Reddit Atheism, I Still Love You

You know how S.E. Cupp wishes she were religious and would never vote for an atheist… despite being an atheist herself?

I found the next worst thing: Atheists who hate it when other atheists point out the foolishness of religion.

Luke Winkie recently wrote an article for Salon about a trip to a Creation museum in California and some of the commenters used the discussion thread as an opportunity to — wait for it — mock Creationists and ignorant thinking in general.

I was just trying to talk about Christianity without adopting the tone of offended arrogance that so many non-Christians use when they’re discussing fundamentalists. To be clear: I wasn’t defending Creationists; I just didn’t want to be a giant dick.

As soon as the piece was published, the comments section erupted in overwrought, hoity-toity, exasperating rhetoric, as people made fun of Creationists for being ignorant and blamed the people I mentioned in the articles for everything evil done in the name of Christianity.

I’ll admit Creationists aren’t responsible for all religious evils… but they are ignorant.

Anyway, Winkie calls this the “Reddit Atheists” mentality:

Never mind that I wasn’t exposing Christianity or even endorsing it — if you say something as mild as “Hey, here are some Christians practicing their faith; that’s not really a bad thing” you’ll get mobbed by a group of people who are quickly becoming the most annoying demographic on the internet. I speak of a subtype of militant atheists who I’ll call the “Reddit Atheists.” These are the folks who have, ironically, adopted the attitudes of hardcore evangelicals who try to convert strangers on subway platforms — it’s not enough for them that they don’t believe in God, they want to make sure you don’t believe in God either. Just by being themselves, they make the best case against humanism.

Riiiight… those “militant” Redditors, what with their silly memes and their ability to raise $200,000 for Doctors Without Borders.

When they start taking rights away from religious groups and bombing churches, you can use that word. Until then, it’s completely inappropriate.

And you’re damn right atheists want other people to lose their faith. When you see the awful policy-decisions made because of support from religious groups, it’s hard not to want them to come to their senses. We’re trying to educate them, not annihilate them.

Winkie’s argument against the Reddit Atheist mentality boils down to this:

Reddit Atheism isn’t about philosophy or even adult conversation; it’s about getting riled up into a frothing-at-the-mouth ideological stupor so you can feel guiltlessly self-righteous for the rest of the day. In all of my trips to r/atheism, I’ve never seen anyone post anything written in a measured tone. If you need more proof, take a look at these fine examples of even-keeled insight. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I don’t think Ludwig Feuerbach would be proud.

Who the hell is Ludwig–oh, who cares. Winkie is missing the whole point of r/atheism (in my mind, anyway).

There are plenty of academic books out there that discuss the philosophy of religion and tear apart the arguments of Christian apologists. I would tell you more about them, but they all make me fall asleep.

In a world where people have freakishly short attention spans, sometimes a picture that shows religious ignorance or a meme that highlights religious hypocrisy can have an effect that most 400-page books can’t. If I’m a teenager questioning my faith, hearing stories from other atheists who have to deal with religious nonsense in their lives or laughing at an idea I once wholeheartedly believed in can be cathartic. r/atheism is a *wonderful* place for that. It’s not the place I go to when I want nuanced discussion of religious philosophy.

In other words, don’t blame r/atheism for not being something it never claimed to be in the first place. It’s not a place full of “adult conversations” — it’s a place to talk about (and vent) your frustrations with religion. It might involve humor that not everyone finds funny and comments that not everyone finds helpful.

Are there assholes on there? Yes.

Are there people who think all religious people must be anti-gay, anti-women, etc? Yes. (And there are people who will correct them.)

Is there a lot of circle-jerking going on? Yes.

That’s the Internet, though. You’re not going to find a place completely ignorance-free, including sites that atheists visit. At least on Reddit, other commenters can (and often do) put people in their place if they made a mistake or wrongly stereotyped a group. (In fact, many Redditors agree with Winkie’s assessment.)

I have read *many* incredible threads on there and I’m surprised Winkie claims to have never seen one. He’s not looking hard enough.

If you agree with his general assessment, though, there’s a way to fix it. If you think a post or comment on the site is stupid, don’t just sit there. Downvote it. If enough people found the memes unfunny and useless, they wouldn’t be on the front page all the time.

If r/atheism isn’t for you, that’s fine. You might like some of the r/atheism subcategories instead since they’re more focused. But I don’t get criticizing the whole website just because they’re not talking about the stuff you think is worth talking about.


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