Interlude: A letter to my dear US atheists

Hi guys. “How’s it hangin’?”. “What’s up, y’all?”. “Workin’ hard, or hardly workin’ am I right?”.

Look, I’ll get right to it, okay?

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that atheists in the US apparently have a much harder time than atheists in Europe. I’m sorry you get discriminated against, threatened, bullied, sneered at and criticised endlessly. That sucks. I’m sorry you’re a downtrodden minority in a puritan, fundamentalist deist world. I’m sorry you fear for your jobs, your friendships, your very lives.

I’m sorry you’re such a huddled and lonesome minority in a sea of disapproval and ignorance, you have to shout your beliefs (or lack thereof) to the rafters just to make the merest whisper of rationality heard in your government halls, your offices, your schoolrooms.

Oh boy, am I ever sorry about that.

Sorry because I spend considerable time online, and move in the same general Internet circles as many of you. Many of you, and – by lucky chance as well as by a freedom of choice of which I have the luxury – very few of the damn eejits you rail against. And I mean that to such a ludicrous extreme that a lot of your “arguments” just sound like you shouting at scarecrows you’ve constructed yourselves, specially for the purpose. Shouting really loudly.

Most of the people of faith I deal with are in fact kind and sensible and intelligent people. Indeed, a great many of the world’s people of faith have these characteristics. I wouldn’t say it’s a majority – let’s be honest, there’s a whole lot of stupid mob out there in every permutation of human philosophy, giving every philosophy a bad name to its non-adherents – but if you think most people of faith are mindless reactionaries with an agenda of ignoring facts to preserve their precious beliefs, I have news for you.

You’re the mindless reactionary.

Here’s the thing.

You guys don’t need to act the way you do. You’re making things worse, not better. Since when did any human, anywhere, ever, react positively to another human acting like a jerk? You don’t need to behave like “they” do. In fact, you might want to come to grips with the possibility that “they” don’t even exist as you like to imagine them. And debate them. Although, as a one-time debater, I use the term extremely loosely.

Oh, and that’s another thing. You could also try coming to terms with the fact that, while you admittedly fucking love science, you don’t fucking understand it any more than 96% of humanity does, and you certainly don’t fucking own it.

Oh dear. That’s right, religion and science are not mutually exclusive.

You guys have the high ground in most of the big debates going on right now. Morality, logic, dignity, honesty, peace. How about you try acting like it?

Yes yes, it’s time for the usual disclaimers.

Not all atheists are like anti-believing versions of fundamentalists. You’re not all obnoxious and stupid, abusive and bigoted, narrow-minded and loudmouthed. Most of you aren’t. It’s just the eejits giving you a bad name, just like your you-appointed enemies the deists. And dumb atheists aren’t always USians. No nation has a monopoly on that particular stat.

But – and this is important – the disclaimer was necessary, wasn’t it? Because otherwise a lot of you would have made exactly the same objections. And I’m talking about the smarter ones among you.

Oh, forget it.

About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy. https://hatboy.blog/2013/12/17/metalude-who-are-creepy-and-hatboy/
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24 Responses to Interlude: A letter to my dear US atheists

  1. stchucky says:

    Boo to the Windows Phone WordPress app, that publishes when you hit the “Save” icon. That meant this went out last night as I was drafting it, instead of saving as a draft so I could send it today. Well, I bumped it quickly back to Draft status but I guess subscribers got notification e-mails last night already.

    Small bonus Friday blog post coming up.

  2. stchucky says:

    And I have no Earthly idea how I managed to skip a word in the title. This whole post is cursed. I blame trillions of atoms randomly moving in circles for some reason.

    In other news, sleep deprivation is really quite different from staying up late at night or getting up early in the morning. Those latter habits tend to give me a craving for greasy fast food, whereas the former – not so much.

  3. dreameling says:

    Any particular exchange or event that sparked this post? You haven’t been watching shit like The Amazing Atheist on YouTube, have you?

    Oh dear. That’s right, religion and science are not mutually exclusive.

    Not gonna touch that one today. In fact, that probably deserves to be debated offline, maybe in Bar Äijä’s while getting drunk. Then we could have a proper brawl and settle the issue like Men. (I fight like a girl, btw., with all due respect to girls everywhere, so you could easily take me.)

    • stchucky says:

      Nothing in particular, but bullshit motivationals and image macros trend and spawn on Facebook and it’s super-annoying. Amazing Atheist is funny, but tends to represent the exact over-reactionary jerk I’m talking about here.

      And in case Aaron (a bit of an Amazing Atheist fan) reads any of this and gets sad, I’m not talking about him on the level you and I enjoy him, for his theatrics and his way with words. A lot of his shit is about as real as pro wrestling, it’s the people who think he’s speaking corn-fed Supertruth that I dislike.

      Also, Aaron is one of those 4% of people who “fucking love” science and also understands it. But you’ll notice I still sort of needed to write disclaimers for his benefit.

      • stchucky says:

        And in case Aaron (a bit of an Amazing Atheist fan) reads any of this and gets sad, I’m not talking about him on the level you and I enjoy him, for his theatrics and his way with words.

        That was confusingly-written and the edit function is crap. What I meant was, “And in case Aaron (a bit of an Amazing Atheist fan) reads any of this and gets sad, I’m not talking about the Amazing Atheist on the level Aaron and I enjoy him, for his theatrics and his way with words.”

    • stchucky says:

      Now, when I say faith and science aren’t mutually exclusive, this is what I mean. Tim Minchin famously said (to paraphrase) “science changes its views according to what’s observed. Faith is the denial of observation so that faith can be preserved.” He’s a brilliant guy and it’s a great line from a fantastic piece of writing / poetry, but it presupposes the two are mutually exclusive. Which is bullshit.

      Faith (that is, sane faith, the silent majority of all faith) doesn’t need to preserve itself in the face of observation. It is not dependent on fact, the way science is. That’s what makes it faith. Yes, some faith (insane faith) shouts about evolution or gravity or planetary physics because the shouting eejits feel it undermines their beliefs. But all it’s undermining is their claim that their belief is literal fact.

      And “belief” and “literal fact”, they are mutually exclusive.

      Science and faith? Not so much.

      I’ve found that most normal people are able to accept scientific advances and discoveries and still maintain a sense of wonder in the universe, without their heads exploding. Indeed, often scientific discoveries will enhance this sense of wonder.

      But yeah, it would be cool to bullshit with you about it (pressed for time right now, just got these down on my phone). Not brawl. I don’t do that any more than you do. Although if I did, for reals, forget about it. I have a Death Star weakness, but you’d end up spattered with shit. Nobody wins (but I happen to know you’re a neat-freak, so in practice, I win).

      • dreameling says:

        I was coming more from the point that if you’re a Young Earth creationist, a Wahhabi Muslim, or a Scientologist, for example, your religion is most definitely not compatible with science (and I tend to equate “science” with “scientific worldview”). And I say “religion” rather than “faith”, since I see these as different albeit overlapping beasts and you used “religion” in your original post (although perhaps you meant it as faith as such rather than organized, institutionalized faith, or maybe you don’t make that distinction). Then again, if you are a Young Earth creationist, a Wahhabi Muslim, or a Scientologist, then your faith too is definitely incompatible with science.

        But all it’s undermining is their claim that their belief is literal fact.

        I see it as literally undermining their belief, since their belief is their reality. (Much like my belief in science, most of which I cannot possibly empirically verify myself, is my reality.) I do not think the shouting eejits make a distinction between claiming that their belief is literal fact and experiencing their belief as literal fact.

        I guess I don’t quite get your distinction between belief and literal fact, and faith and science.

        I have a Death Star weakness, but you’d end up spattered with shit. Nobody wins (but I happen to know you’re a neat-freak, so in practice, I win).

        My daughter is gradually desensitizing me to spattering shit. Your win, sir, is not a given anymore.

      • stchucky says:

        I certainly draw a distinction between organised religion (dogma and practice) and general faith (spirituality and acceptance of the unknowable). I also draw a distinction between blanket religion (the big generic churches and schools of philosophy that account for 99.9% of human faith[1], and preach peace and goodwill and morality) and crazy fringe cults that believe gang rape is okay and Xenu something something volcanoes something something shit, piss, sweat, vomit. Yes, I know the paedophile priests and the Westboro Baptists get 99.9% of the media attention[2], but they’re just eejits giving everyone a bad name.

        [1] Not a real statistic.

        [2] Also not a real statistic.

        And yeah, I’ve had some great debates about organised religion as practiced, versus organised religion as perceived literal truth. Not today, though. Not this week.

        You’re right, though. Such debates are a minefield of loaded terms and easy (nay, willful) misunderstandings. You make an excellent point about people “blindly” believing in science when they don’t necessarily understand or are unable to verify it. I think there’s enough of a distinction between a school of religious thought and a school of scientific thought, however, to hold them to different standards and throw out the tired “science is just the religion of atheists” argument. And I reject absolutely the assumption that atheists get to have science and deists and theists don’t. Only insane deists and theists ignore a tool that amazing.

        Science is better proof of the existence of God than every pretty sunrise or cute baby kitten that’s ever happened on this stinking planet.

        I guess I don’t quite get your distinction between belief and literal fact, and faith and science.

        I am most certainly a person of faith, although I don’t belong to any organised church. Mrs. Hatboy is Christian Orthodox. We’re both pretty intelligent, we both think evolution is a thing, and we don’t walk around all day expecting God to strike down the sodomites or literally bring about Judgement Day. We are the 98%. And the stupid atheists (or more accurately antitheists) I am complaining about, they are attempting to attack the 2%, while pretending the 2% are in fact the 98%[3].

        [3] Not real statistics either.

        This was my point.

        My daughter is gradually desensitizing me to spattering shit. Your win, sir, is not a given anymore.

        Your daughter’s on an all-dairy diet and her shit is yellow and smells like vanilla sauce. Your false sense of security puts you at a further disadvantage.

      • dreameling says:

        You’re right, though. Such debates are a minefield of loaded terms and easy (nay, willful) misunderstandings. You make an excellent point about people “blindly” believing in science when they don’t necessarily understand or are unable to verify it. I think there’s enough of a distinction between a school of religious thought and a school of scientific thought, however, to hold them to different standards and throw out the tired “science is just the religion of atheists” argument. And I reject absolutely the assumption that atheists get to have science and deists and theists don’t. Only insane deists and theists ignore a tool that amazing.

        I absolutely consider a scientific worldview different — fundamentally different — from a religious or supernatural one, no question. However, since no one, not even scientists, can personally verify all scientific knowledge, a scientific worldview is necessarily also about belief, about having (provisional) faith in the validity of what someone else is telling you about the world. The gist, of course, is that you could, in principle, verify (or refute) it yourself. And others are doing just that all the time, making science a wonderfully active, self-critical, self-correcting system for understanding how the world works. Categorically different from religious knowledge. But belief is nonetheless a factor.

        I’m not trying to undermine or apologize for science, or equate it with a religious or magical mindset, and I’m probably arguing semantics here, but I just feel it’s important to acknowledge the practical belief aspect. No one can say with total certainty that science is right. But you can absolutely say that it is more likely to be right than any other knowledge tool we have.

        Science is better proof of the existence of God than every pretty sunrise or cute baby kitten that’s ever happened on this stinking planet.

        That you need to open up a bit, man.

        I am most certainly a person of faith, although I don’t belong to any organised church. Mrs. Hatboy is Christian Orthodox. We’re both pretty intelligent, we both think evolution is a thing, and we don’t walk around all day expecting God to strike down the sodomites or literally bring about Judgement Day. We are the 98%.

        OK. I’m not an atheist by choice, I’m an atheist by necessity. A universe just makes more sense to me than a universe-plus-God. The former is simply a more elegant solution than the latter. It’s that simple. Also, at some point in my youth, I had this epiphany about religious belief being such an obvious consolatory fiction dreamed up by a tiny human mind in the face of a cruel, strange, and incomprehensibly vast world, and I haven’t been able to shake the feeling since.

        You’re a person of faith, fine. For the record, I have no problem with that. Faith in a god is something I simply do not get [1], but if you do, and if it works for you, more power to you. As long as you stay in that 98%!

        [1] I mean, I get it, but I don’t get it, you know.

        Your daughter’s on an all-dairy diet and her shit is yellow and smells like vanilla sauce. Your false sense of security puts you at a further disadvantage.

        lol. This is what happens when you pit a Level 1 Dad against a dual-class Level 10 Dad / Level 6 Cancer Survivor.

      • stchucky says:

        I’m not trying to undermine or apologize for science, or equate it with a religious or magical mindset, and I’m probably arguing semantics here, but I just feel it’s important to acknowledge the practical belief aspect. No one can say with total certainty that science is right. But you can absolutely say that it is more likely to be right than any other knowledge tool we have.

        Absolutely. And it is a bit of a case of semantics, I think. We’re mixing two different sorts of faith. There’s faith as in trust – “I’ll put my faith in the instrument panel, thanks Obi Wan” – and faith as in belief in the unknowable – “nah screw it, Imma use the Force”.

        Loaded terms, and a certain amount of overlap.

        Midichlorians, incidentally? A perfect example of science not belonging in some places.

        Science is better proof of the existence of God than every pretty sunrise or cute baby kitten that’s ever happened on this stinking planet.

        That you need to open up a bit, man.

        ‘Twas naught but a smarmy reference to the Celestial Watchmaker (which I don’t believe) and the “science as God” philosophy to which a lot of the I Fucking Love Science crowd[1] seem to adhere (and which I also don’t believe) and a strong statement of my own opinion of science: as a discipline that by its very definition transcends and encompasses everything we currently understand, and everything we ever will understand, and everything that there is to be understood, and all the other stuff too.

        Put that way, I can see how a parallel could be drawn to the concept of God. It’s just as you say: if religion was arrived at by a process of evolving human intellect struggling to explain the universe, then science is another step along in that process. It doesn’t supercede religion any more than a screwdriver supercedes a hammer. It’s just that sometimes a screw does an objectively far better job at holding shit together.

        [pause for obligatory “nothing like a good screw” joke. Read the footnote while we wait]

        [1] In case you’re not aware, this is actually a thing, it’s not just my sarcastic way of referring to the enthusiastic but slightly dim people who shout about science, bitches. But those are the people.

        And yes, it’s an adjustment. Science is still very new, so it’ll take a while to settle into our heads. We still fall in a hole a lot of the time, especially when we personify science or start talking about it as if it is a conscious force affecting the universe (nobody here does that, this is exactly the sort of thing my original post was chewing out, but again the disclaimer was necessary).

        But science by its very nature is adjustable. The Borg to religion’s Klingons. It’s efficient, adaptable and just a bit scary. But it doesn’t make the Klingons any less glorious in their own contexts.

        Yes, the Klingons found themselves needing to move on and partner up in an evolving universe that was threatening to leave them behind. Do you think I made the comparison by accident? What my original point was, is that the majority of all people of faith are doing just that, and it’s the dumb atheists (and the media that delights in showing us nothing but the evils of humanity, for agendas that deserve a whole new blog entry) who are ignoring that by engaging the 2% in strawman-tilting contests.

        My point is, science has come along and there are always going to be clashes between philosophies and mind-sets. We’re humans. But religion has had thousands of years to get settled in, it’s unrealistic to think it’s going to change on its face (even if the religious are in fact just as smart and adaptable as the heathens, despite what the eejits are shouting as per my original post [I can keep saying this all day long, but actually I won’t because I have other shit to do]). Science, on the other hand, is in a state of constant flux. It’s like a new phase in the evolution of human thought.

        Well, that’s exactly what it is. I like to think of it as a sign of our brains adjusting to our development into an over-populous, over-advanced species that needs to get along or die. We’re not going to get along unless we find a common language, and science is it.

        Denying that language to the majority of people on the planet, largely (in the case of aforementioned eejits bla bla) due to superiority/inferiority complexes or butthurt, is fucking retarded.

        Also, at some point in my youth, I had this epiphany about religious belief being such an obvious consolatory fiction dreamed up by a tiny human mind in the face of a cruel, strange, and incomprehensibly vast world, and I haven’t been able to shake the feeling since.

        Sounds familiar.

        You’re a person of faith, fine. For the record, I have no problem with that. Faith in a god is something I simply do not get [1], but if you do, and if it works for you, more power to you. As long as you stay in that 98%!

        And I think by now you will have read enough of this blog, my random musings about religion and philosophy and humanity, not to mention my fiction, to know it was never going to be this simple. But the great part about being in the 98% is, I can use your own “don’t force your beliefs on me” whinings in my favour, and just smile enigmatically and swish away in my pretend saffron robes.

        While in reality I am naked.

      • dreameling says:

        Sorry for the late reply. Not sure where my free time goes. (It’s not all because of the baby.)

        Put that way, I can see how a parallel could be drawn to the concept of God. It’s just as you say: if religion was arrived at by a process of evolving human intellect struggling to explain the universe, then science is another step along in that process. It doesn’t supercede religion any more than a screwdriver supercedes a hammer. It’s just that sometimes a screw does an objectively far better job at holding shit together.

        As a tool for explaining how the universe works, science absolutely supercedes religion. It is simply a better method that produces far better actionable knowledge. In that sense, science is to religion what a modern electric power drill is to a Neolithic stone drill. However, as a tool for explaining where we personally fit in and what meaning our lives hold, science is obviously not for everyone and rightly so. Religion, faith, and spirituality can obviously provide meaning and purpose of a kind that science cannot.

        And yes, it’s an adjustment. Science is still very new, so it’ll take a while to settle into our heads. We still fall in a hole a lot of the time, especially when we personify science or start talking about it as if it is a conscious force affecting the universe (nobody here does that, this is exactly the sort of thing my original post was chewing out, but again the disclaimer was necessary).

        Tangent: Magical thinking and anthropomorphism [1] are pretty much second nature to us. We are extremely good at attributing intelligent intent, casual relationships, and human characteristics to where there are none. (Thank you, evolution.) I don’t get the science-as-consciousness approach, it’s just another kind of god, but as long as our brains remain the same, I’m thinking we’re stuck with people personifying the shit out of everything.

        [1] Magical thinking and anthropomorphism are pretty much what religious knowledge about the world is built on, are they not.

        Yes, the Klingons found themselves needing to move on and partner up in an evolving universe that was threatening to leave them behind. Do you think I made the comparison by accident? What my original point was, is that the majority of all people of faith are doing just that, and it’s the dumb atheists (and the media that delights in showing us nothing but the evils of humanity, for agendas that deserve a whole new blog entry) who are ignoring that by engaging the 2% in strawman-tilting contests.

        Let’s also not forget that those “stupid atheists” are the 2% of all atheists [2]. It’s the same kind of loud minority in both.

        [2] Real statistic. Honest.

        Btw., bonus points for bringing the Borg and the Klingons into this.

        There’s faith as in trust – “I’ll put my faith in the instrument panel, thanks Obi Wan” – and faith as in belief in the unknowable – “nah screw it, Imma use the Force”.

        Some people (I’m not sure if you’re one of them) seem to think that atheists have a problem with the unknowable, that the atheist denial of deities is arrogant because how can they possible know for sure. Well, they can’t, no one can. But not believing in a deity is not the same thing as knowing for sure that deities do not exist. I have no problem with not knowing. I also have no problem with not believing in things I find unreasonable. I don’t know for sure that there are no gods. However, if gods do exist, I’m pretty sure they are creatures of the universe that a sufficiently advanced science can make knowable, meaning that they would not really be Gods. It’s what I believe.

        Midichlorians, incidentally? A perfect example of science not belonging in some places.

        In fiction, sure. In the real world, if the force was real, it would be midichlorians or something like that. I’m pretty sure. Let’s not confuse magic in stories with magic in the real world.

      • stchucky says:

        Tangent: Magical thinking and anthropomorphism [1] are pretty much second nature to us. We are extremely good at attributing intelligent intent, casual relationships, and human characteristics to where there are none. (Thank you, evolution.) I don’t get the science-as-consciousness approach, it’s just another kind of god, but as long as our brains remain the same, I’m thinking we’re stuck with people personifying the shit out of everything.

        [1] Magical thinking and anthropomorphism are pretty much what religious knowledge about the world is built on, are they not.

        True. Except you said “casual relationships” instead of “causal relationships”. It’s cool though, evolution gears us towards those too in a lot of cases.

        And not really a tangent at all.

        Some people (I’m not sure if you’re one of them) seem to think that atheists have a problem with the unknowable, that the atheist denial of deities is arrogant because how can they possible know for sure.

        I’m one of those people who thinks some atheists have this problem, definitely. Same as some deists have it and others don’t. Uh, same as all humans, everywhere.

        Well, they can’t, no one can.

        Precisely why anyone who isn’t an agnostic is an idiot or a lunatic, or both.

        But not believing in a deity is not the same thing as knowing for sure that deities do not exist.

        But agreed, and good point well made and taken.

        In fiction, sure. In the real world, if the force was real, it would be midichlorians or something like that. I’m pretty sure. Let’s not confuse magic in stories with magic in the real world.

        Oh, just you try to stop me.

      • dreameling says:

        True. Except you said “casual relationships” instead of “causal relationships”. It’s cool though, evolution gears us towards those too in a lot of cases.

        lol, dammit! I fucking proof-read the post like two times. Clearly I was too casual about it. (SEE WHAT I DID THERE!)

        Oh, just you try to stop me.

        May the Force be with you, man.

        We start with religion and atheism and end up with Star Trek and Star Wars. Cool.

      • stchucky says:

        We start with religion and atheism and end up with Star Trek and Star Wars. Cool.

        The Catholicism and Protestantism of science fiction.

  4. Science and religion need not be mutually exclusive. But whatever relationship they have starts to get wonky the second religion starts making claims.

    • stchucky says:

      Agreed. It cuts both ways and is quite straightforward. Try to disprove religious beliefs on scientific grounds, and you’ll come off looking a tit. Try to disprove scientific theories on religious grounds, and you’ll come off looking a tit. Human tits generally come in pairs. Coincidence? OR MAD COSMIC MEANINGFULOSITY ON A MASSIVE SCALE?

      That’s it for me, time for bed.

      • “Try to disprove religious beliefs on scientific grounds, and you’ll come off looking a tit.”

        Religious beliefs? Perhaps. Religious claims? Not so much.

      • stchucky says:

        That’s why I said “beliefs”. Because people who say “you couldn’t literally fit two of every animal onto a boat, what about all the animals we’re still discovering?” are fine, as long as they’re intelligent about it. And the sane religious know this in any case. The people who say “there wasn’t a pair of every terrestrial animal on the ark and this means your entire system of belief is childish and you are stupid”? Tits.

  5. Pingback: Now, look here | Hatboy's Hatstand

  6. Pingback: Interlude: If People Don’t Like You, It May Simply Be Because You’re A Fucking Arsehole | Hatboy's Hatstand

  7. thelinza says:

    Humans are jerks.

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