Is Atheism a Religion?

The short answer is, no.

Atheism is not a religion. It’s a declarative stament about the existence of God/gods.

This is a popular argument between atheists and theists. I’ve noticed theists using it to derail conversations, fairly often. Ask them an uncomfortable question, and they’ll lob it into the conversation like a hand grenade. It works all too well.

If you want to piss off every single atheist in your circle, just make that stament. Then sit back and watch the conversation devolve into chaos.

Watch as the conversation becomes a definitions game. That game is seldom won on either side.

So here’s my question:

Would it matter?

If atheism were a religion, would that classification affect the validity of its core stament:

There is no God, or I don’t believe in God.

I don’t believe it would.

We don’t oppose religion because it’s classified as religion, we oppose it because it’s not true. Because organising ones life around a lie forces one to deny fundamental truths that contradict that lie. This has disastrous effects on society.

It’s the cause of oppressive laws, science illiteracy, bigotry, and violence in the name of said beliefs. Just to name a few.

The constant need to square the circle. To make actual reality, reflect fictional “reality” so you can continue to believe the lie.

This is laid out much more eloquently by Nicholas Lamar Soutter in his wonderful article here:

https://www.theatheistcodex.com/

If any of the religions turned out to be true we’d be forced to drastically change our approach.

So, the next time some theist uses the tired old turnip “atheism is a religion” maybe don’t argue for three hours over definitions. Maybe instead, ask what difference it makes. Put the onus on them, and watch them squirm.

It works. I promise. Every time I’ve used that response, the theist in question was stumped. I’ve actually watched their face drop.

Why? Because there is no good answer. Explaining why we oppose religion, and how their assertion is irrelevant, true or not, leaves them with no angle to work.

That’s just my opinion my loves. Stay strong, stay resolute, and be the atheist that makes your local pastor wake up in a cold sweat.

I love you all.

White People: An Anthroplogical Study.

During my life as a white man, surrounded by white people, I’ve learned a lot about my own race. Through careful study I have managed to narrow white people down to four basic groups. There are subsets within these groups, but the focus of today’s article will be the four mains groups.

So without further ado. Here are the four groups of white people, I’ve discovered and categorized.

1. The outright racist:

This is a group of white people that will tell you unequivocally what they think. They don’t care about cameras, or their reputations, and are generally surrounded by their own ilk. (Likely because everyone else finds then loathsome.) They are often very fond of lifted pickup trucks, confederate flags, and country music. (Though this is not always the case.)

Now I’m not saying all country folks are racists. That’s entirely untrue. I know a lot of people who love country music, and lifted pick up trucks who are not at all racist. I’m not so sure about the confederate flag.

Here’s a relevant story:

I was in Atlanta, helping an apartment community get caught up on broken a/c’s. (I used to work in apartment maintenance.) It was evening and my friend and I were at this little bar down the road from our hotel room. It was open mic night, and if you know me at all you know that I fucking hate open mic night, but my friend really wanted to listen to off key, poorly written, poorly played country tunes so….

C’est la vie.

Through out the night there was a mixed crowd. I’d had a lengthy conversation with a Somali national about ISIS, over several beers. There were young, aspiring country singers in cowboy hat’s and boots. A group of black guys playing pool over by the bathroom. Everybody was getting along swimmingly.

Enter the racist.

Four very drunk, very redneck, young men walked into the bar. A tallish one in the back of the group, was looking around the bar with a look of outrage on his face, an out of nowhere he screams:

“WHAT THE HELL ARE ALL THESE GODDAMN *EXPLETIVE* DOING IN HERE? I’M ABOUT TO SLAP ME A GODDAMN *EXPLETIVE* IN THE MOUTH!”

Which prompted me to look at the bartender and say:

“I’d like to close my tab please.”

My friend wanted to stay and see the fireworks, and I had to explain to him that, I wasn’t interested in getting shot.

I’ve seen similar situations play out over the course of my life, and they never ceases to shock me.

I don’t know how it played out, but I will say, the black guys playing pool laughed, shrugged, and waved the guy off. They went on playing pool and completely ignored the bigot.

I loved them for that.

2. The Subtle/Self-denying Racist:

This person is not any less racist than the outright racist, they’re just confused about it. They will often use their religion, mainly Christianity, to justify these beliefs. They also seem to think that all reasonable white people reciprocate in these views. And if there are no minority groups around, they will inform you of their oppinions with outright zeal. Now I’ve had the displeasure of having educated, seemingly reasonable white people unload some veiled racism on me alone, and after a few drinks, but that’s not the norm. The best example is here:

I was moving back to Myrtle Beach from Charleston, and had rented a truck. My ex and I were returning the truck, and looking get our $250.00 deposit back.

I was driving the truck, the ex was driving our car with my son in the back. It was a cool day in October, my son was enjoying his Nintendo DS, so we opted to let him wait in the car.

Upon entering the office at the truck rental place, the lady at the desk sent her husband to inspect the truck. We waited with her.

Noticing my son in the car she asked:

“Oh, is that your son in the car?”

I refrained from saying something snarky, like:

“No, a fellow I know owes me a debt, and I’m keeping the boy as collateral.”

I simply affirmed that it was and that he was eight.

When she heard this her whole face lit up, and the racist tirade began:

“That’s how old my daughter is, and you know what she says she wants? A black boyfriend! Can you believe that? It drives her daddy insane! We tried to take the scriptures, and show her where the Bible says that the races shouldn’t mix. But she won’t hear it. She says she’s gonna get her a black boyfriend, and he’s gonna become her black husband, and they gonna make little half breed babies. You ever see those little half breed babies? Aren’t they beautiful? Do you think God makes them babies so beautiful, because they don’t have a race to identify with?”

I don’t know if I just have an understanding face, or what. For some reason people will just tell me what they think. It’s a curse.

Now I know what you’re thinking:

“Duke, I would have let her have it! I would have told her she was blah blah blah blah!”

I don’t believe you.

Because that’s what I would say, had it not been me who was there. The experience was so unbelievable that I had no idea what to do. My ex and I just stood there, slack jawed and in shock, as her husband came back into the room. He told her it was good, she gave us our money, and we left.

Here’s the thing. If you told this woman she was a racist, I bet she would be genuinely hurt. She would deny it completely, and likely say something like:

“There’s black people that go to my church, and some of my best friends are black.”

They just need to stay away from her children.

I see this kind of thing all the time, and it never ceases to disturb me.

3. The Confused White Person:

This group is comprised of mostly reasonable, non-racist white people, who can’t figure out why everybody’s so angry at them. They make friends readily with anyone who’s agreeable, regardless of identity. They are unreceptive to a abhorrent ideas about people based on identity. Essentially, they’re good people. Being good transcends identity. Your character is not attached to what group you belong to, it’s personal to you.

It is no way reasonable to make assumptions based on identity. If we cannot get to a place where actions speak louder than innate characteristics, we’re never going to beat racism.

And we’ve arrived at the most insidious group of white people there are.

4. The “I’m not like all the other white people” White People.

Here we have a group of white people with seemingly no self awareness, who are constantly squalling about their own awfulness, whilst simultaneously preening their own virtue.

They are happily offended on behalf of others. Even when others are not, themselves offended. And will call out any person who doesn’t appreciate their being offended in implicitly bigoted terms.

They see themselves as the defenders of the downtrodden, and disenfranchised. However, their language, actions, and additude show much more sinister intentions.

They fail to see the air of superiority they portray. How believing that minority groups would be helpless if not for them, is both condescending and arrogant. Also everybody is literally Hitler.

This group of white people are, in my humble opinion, the biggest obstacle to equality. By magnifying hatred, and creating division they stifle a very necessary conversation.

If you should come across one of these white people in the wild, avoid them at all costs. They don’t really care about you. They care about seeming virtuous. They are not.

In conclusion, not all white people are racist. We should condemn any and all racism, regardless of the source. And if you’re a butthurt white person, offended by what I’ve said here; I invite you to vigorously and thoroughly suck it.

Dinner

Let’s have dinner by the gaslight.
The salad is made of words dressed with poison; meant not to kill but to subdue
The meats au jus seeps out malevolence, and shame.

There we shall project our opinions with blame and resentment in a maypole dance of despair

We’ll smear each other over the bread like butter, and triangulate our guests to our causes; our hellish, nonsensical, tug of war.

We’ll pass the sides dishes around like moving goal posts, and afterwards we can warm ourselves with a blanket of statements.

Burning up with hatred in a bed made out of lies and disgust.

An Open Letter to God

Hey there buddy. It’s been a while since we spoke. How you been? Things are pretty desperate down here, but you already know that.

So what’s the good news? When you coming back buddy? We sure could use some of that all inclusive divine love, and grace right now. Billions of us fall prostrate to your glory everyday, and we don’t seem to be getting much of an answer.

Cat got your tounge?

You see it all right? You see us killing an dying in your name by the thousands. You must right? You see everything.

The brutal indoctrination, cruelty, and quiet desperation of your followers. You see that. You must. You’re everywhere, supposedly.

Or perhaps that’s the problem. Perhaps you’re not there at all. Maybe we just made you up to cope with the finite, and tragic nature of our existence.

Then some realised the power inherent in the idea of you, and devised methods to use that idea to subjugate, divide, and conquer.

Sure, there are those that lead honest, kind lives in your service. A lot of them in fact. But does that really balance it out buddy? I’m not so sure. You see I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and it seems to me that, real or not, you’re terrible for humanity.

Sorry if that stings. I know you’re not mocked and all that, but I gotta call it like I see it.

Anyway, peace be upon you, I guess. If your out there (and really I don’t think you are) it sure would be nice if you showed up and set things straight. Really, it’s the least you can do.

Best Regards,

Duke.

Oblivion and the after life.

So I tweeted out a poll recently concerning my thoughts on the after life.

If you’re wondering why I included “get off the goddamn porch” it’s because I’m sometime referred to, colloquially, as a “porch atheist” and I like to have a little fun with it here and there.

As for the rest of the poll, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people agreed with me. Granted I probably shouldnt have been; I deal with mostly atheists online, and we tend to have a different outlook on death, but I was glad to see my views are shared by others.

Interestingly enough, that conversation never goes well with my religious friends. I once made a good friend cry talking about my afterlife beliefs, and have been thought to be suicidal more than once.

I’m going to flesh it out today, and really try and explain my position.

I was recently talking with one of my best friends about this, when she told me the thought of heaven had terrified her as a child. That hit me hard, right in the chest, because I was instantly reminded that, so was I.

I don’t know if I’d repressed that memory, or if it had been simply lost to time, but it came back intensely. I was somewhere between 6 and 8, thinking about heaven, and I was horrified at every concept of it I could come up with.

“What if I don’t want to sing praises all the time.”

“What if my friends aren’t there, or someone I love doesn’t make it?”

“What about Ozzy? I know he’s not gonna be there.”

Im a life long metalhead, and Blizzard of Oz was the first great love of my life.

The thought of heaven still fills me with dread, though some of the reasons are different.

First of all, I’ve never been presented with a heaven that wasn’t entirely servile. You’re slave to God for all eternity. Not my idea of a good time. Hey, work all your life for God and save up treasure in heaven. Then when you get there; you can give it all back to him and praise him forever. No fuckin’ thank you.

Secondly, how could I be made perfect and still be me? How would it be possible for me to maintain any sense of self? I can’t see it, and if I’m not me why bother. Think about it, if you’ve got however many millions of people and they’re all perfect, how could you distinguish them from each other?

That makes heaven kinda seem like an oblivion of self, but with continued existence.

Once again, NO FUCKING THANK YOU.

If did conceive of a heaven I would enjoy, perhaps an opportunity to learn everything and set some things right, it would have to be finite. I would have to have an exit option.

Now, none of this is relevant to whether or not there is an afterlife. There either is or there isn’t objectively, regardless of how I feel about it.

That said, I’ve never seen any evidence, that shows our consciousness is seperate from the body, or can survive it’s death. So I don’t believe it is, or does. It’s really that simple.

Now you might say: “But Duke, what about near death experiences?”

Great question. I’ll be posting about that in the near future, and talking about the evidence for a naturalistic consciousness also. But for today I’m just talking about how I feel about it.

So, as an atheist, I believe in my eventual extinction. If I’m honest, I believe that is universal.

To quote Neil Gaiman’s Death character from The Sandman series:

When the first living thing existed, I was there waiting. When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I’ll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave.

Obviously, I don’t believe death is a cognitive being, but it’s a lovely quote and I think it conveys my point really well.

Honestly, if you’re not reading Neil Gaiman, I don’t understand what you’re doing with your life.

So, you might ask me:

“But Duke, isn’t life sacred?”

Fuck no! Where the fuck did you get that idea?

I will gleefully spray my yard with fire ant killer, and think happy thoughts while those hateful little motherfuckers die.

Some life is sacred.

My life is sacred to me, and the lives of my loved ones also. Through empathy, I’m able to draw the conclusion that human life outside of that bubble is sacred also, and extrapolate from there to other sentient beings. From there I can apply appropriate rights to each level of consciousness, and fire ants have no fucking right to exist.

Sorry. I really hate fire ants.

Moving on, I know that the extinction of one’s personal life, and of our species is something that most people find upsetting. While I’m in no hurry to die, and I want to see the human species flourish into something more wonderful than it is today, I don’t see it that way.

I think it’s beautiful we are here at all. I think the finite nature of existence is what makes it valuable. If you live in the West, you may take water for granted. It’s everywhere all the time, so you just drink your fill and you don’t give it a second thought. If the water started running out it would quickly become the most precious thing in the world to you.

Perhaps that’s how I will feel if death comes for me slowly. If I waste away, instead of dying instantly. Who knows, but I do know there is nothing to fear.

If I die quickly or slowly the end result remains. I won’t exist anymore, so I won’t be there to notice it.

In a universe where life could’ve not happened at all; I got a shot at it. I find that thought to be lovely.

As for why I find the idea of oblivion comforting, it’s an eternity of rest, which I think will be welcome when the time comes.

As precious as my life is to me, I wouldn’t want to do it forever. I’m not even sure I’d want a do over.

Sure, I’m not famous or wealthy, and I’ll likely never be. But my life has been mine, and, for the most part, I’ve loved it.

I’ve connected with some truly beautiful people, had great times, great sex. I’ve had my heart filled with light, and fire, and I’ve seen that fire extinguished, a bit to often maybe, but I’d rather feel both than neither. I’ve watched two children be born (and let me tell you, that’s the greatest feeling ever).

I’ve really lived, and I love it.

I wouldn’t change a thing, and I don’t begrudge life for not keeping me forever.

When the end comes, it comes, and I think I’ll be ready for a break.

I love you all.

Anti-theism and the division in modern atheism.

I see the word spectrum a lot in online discussions. I think it’s a perfect word for when you’re trying to delineate between extremes and show there is a middle ground. Which is why I’m using it here to describe different atheist positions in terms of the utility, and overall negative/positive impact of religion.

It is a spectrum, as are most ideological positions, ranging from atheists who are outright religious apologists (Douglas Murray, Steve Shives, ect.) to atheists who cannot countenance even the slightest positive word on religion. (Daniel Dennet, Richard Dawkins, ect.) The disconnect I’m seeing is coming more from the later than the former.

Let me clarify something. I’m not referring to athiesm as an ideology here. I believe the lack of belief definition for atheism is the best definition for atheism in general, though I find that people have much more subjective definitions for their personal atheist experience. I, for example, do not lack a belief, but actively disbelieve in any God. There is no God. That’s my stance. So the broad definition doesn’t apply to me. By ideological stance I mean the position on the utility of religion.

Amongst anti-thiests there seems to be a reluctance to see any spectrum at all. It seems that any deviance from the strict anti-religious position anti-thiests hold is often met with open hostility, such as Reece’s anti-thiesm or gtfo position. (Don’t get me wrong here, I respect Reece both for his content, and his unwavering principled stance. I just don’t agree.)

This leaves people in different areas of the spectrum feeling disenfranchised to say the least. It also lends to the idea that there is something inherently dogmatic and fundamentalist about the anti-thiest position in general. I tend to see anti-thiesm and pro-theism as polar opposite positions on the same spectrum. We all agree there is likely no God, but cannot come to terms on what level of relevance religion has, if any, in modern society.

This is not to say that the pro-religious, cultural Christian group do not pose a problem to the movement also. They certainly do, such as lending credence and credulity to an oppressive system of thought that, in my humble opinion we would be well better without. And these people need to be called out for that, with no quarter asked and none given, but an out of the closet atheist expressing trepidation at calling religion all bad, in every possible way, all the time is not synonymous with the aforementioned group. It just isn’t. That said, I don’t see pro-theists to be as great of a threat to group cohesion as many of the anti-thiests in the movement.

I’ve often heard that creating an atheist movement is tantamount to herding cats. While this may be true in the present, I don’t believe it need be true forever.
Look at the modern Christian movement. It should be impossible. Once upon a time these were groups of people who viewed themselves not as Christian, but as Pentecostal, Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, and so on. They viewed each other with distrust, and disgust, reacting with violence, to the point of burning each other for heresy. Yet here we are in the 21st century dealing with Christians united in nondenominational groups that are pushing hard for their values in government and society at large, and they outnumber us on a ridiculous level. Why? They have a common enemy: the modern, secular, liberal movement. If we want to make changes in society, and increase liberal values, we will have to find a way to emulate the faithful and put aside our differences for our common goals. In my opinion (and all of this is opinion) the disconnect between anti-thiests, and…well everyone else is the biggest stumbling block to achieving that.

My atheist testimony.

When I was young I loved Jesus. I thought he was the fuckin’ bees knees. I was passionate about Christianity, and lived my life as a devout Independent Baptist. I believed the earth was 6000 years old, and created in a literal 6 days. I believed every word of the Bible was God breathed into the minds of the men who wrote it without any input from them at all, and the only English translation of the Bible that was relevant was the King James 1611.

So what happened Duke? Why’d you decide to join a group of baby eating, amoral, heretics reviled the world over?

I’m glad you asked that, because that’s just what we’re going to talk about today.

I began having doubts in my mid 20’s. Those doubts did not come to fruition until my late 20’s early 30’s but somewhere in the depths of my brain was a small voice saying: “you know this is bullshit, right?”

I’m often asked by concerned believers: “What happened? Did someone die? What caused you to be so bitter towards God?” It wasn’t anything so dramatic as that. For me it was a simple lack of his presence. It was the countless nights of crying out into the darkness, and getting no reply.

And the voice started getting louder everyday:

“8 million species of animals in groups of 2 and 14 on a fucking boat? For how long?”

“The majority of the stars we see are way further than 6000 light years away.”

“Dude you’ve read the Old Testament, you know God’s a viscious cunt right?”

At 32 I had moved to being a deist, which quickly progressed to agnosticism before the year was out. Around that time I discovered Penn Jillette. I had no idea what being an atheist meant. I had no idea where to look for information, but I was looking at Penn’s Wikipedia page (I don’t remember why now) and saw that he is an atheist, so I googled his name, came across his YouTube channel, and started watching.

Through him I found Hitchens, and through Hitch I found Sam Harris, and I rather quickly became an atheist. I heard arguments I had never heard before, and they hit on all of my points of concern with pinpoint accuracy.

I did, however, still talk to God. Mostly when I was angry at him about something.

That’s an interesting part of my atheist journey. I was so used to just talking to God when I was hurt, scared, or just plain pissed off that I just kept doing it. Then one day, I was just about to start up when I said to myself: “Why are you doing this? He’s not there.” And a thousand pounds was lifted off my shoulders.

Up until that point I had been in abject misery over the loss of my faith and I desperately wanted it back. My marriage was falling apart. I was mostly hiding my beliefs for fear of reprisal. I felt betrayed and lied to by every person I loved, and worse I had led quite a few people to Christianity (including 3 confirmed atheists).

In that one moment all of that disappeared. My fear, and anger melted away and for the first time in my life I felt saved.

I went straight home and changed my Facebook status to atheist, and confirmed the fears of everyone I knew.

That was the beginning of the end for my marriage. It resulted in one of the worst fights my ex and I ever had. We were never the same. It took about 5 years to finally end. We fought the whole time, and if I’m honest I don’t really miss her. I miss having my daughter, but not my ex. I remember her looking me dead in the eyes the night of that fight and saying:

“Now all my friends are going to know they were right about you.”

And I suppose they were. I learned that day that love, perhaps, can’t conquer all.

Since then I’ve been an out of the closet atheist. I don’t necessarily broadcast it where I live (bum-fuck Florida) but everyone who knows me, knows I don’t believe.  And I wouldnt change that for the world.

So that my story, or I should say the short version of it. One life saved from an existence of meaningless servitude to a God that’s not there, and not a moment to soon.