are gay and so condemned, women who submit to their own abuse or the abuse of their children because God hates divorce. To the extent that we experience empathy, these events are can feel unbearable, the more so because they seem so unnecessary.

Moral Indignation
Atheist morality is rooted in notions of universal ethical principles, either philosophical or biological, and often centered on compassion and equity. Since the point of atheist morality is to serve wellbeing, suffering caused by religion often triggers not only horror but moral outrage. Each believer sees his or her religion as a positive moral force in a corrupt world. Most think that morality comes straight from their god. Because of this, believers fail to recognize when atheist outrage is morally rooted. They don't understand that atheists frequently see religion as a force that pushes otherwise decent people to have immoral priorities. When, for example, the religious oppose vaccinations, or contraception, or they come to care more about gay marriage than hunger, an atheist is likely to perceive that religion undermines morality. When theism sanctifies terrorism or honor killings, atheists are apalled.

Love and Longing
What folks like Sam Harris and Bill Maher are saying, as loudly as they know how, is that they love this imperfect world, and they fear for it. They long to see that which they cherish most: natural beauty, global community, human rights, and the fruits of scientific discovery handed down to their children and ours. But they believe wholeheartedly in the power of religion to destroy that which they hold dear. Why?

Need we even ask? Think about the Twin Towers, the Taliban, the Religious Right's yearning for Armageddon, the geometric progression of our global population curve and the Church's opposition to family planning as a moral responsibility. Think about the trajectory of human religious history - what has happened in the past when unquestioned ideologies controlled government and military. Think abstractly about a social/economic/international policy approach that is unaccountable to data, one that sees doubt as weakness, agreement among insiders as proof, and change as bad. Think concretely about suitcase nukes in the hands of Pentecostals or Wahabis who believe that a deity is speaking directly through their impulses and intuitions.

The prophets of the godless are crying out that 21st century technologies guided by Bronze Age priorities may bring about a scale of suffering that our ancestors could describe only as hell. You might not agree with them, but to understand their in-your-face stridency as anything more complex than arrogance, you have hear the depth of their urgency.

Have you ever had a dream in which, no matter how hard you try no-one can hear you? Many freethinkers feel like that whenever they try to talk about their journey of discovery.
"Hey," say former fundies. "Guess what I found out. The Bible contradicts itself. Do you want to see where?"
"I never meant to end up godless," say former moderates. "Do you want to hear how it happened?"
"'A theory' isn't something we dream up afterhours," say biologists. "Can we tell you what a scientific theory is to us?"
"We think we've figured out how those out-of-body experiences and bright lights work - at a neurological level," say neuroscientists. "Care to know?"
"Religion may increase compassion toward insiders at the expense of outsiders," say sociologists. "Are you interested in finding out?"
"What if we can no longer afford beliefs without evidentiary basis?" ask the bell ringers. "What if unaccountable belief inevitably produces some that are dangerous?"

It's not the fundamentalists they are hoping to engage. It is moderate, decent people of faith--the majority of the human race. But are moderate believers open to such questions? Many outsiders think not, and people who feel hopeless about being heard either go silent or get loud.

So, let's come back to arrogance.

Yes. Atheists are susceptible. They think they have it right. (So do we all.) And yes, those nonbelievers who underestimate the power of viral ideologies and transcendent experiences tend to think that belief must be an IQ thing, meaning a lack thereof. And yes, dismay, pain, outrage, incredulity and desperation all make people tactless, sometimes aggressively so.

But I don't think any of these is why frank talk from atheists so consistently triggers accusations of arrogance. The unflinching tones adopted by the Four Horsemen are not more harsh or critical than what we accept routinely in academic debate or civic life. It is the subject matter that is the issue.

I would argue that atheist talk about religion seems particularly harsh because it violates unspoken norms about how we should approach religion in our relationships and conversations. Here are some of those rules:
  • It's plain old mean to shake the faith that gives another person comfort and community, so don't do it.
  • If you doubt, keep it to yourself.
  • Practice don't-ask-don't tell about unbelief.
  • Be respectful of other people--respecting people means respecting their beliefs.
  • If someone tries to convert you, be polite because they only mean well.
  • Remember that faith is good and even a brittle, misguided faith is better than none at all.

Outspoken atheists break all of these rules. They do and say things that are verboten. They insert their evidences and opinions where these are clearly unwelcome. Is this the height of self-importance?

Recently I interviewed former Pentecostal minister Rich Lyons about his journey out of Christianity. We found ourselves laughing about the velvet arrogance of our former beliefs: that we, among all humans knew for sure what was real; that we knew what the Bible writers actually meant; that our instincts, hunches and emotions were the voice of God; that we were designated messengers for the power that created the galaxies and DNA code -- and that He just happened to have an oh-so-human psyche, like ours. What other hubris could compare, really?

Maybe it is time for all of us glass-house dwellers, theists and freethinkers alike, to move beyond conversations about arrogance and onto much needed conversations about substance.

Valerie Tarico is the author of The Dark Side, and the founder of

Join The Raptor Jesus Cult!

Lighting up a cigarette from that half-empty pack of Newports in his front jacket pocket, he seemed not to notice us. He didn’t even look like a man of science. He looked like a 60’s hippie, with glasses, a ponytail, and plain, casual clothes. He just stood there, leaning against the brown brick wall outside of the laboratory. When we asked to speak to Paul Gorman, the renowned Christian paleontologist, he spoke up after what could have been perceived as a rude and condescending delay. “That’s me,” he finally said, putting out the cigarette. Things were a little tense at first, but he soon loosened up to our presence, and the interview went well.

That’s what we were there for. We’d finally found the always-busy and hard-to-get-a-hold-of Dr. Gorman to meet with our Fox News Associates for an exclusive interview on his latest and most controversial claim yet. The claim: Jesus Christ – savior, prophet, and God to so many – endured his earthly pilgrimage with a raptor’s head atop his human body!

So certain was Gorman of his findings that he began his own ministry—Raptor Jesus Ministries. His goals, as he explained them to us, are twofold; first, to educate the masses on this new biblical find; second, to provide a cooler and more hip way for the younger, cyber-immersed generation to come to know Christ.

But I was skeptical. The idea that Jesus Christ had a raptor’s head on his body seemed…well…harebrained! So it was time to get some hardcore facts since I certainly couldn’t see them for myself. Now if there’s one thing Christian apologists of all calibers are experts at, it’s coming up with evidence for preposterous claims when there is none. So, yes, I was skeptical. But when Gorman began to open his mouth with the explanations of his position, I soon became hypnotically entrenched…

“You’ll find that in Job chapters 40:15-41:34, God tells us about a large, reptilian creature that is exalted above any other beast. Nowhere in scripture do we see his equal. But the problem is, God never speaks to exalt animals. He only exalts humans. And though the Almighty went through a phase where he said he wanted to wear the cologne of animal’s blood, he quickly tired of it (Isaiah 1:11). At one point, God even denied that he ever asked for animal sacrifices in the first place (Jeremiah 7:21-22), but that’s another matter. The point for us to take home here is, there was no way God could have spoken like this in the scriptures to exalt some reptile. No, God is trying to tell us that there’s more being described here than just some dumb, brute beast.

In Job 40:19, this mighty creature is called, ‘The chief of the ways of God.’ The chief of the ways of God can only be Christ. And in chapter 41:33-34, we read: ‘Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear. He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.’ This can only be referring to Jesus. But there are other ways we know this to be true. Isaiah predicted that the savior would have sharp teeth: ‘Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.’ (Isaiah 41:15) This too can only be referring to Jesus.”

“Ok, you’ve got my attention,” I thought to myself. But I wasn’t yet convinced. It is difficult to believe that God would choose to take upon him the form of a man, and yet the facial form of a raptor, an extinct beast that lived over seventy-eight million years ago! Many churches still believe that fossils are a work of the devil. So how could it be that one of those inane fossils, so distantly removed from Christ, was actually the image of God’s Holy Son? Sitting spellbound at the wisdom of this scholar, I listened as he continued…

“The scripture says of the suffering messiah that he would be unattractive in appearance. (Isaiah 53:2) Even as a babe, Jesus was so hideously ugly that the Angel of God had to basically say, ‘Get that kid out of here because these folks are going to kill him when they see him!’ (Matthew 2:13) This was because his face was a raptor’s face. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, we see him rejected and scorned a number of times. This couldn’t have been because of the things he taught because the Bible says the common people heard his message and received it gladly. (Mark 12:37) This leads us to conclude that Jesus was rejected because he resembled the prophetic allusions that speak of him as the powerful, reptilian creature from Job’s time.

The mystifying presence of fish in the life of Jesus is very interesting too. Jesus kept referring to fish. He had an insatiable appetite for it. (Matthew 7:10; 17:27) Even after his crucifixion and ascension, when he was more than free to head back to the resplendent glories of heaven that he created for himself and only a few of us, he still couldn’t get his mind off of food. He chose to stay on earth and ask for meat from his disciples when he reappeared to them. (Luke 24:42; John 21:9-14) I think if Jesus were around today, he’d probably own stock in Long John Silvers or perhaps Red Lobster.

The assumed miracle of the loaves and fishes found in Matthew 14:16-21 gives us a faint clue as to how Jesus produced fish for the masses. I always wondered how he could have done that, and together with the rest of the evidence, I now believe that the raptor position makes the most sense of any. While Jesus could have done a miracle, he didn’t. He just had his disciples sit the multitudes down, and when they weren’t looking, he stuck his big raptor head under water and snatched out a few massive raptor mouthfuls of what was to be dinner! Jesus may have been a rapacious reptile, though he was certainly a very generous and benevolent one.

Paleontologists agree; the best and most proficient carnivorous land-beast at catching fish was the raptor. And as often as fish and feeding multitudes are found throughout scripture, it is a more than sound conclusion that Jesus was given a raptor’s head for precisely that purpose. He was a more effective fisherman and a more effective savior. No wonder it was said that Jesus cast out demons as the prince of the demons—any man with a raptor’s head looks plenty demonic! (Matthew 12:24) This was why people were terrified of Jesus and asked him to leave their cities. (Matthew 8:34; Mark 5:17) This was also why Jesus was unable to get married.”

For me, the pieces were starting to fall into place! I was electrified with the wisdom and scholarship Dr. Gorman showed. Before I could begin with my printed-out list of now useless questions, I realized I had created a monster of oratory! He finished what remained of his thoughts and perpetuated without missing a beat…

“And this was the main reason Jesus was rejected and crucified. Nobody expected a literally cold-blooded Jewish messiah.”

At this point, Dr. Gorman began to tear-up: “Oh sure, we love to cry at movies like ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ but do we really know what he went through? People tell me my findings are blasphemous, but this new knowledge of Raptor Jesus only brings more glory to Christ. It doesn’t take any away. It shows us that Jesus suffered more for our sins, not less!”

Bringing our three-and-a-half hour interview to a close, Dr. Gorman assured us that although it would take time and a lot of indoctrination, generations of new and impressionable minds are already laying hold onto a much cooler Jesus than the one their parents knew. There’s just something to say about a Jesus who attracts crowds like a freak-show and has pointed teeth, who has a mouth nearly the size of a punch bowl, and protruding, beady eyes. And he’s no weakling! He didn’t have to stumble, carrying that cross to Golgotha. He didn’t have to get his butt kicked by a hackneyed council of ordinary Jews and Romans who decided to have him lynched. He didn’t have to—he wanted to! He laid down his life for us. He went extinct for our sins!

As we departed (partly choked up ourselves and partly amazed at how we went through an entire box of Kleenex Ultra-Soft), Dr. Gorman, still spiritedly chatting away about the goals of his ministry, asked us: “Honestly, if you were one of these new-age kids who use words like “Pwn” and “noob,” and could text-speak faster than you could read a verse from the King James Bible, would you be more inclined to worship a resurrected Jew, or a resurrected raptor Jew?” With a smile, I told him: “Say no more, sir. Say no more!”

Who would have thought that some obscure therapod from the late Cretaceous Period would have such significance on a soteriological scale? Truly, the stones cry out, “Jesus!” And whether you agree with Dr. Gorman’s findings or not, you have to admit that adding the word “raptor” to any title or description makes the subject a whole heck of a lot cooler! I am now part of the Raptor Jesus Cult. Why not join?


Suit-and-Tie Atheism: And the “Church-ification” of the Godless

Let me tell you about me and my activities on a typical night off work. I wake up around 4 to 5 pm because I usually work nights and those are my hours. I get up and have a glass of iced tea, some sodas, or a few (or more) beers, depending on my taste and mood. Then I’ll grab some take-out food, which usually consists of the greasiest grub I can find (What can I say? My arteries hate me!) I live in a 750-square-foot world where the Fri-Daddy is god, where snacking on chips, whole cashews, chocolate bars, and anything peanut butter is the divine moral order, and where shrimp and bacon are only one step away from being “holy” foods. There are probably more preservatives in me than blood cells! There are as many paper cups, plastic wrappers, and empty junk-food containers in my kitchen as there are strands of carpet in the living room! At my place, it’s an ongoing battle just to keep up with throwing them all away. So it’s safe to say I’m pretty much your exuberant Class-A slob.

When I’m done eating, I go back to doing what consumes most of my pathetically anal and highly obsessive/compulsive life—reading articles, writing articles, and editing articles, both for freelance and for freethought purposes. I spend the first half of the day doing what I want and the last half of the day doing work, which includes maintaining my blogs and answering emails. In between this time, I peruse the web for documentaries, audio clips, and videos, so much so that your typical, shorthand-using, 14-year-old, internet troll has nothing on me! I also love comedy of all kinds, particularly satire, to the extent that I try daily to gratify my ominously dark and disturbing sense of humor.

But I’m always thinking, thinking when my fat ass is hold up on the recliner, thinking when that searingly hot water is running over my head and beading off my back in the shower. And I’m a tactile thinker. I like to feel myself thinking, so it’s not uncommon for me to spend some amount of money on new keyboards that provide a nice, rough feel for the tips of my fingers to motivate me to keep on writing even when I feel like crap (which is often). I love a keyboard just before the keys get shiny as the surfacing begins to rub off from frequent use! I sometimes grit my teeth as I write, whether I’m mad or not. It just feels good. I also spend a decent amount of money collecting flashlights and pens. I love to feel them. Holding them in my hands helps me to think better.

Though not often, I can be moody, but I am always all-or-nothing; what I love I love and what I hate I hate. I love a cloudy or stormy day. I love the wind whipping through my hair. I love hot peppers. I love a well-timed shot of liquor. I love the cold air’s bite on my cheeks. I love the smell of jasmine. I love doing bizarre things, like sharpening backscratchers so that the intensity of the scratch is stronger on my skin. I play with my hair and rubber bands when I’m mind-numbingly bored, and I sculpt when I’m feeling creative. I love a good game of chess. I do other things too that I won’t go into much detail on, primal things that involve members of the opposite sex and me in handcuffs, but you get the picture.

And some days, the futility of existence is just too much for me, so I don’t get out of bed at all. I just lay there until I have a headache and stare up at the ceiling for hours because I can’t find the motivation to get up. I just lay in the dark, groveling on my bed until I can’t stand it anymore. I hate a lot of things too, like cinnamon and heights and mosquitoes and needles. I never lick my fingers and I hate it when others do around me and are otherwise not germ conscious. Unlike so many atheists, I don’t care much for leftwing politics. I am somewhat of a political enigma, being pro-torture and pro-death penalty on the one hand, and pro-euthanasia and pro-abortion on the other. I don’t care about “going green” to save the planet either. It matters about as much to me as that cross on the neck of a hot-legged Catholic schoolgirl you wish you’d banged when you had the chance.

And I am plenty aware of my faults too. I am impatient, selfish, picky, and much like I do life in general, I absolutely despise large portions of the population, especially cattle-like people who never struggle with the meaning of their existence (though, in a way, I’m a bit envious of them.) I don’t really care for the poor, and the mentally deficient tend to bother me, as do most special interest groups and other near-parasitical forces of society (Hey, at least I’m honest about it!) I am a recluse, by and large, and I prefer to keep it that way.

My ultimate desire in this predictably short charade I call life is to pass on my experiences and knowledge by way of the written word. I am a student of this cruel-but-curiously-stimulating universe, and if I can pass on my observations to future generations so that they may live through them or somehow make use of them, that is perfectly delightful to me. But all of this just describes one atheist—me. It doesn’t describe all atheists, but in fact describes very few atheists.

One atheist may have nothing in common with another except for one thing: both don’t believe in a deity. That is all—end of story. There need be no other similarities between them. An atheist may be educated or uneducated, smart or stupid, kind or mean-spirited, a law-abiding citizen or an outlaw. He may be charitable or stingy, morally straight-laced or downright perverted. She may be a republican, a libertarian, or a flat-out Marxist. I keep thinking the point has been made already. It isn’t that complicated, and yet I see so little understanding of this in relations between believers and atheists.

We vocal atheists have dealt with our share of email exchanges explaining to clueless inquisitors that agnosticism is not a halfway house between atheism and theism, but only a degree of atheism; an agnostic or weak atheist is less convicted and perhaps less vocal than a positive or strong atheist. And that is what atheism is—a conviction and not a philosophy, though it is sometimes classified as a philosophy or a discipline for reference purposes in the field of philosophy. But this simple misunderstanding has done leagues to impede the progress of our debates for who knows how long.

You see this royal misinformation at work every time some Simple Simon makes reference to “the church of atheism” or “the religion of the godless.” Since atheism is strictly a negative conviction, it cannot have a church or any institution built on it with creedal beliefs or affirmative regulations that affect belief, identity, conduct, or character (which is what churches and religions have and do). And yet, even amongst my atheist comrades, these same misunderstandings are being unknowingly propagated with what I have come to call “suit-and-tie atheism.”

Suit-and-tie atheism is the vain attempt on the part of some atheists to “churchify” their godless convictions under differing militant and evangelistic banners. They show frantic worry about “making de-converts” to join us in our “fight for unbelief.” The suit-and-tie atheist is concerned especially with “coming off” right (which usually means putting on a smiley face and displaying pretentiously Christian-like behavior). The suit-and-tie atheist’s goal: they want believers to be impressed with them in hopes of winning over an on-the-fence Christian who just might say, “These cats aren’t so bad. Maybe my Christian stereotypes of atheists are wrong? I think I’ll join them in their quest for reason.” But it doesn’t happen that way, regardless of how little profanity an atheist uses or how kind and inviting an atheist is in a written or oral debate, or if an atheist chooses the term “non-theist” instead of atheist to ward off any nasty preconceptions of them.

It is very important to the suit-and-tie atheist that no atheist in their company comes off like a “village atheist”—an unsophisticated, homegrown, “I’ll believe it when I see it” type who does not continually pay lip-service to the glories of Aristotelian logic, and who doesn’t have a big interest in arguing atheism with anyone and everyone he knows. But even worse to the suit-and-tie atheist is the “angry atheist” because the angry atheist makes all other atheists look depressed and grumpy—a cardinal sin in the eyes of so many happy-go-lucky, pro-marijuana, planet-loving, Toyota Echo-driving naturalists.

Since the suit-and-tie atheist is concerned mainly with appearance and getting people to agree with him/her – always careful to be pleasant to a fault – they naturally shy away from atheists like myself who are too edgy, too rambunctious, and just too brutally honest for their taste. The suit-and-tie atheist is more like a politician, distancing himself from bad imagery, shaking hands with a big smile on his face, while patting kids on the head as he works the crowd on the campaign trail. But as noble as it sounds to try and line up atheists as charming and inviting, it’s a bad idea because it creates yet another of what should be forthrightly shunned—an unfounded stereotype.

Atheists far and wide seem to be contributing to this suit-and-tie silliness, like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett (among others), who have voiced their desire for all atheists to identify themselves as “Brights.” “The New Atheists” is another description that is catching on and becoming increasingly popular. I was always amazed as a preacher at the tendency of churches to wear denominational names and the names of religious leaders, but I am just as amazed as an atheist at how quickly and easily atheists are guilty of the very same thing. The put-your-best-foot-forward mentality, the desire to label and re-label things to reflect excellence and great personal achievement appears to be universal.

As much as I hate to burst the bloated bubbles of these highly publicized and widely adored atheists, this label-wearing malarkey has got to stop. There are no “Brights” or “New Atheists” anymore than there are “New Deists.” The term “atheist” covers everything that needs to be covered. To go further than that only feeds the already fat market of misinformation on the identity of unbelievers and what we are all about. Add to that, the term “Brights” has a mighty arrogant come-off to it, regardless of whether it was intended to have or not. Those who go around saying (by implication or otherwise), “I am bright and you are not!” to them I proudly extend a middle finger, and rightly so! And why do we need “new” atheism anyway? What was wrong with the old? In addition to being a virtual spit in the face to us behind-the-times “old” atheists, gimmicky and trendy names like these wreak of being little more than pathetic sales-pitches for a new age.

Well, how about we get back to the four basic food groups of atheism: 1) Atheism, 2) is a, 3) conviction, 4) only! And being a conviction only, it does not and cannot lead to moral excellence or decay. It is not an idealistic construct. It offers me nothing. It offers you nothing. Like me, it may be the only position you can come to and honestly profess belief in, or it may not be. If you find atheism sound, then great; maybe you already fight at my side to break the rusting and corroding shackles of superstition, but if not, I won’t lose any sleep over the matter. If you believe in God, I have better things to do than to try and get you off that drug.

The truth is, I don’t care whether you believe in a ghost with a capital “G” or not. It doesn’t matter to me at all. I only want to make my experiences available to those who happen to be in a position to benefit from learning about them, and I will only fight against religious beliefs when they happen to be thrown in my face or when some Jeebus-ite starts to wax too missionary in his/her beliefs. But that’s it. Beyond that, I have no interest in “making atheists” out of anyone or putting new and cute labels on those who already identify themselves as infidels. Worship and pray to whomever or whatever you want, or don’t worship and pray at all. See if I care.

As far as the remaining theists are concerned, evolution will take care of them as God-belief ever-gradually continues to fade from the planet. Every time a Sunday school girl makes her teacher mad because she demands to know where Cain got his wife, religion is fading. Every time a young man begins to doubt the veracity of the great flood and the story of Noah’s ark, religion is fading. Every time another college student becomes emboldened enough to throw off his parent’s religion because of what he learned in geology class, we see that the age-old, male-glorifying, monotheistic blood-gods who for so long have vilified reason and promised damnation to those who think for themselves are at last losing the war. They are running for the hills as your eyes finish this sentence.

Atheism is the logical result of knowledge acquired by the sound use of reason. It does not come from pandering to Christians and straightening that proverbial tie to look good for the “camera” of public perception. Instead of worrying about who’s “hurting the cause of atheism,” we should instead see to it that atheism is understood; understanding that will eliminate the illusionary damage that has led to the public’s vilification of the position. The advancement of atheism is not about upholding an image, and it’s not about receiving a message. It’s about mankind being ready and able to accept the truth of her humble origins, her inevitable and hopeless demise, and her limited place in the cosmos. And when she is ready, she will! As the world becomes more enlightened, the atheists are going to be here. I have no doubt about it—unless, of course, a meteor hits the earth and the only ones who survive are the Sean Hannity types, but hey, we’re talking about more realistic possibilities!

Gentlemen, lose the jackets. Get rid of the ties. Ladies, let down your hair. And it’s okay to put your feet on the coffee table.



Funny how those who boast the loudest, “I’m a patriot. I fight for freedom, God, and country” tend to support ideals that only lead to widespread oppression and fascism.

Funny how those God-believers who boast the loudest of their morality, saying “I have a foundation for my morality” are just as prone as anyone else towards immorality or moral lapses.

Funny how those who boast confidently about how Christianity has the greatest “evidences” in support of it seem to walk on egg shells, fearing day-to-day how some new scientific find may come along and crack the foundation of their faith.

Funny how those who boast greatly about “God’s great healing power” will just as surely depend upon Advil or some other pain reliever to rid themselves of the pain of an ailment.

Funny how those who boast so loudly about the “fine-tuning” of the universe have so little to say about all the ways our planet can kill us and how so much of our universe is lifeless and hostile to even the possibility of life.

Funny how those who testify most fervently about the sublime happiness that service to God brings depend on the usual 30 milligrams of Prozac a day and the latest best-selling Christian book to ease their minds of life’s many sorrows.

Funny how those who most loudly proclaim peace and religious liberty will be the most zealous to take life in the already heavily blood-soaked name of the cross.

Funny how those who publicly proclaim the truth of Christianity and tell us that we should “give to the Lord” and “sacrifice” for the kingdom’s sake are among the richest men alive.

Funny how those who tell us we should focus living lives “more abundantly” on earth are themselves focused on leaving this world for one to come.

Funny how those who tell us that the body is “the temple of the Lord” and how “God don’t make no junk!” are constantly seeking better, heavenly bodies in the resurrection.

Funny how those who talk the most about selflessness and “doing good for God” are always interested in their own destinies and putting another star in their heavenly crowns.

Funny how those who boast that “God is love” and that God “brings peace that passes all understanding” and tell us that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear” are always seeking to scare the populace into obedience by the merciless threat of unquenchable hellfire.

Funny indeed!