This post is inspired by this somewhat misleadingly titled article about how annoying crusading atheists are. Since this has long been a pet peeve of mine, here's my assorted rambling thoughts on the subject.
As always, whenever I'm going to denigrate a large group of people, I like to point out I'm fully aware they are not all one and the same. So I'm not speaking of all atheists, I'm speaking about the evangelical atheists who take it upon themselves to rid the world of religion. Atheists who just don't believe in religion are all fine by me. This is just for those who think not believing in religion somehow makes them better or more intelligent than everyone else.
Because ironically, as the article points out, crusading atheists are often just as ignorant, stubborn, and obnoxiously condescending as the religious zealots they mock. But I think the crusading atheists make actually have the corner on condescension.
And that's what really gets me about these folks, the condescension. Because it's not enough that they don't believe in God or any sort of religion, this is also apparently something that proves they are far, far more rational and intelligent than any of those fools who do, regardless of what they believe or why. That's what really irks me about evangelicals of the believing or non-believing type: anyone who assumes they've figured out the greatest questions of humanity and that anyone who doesn't share their answers is a complete idiot is fucking infuriating to have to deal with. I mean, have some fucking humility -- maybe there's a reason people have been asking these questions since at least the beginning of recorded history.
For example, whenever I end up in an argument with a crusading atheist, which happens fairly often when you're a radical leftist, I use the example of gravity. Because most people have no idea how gravity works; they were just told it's there and it keeps them on the planet and they accept it (on faith, if you will). If you actually look into how gravity works, you'll find we don't really know. I'm not a physicist, but I do know that for a long time there was the Newtonian idea of gravity. And then Einstein came along with some new ideas and asserted gravity works a very different way. Then string theory came along and offered a new and very different way of understanding gravity. And amongst serious scholars, you'll see allegiance to various explanations for how and why gravity works.
But regardless of how it works, the average person has no idea. Sure, they know science is behind it, but they don't know any of the science and don't have any way of verifying it. Yet even the staunchest crusading atheist will uncritically accept gravity. Without evidence. Which would be the exact definition of faith -- accepting something as true despite having no evidence on which to base that decision. Usually the crusading atheist I say this to will become exasperated and point to something about how scientists agree on gravity, but I'll point out A) they really don't, and 2) you're still taking what they say on faith. Sure, you can argue you have reasons to have faith in them, but I can similarly argue I have reasons to have faith in my religion, with technically just as much hard evidence as you have.
This isn't really to argue that we all need to become experts on the mechanics of gravity, but instead to point out that we all accept thousands of very important ideas and concepts on a purely faith basis, so it's fairly ridiculous to point out one version of that as somehow more baseless than any other.
A bigger point of contention I have with crusading atheists is that they fail to separate the idea of religion from those who practice it. Because often I will say something to these folks along the lines of "who cares if it's all a made-up fantasy? How does it hurt you if someone else believes something different than you?" And this question is almost always met by pointing out the many horrible things people have done in the name of religion.
And that argument is most likely the most stupid of them all. For not only does it have no way to address both the many good things done in the name of religion and the many bad things done with no reference to religion (remember, Stalin was a staunch atheist, but it would be pretty disingenuous of me to use that as an argument against atheism wouldn't it?), it also conflates the idea with the actor. Because there are plenty of horrible things done in the name of religion, and I will gladly condemn those right along with you. But such actions should be condemned regardless of their connection, or lack thereof, to religion.
Yet possibly the biggest point of contention I have is with how cowardly crusading atheists act. Because they often vocally condemn religion, but it's almost always only the evangelical Christianity of rich white people. For example, a few weeks ago I was having this exact argument with a crusading atheist who was wearing a Malcolm X t-shirt. But he didn't really see the irony, because Malcolm X doesn't fit the convenient narrative of an idiotic religious believer, so he's not an easy target to pick on. The same folks who say nothing good has ever come from religion and that all people who believe in God are just children who can't see past a fantasy world forced on them by their parents rarely seem to say this at, say, a remembrance of MLK. Not to mention the awkwardness such people back themselves into when discussing something like the xenophobia and racism displayed toward, say, Muslims or other minority religious groups. Because why is it a problem to crack down on Muslims, what with their crazy belief in an idiotic institution? Haven't their been a lot of terrible things done in the name if Islam? Shouldn't this be greeted as the first step on the glorious path to ridding ourselves of all religion? A rational atheist would say, no, it's no ok, because people should have the freedom to believe in whatever they want, even crazy shit. But the crusading atheist doesn't really have much room to work there.
But really what I find so odd/amusing about crusading atheists is that they care so damn much about something they don't believe in. I mean, I've never been rock climbing. In fact, I think it's a fairly stupid and pointless endeavor. But I don't publish newsletters and hold meetings and start campus groups to talk about how I don't rock climb. I just don't fucking go rock climbing.
I can already hear the objections of crusaders saying something like "but rock climbers are not setting our political agenda or using their collective power to oppress countless groups. That's not a fair analogy." But that's where you're wrong, because of the difference between an idea and its followers. After all, it's not religion that's setting our political agenda or oppressing people, it's some assholes using religion as their excuse to keep themselves in power and shut out the groups they don't like. Thinking getting rid of religion would change that means you probably haven't paid much attention to human history.
So the analogy does work. Because if a bunch of rock climbers founded "Rock Climbers For Fascism" and started going around the nation beating up poor people and trying to foment a fascist take-over of the government, then I would totally be part of the movement to stop them. Or if rock climbers started using their collective finances to try to outlaw abortion, again, I would be strongly opposed to them.
But if they just want to spend their Sunday morning rock climbing?
Well, then I just don't fucking go rock climbing with them.