Why are you Atheists so Smug?
I’ll start with the short answer: we aren’t.
Now for the longer answer.
Why is it presumed that if someone chooses to explain what they believe and why that they are smug? I say that I’m an atheist because I think it is tremendously important for other atheists to know that they aren’t the only one and that it is OK to conclude that there is no god. Is that smug?
Is the simple choice to stand up and be counted smug?
No, of course it isn’t.
Now if I go further and say that I believe all religions are equally wrong, have I crossed over into smug territory? Do I sound like I’m saying I’m better than all those religions because I’m so sure I know everything about god (or the non-existence of god)?
Well, no. But I expect I need to go into more detail.
See, I’ve frequently classified myself as an agnostic atheist. That means I am pretty sure there is no god but I’m not positive. Some might call that agnostic but given that I’d say I’m over 99% sure there is no god, I just round up and say I’m an atheist.
Imagine you are betting on a horse race and someone tells you it is 99% certain that a particular horse is going to win. Would you make the bet knowing that you have the tiniest possibility of losing or would you hold on to your money because you don’t want to risk even the smallest chance that you could be wrong?
I’d take the bet. If I thought the odds were closer to even, I might call myself an agnostic. I don’t think the odds are anywhere close to even.
I go further and say that I don’t believe there is any way that we, as humans, can possibly understand the nature of a divine being if one happens to exist. So while I acknowledge that I may be wrong, I’m far more positive that everyone who follows an established religion is wrong.
Why do I think that?
Because they can’t even agree amongst themselves. I’m not talking about Christianity/Islam/Judaism/Hinduism here. I’m talking about different sects within each religion.
If Christians can’t agree with each other over the subject of gay marriage, how can they be so dead to rights certain that their particular god hypothesis is correct? The same with the followers of Islam. Or Hinduism. Every single religion has hundreds of individual interpretations, all of which think that they have the mind of god all figured out.
So what is more likely – that one of them has it right or that all of them have it wrong? I’m not arguing against the existence of god, mind you, only the idea that any one of the thousands of people who are peddling their particular brand of god has it right.
It’s like people are throwing darts at the wall in a vain attempt to understand god and the reason none of them are getting close to the target is because they are aiming at the wrong wall.
Do I hate people who profess a particular religion? No.
Do I think that I’m better than them? No.
Do I think I’m smarter than them? No.
Do I think that my answer to the metaphysical puzzle of the universe is accurate and theirs is not? Yes.
That’s why I call myself an atheist. Because I think that my hypothesis about how the universe works holds more validity than theirs.
So I guess that makes me smug, right?
No more smug, of course, than the follower of a religion who is dead certain that their god hypothesis is the right one. No more smug than any other person who feels that they have a right to state and defend what they believe.
I’m sick and tired of people who say ridiculous things like “Richard Dawkins is no better than the Westboro Baptist Church!” That statement is bullshit.
One group mocks other people’s pain in an attempt to spread a message of hate and intolerance. Another writes books and gives talks about the fact that he believes the god hypothesis is flawed.
Has anyone who said such a thing ever read one of Dawkins books? If they have, how can they equate the one group with him? It is one of the most offensive attempts to create false equivalence that I’ve ever seen.
Dawkins believes religion is harmful and you know what? I do too. I feel religion provides an unassailable citadel from which people can push their followers in any direction they wish. Because religion is entirely based on faith, there is no test of the basic hypothesis. Rather, there is interpretation of a written text that lacks detailed historical fact to back it up. And the interpretation changes with the individual reader.
Do you think I’m smug because I’m saying that? Do you think I’m an intolerant asshole because my basic issue with religion is that it is the only thing we are expected to accept without any verifiable evidence?
I honestly don’t care what anyone chooses to believe about god until they use that belief to influence what other people do.
If you honestly believe god hates gay people, I think you’re a dick but I don’t care until you use that belief to act against other people.
Don’t like gay people? Fine. Don’t hang out with them. That’s your right. The moment you start holding up signs saying “God Hates Fags” or lobbying to have anti-gay laws passed, I’m going to get in your face. You stepped over the line between believing what you want to believe and believing that what you believe should dictate what others can say and do.
So that opinion is smug, right? Believing that no religion has the right to dictate how all people live is a smug point of view, right?
Or is it only smug when I choose to say it out loud?
I know a lot of atheists because I’ve chosen to be out about my conclusion to the god hypothesis. None of them are smug simply because they are atheists. Some of them are smug about other things. They are good writers, good thinkers and good comedians. They have every right to be smug about such things.
But the minute any one of them is forward about their atheism or, worse, forward about why they believe the god hypothesis is flawed, they are labelled as smug (or “asshole”) atheists.
I’m calling shenanigans on the whole thing. The religious get to talk about what they believe all the time. And even though they are in the majority, they are inexplicably labeled as “brave” for doing so.
Atheists are labelled smug. Or assholes. Well fuck that.
I’m not going to be told to shut up by people who think that I’m speaking up for myself in the wrong way. They have no better idea what the “right way” is than I do.