Criticizing Bad Ideas is a Moral Obligation
I can’t believe I’m about to respond to a Cracked.com article. Somebody said it made sense, though, and I can’t have that. The article is titled “4 Things Both Atheists and Believers Need to Stop Saying”. Obviously, I’m only going to respond to the criticism against atheists.
#3. Atheist:God Is Not Great
I take issue with how deliberately and needlessly provocative the phrase is. Also, how illogical. “Hey man, this God you believe in that I totally don’t believe in? Yeah, well, he sucks!” Kind of tries too hard, y’know? I mean, after all, if chicks think you’re a badass for saying your old man or your High School principal sucks, then, wow, imagine what a rebel you are for saying God sucks.
You think I actually want everyone to think I’m an asshole? Who would want that? I’d much rather be the guy who’s nice to everyone, the guy that everyone loves because he never calls his friends on their bullshit.
That’s not me, though. I’m not a doormat. When I see an idea is hurting people, I feel morally obligated to tell them about it. In my opinion, religion is dangerous and harmful. It makes people justify what they already want to believe. Without the filter of rationality, they have no ability to discern good ideas from bad ideas.
I don’t do this because people will like me. I do it because it’s my moral obligation as a human being.
Just because I don’t believe in a fictional character doesn’t mean I can’t judge it to be evil. I think Lex Luthor and Green Goblin are bad guys, too. Have I just gone off the deep end for criticizing fictional characters? See how what you’re saying makes no sense?
It’s worse than that, though. People don’t actually believe in comic book villains. They don’t go around constantly talking about how great the villains are, while at the same time using the villains to justify actions that make our world a worse place to live.
But my main complaint is that most purveyors of this sentiment don’t really have a beef with God. Even Hitchens’ book mostly tears apart the abuses of organized religion, particularly Judaism, Islam and Christianity. I’m surprised how often atheists conflate the two things. Of course organized religion sucks. It’s run by people. Religion, like government or anything structured and administered by humanity, will always be flawed and ruined by all of our weaknesses and failings.
No. Faith itself is inherently harmful. If you don’t question ideas and apply reason to them, that’s always bad. A person’s beliefs are important. They use them to help decide what actions to take in the world. If their beliefs are wrong, that makes their actions potentially harmful.
It’s not “people” that’s the problem. It’s the act of believing things for no good reason.
And given how much we suck, why shut the door completely on the possibility of something in this universe being better, stronger and wiser? Something we could strive to be more like? It’s always seemed to me that the most virulent atheists — not mere nonbelievers, but those who claim to be positive about God’s nonexistence and openly hostile to anyone who could think otherwise — are incapable of believing there could ever be something greater than they. Not a lack of faith so much as humility. Certainly, that’s not true for all atheists, but it doesn’t help the atheist cause that the three most hostile atheists I can think of are also on the short-list for most overbearingly arrogant.
We don’t shut the door on the possibility. Maybe if you actually sat down with an atheist and talked to them one-on-one, you’d know that. We are not dogmatic. We just have yet to find a convincing argument for why we should believe in the supernatural. If you’ve got a good argument or some kind of evidence, bring it. We’re more than open to hearing it. But we want some kind of evidence before we’re going to believe it. Atheists don’t believe in ideas just because they sound cool. That’s not arrogant, that’s rational.
As far as your other point against atheists, that we think “atheism makes us smarter than theists”, I’m calling strawman on this. Show me what atheist has ever said this. We don’t say that. And if an atheist does say that, they are wrong.
Atheists think the idea of religion is stupid, and we reserve the right to ridicule it. We think that ridiculing bad ideas is a good thing. That does not mean we have passed judgement on people themselves. Many theists are smart, decent people. They have bad ideas, though, and I’m going to criticize them. There’s a difference between mocking a person and mocking an idea.
Your ideas are not safe from criticism. And if I do attack your ideas, you shouldn’t take it personally. I’m not judging you, just your ideas. You would do well to do the same.