I am an avid reader of Andrew Sullivan’s “The Dish.” More because I disagree with him almost as often as I agree, yet I can’t just dismiss him off-hand as I find him very often well written. So when I see them publish a comment (he doesn’t have a comments section, a fact I hate) that maligns atheists I’m not too surprised. But when the mouth piece of this nonsense is an atheist, I get a bit peeved. So here is my sure-to-not-be-published response to that comment.
Is this posthumous Hitchen-Bait?
I’m told The Dish doesn’t have a comments section because you prefer an editorial process where only the best comments make it to publication. So how did this comment ever pass muster? While it begins spot on explaining how atheism isn’t a worldview, but instead an absence of a particular belief, which I’m in full agreement with, its all down hill from there. The commenter apparently has not read any of the writings of those they go onto malign in the following paragraphs. For example they argue that underrepresented atheists like themselves are “looking for deeper meaning in community, in relationships, … in mushroom visions, meditation, hiking, and all the rest.”, not realizing that one of the most vocal atheists for such a proposition is Sam Harris, who just two paragraphs before was off-handedly labeled “smug”.
We are then treated to the worst of religious propaganda with the old canard that atheism is responsible for the mass atrocities of Stalin’s and Mao’s regimes:
“I bet one of your readers has the actual stats, but let me just say that I believe the atheistic political regimes (Lenin, Mao, Stalin, etc) in the 20th century evened up the historical body count between atheists and theists. A history-aware atheist probably ought not be decrying religion as being an inevitable force for tyranny and suffering. There is a lot of bloody glass in the way of throwing those stones, folks!”
This coming just two paragraphs after they clearly state that atheism is “a lack of a belief in something”, not a proscription to do something. It’s like not-stamp collecting is a not a hobby and bald is not a hair color. Atheism does not cause you to favor the committing of atrocities, because it doesn’t cause you to favor anything; it is an absence. What causes you to commit atrocities is the worldview you place into that void. Christopher Hitchens, (unfavorably termed “anti-faith”), devotes chapter 17 of his book “god is not great” to going over “The Last Ditch Case Against Secularism” which includes a thorough demolition of the “atheist regime” nonsense (Sam Harris also deals with this exact complaint in the afterward of his paperback “End of Faith”). He also ends his book with a call for a New Enlightenment and the revitalization of those values. A society built around the ideals of Jefferson, Paine, Spinoza and Einstein, “the study of literature and poetry for it’s own sake”, the detachment of sex and disease, sex and fear, and sex and tyranny, among many, many other things. Had the commenter read this book they would never have made such a wooly argument or dismissed Hitchens as simply “anti-faith”, as if he had no positive worldview.
So I ask you: Is this a group of god-hating nihilists or smug materialists ignorant of, as Hitchens often liked to put it, the numinous and the transcendent, as your commenter implies? Obviously not. In the future if you’re going to post comments defaming this group, the least I ask is that you make sure those commenters have read those they denigrate and don’t logically contradict themselves in the first 3 paragraphs.