I recently received the following e-mail query:
What do you think about the fringe criticisms against atheism that talk about the setbacks of overly concrete/logical thinking and a lack of abstract, emotional capacity commonly associated with atheists?
They criticize atheists (especially Dawkins and people like Dawkins) for being dull, unpleasant, lacking machismo and being unappealing to women. They argue that overly concrete thinking is detrimental to living the dynamic and largely abstract life outside of scientific institutions and number crunching facilities. Popular psychology even attested and perpetuated this bullshit with labels like Aspergers which describes people who are book-smart but have no people skills. I can’t cite any source that surveyed people with Aspergers and how many of them are religious or irreligious but I can guarantee a majority would be atheists.
The question is, is being 100% logical all the time really the right way to live an awesome and successful life?
You got things like music and art that you can’t build or enjoy without a level of spiritual capacity. As an example, to fully enjoy the spirit of Christmas, you gotta suspend some logic about Santa Claus and just let loose to enjoy the holiday, especially for the children whom you wouldn’t wanna ruin the fun for. Or watching cartoons and coming across many things that just don’t make sense, like the characters not falling off a cliff as long as they don’t look down and other inconsistencies in the plots of long-running anime episodes that you just don’t wanna over-analyze or be too logical about because it ruins the fun and the whole point of the show which isn’t to take it so seriously.
So essentially they are calling atheists a pack of basement-dwelling empty nerds who don’t know how to have a good time, which I gotta admit isn’t too far from the truth.
What do you think about all this?
My response was brief:
I don’t think their accusations are remotely accurate…and tell us much more about those making those accusations than the target of them.
And apparently insufficient…so the author asked for more information:
Why not? Is it not true that those prone to atheism are much more concrete thinkers than those prone to religion? You have to admit there is a correlation.
Here’s my response…
The fact that we’re not prone to accepting fantasy-as-reality doesn’t mean that we’re emotionless robots or Vulcans, incapable of appreciating beauty.
I’d argue that, in fact, the opposite is true. The individuals that I’ve met in the atheist community, are rarely dull. To the extent that we’re unpleasant, it stems from the frustrations of seeing reality treated as a minority position by individuals who credulously accept the supernatural while attempting to impose their religious views on other by legislation, coercion and indoctrination.
With respect to the lack of machismo or being unappealing to women, I find those claims absurd and sexist. They are particularly stupid charges that would be beneath response if it weren’t worthwhile to expose the ignorance and privilege of those making the claim.
There’s not a single public atheist figure that is advocating logic at the expense of emotion, humanity, beauty or empathy. (And if they’re were such a person, the rest of the public atheists would be the first in line to point out that this individual certainly doesn’t speak on behalf of other atheists).
There is no “spiritual” requirement for enjoying beauty or art…and such statements only demonstrate that the individuals have no concept of either the people their criticizing or the human condition. Most of my atheist friends greatly appreciate beauty, art, literature, fantasy, science fiction, music, films….the list goes on and on.
In addition to the television programs, podcasts, speaking engagements and activism efforts, I not only work a full-time job, but I take time to enjoy the world I live in. I read books (often fantasy and sci-fi), visit zoos, caves and museums, shop at craft fairs, hike and explore nature. I also crochet, make chain mail jewelry and oil paint. I play board games, card games, computer games and billiards. I am moved by great musical and artistic performances – occasionally to tears.
I do these things with my wife and with many other members of the atheist community. Dawkins has spoken many times about the beauty of nature. Hitchens has done so as well. I was fortunate to hear both of them speak publicly about this subject at the convention this past weekend.
As I said, the accusations aren’t remotely accurate and can only be made by someone engaged in a quixotic and xenophobic dismissal of a perceived enemy. What a sad existence one must have to presume that those who don’t share one’s imaginary friend are somehow deficient and sub-human. Curiously, they’ve often adopted religious positions that relegate the entire glory of existence to the status of a doormat – a place to wipe one’s feet while waiting for an afterlife. While their perceived enemy, to the extent that they’ve established anything akin to a religion, have largely adopted humanist positions.
And, as I’ve now wasted two e-mails responding to this absurd subject, I’ll be posting it on the blog so the reply might help prevent others from asking this.
Thanks for the question and for pushing for a follow up…but I’m most definitely finished with this particular subject.