And I fell into a rant… Please pardon this off-topic diversion. I’m almost certainly going to get myself into trouble with this, but I don’t care. I’m sick of being harassed by twits of all stripes. (Do go listen to the song at that link; it’s a very fun bit of silly modern Klezmer by a really brilliant performer.)
I’ve mentioned around here that I’m Jewish. I don’t actually talk about what I believe – but I’ve mentioned the fact that I am a religious, theistic, reconstructionist Jew.
Every time I mention my Judaism, I get two related clumps of email. One of them is from Christians, who feel a deep need to tell about how my beliefs are all wrong, and I desperately need to listen to them tell me about Jesus. And the other clump is from atheists, who feel a deep need to tell me about how my beliefs are all wrong, and I desperately need to listen to them tell me about why there is no god. I don’t know quite why, but this seems to have gotten worse since we launched scientopia; even though my average daily pageview rate is down by about 50%, the number of preachy emails I’m getting from both christians and atheists is up by about 30%.
It’s really fascinating to realize just how similar those two groups are. My personal theory is that we’re all living in a strongly christian-influenced culture, and (perhaps without realizing it), a lot of the preachy atheists have absorbed some very christian attitudes towards worldviews and beliefs.
For both the fundie christians and the pushy atheists, it’s not enough to know what they believe. It’s not enough for them to be absolutely certain that they’re correct. If other people don’t agree with them, regardless of what those other people think, regardless of whether those other people are interested in listening, they must go out and aggressively convert people. You must listen. You must be convinced. Anything less than perfect agreement is more than just disagreement – it’s like it’s a personal affront.
There’s another major common thing between the fundies and the pushy atheists: it’s how they approach the non-believers/believers. When a christian twit comes to preach at you, they always firmly believe that you’ve never really heard of christianity. They really believe that no other christian has ever approached you before; that all they need to do is lay out the reasons why you should accept Jesus, and if you listen honestly, that you’ll believe it too. They’re repeating the same thing that any non-christian has heard a thousand times before. But they really, genuinely believe that they’re the first one to bring their arguments to you. Because the argument is so powerful, so self-evident, that if you’d ever heard it before, you’d be a fundie just like them!
That’s exactly the attitude that I get from the pushy preachy atheists who pepper my email. It’s the same anti-theism arguments, over and over again. But they’re always presented as if they’re something dramatic and new, something that I’ve never heard before, and if I’ll just listen to them, I’ll drop my religion and become an atheist just like them. It’s the same as the christians. They’re rehashing the same exact arguments that I’ve heard a thousand times before, but they’re absolutely sure that there is no chance at all that I’ve ever heard it before. Because if I had – well, it’s such a powerful, obvious argument, it’s so self-evident, that if I’d heard it before, I’d be an atheist.
One more similarity that I’ve seen between the fundy christians and the pushy atheists: they’re both awfully selective about their self-definitions – they both pull the “no true scotsman” gambit.
If you talk to a christian about, say, the holocaust, they’ll say that the Nazi’s weren’t really christian. The crusaders who raped and pillaged their way across Europe? Not really christian. The inquisitioners, who tortured and killed all of those innocent people in the name of christianity? Not really christian. Tim
McVeigh? Not really christian. Anyone who’s ever done anything bad? Not really
christian. But man, those damned muslims and atheists – look at how many
people they’ve murdered! They’re evil, pure evil!
And the atheists? Same damn thing. One of the atheists who persistently peppers my mailbox every time I mention my Judaism has repeatedly said “Only religious people blow themselves up, there are no atheist suicide bombers”. I pointed out a number of purely secular groups that have used suicide bombers. “They’re not really atheists; just because they’re part of a secular movement doesn’t mean that they’re atheists”. How do you know that they’re not atheists? “Because only religious people blow themselves up.” Wait, isn’t that circular? “No, because atheists are rational, and blowing yourself up is irrational, therefore if you blow yourself up, you’re not an atheist”.
Same stupid argument: People like me are good and reasonable; anyone who isn’t good and reasonable can’t be like me. It doesn’t matter what they say they think. It doesn’t matter what they say they believe. I know better – if they do something that I don’t like, then they’re not part of my group.
One final thing that they have in common. They both see the flaws in the other group, but not in themselves. Fundy christians will endlessly whine about how the pushy atheists are just reiterating the same arguments that they’ve heard before. Pushy atheists will complain about how the christians use the no-true-scotsman crap. Fundies will complain about how the atheists push their worldview on everyone else whether they’re interested or not; the pushy atheists will complain about how the christian push their religion on everyone else whether they’re interested or not.
I don’t have any problem with atheists, any more than I have a problem with christians, or muslims, or other Jews. What I have a problem with is people who feel compelled to harass me because I don’t believe the same thing that they do. I’m not interested in being converted to christianity; I’m also not interested in being convinced to abandon my beliefs and become an atheist. I’ve got my own beliefs, which I believe for me own reason, in my own way. I don’t push them on you; so don’t push yours on me.
In short, if you’re one of the dumbasses who keeps sending me crap about why my beliefs are wrong? Shut up. I don’t care who you are, or what you do or do not believe. I’m not interested. My email isn’t the right place to talk about it.