Dwight Longenecker: leapfrogging the obvious to call atheists stupid.

Patheos’ selling point is that they are all about the conversation between faiths.  So far, I’m actually impressed with them.  They seem to give their writers tenure immediately, with the freedom to criticize as we please.

So, in keeping with that tradition, we have Patheos blogger Dwight Longenecker directing the conversation at people like yours truly with his post “Stupid Atheists”.  It’s the next in a continuation of Catholics whining, right on the heels of Bill Donahue.  He’s talking about American Atheists’ new billboard in Times Square (which I wrote about here).

What’s hilarious about this ill-thought out campaign is that the atheists keep telling us they are only interested in evidence. They only want the facts ma’am. They’re thinkers. They’re rational. blah blah blah.

They’re opposed to “myths”. They don’t like make believe. They think it’s a form of child abuse to tell children stories about big sugar daddies in the sky who will give them everything they want. Religion is, they say, an infantile belief system to bring comfort to the frightened, weak minded babies. The atheists tell us they’re down on fairy tales. They don’t believe in magic sky fairies.

But they want to keep a magic elf who lives at the North Pole and flies through the sky with dancing reindeer? They want to keep the fat fairy man who comes down the chimney of every home in the world in one night while drinking Coca Cola? They want to keep jolly old St Nick who lays a finger beside his nose ’cause ’twas the night before Christmas? They don’t want a God who judges, but they want the old man in the red suit who keeps a list of who’s naughty and nice and checks it twice? They don’t like a God who makes his little children feel good, but they want the happy elf who has his bag full of goodies for all the good boys and girls? Do these atheists tell their children there is such a person as Santa Claus? Do they abuse their little ones with such obvious lies?

There is a distinction to be made which was slapping-you-in-the-face obvious to everybody but Dwight Longenecker.  We’re not saying that indulging in fantasy when you’re young is terrible.  Few, if any, take issue with fantastic stories “making little children feel good.”  What we are saying is that an inability in adults to abandon Santa Claus-grade fantasy is irresponsible and embarrassing.

Were Christianity in the same boat as Santa, where if someone hadn’t managed to figure out that it was bullshit by the time they were seven we made it a point to tell them “Hey, if you keep going on believing this then people will consider you to be intellectually unqualified for the job shoveling dirt” then it would draw less of our ire.  But it’s not, and that’s where the abuse comes in.

But that’s not the only place the two differ.  If, instead of a Santa being a jolly man who leaves presents, the myth was that children must worship Santa and believe that Santa really brings them gifts, and that the kids must leave “Santa” 10% of their income with the milk and cookies so Santa can protect child rapists and discriminate against 10% of their friends who will grow up to love people Santa doesn’t like, or else Santa is really going to burn them for ever and ever, it stops being acceptable, even if it’s fantasy and even if it’s understood that kids won’t believe it into adulthood.

If it’s expected they will believe it into adulthood, then it’s just fucking sick.

What’s more, there’s no Constitutional separation of Santa and state, and nobody is using their personal interpretation of Santa’s will to generate legislation that should be exclusively informed by, y’know, reality.

Nobody is saying “Santa is real, Jesus is not.”  That would be silly, and Longenecker’s disdain would be justified if somebody really was saying that we should believe in one equally ridiculous fantasy but not the other.  Of course, it’s Christians who are actually doing this.

In the meantime they dub the crucified Jesus Christ a “myth”? In fact, of the two images, Jesus Christ crucified is just about as far from a myth as you could get. It’s about as mythical as a photograph of an Auschwitz corpse or one of those black and white photos of a lynched negro hanging from a tree. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a bare, hard historical fact. The Romans crucified people. It wasn’t pretty. It happened to Jesus of Nazareth. No myth there.

The only contemporary account of it is in the bible.

And what’s more, even if Jesus existed and was crucified, that’s not the part being asserted as a myth.  It’s the whole rising from the dead line of bullshit.  There is no evidence for this aside of the word of people in the Christian cult.  This is evidence for Jesus’ divinity on par with presents under the tree being evidence for Santa.  In both cases, it’s the work of human beings doing what the mythical figure should be doing.

The crazy and stupid thing about this campaign is that it is, well, so crazy and stupid.

When somebody who believes in a talking snake, people rising from the dead, a global flood, etc., calls you crazy and stupid, you can only search for an oxygen tank so you don’t wind up drowning in the irony.  When you earnestly believe that an organization with a history of protecting child rapists should be the moral example for the whole human race, you’ve abdicated your credibility in recognizing stupidity elsewhere.

If they wanted to make their point they could have tried to picture the things about Christianity and Christmas that do seem more mythical and difficult to believe–like the shepherds and angels and wise men with a star or some such.

Because that’s more outlandish than rising from the dead or a virgin birth.

Then again, maybe the ad is just what it should be and we should rejoice because anyone with half a brain who sees it and thinks things through will realize how vapid the atheists are who thought it up in the first place.

If they made any mistake, it was trusting oblivious people with an axe to grind, like Dwight Longenecker, to wrestle with the obvious and to come out on top.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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