In Defense of Atheism

Greta Christina recently published her book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless. Although I have not read it yet, I think I have a good idea of what it is about because I have read her blog posts on these topics, as well as those of her atheist inferiors like Chris Stedman. She has been an inspiration not just to me but to atheist activists around the world, and her clear critique of religion is a sharp, nuanced, and on-the-money argument for why we need more direct criticism of religion, not less.

As open atheists, we’ve all heard the usual “Sh*t Religious People Say”. Especially for those involved in the wave of secular activism that is exploding in influence and numbers in this country and society, we’ve all heard complaints about supposed atheist anger, confrontation, activism, passion, etc. All the time we are told to “tone down our voices” and to “win over people in nonoffensive ways”.

Part of why Greta Christina’s message is so powerful is that she outrightly declares that our movement, which has been enormously successful so far, will be most impactful when we don’t censor ourselves, when we don’t “catch more flies with honey” (Who the hell wants flies anyways?), and when we channel real legitimate anger into a force that will change the world.

Atheists are not angry for the sake of it. We’re angry because we care deeply about this world, and all the inhabitants in it. “We aren’t angry because there’s something wrong with us. We’re angry because there’s something right with us.”

We’re angry because the untestability, unverifiability of religion is what makes it uniquely capable of grotesque immorality and unbelievable disconnect from reality. It’s what makes religion unlikely to promote open, liberal societies. It’s been 2000+ years, for heavens sake. We are sick of watching this world go by like this. We don’t want to see people suffer and wallow in delusion anymore. We want to see this end. 

And yes, we want to be respected, too. Rather than being criticized all the time for being angry or confrontational, we want society to actually listen to our arguments and criticisms about why religion is wrong. We want people to consider that maybe, just maybe, atheists have things to be legitimately angry about. We want people to consider that maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t with atheism or atheists, but with religion.

Of course, we want the same rights and treatment as religious people in this society. Whether that means opposing faith-based initiatives or taxing churches, standing up for people like Jessica Ahlquist or fighting to improve our status as the most distrusted minority in America, we will work hard to be respectful members of society. We will condemn hate and bigotry, but we will never ever compromise the truth.

We will walk hand-in-hand with our brothers and sisters to make this world a better place. We want to continue to fully and unconditionally support the goals of the LGBTQ and feminist community. Atheists want to organize in ways never done before, whether that means supporting closeted atheist clergy members, volunteering as a group at a homeless shelter, or raising millions of dollars for Doctors Without Border or for the fight against cancer. Instead of being bullied, threatened, or discriminated against, we want to be integral parts of YOUR community.

And yes, we want to be able to spread our values. We want to organize events like Reason Rally as a celebration of what we’ve accomplished so far. We want politicians to come to these events to acknowledge that we are citizens too, that the separation of church and state actually means something, and that we don’t just have a voice, but a vote. We want to feel and be empowered to navigate this world in loving and supportive communities, to know that we belong and that there are a lot more of us than the religious would like to acknowledge.

My defense of atheism is not about epistemology or science. That argument has gone and passed. It’s over. And it’s been over for a long time. My defense of atheism is about our collective humanist values. We love this world too.  And sometimes, just sometimes, and maybe, just maybe, we do a better job than most people give us credit for.

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Posted on March 20, 2012, in Humanism, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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