Why Most Atheists
Will Never Join
an Atheist Organization
by Jim Versluys
from Positive Atheism; July, 2001
This work may not be posted or reprinted
without written permission from Positive Atheism.
suppose every atheist is bound and determined to have a bad story about their childhood -- some nun that beat them, some crazy Baptist preacher teaching that dancing is sinful, some molesting priest.
I had none of it. I thankfully grew up Catholic, and I have no regrets. Everyone was friendly, intelligent, grounded, and exactly like the Church would have for every member. I sometimes get the idea that either other people are lying about their horror stories or the Church has a conspiracy to keep all the assholes in a few Parishes.
I had no deconversion experience. I never met the ultimate idiot which runs through the stories of most activist atheists. I still to this day squint my eyes when I hear some atheist say a bad experience was what changed them: does this mean the idea wasn't important, only some human's view of it? I heard Einstein was a prick to many people -- somehow that never cast any doubt on e=mc² for me. For some amazing leap of the intellect, I decided that physics might still be true.
I assume now most atheists will be questioning whether or not there is such a thing as an atom now that you know the founder thought black people were not humans -- I expect all atheists who used a human pretext to lose religious belief to write me and tell me what they intend to put in place of physics now that they know the terrible truth that they might not like some physicists. I suggest you look at the giant turtle explanation for the world -- after all, the people who wrote that were well regarded as nice and highly intelligent natives, so they must be right.
I had no deconversion, just a slow and steady de-believing, an outcropping of growing up intellectually and having a natural inclination toward the philosophical questions of life. The inherent inconsistencies of the belief in question simply built up to their natural conclusions. I eschew dogmatism about religion -- it seems like a quaint notion, like someone believing in Santa. Like a Santa for adults, it makes them behave and think good thoughts.
Why should anyone join an "atheist" organization? Simply put -- they don't exist. The very good reason of why most atheists would never dream of joining an atheistic organization is because most atheistic organizations are not atheistic at all, they're shills for ideological commitments other-than-atheism. And when I say other-than-atheism, I of course mean self-described leftist organizations. Humanism, vegetarianism, identity politics, and all sorts of patent nonsense go under the umbrella of atheism, as any jaunt around the net or an appearance at your local atheist organization will show you.
Some people are just atheists. Some of them eschew humanists for Hobbes. Some of them giggle uncontrollably whether they hear Peter Singer or Pat Robertson.
I confess to being unnaturally unbelieving. Perhaps it's a defect in my character, but the rantings of Madalyn Murray O'Hair did more to kill any interest I could have in joining an atheist group than any sit-down with St. Thomas Aquinas ever could. As the illustrious H. L. Mencken noted, every person, no matter how intelligent, has his gaping holes in horse sense. It does not seem to me atheists as groups have any appreciable advantage in the Departmenté del Brains over their Methodist counterparts.
For every belief I find in angels that can cure a broken hip I find an atheist who believes quartz crystals cures herpes. For every Catholic worker who believes they are doing the Lord's Work I find a demsoc who honestly believes in such obviously silly ideas as the true equality of mankind and the moral uprightness of democracy.
So with my defects I am unable to find out why I should join any atheistic organization. I find the simple phrase of Einstein's, "I cannot conceive of a God who would reward or punish his creatures, or who has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves" a perfect encapsulation of sense. I hardly need to carry it past that point.
Toward that end, keeping in mind the limitations of billions of people with IQs in the low range, I have decided that maybe religion is just fine for the masses. The only place I am concerned with inculcating atheism is in thinkers. And let's be clear about that -- not all thinkers, just the few that count, meaning the few that think about what our society looks like. There are many people who get along just fine with a Dungeons and Dragons approach to the meaning of the universe. It doesn't hurt them at all, simply because the belief doesn't get directly in the way of what they do. I don't care if the average fool believes in a Holy Ghost, but I am concerned about the regular people who believe in regular ghosts.
The extent that religion is a set piece of society is the extent that it has made peace with the proper running of things, and is hence more ritualistic than religious. That means the blasé Baptists and the lackadaisical Catholics I grew up with aren't shoving the healing power of shakra down my throat or showing up at my door at three in the afternoon after I've just finished bunny-fucking my girlfriend, asking me if I want the Lord in my life. The Catholic Church I went to consisted of one hour a week in church, forty-five minutes of teaching me to be a good boy in Sunday school and some charity events. That was it. It was like a social club with funny windows. The people with real possibility for trouble are the new religions: scientology; New Age; any religion that goes door to door.
It would be nice if an atheistic organization existed, but as far as I can tell, it does not. I have now met a total of one, count them on your hand, one person in an atheistic organization whom I would care to hold a conversation with, and he is printing this piece that you see right now. As a point of fact, I have found my repulsion for organized atheists grows in direct proportion to my exposure to them.
Maybe one exists. Certainly not in the main organizations on the net, Skeptic magazine, American Atheists or the "Freethought" types. If you find one, drop me a line, I'd like to see it. But you will have to forgive me if I don't believe before I take a good, hard look.
James Versluys is the editor of the Houston Review (www.houstonreview.com) and an occasional contributor to Positive Atheism.