Can we stomach another label? How about “passionate atheists”? An Arkansas minister objects to the very idea.
Not long ago the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published an interesting article entitled “Passionate Atheists.” This caught my attention immediately.
My first thought was, “How do you get passionate about nothing?” If no God exists, what is there to get passionate about? Why do professed atheists find it necessary to convert other people to their unbelief, since there is nothing of substance there to convince them of?
My second thought was, “Isn’t this statement, passionate atheists, close to being an oxymoron ?”
He then rambles on with the usual mindless godbottery — amorality, spiritual decline of the nation, sexual deviancy, fools in their heart, bible quotes, yadda yadda yadda — which Revere has ably pulverized. So I’ll just address the opening gambit.
Are we atheists passionate about something? Hell, yes.
I’m passionate about my family — people for whom I’d give my life. It wouldn’t matter whether a god was dead, nonexistent, or hovering over my shoulder.
I’m passionate about science, a process that actively and explicitly excludes gods and the supernatural, whether they exist or not.
I’m passionate about my students, and in most cases I don’t have a clue what religion, if any, they practice … and it wouldn’t matter in the least anyway.
And oh, yeah, I’m passionate about atheism, but atheism isn’t about nothing: it’s about valuing reason over superstition, about conquering unfounded fears, about facing the real world without crutches and lies to hold you up. I’m sure someone is going to sit there and dissect the letters of the word and tell me that atheism means only an absence of belief in gods, but screw that — it’s about a whole philosophy of thought that is built on materialism and naturalism. It is an idea with substance.
If you want to see passion over nothing, you’re going to have to look to the true believers, like Mr Terry up there. Take a moment. Think about something you feel passionate about — a child, a book, a lover, a symphony, a forest, a gorgeous day. What thrills you? The touch, the sight, the sound, the words, the history, the beauty, the resonance of memory, the feelings it stirs. These are all real. Those are the elements of our experience, the tissues of the natural world. Most of us would, I think, say that if there were no god there, there would still be something to be passionate about. Mr Terry, however, finds his passion in an imaginary, nonsensical being with less immanence in our world than a grain of sand or a falling leaf, a delusion of no substance that can have less physical impact on his life than the secretions of even just one of his gut bacteria … at least that bacterium actually exists.
And he dares to rebuke us for believing in nothing? We believe in every thing.