Many Still Suffer the God Delusion
I happened upon Colby Hess’ article “How I Grew Utterly Disillusioned with the Atheist ‘Movement,’” which echoed many concerns I share about atheism’s practice of uselessly arguing with theists. Hess illustrates this problem, describing atheists’ attempts to attack faith as “spending your days tweeting out insults to theists,” likening these insults with assertions of, “The sky is blue.” “The Earth is round.” “Water is wet.” Hess finds no argument with me on this point or his next point: arguing with theists likely leads them deeper into faith’s absurdity. Years of similar observation led me to conclude these outcomes stem from atheists’ inability to overcome the god delusion, and ironically, Richard Dawkins provides the evidence for this claim.
Part of what made Dawkins a rock star atheist is that many unbelievers view Dawkins as a hero because they still suffer the god delusion, as does he. Reading Dawkins inspires them with his deluded belief in an atheist cause to academically fight theism, but there is no cause, only lack of belief. American Atheism explains this confusion’s roots wonderfully,
Older dictionaries define atheism as “a belief that there is no God.” Clearly, theistic influence taints these definitions. The fact that dictionaries define Atheism as “there is no God” betrays the (mono)theistic influence. Without the (mono)theistic influence, the definition would at least read “there are no gods.”
Even semantically, religion deludes atheism’s meaning, and Hess also indirectly highlights this delusion from a cultural standpoint, citing atheists who “retain a desperate need to belong, to be part of a club, part of a community of like-minded people so that they don’t feel isolated and alone.” This desire roots in the delusion that indoctrinates everyone, including atheists, with a view that community necessarily ties with religion. For many, becoming atheist means defying one’s community and culture, forcing one to find or build a new community, further exacerbating the delusion of one’s belief and culture being synonymous.
I describe the cause of these delusions that extend beyond god disbelief as “religious pollution” originating from iconography, literature, culture, media, institutions, etc. Specifically, I expose this religious pollution for moral and ethical reasons, not because I am an atheist but because I am anti-religious. Even more specifically, I am anti-Christian.
Atheism forms a broad (too broad) umbrella for people sharing a lack of belief in god. You can be Buddhist and not believe in god. You can be Jewish and not believe in god. There are many examples, but what do they say about atheism? Nothing except you don’t believe in a god but can still indulge in religion.
In many ways, atheists have been lucky to build communities while continuing to suffer religion’s god delusion. When we consider atheists in terms of “still afflicted,” the delusion perfectly explains why many still participate in religion or hold biases such as Dawkins.
Dawkins is an atheist and evolutionary biologist, yet cannot see beyond religious biases, evidenced by science’s emerging support for nonbinary gender as opposed to simply calling it a disorder within a biological definition. Knowing homosexuality’s history as a mental illness diagnosis should warn Dawkins of strict biological interpretation. Either Christian ideology still pollutes Dawkins with men and women as divinely fixed sexes, or he chooses to prejudice himself against transgenders. Dawkins proves he suffers pollution by the god delusion, self-describing as a “cultural Christian.”
Culturally remaining a Christian while not believing in the religion’s god exemplifies Dawkins’ Christian polluted mind.
The god delusion becomes a never-ending struggle in a religiously influenced society. Important to this struggle is the need to understand yourself within the atheist context. Referring to oneself as “atheist” provides the means for connecting with other atheists but also obfuscates theism’s many issues by redefining atheism as some movement or way of life. This view says atheism stands for causes or beliefs and lumps atheists together, defying the reality of atheism as simply a lack of belief. Heeding atheism’s call with no agenda, many atheists take up the philosophic sword and hack at faith, completely overlooking the real problem of religion.
Hess refers to himself as a “militant atheist” but moves away from using this term, so I think it is fair to say he has focused on this semantic issue, realizing the substance of disillusionment: fighting the wrong battle. Similarly, I once called myself a militant atheist until recognizing the terminology held the meaning, “I am militant about lacking belief in ghosts.”
Battling the god delusion never ends.
Semantics reveals atheism’s lack of focus, but more so, a lack of belief confused by religion’s pollution. Rather than concentrating arguments on dominionism, church and state issues, or even practical matters of living contentedly amongst theists, many atheists argue the existence of god. These existential arguments hold no substantive value since they are purely conceptual. Worse than useless, as Hess points out, disputing faith with theists helps achieve the goals of the politically-driven Christians and other theists, who actually have an agenda. The seeming atheist opposition to their god, no matter how well-intended or nicely stated, theists perceive as an attack on their faith and them.
Referring again to Hess’ mention of “motivated reasoning” that makes theists double down on beliefs when faced with an attack on faith, this cognitive phenomenon provides the means to make the liberal Christians side with fundamentalists. Christian trolls fan social media’s flames for this very reason and enjoy atheists going on the offensive or taking the bait. Even blogging refutations of the cosmological argument (though good to acquire knowledge and reasoning) aid the trolls and misses the intended audience. No believers relinquish faith by reading philosophic inquiry, especially if they don’t understand it. Even if possible, how many times do we need to refute the cosmological argument or intelligent design online?
Any religious criticism should form from opposition to either a specific religion or some aspect of religion that interferes with individual freedom. Criticisms should aim this way because not everyone who identifies with a religion is a true believer. Most Christians don’t go to church, don’t practice religion regularly, don’t read the bible, and many are on the fence of faith, especially with political issues. Sixty percent of Americans do not want abortion made illegal, yet Christians near victory on this issue. Why? In part because they know how to use atheists to their advantage when rallying support. Attacking faith is counterproductive, and instead, religious criticism should force theists to answer for their religion.
Christians take refuge in blind faith when god’s existence is questioned but must expose themselves when asked why their religion spends billions of dollars fighting to force a woman to incubate a baby while opposing public spending on welfare for single mothers.
Most believers don’t become disillusioned with god but instead with their religion. Similarly, atheists don’t become disillusioned with lack of faith but by the futility of arguing against faith. More importantly, disillusionment with atheism signals the religious pollution’s presence that detracts us from real problems, and in the worst case, exasperates these issues.
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