When I wrote this post about atheist snobbery, I didn’t aim it at one atheist or blog. I certainly had many specific ones in mind, and one was Camels With Hammers, written by Dr. Daniel Fincke over at Free Thought Blogs.
In fact, you can basically lump in most of the FTB contributors. I say most, not all, because I’m not familiar with all of them (only most… an ambiguous term I imply to mean over half).
This isn’t to say I don’t like what many of them have written. Take Jen at Blag Hag. I think a lot of what she wrote is right up my alley. I’m unabashedly pro-feminism, I thought Boobquake was rather clever, I even grew up in Indiana. But she banned me from commenting on her old site because I stood up for DM’s free speech right to say whatever he wants without some fascists sending the cops to his door to silence him. When someone censors others and then censors me for standing up for free speech, I write them off as little more than a lazy fool, and I think I’m correct in doing so.
If you can’t handle someone telling you, “You’re wrong,” without them even so much as using one bit of obscene language, you’re a lazy fool. If I had gone on her blog and started calling people cunts and faggots, I would feel she had a point in not wanting that sort of discourse, but she decided to ban me for pointing out that no one has the right to not feel threatened, otherwise you could kick black people off the bus when a scared white person was riding. No big loss for me, but it speaks volumes to her lack of character.
But I’m not just some noble free speech advocate out protecting the rights of religious nuts to tell atheists they will burn for eternity. I also get upset when atheists are being silenced. While I anticipated telling religious people to “fuck off” when they try to silence atheists, I have to say… I did not foresee having to stand up for myself against fellow atheists as often as I do.
And yet, that’s what I find myself doing while blogging about atheism or reading the blogs of other atheists. In all seriousness, the infighting I see among atheists is the most counter-productive activity I could ever imagine. We don’t even believe anything in particular, but for some reason there are atheists who are dogmatic enough in their non-belief and presumptuous enough in their own views that they have the audacity to essentially tell people, “I’m holier than thou.”
Fuck you. No seriously, if you honestly see yourself as somehow superior to another atheist because you refrain from what you imagine to be lowly behavior that is unbecoming of an atheist, please go fuck yourself roughly with an unlubricated fire hydrant.
There are few things in this world more pathetic than an atheist who thinks atheism is somehow virtuous, and the glorifying of atheism as some sort of higher intellectual view may actually be the biggest threat to atheism. It is putting atheism up on a pedestal, like it were some sort of god to be worshipped and venerated, and only in a certain, dignified way. And wear nicer clothes when you come to atheist Church. What are you, some sort of slob?
Which leads me to Camels with Hammers. I’m not familiar with this blog enough to make the bold claim that this blog in any way personifies what I’m talking about. From a cursory perusal of it, I think it’s not at all. The only reason I bring it up is because I wanted to talk about one particular aspect of rhetoric, and Dr. Fincke wrote the counter-argument to my own view (I doubt it was because of me, I assume he just holds this view independent of anything I have ever done or said).
While I don’t tend to call religious people stupid (I bet I could find at least one instance where I have somewhere in the over 1000 posts I have written), I don’t see anything wrong with calling religious people stupid. This isn’t because I think most religious people are, in fact, stupid (though most are, in fact), but because I don’t look down upon name-calling. Besides, being stupid isn’t the worst thing in the world; being an asshole is much worse. I’m both stupid and an asshole (as are many Christians), but when it comes to atheism, at least I’m right. In my view, it’s more important to be correct than intelligent or nice. Maybe I’m wrong about that, I am stupid after all, but I am positively correct about atheism, and the fact that I am not nice about it plays no part in the veracity of my position.
I can think of a few reasons why an atheist would call religious people stupid. For one thing, most are. Most religious people aren’t stupid because they are religious, most religious people are stupid because, on the whole, the vast majority of people are just incredibly stupid. It’s probably safe to say there are many stupid atheists, and indeed, there are plenty of atheists I have known who couldn’t coherently explain why they are an atheist (especially second generation atheists).
However, I have noticed a strange phenomenon… and maybe this explains why there is this focus on stupid religious people and not stupid atheists. Stupid atheists tend to keep to themselves, while stupid religious people seem to never shut the fuck up.
Of all the stupid atheists I ever met, I’m the only one who ever talks about atheism. Strangely, talking about it so much has made me a sort of lay-expert (by which I mean that I am knowledgeable without much formal training… I have atheist “street smarts,” not so much “book smarts,” or maybe I could go so far as to say I have “Wikipedia smarts”). But on the whole, I’m still pretty stupid.
Take me out of the realm of politics and religion, and you’ll see how stupid I am. I need to consult written instructions when boiling water. I honestly get lost while driving to places I have been dozens of times. I have wandered the house for twenty minutes looking for a wallet that was in my back pocket the whole time. And most damning of all, I still use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
Now, like most stupid people, I grew up not wanting to be called stupid. Luckily, I do well on standardized tests (so, I seemed to have a very high IQ, but I assure you, it is grossly inflated). Growing up, I thought I was soooo smart. My parents told me I was smart, and they know everything, so clearly I was a genius. Ahh, the logic of a stupid person… it makes just enough sense to be believable, if it’s appealing.
Before I stopped being religious, I thought of religion as stupid. I thought the rituals were stupid, I thought many of the religious people I knew were stupid, I thought the nuns in my private school were stupid… even in my own family, my dad is clearly smarter than my mom (as evidenced by the fact that he lets her go on thinking otherwise), and he’s an atheist, while my mother is a Catholic. Growing up, my mom was wrong on a lot of things, but I can’t recall any error my dad ever made. This all accumulates and begins to form a world view based on what intelligent people call “anecdotal evidence.”
Enter the comedians I grew up idolizing on TV for being so funny and confident. Many of them mock religion and religious people as being stupid. It didn’t take a leap in [il]logic to come to the conclusion, “Well… it appears that, in fact, religion is stupid. If religion is stupid and I am smart, I shouldn’t be religious anymore.” Because obviously, if your prejudice is confirmed by a person who makes you laugh, it’s clearly the truth…
When I see people like Dr. Fincke telling atheists to stop calling religious people stupid, my first impulse is to say, “Stop being a fucking pussy.” After I count to 20 and take my medication, I am inclined to point out that really, there is nothing wrong with exercising your freedom of speech to state an opinion. I know Dr. Fincke, who has a Ph. D in philosophy, must be utterly turned off by the level of discourse characterized by stooping to ad hominem arguments, but to those of us not sipping scotch in an ivory tower (a gross exaggeration, I am sure), it’s actually not only a statement that rings true enough to warrant saying, but is also incredibly cathartic to the one saying it.
Religious people are stupid.
God, that feels good to write. It feels even better to say it to a religious person’s face, and I have done it many times in my more brazen youth (and a few times when presented with the appropriate opportunity as an adult). I actually saw my youth counselor from my church once while I was home from college years ago, and he asked if I would be at mass (I think it was right before Christmas). I told him, while in some store at the mall, “Naw, religion is for idiots.”
He didn’t even have anything to say in response, and since I had no intention of getting into a big discussion about it there, my comment did its job. There was no further attempt to get me to go to church, no further plea. No carefully worded apologetics slipped from his lips. He just gave me a stunned look and we both went about our day. And I would like to think he thought twice about approaching a random person he taught lies to about going to church, but I doubt this is the case.
Say what you want, my comment succeeded. I wasn’t out to “convert” him, and I made it abundantly clear right up front that I had no interest in his religious pressuring. To this day, I think it was the perfect comment for that situation. Maybe it’s not the best thing to say at all times to all people, but then and there, I couldn’t have formulated a better response that would garner the results I wanted.
But this gets to the other, more important note. I’m not aiming to “convert” anyone. I use quotes because I don’t know what else to call it, and I don’t want to suggest I see atheism as something to which you can actually convert. It’s more of a deconversion to nothing, so maybe I should use that terminology. However, I don’t think I can “deconvert” someone, either. One’s views are very much internal, and they must be changed by the individual. Even if some external idea from someone else manages to light a spark, the individual must tend the flame to keep it going. At any rate, I’m not actively trying to make anyone an atheist, I just want to say things people find worth reading.
Of course, if something I write makes someone question their views, or an idea I present culls some doubt from the ignored darker recesses of the mind, I’m happy to have played some tiny part in someone uncovering a tiny portion of truth.
I don’t want to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t say. I refuse to do it. If you want to tell other atheists who disagree with you on some particular concept or method to shut up, you’re free to do so. I don’t advocate being crude to religious people as a means to any particular end, I merely support the idea of diversity in thought and approach. I think the more different ways atheists have of representing themselves, the better.
The Bible caters quite often to fools, perhaps because most people are fools, but there are undoubtedly profound truths and intelligent arguments made in the Bible, which is why there are some intelligent people who are religious. This is all the evidence I need that an ideology can harbor both good and bad arguments to great success.
If atheism ever hopes to branch out beyond a highly educated, intellectual elite (which I think they already have to some degree… and I’m living proof), atheism must simultaneously cater to both intelligent people and fools, not to mention those lucky ones in the middle who are neither too stupid to be failures, nor too intelligent to be depressed. There needs to be a full spectrum of atheist argumentation.
Or, you can alienate the vast majority and never get your way. Personally, I see atheism not as an intellectual virtue, but as a social institution that can act as a vehicle for ending the abuses of religion. There is no excuse for the influence religion holds over the non-religious. Those who want nothing to do with religion should have freedom from religious morals and teachings.
I think this is a common aim shared by all atheists, regardless of how smart they are. To achieve this, we need more than just the smartest 1%, or even the smartest 5, 10, 25, or even 45%. Mathematically, we need to delve into the “below average intelligence” category if we ever hope to have the influence necessary for actually changing anything.
I’m not one for making logical arguments, but there you have it: statistical proof we need stupid people who are atheists.
The good news is, stupid people are easy to sway. Stupid people tend to respond to strong speakers and strong ideas. They would say strong, most intelligent people might call it “domineering” or “ostentatious.” Stupid people don’t understand what those mean; they understand “strong.” Stupid people respond to confident and concise messages repeated a thousand times more than you think is necessary. You will get sick of saying something before a stupid person gets sick of hearing it.
If you need help, look at someone stupid people like. I think Larry the Cable Guy is a good example. He has a catch phrase which people love to say, even though no one knows what the hell it means. There’s no logic in that, only sheer, visceral primalism. He even tells his audience when to laugh, “Now that’s funny right there.” He literally points his audience in the direction of the punchlines because they are just that stupid, and Larry the Cable Guy is smart enough to know it.
Doesn’t that just piss off some of you intellectual atheists a teeny, tiny, little bit? A man as dumb as [the guy who plays the character of] Larry the Cable Guy is smart enough to reach an entire class of people on a level you never could. Doesn’t that just sour your frappucinos?
I am thankful to Dr. Fincke for what is, as of the moment of me writing this, over 250 unique visitors to my site thanks to a link he made to a Top Ten list of mine that criticizes conservatives. I enjoy reading your blog and I wouldn’t dream of having you so much as move a single comma on my account. But maybe you, and all other atheists who deign to bless the atheist blogosphere with your intelligent discourse, may come to see those of us eating at the rowdy table as valuable allies, every bit as important as you are. Not more, not less, just equally important for the role we play, for we have different skills, and we apply them in ways I doubt you could even stomach.
I like to think of things in terms of analogies. If atheism was a hockey team, the intelligent atheists are the center and the forwards. Among the defensemen, there are often a couple guys on the roster known as “enforcers.”
The enforcer’s job is to make the game difficult for the other team’s best players. He gets in their faces, tells them how sweet their mom’s pussy was last night, and just generally crawls under their skin. Ideally, the enforcer gets into a fist fight with the other team’s best player, goading him into throwing punches and thereby sending not only the enforcer, but also the other team’s star player to the penalty box (possibly even injuring the talented opponent, if the enforcer is good enough). Some enforcers just play cut-throat defense and stick to him closer than a Southern principal would allow couples to dance at a prom. But the very best are known for being able to get the coolest head to throw the first punch.
Is the enforcer a worse hockey player than most on the team? Of course he is, that’s why he isn’t playing another role. But what he does is no less valuable for the team as a whole, and his cheap tactics in no way detract from any win the team earns, nor from the skills of the other individuals who play in the same jerseys. A win is a win, and there are no points for playing the game clean.
I think atheists need to open their tent up and realize that they are missing out on some large demographics, all in the pursuit of respect they’ll never earn from people who believe we’re going to burn in hell forever. Quit trying to impress people who have no intent on ever respecting you. I’m not saying, “Be disrespectful,” but don’t pretend that if you are kind and polite, Christians may one day think of you as anything more than potential Christians or eternal kindling.