Saturday, January 28, 2012

Theism, Atheism, and Blame


Gad, how does one kill this senseless piece of atheist bigotry? The idea has dug itself into the atheist community as tight as a tick, even though it represents the worst forms of unreasoned bigotry.

It’s the idea that when a religious person does something wrong religion is to blame, but when an atheist does something atheism is blameless.

This is a very attractive conclusion – for the hate-mongering atheist bigot. The lover of reason has no use for it, but the hate-monger has sure found it attractive.

If you take “atheism” and its counter-part “theism” NEITHER of these are a source of violence or evil. You cannot draw any moral implications from the statement, “It is not the case that at least one God exists” just as you cannot draw any moral implication from the statement, “It is the case that at least one God exists.” They are both behaviorally, morally, and practically impotent.

In order to get to any moral conclusion – any type at all – you have to add something to your fundamental premise, regardless of whether it is atheist or theist.

In order to get violence against homosexuals, you have to combine, “At least one God exists” with “That god commands that homosexuals be put to death” and “We all have to duty to do that which God commands.” Then, you can get behavior worthy of condemnation.

However, on this level, the same reasoning applies to atheism. In order to get any form of behavior – any type at all – out of atheism you have to add something to your fundamental premise. We might add, “Man is a rational animal, and it is irrational to provide help to others unless one expects a sufficient profit in return that more than compensates the cost of the help. Therefore, man ought not to help others. Selfishness is a virtue.”

If we are going to say that religion is responsible for the violence against homosexuals in the first instance, then consistency commands that we hold that atheism is responsible for the selfish disregard for others in the second case.

If, on the other hand, we are going to deny that atheism has anything to do with the selfish disregard for others in the second case, then logical consistency requires that we also deny that theism has anything to do with the violence against homosexuals in the first place.

There is no grounding – none at all – for the claim that religion is responsible in the first instance but that atheism is blameless in the second.

But, hate-mongering bigotry is so sweet, so warm and comfortable. It is so much fun. This sweet, warm, comforting fun is why this bigotry continues to be such huge part of atheist culture.

Oh, and we need to add hypocrisy to this list of evil pleasures. Because when theists engage in these types of unprincipled leaps of logic in order to defend hateful and bigoted conclusions against atheists, they are to be condemned.

The bigot’s trick is to compare general atheism (to which no harms can be attributed) with specific theism (which can be charged with doing harm). Yet, they scream in protest when theists go the other way, comparing general theism (your condemnation is senseless because I can identify at least one person who believes in God who is not guilty of your charges) to specific atheism (Stalin).

Here’s the fact. Religion is exactly as harmful or as harmless as atheism – no more and no less. There are certain religious philosophies that can be condemned for the evil that they contain. However, there are certain atheist philosophies that can be condemned for the evil that they contain. Yes, it is true, atheism itself does not entail any of these philosophies. However, theism itself does not entail any specific religion either.

In other words, when it comes to being a cause of harm, “atheism” (broadly defined) is just as innocent as “theism” (broadly defined). And specific atheist philosophies (narrowly defined) in many cases are just as guilty as specific theist philosophies (narrowly defined). And no decent person is going to sanction scoring political points by comparing broadly defined atheism to narrowly defined theism, or comparing broadly defined theism to narrowly defined atheism. The lover of reason finds this move indefensible. Though the lover of hate-mongering bigotry tends to find this move very, very delicious.

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