Sunday, January 27, 2008

little heroes

Everyday our fellow atheist write letters to newspapers defending our... well, our lack of belief. Atheism is really a simple concept. We do not believe in God. Yet others ascribe our lack of faith to the murderous socialist movements of the 20th century. So, today I salute the little heroes of atheism - and I resolve to become one myself. I will write a letter to my local newspaper the next time some fundie likens Atheism with mass murder.

My Hero: Ed Chew, Petaling Jaya (Malaysia)

I AM writing in response to TYS’s letter, Not by rational thought alone (Your Say, StarMag, Jan 20). To claim that atheism is responsible for the death of tens of millions in the 20th century, as the writer asserts, is unfounded and misleading.

Equating atheism with communism and holding atheists accountable for the crimes of the various communist dictatorships seems to be a common tactic used by critics of atheism.

The writer appears to have ignored the fact that the atrocities of Mao’s reign, Stalin’s rule and Pol Pot’s authoritarianism were not perpetrated in the name of atheism. Yes, they were atheist as were Mark Twain and Charlie Chaplin. So what?

Many people seem to have failed to see that the loss of the millions of lives at the zenith of the so-called “atheism’s epoch” were the by-products of the failure of socialist statism and it has nothing to do with atheism.

Atheism is neither an ideology nor a political system; it is simply an absence of belief in a supreme being. I do not know whether the word “atheist” is an appropriate term to describe a godless person, or such a term is necessary in the first place.

Let us take a moment to ponder this; if you are a non-believer of geomancy, do you ever tagged yourselves as a “non-geomancer” to express your disapproval or scepticism towards geomancy? I believe you don’t because it is simply not necessary. Likewise, atheism.

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Johnny Crow said...

Very nice response Joe.

I actually did a similar thing. For a local radio station here (KMXB 94.1 MIX). One of the hosts equated not believing in god and satanists. So I wrote in a letter.

I was just listening to your show, which I love, and I heard you talking about "The golden compass" and you said that it was about "not believing in god" or "something satanic"... I am offended and put off by that statement. I am an atheist and in no way shape or form am I satanic. I hope you read more about the subject at hand next time before making statements like that.

For your information the movie does have religious undertones (just like Narnia did..) only it is about the dogmatic beliefs of catholicism. Actually that is merely the book, where the final book is about "killing god"... however the movie actually takes out a lot of the religious overtones and supplants them with ANY dogmatic or tyrannical system.

PLEASE do not talk about those who do not believe in a god, atheists, agnostics, skeptics and anyone who chooses reason over "faith" as being a "Satanist"

Best Regards,
Johnny Crow
Loyal listener for years

I received a response.. actually an apology and they made a note of it on air. I was actually very impressed with how they responded and apologized.

Anonymous said...

There are actual satanists. However none of them are christians (with the exception of atheists who simply claim to be satanists to scare christians).

Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
I meant atheists, not christians! Dang it!

aidan said...

This post caught my eye when I was in earlier but hadn't time to type a response - so here goes.

I hear Atheism being equated with the excesses of socialism/communism a lot. In fact it's one of the favorite arguments of detractors who really know very little about Atheism and find it more convenient to identify it with Stalin and Pol Pot.

Part of this I believe is an unwillingness to give Atheism a human face. Once you humanize a concept you have been trying to villify in impersonal 'mass atrocity' terms, you have to engage it on a different level. The detractors don't want that type of relationship. It's more ideologically convenient to place Atheism alongside some of the darkest periods of history.

There is also the Satanic slur, which is patently absurd. In fact I was on a forum in which a re-converted evangelical who had 'lapsed' into Atheism, more or less contended that the Atheism he had embraced was nothing less than the work of Satan. So yeah many Xtians do view Atheists as Satanic, sort of by default, and the bible certainly gives them fodder for believing so with dark warnings about the unbeliever and his/her eraant ways.

I had a great chat on Joe's blog a while back on the topic of Satanism. The concept itself is redundant in terms of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Self-styled Satanists really are acting out a fantasy.

However when you look at the concept from a mythological, rather than a Judaeo-Christian perspective, you find that the ancient 'devil' was associated with the doppelganger - or twin. The most obvious symbolism of this type derived from Egyptian sources is the Set-Horus concept, representing darkness and light.

The biune glyph - the notion of two-in-one - predates monotheism and it reflects a profound insight into nature and into the workings of our psyche - also into the truth inherent in the concept of the androgyne. This concept was never regarded as "evil" in earlier civilizations. The evil bit was Judaeo-Christian spin on symbols that they regarded as pagan and decadent.

My larger point being that it is absurd for an Atheist to be "a Satanist" in the Christian sense of the term - because that would make him/her by implication a believer in the existence of God. It is perfectly possible however for an Atheist to perceive in nature the play of forces, energies, that are destructive ... transformative ... as the case may be and endow them with a symbolic potency for reasons of convenience, not "faith".

What it comes back to though is Joe's key comment that Atheism is "non-belief in God". Atheism doesn't rule out other types of belief running the gamut from the findings of astro-physics to more artistic/intuitive ways of interpreting nature and our place in it.

The truly amazing phenomena of the Atheist blogroll testifies to this diversity of thought, and frankly I have been blown away and at times deeply moved by the exceptional writing that so many on the roll produce from the deepest and most sincerely felt aspects of their being. Some are more cerebral in their approach than others, but often the writing is gut wrenchingly real.

And that is what Atheism is all about for me - real people, without props, without faith - who have the courage to reveal themselves ... their struggles, their carefully thought-out ideas. I stopped by a site on the roll tonight and was struck by the painstakingly crafted prose of one of the lead posts. It was rational and methodical in exploring the topic in question.

This what it means to me to be within even computer reach of others who are part of this. It's an honor. These are brave and original thinkers who shouldn't ever be branded in a generic sense, let alone associated with the excesses of Communism and Satanism. If there is one thing I value above all amongst those who proudly call themselves Atheist, it is a rare individuality that is both daring as it is original.