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?


~ by timberwraith on December 24, 2010.

12 Responses to “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things…”

  1. LOL

  2. Beforewisdom, that was stunning. I have yet another reason to flee my earthy residence. 😮

    Maybe I can hail a passing Vogon ship…


  4. Oh wow. I didn’t realize that the original TV series (rather than the recent movie) was available on Hulu. Cool. I own a copy of the recent movie, but I don’t think I’ve seen the original in its entirety. Thanks. 🙂

    Now, where’s my towel?

  5. I can completely identify with this. In my circles, people either assume that the leaders of the church are purposefully conspiring the keep the faithful unaware of “the truth”, or AT BEST, they question whether the top leaders are evil liars or simply as ignorant as everyone else.

    It is only rare that people will say, “Hey, maybe they keep sharing this stuff because they actually believe it to be true!”

  6. Yeah, that reminds me of when I hear some atheists say, “theists secretly realize that their god doesn’t exist.” No, I’m pretty certain that many theists sincerely believe that their god exists. You and I find the notion hard to believe, but they are quite convinced.

  7. There was a “Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” radio show produced by the BBC before they made the TV series linked to above. It was probably the best out of all aside from the books. If you google around you can find places to download it.

  8. I recently finished “The God Delusion” by Dawkins. I skipped the part of the book dealing with arguments for and against god(s). It is a bit like beating a dead horse for me. There was a little bit of negativity at the start of the book, but the rest of it was fantastic. I found the chapters dealing with atheism and religion in contemporary life fascinating. I also found Dawkins to be down to Earth and speaking from the heart…and not trying to impress anyone with what skeptic he is. Very, very refreshing.

  9. FWIW, I’ve seen a few youtubes of the genX atheists along the lines of “atheists are not skeptics”. I’m kind of hopeful. I find skeptics to be incredibly tiresome. They don’t produce an new knowledge and they took a good habit to an banal, self congratulatory OCD extreme.

  10. I agree, there are a group of anti-theists who think denegrating religion will help their cause.

    I’m all for good rhetoric and an exacting polemic now and again, as it serves a point. But just to bash religion (in general) seems to miss a much larger point.

    Anyway, nontheist or nonreligious works just as well as atheism in my book. But I for one think atheism is a perfectly fine label. It’s precise, and I’m all about having words mean what they’re supposed to.

    Peace and chicken grease!

    Just wrote this blog if you’re interested in alternatives to atheism.

  11. Hey Tristan. It’s been a while, huh?

    Labels are funny, restrictive things. I often find that I can’t fit my position on a topic under a single label. I read your article and I’m not sure if ignosticism really works for me. I’m happy taking an agnostic or an atheist position depending on what kind of deity a person is talking about, but I’m just not interested in proving or disproving the existence of someone’s concept of god.

    I recognize that people’s notion of a deity often varies on an individual by individual basis. Consequently, I think it’s completely unrealistic to expect that people can agree upon a standard definition of god. I’m fascinated by people’s individualized concepts of god and I realize that those concepts hold deep meaning for them. However, I feel a resounding apathy regarding whether their concept of god represents reality. The more important question for me concerns whether the person’s concept of god is maladaptive and harmful. Does their theology bring harm to themselves or others? If the answer is no, then I am largely unconcerned.

    It seems that the ignostic position holds the objective of determining if the term “god” can be defined in a way that holds a coherent, common meaning and allows for a process of proof or disproof to take place. Since I don’t care if a person’s god-belief is true and I accept that god is a concept that entails a specialized meaning that varies on an individual basis, I’m probably disqualified from being an ignostic.

    In fact, I think that the notion of a god, by its very nature, is subjective and thus, impossible to verify on a universal basis. Nevertheless, that doesn’t change the fact that the concept of god is meaningful to the individual who embraces it. It may not hold intelligible meaning for you or I, but it does hold meaning for the bearer of the belief.

    Thanks for the discussion of ignosticism, at your blog. It helped my further define my own take on things.

  12. Wow that IS a disgusting sign — and I am an atheist.
    But like you, when connotations, intentions, emotions and attitudes like those get piled on the word “atheist”, I want to distance myself as much as I can.

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