However, it seems that his much-appreciated courtesy has attracted attention from a different direction. Specifically, the Christian site Triablogue responded with a post titled “The ‘Inspiring Story’ of Induction into the Loser’s Club” – the losers in question being atheists, in case there was any doubt.
From the very beginning, starting with its title, this post bleeds arrogance and contempt. The author, one Evan May, seems to have studied at the J.P. Holding School of Apologetics, where the way to “win” a debate is to come up with the most creative string of insults. His post is filled with hostility, derision and invective. One of his commenters wonders publicly why God has not killed Mr. James Young, of my original post. (Why are all these Christians so filled with anger?)
I seriously considered whether this provocation was even worth responding to, but ultimately I decided that Mr. May’s post deserved an answer. The mission of Daylight Atheism, after all, is to defend freethought where it matters, and to shatter the noxious stereotypes about us spread by religious commentators. However, so Mr. May does not acquire an inflated sense of his own self-importance, I will say at the outset that I will not give him any more of my time, either now or in the future, if he cannot clean up his act. I have better things to do than deal with his attitude; there are plenty of theists with whom I disagree that can carry on a civil conversation.
Now then, his points, in order:
Is the story of a man who once (supposedly) had hope for meaning in life and later came to believe that there is, in fact, no meaning in life really “wonderful”? Is it really “inspiring”?
I am an atheist and I happen to believe there is meaning in life, thank you very much. Many other atheists feel the same way. The only difference is that a Christian believes that meaning is conferred upon life by God, while an atheist believes that we define our own meaning and choose our own purpose in life. And this turns out not to be such a great difference, because just like an atheist, the Christian must still choose to find a particular set of religious teachings meaningful and worth following.
The author of this post almost sounds like a religious zealot for the cause of secular humanism.
If by this he means that I find secular humanism to be a positive and uplifting worldview and would encourage more people to adopt it, guilty as charged. Humanism stands for the positive values of reason, compassion and tolerance, which are three things we could use much more of in this faith-mad world.
Who is he helping by propagating the notion that life as we know it is a biological accident?
I could just as well ask, who is Mr. May helping by propagating the notion that humanity is a mass of worthless wretches most of whom are destined for an eternity of suffering damnation at the hands of a jealous and vengeful god? The knife of negative stereotyping cuts both ways.
As far as life being an “accident”, I suppose that is true in the strict sense of an unplanned event, but so what? If your parents inform you that the pregnancy that led to your existence was not planned, does that immediately rob your life of all meaning and purpose? Of course not, and it would be silly to say otherwise. Life is valuable and meaningful because of what we do with it now that we have it, not because of the manner of its origin. (I dealt with this exact claim, and the confusion of terms it exploits, in the Ebon Musings essay “A Cosmic Accident“).
If you are an atheist, and you’re wrong, you lose (and you lose badly). But if you are an atheist, and you’re right, you still lose!
If you’re a theist and you’re wrong, you lose just as badly. There are plenty of other religions besides Christianity that stipulate a hell for non-members, as Mr. May seems to have forgotten. On the other hand, I do not agree that an atheist who is correct loses anything. On the contrary, such a person has gained something extremely valuable – the chance to live this life, the only life they will ever have, free of superstition and fear, with a clear view into how the universe really works. I do not consider the truth something to be tossed aside lightly, as Mr. May seems to; and I do pity the people who allow ancient mythology to cloud their worldview, cramp their imaginations and fill their lives with unnecessary fear and guilt, when the truth is far more magnificent and inspiring.
This is because humanism, as a worldview, is simply a religion of anti-religion.
Given the sheer unprovoked fury with which Mr. May has responded to me, it would probably be more accurate to call his worldview a religion of anti-atheism. On the contrary, atheism and humanism have many positive traits – but when his entire focus is to denigrate and insult nonbelievers and argue that our lives are meaningless, it is no wonder he has overlooked that. Like many other atheists, I would be more than happy to leave religious people alone, if only they would grant atheists the same courtesy.
But atheism… is a religion for overgrown children. It is for those who have never left the shadow of their fathers…
I never cease to be amazed by the blithe arrogance with which some Christians attempt to psychoanalyze people they have never met or spoken to. If Mr. May meets me and my father and gets to know the two of us and still comes away believing that I am an atheist because of some Freudian neurosis, more power to him. Until then, I would appreciate it if he would stop making claims about my family life that he cannot possibly support.
Loftus, for instance, may have left the faith, but he has not left its shadows. Its truth still haunts him. That is why he works at the purposeless effort of destroying believers. Christians evangelize in obedience and from a heart of burden for the loss. But what motivates the “evangelism” of John Loftus? Might I suggest that it is the stain the church has left on him? It certainly isn’t to give any hope to those who are at his listening end!
I assume Mr. May is claiming the psychic power to read another person’s thoughts, because I cannot see any other way he could so confidently discourse on the motivations of others. On the contrary, as I have said, I do believe atheism is a positive, hope-filled worldview and I would like to share it with others. Spreading it is not a “purposeless” effort, but one founded on a very significant and important purpose: helping people who are under the shadow of superstition come out into the daylight, and persuading those who are harming others in the name of God to cease.
There is one point left to make. Despite Mr. May’s implied insult, it is absolutely correct to say that atheists are losers: we have lost the superstition, illusion and fear associated with religious belief, as well as all the other aspects of theism which hold people back and prevent them from attaining their full potential and leading lives full of happiness. This is a loss worthy of celebration, not the tragedy Mr. May and his ilk seem to think it is. If he ever decides to stop clinging to his fantasies, he is welcome to join us.