Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Repost: What are atheist apologists afraid of?


Hemant Mehta happens to be one of my favorite atheists. I visit his blog “The Friendly Atheist” at least once a day religiously. http://friendlyatheist.com/

The other day he posted an article about a North Carolina atheist group who won the right to post a sign (see above) adjacent to a Christmas display on city property. You can read it more clearly here: http://friendlyatheist.com/page/2/

While most of his readership approved of the sign and commended the organization for it’s commitment to not acquiesce to this Christian need for implicit governmental endorsement by promoting their beliefs on public property; some of them were less than fully supportive. Here are some of those comments:
  • “… a lot of those ignorant people will react immediately with anger, not curious thoughtfulness, when they see this” ... “I’m still undecided on how I feel about this.”

  • “I like the message on the sign. However, since it mentions “mythological gods” in reference to Jesus, people will be utterly outraged.”

  • “… it sounds to me as though it’s saying “No stupid, Jesus isn’t the reason it gets cold in winter – that’s because of the axial tilt”, as if religious people are beyond understanding that (when in fact, it’s not what religious people are saying anyway)). I don’t like it at all.”

  • “I think the holiday displays should be inspirational and could do without the lesson.”
    “[atheist’s] confrontational messages can sometimes come across as being snippy or negative….”

Yes, some theists will react with anger. Yes, it implies Jesus is just one of many gods man has honored on Dec 25 and that they are all mythical. Yes, it clearly states Xmas was co-opted from pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Yes, it could be interpreted as confrontational; and the mindless who intentionally deny history and object to realty may well be offended. So what?

And if Christians need to draw “inspiration” from illuminated plastic statues in a publicly owned arena, then their “faith” is pretty damn weak. I have no obligation to underwrite their inspiration. They can draw their inspiration from plastic religious displays on private property, thank you.

Exactly what are these ambivalent atheists so tentative about? Is documentable truth so painful that it must go on tip toe so as to avoid bruising the sensibilities of the deluded who demand their religion be given special governmental endorsement by singular placement on public property? Is a believer’s potential offense by the secular sign more valued and more worthy of respect and sensitivity than my offense at their religious intrusion on property I pay to support?

Do we really need to worry about appearing “snippy” to theists lest they might think ill of atheists and condemn us as immoral, unethical, godless communists unworthy to hold public office and seeking to destroy the country? Oh, wait… they already do that!

Sure, let the apologizing and accomodating atheists wring their hands over possibly offending the willfully ignorant with a truthful statement on the origin of the holiday season. Maybe when the annual Holocaust denier convention comes around the same weak kneed atheists should scorn any attempts to offset the haters' denial and ignorance with truth and reality, lest it injure the sensibilities of the anti-Semites.

I love that atheist group's sign. There should be one where ever religionists seek to use public property to promote their beliefs. No apologies necessary.


Dromedary Hump said...

Joel has left a new comment on your post "What are atheist apologists afraid of?":

It's interesting that the sign says "4th century AD" rather than 4th century CE. The use of Anno Domini (year of our lord) is one of my peeves. CE (Common Era) is much more descriptive, accurate and inclusive. AD has no meaning except to Christians. Maybe they chose to use AD so their target audience could understand.

Dromedary Hump said...

Angel has left a new comment on your post "What are atheist apologists afraid of?":

It always makes me smile when literalist Christians scream about their freedom to post their ... stuff... all over public property and then howl in indignation when a pagan or atheist tries to use the same laws to post their own views. Sweet justice. You can't pick and choose what form of speech is protected unless you explain exactly who the speaker is and why you'd like to protect them. And once their denomination of faith is made public .. well... the shit hits the fan.

Somebody's always going to end up pissed off and affronted that they're not being surrounded by everything that THEIR religion stands for.

Sheesh. Go build another compound out in Texas and be happy.

Posted by Angel to Atheist Camel at December 22, 2009 7:08 PM

Dromedary Hump said...

Dromedary Hump has left a new comment on your post "What are atheist apologists afraid of?":

Good observation..i missed that.
Likely you're correct about the target audience. Theres a good chance some large percentage of Xtians wouldn't even know what CE was.

And with 76% of US citizens being Christians their claim that they are being persecuted...thats even more messed up.
But worst of all are those atheists who just don't want to offend them by challenging them to their face. That really disgusts me.

Posted by Dromedary Hump to Atheist Camel at December 22, 2009 8:19 PM

Dromedary Hump said...

NewEnglandBob has left a new comment on your post "What are atheist apologists afraid of?":

I think we need to increasingly rub theists faces in their hypocrisies and get them angry enough that they begin to use critical thinking. Women's rights started slow and small and expanded until laws were changed and rights were given. The same happened to civil rights and is now happening for gay rights. Fifteen percent of the population are non-believers and around 25% do not belong to organized religion. These numbers will increase over time.

Make as much noise as you can and attract attention. Rational, logical and critical thinking are replacing religious dogma. There will always be fanatics and fundagelicals but they will eventually become a minority and will be frowned upon for their backward thinking.

Most people would not choose religion if it had not been force fed to them from infancy onward while pervasive in their environment. Education and science will help change that along with the rising voices of (political) "New" atheism.

Posted by NewEnglandBob to Atheist Camel at December 22, 2009 9:15 PM

Dromedary Hump said...

Kris D has left a new comment on your post "What are atheist apologists afraid of?":

I live in the triangle area of NC, and I love that the Solstice Display is there. It's gotten news coverage locally, and so far, nobody has defaced the sign, which is kind of amazing. Not that we're not ready for that - the Freethinkers thought ahead and have backup signage ;)

Posted by Kris D to Atheist Camel at December 22, 2009 9:29 PM

eileen said...

The sign seems quite tasteful to me (Xian) and I really get a kick out of the point regarding the earth's axial tilt.
In fact I might change the occasions where I'd use Seasons Greetings to 'Have a Festive Axial Tilt!'
And then to celebrate we could all get slightly tilted together. ;)

Beyond Belief said...

Very good points, NE Bob.

Educating an individual on any subject is never a bad thing. We should all strive to further our education. While it may harm a theist’s religious ego, it will inevitably lead to further discussion. From an atheist point of view, an exchange of factual knowledge is only a good thing. While some theists will cover their ears and hide their eyes, others may find a seed of doubt planted, leading them to investigate the claims of their chosen faith. After all, the greatest evidence against religion is reason.

Darren said...

Thanks for the coverage, Hump! I'm a member of the group and am scheduled to do a driveby in the morning to check for damage (we're prepared for the worst and hoping for the best).

I admit that, like one of the referenced commenters, I had reservations about the "axial tilt" section since the snarky bumper sticker phrase didn't really mesh with the professionalism of the rest of the sign, but overall I think it's a pretty kick-ass piece of work!

Dromedary Hump said...

Kick ass indeed... you guys ROCK!!
As far as I am concerned, being snarky is an atheist sacrament ;)

Keep up the good work!!

Angel said...

Literalist Christians putting their hands over their ears and singing La La La La LA! as loudly as they can is pretty darn irritating.

I reviewed this book: The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark A. Noll

... and found that while a Christian author is capable of picking out some pretty damning stuff to talk about within their own religion of choice they are also just as guilty of slamming their mind shut on the most basic stuff. Oh, I don't know... like praising Martin Luther.

As I said in my blog review of the book: "This is a man who championed murdering Jews in Germany and killing off Muslims when he couldn't convert them. And Luther chastised parents who didn't properly educate their children. (say what?!!) I have never found Luther to be spoken of as very big on educating the masses. Quite the opposite. According to the author, Luther was "horrified" to find that his name was now synonymous with a new branch of Christianity. Couldn't have been too horrified since he wrote all the new catechisms himself and even quite a number of hymns!"

Selective open mindedness. It's maddening.

The AD/CE tidbit was especially interesting, Hump. I had always known that CE was a secular term but it really didn't hit me until Joel commented on it just how their choice of wording could be construed. I think Joel could possibly be right though, in that they chose AD so their target audience could understand.

Hump: "But worst of all are those atheists who just don't want to offend them by challenging them to their face. That really disgusts me."

So what do we call them? Wimpy? PC-Atheists? Closet Atheists? Your guess is as good as mine, as are your suggestions.

Getting into a fistfight over the Christmas turkey wouldn't be very friendly, though. But there are some jackasses who would push it that far just to 'prove' that they're right. (Xian &/or atheist)

Proper time and place, I guess. That is a tricky question. When IS the right time?

Celebrating on the solstice is a great idea. Hearing the Christmas music the next four or five days AFTER your celebration, though, can get a bit unnerving.

Dromedary Hump said...


But Martin Luther did give us a great quote that I often cite:
"Reason is the enemy of Faith."

and he was 100% right... just that once.

I call those lilly livered appeasing atheists... "Uncle Tom Atheists."

Angel said...

"Reason is the enemy of Faith."

Exactly. That is precisely the attitude Mark Noll turned a blind eye to. In that regard I'll call him what he is: a simpering sycophant.

Aqueous Transmission said...

good discussion :)

Aqueous Transmission said...

Hump You ever read the book Ishmael.. By Dan Quinn... if you haven't i think you would like it..

Dromedary Hump said...

Aqu ( you changed your name, yes?)

I've heard of Quinn's Ishmael, it's been a round a while. I'm not big on novels / fiction, but based on your recommendation I'll add it to my list. Thanks.

Tidalgrrrl said...

Thanks for such a great post, Hump! I clicked on the original link and was very upset until I realized it had been reposted.

This is an important one for atheists to read, especially the apologists who refuse to be honestly direct with delusional Xtians when it impacts public space and freedom of speech.

Dromedary Hump said...

Thanks Tidal...

This weak kneeded approachtoward theists for fear of being ostracized just makes no sense to me. I see it like 1940's Jews being afraid to speak out against the nazis even while they know they are going to be persecuted and condemned by them.

Lets face it...its not like we are hurting our reputation with theists.