By Eddie Miles
www.theeverydayskeptic.com

With all the talk about atheists being the most distrusted segment of society and with the fact that many of us can’t even come out of the proverbial closet to our own friends and family, it’s easy to forget what we have going for us. In fact, what a lot of non-believers don’t realize is that we really have it made right now. We can make some claims that theists just can’t make… Well, they make the claims but they don’t have the evidence to back them up like we do.

Those claims that I’m talking about are the claims of moral and intellectual superiority. The rate of atheists in prisons is much lower than the rate within the general population. That, coupled with the fact that less religious countries have lower crime rates indicates that contrary to what theists will insist, we atheists take the win in the area of morals. Also, studies show that educated people are less likely to believe in gods or any other superstitions. Obviously then, the less educated are more likely to be religious. Everyday skeptics utilize these claims pretty often, which is why it’s so sad that they will eventually go away.

Wait… what?

Yeah, as much as I love using these little nuggets of uplifting knowledge, they won’t be there and available forever. This is because thanks to activist groups like American Atheists, writers like Dawkins and Myers, and bloggers like… uh… well anyway, thanks to these people, atheism is becoming what we call “popular”. And why is the popularity of atheism such a bad thing? It’s not overall. In fact, I’m thrilled to see it becoming such a hot topic.

But unfortunately, being popular will cause us to be associated with people who call themselves atheists or skeptics just because of its popularity. Think about it, why don’t christians really have the right to claim moral high ground like they think they do? It’s because in the US, christianity is popular, which means that of all the rapists, killers, thiefs, and other baddies, most are going to claim christianity.

Now, a lot of atheists might make the claim that christianity is somehow responsible for this behavior and they point to the evil ways of the old testament god as evidence, and that may be a valid argument for christianity on a larger scale, but given that few christians in the US have even read the bible, I just can’t buy it in this case. It seems to me like what’s really going on is that many people, criminals included, claim to be christians even though they don’t have a damned clue what it really means. The reason they claim to be christians is because christianity is popular.

Now, let’s take a look at the current skeptic movement. We have intellectual giants, like Dennett, and witty, charismatic writers, like Hitchens who lead our movement (if “lead” is even an appropriate term for a movement based on questioning). But I fear that the mostly secular nation that we are all striving for might bring with it some baggage, namely the loss of our ability to claim superiority in morals and intellect. I mean, sure the statistics will still be there, but when the time comes at which half of all criminals just happen to be atheists, the gap will close a bit and the statistical difference will be less significant. Will those who are still in violent opposition to skepticism be able to tell the difference between correlation and causation? If they can’t do it now with Stalin, they won’t be able to do it then, when the nation’s criminals are more likely to be atheists.

I don’t mean to get all apocalyptic. I’m very happy to see the movement grow as it has. It’s just that our metaphorical arms race that we have going on here with the theists might possibly turn in their favor for a bit. We’ll be fine in the long run as long as we stick to the truth. The truth can’t be changed, no matter who believes it. But we might be forced to upgrade our tactics a little bit.

Of course, that’s not to say that I’m going to quit using these arguments just because they’re close to being obsolete. I’m going to run these bitches dry. But there’s definitely something to be said for preparation.

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Why are we in an arms race with theists?  To me, it sounds as if atheism itself is another religion as you are describing it.  All atheism is, is the fact that one does not believe in a god or gods.  Nothing more, nothing less.  You get all different types from that starting point.

That is not the only point of view, Travis. You might like to read this item from P.Z. Myers' blog . . .
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/02/why_are_you_an_atheist.php

 

He despairs of people who limit the claim to: ‘All atheism is, is the fact that one does not believe in a god or gods.  Nothing more, nothing less.’

_________________________________________________________________________

 

On the other hand, I agree with you, Travis. The word atheist means exactly what you have said. For example refer to:-

http://www.wordwebonline.com/search.pl?w=atheist

 

Noun: atheist  ey-thee-ist

 

   1. Someone who does not believe in god; someone who believes that no deities exist

 

Adjective: atheist  ey-thee-ist

 

   1. Related to or characterized by or given to atheism

      "atheist leanings";

      - atheistic, atheistical

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

Refer also to:-

http://www.wordwebonline.com/search.pl?w=atheism

 

Noun: atheism  'ey-thee,i-zum

   1. The doctrine or belief that there is no God

      - godlessness

   2. A lack of belief in the existence of God or gods

 _________________________________________________________________________

 

Thus contrary to what Myers says, an atheist cannot be a rock or a tree, etc., because an atheist must be someone, (ie. a person). Atheism is a doctrine so must be held by people, and NOT animals or inanimate things.

 

But atheists are in their state of mind for many and varied reasons, and have a wide variety of attitudes. A baby is an atheist by default – they are atheist, because they are not theist. So if a person is a considered atheist, (meaning that they have arrived at a conclusion after an honest consideration of the issues and possibilities, and have come to the answer that atheism is the truth as best can be known), then we need to know more, to understand that individual. The thing which all atheists have in common, is their not believing in a god or gods - nothing more, nothing less. After that, to know more, we need to enquire of individuals why and how they come to be atheist.

 

When Myers says: ‘If I ask you to explain to me why you are an atheist, reciting the dictionary at me, you are saying nothing: asking why you are a person who does not believe in god is not answered when you reply, "Because I am a person who does not believe in god." And if you protest when I say that there is more to the practice of atheism than that, insisting that there isn't just makes you dogmatic and blind’, he is right, but I strongly suspect that the critics to whom he refers did no such thing. Yet some people are in fact atheist, without any consideration of the position, for example babies; those who have never heard of the gods; and those who simply don't care.

 

There are two separate questions here:-

 

Q1) What is an atheist? A1) Someone who does not believe in god; someone who believes that no deities exist

 

Q2) Why you are an atheist? A2) It could take several books to answer.

I guess I should have worded it a bit differently. You're correct that atheism in general isn't in an arms race with theism, but a large portion of atheists in the US are actively combating the influence of religion in the schools, government, etc. "Arms race" was of course metaphorical, meaning the struggle, engaged in by both "sides" of the argument, to influence public policy and so on.

I don't think history will judge atheists in the end for:

 

1. the enslavement of blacks - Leviticus 25:44-46 establishes slavery as part of God's eternal covenant with humanity 

2. Lev. also legitimizes apartheid and the South African racist regime of the 20th century was led by one of the most religious ethnicities on Earth, the Boers

3. it was catholics in Europe who cooked mothers alive before the eyes of their children, based on the line in deuteronomy 'thou shalt not suffer a witch to live' ... not to mention jews, gays and the genocide of cathars and other 'sacred' wars, if a war can be deemed sacred

4. jihad and contemporary terrorism

5. the crusades, where so many jews and muslims in Jerusalem were slaughtered that the streets were RIVERS of blood, literally

6. the genocide of indigenous Americans was overtly legitimized by Christian salvific theology: back then, "I have come that you may have LIFE" was literally understood as, if you don't believe in Christ, you have no right to live

7. terrorism is inaugurated in Exodus 32 where Moses has 3,000 killed, only for the crime of not believing in his god ... he then praises God's soldiers for having killed their own brothers and neighbors.  this verse reads exactly like a modern terrorist fatwa, a decree by a terrorist moslem imam.  can't discern the difference between Moses, the most revered old testament prophet, and Osama Bin Laden

8. Joshua then was hailed as a hero for the takeover of Jericho: Joshua 12 mentions 31 cities where no one was left breathing according to the Bible, because the ancient jews were so fu**ing holy that god chose them to exterminate all the canaanites and steal their land ... then Elijah massacred the devotees of Baal ... then Samuel had the Amalekites massacred (1 Samuel 15:3) including the elderly, the newborn, the ass, the goats and all their animals ... then Muhammad massacred two Jewish tribes ... and so on all the way to the present

9. in America, the mormons almost recreated the good old days when, profoundly confused by the teachings of their leader Joseph Smith, they decided that Missouri was Eden and that they would found their new Sion there.  The people of Missouri, when their land began to be taken over, organized an uprising to remove them from their lands that the Mormons use to this day to make themselves out to be the victims of, and if it wasn't for the courage of the people of Missouri, today we would have a state of Israel in the center of the United States.

 

there is no shortage of attrocities in 'sacred' history.  these took place, not in spite of religious values but BECAUSE OF religious values.  Religious values can never replace true human values and morals.

Also as for being mainstream: 85 % of Swedes are atheists, and Sweden is one of the closest things to utopia on planet Earth, in fact Scandinavian countries overall are the least religious and the Danish were in recent years declared one of the happiest people on Earth.  These are just plain facts: these are societies where the prisons are empty because there's very little crime and where people can become doctors, courtesy of the state because there is no need to pay tuition at the university level.  Compare that to the U.S. with the largest prison population on Earth, and where most of us can't afford a decent higher level education.

Also, atheist societies are more egalitarian, people's intelligence is better respected and are more friendly towards democracy and human rights.  Religious societies are invariably always hostile to human rights, and the more religious are extremely hostile - take Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanis, they're all anti-democracy and anti-human rights.  It is all, literally, FOREIGN to them.

then there's Uganda and its recent 'kill the gays' bill.  Christians in Nigeria pushed for 14 year imprisonment for homosexuality ... and even the people commiting acts of child sacrifice in Uganda, when questioned, invariably cite the acts of Abraham and others in the Bible like Jephtah who burned his own daughter to Jehovah as a burnt offering.  They are labeled 'Ugandan witches' but their belief is Bible-based.

and so NO, I don't think we should be worried about atheism going mainstream and giving us a bad name.  it would take thousands of years for atheists to even match the butchery and savagery and madness of religious people throughout history.

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