If anyone’s interested in becoming a blogger, I suggest contacting someone at The Telegraph (UK) since they seem to be taking anyone with an opinion, no matter how uninformed they are.
Today alone, they have two pieces that are heavy on polemics and light on facts.
The first is from Sean Thomas, who claims that atheists are mentally ill:
In 2004, scholars at UCLA revealed that college students involved in religious activities are likely to have better mental health. In 2006, population researchers at the University of Texas discovered that the more often you go to church, the longer you live. In the same year researchers at Duke University in America discovered that religious people have stronger immune systems than the irreligious. They also established that churchgoers have lower blood pressure.
It goes on like that for a while… Thomas neglects to point out the thing that I was silently screaming the entire time I was reading it: None of those facts have *anything* to do with anyone’s religious beliefs being true. It has *everything* to do with having a strong support network, and dedicating your life to something you’re passionate about, and having a stable force in your life.
Even though we’re non-religious, many of us have alternatives for those things which churches provide to religious people.
But undoubting Thomas doesn’t care about that explanation. He just offers his own idiotic conclusion:
So which is the smart party, here? Is it the atheists, who live short, selfish, stunted little lives — often childless — before they approach hopeless death in despair, and their worthless corpses are chucked in a trench (or, if they are wrong, they go to Hell)? Or is it the believers, who live longer, happier, healthier, more generous lives, and who have more kids, and who go to their quietus with ritual dignity, expecting to be greeted by a smiling and benevolent God?
Obviously, it’s the believers who are smarter. Anyone who thinks otherwise is mentally ill.
Thomas’ piece may not have even been the one with the most inflammatory headline. That honor goes to Brendan O’Neill, who writes about “How atheists became the most colossally smug and annoying people on the planet“:
Last week we had the spectacle of Dawkins and his slavish Twitter followers (whose adherence to Dawkins’ diktats makes those Kool-Aid-drinking Jonestown folk seem level-headed in comparison) boring on about how stupid Muslims are.
We’ll stop there for a moment. O’Neill is referring to this tweet:
All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 8, 2013
You won’t find nuance in a tweet, but Dawkins clarified later that he wasn’t trying to pick on Muslims with his (factually-accurate) statement, but rather questioning whether there may be something about Islam or Muslim culture that prevents Muslims from reaching that pinnacle of science. Unfortunately, just as with many of the things Dawkins says off the cuff, it led to more confusion than it helped solve. Dawkins was immediately accused by his detractors of being Islamophobic. As someone who is willing to see what Dawkins was trying to say instead of focusing on how (un)eloquently he said it, I don’t see that tweet as offensive or hateful, but it’s easy to understand why some were put off by it.
Anyway, back to O’Neill, who believes Dawkins was talking about “how stupid Muslims are.” He goes on to whine about how atheists mock religious beliefs and act all superior:
… if you ever have the misfortune, as I once did, to step foot into an atheistic get-together, which are now common occurrences in the Western world, patronised by people afflicted with repetitive strain injury from so furiously patting themselves on the back for being clever, you will witness unprecedented levels of intellectual smugness and hostility towards hoi polloi.
Funny man. He doesn’t level the same complaint, of course, against Christians, who meet weekly to talk about how right they are and how everyone else is destined to Hell if they don’t agree. Instead, he uses as his example events where atheists can gather and be open about their non-belief — something they very likely can’t do back home. Of course they’re going to talk about how, for instance, they’re on an island of sanity surrounded by an ocean of ignorance.
Maybe I’m being too harsh on O’Neill. From what I can tell, he doesn’t live in America, and it’s hard for outsiders to know how tough it is to be an atheist in America. When you finally have the opportunity — online or in-person — to stop censoring your views on religion, it’s a huge relief. We’re all guilty of binge-mocking religion at some point or another. It’s no way to win people over to our side, but it sure-as-hell feels good to get it out of our system.
Godless Poutine adds to that thought:
If we all lived in presumably highly secularized Britain there would be less need for the safe havens that North American atheist clubs and groups provide. I’m not certain, but I think that something is getting lost in translation here and Brendan doesn’t seem to recognize how embattled and marginalized non-believers are in North America and possibly also rural UK and Europe.
Plus, there’s the added benefit of reality being on our side.
I don’t doubt that some atheists are smug and annoying. Some. Most don’t care about the issue one way or the other. They don’t believe in God, that’s that, and they move on with their lives. Many who are brave enough to come out publicly as atheists are very eloquent about why they don’t believe in God and they have no desire to mock religious people.
Arrogance is lumping everyone into the same group and dismissing them because you don’t like what a handful of them say, something O’Neill seems to do reflexively.
Though, if “annoying” is the worst he can say about us, that’s not bad. Because the list would be much longer and far worse if we were calling out the sins of religious people — impeding our education system because it teaches facts instead of myths, taking away the rights of others because they don’t love who you want them to love, violently killing those who believe differently from you… the list goes on.
I’ll gladly take “smug” over all of that.