Monday, July 13, 2009

Fuck Homogenized Atheism

Over at Greg Laden's blog (he often has some of the best conversations), I have gotten into a rather heated exchange with a Nathan Myers (my response starting after this comment) and intended on posting about the baseline question/assertion I made - and I still do. But then another commenter, Volcanoman, made a rather impassioned plea that I can appreciate, while thinking it's a really bad (not to mention impossible) fucking idea. I rather spent more time than I probably should have on my response and realized that it is a rather important point, so I am posting it here. And because I have three tests in the next two days (the two hardest tomorrow) and really need to study some more, I am not going to muck about with it...

The world is an increasingly nasty place and its rational people, although naturally fractious and irritable it seems, need to come to common understanding and present a unified message of intelligent discourse, robust information, and moral superiority.


What you don't seem to understand, Volcanoman, is that there isn't some common understanding and never will be. The fact that we happen to agree that religion is a bad idea, does not imply any sort of common understanding - many of us think religion is a bad thing for very different reasons in the first place.

Take the rather heated interaction between Nathan and myself - whichever one of us might be right, we absolutely do not have a common understanding and given the general tenor that our exchange took, it is unlikely that we ever will. If we do come to a common understanding of the issue we're discussing here, it won't be because of each other - I don't generally find myself deciding to agree with assholes who talk smack and I doubt he tends to decide suddenly he agrees with people who call him a complete and utter fucking moron. So if we ever do find ourselves on common ground in this, it will be because others convinced one or both of us that another position is the correct one.

And a lack of religious belief is not a reasonable foundation on which to build any unified message, nor is it inherently a precursor to intelligent discourse. Like I said, people decide that religion is bad, or that they simply don't believe, for a vast array of reasons - not all of them intelligent and by definition not unified.

Chris Mooney, for example, is not religious because he grew up without religion. He was never inundated with Faith and therefor it is perfectly natural for him to be an atheist. Me on the other hand - I struggled and fought for the vast majority of my life to desperately cling to the remnants of the very profound, very deep seated, absolute Faith of my childhood. It was only after a nearly thirty year odyssey through Faith and conflicting reason, that I finally lost the war of attrition and became an atheist. It took even longer and was only after my interactions with people who were damaged even more than I was by Faith and then with people who's experience was far less intense but just as nefarious, that I came to believe that religious indoctrination of children is inherently abusive and moreover, that it was intensely abusive to me personally.

Chris Mooney, OTOH, hates it when people say the sorts of things I said in my last sentence. Comfortable enough position to take, when one has never experienced the abusive nature of religious indoctrination. And you think that I am even capable of joining a unified message with Chris, or anyone else who believes it would be better if people with opinions such as mine, kept them to ourselves?

And quite frankly (and honestly no offense intended), you can take your moral superiority and shove it up your ass. Atheism does not make anyone morally superior to anyone else, nor does theism make anyone morally inferior to anyone else. I know a whole hell of a lot of people I would judge morally superior to others - and religion has absolutely nothing to do with that judgment. There are a lot of people, theists and otherwise, who follow a moral framework that is similar to my own and many of them manage better than I do. There are also a lot of people who behave and even fundamentally conduct their lives in a way that goes hard against the most important aspects of my moral framework - many of them theists and many of them atheists.

Never mind that those folks feel quite the same about me and my moral framework. Though that does shoot us back to the last point. Because if I can't show a unified front with Chris Mooney, who in spite of our significant difference of opinion is probably living a lifestyle that is closely aligned to my moral framework, can I be expected to be unified with someone who's moral framework is fundamentally different than my own? I disagree with Chris and cannot come to a consensus with him on some fundamental issues, but I rather like Chris and would probably enjoy hanging out with him and having dinner.

I cannot say the same about an atheist who believes that social safetynets are an infringement of their rights, that torture is ok, if it is making us safer, that the rule of law can be thrown under the bus, when push comes to shove - I could go on and on. People like this I wouldn't want to have dinner with, even if they happen to have virtually identical views to my own on religion.

But the bottom line, absolutely fundamentally fatal flaw to your line of reasoning here, is in the functional fulfillment of this goal. Because while I am sure that there are people who have made positive changes in their lives, due to the way Chris Mooney deals with religion, it wasn't a Chris Mooney who helped push me past the final blocks. Likewise, there are people who appreciate my condor and general attitude about Faith - people who are, or recently were theists, who find themselves rather intrigued by my attitude and where it comes from - they, like me, are unlikely to make the choices we would like them to, because of what a Chris Mooney - or for that matter, a PZ Myers has to say about it.

There are a lot of assholes in the world, who are assholes in much the same way that I am an asshole. And guess what? They appreciate assholes like themselves and the way we put things.

I like you and appreciate your position - I really do. But I have no interest in your homogenized, "Kumbaya," campfire fucking bullshit. We need all of us, being who we are, to affect positive change. Because when the positive change in question is an end to religion and lack of religion is the only common thread, homogenization isn't going to get us very far.

And btw, Motherfucking Canadians are going Down Eh!!!!!!!!!11!!11111!!!!!


Mike Haubrich said...

Damn! That has been one of my biggest peeves all along - that there should be a group of "designated atheists" to talk to the religious and that the rest of us should wait in the wings while they "Smooth Things Over" with the religious.

I didn't have a traumatic experience with religion growing up, in fact my parents were those sort of people who took the good parts of religion and steered us that way. We even had friends and family who were atheists and my paretns joked and laughed with them about the weird things of the Catholic and Lutheran Chuches. Okay, Mom laughed and Dad kind of laughed.

That being said, no matter how nice and warm of a religious background a person has as a child, religious training for children (especially the incessant nature of Bible School, Bible Summer School, Bible After School, Bible Release Time, First Communion Classes, Church, drone on and on and on) is a form of child abuse because it steers them intellectually before they have any defenses against such magical thinking.

Yes, there is a cacophony of atheisms, and to try to pretend that there should be a more "friendly, approachable" way to do atheism is nice to think about but incredibly naive and impossible to put into practice; because those of us left out will seethe at being patronized yet again. Also, it is intellectually dishonest to pretend that while there are friendly atheists there are no angry atheists. Many of us have a right to be angry, you know.

Me, because I see all of the problems that religion causes and not because of bad experiences that I had as a child. I liked the bumper sticker popular during the Bush Admin "IF you're not angry, you're not paying attention." (And if Obama and Holder don't start doing something about Cheney and the CIA, the bumper sticker will go back on my car.)

Chris Mooney is actually a pleasant person to have a beer with, by the way. He's just wrong on this.

Jason Thibeault said...

I'm sure I'd love to break bread with every one of you folks, probably even including Nathan Myers. I don't have any illusions that if he started arguing indefensible positions over said bread, I could keep from eventually getting up and walking away from the table, but I'd love to see whether or not he'd use the same dishonest argument tactics and "levity" to someone's face.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Hell Mike, while I don't have the bumper sticker, I probably wouldn't have taken it off...I am certainly less than hopeful now.

Jason -

I am afraid that I would probably have to give Nathan a good whack - not exactly reasonable for a dinner companion...

Learn Hexadecimal said...

I'm afraid that, as usual, we Canadians are way ahead of you.

DuWayne Brayton said...

It's on motherfucker!!!1!!!111!!1!!!

Dunc said...

Shorter Volcanoman: The world would be a much better place if everyone just agreed with me.

I notice this a lot with people who make pleas for "common understanding" - it's always someone else who has to change, and the changed desired is always that they should agree with the pleader.

D Elzinga said...

Like pleas for bipartisanship. They usually mean, "please come sign onto my agenda so we can say we all agree."