Recently, I wrote, The Human Bible Ends Before it Dies. And I was pretty hard on the atheist community. It’s not your average atheist on the street that I have a problem with. But as a movement, it has more and more problems. And certainly the most famous of the atheists do little but annoy me as I discussed in that article and When Atheism Blinds Us to Nuance.
This is not a new thing for me. Over two years ago I discussed the political problems in the atheist community, The Atheist Libertarian Connection. And then last year I wrote, Libertarianism Incompatible With Atheism. There is something about the two philosophies (atheism and libertarianism) that appeal to a certain kind of mind. Of course, it isn’t surprising at all that people who get paid thousands of dollars to talk to atheists would think it is the result of their total awesomeness, which ought to free them of any social obligations.
There is also a path from atheism to libertarianism. In the atheist community, there is an extremely common belief that their opinions are based upon reason. They don’t believe in God because there is no evidence for it. I have to say that I’ve never found this a compelling argument. I know only too well that there are lots of things I take on faith. (For the record, I am an atheist because I find God to be a useless concept — a non-answer to a question I care deeply about.) Libertarianism is usually pitched as a kind of “first principles” theory. It is thought to be rational when the best thing you can say for it is that it is vaguely internally consistent.
But there are famous atheists who don’t fall into this trap. Someone who has yet to annoy me even a little is CJ Werleman. Of course, Werleman is not that big in the atheist community. He’s far more involved in libel political discussions. When he writes about religion, he usually upsets a lot of the atheist community. And I have a great example of that. He was recently on The Young Turks and they were talking about the Bill Maher and Sam Harris dust-up. And he didn’t pull any punches: he compared Harris to Sarah Palin:
The whole video is well worth watching. What I think is important is that atheists need to hit back against Harris’ garbage. I don’t see that happening; I mostly see a circling of the wagons. And that’s, well, very tribal — just like the religious community, which, let’s face it, is really not about religion but about cultural identification.
As many atheists have pointed out, having an atheist community doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is like having a community of people who don’t believe a teapot orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars. But I get it: religion (especially in the US) is really overbearing and it is nice to be around other people who share your annoyance. Just the same, it is a pretty thin strip of common ground to base a movement on. And it is very easy for the movement to get hijacks by the likes of Sam Harris, who sounds more and more fascist every day.
Atheists: police thyselves!
It’s interesting if you look at Sam Harris’ blog, you see a lot of “Nobody understand me!” articles. He’s not an Islamaphobe; people just misunderstand him. He’s not a sexist; people just misunderstand him. He’s not a western imperialist; people just misunderstand him. What’s sad is that he is a pretty smart guy and in many ways very open minded.