Thursday, April 9, 2015

Stupid New Atheist Memes

1) "We're all born atheists, until someone starts to lie to us." This meme rests upon the assumption that everyone and everything who and which is not theist, is atheist. If we were to take this meme seriously and apply it consistently, not only human babies but also chewing gum, rocks and eyeglasses, for example, would have to be classed as atheists. Some misanthropic atheists claim that all non-human animals are atheists -- a variation on the Noble Savage myth. How do we know that know that non-human species aren't religious? Exactly the same as how we know a lot of other things about the minds of animals: we don't.

2) "Atheists are smart." A lot of atheists believe silly shit like 1), 3) and 4), so, no, someone isn't necessarily smart just because they're an atheist.

3) "Religion was invented in order to [fill in the blank]." Most commonly: " order to [control people]." But we don't know when religion began. It was longer than 30,000 years ago. Maybe much, much longer ago than that. We don't know that it was invented at all, instead of being sincerely believed at first. In short, there's just a whole lot of We don't know involved here. Ironically, if humans and hominids had always been comfortable with simply admitting that they didn't know this or that, religion might never have arisen to begin with. If instead of answering the question: "What is lightning and thunder?" with a standard ancient reply like "It is this deity doing this," the standard answer had always been a simple "I don't know," perhaps no one ever would have believed that deities exist. As far as the idea that unscrupulous political leaders invented religion in order to more easily control the gullible masses: religion seems to be much older than politics. Large-scale human organizations of a type we would call political go back perhaps 10,000 years. Religion had already been around for tens of thousand of years before politics began to develop. I'm inclined to think that people 10,000 years ago who didn't sincerely believe in the existence and power of deities were either extremely rare or entirely non-existent. But -- and I cannot emphasize this strongly enough -- I don't know.

4) "Religion poisons everything." Gross oversimplifications like that tend to be pretty poisonous. Repeating sound bites from people one regards as authorities, repeating them like mantras without questioning them, is very detrimental to one's intellectual development.

Over the course of the years I've examined many other stupid atheist memes. If you interested in what I've had to said about them you can click on blog post labels such as these: stupid atheists, bronze age goat herders, sam harris. The labels, hundreds of them, are in an alphabetical list running down the right-hand side of the screen, underneath the chronological listing of blog posts.

If you want to see a lot more stupid atheist memes you can also find them -- coined, and championed, unfortunately, not criticized -- in books like these:

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