Monday, December 7, 2009

On The State of Atheism

As stated before, I demark a difference between atheism and Atheism. I see atheism as being a lack of belief in Gods, while Atheism is a belief that there are no Gods. For most information on why I feel I may make this distinction, see here.

There is a disturbing trend involving Atheism. It seems like every day Atheists are becoming more and more like a religion. Not a single, cohesive religion, but an annoying one none the less. I saw a billboard on my way to Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C., which said:

Can you be good without God? Millions are.

Now, I agree with the message. I also believe the companies and transit authorities who refuse to allow Atheist groups to buy ad space are wrong for doing so. However, I really wish Atheists wouldn’t advertise.

For one thing, it looks bad to religious people. I know, it shouldn’t matter, but it’s annoying when you see ads like this:

Again, I agree with the argument, and Atheists should be allowed to make themselves look bad, but it’s annoying because religious people jump from that ad to claims that Atheists are after their children. Nothing pisses off a religious person more than the thought of their kids not hating the same things they hate.

Atheists: you are dealing with an opponent who isn’t very bright. They take things way out of context, on a fairly regular basis. Putting up a sign suggesting people can be good without God serves no purpose beyond goading religious people. Showing kids in your ads even smacks of the emotional tactics of the religious. Why waste the money?

On top of all this, Atheists are organizing into groups that meet. Way to take away the best part of being non-religious: no stupid meetings. Sure, it all starts with “I just want my child to feel a sense of community…” and it ends with “You know what we should do? Let’s use our collective willpower to annoy people.”

Atheists have nothing in common. Instead, they merely share an aversion for something. I’m not going to explicitly say it [Godwin's Law], but what groups can you think of that met to discuss their dislike for other groups? How does that usually turn out?

It’s good to be part of a community, but it’s best to be part of the community. We are residents of towns and cities, citizens of states and nations, and members of the human race and planet Earth. If you crave something smaller, find a positive commonality, not a negative one. Get your kids into something constructive like sports, art, music, animal torture (er, hunting), anything but Atheism. If you take your kids to an Atheist group, you’re no better than religious people who isolate their children from those who think differently.

You can be good without God, but you sure don’t need God to be bad.


  1. Well, ads like the one about children is not made only for theists, but for everybody. OK, we can agree that it will hardly positively influence theists, as it should, but what about those who are neither theists nor atheists? I think that ad can positively influence them, thus I am not against ads that promote atheism. I am from Croatia, mainly catholic country, but many catholics are actually only labeled as catholics. They kind of stick to tradition but in all other aspects are common people. That kind of ads can maybe influence positively some people.

  2. I have no problem with the majority of the bus ads, the one about the children is kinda tacky.

    As for gnostic vs. agnostic atheism, I actually have no problem saying that God doesn't exist, just as I have no problem saying that Santa doesn't exist. I am still willing to change what I believe if given evidence to the contrary, but it does seem to keep me from having to have the argument of what the definition of atheist is.

    Otherwise, I agree with you. lol

  3. Here's a video I agree with on the Atheist billboard issue:


  4. My problem is the last comment: " that you understand "You can be good without God, but you sure don't need God to be bad."

    I would say a couple things on this. First, people with God tend to be bad because of their spiritual beliefs more than people without. This doesn't mean they are raping, pillaging, and plundering. But it does mean they are doing faith-based things which cause iniquity. Whether it is giving a loving gay couple a dirty stare, or forbidding their women to enter places of worship on 'that time of month' or even forcing women to cover their heads before entering a holy place, or making their children pray over food as if to say all these faith based acts are okay, because God told us to do it. One reinforces the other all the way to...God told me to commit holy war against the apostate, infidel, homosexual, etc. etc.

    I'm not saying all religion does this, but I am saying that mainstream monotheism does compel its adherents to enact faith-based initiatives which might reflect the goals and aspirations of the religious institution.

    The difference between secular institutions and religious ones for when they get caught misbehaving is that the secular ones must face up to their crimes, the religious pardon themselves saying that God allowed it, commanded it, or else will forgive them for it... at the most God will punish them... in the afterlife, not this one.

    Steven Weinberg once said, "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

    The second thing I'd point out is that, although you get it, not all religious people do. Many literally believe that without God or religion you are corrupt, evil, fallen, sinful, unsaved, and in need of what they have--so they advertise.

    I think the Athesit campaign you speak of is a very smart and subtle way to counter the 3,000 years of religious advertising and promotion campaigns by show those who feel isolated, who are closet atheists stuck in religious climates, families, or communities, that they aren't alone.

    Not everybody has the Internet and can meet others who think alike online. My brother for example. Poor people. Or old people who don't know much about using the latest technology. Etc.

    By showing an Atheist pressence, we show a couple things: 1) we exist, 2) if we want to express our freedom of speach then we ought to be able to, without people saying, *gasp, how take you--and take that back this instant. We don't act so unegalitarian when they say, "I'm praying for you."

    Thanks but, no-thanks, should be the message. Keep your religion to yourself. As long as faith is a personal matter, I have no objection to it. I was a Fundamentalist Christian for nearly 30 years myself, so it's not a rebellion thing... I didn't turn away in disgust... but bad behavior, religious or not, disgusts me. So why can't a sign advertise a message of solidarity?

    Although, I agree that once you start establishing systems of belief and canonizing "atheist opinion" it becomes pseudo religion, however I doubt a few billboards on buses qualify as conforming to any creed. Right now it's just about opening the door a little bit wider with our foot, in order to let some more light of reason shine through into the darkness which has plagued humanity for so long.

  5. Wow, I don't usually wake up to so many comments. Where to begin...

    Gordon: I was just in Croatia this summer, and what a beautiful country. I had no idea they were so Catholic there, but I was raised Catholic so I may not have noticed, even if I was given the chance. Pardon me for saying so, but I'm not sure I want non-religious people to see an Atheism billboard and to change their mind because of it. People so easily influenced by advertising probably doesn't have the skepticism I appreciate in Atheists. I've always looked at religion as a refuge for the intellectually lazy, where people who are too busy to do things like "think" and "question" can feel comfortable. I don't know if it's right to invite people who are so accepting of advertisements into an ideology that should be based on skepticism.

    Godlessons: One of the things that makes a monotheist more incorrect than a syncretic polytheist is that monotheists outright deny the existence of other gods. If they believe in only one, while denying the existence of others, it is a double statement of faith: first by saying they believe in God, and second by saying all other gods are not even real. There's no way to prove either statement, making both of them scientifically insignificant. If you claim there are no gods, you have half the faith of a monotheist.

    That being said, atheism still wouldn't be a religion for you, just a statement of belief (even if it is a pretty solid belief). I wish I could call it a "theory," but it's untestable.

  6. Tristan: I think it's dangerous to assume people who are religious are morally worse than people without religion. It just reeks of prejudice, even though it is derived through counter-prejudice.

    Name any "Christian" policy, and I can find you an atheist who supports it. There are atheists who are homophobes, misogynists, and child abusers. Don't forget that any ideology is equally suited for rallying the gullible around a horrible cause. I consider myself a socialist and an atheist, even though both of those titles were adopted by some of the most brutal tyrants of the 20th century (Mao, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc). Having similar economic and philosophical opinions to those despots (not to mention the millions who actually enacted their will) does not make me a bad person, just as being Christian doesn't make one an Inquisitor.

    I understand that some people are completely ignorant when it comes to Atheists, but I feel that engaging them in advertising isn't going to help. The ads serve more as a rallying cry among non-believers and an object of criticism among believers, ultimately only bringing about division. I don't see what good can come from clearly drawing a line between Atheists and theists, unless you're looking for a fight.

    I just don't know if I want solidarity among Atheists. There is strength in the individualism of it. When I discuss religion with a believer, I can assume the Bible is a decent source for their beliefs. I'm getting really sick of believers thinking they can quote Dawkins over and over at me, as if disproving him will have any affect on me. I am not Richard Dawkins, I have never read anything byt Richard Dawkins, and frankly I don't care what he does. Richard Dawkins did not write "The Atheist Bible." He can advertise if he wants, but he should realize how annoying it is, not only for Christians, but for atheists who want nothing to do do with him or his movement.

    Never forget: we are not struggling against 3000, or even 2000 years of religion. We are struggling with people who were nearly all born in the 20th century. We don't need to adopt the tactics of our enemy to make up for lost time. We need merely to wait for inevitability, because each successive generation is less religious than the next. Religion buries itself with its lies, we don't need to hop in their hole and help dig.

  7. I would argue a separate point. I agree that getting atheists to agree, as Dawkins puts it, "is like herding cats". But from my perspective, as a former devout theist, these signs may not be as targeted to corralling and solidifying atheists into Atheists, but to encourage borderline theists that there is an acceptable alternative. That was the biggest issue I struggled with for years; I needed a good enough reason to replace my perceived theist identity.

  8. To me, it's not about who is being targetted. I think it's rather rude to bring up the subject unprovoked. What's next, atheists knocking on my door at 7am on a weekend asking me to share their belief in nothing?

    I think the money could go to better causes, like legal fees for all the lawsuits Christians file against atheists, or maybe even *shock* charity.

  9. Maybe so, but if Christianity has taught us anything, it's that pooled resources are far more effective than individual efforts to deal with the issues you rightly suggest are in need of dealing with.

    A common voice doesn't need to be a label for people, so much as a conduit for those with similar ideals to speak through in order to be heard.

  10. So why aren't they actively doing anything? They're advertising without any product, which is stupid. Are we removing "In God We Trust" from the money? Are we going to push for churches to be taxed? I see no agenda, just a lot of naive optimism.


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