Friday, March 8, 2013

Why do atheists have to be so bitter?

Image courtesy of BJWOK at

A blog post about atheism got me thinking. I really don't remember where I read it: if I do, I'll add a link. It started with a quote about belief by Woody Allen that I can't remember, either. 

So, I'll quote my philosophy text book instead - Atheism is rejection or absence of the belief in God. Atheism is not the knowledge that God doesn't exist, it is just another belief. Considering how 'cool' atheism has lately become, there are many atheists out there now but very few who understand this. Instead, you find people bashing each other, intolerantly professing their disdain for that irrational belief in God and all the name calling, which just really gets on my nerves, "Dawkins", "Darwin", "Evolution", blah. Unless you actually worked with Darwin to figure out how ape turned to man and all that, unless you saw the proof yourself (as opposed to reading about it.) it's not a fact for you, it's just a belief. You may believe in evolution, you may believe in Darwin, you may believe in science; you couldn't possibly be sure of any of it.

Sure, all these religious fanatics have ganged up and led wars and mass murders and what not throughout history, but that was because of their intolerance, not their belief. It's not like atheists are very tolerant, either. They try to force their beliefs down people's throats, act very bitter, smug and smirk and laugh at the God-worshippers, and pretend to have had some sort of a great epiphany, a revelation that puts them above the theists, much like the moral high-ground established by the theists. Here's something Karen Armstrong (author of The Short History of Myth, a delightful book) has to say about God, and the same applies, I think, to atheists:

“If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, of self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God's name, it was bad theology.”

The problem is not religion, the problem is intolerance. Your need to make everyone agree with you; that's what causes all the trouble, irrespective of where your faith lies.

All these debates pro and contra God made me realize that people don't really understand the importance of an irrational belief. There was something in The Short History of Myth that I'll have to rephrase - When it comes to mythology, whether it happened or not doesn't matter, it is how effective the myth is that matters. Everyone has a different way of dealing with things, and each way is correct for that person. If believing in God helps you sleep peacefully, get up every morning and live, then who am I to tell you it's wrong? If the thought that "God will protect them" gives someone strength, why is it silly? Believing that my bike won't stop functioning in the middle of the street, I won't have an accident, helps me get out of my house every day. People drop dead on the road all the time, but my belief (in what? science, statistics, someone else's "proof") stops me from hiding under my bed. 

An atheist and a theist are about to go into surgery. The atheist has read that the chances of that surgery failing are minuscule, knows the doctor has three specializations from some fancy university, is certain that he won't bleed out on the operation table, because someone has assured him it rarely happens. The theist prays to God every day, has performed all the necessary rituals beforehand and knows God will respond by keeping him safe. They are both beliefs, equally irrational and in this terribly unpredictable world, equally essential.