I updated my Facebook status today. I had something running through my mind and wanted to post it so I could have it in words. This is what it said:
It is wild presumption to posit that there is an intelligent being in charge of the universe. It is arrogance to assume that your definition of that being is the right one. It is supreme egotism to presume that if such a being exists it would care about you at all, let alone think you important to its plans.
I don't think this is overly abrasive. Much of what I post is fairly innocuous with a few confrontational jabs thrown in when my feathers get ruffled. This particular comment has three points, and I can defend them all. Here's my reasoning explained:
- There is no tangible evidence that suggests any intelligent agent outside of our physical realm or experiences exists. There is therefore no evidence that such a being is in charge of the universe or its mechanics. Any "evidence" offered up by theists invariably boils down to subjective personal experience, ancient texts, fantastical mythology and moral tales, or dogmatic adherence to things learned from authority figures as a child. It's safe to say that in the absence of any actual evidence of such a being's existence, it is speculation at the least and outright fabrication at the most to suggest that such a being exists and controls our universe.
- There are dozens of modern religions with literally hundreds of sects and denominations within. Each one has a slightly (or wildly) different view of what "god" is. Each one believes that they, without a doubt, have the most perfect and compelling definition of god. It is safe to say that each one believes that the others have a faulty definition of god. When one person (or group of like-minded people) out of billions of people believes they can be the only one in the whole world with some sort of special knowledge, it suggests a level of arrogance that I don't feel can be denied. What makes you so very special and so very smart that you've managed to pick the right god out of thousands when everybody else believes they're just as right as you?
- Suppose there really is a god. Suppose he or she really is the supreme creator and master of the universe. Suppose he or she really is busy running everything everywhere at exactly the same time. Does it not reveal a massive ego to assert that you -- a tiny, frail little being on a tiny, out-of-the-way planet orbiting an inconsequential star -- are important enough to this being that he or she would take even an instant out of its time to listen to your petty little requests or care at all about your selfish little tears? Does it make any sense that if you do have a soul this being finds it interesting or valuable enough to spend any time or energy whatsoever to harvest for safe-keeping or punishment for eternity? How does one go about feeling that good about themselves? It's egotism and I'm unrepentant about pointing that out.
All of that being said, I suppose that someone who has allowed their religion to become a foundation of their identity could conceivably take offense at a statement like this. And someone did...
Classy? Like being a practicing member and vehement defender of an institution that has made it policy to protect predators of children, oppressors of thought, and abusers of power? Like contributing time and money to an organization like the Catholic Church as though all of its horrible actions have been ordained by a loving, caring deity? Like taking offense to something I posted on my Facebook wall (not yours) and projecting feelings and attitudes onto someone else that clearly don't apply? I can only aspire to such admirable class. I'll work on that...not.
The thing I really want to address in this exchange is the term "angry atheist." I'm not entirely sure what that means. Does pointing out the irrationality of an unfounded belief constitute anger? Even if I came right out and said, "Your beliefs are stupid" I don't think I'd be illustrating anger. I'm merely making an observation. If you feel I'm in the wrong, then correct me. Educate me. After all, that's really what I want. You appear to believe that you have special knowledge that I don't have. Even worse, you believe that if I don't gain this knowledge I'll be punished for eternity. Withholding that kind of important information from someone doomed to an eternity of torture seems more angry and bitter than anything I could muster...if it were really true.
Now, I'm not the only one who's been called "angry." Activists like JT Eberhard, P.Z. Meyers, Richard Dawkins, Greta Christina, and many others are constantly the target of projection from theists who seem to be constantly butt-hurt about having their ridiculous beliefs ridiculed. "Why are you so angry?" seems to be the battle-cry of the irrational. There appears to be the perception that an uncomfortable conversation can be ended simply by pointing out the "anger" or "bitterness" of the opposition. That's not an intellectual approach. The faithful continue to wonder why we atheists feel like we use our brains more. I'm just saying...
Let's just clear some things up right now:
- I'm not an "angry atheist." There are things that anger me, sure, but I don't live my life or define myself by these things. I prefer to focus on the positive things that can come out of leading people into the light of reason. Yes, this entails addressing the angry-makers. So I do.
- I am sometimes an angry human being. This has nothing to do with my atheism. It has everything to do with the injustice, cruelty, and horror I witness in the world because everyone has god on their side. It's crap. It's intolerable at times. Rational, caring people shouldn't sit by quietly and watch these things happen without -- at the very least -- saying something about it. I don't apologize for that.
- If you take offense at a jab I make at irrational beliefs, then you're the one with the problem. You've allowed dogma to rule your life. You've placed value on an invisible friend over the billions of real, live people who actually do have value. Shame on you.
When you speak to me about religious beliefs you'll find me making arguments against specific points that I find confusing, not attacking you personally. If you want to put on the tired, old Cloak of Persecution™ and tell everyone about how the mean old "Angry Atheist" hurt your feelings that's your problem. Call me when you've grown up and are able to handle an adult conversation on a hard topic. Maybe you should pray for me to stop being so angry. God shouldn't have a hard time with that one.