This is just a loose observation, and not a constructed argument, and I’ve got a headache, so take this for what it’s worth.
Sam Harris recently gave a presentation to the Atheist Alliance. Read it here. In it he makes a good point, that atheists shouldn’t be labeling themselves as such. Read the article to get into the logic.
Today I was reading a fark thread on Hitchens, and saw this comment:
Didn’t the Soviet Union incarcerate and punish people for crimes like going to church and bringing Bibles in? A number of the other Communist countries did the same thing in the name of ridding the people of the opiate of religion and bringing them the enlightenment of atheism? Sorry, atheism has its hands as dirty as everybody else. No utopia there.
Atheism doesn’t have its hands dirty, people do.
This is the problem with the atheist label. It allows people to compartmentalize all those who don’t have a belief in an intelligent, controlling supreme being into one group that is united only by that lack of belief. It essentially makes atheism into another religion. Which it isn’t. (I understand that Christianity and Islam and Hinduism, etc. are all very loose confederations of a wide variety of beliefs, but considering atheism a belief system at all is pushing it big time)
Atheism isn’t a belief system. It’s a convenient label for a wide range of opinions which include “I don’t know what to believe”. I don’t think any reasonable person would claim that there are no atheist murderers, or dictators, or just plain assholes. I would say that one of the points of atheism is that what drives these people to be murders, dictators or assholes has nothing to do with a belief or disbelief in God. Some people just use that belief as an excuse for their shitty behavior. Atheist assholes, dictators and murders simply don’t have this particular excuse to hide behind.
Part of the argument put forth by a couple of the “Atheist” voices is that regardless of belief system, people are prone to believing stupid stuff and doing stupid crap. We as a society have an obligation to shine a light on stupid beliefs, and hold people accountable for doing stupid crap.
While I think that some “atheists” do hold reason and logic up as the one right way to make decisions about life, they also understand that people are driven by more than just belief systems. Also, just because you don’t believe in God, does not automatically mean that you’re a reasoning, logical human being.
On my own personal rant, I would say that the “beliefs” that most people hold aren’t really worth respecting as a product of introspection or insight or education, but rather unquestioned repetition of a mishmash of cultural norms that they’ve inherited from their social groups. And don’t get me wrong, that’s not just about religion. There’s still a large percentage of Americans who don’t know the earth revolves around the sun, yet have enough “belief” in science to make it through the day. I’m not saying that’s a terrible thing either. People tend to do what they need to do to get by, and not a lot more. Just don’t try to get textbooks teaching geocentrism into our schools and we’ll still be okay.