Its an assumption we might as well take for fact, that if one were to see a man preaching his foolproof method of avoiding alcoholism while proceeding to get entirely trashed, one would assume something wrong with the method, and certainly something wrong with the man. That much would be an easy reaction. The exceedingly difficult – if not impossible – reaction would be to ignore the incongruity of the drunken man, and to follow his method of abstinence. (Actually, it’s just plain difficult to follow any method of abstinence, but you see my point.)
Perhaps you are only drowsy, not drunk, or perhaps you are simply ill-represented. But Atheism – dear Atheism – the world cannot help but see you in the position of this drunk puritan, or the priest with a mistress, or the vegan, granola-crunching hipster who smokes menthols. It’s the incongruities that are killing your street creds.
For instance, you’ve taken the noble and true stance of laughing at Creationists. (This – to some extent – is a national past-time that atheists and Catholics can get down with.) “What narrow interpretation of the Bible! What embarrassingly literal reading of a text that is clearly in the style of poetry and story!” you cry, and the world nods with you. In this you shine, truly standing against ignorance and idiocy. Indeed, I believe you must recognize this, given that such a large portion of your literature, memes, advertising, jokes, and general culture seem focused on this debate that is not a debate.
It is awkward then, that when you’ve finished saying “I can’t believe you think the world is 6000 years old because it’s in the Bible,” you turn and, often in the same breath, say, “Look how awful your God is! It’s right there in the Bible!” You want to have your cake, and eat Catholics too. But the inconsistency isn’t helping you. If you want to mock some one for not taking into account the obvious poetic context of the Creation Stories, you cannot then ignore the obvious historical context of the Old Law. Well you can, but then you’ve given any one who can comprehend an ‘if…then…’ statement free reign to mock you. Which I can.
Likewise, and similarly, and excellently, atheism is in the habit of calling out Christians who make stupid, emotional or stupidly emotional appeals for the existence of God. Observe the girl – OK, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, that’s sexist – observe the guy who makes a YouTube video explaining, “God is real, I can prove this because I was praying the other day and I felt his love.” Or the tract that reads “The Bible is true because the Bible is the Word of God”, or the preacher who confronts you and cries, “How can you not believe in God? Look! Right here in Romans it says…” Or the lady who claims to know God exists because He answers her prayers.
Atheism does the world a great service when they kindly mention to these folks that such things are within the realms of personal experience and pre-conceived conception, and do not hold weight in a logical debate. It’s especially helpful to the Catholic, because later, when the Pentecostal we’re arguing with wants to say, “But God hasn’t told me that contraception is bad!” they might think of your lightly ironic comment on their YouTube video, and be staid.
Given that, this is really awkward. To quote my friend who shared this video with me “Now I know it’ll be hard to sit through the whole thing because you might already be on the ground laughing but the last 45 seconds are the best.”
Now the non-existence of God seems to me to be of minor concern when compared to the non-existence of that gentleman’s forehead. But seriously, how is that atheism manages to say, “Just because you believe that God is real because you’ve seen his goodness doesn’t mean he’s real,” and then turn and cry, “In my experience religion brings nothing but badness and evil, how could there be a God?” To clarify: if the subjective experience of good/love/peace is no logical argument for God, then the subjective experience of bad/hatred/discord cannot be used as an argument against God. Atheism and I, we are watching a beggar. Christian Number 1 walks by and gives him everything he owns. Christian Number Two walks by and kicks him in the face. Is there a God? What a ridiculous question. Arguments in this similarily incongruous vein include ”God doesn’t answer my prayers, therefore God doesn’t exist,” and “I believe that war is wrong, God has been the cause of many wars, therefore your God is evil.” I have no problem with the making of these arguments, but it follows that if you do, you cannot begrudge the Christian who tells you “God answers my prayers, therefore God exists.”
Now these are the minor, argumentative incongruities that discredit atheism. Easily fixed, by the radical act of not using them. The real interesting ones are the major contradictions. The atheist who denies objective morality and lives a shockingly moral life, the materialist who falls in love and gets married, the Darwinist who donates to charities, the moral relativist who gets angry when you punch him in the face, the relativist who tells you what he’s saying is true, or Christopher Hitchens, on a large metal tube with wings, being flown by a pilot he doesn’t know to a conference where he will tell the crowd that “faith is a kind of disease.” But you’ve all heard these absurdities. So, until next time.