At one time there was a flurry of articles and books around the theme of why some women seemed to be loyal to husbands and partners who abused them, with titles such as Women Who Love Psychopaths, Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them, and Women Who Love Too Much, all exploring the strange attraction that some people have for those who seem to hate them.
This came to my mind as I was writing recent posts in which I discussed the curious cases of TV talking head S. E. Cupp (who seems to positively hate her fellow atheists), Jesse Bering (who prefers to have overtly religious taxi drivers take him places), and most recently Jesse Powell (who yearns for the days of what he calls Christian patriarchy).
These atheists seem to go out of their way to make extravagantly positive claims about religion while denigrating fellow atheists, saving their greatest ire at that subset of atheists who think that religion is in general a bad thing and that science and religion are incompatible. They make for interesting case studies. Maybe my next book should explore this phenomenon and be titled Atheists Who Love Religion or Atheists Who Love Those Who Think They Are Immoral Nihilists.
In his post at The Thinking Housewife Powell describes himself (twice) as an atheist but says he want to see society built around Christian patriarchy and hopes that visitors to the site will convert to Christianity or become ‘devout atheists’, whatever that means. In addition, he says:
The solution to the present cultural crisis is the reestablishment of traditional values with the resurrection of Christianity being the most obvious means by which this can be accomplished. Christianity is not a spent force, nothing superior to Christianity has been discovered or invented. As far as novelty is concerned there is nothing more exciting and new than a newly emerging fast growing conservative Christian Church that introduces God to former non-believers.
His idea that the world is facing a deep and possibly disastrous moral catastrophe and that only belief in Jesus can rescue it could have been taken from the sermon of any run-of-the-mill evangelical Bible-thumper.
I take Powell and Cupp and Bering at their word when they say they are atheists because I have no reason to suspect otherwise. But I am frankly baffled as to how any atheist could write such a passage. I just don’t understand how they can be so impressed with a belief structure that they themselves think is based on a falsehood.
Even if they think that religious people are, because of their beliefs, nicer and more moral people (a highly dubious proposition at the best of times), surely they would seek to promote secular-based moral values that achieve those same ends. After all, they presumably see themselves as nice moral people. Being atheists didn’t destroy their moral fabric. Why don’t they think that other atheists could have the same moral grounding?
At the very least, one would think that intellectual honesty would demand of them that they not seek to advance a belief structure that they know to be false. Even if the truth may seem to have negative short-term consequences, it is never a good thing to base one’s actions on a lie since it will collapse eventually. It is better to face things squarely and learn how to overcome it.
One cynical reason that could be postulated for these atheists’ puzzling affection for religion is that we are passing through a time when atheism is on the rise and religion on the defensive. Except for a few countries, mostly Islamic ones, where religious fanatics are allowed to impose their dogma by force, religion no longer has the power to silence its critics and the emptiness of its claims are being laid bare in an increasing number of forums.
One result has been a shift in strategy of religious intellectuals. Where once they asserted that they were right and atheists wrong, they now seek détente or coexistence, arguing that the two viewpoints are simply different ‘ways of knowing’ and where one ends up is a choice based on personal preference and that religion gives people some things that secular beliefs cannot. This strategy requires them to embrace atheists who are willing to say nice things about religion and nasty things about their fellow atheists.
This can be a convenient niche for an atheist to occupy in the current climate. One can retain one’s self-respect as an intellectual because one does not believe in imaginary friends and supernatural forces, while being warmly welcomed in at least sophisticated religious circles and the media. For example, any scientist who is willing to say nice things about religion, such as that there are some things that science cannot explore and is the domain of religion, is guaranteed to get a warm welcome from organizations like the Templeton Foundation and maybe even generous grants to do their work.
It is similar to members of minority groups or people of color who are willing to say nasty things about other members of their groups. If you are a black person who is willing to say that black people are lazy and shiftless living at the expense of hardworking taxpayers (Herman Cain) you will be highly sought after. If you are an immigrant or child of immigrants who is willing to take a hard anti-immigration line (Bobby Jindal, Michelle Malkin), you will have largesse showered on you.
I think that I missed the boat here. As an immigrant atheist of color, I could have gone for the triple crown, by attacking all three groups of which I am a member. How could I have been so dumb as to not seize that golden opportunity for fame and fortune?