Archive for October 4th, 2007

04
Oct
07

What I learned from the atheists

It’s not a good idea to fuck with people’s beliefs. And now I realize that, for many people, atheism is a belief as dearly held and as passionately defended as those of any religious fundamentalist.

My sojourn among the atheists began innocently enough, when I left a comment on another blog. The post in question was about Richard Dawkins, and I commented that I thought he was a “self-aggrandizing blowhard” and compared him to Jimmy Swaggart. Dawkins, as many of you know, is the favorite binky of many atheists, and my offhand comment about him kicked off a debate that eventually generated 87 comments on that post.

It was fun, for awhile. As some of you know, I can be a tad argumentative, and I enjoy debate. It should be noted that I was never arguing the existence of God per se. I was merely pointing out that any statement made on this subject is based on conjecture, not fact. Therefore, both theism and atheism are based on speculation, irrespective of whether one is a theist or atheist.

And so it went back and forth. As I said, it was fun. It should be noted that everyone involved in that debate kept it polite and civil and intelligent. I even made a friend along the way, an atheist who also has a WordPress blog here. He has left comments on this blog as well, and I admire the logical and rational way he presents his arguments. I consider him an intelligent man and a worthy antagonist.

I also explored other atheist blogs and sites, and I discovered that it’s not always so civil out there. There is apparently a schism within atheism itself between the moderate “I just don’t see any evidence of God” type atheists, and the hard-core “I know for a fact there is no God and there must be something wrong with you if you believe in one” types. There seems to be some animosity between the two groups.

One thing I have learned is that a hard-core atheist can be every bit as stubborn and inflexible as any religious fundamentalist. They swear at you and call you weird names. “Theistard” was one name that was hurled at me by one very angry young woman. It makes me wonder what may have happened in her life to drive her to such a degree of rage at the very idea of God. I found this odd because I’ve always equated passion with belief. It never occurred to me that one could disbelieve in something passionately, and yet this is very much the case. Just as some people need to believe in God, there are some people who seem to need to believe that there is no God at all.

It’s not that I ever expected to change anyone’s mind, at least not right away.  I understand that human beings just aren’t hard-wired that way.  But a debate is only interesting–at least for the me–when you feel the other side is listening and considering what you’re saying.  Especially when considering an esoteric subject like God, there’s plenty of room for constructive disagreement.  But if someone stakes out a position and won’t budge an inch from it then after a while it just gets very tedious and it just stops being fun.

I certainly don’t want to give the impression that I think all atheists are like this.  In fact, it’s probably a minority, just as it’s only a minority of people who hold religious beliefs fall into the category of fundamentalist.  But in my view the two extreme groups are mirror images of each other, although both sides bristle at the suggestion.

As has been pointed out to me (several times now), I have neglected this blog. I am a bit obsessive about some things, and I have allowed this to eat up an inordinate amount of my time. A big part of the problem is that I tend to get hyper focused on something, to the exclusion of all else. Exploring the land of the atheists was fascinating, but I think it’s time to come home now. If I had more time and energy, I could do it all, but I’ve come to realize that I can either spend my limited free time debating atheists, or spend it writing on this blog. And so the blog wins.

Besides, I think everyone is sick of looking at that damned cat.

-Smith

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taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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