How atheists are like Protestants

An anthropologist, Alex Golub, beginning with descriptions of the atheists’ new unbaptism rite (which involves a hair dryer), tosses off this delicious line:

One side believes it possesses an infallible book written by an omnipotent author with a huge beard with completely explains the dynamics all living things on earth. The other side believes in the literal truth of the bible.

via Bible/Darwin: Here Comes The Hair Dryers | Savage Minds.

Here is some more:

The genius of the hair-dryer ritual is that it demonstrates so clearly that what we actually have here is a case of what Simon Harrison calls ‘mimetic conflict’ — two groups competing to occupy a single identity. The opposition is not one of Christian versus non-Christian, but rather a conflict between two different permutations of protestant culture.

Consider: one side believes it possesses an infallible book written by an omnipotent author with a huge beard with completely explains the dynamics all living things on earth. The other side believes in the literal truth of the bible. One side believes it will go to heaven, the other advocates a space program to achieve “Mars in our time” as a mission to direct and shape human aspiration. Atheist parodic appropriation of Christian identity even comes with (according to the article) a ritual officiant who “doned a monk’s robe and said a few mock-Latin phrases” before the drying began — and of course there is nothing more protestant than damning your opponent for their popery.

This de-baptism makes clear in a single ritual what is at the heart of much of this debate: that within American culture, science and religion are two different things but two versions of the same thing, both of which rely in shared, rather intellectualist understandings of human nature and the role of the bible/Darwin: humans attempt to ‘find meaning in the universe’, explain natural phenomenon, and live regenerated lives free of the corrupting influence of earlier, false doctrine. These are notions that are, in general, not shared by members of other religions.

HT:  Joe Carter

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Winston Smith

    You might suppose that if atheists were true to their belief system, they would not bother de-baptizing someone because, in the end, it is all meaningless. All matter is just a collection of atoms strung together in unlikely combinations, by no designer, for no purpose. Baptized, de-baptized — it shouldn’t make any difference to where you go when you die if there is no afterlife.

    The fact that they need to define themselves by reacting to the Bible and Christian practice, even by rejecting and mocking it, shows that they are still paying Christianity an ironic compliment. They can’t get away from it.

  • Winston Smith

    You might suppose that if atheists were true to their belief system, they would not bother de-baptizing someone because, in the end, it is all meaningless. All matter is just a collection of atoms strung together in unlikely combinations, by no designer, for no purpose. Baptized, de-baptized — it shouldn’t make any difference to where you go when you die if there is no afterlife.

    The fact that they need to define themselves by reacting to the Bible and Christian practice, even by rejecting and mocking it, shows that they are still paying Christianity an ironic compliment. They can’t get away from it.

  • John C

    One can be a Christian and believe in evolution. One can be a Protestant and believe in evolution. In that sense, athiests and Proddies have something in common but it is hardly two groups competing for a single identity.

  • John C

    One can be a Christian and believe in evolution. One can be a Protestant and believe in evolution. In that sense, athiests and Proddies have something in common but it is hardly two groups competing for a single identity.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    I think the terms get somewhat muddled in articles like this. Evolution is not the issue – naturalism is. While evolution does matter to some, the real issue to everyone is the issue of if there is a creator God, regardless of the means used to create. This is where science chokes, because it presumes that God is irrelevant to what science is doing. This is also where New Atheism chokes. It doesn’t matter what BioLogos or others believe – you can’t be good for humanity if you believe in God. So, I think the author could have done a bit better with his terms.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    I think the terms get somewhat muddled in articles like this. Evolution is not the issue – naturalism is. While evolution does matter to some, the real issue to everyone is the issue of if there is a creator God, regardless of the means used to create. This is where science chokes, because it presumes that God is irrelevant to what science is doing. This is also where New Atheism chokes. It doesn’t matter what BioLogos or others believe – you can’t be good for humanity if you believe in God. So, I think the author could have done a bit better with his terms.

  • Peter Leavitt

    The real problem with this piece is the smug assumption of this arrogant anthropologist about both the supposed Darwinist and Christian fanatics and their rituals. Most serious Darwinists or naturalists would not involve themselves with a “mimetic” hair dryer ritual. And most thoughtful Christians do not believe they are going to heaven nor in a in a strictly literal Bible. We hope to go to heaven and believe that the Bible was principally influenced by the Holy Spirit

  • Peter Leavitt

    The real problem with this piece is the smug assumption of this arrogant anthropologist about both the supposed Darwinist and Christian fanatics and their rituals. Most serious Darwinists or naturalists would not involve themselves with a “mimetic” hair dryer ritual. And most thoughtful Christians do not believe they are going to heaven nor in a in a strictly literal Bible. We hope to go to heaven and believe that the Bible was principally influenced by the Holy Spirit

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Hmmmm….interesting, but not conclusive. If you press one of the “militant atheists” about some of the difficult passages in, say, “Origin of Species,” you’ll hear quickly about latter day prophets like Steven Jay Gould, so in a manner of speaking, militant atheism does not rest upon Darwin or any other single authority, but rather on a succession of authorities and a buildup of tradition with some negotiable principles, and some non-negotiable.

    Which is a little more like Catholicism, in a very little way.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Hmmmm….interesting, but not conclusive. If you press one of the “militant atheists” about some of the difficult passages in, say, “Origin of Species,” you’ll hear quickly about latter day prophets like Steven Jay Gould, so in a manner of speaking, militant atheism does not rest upon Darwin or any other single authority, but rather on a succession of authorities and a buildup of tradition with some negotiable principles, and some non-negotiable.

    Which is a little more like Catholicism, in a very little way.

  • Carl Vehse

    Some dollar bills are being defaced with atheist slogans.

  • Carl Vehse

    Some dollar bills are being defaced with atheist slogans.

  • http://spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    Listening to atheists, I’ve noticed a lot of them are being influenced by their converts from pop-American Evangelicalism.

    In-your-face-proselytism and a focus on a political-social agenda are now just as common among atheists as among Evangelicals.

  • http://spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    Listening to atheists, I’ve noticed a lot of them are being influenced by their converts from pop-American Evangelicalism.

    In-your-face-proselytism and a focus on a political-social agenda are now just as common among atheists as among Evangelicals.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Golub displays a complete lack of understanding both Protestantism and atheism. Atheists don’t believe Darwin is the end all be all. He is just the beginning of the end. They doubt Darwin as much as anything else until empirically verified. At the same time, I want to see us go to Mars in my life time and I am a Protestant. Golub needs to spend more time researching and less time with stereotypes.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Golub displays a complete lack of understanding both Protestantism and atheism. Atheists don’t believe Darwin is the end all be all. He is just the beginning of the end. They doubt Darwin as much as anything else until empirically verified. At the same time, I want to see us go to Mars in my life time and I am a Protestant. Golub needs to spend more time researching and less time with stereotypes.


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