Sunday, 18 October 2015

I don't have a problem with my atheism.

It is when one’s understanding of atheism verges out into other areas of activity and uses the word with a capital fuckin' A as a moniker along the way that I have an issue with. My atheism does not inform my convictions regarding social justice or civil rights or politics. As a matter of fact, my atheism came later than most of the development of my political thought, which, while it continues to evaluate new realities, does not look to atheism for an answer. On the contrary, the way Dick Dawkins has turned my non-belief into a pet celebrated cause has informed my thinking on these matters more than atheism itself, which is, in short, that religion and atheism are beside the main point.


Religious fundamentalists use their leaders’ interpretations of tenets from their books as an excuse to act, often with oppressive and sometimes terrifying consequences. There are those who admit that imperialist oppression fuels the latter, but insist that “the extremists will be extreme no matter what”.

I see it the other way around: The imperialists and their unwitting accomplices would fuel terrorism even if religious extremism were not a thing. Likewise, even if not for the fundamentalist Christian segment in the Americas, Europe, Asia and elsewhere, hatred toward "the other" would continue unabated. I have encountered a fair enough share of atheist misogynists, bigots, racists, and homophobes, for example.

I take the truth of the liberal trope that “they are using religion as an excuse” and place it likewise firmly on the shoulders of the “new atheists”. Much like liberals who forget this reality whenever it's politically convenient, they are all caught up in red herrings and symptoms.

I realize that when we are faced with people of influence & authority using their religion as a source to dictate to us what we should & shouldn’t do, that we must respond. But I repudiate the promotion of atheist leaders or atheist spokespeople the same way I reject leaders in general. Except insofar as the attribute is incidental to the title — leader who happens to be atheist — the concept itself is nonsensical.

Maybe I am picking a nit, but I find that mixing terminology in that way is a slippery slope towards “authority”, seeks to spin a state of mind into a movement, and negates the meaning of atheism by turning it into theism of a material sort. That's religion in a nutshell.

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The Pope, John Wayne, and Hitler are getting on a bus. As the Pope attempts to pass the driver neither showing senior's pass nor dropping coinage for the single fare, the driver holds him up with the tenor of the clearing of his throat and a, "Ticket, please."

The Pope's graceful smile betrays a hint of condescension. "I am the infallible Holy Pontiff, respected representative of well-over a billion Catholics around the globe. Anyway, I don't have pockets," comes the reply, and he blesses the driver with a sign of the cross and moves to the back of the bus, taking a seat.

He is followed by John Wayne, who likewise attempts to pass ignoring the driver who, as with the Pope, stalls the actor's obliviousness by asking him to show his ticket or pay the fare.

John Wayne contemplates the confrontation with a shift from one foot to the other and then squares himself with the driver and boasts, "I am an iconic American hero, representative of the greatest generation as well symbol of the taming of the savage frontier. I don't ask you to compensate me for my service and I sure as hell ain't gonna pay for a ride." He saunters to the back of the bus and takes a place just near enough the Pope to be able to sit with his legs spread wide apart.

Next comes Hitler.

[alternative addendum::]
The driver takes one look at the Führer and, annoyed, waves him past with a, "Oh, Jesus. Just go!"

The rhetorical moral of this tale is, if you can't stop the Pope or John Wayne, how you gonna stop Hitler?

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Happy Sunday, everybody!