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Jan 10 2012

Yeah, But What About The Other Guys?

He helpfully points
To the cracks in the joints–
You will give them attention, he’s hopin’
That should cut down the breeze
Unless nobody sees
He’s conveniently propped the door open.
There’s a draft in the room
But he’d rather assume
That the open door isn’t the cause
Just attend to a crack,
Cos he’s coming right back
With an armfull of hole-cutting saws.

So… which is more important? To stand up for “belief” in the face of atheists? Or to throw the other believers under the bus, to try to distract atheists? Sometimes, I guess, you just want to do both. Tony Arsenal starts off complaining that the definition of atheism is intended to absolve atheists of the burden of proof, but that the real definition of atheism is considerably more active in its anti-god stance, but moves on to complain that atheists aren’t active enough when it comes to religions other than christianity.

Over at The Theological Arsenal (Yes, it’s his name, but the image is just too much fun), atheism is once again defined in such a manner as to justify christians feeling butthurt:

Simply defined, Atheism is the believe that no god exists. Don’t believe that garbage they spew about it simply being the lack of a belief… lacking a belief or being unsettled on a belief is agnosticism, this tactic is something agressive atheists try to absolve themselves of the burden of proof in a debate. Rather, Atheism is either the positive belief (I believe that god doesn’t exist) or the negative belief (I do not believe that god exists) that resolves in a lack of theistic deity in the universe. Now, most atheists will try to say that this is applied generally to all theistic systems… however I rarely see this to be the case. Very rarely do we see an assault on Judaism’s monotheistic beliefs (unless in the context of a broad attack on Judeo-Christian theism). I have yet to see a substantial Atheist figure attack the concept of Allah. I have never seen a leading Atheist figure confront the polytheistic systems prevalent in the various strains of Hinduism, or the theistic overtones of Taoism or Buddhism (although strictly speaking neither of these are theistic by definition).

*sigh*

No. Atheism is, and must be, a privative category. Positive definitions, of course, require a particular definition of a set of beliefs. Your claim that “god doesn’t exist” is the positively defining characteristic of an atheist, requires us to define the god in question. As a colleague of mine once asked, “which god don’t you believe in?” It is perfectly understandable that a believer in one god might be a non-believer in another; by your reasoning, though, that makes this person both a believer and an atheist. We already have words for those who are not christians (heathens), those who are not muslims (infidels), those who are not jews (gentiles or goyim); we do not call those people atheists, because only *some* of them are actually atheists–others are simply nonbelievers in that particular god. (I am well aware that the three examples I have given are all Abrahamic religions, who arguably believe in the same god. When you can get an ultra-orthodox jew to agree that his god is the triune god of catholicism, I will cede that point.)

Atheism is the privative, none-of-the-above category. The fact that your observations have been in a predominately christian culture has allowed you to see the antichristianity you do. Even there, though, you are wrong. Christopher Hitchens consistently attacked islam in his writings, and there are few bigger names in atheism. As for others, you may have to go to countries where these religious traditions are more common. Here, it is the christian majority that attempts to insinuate their beliefs into law, and that is worth fighting against. Here, it is a christian view of morality that attempts to keep some Americans as second-class citizens, and that is worth fighting against. Here, the greatly privileged christian majority resists any attempt to make them play by the same rules as everyone else when using federal dollars, and that is worth fighting against.

Besides, atheists don’t have to attack all those other religions. Christians already do that. Of course, it’s phrased as missionary work, proselytizing, and soul-saving, but tomayto tomahto.

10 comments

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  1. 1
    articulett

    Great post!

    I think it’s easier for Christians like Arsenal to imagine persecution rather than considering whether there are valid reasons that atheists find Christian supernatural claims just as wrong, incoherent, and potentially harmful as Christians find the supernatural beliefs of conflicting faiths or myths past– and, often, for the same reasons.

    Every woo feels that skeptics of their woo are specifically targeting their woo. The persecution complex keeps them from having to recognize that their woo IS woo.

    Arsenal doesn’t begrudge atheists their skepticism over other gods and other invisible divine beings– just the ones that he imagines himself saved (and special) for believing in! Tellingly, the god he believes in is the same god that will supposedly send people to hell for not believing in him. http://theologicalarsenal.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/the-death-of-christopher-hitchens-how-christians-should-handle-the-death-of-an-enemy/

    I can assure Aresenal that this atheist disbelieves in his demons and his hell just as much as I disbelieve in his 3-in-1 god… and just as much as I disbelieve in Allah and Muslim hell and Xenu and reincarnation. I disbelieve in them all equally and his bible quotes don’t compel my credulity any more than Quo’ran quotes or Dianetic quotes would sway non-believers of Islam or Scientology towards their doctrine.

    I don’t feel compelled to disprove any god when no god has been demonstrated to exist in the first place; as Christopher Hitchens said, “that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”. I can’t say that I’ve even heard of a coherent definition of a god. How can a being exist that has none of the properties we associate with real beings who exist? How would one know if one was “believing in” the right invisible being with the right title or right name? Why would a real god need spokespeople like Tony Arsenal (and threats of hell) to compel belief in him anyhow?

    How did you happen upon this Arsenal’s blog? He doesn’t appear to get many hits http://theologicalarsenal.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/top-10-posts-of-2011/ (Venturing over there reminds me why I don’t visit woo blogs.)

    It looks like Tony Arsenal is studying to be some sort of pastor; beyond the threat of hell and promise of salvation, he also has financial incentive to misunderstand atheism and the implications it has for his faith. He may not be an inspirational preacher, but at least he’s inspired some good Cuttlefish poetry– ha!

  2. 2
    rikitiki

    Yeah, what about the other guys
    Who don’t believe my god?
    Go beat them up
    And lay off me, ya atheistic sod!
    ‘Cause ours is true, it has to be,
    We’ve more folks for the win!
    All those folks daren’t make it up,
    For that would be a sin!

  3. 3
    Cuttlefish

    How did I find it? I’ve mentioned earlier, I use a couple of search tools to send me to stuff I might otherwise miss–to keep from falling into the easy habit of visiting all my old favorite sites.

    I like to keep myself pissed off informed.

  4. 4
    articulett

    My god is SO real
    You atheist swine
    My 3-in-1 Jesus-god
    Is really divine

    Go pick on Allah
    Or some other woo
    Cuz my “uncaused cause”
    Is the one that is true

    I’m right there beside you
    when laughing at Moonies
    And everyone knows
    The Wiccans are loonies

    Zeus is a myth
    And Buddha as well
    But don’t dis MY god
    (or he’ll send you to hell)

  5. 5
    Pierce R. Butler

    I have yet to see a substantial Atheist figure attack the concept of Allah.

    Tony A. plainly hasn’t done much homework in 21st century atheism.

    Please read some C. Hitchens & S. Harris and get back to us about that, okay Tony?

  6. 6
    The Lorax

    When you’re in a forest, all you see are trees. That doesn’t mean the sun doesn’t shine on rocks somewhere else.

    Of course, when you stop and think about it (something he didn’t do), his argument being “all I see is anti-Christian activism”, well yes, that would be the vast majority of what he would see, given that the vast majority of theologians in America are… Christian. So he’s pretty much defeating his own argument. Oh well.

  7. 7
    tonyarsenal

    It’s amazing that people will degrade and insult someone on a site they don’t expect them to read, without actually commenting on the site in question. articulett, if you feel bold enough to insult me using a 3rd grade insult that I’m sure I’ve never heard… please be an adult and do it to my face on my own website.

    As far as considering Jews or Muslims, or Polytheists to be atheists, you obviously missed the intentional usage of the lower case “g” which indicates that I am using the concept of a divine being, not the Christian God specifically. An atheist denies the truth value of anything fitting the concept of god, this would include Jewish concepts, Muslim concepts, as well as Christian concepts.

  8. 8
    Cuttlefish

    Oh, Tony, I fully expected you to see this. In fact, the comment was originally typed into the comments at your blog, but then it wanted me to register, which I chose not to do.

    I saw both g and G; your definition is still inadequate. You want christians to get special dispensation, and it’s just not the case.

  9. 9
    tonyarsenal

    I expect no such thing.

    True or false, you believe in A) No god, or B) Do not believe in a god.

    That is what my post said… atheists either believe in no god (which would also logically exclude multiple gods and all specific concepts of god or God) or do not believe in a (any) god (which would also logically exclude multiple gods and all specific concepts of god or God).

  10. 10

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