Lindy West, in an article on the Jezebel website, said that she was embarrassed to be an atheist because some atheists are dicks. I get tired of such complaints. I agree that being a dick shouldn’t be our first move, but why should believers get special treatment for their irrational and silly beliefs when they tend to be used to hurt scores of people around the world. Why are atheists always the ones asked to change?
But this article isn’t about forgiving or ignoring all of the atrocities—overt and covert—that religion sows. It’s about being kind to individual human beings. I get that you, atheist person, think that religion is stupid. Magic sky-baby, fairy-tale theater, the whole thing. That’s a seductive framework that simultaneously strokes your ego and doubles as a noble social justice crusade (and it’s a self-indulgent trap I’ve fallen into many times). After all, religion does horrible things to the world! Religion deserves it! Yes, religion deserves it, and many people deserve it. But many other people don’t.
Whatever your views on Christianity, you have to acknowledge that at least the Bible tells people to be nice. There are a lot of people who really love that book, and they only follow the “nice” parts. Those are the people I’m talking about here. I’m not interested in being part of a movement that actively excises “nice.”
If you take your understanding that god is a fiction and use it to insult and abuse others, you’re being exactly the kind of amoral garbage bag that religious bigots say we are. STOP LETTING THE RELIGIOUS BIGOTS WIN, PLEASE.
Yes, the Bible does tell people to love one another but it also tells people to perform animal sacrifices among other nasty shit.
The problem with West’s unicorn and rainbow view is the people who only follow the nice parts of the Bible are enablers of the religious dicks who use the nasty parts to hurt a lot of people. The people hurt aren’t just gay people who can’t be married but the women who have forced genital mutilation in Egypt or little girls being shot for attending school in Pakistan.
Believing that religion is only the general “moderate” kind we get to enjoy here in the United States is a huge mistake.
If I “get in the grill” of Joe Smoe, for example, who only follows the nice parts, then maybe he might work to reign in the bad actors of his religion or at least be aware of the bad parts of his religion.
I wouldn’t make that my first move, but it I would if Joe started to force his religion on me in any way.
Later in the essay West writes about a girl who was a victim of a rape and who “found Christ” to help deal with the trauma:
You’re going to tell that girl that she’s an idiot for believing in god? You’re going to laugh in her face and trot out one of your big logical trump cards? You’re going to pat yourself on the back for being “smarter” than this person whose humanity was violently stripped from her when she was just a child? Are you also going to tell her that she’s a disgusting fatass who should go on a diet because of your insurance premiums? Who the fuck are you to tell her how to survive?
There are a lot of people in the world who have nothing. Faith in a higher power gives them one thing. You know what we call people who try to take away other people’s one thing?
You know what else can help people cope with trauma in their lives? Drugs and alcohol. You don’t normally see people recommending those things for abuse victims. Why? Because like “finding Christ” drugs and alcohol keeps one from actually addressing the trauma. Yes, the girl “feels good”, but that still doesn’t mean religion is the correct treatment. That’s why we have professional therapists who have the skills to help crime victims face their trauma and heal the right way.
West feels terrible for the girl who was raped, I get that, but as an atheist it still doesn’t allow me to ignore the wrong unscientific treatment just as I couldn’t look the other way if the girl was on drugs or alcohol.
Believing in Santa Claus made me feel good when I was kid, but if I still believed in Santa now, my family would have my mental health checked.
I agree that atheists shouldn’t start off being dicks, but not if that means I have to be silent or humor a believer with their silly beliefs. I would really love to see believers stop hurting people and also stop being dicks themselves.