Ask An Athiest Day

Today is, apparently, the National (as in USA) Ask An Atheist Day.

As an atheist, this somewhat perplexes me. I’m not one hundred percent certain what would be the point of someone asking me anything about atheism. Actually, I’m not even 47% certain.

The SSA (Secular Students Association) website says: “National Ask An Atheist Day (April 13th) is an opportunity for secular groups across the country to work together to defeat stereotypes about atheism and encourage courteous dialogue between believers and non believers alike.  The event is intended to be an opportunity for the general public – particularly people of faith – to approach us and ask questions about secular life.”

Maybe this kind of thing makes more sense in a country like the United States of America where religion is a more hotly debated issue. I wasn’t aware there was a problem with stereotypes about atheism. I wasn’t aware there were even any stereotypes.  What would those be?

  • We’re middle-class and college-educated
  • We’re all immoral hedonists
  • We sacrifice Christian babies to Darwin
  • We all think the idea of God is kind of silly
  • We’re generally jerks to Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to our doors

Well, some of those are more or less true, so they’re not really stereotypes.

Further, I don’t really understand the purpose of an association like the SSA. For me, being an atheist means living my life without religion being a consideration. Atheist groups are beginning give me the feeling of bands of thugs intent on bullying people who don’t share the same beliefs.

Even the term “belief” rubs me the wrong way when talking about atheism. Atheism is, pretty much literally, a lack of belief. But more and more it feels like it’s become a defined set of rules to live by. Where atheism used to mean simply not believing in God, it’s becoming a rallying cry to attack people with religious beliefs. It’s developed it’s own dogma. In short, it’s become a religion unto itself.

I, frankly, can’t be bothered to care enough about the idea of God to criticize someone for believing in it. I harbour a suspicion many of today’s so-called atheists are actually agnostics who are uncomfortable with the idea there may or may not be a God and perhaps also harbour a bitterness towards specific religious people in their upbringing.

I equate them with homophobes whose hatred of gays stems from being a bit gay themselves but are unable to admit it. Most people who are truly straight, and completely comfortable with their sexuality, don’t care if someone else is gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or into Martians. The feeling I get from the most vocal militant atheists these days is that they’re not actually atheists at all—they’re closeted spiritualists.

They need to believe in something but can’t swallow the idea of a man on a cloud with a white beard and that angers them. This even applies to some of the big names in modern atheism like Richard Dawkins. Methinks you doth protest too much.

If there needs to be a point to it—and I don’t think there does—isn’t the whole idea behind being atheist  not having to explain your lack of beliefs?

But if you still feel the need to ask me something today, here’s some answers about my secular life:

  • I had a double Americano this morning. It was heavenly.
  • I’m wearing pink today in support of anti-homophobic bullying initiatives.
  • I’m breaking in a new pair of Doc Martens. It’s a hellish experience.
  • I live with my girlfriend, two cats and a rat (and hopefully nothing else).
  • My favourite musical is Jesus Christ Superstar.
  • I’m a little annoyed the Library website is down.

15 Responses to Ask An Athiest Day

  1. Jason says:

    I understand your desire to be a non-aggressive atheist, but the problem is that there are very aggressive religious folk. We cannot allow the rules of society to be dictated by religious beliefs. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be an issue. In the real world, the religious right consistently tries to legislate its brand of morality — which in many instances is barbaric. A call to aggressive atheism is a call to promoting secular humanism.

    • mrdapper says:

      Like I said, maybe it makes more sense in a country like the USA.

      I still disagree from a philosophical standpoint. I don’t think Atheist/Religious should be the focus of the debate.

      Yes, “religious” people have a certain political agenda. But they probably would have the same agenda without religion. A person who is anti-abortion is probably more of that belief due to a “gut feeling” than a religious conviction. Remove God from the picture and you’d still have anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-whatever beliefs they would try to put into law.

      The all to Atheism seems to me to have the potential to muddy the issue. To take the arguement away from whether a human being should have the right to govern their own body, to a more abstracted sphere. That is, it plays right into the hands of agressive religious lobbyists by making the issue one of beliefs and not one of personal liberty and rational law-making.

      • Greg says:

        Not to put to fine a point on it, but a call to secular humanism is a call to secular humanism. Atheism, militant or otherwise, distracts from the conversation … if a call to secular humanism is actually the point.

        As for social issues, and maybe homophobia is a different thing, but the most homophobic people I have encountered in my life were non-religious. I suspect that being free from any sort of “golden rules” (at least dogmatically) made it that much easier to express violent hatred.

        Of course, that is not to say that Christianity gets a pass. I have questions for the church, and I usually don’t get answers. It’s just relatively unlikely that someone at church is going to slash my tires for asking such questions.
        I don’t think I’ll ask those questions in an Oklahoma sports bar, though. Call me a coward.

  2. Jonny says:

    Above all, I’m a hypocrite. But beyond that I consider myself an atheist most of the time, with the occasional natural wonder of whether the idea of a supreme being is possible, but then I get bored and go back to no beliefs.

    Well, I believe in justice, but that’s just the idealistic law student in me popping up to say hello.

    Fun fact: I was on one of those There’s Probably No God buses last year and Jesus Walks by Kanye West came on my iPod. I got funny looks when I started chuckling to myself.

  3. Pete says:

    Sorry not buying it.

    Loud atheists are merely closeted spiritualists?

    On the other hand you’re happy to wear pink as a stand against social injustices enabled by ignorance?

    Nah, I reckon you’re actually a homophobe who is protesting too much.

    • mrdapper says:

      I stand by my assertion. I take your offence as proof you’re not a true atheist (if you do in fact claim to be one). True atheists don’t care if people call them agnostics. It’d be like being offended someone said you believe in Mickey Mouse.

      And for the record, I’m more “homo” than “homophobe.”

      • Pete says:

        Erm, you can take my “offence” as “proof” of whatever you like.

        Although looking at the last sentence of your reply it’s clear that I haven’t expressed myself very clearly as you’ve completely missed the point of what I was trying to say.

        Your argument of “I’m not bothered by it, therefore anyone who CLAIMS to be bothered by it is clearly being insincere and clearly secretly a believer” is basically a huge steaming pile of horse s**t.

        I mean (sarcasm alert) I’m not personally affected by homophobia and don’t really give a crap what people get up to in their own bedrooms. Therefore all these people wearing pink in order to show support of anti-homophobic bullying initiatives are merely protesting too much and are secretly roaming the streets at night looking for gay people to beat up.

        Please excuse the reductio ad absurdum but it’s basically the same argument you used in your article with different subject matter.

        And no, I don’t get offended if people call me agnostic, any more than I do when people accuse me of thinking “Twilight” is a really good movie. It’s equally nonsensical.

      • mrdapper says:

        The line in the post you refer to is “I harbour a suspicion many of today’s so-called atheists are actually agnostics who are uncomfortable with the idea there may or may not be a God and perhaps also harbour a bitterness towards specific religious people in their upbringing.” An important word to note in the sentence is “many”, I didn’t say “all.” That would be an absurd generalization.

        I’m speaking of the most rabid, militant atheists. The ones who really seem to hate people of faith. The ones who uncomprehendingly (to me) lash out at people who believe in a deity. I don’t understand why someone who claims to be an atheist would care if another person believes in a god or gods. Perhaps my comparisson to the psychology of homophobia was loaded and intended to inspire a reaction, but I’d rather give a person the benefit of the doubt and say they have a “hang up” about religion and aren’t just hateful people.

        Also, of course not all homophobes are closeted homosexuals. That would also be a neat little simple world to live in if it were true.

        There’s many reasons, of course, for atheists to criticize religion. I’m thinking of issues related to abortion or the rights for gays to marry. I fully support anyone’s right to say “Your religion, which I do not share, should not govern my life and my body.” But that’s not what I was talking about. I was talking about atheists who belittle the intelligence of people of faith and try to “reason” them into “seeing the light” and realizing that God doesn’t exist.

        I see now, that point isn’t expressed quite clearly enough in my original post.

        And my previous reply to you was a tad snarky, but I generally meant it in jest.

        I can’t believe you like Twilight. 😉

    • Pete says:

      Fair play.

      I was reading stuff into the article that wasn’t actually there I guess.

      Twilight? Quality piece of film-making 😀

  4. cohnee says:

    I describe myself as a Apathetic Agnostic:

    ‘Apathetic agnosticism (also called pragmatic agnosticism) is the view that thousands of years of debate have neither proven, nor dis-proven, the existence of one or more deities (gods). This view concludes that even if one or more deities exist, they do not appear to be concerned about the fate of humans. Therefore, their existence has little impact on personal human affairs and should be of little theological interest.’ – ()

    I would add that anything that we could describe as a deity is likely working on a level of thought WAY above what we can convive, that it’s pointless trying to even know what they are thinking.

    • cohnee says:

      My link to wikipedia seems to have attached itself to the 3rd block of text.

    • mrdapper says:

      Sounds kinda like Star Trek to me. Which is fundamentally why I don’t believe in the concept of deities. I don’t need proof. The idea is absurd.

      But kudos to anyone who can entertain the notion.

  5. Mandi says:

    I don’t believe in any god than requires me to get up early on weekends.

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