Are we seeing a new trend? A new variety of passive-aggressive accommodationist mendacious gnu-bashing?
Ray Moscow alerted me to a new* entry in the genre at something called The Slacktiverse by someone called “Froborr.” It starts with: I’m an atheist. That’s my identity. It would be traumatic to change that. It’s just as traumatic to change the other way around. It ends with: Therefore, Greta Christina and other overt atheists are evil.
There’s a lot in between, of course, but that’s where it ends up.
Greta Christina posted last month that, “For many atheists, our main goal is persuading the world out of religion.” She goes on in the same post to establish herself in favor of that position:
We don’t want to see this happen by law or violence or any kind of force, of course. But we think religion isn’t just mistaken. We think it’s harmful. Some of think it’s appallingly harmful. Some of us think it’s inherently harmful: that the very qualities that make religion unique are exactly what make it capable of doing terrible harm. What’s more, we see religion as not just hurting atheists. We see it as hurting billions of believers. So we’re working towards a world where it no longer exists.
So, according to Greta Christina, her primary goal as an atheist is to make most of the world’s population suffer the trauma of losing their faith, so that they can then be better (read: more Greta Christina-like) people with truer (read: more similar to Greta Christina’s) beliefs. And I should be okay with this, because she promises not to use legal coercion or violence to bring it about.
I am not okay with this.
The post in question is What Are The Goals of the Atheist Movement? (Why is there a footnote instead of a hyperlink? What’s that about? The hyperlink is a convention for a reason: it’s much easier. What on earth is the point of reverting to the print convention?)
Now, notice that Froborr misrepresents what Greta said, immediately below the passage where she said it. She said “we’re working towards a world where it no longer exists” and Froborr misrepresents that as “mak[ing] most of the world’s population suffer the trauma of losing their faith.” Here’s the mistake: working towards a world where religion no longer exists means just that, not working towards a world where everyone has been converted from theism to atheism. There’s a whole spectrum of ways that can happen. One is that atheism becomes more visible and available, and people who are lukewarm or doubtful or closeted feel more free to become atheist or secular or humanist (or all three). Another is that as that happens, more children grow up without pressure to be theist. Another is that many people are persuaded by atheist arguments but the process is not traumatic or an experience of “losing” something, but a liberation or a revelation of vast possibilities. And then over all, there is no actual missionary activity. There is public discussion; there is not knocking on the front door with a tract. There are books; there are not atheist gangs invading churches and mosques.
Froborr ends up with:
You do not have a right to make others suffer for your beliefs.
No one has that right. Ever.
If Greta Christina’s assessment of religion were correct–if all religious belief is both false and inherently harmful–then religion would be not only a mental illness, but the most widespread mental illness in history. But even if that were true (and I do not believe it is), you do not have a right to cure people by force unless they are demonstrably an immediate danger to themselves or others.
I cannot reiterate this enough: Proselytizing is yet another word for making people suffer in order to transform them into what you think they should be, for no other reason than because they are not what you think they should be.
What Greta Christina advocates–what any atheist advocates when they suggest “increasing the numbers of atheists” as a laudable goal, what any adherent of any religion advocates when they suggest “increasing the number of members of my religion”–is evil in one of its purest forms.
Evil in one of its purest forms.
*New but brand-new; it’s dated January 16 thus pre-dates Be Scofield’s similar piece.