Irrational and Angry Atheists

As I indicated in my very first post, I used to be an atheist. While I do not subscribe to any religion in particular per se, I have over the last several years come to accept Christianity's approach to the Word of God to be by far the best approach there is out there, among the myriad different religions. To me, Christianity is about as close to Truth as one can get- when taught properly. I am no expert on Scripture, but what little I have read tells me that Christ was teaching some extraordinarily profound truths some two thousand years ago, and that He was right.

It took some doing to change my perspectives on religion, to be sure. As a teenager, like many other teenagers, I rebelled against what I thought was religion and openly abandoned faith in order to embrace a rationalistic, atheist creed. I thought I was embracing a philosophy devoid of silly superstitious nonsense and full of scientific, rational examinations of the truth. And, like most teenagers, I became openly hostile and angry towards most religions- especially Christianity. It should surprise no one that when I was taught about the Crusades in the 7th Grade, for instance, I was given the usual tropes about the Crusades being a massive, continent-wide campaign of conquest and unprovoked hostility against peace-loving Muslims in the Holy Land.

Yeah, let's just say that I've gotten a few things wrong in my life.

It took a long time for me to come around to the truth of God's power, wisdom, and grace. It took some serious personal crises for me to realise that I was not alone, that the Lord does indeed watch over His children, and that for better or worse, I am and always will be flawed and fallen. But eventually I realised that I was wrong and essentially woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and told myself, "face it, you believe in God". In the days since, I have prayed often to the Lord for forgiveness, wisdom, and grace. I do not know if He is listening- but I believe He is, and that, somehow, is enough.

One of the books that was most essential to this change of attitudes was of course Vox Day's The Irrational Atheist, which was my first introduction to his published works of non-fiction and remains to this day one of the reasons why I hold him in such high regard. Chapter Four remains an insurmountable obstacle for any atheist attempting to challenge Vox's ideas; as far as I'm aware, not one successful atheist rebuttal to its arguments has ever been issued.

So it was with considerable interest that I read Captain Capitalism's recent blog post on the subject of the Angry Atheist:
The Angry Atheist confuses and confounds your average conservative or even your average innocent bystander.  Most people don't know where the visceral hatred Angry Atheists have comes from and are kind of shocked by it.  Most people's thinking is:

"Well, if you're an athiest, then what do you care about religion?  Shouldn't you be some kind of easy, laid back, live and let live sort of guy?  What's with all the hatred, mockery and ridicule of people who just happen to believe in a religion?"

Thus when an unsuspecting person breaches the topic of religion or mentions their particular faith, they are completely blindsided by the ensuing screed delivered to them by the Angry Atheist.
The Captain is himself the son of a preacher, and is an atheist, and his views on God seem to mirror my own shortly before I finally became a believer. Like me, he maintains no particular hostility towards religion and seems to seek only to be left alone. Unlike me, he does not take the final step and accept the existence of a Higher Power, but I'm hardly one to criticise him for that:
First, understand I have no skin in this game.  I couldn't care less what people's religion is.  If there's any problem I have with religion, it's that most participants of all religions do not participate in the religion for anything as noble and selfless as worship or a god, but rather for ulterior and selfish motives.  Finding a spouse, socializing, business connections, belonging to a team, heck, even rationalizing taking over the world.  Whatever the reason it isn't for "god."  But for the few sincere and legitimate practitioners of religion, I respect them and leave them be.  So whether you're a Jew or a Catholic or even an atheist, I don't care.

Second, NAAALT (Not All Atheists Are Like That).  I know the majority of atheists are the laid back, live and let live types.  I have atheist friends and I am certainly no fan of religion.  Remember, we're focusing on the ANGRY Atheists who feel compelled to foist themselves into people's personal religious decisions.  Not Bob at the water cooler who doesn't go to church. 
This distinction is an interesting one, because it's very similar to what Vox does in his book. Vox drew a distinction between what he called Low Church and High Church atheists. Low Church atheists are the types of atheists that you and I know and associate with every day- one of them sits right next to me at work, another one went to university with me. They generally don't care much about religion, and simply don't want to have it forced down their throats. They seek to harm no one, and want nothing much more than to be left alone in their un-belief. And for these Low Church atheists, I have enormous sympathy.

The High Church atheists are the types that get everyone annoyed- those like Richard Dawkins (whose book, The God Delusion, was so poorly written and argued that it turned out to be one of the reasons why I stopped being an atheist), Sam Harris (whose nonsensical arguments about religion being a source of war and suffering have been systematically shredded by Vox and others), and the late Christopher Hitchens. And this is what the Captain describes with uncanny accuracy:
It is no coincidence your average Angry Atheist is also a leftist.  The reason why is that atheism is the easiest religion of them all, requiring no effort, thought, ponderance or work.  You simply "declare" you're one and POOF!  You're in the club and you now "belong."

In this sense, it's the epitome of irony, because the Angry Atheist is simply joining another religion.  It's just not so much an "absence" of religion (as a true laid back atheist would be), it's an "ANTI-religion religion."  They have a vendetta, they have a crusade, they (like all other religion people) now have a purpose and belong to a club - we must destroy other people's religion.  If anything, it's a testament to the most cowardly (and borderline psychotic) mentality of a Crusader-Angry-Atheist because his/her "religion" is simply to destroy something others have built.  They can't just let it be.  And it is here we see the parallels between Angry Atheists and leftists because their psychologies are the same.

First, both are hypocrites.  Leftists and Angry Atheists are such because the average liberal does not "care about the poor" nor does the Angry Atheist "really want to stop cultish and abusive religions."  They are in it first and foremost for themselves.  The leftist will ALWAYS trumpet and parade their ideology first thing in a conversation because that is CORE to their being.  The Angry Atheist will as well.  They claim membership to these groups FOR THEIR EGOS, not for anything as noble as "helping the poor" or "stopping abusive religion."  They are crusaders, and most ironically (again) they are the most devout, zealous, and extreme of religious people.  Their religions just happen to be godless.

Second, both are usually worthless people (I am reminding normal Atheists, this does not include you).  They have no value beyond their religion.  They are too lazy to go and develop a skill, a trade, a career, and develop themselves as a human and live an interesting and productive life.  And instead of enduring or expending the effort, rigor, development, trials, tribulations and challenges in life that would give them a core and worth, they instead claim allegiance to a "holy and noble crusade" they really couldn't less about to fill that hole.  The average leftist joins the Peace Corps and does nothing to help Africans while the Angry Atheist rips on religious people because their liberal arts degree isn't getting them a job.
Spot on. The defining characteristic of High Church atheists is their absurd and completely unrealistic belief that without religion, Man is somehow perfectible. And this marks out their fatal conceit, their fundamental flaw. One of the absolute bedrock principles of Christianity is the conviction that Man is fallen and fallible, and that while perfection is no longer possible, it is possible to achieve a measure of redemption through the Light and Word of God. The belief in the redeeming power of the Lord's Grace is what sets Christianity apart from virtually everything else, as is the belief that God gave His children a truly priceless and awesome gift- the capacity for reason. This idea is not shared by Hinduism, for instance, which adopts a far more fatalistic view of things (well, depending on the Hindu; one of the defining features of Hinduism is that it has absolutely no central structure or belief system). Nor is it shared by Islam, which is less a religion and more a political ideology with a wrathful and contrary god at its centre. Nor is it a feature of Judaism, which embraces Man's Fall but not the view of a loving and caring God. And nor is it a feature of High Church Atheism, which believes that if only Man abandoned faith, he would abandon everything that holds him back from achieving his true potential.

The reality is that faith defines us, because through faith we accept our limitations and instead seek to work with and around them. Without faith, we are lost in a world of darkness. Faith is what gives us comfort, lets us stay the course when there is nothing left, nourishes our souls. Without faith, we are not human.

That, ultimately, is why I stopped being an atheist. I saw that atheism offered neither redemption nor grace nor nourishment. It offered only bitterness and anger, and endless suffering. It is no coincidence that the most destructive regimes in history were openly atheistic. Every Communist nation in history abandoned faith, and in the process abandoned humanity- embracing instead absolute and utter barbarity as the excuse for massacring and starving millions. The death toll associated with atheism is truly horrific- indeed, as Vox himself has said, perhaps his single greatest achievement in the endless debates between the faithful and the faithless is his utter demolition of the argument that religion is responsible for violence and war. Atheism ultimately leads to the destruction of the idea that the life of every man, woman, and child has value- and regardless of the low regard in which I hold most people I encounter daily, I certainly do not wish them harm and do not for one moment advocate debasing their humanity for the sake of creating a "perfect world". 

Comments

  1. Christianity has its golden rule as its standard of morality. Libertarianism has the non-agression principle as its standard of morality. Since the golden rule and the non-agression principle are the same, does this not make Christianity and libertarianism equivalent from an intellectual and moral standpoint?

    Given such, why would someone like myself, who is already libertarian, need to embrace Christianity in particular?

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    1. I don't quite equate the Golden Rule with the NAP. "Do unto others as you would have done to you" is not the same as "thou shalt not initiate aggression against another". There is no requirement anywhere for a libertarian to overtly embrace Christianity. I certainly don't, though I recognise that Christianity embodies and enforces an all-powerful set of truths.

      Moreover, there are several aspects of Christianity that sit in direct conflict with orthodox libertarian canon. Christ argued for an annual tithe to be yielded to the ruler by all men; libertarians view taxation as outright theft. Christ advocated a lifestyle in which men would share all they had in goodwill- not altogether different from the Communist ideal, with the only difference being that Christ meant for His fellow men to do this of their own free will.

      Libertarianism and Christianity at their core teach Truth, and that, ultimately, is what makes them natural allies. But one is not a subset of the other, nor are they mutex.

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    2. Christ argued for an annual tithe to be yielded to the ruler by all men; libertarians view taxation as outright theft.

      I'm with Frederick Heyek in the "Road to Serfdom" where he says that humane societies have a minimal social safety net, and that one must pay taxes to support it. However, I do consider taxation above and beyond what's necessary to support this safety net to be outright theft and, therefor, criminality.

      Christ advocated a lifestyle in which men would share all they had in goodwill

      I reject this utterly. I will never in a million years accept this.

      I agree that libertarianism and Christianity can be allies. However, I could never be a Christian. There is simply too much in it that I vehemently reject.

      BTW, how do you reconcile Christianity with the Randian/Rothbardian notion of individual self-ownership and autonomy? I'm curious as to how you reconciled these two points.

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    3. I'm with Frederick Heyek in the "Road to Serfdom" where he says that humane societies have a minimal social safety net, and that one must pay taxes to support it.

      Well that's the tricky bit isn't it- what exactly constitutes a "minimal social safety net"? Ask ten different people and you'll get ten different answers, and most of them will probably include free health care, free education, and subsidised housing in their lists. Better by far to simply state that there will be NO government-sponsored safety net, and leave it at that. It sounds cruel, but it's the only way to reconcile the fact that income taxation of any kind is theft with the reality of charity borne from a free-enterprise system.

      I agree that libertarianism and Christianity can be allies. However, I could never be a Christian. There is simply too much in it that I vehemently reject.

      Yes, hence my own reluctance to embrace Christianity openly. I am merely content to state that I am a deist, and that I strongly sympathise with Christianity.

      BTW, how do you reconcile Christianity with the Randian/Rothbardian notion of individual self-ownership and autonomy? I'm curious as to how you reconciled these two points.

      That's a genuinely good question, I might actually post in full about it. It seems to depend on the particular branch of Christianity. Some, like Calvinism, are utterly fatalistic and hold that there is no such thing as free will at all. Other branches argue that the Lord gave us the gift of reason in order that we might better understand His Truth, and free will that we might come to that understanding on our own. I am strongly sympathetic towards this view, which basically says that you are free to live as you please provided that you do not break the Commandments of the Lord. In this, there is no contradiction between Rothbardian ethics of autonomy and freedom and Christian dictates of morality.

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    4. That's a genuinely good question, I might actually post in full about it.

      Please do. I would be interested in your thoughts on this matter.

      I am merely content to state that I am a deist.

      Deism is probably the most rational form of Abrahamic religous belief. BTW, did you know that most of the American founding fathers were deists? Especially Franklin, who was by far the intellectual of the American revolution.

      the Commandments of the Lord

      If you are referring to the 10 commandments, 6 of them make rational sense. The other 4 don't make sense to me.

      Well that's the tricky bit isn't it- what exactly constitutes a "minimal social safety net"?

      This is a good question and is answered in some detail in "The Road to Serfdom".

      Yes, hence my own reluctance to embrace Christianity openly. I am merely content to state that I am a deist, and that I strongly sympathise with Christianity.

      My experience with Asians who believe in Christianity, especially Chinese, is they considered the most attractive feature of Christianity is its intolerance of corruption and dirty dealing. When asked about it, this is actually the number one reason I've heard for why Asians like Christianity.

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  2. Guy, guys, Christianity, which is the teaching of Jesus the Christ is about forgiveness, the absolute utter need for our forgiveness because each and everyone of us is guilty of sin. That is the number one issue regarding Christianity.

    So many people, atheists in particular make a big deal about being "good enough." "I don't need God in order to be a good person." In reality, non of us can be good enough to be good enough for heaven. As far of sharing what you have with those in need, Christianity has nothing to do with telling you or forcing you to do that. Jesus gave His life for you. If you let Him, He will make you the kind of person who "gives" out of your new nature, not because you are externally compelled to do it, as would be the case with someone like kurt9. As Jesus said, "I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give My life as a ransom for many." And then He said, "Follow Me, be like Me. Behave in your relationships the way I behaved in My relationships."

    And the really nice thing about Jesus / Christianity, kurt9, is that Jesus will never force you to accept or follow His teaching. You really are free to "reject this utterly."

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    1. Christianity, which is the teaching of Jesus the Christ is about forgiveness, the absolute utter need for our forgiveness because each and everyone of us is guilty of sin.

      It is not about unconditional forgiveness, however. That is the key distinction. Forgiveness in the eyes of God must be earned, through repentance. Take for example Christ's words to the two thieves who were crucified with Him upon Golgotha. One thief lamented his fate and blamed everyone but himself for his plight, but the other repented of his sins and acknowledged that he had been justly punished. It was to the latter thief that the Son of God blessed and told that they would walk together in His Father's kingdom come the dawn.

      As Jesus said, "I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give My life as a ransom for many." And then He said, "Follow Me, be like Me. Behave in your relationships the way I behaved in My relationships."

      Let us not forget that Christ was also at times very forceful in asserting the primacy of His theology over the Rabbinical teachings of the past. And that, in particular, is why I respect Christianity. Christ did not say, "it is so because Rabbi X said it, and it is supported by Rabbi Y". Christ said, "it is so because I say it is so, and here is the truth of my words." His ideas were revolutionary for their time, which is something most (High Church) atheists flatly refuse to acknowledge. He demonstrated the eternal truth of His word to all who would believe, and He did so peacefully. This is something remarkable and astonishing, which is why I have immense respect for Christ Himself, but His words seem to have lost something in translation down the centuries, which is why I hold the Church somewhat at arm's length.

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  3. I reject the concept of sin because it seems to be a form of thought crime. It also implies the presumption of guilt as the default state. It also implies the notion of intergenerational guilt.

    All of these are in conflict with the Geneva Convention of human rights.

    The concept of sin implies a victimless crime, something else that is unacceptable to me.

    I have not caused harm to others, and seek only to be left alone to pursue my own dreams and goals in life. That someone who wants nothing more than to live their own life, who seeks neither to dominate or to be dominated, can be guilty of anything is incomprehensible to me.

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    1. I reject the concept of sin because it seems to be a form of thought crime. It also implies the presumption of guilt as the default state. It also implies the notion of intergenerational guilt.

      Only if you assume that sin cannot be redeemed, and you interpret Man's fallen nature as an inherently sinful nature. This is not my understanding of Christian doctrine, which as far as I am aware teaches that, while Man is indeed fallen, that does not mean that he is by definition condemned to live as a sinner. He can choose to become more than he is, by adhering to the word of God.

      Moreover, without sin, there is no such thing as evil- which leads to all manner of twisted justifications for any amount of barbarism. The concept of sin is nothing more and nothing less than accountability made real and concrete, judged against a fixed metric. The atheistic rejection of sin means that, logically, nothing is forbidden.

      Even atheist libertarians run headfirst into this problem very quickly. If there is no such thing as sin, what then constitutes true aggression? Where then do violations of the Non-Aggression Principle begin and end? If there is no measurement by which Man can be held accountable- which is indeed the very definition of sin- then what point does the NAP hold if aggression itself has an elastic definition?

      Therein lies the value of the Ten Commandments. "Thou shalt not trespass", "thou shalt not covet", "thou shalt not bear false witness", etc.- these are all fixed measurements, rules against which violations can be registered. And they provide a profound moral basis upon which a man can build.

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    2. I have not caused harm to others. As such, I am without sin.

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