Lindy West, who must’ve studied at the Chris Stedman school of activism, wrote an article in Jezebel titled How to Be an Atheist Without Being a Dick About It. Matt Dillahunty went through it with a scalpel, opening with the obvious:
We begin with the standard unsupported claim…
“so many people insist on being such condescending dicks in the name of atheism. “
Who? Where? Examples please. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are atheists dicks – but “so many”? I think you need to define terms and cite some actual examples.
And snowballing from there. Here are a few highlights:
“Whatever your views on Christianity, you have to acknowledge that at least the Bible tells people to be nice. There are a lot of people who really love that book, and they only follow the “nice” parts. Those are the people I’m talking about here. “
I was unaware that there was an epidemic of people being nasty to those who only follow the ‘nice’ parts of the Bible. Can we have a source, please? Also, which parts of the Bible are nice? Do you know much about what the Bible actually says? I do and I’m betting that those parts that you think are ‘nice’ are parts apply to how Christians should treat each other, and not how they should treat you. That said, there are a few nice verses (some even written by a non-believer)…but they’re nice irrespective of whether they’re in that book, and no one needs that book to recognize how nice it is.
I wonder if you’d be so charitable to other books. What’s the percentage of niceness in the Bible? How bad does a book need to be before you’ll stop making excuses for it? Why is it that “But I don’t really like the parts about slavery and misogyny…I just like turning the other cheek” somehow disqualifies their thought processes from criticism?
Meanwhile, is it wrong to try to help those people escape to reality? Is it wrong to point out that the liberal and moderate Christians, by pointing to the same holy book provide support and cover for the nastier Christians? Is it wrong to point out that they donate money and time, in the name of those good parts, to organizations that should rightly be considered criminal organizations?
“It’s not my nice neighbor’s fault that some Twitter troll called me a baby-murderer.”
And I wonder what that nice neighbor’s views are on abortion. A lot of those cafeteria Christians who only focus on the ‘nice’ parts of the Bible are still opposed to abortion. A lot of them may think you’re a baby-murderer, even if they don’t say it to your face. They’ll vote for the same people as that troll. They’ll donate to the same organization. At a minimum…they’re unlikely to stand beside you and agree with you.
Some will. There’s no doubt that some will. I happily stand along side champions of Church-State separation like the Reverence Barry Lynn…but that doesn’t keep me from pointing out where we disagree.
And…fuck it, just read the whole thing. It’s Matt at his finest. Casually (and kindly) tearing ideas apart without losing the firmness of his convictions.
The claim in the article that got to me the most is that some people need false beliefs to get by. Jesus Christ, if I hear one more person say that…
First, insisting that a person needs a demonstrably false belief that you don’t is the very zenith of being condescending (a dick move if ever there was one). Second, what does a false belief give someone that a genuine understanding of reality couldn’t? We only know if the happy products of delusions are good by examining them in the light of reality. That’s how we can say “Yeah, the bible’s crap, but being charitable is still nice.” If reality confirms that charity is a virtue, then people don’t need the bible and stories of someone rising from the dead to realize it. We don’t need bad reasons to be good.
What if someone read in their holy book that a purple fairy with three ass cheeks and poison saliva impregnated a magic mule who gave birth to several species of snakes, which is why some snakes are poisonous? Yes, the conclusion that some snakes are poisonous is correct, but who on earth would think someone needed the convoluted story to understand that concept? Why would someone need a bunch of false ideas in order to maintain a correct idea? Sure, in the snake example anybody can see how ludicrous (and demeaning) that claim would be, but why is the idea that people need a bunch of obviously untrue stories for morality, hope, community, etc. any better?
That is the major difference between the apologist atheists and the “new” atheists that I’ve always seen. The apologist atheists seem to think it’s respectful to coddle and to placate someone, as if learning that they were wrong would cast their lives into depression meaninglessness. Meanwhile the atheists like myself and Matt criticize people’s beliefs because we believe they can handle the truth and, indeed, that they want their beliefs to mirror reality as closely as possible.
However, we do need bad reasons to support inequality and make decisions that negatively impact the well being of individuals and society, all made with a caring heart and a desire to do good. That is the power of delusions and bad ideas, which is why we atheists like Matt and myself wish to combat faith, the mother of all bad idea-enabling forces, and to erase the influence of religion from every mind that will allow it.
Contrary to Lindy West’s opinion, this is a noble but thankless task undertaken out of concern for the world and love of our neighbors. It’s about as far from being a dick as you can get.