(Scene from Star Wars: A New Hope)
Admiral Motti: “This station is now the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it.”
Darth Vader: “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”
Admiral Motti: “Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerous ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes or given you clairvoyance enough to find the Rebel’s hidden fortress… uurgh.”
(At this time Vader, using the Force, was telekinetically choking Admiral Motti)
Darth Vader: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
Grand Moff Tarkin: “This bickering is pointless. Vader, release him!”
Darth Vader: “As you wish.” (Vader then releases Motti)
Dopey atheists can be quite a handful, especially the loud juvenile and rabid types. A lot of them certainly come across as a bunch of condescending “know-it-alls” who project that they are intellectually and morally superior to their god-believing counterpart. Maybe it is just my age that is doing a number on my patience but if I were Darth Vader I probably would telekinetically choke the brats. I just don’t seem to have too much patience anymore with those who have nothing to offer but mere disdain for religion and theism. I used to be an atheist myself but sometimes when I engage these rabid anti-religionists in a discussion, I notice that they love to paint their opponents as irrational superstitious dummies in order to discredit their position; as if being a “God-believer” is necessarily bad or inferior. They erect one straw man after another and knock them down with so much gusto. I wonder if these folks are just hardwired to dwell on cheap sniping at their opponents and religionists.
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Now some of these folks prefer to be called “humanists”, although their hatred of religion and religionists emanate from their words. Some of them claim that they find the notion of God to be false and that they are simply sick and tired of biblical inconsistencies and evangelists who engage in indoctrination. Well, what does biblical inconsistencies and evangelism have anything to do with God’s truth? So God must be false because some book that describes what God is supposed to be is inconsistent or even incoherent? That God must be false because of some annoying jerk who just wouldn’t leave us alone without us having to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Personal Savior?
Sure, inconsistencies and incoherence are signs of incorrectness. If a set of ideas contain contradictions, if any idea conflicts with any other, the whole set may be doubted. However, it is one thing to say that incoherence shows incorrectness, it is quite another to say that coherence proves correctness. We cannot say that any coherent set of ideas must be true.
These folks, I think, fail to see the possibility of constructing a set of ideas that agree with one another, yet still be incorrect. Let’s take Nazi Germany, for example. Many Germans at the time convinced themselves that certain ideas were true. For example, many of them convinced themselves that the Jews were inferior to them, that the Jews were some sort of subhuman beings. Once they became convinced of that, an entirely new moral viewpoint that was coherent was allowed to emerge. The rules about how humans ought to be treated no longer applied to the subhuman Jews. Killing them or using them as mere means is justified.
The point is not whether we all agree with this moral viewpoint of the Nazis. It’s not even whether all Germans at the time did it (many of them did not). That is not the point. The point is whether coherence really determines truth or not.
Consider this typical argument from militant atheists:
God = Bible
Bible = Inconsistencies
Inconsistencies = Falsehood
God = Falsehood
Being convinced that God = Bible (or that the Bible is the literal Word of God), these folks think their argument is coherent. While we can grant them coherence it does not necessarily mean it is correct. Are God and the Bible really the same? Is the Bible really literally God’s Word? Is God even specific to the Judeo-Christian tradition? Are there no any other Gods outside of Judeo-Christianity? Are there no other expressions of God other than those from Judeo-Christianity and even theism? It appears that these anti-theists (Which I think is the more correct term to use) are ignorant on the matter yet they seem quite sure of their position.
It’s quite disturbing, really. Rabid young anti-theists project intellectual superiority when in fact they seem to be quite ignorant of the things they bash. Folks like these, I think, are embarrassment to atheism and well-intentioned atheist and humanist groups. It’s as if we have these padawan learners who are too eager to duke it out with Darth Sidius and Count Dooku just because they know a little something about the Force. It’s really quite pathetic.
So is atheism about bashing theism? I would love to believe that it isn’t. So what is atheism supposed to be like? Well, I will leave this to the self-professing atheists. However, I would like to offer suggestions on what atheism should not be like. It shouldn’t be rude, arrogant, hateful and delusional as many self-professing atheists project. It’s ironic, really. These folks label theists as delusional while at the same time they think they can kill theism simply by exposing theism’s folly. It is as if these folks think that exposing the flaws of belief and the past atrocities committed under religion would banish religion on the face of the Earth. This sounds as absurd as the thinking of one of the greatest humanist-atheist thinkers, JS Mill, when he expressed that sexuality is merely socially constructed and that if men were only able to magic away another part of human experience – sexuality, as the desire for it has also caused too much violence, it would pave the way for a peaceful world. Just like John Lennon’s “Imagine”, a song about dreaming of an alternative world of peace through a brotherhood of man without religion, JS Mill dreams of an alternative way for the world without sexuality. But like sexuality, religion has and will always be a part of humanity.
It’s really unfortunate that atheism often gets tainted by the rabid dopes in its fold. Perhaps if Darth Vader were to encounter these brats he would say: “The Force is with you… but you dopes are not Jedis yet”.
Calling a spade, a spade…