From time to time, I do receive comments/fan mail with regards to my specific posts; Christians, agnostics and other philosophical creeds drop me a note, telling me how well, or in some instances, how crappy my writings are.
The truth is, I appreciate fan mail. I really do, and it is heartening for me, not from a solipsistic point of view, that people are actually thinking about religion and not taking things at face value. The purpose of this blog is, after all, to give a different perspective of religion from a different point of view.
Good reviews aside, I take negative or sometimes ad hominem comments seriously; I am only human, and humans err, and I stand to be corrected if I have made an error on my part. Sometimes, Christians or religious folks send comments to address a whole spectrum of issues, and I regret to say that so far I have not been able to address a majority of them on my blog.
At this point, I would like to address one of the readers, who happens to call himself/herself a "Child of God" (Makes me wonder if this is Jesus I am actually addressing to!).
"Child of God" Replies
In addressing my previous post, "Of Talking Snakes and Talking Asses", "Child of God" takes aim at atheism's anti-religious stance:
"You "atheists" really aren't who you claim to be. You claim not to beleive in God, but all you do is talk about him. You know, there are plenty of gods out there and other religions other than christianity, so I don't understand why you would want to talk so much about something you supposedly don't beleive in. I don't beleive in getting drunk. So I don't do it. I don't go around talking about getting drunk all the time, that's just stupid. Just like the atheist religion. Lol...yea, that's right. You have found yourself in a religion here...something you speak against? Haha. Hypocrosy is a terrible thing."
To sum up his or her arguments:
1. One should not talk about God if one does not believe in God.
2. This blog only criticizes Christianity and pretty much nothing else is ever addressed.
3. Atheism is a religion.
4. Hypocrisy is a "terrible thing".
A Non-Sequitur Argument
Right off the bat, Child of God makes a fallacious, non-sequitur accusation: He or she insinuates that in order to talk about God, one must believe in God. If that were true, children's book authors must therefore believe in fairies to write about fairies for their juvenile clients!
Of course, Christianity is not the only religion I have addressed: Islam has also been touched on even if it has been regarded as a strictly taboo subject, and I have written about Scientology, Fengshui and a whole host of other religions and their respective charlatans. It is only with regards to Christianity and Judaism that I am capable of dissecting their holy books in such exquisite detail; I come from a Baptist background, so the bible is certainly not alien to me.
"Child of God" uses a very weird analogy to define the atheist stance: A person who doesn't get sloshed out on alcohol should not be harping about the ill-effects of alcohol abuse. This may be the case, but if you have a close relation or friend who is an alcoholic addict, or if you are an ex-abuser of alcohol yourself, wouldn't you want to help others who have trotted down the same path as you had?
The reason why atheists talk about religion most of the time (well, not all the time; I do talk about human rights issues, for example. I am sure atheists are not all inept and dull and dreary to repeat the same drivel on religion!) has more or less got to do with the intrusive, abrasive nature of religion and their legions of believers. Ideally, beliefs, be it religious or philosophical stances and dogmas, are personal stances that constitutes part and parcel of what secularists deem as human rights. In layman's terms, you have your right to belief, and no one should be able to stop you from your right to belief.
That right of belief, however, does not entail the following:
1. The right to force or shove down your beliefs down the throats of others through intimidation, threats, or violence of any sort.
2. The right to infringe upon secular government or education to endorse your unscientific, baseless beliefs.
3. The right to get tax-free relief to uphold your religious belief.
For example, you may believe in the existence of elves. No one can stop you. Sure, some folks might snigger about your odd little belief behind your backs, and some people might even make snide remarks in front of you, but no one should be telling you, or even enforcing any rule of law, to stop you from believing in anything, regardless of ridicule.
That said, you cannot demand that your odd little belief be turned into standard curriculum in government schools, nor should you be forcing secular government institutions to endorse your quaint beliefs.
The reason why atheists feel aggrieved is this: Religious folks want to have the cake and eat it whole: They want us to respect their beliefs, but they have no qualms when it comes to criticizing other creeds, such as gays, lesbians and atheists. They want to enact laws to limit the rights of other groups, such as gay marriages and in some countries, the right to sex between two consensual, adult same-sex partners. They have lobby groups which attempt to discredit Science and other forms of secular education, while at the same time trying their darnest best to smuggle quasi-religious topics, such as Creationism and Intelligent Design, under the veneer of "alternative Science" or other equivalents into secular education programs.
And on the worst possible end of the spectrum, religious folks are quite inclined to commit violence on the hopes of getting prime tickets for a seat in paradise: Muslim males, driven by the horny desire to screw 72 virgins in heaven, are often too willing to subject themselves to indoctrination and subsequent martyrdom, and in the process killing scores of innocent people in their quest for a piece of the divine. This is religious mayhem and genocide at its worst.
Is Atheism a Religion?
If only it was true: Atheism lacks the decisive, cohesive trait to form any sort of institution like what the Christians and other theists do not find lacking. As a result, herding atheists is kind of like herding cats, and it gets worst when one of the basic, well-acknowledged fundamentals with regards to secular free thinking encourages independent thought.
To call atheism a religion is kind of an oxy-moron in any case; there is no elaborate religious ceremony (such as the Eucharist), no deity, no enigmatic figure (some religious folks may concur that Richard Dawkins is some sort of a mythical high priest of atheism; I find this to be more of a tribute to the great work of the scientist than anything symbolic) and no united philosophy or common ground other than a distinctive absence of belief in any form of deities or the supernatural.
Is Atheism Hypocritical?
It depends on how you see it. If you believe that our beliefs are religious in nature, you'd probably call us hypocrites of the worst possible nature for denying the religious aspects of atheism.
That said, atheists do have their own beliefs, but it doesn't stem from atheism: I am an atheist based on one single premise that I do not believe in God. I am also a secular humanist, a communist sympathizer (No, I am not a communist. Frankly, I think communism is not practical), and most importantly, I advocate Science because it works (for good and for bad). These are my core set of beliefs, and I do not expect every atheist to share all my beliefs and with it, my opinions. We atheists are too individualistic to behave like androids, or sheep in a farmer's pen.
Most atheists are not overtly offended by personal belief, as long as it stays personal and does not infringe upon the rights of others. Most of us don't have a tendency to judge other folks, no matter how absurd their beliefs may be, but all it takes is a flying circus of religious hucksters, murderous barbaric hordes of criminals eviscerating themselves in the name of God, to get us into an angry frenzy of words and denounciations. And even then, we don't generally bear arms, nor do we go on a spate of riots to prove our points.
Atheism in a Nutshell
While it is very easy to lambast "Child of God" for his somewhat lob-sided comments, I do appreciate this opportunity to highlight the misconceptions of atheism, and also the level of mistrust against atheists in general.
To sum it all up, atheists are folks who simply do not believe in your God, or anyone else's God. All we ask for is to keep your religion to yourselves, and in the process of doing so, try doing away with the flying grenades, time bombs and the occasional torture.
One Less God = No Gods?
"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."Stephen Roberts