This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things…
Sometimes we atheists are full of shit.
There. I said it.
Do you see the billboard at the top of this blog post? It’s the latest in a billboard campaign sponsored by a group called the American Atheists. It warms the heart, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it make you want to go out and give one of us a big hug?
It reminds me of why I so often want to separate myself from the label atheist. The more I see things like this, the more I feel that agnosticism is my preferred home turf. Sometimes, I even find myself wanting to believe in a deity just to piss off some of my more obnoxious atheist compatriots.
*sigh* Lets set aside the sarcasm for a short moment and look at this a little more closely.
The term scam implies a conscious intent to deceive others and exploit that deception for personal gain. So, according to the billboard, all religions are scams. Hence, all religions are designed and run with the purpose of using religious belief as a vehicle in deceiving others and the people who are associated with these institutions use that deceit for their own personal gain.
Since we’re talking about billboards, let’s put a visual to this. This, according to our friends at American Atheists, is the incarnation of all religions and the people associated with them:
Does this reflect reality?
Perhaps I’m a little reality-challenged, but as best I can tell, tons of religious people and their leaders are quite sincere in their beliefs and they also believe that they bring good into the world via their faith. You may think that god and various other supernatural concepts are complete bunk, but that doesn’t mean others’ beliefs are automatically corrupt plots to hurt the unwary. Do you folks actually know any religious people? Not the virtual ones you shout at from your internet forums and your expensive conventions, but, you know: actual, real-life religious people?
I know a number of religious folks personally—one is even a pastor at a church—and as much as I don’t believe in a deity, I still recognize that they are decent folk who are sincere in their beliefs and they have the best intentions at heart. Heck, except for a god-belief, I pretty much share many of their values and I see their church supporting the same causes I support. (I’m thinking of a particular progressive congregation as I’m writing this.) God or no god, I still respect them as human beings. If I were to say they were part of a scam I would be coming from a place that is incredibly mean-spirited.
How many people employ their sincerely held beliefs to deceive others for their own personal gain and do so with every intention of bringing good into the world? Does that sentence even make sense?
As a non-believer, this billboard reminds me of why I feel uneasy with people on both sides of the god debate. We both have a habit of painting the other side with extremely broad brush strokes. There are mounds and mounds of dark spirited verbiage launched between the two camps on a daily basis. I wish people on both sides would just shut up for a while and contemplate each other’s common humanity. Instead, we denigrate each other as the epicenter of villainy. We call each other names. All the while, we assure ourselves of our own wholesome, wondrous superiority.
Yay for us. Fuck the other people. Sometimes, it seems as though that’s our common refrain.
Put another way, the noisiest people on both sides tend to spew invective at the other without the intent of anything approaching meaningful communication. It makes both sides look like a bunch of shallow, mean-spirited assholes. If that’s the kind of image that people want to project, by all means, put up some more billboards just like this one. I’m sure the more obnoxious Christians on the other side of this issue will answer these billboards with something equally vile.
Then, we can all be satisfied with having wasted our money on maintaining our hateful, two-dimensional perceptions of other people.
We could use that money to help poor people, flood victims, or war refugees, but hey, who cares? We’ve got bigger fish to fry. Shouting stupid, ugly things is more important.
God, if you exist, can I move to a different planet? Maybe another universe?