Previously, I outlined my rules for engaging with theists or apologists or whatever term they may or may not want to be identified by. To bring you up to speed, if I can boil the position or argument down to one of two generalizations, I don’t owe that person any more of my time, the reason being that bad arguments are bad arguments no matter how many times you make them.
This morning, I realized I had to rethink part of that list, possibly adding on another one thanks to the Genetically Modified Skeptic. In his video detailing the four most common mistakes that theists make in trying to convert atheists, he brings up a position that I’ve almost heard as many times as the Incredulity/Wager dynamic. I suppose you could say I’m not totally sick of it, though that’s got less to do with the merits of the “argument” and more to do with the window it opens into the motives, outlooks, and agendas of the person making it.
Arguments from ignorance are pretty telling about a person’s point of view when it comes to religion, but they more or less tell the same thing: I don’t know, therefore God. I’m reminded of an analogy involving a group of detectives standing around a crime scene completely at a loss on what could have transpired. Finally, one of them pipes up the husband did it. The others naturally question how he could have reached this conclusion despite the lack of evidence, to which the detective responds along the lines of there being no evidence that rules him out, therefore it’s proof positive of his guilt.
The same goes for Pascal’s Wager, though that’s got a double-sided coin aspect to it that admittedly keeps it more than a little intriguing. When you strip away the statistical fallacy of the wager, the thousands of religions and denominations or sects thereof, what you’re left with is more of a social contract, a call to fit in and play nice so as not to rock the boat. In other words, it’s got nothing to do with what happens to you after you die, and everything to do with how people will treat you in life by virtue of you not sharing their deeply personalized interpretations of existing belief systems. I don’t doubt there’s any shortage of stories among my atheist readers of the hypocrisy of devotees insisting they are inclusive and accommodating and welcoming per their religion’s teachings, but routinely fail to embody them, foolishly building their houses on sand, as the text goes.
It reveals a bit of projection as well, which ties into the point that may make a trilogy of my duology. One accusation theists like to make is that atheists are frauds, that we do truly believe in God but pretend otherwise because… reasons. When you place that next to the aforementioned hypocritical behavior of failing to live up to the teachings of their religion, few other terms are more fitting than projection. To focus on Christianity, one of my constant frustrations with it is the mental gymnastics used by its more egregious practitioners to overlook their contradictory behavior. Case-in-point, when County Clerk Kim Davis was asked, point blank, how an admitted adulteress and multi-divorcee can stand in judgment over marriage equality from a position of religious zeal, she said without hesitation, “I’m forgiven. Washed clean.” This is the kind of complacency Friedrich Nietzsche spoke of, the way Christianity in particular seems engineered to keep people in a state wherein they do not seek self-improvement, instead practically reveling in their faults and failures because God will hand-wave it and love them anyway because what he truly cares about is loyalty. This seems to have become a bigger problem in many congregations, this painful lowering of the bar in order to fill as many pews as possible (and by extension collection plates). As more and more people leave their established religions, those who remain and become new converts become agents of misrepresentation in an effort to pander to newcomers otherwise intimidated by the high standards of embodying the teachings of an all-powerful messianic figure.
Speaking of loyalty and pledges of allegiance, we come to the heart of the matter, a potential new member to the not-a-church school of reasoned discourse known as “100% Done With Your Shit-ism.” Donations
mandatory encouraged welcome.
“Atheism is just another religion.”
This often gets wrapped up in the “Christianity is not a religion” argument, furthering the issue of deciphering semantics at the expense of a legitimate stance that can work outside the sphere of personal interpretation. It’s akin to trying to reconcile the stones and glass houses idiom with “I am rubber you are glue. It bounces off me and sticks to you.” You can’t argue for a religion and then say you have none as is, let alone arguing that someone else’s belief system is simply yours but with a different coat of paint.
Much like the IDK-GOD two-pronged assault, it opens a window into the insight of the person making the assumption. It’s not as deep as the one for Pascal’s Wager, but it’s a little more focused than the one for Arguments from Ignorance. A person who is raised within a religion or has otherwise become so fully invested in it as to build their entire identity on it will therefore view everything and everyone in terms of that religion. I don’t remember where I heard this, but I think it was from a doctor regarding how someone can be specially trained within a certain field and will try to apply that specialization to as many areas as they possibly can. He mentioned a podiatrist who tried to link any and all of a would-be patient’s problems to their feet, whether it was something obvious like back pain or poor posture, or something barely tangential like migraines or impotence. He was a foot doctor, and therefore every medical issue problem he encountered was filtered through the lens of a podiatrist. When you are in a religion, you see everything around you in terms of that religion.
It harkens back to that lovely little chestnut of observational wisdom from Kevin “Sweetie” Sorbo, “They must believe SOMETHING!” and to reiterate, Kevin… sweetie, I believe plenty of things, an omnipresent super-being who wants nothing more in the universe than to be super-best buddies with me so long as I swear unflinching allegiance to him while getting really hung up on what days of the week are totes the okey-doke for people to consume meat is simply not one of them. Now, if you want me to lay out some of my other beliefs like the Big Crunch (cyclic destruction and reformation of the universe ad infinitum) or the existence of Type III Civilizations (per the Kardashev Scale) or the existence of a decaffeinated coffee that doesn’t taste like someone left a fish in the percolator and call that some kind of religion, I’d be very interested in what you’d call such a belief system and whether or not you think it would qualify for a tax exempt status.
It’s important to enforce that those three examples are beliefs in the sense that I do not have the means at my disposal to substantiate them. Similarly, I do not believe there is a sterling silver teapot floating equidistant between the earth and mars, but I cannot prove no such item exists in such a place. So, why would I believe that there’s a decaffeinated coffee out there that doesn’t make my digestive system feel like it’s melting when I have no proof of any such substance being real? Well, I guess it’s the same reason Sisyphus keeps pushing that fucking boulder up the hill, and likely why he’s imagining the events of Rock of Ages playing out in real life each and every time he does it.
I don’t know anyone who calls absurdism a religion.
I wonder why.