For instance, maintaining a plausible sense of dudgeon when a theist says atheism is abnormal is difficult to do when you are, in fact, abnormal. Fact: when you only constitute 1.6% of the population (and vanishingly less when you include the human population stretching back to antiquity), you are the exception, not the rule. You are abnormal. Deal with it.
Likewise, when you want to maintain the New Atheist narrative and wave your hands vaguely about Christian hatred of Science, you need to really stop and wonder why that narrative generally goes, “Oh. You know. Galileo and such”.
Could you fill in that “and such” better? Some hopefully point to Hypatia and the destruction of the library of Alexandria because they are, you know, ignorant and as credulous as snake handling fundamentalists in their easy acceptance of urban legend based on a crappy movie. Others repeat the dopey urban legend spread by Dan Brown about the “murder” of Copernicus and his supposed persecution by the Church (he was in fact highly regarded by his clerical contemporaries and buried with honors). Still other, grasping at straws for that “and such” point to Giordano Bruno as a “scientist”. Um no. Here’s Mike Flynn in an excellent and wide-ranging essay that all true believers in the “Catholic War on Science and Reason” should really read:
Execution for treason are not unknown. But what has the execution of Bruno for heresy got to do with scientists? Bruno was no scientist, but a mystic of the Pythagorean sort. The translator of his Ash Wednesday Supper commented wryly that, if they had ever bothered to read it, the Copernicans would have burned Bruno. Time and again he shows that he did not understand astronomy, but rather tried to fit it into his wacky worldview. Even so, keep in mind that for seven years the inquisitors and his brother Dominicans argued and debated with him to get him to change his mind. He was the L.Ron Hubbard of his day. Of course, nowadays, we don’t like to execute people even if they were spying for Stalin; but treason, both secular and religious were once capital crimes.
In short, apart from the ceaselessly-trotted-out Galileo, the evidence of some Catholic War on Science is mighty thin on the ground and Internet Atheists who perpetually point to him start to sound like sixth graders who prove their mastery of the piano by perpetually playing “Chopsticks” at every family gathering. Such people should really do something about that glass house they live in before lecturing Christians on their credulity.
This also, by the way, goes for those same Internet atheists who endlessly point to the sociopathic Phelps clan and say, “There! That’s typical for Christians!”
No. It’s not. And the evidence of that is “Why is the Phelps clan always always always what you point to?”
This is an important point that Internet Atheists would, if they were normal people, take seriously and address. Particularly since Christians routinely denounce and reject the sociopathic Phelps clan and, even more particularly, since Christians are not constrained to point to one or two atheists on the web again and again as atheists do with the Phelps clan. We can note that sociopathy and deeply repellent personalities are not merely found here and there in the atheist community, but everywhere, everyday, all the time. The Internet Atheist sociopaths are not merely ubiquitous, they are positively promoted to the head of the class with adulation and encouragment from the herd of independent minds that constitute the comboxes of Pharyngula, or Jerry Coyne’s site, or Dawkins’ site. Indeed, so widespread and common is the sheer vileness, social cluelessness, arrogance, and overrated sense of superiority of the average internet atheist’s personality that an emotionally and socially normal atheist like Phil Plait sensed the awkwardness of the atheist brand with normal people and to tried to rein it in a bit by giving a lecture called, colorfully, “Don’t be a Dick” (a lecture widely reviled among socially and emotionally clueless atheists who dominate discourse in that community and who could see no problem with their awesomely superior selves).
Indeed, the curious way in which atheism tends to Darwinianly select for, rather than against, the most repellent personality traits is one of the mysteries of the atheist community. As this atheist notes:
[I]f 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.
If you want to find out why I call these guys Reddit Atheists, take a brief dip into the atheism subreddit. It is a place entirely defined by bitter, faux-enlightened young people sharing “thought-provoking” images about the horrific evils of religion (in practice, pretty much just Christianity) and congratulating each other for being “enlightened.” The site was originally intended to be a place where people talk about atheistic ideas, but as is Reddit’s depressing trend, it soon devolved into a swampy mess of endless, banal clichés, memes, and general anti-intellectualism. It actually rivals Creationism in terms of having a narrow worldview. They’ve actually had a campaign where they would write “once upon a time” on the first page of every Bible they found in hotels, which is probably the lamest form of vandalism ever.
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.
But listen, I totally get it. If I were 15 when r/atheism was around, I’d probably live in this dark corner of the internet. When you hit that phase where you’re just starting to read grown-up stuff and you become convinced everyone else is a moron, it’s really easy to hate organized religion with a passion and assume that people with faith have just failed to think things through. Then you grow up a little bit by becoming more self-aware and maybe getting away from some of the more odious religious people you knew as a kid—eventually, you get to a place where you can hear someone say, “I’ll pray for you” and simply say, “Thank you,” instead of being a total shit about it. That is, unless you end up making a career out of “debating” religious people, a la Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins. (By the way, what is more arrogant than assuming someone can be reasoned into abandoning their faith?)
Defining your life by volatile antitheism—in other words, clinging to something you don’t believe in—isn’t just annoying, it’s actually pretty backward, and, in some cases, culturally malignant. For a demographic that spits a lot of game about equality and mobility, they sure love lording their “intellect” over anyone who dares to think differently. The atheism subreddit gets off on feeling superior to other people; it’s not about ideas or truth, they’d rather thrive on that faux-scholar buzz. That’s why Dawkins is their fire-and-brimstone pin-up boy. That’s why they screencap Facebook updates from their religious “friends” so they can laugh at all the plebeians from their pretty little perch. There’s no respect or pragmatism, just bottomless, never-ending hate.
This Darwinian selection for rather than against this repellent sort of mob mentality is also in evidence as a couple of sane atheists attempt to speak in slow reasoned tones to the likes of sociopaths like PZ Myers and suggest, not belief in God (let’s be reasonable: they are atheists) but simply consideration of the possibility that religion is not 1000% percent pitch black evil and seems to be of rather a lot of benefit to rather a lot of people. Myers, to the delectation of the herd of independent minds in his congregation, says those who vary from the True Faith he incarnates deserve a “good punch to the balls“. Klass with a Kapital KKK that.
With those sort of social skills being perpetually selected for in the atheist community, it’s not a *huge* shock to find that they are not a major turn-on to the opposite sex given their massive tendency toward misogyny (a subset of their misanthropy) and, in fact, tend to also produce a female population that likewise emit a supersonic signal warning normal males “Do not approach! Danger! Psycho-Shrew!”
So it’s an interesting paradox. Internet Atheists who want to talk about the poisonous effect of all those charities, hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, universities, food banks, and hospices have to go to the same Rolodox entry (“Eek! The Phelps family!”) when they want to chant their mantras about how Religion Poisons Everything. But Christians can look almost anywhere in the Internet Atheist community and find abundant quantities of deeply, massively repellent people who are treated, not with revulsion and denunciation, but with lionizing admiration by other atheists. The selective evolutionary pressure within Average Internet Atheism is heavily weighted toward rewarding the worst and oppressing the best. It is like walking into an average Catholic parish and finding everybody saying not, “Fred Phelps is a revolting lunatic!” but “I wish *I* could be Fred Phelps!” It’s that little cultural difference between what is aspired to and what is loathed, what the culture selects for and what it selects against that makes certain Internet Atheism will *always* be an abnormal minority that stamps out its best traits and most attractive representatives or drives its best members into the arms of God. Natural selection indeed.