Sunday, 3 July 2011

Insulting the Godless Atheist

It seems to me that we atheists – far too often – get a raw deal.

Let’s say an atheist targets a religious person, for whatever reason. Well, you know the standard comeback from the said religious person. It’s that he or she is being attacked because the atheist doesn’t respect his or her beliefs. Nine times out of ten, you can bet that’s going to happen.

But, over and over, I find atheists being gratuitously insulted, even when the atheism doesn’t have a thing to do with the topic of discussion. It’s beginning to look as though people think they can get away with insulting atheists not only with impunity but with no regard to the fact that atheists can be human beings with feelings.

It’s not as though we atheists aren’t used to being insulted, of course. We’re called everything from servants of the devil to immoral and unethical, and we’ve generally tended to let the insults roll off our backs. After all, we aren’t the people believing in imaginary friends.

But sometimes it does get a mite too much.

On a friend’s site on Multiply, there was one of her contacts talking about her ex-husband, who she called a “mean-spirited atheist”. When I responded by observing that not all atheists were necessarily “mean-spirited”, just as not all Christians were necessarily full of sweetness and light, she replied by saying her husband was the type of person who would have been mean-spirited whatever he was.

Since the subject of the original post wasn’t any theist-versus-atheist discussion (and in fact there had been no mention of atheism at all until said lady shoved her oar in) the mention of atheism was entirely gratuitous, made more so by the woman’s observation that her husband’s atheism had nothing to do with his mean-spiritedness.

My question then, is, why mention the atheism at all?

Let’s say you’re talking about your ex-husband, and you say he was a “mean-spirited black man”. Unless his being black has something specifically to do with the discussion, it’s obviously racist and offensive, and no thinking individual should have or would have mentioned it. I have no reason to think the lady concerned here isn’t a thinking individual, but saying her ex-husband was a “mean-spirited atheist” came naturally to her, even though atheism hadn’t even been mentioned earlier in the discussion.

As I said, I’m used to getting insulted, but sometimes it gets too much, as when the insults seem so unthinking and casual as this. Some people should learn to spare a moment to go over what they’re about to say before they open their mouths!

1 comment:

  1. Bill, we seem to be required to have sterling character and reproachless behavior before we can say a damn word - and that only earns us the right to more self-deprecating commentary by way of pandering to the Imaginary Friend crowd (your cartoon brings this point home pretty well).


    I don't worry about it any more.

    The Fundies here in the 'States are all that way. They've had it pounded into their heads that we're the Tribe Across The River that'll steal babies and drink blood. "Bad! Bad people! They're different! They've never done anything good!"

    I've given up trying to talk with them. I might as well try to be as peaceful as possible - they'll destroy the world soon enough....


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