Saturday, November 14, 2009

Atheism and the Internet

Let me preface this article by giving you the point of view from which it is written. I am 22 years old, and I am a Christian. If asked for a denomination, I'd cite my background as a Presbyterian and a Covenant, but say that I am non-denominational at the moment. I believe in God, and that he is still around. I believe in Evolution, as I do not think we have brains that we are not supposed to use. I believe that a good deal of the Bible is a metaphor, and taking it as literal historical fact will only lead to trouble. I believe in Jesus, and I believe that our responsibility as Christians is to try to be more like Christ. I dislike religious extremists, and I don't think "God told me to" is an excuse to commit atrocities. I have friends of quite a few different religions, including atheists, and I don't think that being a Christian says I can't be friends with them.

Alright, there's where I'm coming from. Here is today's rant.

There are a lot of very vocal atheists on the internet. I don't know that they're the majority, but they sure are loud. The atheism board on reddit has over 64,000 subscribers, and you'll run into vocal atheists no matter which parts of the internet you frequent, be they news sites, online games, forums and imageboards, etc. I'm not planning to start a theological debate here, but I would like to point out a few observations I have made in regards to the attitudes of some internet atheists.

Many atheists associate atheism with intelligence, as though only smart people can be atheists, or all atheists are smart. They speak as though being an atheist puts them in a select group of smart people who haven't been taken in by "The God Delusion." Often, they'll make sweeping statements about society as a whole, like "It's 2009 and we still have 'In God We Trust' on our money. Society has a long way to go."

Intelligence and Atheism are not mutually inclusive. Really, it's true. Stupid people can be found in any cross-section of individuals, regardless of creed.

Somehow, the words "Christian" and "Creationist" became synonymous to internet atheists. Again, the two are not mutually inclusive. I got as annoyed as any atheist when I heard about the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Teaching the Bible's creation story as literal truth is doing children a disservice. Teaching that one man and one woman were literally created fully formed, and populated the entire planet without inbreeding is silly. Evolution is widely accepted as scientific fact, and many Christians accept it as true as well.

Some internet atheists are the rudest and most offensive people I've come into contact with. On a few memorable occasions, when they found out I was a Christian, they immediately reached several conclusions (I am stupid and/or weak, I was tricked into believing from an early age, I am a Creationist, I am a hypocrite) and launched an attack on my beliefs. Now, I don't mind having my beliefs questioned. I did quite a bit of that myself, and if my beliefs didn't stand up to questioning, I wouldn't still have them. I do mind having my beliefs attacked, unprovoked, and being put on the defensive in an argument that I didn't start, or want to have in the first place.

For the constant cries of "don't force your religion on me," some of these internet atheists are sure obnoxious about forcing their beliefs on others. They raise a fuss about "Under God" in the pledge, about "In God We Trust", about "God Bless America". Christianity, Islam, and the rest of the world's religions, do not have a monopoly on ignorant, extremist points of view. Several atheists I have spoken to are of the opinion that religion as a whole, and the concept of a supreme being, are harmful to humanity, claiming that religion is nothing but a tool of social repression and control.

Essentially, almost all that ends up being posted on internet atheist hangouts are rage-inducing news stories about extremists, pedophiles, fundamentalists, things that make organized religion look bad. The comments on said stories and the other posts comprise one big, pointless circle-jerk of self-congratulating lines, boiling down to "Look how stupid, hypocritical, and backwards religious people are." They blame religion for the Westboro Baptist Church, for ignorance, for the pedophiles in the Catholic Church, for the Dark Ages, for hate crimes, but the problem isn't religion. The truth is, those things frustrate Christians just as much as atheists, moreso in fact. Every rational Christian out there is frustrated, embarrassed, and angry, not just because of the event itself, but because of the damage it does to the world's view of Christianity. For every atrocity, there are thousands upon thousands of good people trying to make the world a little nicer. But hey, that's not news.

Anyway, to wrap all of this up, I'd like to see a bit less aggression from the atheists of the internet. This article isn't going to change anything, but it's been on my mind lately, so there it is. Thanks for reading.