Thursday, January 19, 2006
Yes, you're an atheist. (Part 2)
To recap, back here, we established that our working definition of "atheist" is someone who holds no religious belief in a supernatural deity. Yes, there are people who use a different definition, and those people are free to call someone who cares. Onward.
Now, for the sake of argument and to set the stage for the rest of this post, let's invent some numbers. Let's pretend there are, oh, 100 different religions in the world. (Yes, yes, there are many more than that but this is just for the sake of argument and it makes the numbers easier to handle. I'm being considerate, so stop whining about lack of accuracy.)
In addition, let's assume that one of those religions can be called "Christianity" and that all of those religions are, in some way, mutually incompatible with one another in terms of fundamental beliefs. Again, that's not a real stretch. So ... with the stage thusly set, what can we say about the state of atheism, as it were?
Well, using this idealized scenario, if you compare the atheist with the Christian, one thing jumps out at you immediately: the atheist is being consistent, while the Christian is not.
The atheist is taking a completely consistent position that all religious points of view are (at least for the time being) equally unsupportable and therefore accepts none of them. Whatever else you might say about the atheist, you have to admit that she doesn't play favourites -- all of those religions are equally vacuous and are therefore equally rejected.
The Christian, on the other hand and in a breathtaking display of intellectual inconsistency and hypocrisy, rejects 99 of those religions but wholeheartedly embraces the remaining one. That Christian will, with very little prompting, be happy to go on and on about how all of those "other" religions are false ones that worship false gods, as opposed to his religion which is, naturally, the one true religion.
There is no intellectual foundation for this selectivity -- it's just because. In the end, then, one can at least give the atheist credit for consistency and a total lack of hypocrisy and intellectual debasement. But it doesn't stop there.
Note also how the world views of the atheist and Christian are almost identical -- both of them reject those 99 religions. The only difference is with that last one. Mathematically speaking, then, the atheist and Christian are, surprisingly, a mere one per cent different. Both of them will agree wholeheartedly on the silliness of those 99 other religions and disagree on only the one, but it's purely amazing how much anger, venom, hatred and intolerance is bundled up in that difference, isn't it?
Apparently, even being in complete agreement 99 per cent of the time, the atheist simply cannot be forgiven for that one per cent disagreement. But that's not the best part.
Consider, if you will, someone who holds a different religious belief from the Christian. That third person will, as you can see, still be only one per cent different from the atheist but -- note carefully -- will be two per cent different from the Christian (that observation should be self-evident, yes?)
Now, given that a simple one per cent difference is enough for the Christian to thoroughly despise the atheist, one would think that the Christian's dislike for the newcomer would be, well, twice as strong, no? But it never works that way, does it?
Amazingly, even when two people disagree entirely on their religious beliefs, they often seem to find a way to get along. You'll find numerous "inter-faith" alliances whose members disagree wildly on their mutually-exclusive religious viewpoints, and whose friendships are based solely on the fact that they all share one thing -- an unshakeable conviction in some form of meaningless, superstitious twaddle, even if they're completely contradictory forms of twaddle.
But the one thing these people will have in common? You guessed it -- they really, really, really dislike atheists. Apparently, if you're one of the devout, it's sufficient that someone have a religious belief of some kind. It doesn't have to match yours -- in fact, it can be totally contradictory -- but at least you have that in common.
What is absolutely intolerable, however (despite the smaller per cent difference in belief system) is to have no religious belief at all. How else to explain how the average Canadian, even if he or she may not accept Islam, might vote for a Muslim but that same person would be absolutely horrified by the thought of voting for someone with no religious belief at all.
And that's what it boils down to: for many of the devout, it doesn't matter if you hold the same religious belief or not, as long as you embrace some type of faith-based, nonsensical inanity. Because, in the end, it's not your particular religious belief that's important -- it's the fact that you can overcome your religious differences, come together and, as one big inter-faith brotherhood, kick the crap out of those godless atheists.
Even when those atheists are the only ones being intellectually honest.