What Bothers You About the Atheist Subculture?

We all know of examples where a representative of a person or group embarrassed the very people they were trying to defend. Just in the past couple days, we’ve seen Congresswoman Michele Bachmann say she wanted newspapers to “find out if [certain members of Congress] are pro-America or anti-America.” John McCain’s campaign has had to play damage control ever since. And, of course, just about everything out of Sarah Palin‘s mouth shows her own ignorance and hurts McCain in the process.

I’m not putting atheists in the same league as those Republicans, but I’ve been in plenty of situations where I was ashamed of being around or associating with with certain atheists. I felt like I had to defend myself against their actions.

Why did this happen?

  • They were always mad about something.
  • They were constantly negative, always wanting to argue about religion instead of actually doing something about it. In fact, they hardly did anything but sit and argue. (Can’t we do anything else fun and interesting? When was the last time you played a pickup game of soccer with your atheist friends?)
  • They couldn’t say anything positive about religious people.
  • They were looking to pick (verbal) fights with anyone and everyone.
  • They mocked the religious person rather than the religious person’s beliefs.

For whatever reasons, it all made it hard for me to want to hang out with them.

I suspect there are atheists who don’t belong to secular organizations or local groups for these reasons or others. I think the behavior of a lot of non-religious men affects why many atheist women don’t participate in local get-togethers (though this could be said of many other, non-atheist groups as well).

Gavin Orland didn’t feel proud to be an atheist when he attended an event where a Young Earth Creationist was speaking. Yet, it wasn’t the YEC that got Gavin riled up. It was the other atheists who got his attention.

… What really concerned me (as has repeatedly been the case, sadly) was the conduct of my “fellow” atheists at this event.

I expected this to happen. Many who spoke at the event were rude, abrasive, jeering and unpleasant. It was possible to detect the likelihood of this from their countenances alone before they even spoke, but when they opened their mouths it was unfortunately confirmed. Even the crowd here felt that some individual members occasionally overstepped the mark, and they booed and hissed at their rudeness. But other times they laughed along and encouraged vulgarity.

It is possible to make points without being arrogant, conceited and rude, as many of the people were. All points should have been made politely, especially considering how easy the man was to refute, and how outnumbered he was. Some did make points respectably, but they were in a minority.

What also strikes me about these meetings is how many out-right weirdos they tend to attract. There are clearly some “regulars”: uncouth middle-aged men, devoid of any style or social finesse, and yet apparently with very high opinions of themselves. These are always the ones who want the mic, and who proceed to ask long meandering questions that are just plain weird — never succinct or well considered, and never courteously or humbly posed.

These are the types of supposed rationalist who gather at such meetings — not all are like this, but a worrying number are. (I use the term “rationalist” here not in its strict philosophical sense but informally as one who appreciates both reason and the use of empirical evidence.) They are the kind of atheist who must embarrass the likes of Pat Condell and Richard Dawkins too. Freaks, oddballs, social inadequates who flock to the meetings in just the same way as religious people club together, and who are in a sense just as bigoted and dismissive (one suspects some are more cynics than skeptics and would never believe in anything). Such people bring shame to the name of rationalism. One of them even said through the mic, and not ironically enough, that being an atheist he would teach any lie as if it were truth for financial reward. We don’t need these types.

I’m all for atheists going public with their non-belief, but when the more embarrassing among us get (unwanted) attention, it’s incredibly annoying.

What bothers you about atheist gatherings or the culture we’ve spawned?

  • Anonymous

    How intensely critical we can be. To the point where it is almost exhausting trying to say anything in a group because you know it will get torn to pieces before you even begin. It is just bothersome that atheists often tend to focus on small discrepancies in what you say rather than the main point. Critical inquiry, skepticism, and all that good stuff has a time and place, but I don’t think some people realize how overbearing and idiotic they come off when they behave like this.

  • Polly

    Anonymous,
    What the hell are you talking about!? Do you have any evidence or a fully-citated thesis to back up those assertions?

    just kidding. :)

    I agree completely. Sometimes, atheists drive me nuts. We exhibit some of the same in-group behavior that I found so ridiculous among the churched set. Some seem hell-bent(npi) on being right ALL THE FUCKING TIME ABOUT EVERY FUCKING THING. It gets tiring…when you’re not in the mood for it, anyway.

    I’m irked when atheists compare our situation to blacks or gays. C’mon now. It’s not the same thing. I’m not excusing bigots like Elizabeth Dole. But, let’s keep things in perspective, folks.

    Few atheists, or people in general, ever approach a discussion expecting that they might be dealing with someone who isn’t a composite of other people they’ve argued with. As much as we demand respect, some of us seem loathe to offer it.

    There is some herd-thinking occasionally. This isn’t particular to atheists, of course. It’s just disappointing considering we’re the ones who are supposed to be the most unfettered in our thinking.

    The weird thing is that every one of these qualities are firmly established among xian fundamentalists, too, including the victim complex.

  • Metatwaddle

    All the freaking nitpicking over who is an atheist/agnostic/bright/skeptic/freethinker! It always ends in useless circular conversations, and nobody learns anything.

    The fact that it’s overwhelmingly white and male. (We’ve got a bunch of women in my SSA group, fortunately.)

    And yeah, obviously the hypercriticism and rudeness can get a little bit tiresome after a while. Some atheists I’ve met have absolutely no social skills whatsoever. It’s gotten to the point where I know there are people in my group whose very presence alienates other members.

    ETA: Polly, I haven’t found that much in-group behavior… an echo chamber, maybe, but I find that atheists are not very socially cohesive at all, compared to a lot of the Christian groups I’ve interacted with.

  • http://thesouloneverypath.blogspot.com christy c

    The assumption that atheist IQ’s are higher than religious peoples’.

    That all atheists are deep thinkers.

    Or rebels.

    Sure, there is an undercurrent of that in a largely Christian country, but I don’t think you have to be a genius to there is no hard evidence for a deity.

    And rebelling in this country is pretty pain-free. A rebel without a clue? A martyr that gets a slap on the wrist?

    Lots of posers trying to get into an allegedly elite club.

  • Aaron

    What really bugs me, is that in my experience with the various atheist meetups/groups I’ve attended, is that there seem to be a fair amount of atheists who believe other nonsense such as astrology, 9/11 conspiracies, etc.

  • http://thebitchreport.blogspot.com/ Milena

    I’m very disappointed when I encounter sexism and racism in conversation with atheists, because I expect “rationalists” to know better.

    It also really irks me when atheists insult rather than debate.

    For the in-group behavious, I find we do display it sometimes. There is a tendency to homogenize religious groups, as if all Muslims are extremist terrorists, all Christians are fundamentalist bigots, etc. We don’t always recognize that religious people are as varied as atheists.

  • Ann

    I’m a woman who’s been an atheist for many, many years. I went online looking for other atheists after a particularly painful meeting of my book club, when I realized that all of my friends believe things that I consider unfounded nonsense. I wanted to expand my circle of friends and quit biting my tongue so much.
    I found a local “meetup” for atheists and attend occasionally, but unfortunately, that’s not really enough to have in common with other people. Talking about why we don’t believe in god doesn’t make for interesting conversation. The skeptics meetup is more interesting because we have specific topics and presentations.
    And yes, the preponderance of “social inadequates” surprises me, although I’m reluctant to attach that label to anyone. I just don’t find that my social behaviors mesh with the behaviors of most of the other atheists at these meetings. In appearance and behavior I’m very much a “mainstream” American, but there, I’m the misfit.
    I wish I knew how to recognize other atheists while pursuing my interests and hobbies. This kind of signaling is one of the reasons religious people wear crosses or headscarves. Should we start wearing those scarlet “A”s?

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com jet

    I definitely do not want to be associated with the PZ Meyers type of atheism. I’m not a big fan of negativity.

  • http://www.heuristicism.ca/ Aditya

    Truth be told, I never fully understood the purpose behind atheist groups, at least the social aspect. I have friends of all sorts of religiosities, and it never gets in the way. Bringing a bunch of atheists together for a meeting or social event by an atheist group seems like it would do nothing but get them to talk (negatively) about religion.
    An example that comes to mind is when a friend of mine went to an atheist social event that we have ever week or two (or three). He went once, and never went again because people were just complaining about religion and how much it sucks. What’s more is that when you see someone telling a story of some religious stupidity, you just find all the other atheists nodding in agreement or shaking their heads in disgust – which seems eerily familiar to what you might see if a preacher talked about atheism. (It also bothers me how completely different people will be when talking to the religious person vs. about them.)

  • justin jm

    I don’t know if this applies to the atheist culture (I was thinking more of some liberals) but I do see attempts to generalize the opposing groups, even among leftist/rationalist groups that value fairness and tolerance. Maybe it’s just the Internet and the tendency to say things on the Internet we would not say face-to-face, but stereotyping cannot be justified.

  • Jack Carter

    Truth be told, I never fully understood the purpose behind atheist groups, at least the social aspect. I have friends of all sorts of religiosities, and it never gets in the way. Bringing a bunch of atheists together for a meeting or social event by an atheist group seems like it would do nothing but get them to talk (negatively) about religion.

    Aditya’s point is right on. I’ve never been to an atheist group event, I imagine it is just an opportunity for atheists to gather and vent. Ultimately I agree with Sam Harris, we don’t need a label. Reason, evidence, science… these things are universal.

    For the record, I’m a big fan of Pat Condell, Richard Dawkins and PZ Meyers.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Oh, geez, where do I start?

    #1) Being credulous of crap when it’s anti-religious.

    #2) Confusing being wrong with being stupid or crazy.

    #3) Trying to confuse being vocal with being obnoxious or unfair. (Example of being obnoxious or unfair usually end up being examples of #1 or #2.)

    #4) Being abusive to those who don’t play along with the confusion in #3.

  • llewelly

    Hitchens. Anyone who advocates use of nuclear weapons for any reason. Fortunately, Hitchens is in the minority.
    I’m bothered by people who call themselves atheists, but spend huge amounts of time apologizing for religion (e.g.: Dennis Potter ).
    I don’t have a problem with rude atheists who don’t actually advocate violence. If they’re not also funny, they aren’t helping, but I don’t believe they’re hurting anywhere near as much as is often supposed. If they’re funny, they probably have much more PR effectiveness than is usually supposed. Rude comedians are successful for a reason.

    All points should have been made politely, especially considering how easy the man was to refute, and how outnumbered he was.

    This kind of thinking is part and parcel of the fallacy that public debates have some useful resemblance to rational discussion. It vastly overrates our ability to make decisions based on substance rather than style, on reason rather than rhetoric. It overrates our ability to accurately recall verbal arguments. It underrates the influence of meaningless visual oddities, such as dress, or weird bulges in the back of a debater’s suit. Ironically, the writer later says:

    There are clearly some “regulars”: uncouth middle-aged men, devoid of any style or social finesse, and yet apparently with very high opinions of themselves.

    and later:

    Freaks, oddballs, social inadequates …

    The writer judges principally – if not entirely – on style, rather than substance, on delusion, rather than rationality.

  • http://madmansparadise.blogspot.com Asylum Seeker

    Personally, I do not care for those atheists among us who are just so hung up on being opposed to religion that they don’t actually sit back and think about why. They are usually too gung ho with too weak of arguments to back them up. This is why I actually think that having people who are hypercritical, willing to complain, and pessimistic is beneficial to the atheist cause: because these people can come up with come up with the most consistent and unimpeachable arguments in support of our collective positions as well as keeping the hotheads in check. Outside of that realm, however, they detract from any attempts to make sincere improvements due to their own indomitable desires to just lie down and stay down, so that they can have something to continue to bitch about.

    Yet, all of those things I just mentioned above applied to me, so color me embarrassed.

  • Catherine

    from Polly:

    I’m irked when atheists compare our situation to blacks or gays. C’mon now. It’s not the same thing. I’m not excusing bigots like Elizabeth Dole. But, let’s keep things in perspective, folks.

    Thank you! I know some people’s experiences are different, but for me coming out as an atheist was sooo much easier compared to dealing with being gay.

    It also bothers me when atheists get defensive when religious people are honestly trying to be nice-getting upset when someone says they will pray for you because you are going through something stressful/difficult/etc and things like that. I don’t think their prayers will do any good, but if they care about me enough to think good thoughts about me, it would be kind of rude of me to get upset about it.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    llewelly:

    This kind of thinking is part and parcel of the fallacy that public debates have some useful resemblance to rational discussion.

    Nonsense. Notice that the atheist said that the creationist won the debate, even though the facts weren’t on his side. Gavin Orland’s whole point was, just as you said, that public debates are often decided on matters of demeanor and style. Being mean can backfire, as anyone who has paid attention to McCain’s campaign so far can attest.

    The end of Gavin Orland’s post frustrates me, though:

    Silent majority of rational people who are not weird and do not have some strange ulterior motive: we currently have enemies even within our own side. If you care about your own future and about the future of free speech and civilisation, please stand up and be counted – you were never more needed than now.

    The catch is this – how do we stand up and be counted without being counted among the crazies? Ok, he links to a UK secularist organization, so maybe the question is how non-British atheists can be counted, but still. There are oases like this site, but I’m hard-pressed to think of other atheist groupings that have quite figured out how to be frank about atheism and still be, well, friendly. Maybe we need an “Out Campaign” specifically for the friendly atheists?

  • Aj

    There’s an atheist subculture?

  • Cathy

    Some things that I have noticed are that portions of the atheist community (no, not all) are rascist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, and/or classist. Also, the general avoidance of any disscussion of these things. I have heard atheist men whine about how there are not enough female atheists and then assert extremely sexist ideas and demean women. Female atheists are also treated differently than male atheist by the rest of culture. The stereotypes of atheists as promiscuous and agressive are considered more negative when applied to a woman, therefore, women often stand to loose more social status by being openly atheist than a man does.

    Oh, and about comparing atheism to being gay or black, it is okay to say that atheists have been historically oppressed, it is just “oppression olympics” (nonproductive arguments over which oppressed group is more oppressed) that is stupid. I also think it is important to understand how these systems of oppression are linked (like the example above) and do not happen in idependent vaccuums, seperate from each other.

  • http://thebitchreport.blogspot.com/ Milena

    Lol Cathy, your last sentence just summarized the 5-page paper I had to hand in to my Women’s and Gender Studies class yesterday. Not fun.

  • Jack Carter

    I don’t understand what people are struggling with here. Bad behavior is bad behavior. Express your views about religion as you would any other topic. The rules of civility don’t change for religious discussion.

  • Rat Bastard

    I feel your pain. So many angry people, who just happen to be atheist, even maybe people who picked atheism as a position simply to express their anger against their theist parents. I’ve been to forums where, when a theist posts, he/she is asked, “Do you do anal?” as an opening gambit by a local atheist denizen. But you should not be embarrassed by their public display. Their shame is not yours. All you can do is set a good example. I leave those forums because of that maltreatment of the posting religious people (and even of the atheists there). Not that I agree that there is a “god” or that the “buy-bull” offers any more than some aphorisms for leading a good life (along with some apocryphally bad examples of an alleged deity, and some really bad math). There are bad-acting people of every stripe. Think Torquemada. How many atheists would go there?

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    There are strange people of all sorts in the atheist culture. There are some bitter people who obey nearly every stereotype. There are people who seem to like the sound of their own voice a little too much. There are people who are overly eager to engage everyone with political talk. There are people (looking at you Hemant) who often make offhand comments to the effect of “Maybe we’ll get her to deconvert (*cackle*)”. People who are in the habit of quoting philosophers or the Bible all the time. People who spend their entire time as the devil’s advocate. People who are very polite, but also have offensive and or wrong views on religion.

    Many of these quirks are grating. But that’s just how people are. If you remove all of a person’s quirks, you’ve taken away a piece of their soul.

    Which isn’t to say we should be completely nonjudgemental. We should be more… heck, I don’t know.

    I think it definitely helps if you don’t just talk about religion all the time. There are plenty other things to talk about (see this sample). If our group only talked about religion all the time, half the people would get totally bored.

  • Grimace

    Am I the only one who, when reading that 5 bullet-point list Hemant provided, instantly thought “Christopher Hitchens”?

    He’s probably the prime example that jerkasses are a universal problem. I’ve often had to explain that just because he *is* an atheist doesn’t mean he necessarily *speaks* for them.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Okay, a more straight answer this time (but don’t take it too seriously). These are some things that bother me:

    European atheism: Here in the US, we’re the underdogs. In Europe, not so much. You’d think they’d be more tactful, but nope.

    Atheist historical revisionism: All too common.

    Atheist cliches: “I contend we are both atheists, but I just go one god further”, “Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color”, etc. I appreciate the need for stock explanations, but damn is it annoying.

    Atheism/agnosticism: Everyone (except for me ;) ) is completely wrong about it, and it’s so pointless.

    Deconverting everyone: “Deconvert” ought to be an intransitive verb.

    “Refutations” of “moderate” religion: Hardly anyone does it properly.

    Glib denial of any atheist subculture: Looking at you, Aj. :P

    Unwillingness to criticize the excesses of activism: If you think vocal activism can never backfire, think of PETA.

  • Jack Carter

    Grimace:

    Am I the only one who, when reading that 5 bullet-point list Hemant provided, instantly thought “Christopher Hitchens”?

    He’s probably the prime example that jerkasses are a universal problem. I’ve often had to explain that just because he *is* an atheist doesn’t mean he necessarily *speaks* for them.

    How’s that for irony…

  • Elsa

    I’ve seen this on the internet:

    Poster: “Please keep the victims of this horrible accident in your prayers.”

    Commenter: “Your god doesn’t exist, moron!”

    There’s a time and place for everything…

  • Michael

    Atheist subculture? Really? Where?

    Expecting a random group of people who’s only common factor is a disbelief in gods, to have anything worthwhile to talk about, or anything meaningful in common, seems rather naive.

    But if you really feel the need to be a part of a ‘sub-culture’, surely you can find something better than just a disbelief in gods. Do you even want to be part of a ‘sub-culture’ that includes or excludes people purely on the grounds of belief in a deity anyway? Surely that’s the whole point of the bus campaign — forget about that nonsense and enjoy your life?

    It doesn’t really mean anything to not believe in gods, other than not believing in gods. Since it should be the ‘default view’ of everyone, so why is it surprising it happens to be the ‘default view’ of just about anyone?

    I do realise things are pretty weird in the USA, and belonging to some ‘sub-culture’ seems to be the ‘done thing’, but it isn’t really necessary.

    “Now Stop Worrying, And Enjoy Your Life”

  • Jack Carter

    Elsa:

    I’ve seen this on the internet:

    Poster: “Please keep the victims of this horrible accident in your prayers.”

    Commenter: “Your god doesn’t exist, moron!”

    There’s a time and place for everything…

    That is an inappropriate reply at just about any time and place.

    However, it is not an inappropriate time to remind our theist friends that a crisis is not an opportunity to inject religion into pubic discourse. It’s about consciousness raising. Plus, intercessory prayer doesn’t work. This is a proven fact. It’s OK to make that point.

    At a time of crisis, non-believers have a right to not have religion put on them.

  • Almond

    I wish I knew how to recognize other atheists while pursuing my interests and hobbies.

    Me too!

  • J Myers

    *sigh*

    I dislike it when atheists misspell “Myers.” Why does this happen so often? I’m genuinely curious; the way PZ and I (no relation) spell it is by far the more common spelling.

  • http://hotchurchaddiction.blogspot.com/ Jay Myers

    the fact that there is some other guy on this comment list named J Myers

    http://hotchurchaddiction.blogspot.com/

  • Epistaxis

    Why does the “atheist subculture” predominantly attract literal-minded, sophomoric jerks when there are so many other nonbelievers out there? Maybe these guys are just the low-hanging fruit who would join any club that fancies itself intellectually superior. If it sounds like all you do there is talk about how much you disagree with religious people, who else do you expect to come?

    I wish I knew how to recognize other atheists

    Yeah, we need god-dar.

  • Metatwaddle

    Oh wow, I’m actually finding myself inclined to defend “atheist subculture” here…

    Why does the “atheist subculture” predominantly attract literal-minded, sophomoric jerks when there are so many other nonbelievers out there? Maybe these guys are just the low-hanging fruit who would join any club that fancies itself intellectually superior. If it sounds like all you do there is talk about how much you disagree with religious people, who else do you expect to come?

    On my campus, there are plenty of clubs whose members fancy themselves intellectually superior. There’s the physics club, some of the political groups, the philosophy club, the entire honors program…

    Seriously, though, that isn’t all we talk about, and I actually don’t think most of the “organized atheists” I’ve met are sophomoric jerks. My own campus group mostly talks about politics, philosophy (especially ethics), science, and the intersections of those areas. We also bring in occasional speakers and set up debates, and sometimes go to see films and lectures that feature atheism, or at least questioning of religion, as a theme. And from time to time, we dress up as pirates and preach the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. We even hand out free ramen.

    There are problems I have with the atheist subculture, too, which I outlined above. Yeah, we’re prone to intellectual snobbery and condescension, social ineptitude and a victim complex. (Whether the victim complex is justified varies wildly by geographic region, etc.) But really, every subculture is prone to some vices. I’m not ready to condemn the atheist one just yet.

    Michael: Are you denying the existence of an atheist subculture, or just the necessity of one? If the former, I’d point out that in the US, atheists do have a lot of things in common. There are a lot of characteristics strongly correlated with atheism: youth, whiteness, maleness, high education level, and political liberalism (or at least a tendency to vote for Democrats, whom I know are not actual leftists by world standards). Anecdotally, the atheists I know are also likely to be interested in science, and likely to be secular humanists.

    If you’re denying the necessity of an atheist subculture, I don’t think atheists try to meet each other because it’s necessary, we just do it because it’s fun.

  • http://amiable-atheist.blogspot.com amiable

    How intensely critical we can be. To the point where it is almost exhausting trying to say anything in a group because you know it will get torn to pieces before you even begin. It is just bothersome that atheists often tend to focus on small discrepancies in what you say rather than the main point.

    I agree with this comment. This behavior has made me generally reluctant to say anything. But maybe I just need thicker skin.

  • TXatheist

    People are people…(depeche mode). I can be pleasant and I think I’ve learned to be more tolerant from guys like Hemant. But I’m also in Texas and folks will look right at me and say I’m immoral or going to hell or what’s wrong with America and I should love it or leave it. They would love nothing more than for me to turn away and put my tail between my legs and cower to them. No.

  • Jack Carter

    Epistaxis:

    Why does the “atheist subculture” predominantly attract literal-minded, sophomoric jerks when there are so many other nonbelievers out there? Maybe these guys are just the low-hanging fruit who would join any club that fancies itself intellectually superior.

    The irony continues…

  • http://notreallyalice.wordpress.com Alice

    I’ve been enjoying my local atheist group; our get-togethers are social times. But I do wonder if we aren’t seen along the same lines as the junior college pagan group made up of a bunch of misfits.

  • Jack Carter

    I’ve seen a stereotype repeated in this discussion that I wasn’t familiar with, maybe because I don’t seek out atheist groups. It’s the denigrating of some atheists as being socially inept. There are some people who genuinely struggle with problems (such as social phobia leading to underdeveloped conversation skills) that make it difficult for them to fit in. Many times these problems can be overcome in time. Maybe I’m just reading it wrong and I’m not suggesting people tolerate bad behavior. All I’m saying is try to be a little more understanding and a little less judgemental, it could be that others are struggling with things that you don’t have to deal with.

  • Amanda

    I find it hilarious, ironic, and rather sad that nobody has so far recognized that the comments in this thread addressing the issues related to the post are completely indicative and symptomatic of the very problem(s) that the post concerns.
    It could not be shown more clearly how myopic and hypocritical our “community” can be.

    For a more reasoned assessment, cf.: “Atheists: A Psychological Profile” by psychologist Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism

  • http://virtualityforreal.blogspot.com Allytude

    I think what sometimes bothers me is how much Christianity gets picked on. Lets be equal opportunity religion bashers. And I think we need to discuss the nature o the strangeness of religious beliefs. That would be more fruitful than the entire “its not correct ” at all kind of talk. I do not agree with the social ineptness( I think extremely religious types who bad together are also as socially inept)and I don’t think religion as “Christmas” vs “holidays” or as the pretty girl handing out Jesus tracts bothers me- as much as religion in school and the ten commandments engraved in stone in public places does.
    Personally I also find it weird that we atheists need others like us so much- we are supposed to be the open minded ones. Surely we can get along with mild religious people( not the convert or die people )and share common interests with them.
    I would like more humor in our talking about religion. Also a lot more tolerance.
    Also doing joint events and joint charities with religious people[- like even organizing drives to collect clothes to give to local missions. They may stamp those with "Jesus" but it does get to people who need it- and that ultimate is what i care about.]

  • Polly

    The very first thing I thought when I saw the topic of this thread? Hitchens. I abstained only because he’s mostly tangential and also because I haven’t kept up with his views about the Global War OF Terror waged against the infidels by our born-again Crusader Christian President.

    Deconverting everyone: “Deconvert” ought to be an intransitive verb.

    Rarely do I have the pleasure of reading a glib and pithy pronouncement featuring the term “intransitive verb.”

    I agree with Elsa that there is a time and place for everything. I’d also add, “and a way.”
    Demonstrating that we aren’t angry and pushy goes a lot further than stating it over and over and over again.

  • T’s Grammy

    The Brights. How totally snobby and elitist. If they’re so “bright”, they’d have realized that picking that name implied anyone who didn’t think like them was dim. I find the assumption that Atheists are smart and Christians dumb annoying as hell because I’ve known some really dumbass Atheists and some really smart Christians.

    And we’re really a religion. No, we’re not. I reject religion. As I said at the first Godless march (when Newdow said we should), the day we call Atheism religion is the day I start calling myself Nontheist instead.

    Oh, and gotta say this bugged me:

    There are a lot of characteristics strongly correlated with atheism: youth, whiteness, maleness, high education level, and political liberalism (or at least a tendency to vote for Democrats, whom I know are not actual leftists by world standards). Anecdotally, the atheists I know are also likely to be interested in science, and likely to be secular humanists.

    Other than white (and I’ve had a few nonwhite Atheist friends and so resent that grouping also), the only one of those things I could remotely be called is liberal and I don’t think I’m that. I’ve voted for Democrats but also Republicans and most often vote third party. I am “liberal” on some social issues and not others such as legalizing marijuana or illegal immigration. I’m female, about to turn 51, science bores me and Secular Humanists are annoying as hell and, frankly, just another do-gooder religion absent a godhead dictating what our values should be.

    Oh, and the assumption of what we have in common. There’s only one thing all Atheists have in common: we don’t believe in God. And we argue about the degree of that. Hence, the despicable terms “hard” and “soft” Atheism.

  • Catherine

    The ‘Brights’ thing really irked me too when I first heard about it. There are some religious folks I know who could absolutely clobber me in an argument because they know way more than I do.

    I don’t like anything that suggests that being an atheists means being a part of some elite group. I’m just a person who doesn’t believe in god(s). That doesn’t make me a special snowflake who knows more than everyone else.

  • mikespeir

    Sometimes I think we can be just as blinded by ideology as any religionist.

    Not too long ago on…well, another site, the discussion was about why women tend to be more religious than men. Someone dared to suggest that it might be because women feel more vulnerable in this world and thus could be more prone to seek the security that religion, with its protective deities, has to offer.

    Oh, my! You might have thought somebody had just blasphemed the holy name of Charles Darwin! The reckless commenter was quickly routed with dismissive retorts and insults, some quite slanderous.

  • Epistaxis

    On my campus, there are plenty of clubs whose members fancy themselves intellectually superior. There’s the physics club, some of the political groups, the philosophy club, the entire honors program…

    That’s why I said “it sounds like all you do there is talk about how much you disagree with religious people.” The physics club can talk about physics, the political groups can talk about politics, etc. What I was trying to say was that atheist clubs need something positive and constructive to do, and they need to make it visible.

  • http://deleted Ingersoll’s Revenge

    Grimace said:

    Am I the only one who, when reading that 5 bullet-point list Hemant provided, instantly thought “Christopher Hitchens”?

    No, no you’re not. I think that we can consider him the Sarah Palin of the atheist world.

    Well, more like Palin with the worst parts of Teddy Kennedy mixed in. And yes, I know that’s a cheap shot.

  • http://jewishatheist.blogspot.com JewishAtheist

    I think some atheists are too quick to judge religious people. It’s quite possible to be a sane, thoughtful, and intelligent religious person, and many, many, many religious people are. We need to be better at tolerance, compassion, and understanding.

    We also haven’t done a good enough job at allying ourselves with religious people who share our values. (Different religious people for atheists of different values, of course.)

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    Michael said:

    Atheist subculture? Really? Where?

    You’re looking at it. Duh.

    Expecting a random group of people who’s only common factor is a disbelief in gods, to have anything worthwhile to talk about, or anything meaningful in common, seems rather naive.

    We find plenty to talk about here. Also, atheists (at least the active ones) tend to be a bunch of geeks. Skeptical geeks!

    But if you really feel the need to be a part of a ’sub-culture’, surely you can find something better than just a disbelief in gods.

    There are a ton of subcultures based on the enjoyment of a particular genre of music. Our subculture has a way more substantial premise than that.

    Do you even want to be part of a ’sub-culture’ that includes or excludes people purely on the grounds of belief in a deity anyway?

    You could take the same cynical view of any subculture. For example, look at LGBT culture. They’re including and excluding purely on the basis of sexual orientation, and that’s not even something you can choose! Why don’t we all just give up social interaction–it will only divide us.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Oh my, I’ve pretty much quit writing for Skepchick because I have such a bad taste in my mouth from participating in the atheist and skeptic communities. I wrote a couple of posts about this a while ago on my blog, here are excerpts:

    This year I’ve decided that I’m not sure I want to be called an atheist any more, even though I don’t believe in god(s). I know according to the dictionary that I am an atheist, but I’ve become disillusioned with the atheist movement, which largely seems to thrive on making fun of believers and ignoring the desire for spiritual fulfillment that most people feel.

    What do you do when your world gets turned upside down? I found that when I was in Europe, I didn’t want my new friends to discover that I write for Skepchick. What does it mean when you’ve been doing something for years, and suddenly you find that you are embarrassed by it? I am not sure what else I can say about this right now. I just have realized that if something I am doing embarrasses me, I probably need to stop doing it.

    It’s not that I don’t believe in the mission of Skepchick — which is to encourage critical thinking and science education among women — or that I’ve suddenly discovered that I believe in God again. I do and I haven’t. It’s that I just am disillusioned by the whole skeptic and atheist movements. They and I are moving in different directions.

    For the first few years of my faithless life, I didn’t think about God or church or religion very much at all. Then George W. Bush got elected, planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City, and Sam Harris wrote The End of Faith. I found myself getting sucked into religion again, this time as an critic, rather than as a follower. I’ve been blogging about atheism and skepticism, following politics closely, and reading a lot of blogs by the prominent atheist figures for several years.

    To be frank, I’m getting tired of it all once again. It hasn’t been any more fulfilling than going to church was. I don’t care who believes in god(s) and who doesn’t. I am not interested in making fun of believers, laughing at pictures of Jesus on toast, or deciding what form of religion — fundamentalism or liberalism — is more authentic.

    So, I’m not sure that answers the question. But I have been thinking about the same topic a lot lately myself.

  • Grimalkin

    Cathy said: “I have heard atheist men whine about how there are not enough female atheists and then assert extremely sexist ideas and demean women.”

    That is definitely my big issue with most atheists I mean. They all seem to be Nice Guys (TM).

  • llewelly

    writerdd, you need some Paul Kurtz.

  • Axegrrl

    The ‘appearance’ that atheists are mainly about “making fun” of religious people.

    I have a very dear friend who teaches in the religion dept. at a local university (she’s a pantheist and as much of a ‘heathenist’ as most of us are:), and when the subject of the ‘flying spaghetti monster’ came up, she used the phrase ‘making fun of people’ in her description of it to someone who wasn’t familiar. On another occasion, when the subject of Bill Maher’s “Religulous” came up, a colleague of hers also used the phrase “making fun of” to describe the ‘point’ of the documentary……..

    What bothers me about this is that instead of seeing the main POINT being made by ‘Religulous’ and the FSM, they only saw the ‘mocking’ aspect. That could be due to their perspective/biases, but it troubles me that so many intelligent people come away with the same impression of atheists.

    We really need to focus on trying to make our ‘points’ (ie questioning the automatic ‘deferrence’ given to religions etc) without being condescending or insulting. I know how hard it is sometimes (especially when faced with creationists who are not above lying), but the payoff is worth it…..

    When your words/actions demonstrate an integrity that is true to the ideas you espouse, you don’t give your opponents the opportunity to waste time by focussing on how ‘insulting’ you’ve been.

  • Axegrrl

    The ‘Brights’ thing really irked me too when I first heard about it. There are some religious folks I know who could absolutely clobber me in an argument because they know way more than I do.

    I don’t like anything that suggests that being an atheists means being a part of some elite group. I’m just a person who doesn’t believe in god(s). That doesn’t make me a special snowflake who knows more than everyone else.

    Great post Catherine :)

  • Axegrrl

    Ingersoll’s Revenge said:

    I think that we can consider him the Sarah Palin of the atheist world.

    Well, more like Palin with the worst parts of Teddy Kennedy mixed in. And yes, I know that’s a cheap shot.

    It’s not necessarily a ‘cheap shot’, it’s just utterly ridiculous.

    Hitchens has traits that make me roll my eyes and grit my teeth, but for you to say the above, I have to assume that you haven’t witnessed EITHER of them during debates :)

  • Anne

    I prefer humanist gatherings since at least we’re focused on DOING something rather than just criticizing religion. I also have a weekly lunch with a group of atheists and it is generally cringe-worthy when the topic turns to religion.

    What bothers me most is the lack of understanding for religious belief. It’s true many religious people simply block out any evidence…but many more have simply never been exposed to rational thinking. Even for many of us who became atheists, it took time, a lot of research and reflection to reach the conclusions that we did.

    Moreover, it seems that one ought to have a modicum of compassion for people who are unable to face the fact of a universe without a personal friend who cares about you and allows you eternal life.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    This is where standard Atheist criticisms of ‘theists’ fall flat amongst many of us. When it becomes evident that there are ratbags in every community, irrespective of religious or irreligious inclination, ‘religion breeds abnoxiousness’ arguments are exposed for what they are, self-evidently flawed. I think abnoxious people should be challenged about their abnoxiousness, but religion is not the root cause, pride is.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    I think abnoxious people should be challenged about their abnoxiousness

    And I think that peepul who can’t spel “obnoxious” should be mercilessly mocked for their lack of prufreading.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    As someone who is not yet convinced that there is in fact an atheist subculture, I will say that I’ve experienced some of what you describe. Some atheists have had so little experience verbally expressing their views that they tend to come across rather unpolished. If we ever get to the point where atheists are not demonized for their views, this will change. What I see in many cases is something like a catharsis for the atheist – it is so great to finally be able to express oneself that one’s judgment is left on the sidelines.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Great post. This turned me off recently:
    http://friendlyatheist.com/4097/more-drama-in-the-world-of-organized-atheism/

    I need to think of a new nickname I guess. I’m kind of burned out with the whole scene. It’s a combination of the idiocy described in the link above, some of the criticism in the post and comments here, and plain old waning interest.

    Pretty much the only “atheist” activity I do now is read this blog. (And watch ProfMTH’s channel on youtube! What? You don’t know him? For shame!)

    If my current busy lifestyle lightens up and I can get back into some active group I will probably go for the NYC Skeptics.


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