Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nobody's Right, If Everybody's Wrong

You could call it, "War of the Worldviews."

Atheists are generally pretty confident that theists who hold to certain religious beliefs are just utterly deluded. I know I am. I'm convinced that theists are living in a fantasy world, believing in superstitions left over from the Bronze-age. They actually think there's an invisible sky daddy out there who knows everything you do and that angels and demons are causing miracles and disasters all over the world everyday. And they think that if we believe and do the right things, we will literally go to an celestial fantasy land after we die where we'll all be super happy forever.

And I wonder how any rational person can still believe these things in the twenty first century.

But then, the theist turns right around and accuses atheists of living in our own utter delusion. To them, they can't understand how anyone can not believe in a creator. They think it's utterly delusional to believe the whole universe "popped" into existence uncaused out of "nothing" (even though we don't have to believe this) and that purely natural processes evolved matter into all the stars, planets and life that we see today. To them, it's the atheist that's living in a fantasy world. We're crazy for not believing in their invisible spirit gods. And so we each think the other is utterly deluded.

And so nobody's right, if everybody's wrong.

The same thing can be said in politics. A sizable portion of the Republican party thinks President Obama is a Muslim socialist, who worships allah in the White House, and who is hell bent on destroying Christian America with a radical left-wing secular agenda. Not surprisingly, it's the same segment of Americans who buy into this fantasy who also buy into the biblical one.

Although liberals aren't exactly immune to conspiracies either (9/11 truthers), many Republicans think that liberal fantasies of universal healthcare, gay marriage, higher taxes for the rich and keeping god out of government to create a 21st century "utopia" is pure madness, and will ultimately decay into Stalinism. That's right. They think universal healthcare will lead to Stalinism. And so Democrats and Republicans each think the other are utterly deluded.

And so nobody's right, if everybody's wrong.

How do we fix this? Can we fix  this? Clearly, one side has a lot more facts supporting it than the other. What do you do with people who are so disconnected from reality? To some theists, no evidence will persuade them that they're wrong, because they've already closed off that possibility a priori. Others are not so deep in the whole. I live in a pretty comfortable liberal city and so I rarely encounter people who wear their religion on their sleeves. There are non-religious theists that I have no major problems with. I have a few friends for example. who are "Christian" but they're so non-religious about it that it doesn't cause me any conflict. I thankfully, don't have to deal with fundies on a daily basis like some of fellow atheists do.

Likewise, to many Republicans living in the information bubble, no evidence will persuade them that they're wrong, because they've either closed off all lines of information that differs from their beliefs, or they dismiss all counter evidence a priori like many theists do and assume it's all part of a liberal conspiracy. The correlations between the way fundamentalists think about religion, and conservatives think about government is astounding - because they're the same people!

Freethinkers tend to be Democrats. They tend to care an awfully lot more about evidence than dogma. Now we're all capable of our biases, but there is no doubt that Republicans have gone off the deep end into utter insanity in their ideology and beliefs. They are wrong on almost every issue - from healthcare to taxes to birth control and gay marriage. I've never seen a political party so wrong before in my life.

One of the things that motivates me is to help promote scientific rationality and the naturalistic worldview so that the comforts I'm afforded living in a big secular metropolis where I don't have to deal with fundies spreads far and wide. Practically speaking, I'd much rather deal with a rational, intelligent theist, who isn't a science denier, and who chooses to focus on the more humane aspects of their religion, like helping the poor, than focusing on gay marriage and regulating other people's sex lives. I'd also prefer to deal with theists who don't proselytize and for whom their religious beliefs are not a primary aspect of their lives. The arrogance of certain apologists, does rile up my antitheist side. But every once in a while, I do come across a theist who is rational, who accepts evolution and all of science, and who compartmentalizes his religious beliefs internally so that I don't even notice it. People like this could be called functionally atheistic, whereby their religiosity is so low that their behavior is indistinguishable from any other secular non-believer.

I'm aware that not all atheists think alike, but statistics show that the "nones" are much more likely to be liberal and vote democratic. So less religiosity automatically means more liberals. How then can atheists best win over our worldview? I think to a degree we are already doing it. The internet for example is awash with atheistic media. Naturalism is the dominant paradigm in the sciences and academia. Religiosity appears to be on the decline in most industrialized countries. In many social circles today, being a fundamentalist will get you laughed right out of the room. And Christians all over America are now crying crocodile tears over their loss of power and influence of the privileges they once enjoyed for granted. Good. They've had the power for far too long.

I think by promoting scientific education and critical thinking we can help mitigate the irrationality of gnostic theism, especially its fundamentalist strain. We can also continue to mock their beliefs, (but not necessarily the people who hold to them). I'm convinced that through a more scientifically educated society, a natural consequence will be the decline in religiosity and an increase of a more progressive liberal agenda that is desperately needed. That still won't change all of the fundamentalists. All we can do with them, is remind them that their beliefs look indistinguishable from fairy tales from our perspective, and that religious faith is the most unreliable epistemology. And we can hopefully educate them a little about science in the process.


  1. I like this post a lot. I think that more people need to see the connection between theism and contemporary Republicanism --that both subsist on maintaining a kind of delusion, and protecting one's beliefs from examination and scrutiny.

  2. Thanks. It is amazing how similar conservatives and fundamentalists are when it comes to their approach to "facts." They adopt a set of dogmas, and then they believe it no matter what evidence exists to the contrary.

  3. I recommend "The Authoritarians" by Bob Altermeyer.
    It gives some great insight into authoritarian thinking - the type of thinking seen on display in both Evangelical and Republican circles.



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