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12 April 2008

Why Atheists are so pissed off

Okay, here is a quick copy paste job. I found it to be a pretty good article that pretty much gives some reason as to why atheists are generally so pissed off about all the hypocrisy around us. ESPECIALLY when it gets to how atheists are treated. Enjoy the reading.

What is it about so-called "new" atheists that upsets so many religious apologists? Accusations about being militant and intolerant are tossed around easily, but there's no justification for them — at least no justification that would not apply equally well, if not more so, to traditional religion. It's hard to escape the conclusion that the "sin" of atheists today is that they have the temerity to speak out openly, publicly, and unapologetically. Occasionally, religious apologists are willing to admit just that.

Zeno Ferox quotes David Carlin of the Community College of Rhode Island who published an article in the June 2007 Homiletic & Pastoral Review:

The sociologically interesting thing about these anti-Christian, pro-atheism best-sellers is that they violate what has been, for most of the 20th century, an unwritten rule of American cultural good manners, namely, that you are not supposed to attack the religious beliefs of a fellow American in a public and conspicuous way....

It followed from this rule of good manners that atheists and agnostics were not allowed to attack theism in general or Christianity in particular. There was of course no law against such attacks, but for an unbeliever to attack Christianity was regarded as a great breach of courtesy.

So, atheists are accused of being disrespectful, intolerant, militant, and fundamentalists because they dare to criticize religion and theism. They aren't "new" because of any new arguments or new positions, but because they aren't willing to be silent and submissive in the face of religious — and particularly Christian — hegemony. What about the fact that the same rules of "courtesy" never applied to religious believers? David Carlin even admits that:

One notable and rather inconsistent feature of this speak-no-evil taboo was that it did not require reciprocity between theists and atheists. Atheists were expected to abstain from criticizing religion, yes, but religious believers were not expected to abstain from criticizing atheism. During the first decade or so of the Cold War, it was the most normal thing in the world for those defending the American way of life to denounce Communism as being “atheistic” or “godless.”

The implication here, of course, was that atheism is a very bad thing. And if Communism, a bad thing, was made even worse by being atheistic, then non-communist American atheists, while not perhaps as bad as their “red” cousins, must be pretty bad. Another way of putting this is to say that during the middle years of the 20th century atheists were excluded from the theistic consensus—the Judeo-Christian consensus—that dominated American cultural life. Just as African-Americans were “second-class citizens” by virtue of belonging to the “wrong” race, so atheists were second-class citizens by virtue of having wrong views on religion.

It's rare indeed to find a religious apologist admit that atheists have traditionally been "second-class citizens" and thus that religious believers benefited from unjust privileges. Usually it's atheists themselves who draw analogies to the treatment of blacks because of their race while religious apologists deny that there is any legitimate comparison whatsoever. Before you start imagining that David Carlin is actually sympathetic to atheist critiques of religion (and some indeed are), he instead seems to approve of atheists' prior situation:

Although it is too early to be sure (only time will tell), my strong suspicion is that the atheistic sellers I mentioned at the beginning of this essay mark a new stage in the history of American atheism and anti-Christianity. The atheists of America are “coming out of the closet.” They are passing from a stage of practical atheism (which is where they have been ever since the beginning of the sexual revolution) to a stage of practical-plus-theoretical atheism. That is to say, practical atheism will continue (in the form of sexual liberty, abortion, same-sex marriage, and perhaps polygamy and euthanasia) but will be supplemented by theoretical defenses of atheism and attacks upon Christianity.

If I am correct about this development, it presents both a danger and an opportunity to American Catholicism. It is obviously a danger, since it will permit pro-atheism propagandists to seduce Catholics, especially young Catholics, from the faith. Many of the bestseller attacks on Christianity, it is true, are nothing but warmed-over versions of the criticisms made in the l8th century by the likes of Voltaire and Tom Paine or of the 19th century criticisms made by “agnostics” who wielded anti-Christianity weapons manufactured out of the Darwinian theory of evolution or the German higher criticism of the Bible. Philosophically and theologically sophisticated Catholics have long since concluded that these old attacks, while superficially clever, miss the mark and leave the faith undamaged. But the typical young Catholic is not philosophically or theologically sophisticated; indeed the typical young Catholic of today is not even well informed about the contents of his/her religion.

To be fair, I can't read the entire original article so I can't be sure of what, exactly, David Carlin is trying to say. Maybe he doesn't think more highly of how atheists were expected to behave submissively before, but Zeno reads it that way and he has read the entire article. According to Zeno:

His analogy between the plights of nonbelievers and African-Americans is a red herring. He's not going to go anywhere with it. Certainly he is not going to argue that atheists should be accommodated as people with equal standing in the polity (although I presume he does extend that equality to racial minorities). No. He deeply regrets it. Rather, he is sounding the trumpet for a vigorous counterattack. He views with alarm the growth of secularism in a once “Christian nation.” Even worse, the enemy has seized the high ground and people no longer believe in a uniquely Christian America (or, more grudgingly, a Judeo-Christian America). ...

You see, atheists are anti-Christian. Christians must therefore fight them rather than try to live in neutral accommodation with them. Christians are losing the battle. The rising tide of unbelief has crested in a deluge of open secularism. ...Today's young people are too unsophisticated to resist the blandishments of secular logic and science. You have to be equipped properly if you are to fight the lure of rational thinking.

Carlin looks back nostalgically at life the way it used to be in the Catholic “ghetto,” where parochial schools protected young people from the baneful influence of liberal education in public institutions. Immersion used to be rather effective, entangling people in a web of thought that often manifested itself throughout the decades.

If this is a fair reading of David Carlin's article, then he is analogous to a person admitting that blacks were once second-class citizens who suffered bigotry and discrimination... and boy weren't those the good old days! It was better when whites were privileged and blacks knew their places, but today uppity blacks expect to be treated as equals so whites have to work harder to demonstrate that they are the superior race. If this is what Christian apologists have to offer, that's pretty sad.

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