Bullshit Philosophy

Half-assed political and religious commentary from a cynical left-winger

BLAST FROM THE PAST: The Blasphemy Challenge

Posted by Kevin on December 20, 2008

[originally posted 12/25/06]

This is my entry in the Blashphemy Challenge. Short summary: people post short videos of themselves on YouTube denying the existence of God, thus committing the one unforgivable sin and condemning themselves to hell. I’ll be the first to admit that the presentation in mine isn’t very good; public speaking has never been my strong suit.

Some might claim that the Blasphemy Challenge is just an attempt to mock Christianity, and to some extent that may be true, but that’s not the reason I participated. Even on a purely strategic level, I’ve never really agreed with the Richard Dawkins types that putting religious people on the defensive is the best way to gain respect for the nonreligious; if anything it just makes us come off as arrogant and elitist. And personally, I just don’t tend to be very aggressive and combative. At the same time, though, that doesn’t mean that nonreligious people, including atheists like me, should be quiet about our beliefs. If we ever want to gain any respect in this country, then we need to start coming out of the closet, so to speak, and assuring people that we are, in fact, people too. I, for one, felt strangely liberated after making that video, like I’d let some deep dark secret off my chest. Even among liberal and/or more tolerant Christians, I tend to feel uncomfortable discussing religion; they don’t really display the same hostility to atheism as the fundies, but at the same time they just don’t really “get” atheism like they do other belief systems.

It’s an unfortunate fact that this will necessarily involve offending some religious believers, as it’s pretty much impossible for me not to say that I think their beliefs are wrong in the process. After all, it’s not like I just have a different view on the nature of God than Christians do; rather, I don’t believe that the Christian God exists. When some believers hear this, they scream about atheistic intolerance (Lakshmi Chauhdry, for instance, derides Dawkins and his followers as atheist fundamentalists, who follow “a virulent form of atheism that mirrors the polarized worldview of the religious extremists it claims to oppose.”), but really, what else am I supposed to say? That I think God exists for you but not for me?

That’s not the same as saying religious believers are stupid. I absolutely do not believe that. There are any number of reasons why a person might become religious, most of which, in my opinion, have to do with insecurity rather than stupidity or irrationality. Atheism, after all, isn’t the most comforting of beliefs. My contention is only that the fact that atheism is uncomfortable doesn’t make it wrong. In addition, I’ve never claimed to have a monopoly on truth. I think my beliefs to be right, but I also admit the possibility that I could be wrong. In fact, half the point of the Blasphemy Challenge to me was admitting that I’m prepared to deal with the consequences if my beliefs turn out to be wrong. All I do is conclude what I can from the information I have, which in the case of religion leads me to doubt the existence of God.

All I am saying is that any comparison between atheistic “intolerance” and that of, say, the religious right is completely without merit. Unlike them, we, for the most part, don’t seek to shove our beliefs down anyone else’s throat, nor do we even really seek converts. All we really want is for people to think things out for themselves and be able to justify their beliefs, instead of just accepting without question what they are taught from a book written thousands of years ago depicting (in the case of the New Testament) events happening decades before it was written by people who might not even have read it. That might lead them to atheism, and it might not. It’s not like atheism is some sort of monolithic movement, in any case. Ask five atheists their views on morality and you’ll probably get five different answers. That’s the whole point of the movement.

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