<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d32209663\x26blogName\x3dSideways+Mencken\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLACK\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://sidewaysmencken.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://sidewaysmencken.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d7682481423868601741', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Atheists Get Rowdy. At Long Last.

I earn a good living making things up. For the last 15 years or so 100% of my income has come from making things up. But I am apparently, by many people's standards, a wild-eyed empiricist.

It feels strange to attach so grandiose a label to myself. I'm not an earnest person. I have a visceral dislike for seriousness and pretense so I'm the first person to admit that I'm not a profound thinker, or an intellectual, or even an artiste. I'm not a philosopher. I'm not an expert on anything with the possible exception of middle-reader and young adult book series. I have a good imagination, decent language skills and good work habits. I'm a B+ genre writer. That's it.

I draw a sharp line between what I know and what I don't know, what is supported by evidence and what is not. This doesn't strike me as being a big deal. But it seems to irritate the living hell out of a lot of (not all) believers. 2+2=4, that's proven. Jesus died for our sins? Not proven.

People are free to believe whatever they want. I don't really care, so long as they aren't taking my money or liberty as a consequence of their beliefs. Believe in leprechauns for all I care, so long as you don't impose a leprechaun-support tax on me. I don't deny anyone's right to believe whatever they want to believe. It's a free country. Let a hundred flowers bloom. (Yes, I know who I'm quoting.)

But no one has the right to forbid challenges to their beliefs. No one has the right to go through life unquestioned, uncriticized and unchallenged. If you don't want your ideas challenged then don't have ideas. Once you open your mouth and say, "I believe. . ." then I have the right to ask, "Why?" And I have the right to say, "I think you're wrong." I have the right to say, "You haven't proven your position to me."

When I or any other empiricist (ooh, big word again) challenges a person's faith we are accused of arrogance, aggression, meanness, harshness, and blah and blah and blah. Lately a few intrepid atheists have begun speaking up and questioning the beliefs of the 95% of the population who are believers.

We are told, in effect, to sit down, shut up, mind our manners and to stop being uppity.

Well, no. No. I'm not going to concede that any idea, not even an idea that can be described as a religion, must go unchallenged. And I don't accept that I must challenge in an unchallenging way. I don't accept the idea that when approaching an idea I have to tug my forelock and preface every remark with a lot of mealy-mouthed qualifiers. Sorry, but if I want to challenge your idea, I'll do it my way and not with kid gloves.

When I arm-wrestle my seven-year-old daughter I let her win. But I assume when I'm discussing ideas I'm dealing with adults who would be insulted if I let them win. Maybe that's my mistake. Maybe the fact that religion goes so unchallenged in our very religious country has left believers with no capacity to defend their points of view. They've never had their arms slammed rudely down onto the tabletop so they are simply unaware of the possibility of such a thing occurring. Maybe they are, in effect, seven-year-olds.

I guess I'm unusual because I actually enjoy losing. I don't learn anything from winning, I learn from being proven wrong. I still recall losing an argument with a kid in sixth-grade on the topic of evolution. I wish I knew what had happened to that guy. I'd thank him. Part of the reason I'm not blogging much lately is it turned out I was right about the main issue. I was right that Rumsfeld had to go, and that we needed more force, and that we needed a bigger army, and ho hum, where is the education in being right? I gloated over my rightness for a while and then lost interest.

We're doing this documentary project soon and my chief instruction to the screeners is to find people who can defend their positions. I want to be challenged. I want to be roughed up. I want my ass kicked. Prove me wrong and I come out of it wiser and stronger. I profit from being proven wrong. The more right you are, the stronger I get, like some Star Trek creature feeding on the energy of its own error.

But that's where the empiricism thing comes in. I just want the facts. If you can step up and prove to me that God exists I'll say, "Holy shit! Imagine that. Cool: now I know." But believers are not consistent empiricists - although empiricism may dominate every other aspect of their lives. They don't want the facts at all costs, whatever the outcome, and to hell with the consequences, they want their faith. And although they seldom show the slightest reluctance to attack me or any other atheist, or to denigrate us, or to consign us to hellfire, it seems that when we return fire we're supposed to do it with one arm tied behind our backs, sotto voce, just kidding, qualifier, qualifier, mealy-mouthed qualifier.

Why? God can't take it? Jesus is scared of the kid's book hack? Allah will faint if I cross-examine him? Or is it that faith is really paper thin in most people?

Remember back at the early days of the Civil Rights battles of the 50's and 60's? A lot of whites would acknowledge that blacks might just have a minor point . . . but did they have to be so rude about it? Did they have to speak in such loud voices? Couldn't they just whisper, and keep their places, and not do anything to really challenge the status quo? Couldn't they just stop being so uppity?

Nah, we atheists aren't exactly the African-Americans and no, Sam Harris is not Martin Luther King. But you know what? I think atheists are a little tired of being told to sit down, shut up, and let the majority make all the rules.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

“Atheists Get Rowdy. At Long Last.”

  1. Blogger Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    As far as I'm concerned, any religious person who gets offended when their beliefs are challenged doesn't have a particularly strong faith. The whole definition of faith is the belief in something that can't be proved. So why get upset when someone points out there's no proof to your faith?

    That said, I think what pisses religious people off about people such as yourself, M Tak, is that most religious people accept as Truth that there is an empirical world while you reject that there is a spiritual world. The religious people might be thinking, "hey, jerk, I'm accepting the premise of your belief system, why can't you accept the premise of mine?"

    Of course, that's all very silly but I think that's the source of some of the friction.

    As for me, I love when atheists challenge my faith. Those can be some enlightening debates for both sides, even if neither person changes a bit of what they believe.

    But I hate having them on blogs. Religion is something best argued over drinks (then again, that applies to just about all topics).

  2. Anonymous GN Says:

    ASC, "Clink, Clink"

  3. Blogger M. Takhallus. Says:

    Well, boys, here's my feeling: I feel economics discussions go best with martinis, politics seems a natural fit for either scotch or bourbon, and religion feels like Cognac to me. That leaves red wine for art and margaritas or for conversations with women involving how long their husbands will be out of town.

  4. Blogger ninest123 Ninest Says:

    ninest123 09.23
    ugg boots, nike air max, louis vuitton outlet, chanel handbags, polo ralph lauren outlet, burberry, replica watches, replica watches, prada handbags, michael kors outlet, louis vuitton, burberry outlet online, gucci outlet, michael kors outlet, longchamp outlet, michael kors outlet, ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren outlet, louboutin outlet, kate spade outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet, tiffany and co, ray ban sunglasses, louis vuitton, ugg boots, michael kors, ugg boots, louis vuitton outlet, nike outlet, tiffany jewelry, nike air max, longchamp, ugg boots, louis vuitton, nike free, michael kors outlet, louboutin, jordan shoes, uggs on sale, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, tory burch outlet, christian louboutin outlet, louboutin shoes, longchamp outlet, prada outlet

  5. Blogger ninest123 Ninest Says:

    vanessa bruno, new balance pas cher, michael kors, hogan, air max, hollister pas cher, nike air max, nike free, mulberry, true religion jeans, hollister, vans pas cher, coach factory outlet, nike air max, air force, hermes, kate spade handbags, michael kors, lululemon, true religion jeans, north face, converse pas cher, north face, oakley pas cher, nike roshe run, michael kors, ray ban pas cher, burberry, nike free run uk, sac longchamp, coach outlet, true religion outlet, ralph lauren pas cher, timberland, longchamp pas cher, air jordan pas cher, coach outlet, nike roshe, michael kors, nike air max, louboutin pas cher, ray ban uk, tn pas cher, sac guess, nike blazer, lacoste pas cher, abercrombie and fitch, ralph lauren uk, coach purses, true religion jeans

  6. Blogger ninest123 Ninest Says:

    gucci, beats by dre, north face outlet, reebok shoes, mcm handbags, north face outlet, ferragamo shoes, babyliss, p90x workout, nike roshe, new balance, baseball bats, nike air max, longchamp, converse, iphone 6 cases, birkin bag, vans, timberland boots, valentino shoes, herve leger, lululemon, nike air max, soccer jerseys, wedding dresses, bottega veneta, mont blanc, ralph lauren, nike huarache, asics running shoes, jimmy choo shoes, ray ban, hollister, vans shoes, giuseppe zanotti, converse outlet, insanity workout, nfl jerseys, abercrombie and fitch, ghd, celine handbags, oakley, nike trainers, instyler, soccer shoes, mac cosmetics, hollister, louboutin, chi flat iron, hollister

  7. Blogger ninest123 Ninest Says:

    hollister, replica watches, pandora charms, michael kors outlet online, toms shoes, moncler, thomas sabo, moncler, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, canada goose, swarovski, juicy couture outlet, links of london, canada goose, marc jacobs, moncler, canada goose outlet, moncler, louis vuitton, lancel, coach outlet, supra shoes, moncler, canada goose, pandora jewelry, moncler, canada goose uk, barbour, louis vuitton, canada goose outlet, doke gabbana outlet, wedding dresses, karen millen, doudoune canada goose, moncler outlet, michael kors handbags, sac louis vuitton pas cher, swarovski crystal, louis vuitton, montre pas cher, barbour jackets, canada goose, ugg boots uk, juicy couture outlet, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, pandora charms, pandora jewelry, bottes ugg, louis vuitton, moncler, michael kors outlet, ugg pas cher