It’s a sign of how far atheism has come in recent decades that religious organizations openly discuss how to lure us (back) into the fold. They used to lump us in with non-practicing theists and miscellaneous sinners, but now, we’re worth specific attention. There’s something satisfying in that.
David Robertson of Dundee, Scotland thinks he knows how to convince atheists that being Christian is a better bet, and wrote “Four Ways to Witness to Atheists” for the blog Desiring God. I’ve been mulling over his thoughts for a while now, because they’re a rollercoaster of amusement, bemusement, and insult, and the ride is as incoherent as the text.
It’s common, in conversations about atheism taking place in public, for one or more members of minority faiths to chime in with claims that what is being discussed somehow neglects their perspective. These rejoinders are often delivered with the snide implication that atheism is a reaction to the problems of big, common, monotheistic faiths, and that giving a little consideration to these nontheistic or polytheistic styles (or some other alternative to what they only assume the atheists’ religious background was) would have set the atheists on a righter path. They also, consistently, assume that atheist criticisms of religion, whether about its ethics or its metaphysics, somehow don’t apply to them.
I find these people only a little less irritating than I find folks who try to deflect conversations about alternative medicine and other unevidenced practices with accusations that criticizing these things is culturally insensitive, and that’s only because this latter set gets people killed.
I’m an antitheist, more so than many of the people in my social circle. I do not merely disbelieve in deities and the traditions that come along with them; I also think that other people shouldalso disbelieve. I think that religion has, at best, severely outlived its usefulness and, more likely, has been a force for consistent ill in humankind’s history. I think them all false, and I think them all dangerous. There are some I find more palatable than others and some that are more reality-based than others, but none meet with my actual approval. I know many people who cleave to various religions and who are exemplary human beings my life is richer for including, and I know a much larger assortment of religious humans who fit in Donald Trump’s basket of deplorables. As a Taína trans lesbian, I am targeted for harms both ongoing and historic by the largest religious establishments in my vicinity, including through non-religious institutions nevertheless suffused with religious sentiment, and the entire edifice fills me with loathing; as a scientist, its non-empirical silliness me with irritated bemusement. As far as I am concerned, the good ones are good despite their faith, not because of it.
I’m often challenged, with all of that in mind, to describe what a version of Christianity my antitheism wouldn’t encompass would look like. If indeed my antitheism isn’t driven purely by emotional antipathy, then surely there is such a version. And there is.
Pokémon is a long-running television series, currently spanning nearly 1000 episodes since its Japanese debut in 1997. Like many such cartoons, it also encompasses a number of feature-length films, set between the episodes of the series and occasionally referenced thereafter. The nineteen Pokémon films are a fascinating oeuvre in their own right, because they return repeatedly to themes particularly dear to me and to other autistic, indigenous viewers.
Reading The Way of the Heathen, first and foremost, reminded me of why I fell in love with Greta Christina’s writing. A series of meditations on weighty topics from an atheist, science-loving perspective, The Way of the Heathen is the antidote to religious insistence that we have no answers for what it means to live a life well lived, and a much-appreciated bridge between the scientific and the sublime.
A writer for Charisma News wrote a listicle of reasons he believes in, not just a Christian deity, but the one he specifically gleans from his reading of the Bible. Lists like this come in two forms (scientific “mysteries” and trite emotional manipulation), and this one somehow managed to be both of them, which makes it oddly fascinating to deconstruct.
I am a long, long way from Florida right now, and I quite expect to remain so long-term. I’m in a field where half of the positions are unambiguously terrible and the other half assume that one can migrate thousands of miles every few years for the privilege of working in them. The luxury my parents enjoyed of being able to pick a place based on such prosaic concerns as “family” or “weather” has been systematically denied to young academics in general and my generation in particular, and that means that, even if I wanted to live in a place with Florida’s farce of a political scene, I will likely never have that privilege. If South Florida is even still above ground by then.
Of all the phrases theists use to lull themselves to sleep each night, “atheists have faith just like we do” might be the most obnoxious.
“Faith” is one of several word games believers play with nonbelievers when they’re feeling dishonest, alongside “spirituality” and, beautifully, “belief.” These games bank on how deviously slippery those words are, as they can mean more-or-less whatever the person using them wants them to mean. While all of these games are infuriating, “faith” gets under my skin more than the others, because it is somehow more dishonest.
One aspect of my deconversion story that stands out to many readers is that it didn’t feature certain accusations that atheists, especially freshly minted atheists, often receive. Partly, that’s because I was secretive about it for so many years, so the people who would have accused me of things simply didn’t know it was an option. More importantly, my culture, like some others, is entwined enough with its standard religion that it tends to forget that members of other religions, let alone of no religion, can be found in its ranks at all. The space filled by atheists in others’ imaginations is filled by communists here, or by sullen nihilistic teenagers whose non-religion is only ever implied, not stated.
So I’ve only rarely had to deal with that stereotyped idea that an atheist is an atheist because xe is “angry at God,” and that if I only quelled, grew out of, or found a “more productive” outlet for my anger, I’d return to the Christian fold. But I have nonetheless had that insulting supposition thrown at me more than once, and I want to silence it once and for all.