Monday, December 9, 2013

Further Thoughts On Hipster Atheism

Hipster culture to me is kind of like the fetishization of fashion itself. Fashion and beauty have been around for centuries, but what hipster culture does is it takes image and style and fetishizes it to the point where it becomes the only thing that matters. And living in New York, I can't help but pay attention to this subculture because hipsters are everywhere. They're unavoidable. If you're a relatively young person like myself in New York, you're going to feel a lot of pressure to be stylish and you will indeed be judged by how you dress, not only by hipsters, but by New Yorkers in general.

Hipsterism I suppose is the primary cultural phenomenon of our day, as was the hippy subculture of the sixties, and the beatnik subculture of the fifties. I guess you can say that I too am a hipster, but I don't fit all the stereotypes. Yes, I do care about how I dress. I do wear skinny jeans. I do have a beard. I do wear a lot of plaid. I do listen to a lot of indie rock and a lot of classic rock. I do like many things that are somewhat obscure. I do like art and film. And, I am an atheist. But - I'm not a trust fund baby pretending to be poor. I care more about science and philosophy than I do about style and looks. I sometimes wear things that aren't cool. I don't keep up with all the trends. I like many things that are mainstream and commercial. I don't wear thick rimmed glasses. And I fucking hate PBRs!

I do however, have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with hipster culture. Once you get into it, you start looking down at people who have no style. This is why hipster culture has so many haters. I've noticed myself numerous times insulting people behind their back who I thought had no fashion sense. But then I also despise people who take that attitude to the extreme and judge people only by what they wear. I don't go that far. I judge people by their personality. If you're interested in the same things I am, like science and philosophy and can carry your own in an intellectual conversation, then I don't necessarily care about how you dress. And conversely, you can be the most stylish mother fucker in the world, but if you're a purely superficial, lame ass douche bag who only cares about fashion and pop culture, then I will have little to no interest in hanging out with you.

As I blogged about recently, a lot of hipsters are atheists. But while atheism seems to be a popular amongst hipsters, it is hard to define exactly who is a hipster. Are punk rockers hipsters? What about skaters? What about neo-hippie, hybrid driving, yoga practicing vegans? There is no clear line of demarcation where it begins and where it ends. Hipster culture seems to have crept into other subcultures like metal culture and hip hop culture from its indie roots. Another issue is whether the popularity of atheism amongst hipsters is largely due to aesthetic reasons of over-infatuation with beauty, fashion and art, to the point where god and religion just aren't seen as important enough. In other words, are hipsters rejecting god simply because they're more interested in beauty and fashion? Although some hipsters are more intellectually driven and care about social issues, others are really superficial and care about nothing more than looking good, getting drunk and getting laid.

So should it matter why people are atheists? Should an atheist who doesn't believe in god simply because they can't be bothered with it be regarded on the same footing with an atheist like me who has spent years examining all the arguments and evidence? Should those of us who are in some way in the atheist movement really care why someone is an atheist, or should we just be content that the person is an atheist at all? I personally want atheists to be atheists for good intellectual reasons, and not merely because it's cool, trendy, or because god and religion are just too damn boring. I suppose what we can do is to continue arming atheists out there with ready-made arguments and evidence that they can use to justify their atheism should they find it interesting enough to dig a little deeper, or should they find it challenged (which is pretty much inevitable). And lastly, we can continue educating the public on science and philosophy as best we can, because enlightened minds tend to be skeptical minds, and skeptical minds tend to be atheistic minds.


  1. "I've noticed myself numerous times insulting people behind their back who I thought had no fashion sense. But then I also despise people who take that attitude to the extreme and judge people only by what they wear."

    Your whole attitude here is interesting to me. Fashion sense, it would seem to me, is a kind of interaction with group-think, and group-think is something that I imagine would not be of importance to the philosophically-minded.

    I also find it interesting that you observe yourself "insulting people behind their back," as I think that this is a kind of observation that might lead to changing your behavior. Recently, I've been more aware of catching myself making small, self-aggrrandizing or white lies in normal conversation, and by trying to immediately correct these misrepresentations I'm finding it easier to avoid them later on.

    1. Tony, you're right in a way. I was being honest here and admitting some of my faults. I don't want to be that person that does this, and I'm working on changing.

      I think I am a product of my environment when it comes to fashion. I live in New York, where we don't own cars or houses like in the rest of America. And so here, the emphasis is on fashion. I'm a product of this culture. I personally think fashion is important but it is secondary to philosophy, wisdom and knowledge. One can have both however. I am struggling between the desire to just indulge in all the material excesses given this is the only life I will ever have, and the desire to abstain from these indulgences and devote my life entirely towards intellectual endeavors and selflessness.

  2. Yeah, I took it that way when you wrote it -- you observed yourself doing something, and you reported it (to yourself, and to us).I appreciated your honesty, and saw in it the sign that you are self-critical. I just think that it's interesting that the same instinct you apply to theistic beliefs (what a waste of time) wouldn't hold consistently with fashion (again, what a waste of time). But you're also right -- fashion isn't a waste of time per se. Fashion is interesting, and elusive, and material, and the stuff of being alive. I would never, really, fault someone for being interested in fashion, in the same way that I wouldn't fault someone for being interested in art, or cars, or sports, or whatever.




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