The formation of groups like the Atheist Super Heroes (ASH) have allowed atheists to attack religion and the religious fundamentals under a common umbrella. I am all for attacking religious bigots, organised religion and fundamentalists; all are dangerous and fair game for ridicule, but I do think there is something wrong with doing it under a defined, branded common umbrella that potentially places ALL atheists under it, even if they are not part of it. In much the same way as Muslims seem to have all been placed on your inner “Terror Watchlist” and all Christians are as fundamental as the Westboro Baptist Church, attacking any and all personal faith, even that which is most private, is something that will reflect on all atheists. I know I am not alone in not wanting the often irrational, rabid, ad hominem attacks on people with personal faith to reflect my views on theism and intelligently debating theism.
I believe even as an atheist that every person on this planet has the right to any opinion, belief or ideology they can imagine. If they do not push (and I don’t consider having words like “faith” or “belief” written in a Bio as pushing) their personal beliefs on others then in my opinion they are not fair game for a tirade of aggressive and often pointless, circular demands for proof and evidence of a personal god or creator. I have seen this on more than one occasion from more than one member of ASH.
I assert that many people in this group are cyber-bullies first, and atheists second – much in the same way as football hooligans are hooligans first, football “fans” second. There have been many, many historical examples of how social grouping can allow individuals to persecute or attack under a common umbrella with a common goal. I could list examples but it’s not necessary. In short, I think grouping and branding atheists on social media, where it gives potential to hide behind Bios and internet connections and use atheism as a tool to cyber-bully damages atheism.
Now is an appropriate time to define atheism. Atheism comes from the Greek “A”, meaning without and “Theo” meaning god. Its literal translation means “without god”. This is the accepted definition although it has been broadened slightly to mean “lack of belief”, This is the term I and many other atheists use to describe our atheism; it is simply a lack of belief in any and all supernatural deities.
I feel the need to define atheism because it needs to be understood; that’s ALL atheism is. It is not humanism, as much as I see atheists confuse the two. I can be a racist, homophobic, sexist, misogynistic atheist because atheism starts and stops with lack of belief. That’s it. End of. I can’t be any of those descriptive nouns if I am humanist – atheism is NOT humanism. The only thing atheists must agree on is lack of belief – they need agree on no other aspect of their lives or morality. This is something many ASH members seem confused about.
Conversely, a theist can be racist, homophobic, sexist or misogynistic because of, or independently of, his/her chosen religion. BUT, they too can also be humanists and in opposition of all of these traits – and very many are. It could be argued that they have these values just for entry to heaven – great! It means they are contradicting their own bible and placing their own moral values above their faith and biblical morality. On an individual level this is nothing but a good thing. There are many counter-arguments to what I have just said and I know and have used them all, but my point is clear: personal faith, that which allows good behaviour and conduct; that isn’t pushed or forced; that isn’t dominated by biblical dogma is a good thing, not bad. It harms no one and no one should harm it. Theism in this regard is a basic human right with no need to be justified. This is something many ASH members fail to comprehend or consider. Many see any and all forms of personal faith as valid for confrontation, The reality is, this simply isn’t the case. This is not the atheism that pioneers would want to see and it is not the humanism (respect for the right to personal belief) that humanists would agree with.
One final point. What is ASH achieving? How many have successfully converted theists? How many have successfully shown theists the benefits of a life free from dogma? We all know the answer: None. Because that’s not how it works. Organised religion needs to be attacked from the top down, not from the bottom up. If a bank fails your economy do you go after the branch managers or do you go after the Chairmen and CEOs? Think about it.
Until ASH is engaging with clergy and religious leaders and protesting at places of worship it will continue to be nothing more than a fundamentally flawed haven for atheist cyber-bullies and a widespread embarrassment to atheists who do not want to be guilty by association. ASH is damaging atheism.