Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Straw Man Trinity

If you are an atheist, be prepared to be identified with every atheist who ever lived, even if you have never heard of them.

When I was still in college a few years ago, my Lit professors were all Christian, save one who was Buddhist. From them, I first heard the annoying comments that I would spend more time responding to than I would have ever liked.

The first: "Richard Dawkins never studied theology, so he isn't qualified to discuss it." At this point, I had seen Richard Dawkins a few times on TV shows pushing his books (I only remembered "The God Delusion"). What struck me was that I had never read his work, yet here these professors were telling me that my arguments are unfounded because some British Biologist didn't understand religion. Instead of addressing anything I said, the believers brought up Dawkins, and felt that discrediting him would somehow have an effect on me.

The second: "Christopher Hitchens is a drunk." Again, a man whose books I had never even touched was the target of criticism for my professors. I had never quoted him, mentioned him, or even suggested any ideas that I am aware are his. Of course, this didn't stop any of them from attempting to debunk his ideas for my disinterested benefit.

The third: "Something something Sam Harris." By now I had completely stopped paying attention whenever they got that defensive tone in their voice. Sam Harris is sort of the Holy Spirit in this atheist trinity, because I know the least about him and he's just mysteriously there, lumped into some movement called "The New Atheists."

If my understanding is correct, these guys sell books to believers who buy them to be shocked. I have never read the work of these men, nor do I feel compelled. And yet, believers everywhere feel the need to criticize these men. Not the ideas of these men, mind you, just the men themselves. It would help if believers would state some of their ideas, so I had any fucking clue what they were talking about. I guess believers assume all atheists run out to buy the latest atheist diatribe in print form whenever it is available, since this is what they do. This is what psychologists call "projection."

I wonder, how would Christians feel if I judged them solely based on the Pope, Pat Robertson, and the head of the Mormon Church (whoever that is)? I can imagine the vast majority would be pissed off that I was assuming hundreds of millions of people were all taking their cues from three men who I find easy to criticize.

Why do Christians bother to criticize prominent atheists, rather than their claims? Atheists all appear to independently have the same ideas, since the things I said to my professors must have sparked recognition. They must have thought, "Oh, I heard that before when I was reading something by Dawkins/Hitchens/Harris. If I debase the author, clearly their idea is wrong!"

But this is not the case. Atheists have common arguments because we as atheists observe and must deal with believers who are standardized in their thinking, attitudes, opinions, and theology. This atheist does not meet up every week with other atheists to exchange notes. Religious people do. This atheist does not read from an ideologically-themed book list and plagiarize their ideas. Religious people do. This atheist is not swayed by charisma. Religious people are.

Do I observe evolution as a biological fact? Yes, but that just means I woke up in time for two semesters of biology, two semesters of biochem, a semester of anatomy, a semester of immunology, two semesters of physiology, and a semester of microbiology. In none of those classes were Dawkins, Hitchens, or Harris ever mentioned. Even Darwin was mentioned only during historical overviews because his direct contribution to evolution is merely its initial observation. Darwin is not the foundation of evolution. At best, he was the first shovel in the ground.

So why do religious people constantly misrepresent atheists? Is it retaliation for years of atheists pointing out the horrible things religious leaders have done? Is it a naive belief that atheism actually is a cohesive religion? Is it lazy rhetoric? I may never know, but I do know this: Christians refuse to discuss the Bible, the one thing they all admit to having in common. Christians worship a book of lies, and they are unable to imagine atheists doing any different. Again, this is what psychologists call "projection."

I guess you can't expect much from a group of people who view not only themselves, but all of humanity as a horrible, sinful race requiring supernatural assistance. Psychologists call that... well, you know.


  1. I'm surprised. My Lit professors were awesome. My favorite never told us his religious background, although I think he might have been Hinduish (although he was white and Irish ancestry).

    Maybe it's because my Lit profs were also philosophy profs - so they wouldn't stoop to the genetic fallacy (saying the argument can't be true because of the source).

    But as far as their comment on Hitchens. While it has no bearing on his arguments for or against God, he really is a drunk. :-P

    "Why do Christians bother to criticize prominent atheists, rather than their claims?"

    Because it's easier - and a lot of theists still haven't figured out that the truth of a statement doesn't depend on its author. That's why everyone always brings Hitler in (even though he was religious, they just look the other way) to prove their point.

    Don't like gun control? Hitler had gun registration.
    Don't like evolution? Hitler believed scientific evolution (well, not really, but that's how the argument goes).
    Were the Columbine shooters and Stalin atheist? Yes, so that means all atheists want to perpetuate massacres (I hope you can see the faulty reasoning).


    "Christians refuse to discuss the Bible, the one thing they all admit to having in common."

    You know, the Bible has it in plain black and white that God commanded genocide. But no one wants to compare the Bible to Hitler....

    As far as evolution....
    Most people don't learn a spic about it in high school. Only about 25% of Americans have a bachelor's degree. So there 75% of the population right there who never learned it.

    Of those 25% who do get a bachelor's degree, most don't go past introductory biology. So basically what you have is a population that was never really taught anything about evolution....

    I think that may help explain the evolution-deniers out there.

    When people ask me about global warming and what I believe I generally tell them "I've never really studied meteorology, so I can't make an informed opinion."

    The difference with Christians and evolution is that after reading a tract by AIG or RTB - they think they know about evolution and can make an informed opinion....


  2. Global warming and evolution are not actually what people are denying. People deny them for their implications.

    If Global Warming is real (and I don't care if it is, because pollution in general is real, without any doubt), that might mean some very rich people will be responsible for ruining our planet and will have to stop (which also stops their profits). These Pollution Capitalists sow the seeds of doubt which non-meteorologists (most people) cling to as being nothing more than healthy skepticism, even though they stand nothing to gain or lose in the argument.

    Evolution is the same thing, only with biology, and the ones who stand to lose everything are religious institutions who have lied for millenia about where we came from.

    In both cases, it is a pointless stance, even for the liars. Capitalism survives regulation, and religion survives science. Did Christianity die out after the Earth was no longer flat and the center of the universe? Sadly... no. The same will be true once evolution is syncretized with theology.


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