Macs and the Devil


The second annual Ask an Atheist forum on February 5 was quite well attended. There were four of us on the panel answering questions. One question dealt with how it came to be that each of us did not believe in god’s existence, and the answers were pretty much the same, that although we had all been brought in religious families, we each realized at some point that it was silly to believe in something which violated all the laws of science and for which there was no evidence.

During my answer, I said that I was somewhat embarrassed that I had arrived at this realization so late in life (in my thirties) while my fellow panelists, two of whom were students, had figured this out while still in their teens. It still amazes me that I did not come to my realization sooner. After all, I had atheist friends in my teens and we argued about god and religion. But their arguments did not convince me then and that makes me wonder how I could have been so oblivious for so long.

I think I have discovered the answer. My atheism was caused by Mac computers.

I began disbelieving in the mid-1980s, around the same time that the Apple Macintosh computers were introduced. I remember the sense of excitement about using the first Macs when they came out in 1984 when Drexel University installed a lab of them and I had so much fun with them. I immediately realized that these were the computers I wanted to use, even though I did not get my own until 1989.

My realization that Macs were the true causes of my conversion to atheism was triggered by this page of the website of an outfit called Objective Ministries that clearly lays out the case of how Apple is the agent of Satan. Little did I know that I was being seduced by the revolutionary new ‘point and click’ operating system into giving up my god-fearing ways, whereas my young fellow panelists had grown up in the age of Macs and thus were indoctrinated much earlier in their lives.

So it is clear that the Macintosh line of computers is deliberately turning people to atheism. This raises an interesting question. If Macs are the tools of the Devil, is Steve Jobs the anti-Christ? Does that make Bill Gates the second coming of Jesus? The incomprehensibility of the old DOS operating system does remind one of religious doctrine. Is Armageddon already here, except that the fight is over market share for personal computers?

Actually, the Objective Ministries website linking Macs to the Devil is a parody but is so well done that initially I was fooled and thought it was real, yet another product of the paranoia of religious people seeing dark plots against religion in all kinds of unlikely places. Another page on this same site that also initially fooled me says that Objective Ministries is seeking to launch an expedition to find living pterosaurs in order to disprove the theory of evolution which says that humans and dinosaurs did not live contemporaneously. It was only when I started researching into who “Dr. Richard Paley” was and the “Fellowship University” where he supposedly taught something called “theobiology” that I discovered the truth.

That I was almost completely taken in by these hoaxes is because religious websites are often so weird and illogical in their message that it is hard to distinguish the real thing from a clever parody. The websites of the religious are so irrational as to make ripe targets for parodists and some are having a lot of fun doing so.

Not all seeming parodies are really so. The website of the Westboro Baptist Church is so over-the-top in its anti-gay bile that it seems like a parody. But the numbers of real people it gets out for its demonstrations seem to suggest that it is either real or has a huge numbers of performance artists working for it for a long time, which seems unlikely. Similarly the counting down to Armageddon of the Rapture Ready site is not known as a parody but its premise is so absurd that it would not surprise me if it was.
Conservapedia is not a parody (as far as I know) but its Wikipedia-modeled open editing platform has led to suspicions that many of the entries are by parodists actually mocking religion, while seeming to be earnest supporters of its 6,000 year old world view.

Although the cover of Objective Ministries has not been completely blown yet, there are some well-known parodies of religious websites that are fun even though, and perhaps because, you know they are parodies. Jesus’ General, Landover Baptist Church, Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian, and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are some examples.

But coming back to the issue of the link between atheism and computer preference, Objective Ministries may be on to something, when it asserts in jest that there is a correlation, even a weak one, between using a Mac and religious disbelief. One interesting study might be to see if Mac users are more likely to be unbelievers than Windows or Linux users. Maybe the Pew Research Center should add this question when it conducts its next survey of the religious beliefs of people.

POST SCRIPT: Cookie Monster does not quite get the library concept

Comments

  1. Kevin says

    “During my answer, I said that I was somewhat embarrassed that I had arrived at this realization so late in life (in my thirties) while my fellow panelists, two of whom were students, had figured this out while still in their teens. It still amazes me that I did not come to my realization sooner.”

    Replace “realization” with “rebirth” or “conversion to Christ” and this sounds just like an Evangelical talking. Alas, secular humanism is the modern religion. And behold your modern priest, the theoretical physicist, whose life work is studying the wonders of the far away, the long ago, or the invisible. Many people do not understand him, but believe him because he is a priest, or a professor, or a scientist. The theologians of the middle ages too thought they were studying what is real, believed that they had evidence, and preached to those who did not understand them. What makes us different? Do we know we’re right more certainly than they did? Or will this also pass, with the man of the future writing hateful tirades about those who still believe?

  2. says

    “Do we know we’re right more certainly than they did?”

    Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Hell yes. The difference? There’s no magic this time. It’s all observation and math and genuine problem-solving skills.

  3. says

    Oh, and Mano: Computing enthusiasts frequently DO refer to the seemingly-eternal Mac vs Windows vs Linux arguments as “holy wars”! There’s a fan base for each OS that’s about as rabidly devoted as the biggest sports teams’ hardcore adherents.

  4. says

    Kevin,

    There is a difference. What medieval theologians believed is almost exactly the same as what theologians now believe, but modern science is vastly different from medieval science. The reason? Religious people first decide what they want/need to believe and ignore all evidence to the contrary. Scientists are quite willing to change their beliefs in the light of new evidence, and have done so numerous times. We never claim that we have eternal truth. But we do know that we can identify what makes no sense and has no empirical basis.

    Any nonbeliever can paint dozens of possible scenarios that, if any one came to pass, would cause him/her to become a believer. I have yet to hear any believer specify even one scenario that would make him/her into a nonbeliever. The difference? Because we believe in evidence, making predictions, and testing them.

  5. Jared says

    Oh good, it’s not often that I to get a chance to participate in a holy war.

    As a Linux user I cannot conceive that ANY freedom-loving atheist would use anything else! Well, perhaps I can show tolerance for those wayward Mac users. After all, is not Mac OS X built off of the One True Unix?

    Now go pray to Linus Torvalds and say three Hail GNUs and perhaps you will be forgiven.

  6. says

    Mano,

    I am really enjoying reading your posts.

    I found your blog while reading a post at ex-christian.net – somebody had provided a link.

    You said:
    “But their arguments did not convince me then and that makes me wonder how I could have been so oblivious for so long.”

    In my blog, I have outlined a concept called “payoff” for lack of a better word to explain why I stayed in my faith for as long as I did.

    Basically, I maintain that the strength of family ties, the internalizing of manipulative and coercive thought processes by religious influences, and the social and economic benefits of staying in a faith contribute to shape our willingness to see reality a certain way. We may see weak arguments as “good enough” or totally dismiss sound arguments as illogical or nonsensical because it “pays off” for us to do so.

    My question is, in your experiences, how strong were these factors in keeping you in a religion as long as you did?

    Thanks

  7. Corbin says

    > …What medieval theologians believed is
    > almost exactly the same as what theologians
    > now believe…

    Mano,

    Can you offer any evidence to support this claim?
    What do you mean by “almost exactly”?

    -Corbin

  8. says

    Corbin,

    I have discussed this point before, in a post titled The new apologetics, same as the old where I point out that arguments for god always seem to go back to St. Augustine, St. Anselm, or Thomas Aquinas.

    By “almost exactly” I mean that what passes for modern theology is the dressing up the same arguments of the medieval theologians with modern language or some new wrinkles. For example, ID is pretty much Paley’s theology, who in turn was using the earlier arguments.

    Your question has made me curious. Are you aware of any really new arguments for god that arose in the 20th century?

  9. says

    Scott,

    I think what you are saying makes a lot of sense. It is similar to what Bertrand Russell said (Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndication. Thanks to Machines Like Us):

    “What a man believes upon grossly insufficient evidence is an index into his desires – desires of which he himself is often unconscious. If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.”

  10. Corbin says

    Mano,

    To my mind apologetics and theology are not (exactly) the same thing. The former is the the application of arguments to defend particular set of beliefs — basically a defense of an believe system as a whole. Theology is the the general study of the nature or characteristics of god. Theology is in this sense a broader endeavor that can be broken into narrower questions.

    What about Process Theology and it’s relatives, Feminst Theology and Liberation Theology for example? What about the theological underpinnings of the ecumenical movement? These are just a few examples of major modern theological perspectives that are generally addressed and explored in some detail as part of any mainstream theological education.

  11. says

    Corbin,

    I take your point about the distinction between apologetics and theology.

    When I was a believer, things like liberation theology, process theology, etc, seemed very important because they were attempting to elucidate the way my faith should manifest itself in the world. But if there is no god, all that seems moot.

    It is like discussions about the height or weight or speed or temperament or the shape of the horn of a unicorn. All interesting questions, provided there is a unicorn. If there is no evidence for one, what’s the point?

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