Civility, Negativity, and Atheism-as-Identity

Lately, this blog has been receiving a huge number of scornful, obscene, profanity-laden comments from anonymous atheists. I’ve been deleting the bulk of them without explanation. I toyed with the idea of writing an official comment policy (no swearing, hate speech, personal threats, saying mean things about my mother, etc.).

For now, though, I’m just going to post a short instructional video for those wishing NOT to have their comments continually deleted.

There was a time when this would have gotten under my skin (and probably drawn me into some of my infamously long debates in the comment threads). I also realize that I bring some of this upon myself by uttering occasional blasphemies against The Wise Atheistic Consensus Of The Internet and Modern ScienceTM.

But on a serious note, I feel a tremendous amount of compassion for these anonymous individuals. In my experience, this kind of rage often has a personal back-story.  (To quote GB Shaw, “The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it.”Setting aside the intellectual arguments for and against atheism, I think it’s monumentally tragic that anyone might be driven away from the Truth because of mistreatment at the hands of those who profess to be Christians.

I’m also reminded of a recent article that appeared in The Telegraph (from the perspective of an atheist):

“Surely there was a time when you could say to someone “I am an atheist” without them instantly assuming you were a smug, self-righteous loather of dumb hicks given to making pseudo-clever statements like, “Well, Leviticus also frowns upon having unkempt hair, did you know that?” Things are now so bad that I tend to keep my atheism to myself, and instead mumble something about being a very lapsed Catholic if I’m put on the spot, for fear that uttering the A-word will make people think I’m a Dawkins drone with a mammoth superiority complex and a hives-like allergy to nurses wearing crucifixes…

There’s even a website called Atheist Meme Base, whose most popular tags tell you everything you need to know about it and about the kind of people who borrow its memes to proselytise about godlessness to the ignorant: “indoctrination”, “Christians”, “funny”, “hell”, “misogyny”, “scumbag God”, “logic”. Atheists in the public sphere spend their every tragic waking hour doing little more than mocking the faithful…

The problem with today’s campaigning atheists is that they have turned their absence of belief in God into the be-all and end-all of their personality. Which is bizarre. Atheism merely signals what you don’t believe in, not what you do believe in. It’s a negative. And therefore, basing your entire worldview on it is bound to generate immense amounts of negativity…

Today’s atheism-as-identity is really about absolving oneself of the tough task of explaining what one is for, what one loves, what one has faith in, in favour of the far easier and fun pastime of saying what one is against and what one hates. An identity based on a nothing will inevitably be a quite hostile identity, sometimes viciously so, particularly towards opposite identities that are based on a something – in this case on a belief in God.”

Mumford & Sons: Five Songs With All Sorts of Christian Undertones

It always fascinates me to see a musician/artist/author/actor with massive commercial success draw upon his/her Christian faith.

I’m only a casual fan of Mumford & Sons. I honestly don’t listen to much music. I do think, however, that one can draw an interesting contrast between Marcus Mumford’s gut-wrenchingly genuine (albeit sometimes flawed) lyrics, and the hollow, cliched lyrics of some of today’s “Christian bands”.

So I present: five Mumford & Sons songs with Christian undertones.

1. Lover of the Light

Stretch out my life
And pick the seams out
Take what you like
But close my ears and eyes
Watch me stumble over and over

I had done wrong
You build your tower
But call me home
And I will build a throne
And wash my eyes out never again

But love the one you hold
And I’ll be your goal
To have and to hold
A lover of the light

2. Below My Feet

And I was still
I was under your spell
When I was told by Jesus all was well
So all must be well

Just give me time
You know your desires and mine
So wrap my flesh in ivy and in twine
For I must be well

Keep the earth below my feet
For all my sweat, my blood runs weak
Let me learn from where I have been
Oh keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn
Oh keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn

3. After the Storm

And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come
And I look up, I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.

Night has always pushed up day
You must know life to see decay
But I won’t rot, I won’t rot
Not this mind and not this heart,
I won’t rot.

And I took you by the hand
And we stood tall,
And remembered our own land,
What we lived for.

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

4. White Blank Page

And can you kneel before the king
And say I’m clean, I’m clean…

Lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life
Oh, lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life

5. Sigh No More

Love; it will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be

There is a design, an alignment to cry
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be

Objective Moral Values: Two Views

This is essentially a rewording of last week’s poem, in the form of an argument.

The Naturalist’s View

1. The purpose of an object or entity is defined as the reason for which that object or entity exists.

2. The reason for which an object or entity exists can be inferred from its eventual outcome, determinable at some sufficiently distant future.

3. On naturalism, from 1 and 2, the purpose of the universe is to achieve heat death.

4. Objective moral values – if they exist within our universe – must serve to achieve or advance the purpose of our universe.

5. On naturalism, objective moral values – if they exist within our universe – must serve to increase entropy (from 3 and 4).

The Christian’s View

1. The purpose of an object or entity is defined as the reason for which that object or entity exists.

2, The reason for which an object or entity exists can be inferred from its eventual outcome, determinable at some sufficiently distant future.

3. On Christianity, from 1 and 2, the purpose of the universe is to bring glory to God, through its redemption and renewal.

4. Objective moral values – if they exist within our universe – must serve to achieve or advance the purpose of our universe.

5. On Christianity, objective moral values – if they exist within our universe – must serve to glorify God (from 3 and 4).

The Humanist

TL;DR: Secular humanism can’t adequately ground objective moral values. If moral values are to be drawn solely from what we observe in nature, then they would need to align with the observed “ultimate purpose” of our universe…that is, heat death.

Bronze age tripe, that’s all it is
The scribblings of a goatherd
To call this tome a “holy book”
One must be quite the dotard
It’s full of nonsense, myths and lies
I hear it calls for slavery
My plain contempt can’t be disguised
Free Thought takes much more bravery

Free Thought, you say?
Do tell me more
You really have intrigued me
A system without creeds, you say?
No room for touchy-feely?

That’s right, he smirked
I need no God
My reason is sufficient
The Scientific Method guides my path (and it’s sufficient)
I draw my morals from within
Human nature never fails me
Deep down inside all men are good
And frankly,
Blind faith scares me

Blind faith, you say?
That’s not unique
To buildings with a steeple
Surely, then, you have a way
To ground your faith in people?

My faith in mankind needs no grounding
Surely you can see so
Empathy
Kindness
These things are Good!
Everyone agrees, no?

Not everyone
Said I to he
Though that would make me merry
The problem with your view, you see
And not to be contrary
Is that the virtues which you cite
Come off as arbitrary
You say that we’re the product of a mindless game of chance
Our fleeting lives in tune with Nature’s odd and wondrous dance
Yet if you think this through, sir, and use science as your guide
Then ought not moral virtues work toward Nature’s sure death slide?