Friday, January 21, 2011

Rally 'round the flag, fellow heathens!

I was just watching Piers Morgan of CNN interview Ricky Gervais in regards to his appearance as the host of the 2011 Golden Globes.  Gervais spent several minutes mercilessly demolishing various attending celebrities in a monologue which I personally found hilarious.  Now, not too surprisingly, Gervais's rant was eclipsed by a comment he made at the close of the show- "Thank you to God, for making me an atheist."  This incurred the wrath of American culture swiftly and effectively.  Atheism in America seems to be a lot like the kid in school that nobody really likes- we know he's there, we put up with him by not really paying any attention to him, and everyone is content with ignoring him; as soon as someone actually acknowledges him and tries to include him, people get upset.  Nobody will outright say that atheists should not be treated equally (except perhaps George H.W. Bush, who I am sure would pin the whole thing on a misinterpretation of sorts), but the vast majority of America secretly hopes they'll keep to themselves.  This is exactly what Ricky Gervais did not do, and I applaud him for this; he was not condescending or critical of others' beliefs, he simply stated his own lack of belief with pride and a little bit of Ricky Gervais humor.  Yet Morgan still warns him that he may be "offending" Americans with his comment.  How does that work, I ask?  Let's remember the positions of Christianity and atheism here: Christianity is making a claim, atheism is rejecting it.  Surely it is not offensive to state one's neutrality.  Gervais is really not making any sort of claim here, save for the fact that he does not share America's belief.  Let us imagine that there are two religions in America: Christianity and Judaism.  If someone says, "I am not Christian.  I don't agree with it.  I am Jewish," then no one would have a problem with his rejection of Christianity.  They don't mind because he is choosing a different religion.  Now, if that same someone said, "I am neither Christian nor Jewish," it would be considered offensive.  What has changed?  He is only rejecting a belief, which wasn't considered offensive in our former hypothetical.  What has changed here is that he is not choosing another belief to profess in the absence of Christianity or Judaism; people are offended because he is not choosing a religion as most Americans do.  Ricky Gervais managed to offend America, it seems, by professing no beliefs at all, which is quite silly when we think of it in that light.

I assure you I have not forgotten my original statements about atheism in America at some point during my zealous defense of Ricky Gervais; it is now that I come full circle.  This tactic- claiming offense at something which really should not even have the ability to offend someone- is the trick that my dominantly Christian nation will pull when someone has the audacity to not only take note of atheism, but speak of it with approval or even preference.  This is why atheists will come under fire whenever they step into the public eye- because they are "offending" people of faith (which have the advantage of being both the majority and the cultural norm).  It does not matter, as Gervais has proved, if all an atheist does is say "I am glad to be an atheist" in a place where America can hear him- it is offensive.  If there is one thing I have noticed about American culture, it is that anything new and strongly counter-cultural will be treated with caution and distaste, if not fear and hatred.  An atheist will rarely have rights denied him on account of his nonbelief; but his rights are given to him in a rather begrudging way, and if there is some way that he can be swept under the rug and silenced, the media and the general public will be only too happy to do so.

Gervais showed us once again how much discomfort there is towards atheism in America, and all he did was say he was thankful to be an atheist (the mention of God was a little dash of oxymoronic Gervais humor, as I saw it).  Imagine if he had spoken about his atheism with half the zeal we see in Christian fundamentalists all over America- the consequences would have been ten times as dire for him.  It is for this reason- this unwritten rule of silence that we find ourselves facing, this attitude of  "Don't talk about it and we won't complain"- that we must be as vocal as possible, more vocal than we have been to date.  We are not a valued minority in America.  We are hugely ignored, unappreciated, and fundamentally misunderstood.  It is because we are something new, stronger in numbers than atheists have ever been before in our history, that our country will resist us initially, as a body will often reject a substance it has never experienced before.  We must not be content with staying silent and submissive.  We will not be given a voice; we must make one for ourselves.


  1. Why would he speak about atheism with zeal?
    Does one take pride in the fact that one's life is meaningless? Or that, as some are obviously more evolved than others, it is alright to treat those less evolved like the animals they still are? Or do you not believe that Hitler was an avid atheist who saw the Jews as a waste of the earth's space? Is it not true that evolutionary thinking leads to racism?
    On that note, I am curious as to why you say you are a joyful atheist when atheism itself gives every reason in the world not to be joyful! Perhaps you are like Epicurus. In case philosophy was not one of your college courses, he is the philosopher who said "Two things keep man from being happy: Fear of God and fear of horrors beyond the grave."
    So, obviously, the only way one can be happy is if there is no God and nothing beyond the grave, correct? You see, if there is no "higher power" there is no one to be accountable to, and you can do as you please. And by no one, I mean NO one. If there is not a supernatural higher power to be accountable to, why should you be accountable to those in authority in the natural realm? There is no purpose in not doing exactly as you please. You only live once, right? Shouldn't you get as much pleasure out of this life as possible? Why should you worry about obeying commands or keeping laws? For that matter, why are there laws in the first place? Did they evolve? Why did monkeys or Neanderthals decide it was wrong to steal, murder, rape, etc? How would they have come up with a moral law code? Did it evolve? Is it like a hereditary talent passed down biologically? If that is the case than the crimes Hitler committed were merely the results of of biological glitches, and Mother Teresa was simply genetically blessed. There can be no judging of him, or any commending her, because their actions were just the result of their different parentage. They could not help doing what they did. If Mother Teresa had Hitler's parents, would she have been lacking the same lack of respect for human life as Hitler?
    Of course, why would someone respect human life? If atheism is correct in its statements, human life is not any different than the life of an animal. That was the opinion of Hitler. That is the opinion of those who support abortion and euthanasia. (Both of which occur in the animal kingdom) And such is the opinion of the evolutionist that states we are merely intelligent monkeys.

    As I do believe human life is of great value (Genesis 1:27 says God created man in His own image), I must go and take care of my little brother who has the flu.
    I have one last note before I go,
    You seem to think atheist are oppressed and constantly silenced, and that people are so biased against them. I find this opinion fascinating, as I have never heard of an atheist being tortured for his beliefs. I've never seen the media mock atheism. The ACLU doesn't attempt to get young college students expelled for saying they are atheist. I've never seen a scientist fired for questioning creationism. I have never heard of a movie being censored for promoting billions of years. However, is a science teacher suggest the possibility of a supreme God in a public school, he is not only fired, but sued. Churches are attacked because the cross on the steeple makes people feel guilty. Scientists are discredited and mocked if they question the theory of evolution.
    Are the atheist really the ones being silent?
    Or maybe they do not wish to promote their message of hopelessness? You go tell that depressed girl her life has no purpose and that she's an accident, then come and tell me how joyous it made you feel when you heard she committed suicide.
    ~These are just some thoughts from a 17 year old girl~

  2. Your comment jumps rather excitedly from point to point with astounding speed, touching upon many subjects but not really offering much depth on any of them. I do notice a recurring theme, however- you have questions, not facts. Rather than offering evidence for your position, you question the feasibility of mine. I thus conclude you are curious about the atheistic position, and from the sound of it, you gravely misunderstand it. I will respond to your questions, but I urge you, if you are serious about getting to know the way an atheist sees the world, to pick up some books on the subject. The "New Atheists"- Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris- are worth reading; although they are not always quite as skilled in philosophy as I would like them to be, they still do a fairly good job of explaining the way atheists see the world. I'm afraid I don't have very much time to respond, but I'll try to be concise and cover everything.

    First paragraph- what you are referring to is Social Darwinism; i.e. the belief that we should somehow derive our morals from evolutionary theory. This makes no more sense than saying we should derive or morals from gravity, or from mathematics. No rational Darwinist actually advocates Social Darwinism; it is rather an argument that theists often use without any atheist having proposed it in any way. This link may help explain it further:

    I chose the name "The Joyful Atheist" to address exactly what you are talking about here; the assumption that atheists cannot be happy if God isn't telling them what to do or how to think. I have many things in my life that make me happy- my friends, my camera, my cat, piano, She & Him- and I think it would be quite an insult to tell them the only reason I care about them is because God told me to. This is quite a disgrace to our humanity. Epicurus also said “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?”

    You are correct; there is no authority telling us what to do. Perhaps, since you seem to be familiar with philosophers, you are familiar with Euthyphro, who asked whether something was commanded by God because it was good, or whether it was good because God commanded it. If the first, then morality is independent of God. If the second, then morality is arbitrary to God himself and we are following an arbitrary morality by listening to him; I would want no part of such a thing. If morality is arbitrary to God, he could tomorrow declare that we must murder all children, and your "objective" morality would require that you do so. This is a horrible concept. Now, in regards to the morality of atheists- I get my sense of right and wrong from an understanding of reality, not an assertion of authority. I am good to others because I love them, not because I want to score points with God and get to Heaven. I know that happiness and suffering are undesirable states, and I would not wish to cause others to feel them. This is why I exhibit kindness. I understand happiness and suffering from my own experiences and I can use that knowledge to govern my actions accordingly so that I do not cause others to feel suffering. I understand that to create and maintain a stable society, we must realize that each of us' right to swing our fist ends at another man's nose. You, on the other hand, will do what you are told, regardless of what we see, what we feel, or what consequences may be apparent. This is what caused such things as the crusades- the notion that no matter how much pain one causes, n matter how many lives are lost, it is okay as long as God says it is. I will have no part of such a thing.

    Continued in next comment.

  3. In your comment, this argument then lapses back into Social Darwinism, which I already addressed above. Click on the link for more information about it.

    As to your last point- I frequent various atheist websites and forums online, and there are atheists all around America, my country, who are being oppressed, silenced, tortured, isolated, and mocked for their beliefs. It tears apart families, it causes needless strife. There is a constant and powerful push for "Creationism" to be taught in schools as well. This is directly against the Constitution, but in a vastly Christian nation, they are quite a force to be reckoned with. There was a huge outcry recently when two billboards supporting atheism were put up- and yet there are billboards all over the United States quoting the Bible and condemning atheists. There is the example with Mr. Gervais that I addressed in this post. About one in eight teachers are still teaching creationism as a valid science. Atheists, according a recent survey, are the most distrusted minority in the United States. They also scored lowest in terms of who the people being polled would like their children to marry. If someone if a Christian, it is very easy to not notice these things. It is only when someone is in the minority and pays attention that it becomes apparent; when 85% of the country is religious, it is very easy to be a little biased.

    Lastly, I truly hope atheists are NOT being silent. Their message is not one of hopelessness but of liberation; if you truly find the only thing in your life worth anything to be God, and you don't think anything in your life is worthy of meaning unless God tells you it is, I feel very sorry for you indeed. You sound quite grim indeed when you tell me I'm going to make girls commit suicide by talking about how atheism has positively impacted my life; now why would I tell anyone that their life has no purpose? Why should purpose come from God? Rather, I would tell that girl that she is free to live and believe as she likes, that there are many wonderful and beautiful things in this world to live for, that we live in a boundless and awesome universe created from an intricate and complex group of laws. I would NOT tell her that she is a slave, being watched every moment of her life by a deity who tells her what to believe, how to act, and that her entire purpose in this life and the next is simply to praise him and grovel at his feet, and that this universe and everything she knows is simply the result of this deity desiring to create little puppets that will either spend their existence doing his bidding and worshiping him, or they will be thrown into eternal fire. These are sick, sick things to tell anyone, especially a child.