The Smartass Atheist Syndrome

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 4.04.42 PM

Once the contradictions inherent in religion finally lead you to accept that God almost certainly does not exist, it is natural to want to share your newfound wisdom.

I know that feeling well. It’s as if you saw the world as it really is for the very first time.

Wake up! Open your eyes! The emperor has no clothes! NO CLOTHES, I TELL YOU!!

You want to shout it out from the rooftops. You want the whole world to realize their error.

All of a sudden you start seeing glaring contradictions everywhere.

She says she believes in the Bible but she’s never even read it!

He’s grateful he survived, but who should we blame for earthquakes?

She says it’s a miracle she survived the operation, but what about the doctor who performed it?

He’s always asking us to pray for starving children, but he’s never donated a single dollar to charity!

And how do people react when you point out these contradictions? Instead of thanking you for taking an interest in helping them, they lash out! They tell you you’ll burn in hell! Or worse, they piously tell you that God loves you anyway and that they’ll pray for you!

CAN YOU BELIEVE THEM?!

It’s at this critical point when many new atheists contract the smartass atheist syndrome.

People suffering from this condition wholeheartedly believe that religious people are idiots. The main symptom is attacking people who profess religious beliefs instead of focusing on the beliefs themselves.

How can they believe all this?

Don’t they see how contradictory and retrograde their beliefs are?

How can they be so blind?!

Only an idiot would believe such bullshit!

Name calling is obviously bad form, but here I want to focus on whether the smartass atheist’s strategy is logically sound and, more importantly, what effect it has on religious people.

I’m now talking directly to you, my dear smartass atheist.

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard about logical fallacies; those ‘mental illusions’ that religious people love so much. I suppose that as a new atheist you’re very careful not to fall into these common mental traps, right?

Well, how’s attacking religious people instead of their beliefs not a perfect example of Ad Hominem?

Let’s suppose that your religious interlocutor is indeed an idiot; can you then logically conclude that their beliefs are false?

No, of course you can’t.

If logic and reason are so important to you (as they should be), I suggest you should be careful not to fall prey to one of the most elemental fallacies.

Let’s put logic aside for a moment and be a little machiavellian.

What is it that makes you share all those offensive memes and ridicule religious people? I suppose your intention goes beyond insulting them, doesn’t it? I’d like to believe that deep down your intention is to defend reason and fight against irrational beliefs.

Well, please note that not so long ago you were one of those ‘idiots’. Do you honestly think that some annoying smartass would have made you see how ‘contradictory and retrograde’ your beliefs were by calling you an idiot? Would you have changed your mind had some arrogant jerk insulted you and your whole family?

Of course not. I would submit that, in fact, experiencing something like that would have had precisely the opposite effect.

Calling religious people idiots in order to persuade them is not only ineffective but counterproductive; not only do you fail to get your point across, but you actually make them reaffirm their beliefs.

What is it that you really want? Advocate for reason and critical thinking, or simply show everyone how smart you are?

In my experience, if you’re trying to talk someone out of believing something irrational, it is much more effective to assume that your interlocutor is not an idiot, be empathic, and try to understand where the belief is coming from.

Maybe they think that questioning their religious beliefs is wrong. Maybe they find solace thinking this way. Maybe they’re afraid of losing their faith. Maybe they have never thought about it!

Don’t lecture people with bombastic, pretentious, and well rehearsed sermons, which are also frequently incomprehensible and, therefore, utterly useless. Take an interest for your audience’s point of view. Ask questions. Put yourself in their shoes. This should be easy enough; you were in the dark side not too long ago, remember? :).

I’m strongly convinced that in our fight to defend reason and destroy superstition, empathy and humility are much more powerful weapons than aggression and arrogance.

What do you think?

Hekanibru

 

Eres ateo o idiota: el síndrome del ateo cagante

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 11.55.42 AM

Cuando reconoces las contradicciones, farsas, y aberraciones alrededor de la iglesia y la religión, y finalmente aceptas que lo más probable es que Dios no exista, es natural querer compartirlo con el mundo.

Conozco bien ese sentimiento. Es como si de pronto te quitaran una venda de los ojos y pudieras admirar al mundo en todo su esplendor por primera vez.

¡Despierten! ¡Abran los ojos! ¡El emperador está desnudo!! ¡¡DESNUDO, LES DIGO!!

Quieres gritarlo a los cuatro vientos. Quieres que el mundo entero salga de su error.

De repente encuentras contradicciones y sinsentidos en todas partes. ¡Es como si súbitamente pudieras verlas en un color fosforescente!

¡Dice que cree en la Biblia aunque nunca la ha leído!

Agradece a Dios que sobrevivió, pero ¿a quién debemos culpar por los terremotos?

¿Opina que su recuperación fue un milagro? Y el doctor que lo atendió, ¿qué?

Pide que recemos por los niños que se mueren de hambre, pero ¡nunca ha donado un quinto!

Y lo peor es la respuesta de la gente cuando expresas tu opinión.

En lugar de agradecer tu preocupación por corregirlos, ¡te ofenden! ¡Te dicen que te vas a ir al infierno! O peor, con ojos de compasión te dicen que Dios te ama de cualquier manera ¡y que rezarán por ti!

¡HAZME EL CHINGADO FAVOR!

Es en este punto crítico cuando muchos nuevos ateos contraen el síndrome del ateo cagante.

Los afligidos por este síndrome opinan sin reserva que la gente que no es atea es idiota. El principal síntoma es que ofenden a las personas religiosas en lugar de atacar los dogmas y creencias que éstas profesan.

¿Cómo pueden creer en tremenda sarta de estupideces?

¿Acaso no ven lo contradictorio y retrógrada de sus creencias?

¡Cómo pueden ser tan ciegos!

¡Se necesita ser idiota para creer esas cosas!

Obviamente ofender está mal, pero más que hablar sobre el poco controversial aspecto ético del síndrome del ateo cagante, quiero hablar sobre su validez lógica y, en especial, sobre sus consecuencias.

Te hablo ahora directamente a ti, mi querido ateo cagante.

Seguramente has escuchado hablar sobre las falacias lógicas. Sí, esas ‘ilusiones mentales’ de las que la gente religiosa gusta tanto. Supongo que ahora como ateo tomas mucho cuidado de no caer en estas comunes trampas, ¿no?

Ahora bien, ¿no consideras que el atacar a una persona religiosa en lugar de atacar sus ideas es un ejemplo clásico de Ad Hominem?

Supongamos que, en efecto, tu interlocutor religioso es un idiota, ¿puedes entonces concluir lógicamente que sus creencias son falsas?

¡Ponte abusado!

Si la lógica y la razón son tan importantes para ti (como debería ser), sugiero que no seas presa de una de las falacias más elementales.

Pero dejemos la lógica por un momento y pongámonos un poco maquiavélicos.

¿Qué es realmente lo que te lleva a compartir esos memes ofensivos que ridiculizan a los religiosos? Supongo que tu intención no es solamente ofender,  ¿o sí? Quiero pensar que en el fondo tu intención general es defender la razón y luchar en contra de las creencias irracionales.

Pues bien, te pido que hagas un poco de memoria y recuerdes que hace no mucho eras parte de ese ‘rebaño de idiotas’.

Siendo completamente honestos, ¿podría realmente un sabelotodo cagante haber logrado hacerte ver lo ‘contradictorio y retrógrada’ de tus creencias con insultos? ¿Habrías cambiado tu forma de pensar luego de que un cretino arrogante te ofendiera a ti y a toda tu familia?

Sostengo que no. Sostengo que, de hecho, el haber experimentado algo así habría tenido en ti el efecto opuesto.

La peor manera de exponer tu punto de vista de manera efectiva es ofendiendo y/o subestimando a tu audiencia; no solo fallas en tu afán de exponer tu opinión, sino que creas cerrazón y necedad que luego serán extremadamente difíciles de erradicar.

¿Qué es lo que realmente quieres lograr? ¿Ayudar a la causa de la razón y del pensamiento crítico, o sentirte muy listo y más que los demás?

En mi experiencia, si de convencer se trata, es mucho más efectivo asumir que nuestro interlocutor no es idiota, tomar una actitud empática, e intentar entender las razones por las cuáles tiene tal o cual creencia.

Tal vez piensa que el simple hecho de dudar está mal. Tal vez encuentra refugio y apoyo en sus creencias. Tal vez tiene miedo de lo que podría pasar si pierde su fe. ¡Tal vez simplemente nunca había considerado el tema!

No prediques tu posición con un sermón ensayado, rimbombante, y presuncioso que en la mayoría de los casos resulta también ser ininteligible y por lo tanto inútil. Interésate por la posición de tu interlocutor. Haz preguntas. Ponte en sus zapatos. Esto debería ser relativamente sencillo, después de todo, ¡hace no mucho estuviste en el lado oscuro! :).

Estoy plenamente convencido de que en nuestro afán de defender el uso de la razón y acabar con la superstición, la empatía y la humildad son armas mucho más poderosas que la agresión y la arrogancia.

¿Tú qué opinas?

Hekanibru

¿Vives tu ateísmo en secreto?

hiding-in-closet

A mi esposa siempre le han interesado los temas de justicia social. Como abogada, podría hacer una fortuna trabajando para una corporación multinacional; sin embargo, ha decidido dedicar su vida profesional a ayudar a inmigrantes con pocos recursos económicos.

Es verdaderamente admirable la manera tan genuina en que se preocupa por el bienestar de los demás. Siendo honesto, la considero una de las personas más respetuosas, sencillas, compasivas, caritativas, amables, justas, y sinceras que conozco.

Ah, además, es atea.

Pero, ¡cómo? ¡Los ateos no aceptan a Dios! ¡SON EGOÍSTAS, RUÍNES, E INMORALES!

Desafortunadamente esta clase de prejuicios son todavía bastante comunes en Latinoamérica.

Estoy plenamente convencido de que un sinnúmero de personas religiosas cambiarían su forma de pensar acerca de los ateos si tuvieran la oportunidad de conocer a alguien como Cristina.

Irónicamente, aunque existen millones de personas admirables que no creen en Dios, muchas han decidido vivir su ateísmo en secreto por miedo a represalias.

¿Eres una de ellas?

Si tu integridad física no está en riesgo, ¡TE EXHORTO A ROMPER EL SILENCIO Y DECLARAR TU ATEÍSMO! 

Afronta a tus familiares y amigos. Destruye el estereotipo del monstruo ateo inmoral.

¿Decirle a mi mamá que no creo en Dios? ¡Ay no! ¡Se va a preocupar por mí! ¡Va a sufrir mucho!

Sé que no es fácil, créeme, yo pasé por lo mismo hace unos años. Entiendo perfectamente que te preocupes por cómo se pueda tomar la noticia pero, piénsalo, el hecho de que tener un hijo ateo sea causa de preocupación y sufrimiento ¡es precisamente lo que está mal!

Mostrémosle al mundo con nuestro ejemplo que los ateos, como cualquiera, podemos ser personas de bien.

Hekanibru

10 Questions for Every Atheist

The website Today Christian published a list of 10 questions that “atheists cannot truly and honestly really answer”. Here are my answers :).

challenge-accepted-imgur-04

1. How did you become an atheist?

Having been taught to think critically, I started noticing contradictions and fallacies during my Religion class when I was very young; however, it was not until I had finished university that I decided to seriously consider the claims for the existence of God.

After several years of careful and very challenging reflection (and countless hours of discussion with a dear friend of mine who was going through the same process), I concluded that it is more likely that there is no God.

2. What happens when we die?

We simply cease to exist. I do not deny that the idea of an afterlife is seductive, but we must be careful not to indulge in wishful thinking, especially with subjects as important as this one.

3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

If after I die, I find myself face to face with God, I would humbly accept that I was wrong and accept the consequences. However, I would not for a moment feel ashamed for having doubted Him; after all, it would be my God-given reason that led me to that position. I fully agree with Jefferson when he said:

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”

4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?

My reason. Given my experience and having read about happiness, I strongly believe that a good life leads to a happy life. I try to be a good person so as to increase my happiness and that of the people around me.

5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape while good deeds are unrewarded?

I have not once wanted to murder or rape anyone, regardless of whether I believed in God. These are two separate issues, in my opinion. More importantly, we should not need punishment to refrain from doing evil, and we should not refrain from doing good because of a lack of reward. Having ulterior motives for preferring good over evil is not moral at all.

6. If there is no God, how does your life have any meaning?

Meaning is something we can create regardless of whether God exists. My life and my actions matter to me and to the people around me, and therefore they are meaningful to me and to them. In spite of being overall, as Tim Minchin would put it, insignificant lumps of carbon, our ephemeral passing through this world can have a great impact on, and be deeply meaningful to, many people.

7. Where did the universe come from?

We do not know yet and yes, we may never know. While this humble answer may be unsatisfactory for many, I prefer it over saying that God created it for two main reasons: first, we cannot falsify that hypothesis; and, second, it does not really address the underlying issue as we do not know where God came from either (or even if He actually exists).

8. What about miracles? What about all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

Extraordinary events happen more frequently than we think; what some people might consider a miracle might be (and usually is) perfectly well explained without appealing to the supernatural. On the other hand, countless alleged miracles and all sorts of supernatural phenomena have been disproved as we advance our understanding.

As for people’s claims, people make mistakes or intentionally deceive all the time. We should not conclude that something exists (God, angels, fairies, the Loch Ness Monster) simply because someone claims to have seen it. Whereas some of these claims might be worth taking a closer look at, they should only serve as the beginning of a proper investigation, not as sufficient evidence for the corresponding conclusion.

9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris?

I find Dawkins too abrasive and arrogant; his position seems to be that one is either an atheist or an idiot, a position which I do not share at all. The worst possible way to effectively communicate an idea is to offend or underestimate those who disagree.

I really like the so-called Hitchslap; i.e., the articulate way in which Hitchens neatly and mercilessly destroys a flawed argument or fallacy. I would really love to have met him or at least have attended one of his lectures or debates in person.

As for Harris, even though I do not agree with all of his ideas, I like that he is willing to tackle difficult subjects, such as that of free will or morality. I also like the easy-to-follow language he uses in his books.

10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

There are several social and psychological reasons why we, as a species, seem to be predisposed to believe in God, none of which are related to whether God actually exists. On the other hand, we should realize that a belief is not necessarily true simply because it is commonly held (e.g., at some point, most people believed the Earth was flat).

*

Have you considered these questions yourself? What would your answers be?

Hekanibru