June 13, 2007

Atheism is Cool

Could it be that members of the American public are starting to realize something we atheists have long known? According to an article in The Mountain Press (TN) by none other than Fox "News" bully Bill O'Reilly, "Atheism is chic, it's cool, it's the latest craze." I hoped that 2007 would be the year of the atheist (and the first of many to come). Could it be that this hope is finally being realized?

To support his tongue-in-cheek claim about atheism being the next big thing, O-Reilly cites the explosive sales of atheist-oriented books and the number of celebrities identifying themselves as nonbelievers (e.g., George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Carrie Fisher, etc.). So far so good. But considering the source, one knows things are about to turn ugly.

With little subtlety, O'Reilly quickly steers his article to the familiar ground travelled by virtually every other anti-atheist piece we have seen. Even without knowing he is the author, the smug tone is obvious. He makes sure the reader knows that 90% of Americans profess belief in some unidentified god. Gee, I wonder which one? Simply capitalizing "god" may be annoying, but it really doesn't tell us much.

Then O'Reilly abruptly changes gears and asserts, "Believing in God is not very stylish in mainstream media circles these days." I suspect that this must be a typo, but the word "not" does appear in the article. The next sentence suggest that O'Reilly meant to say that atheism is stylish in the media and that this is okay for the following reason:
That's because people of faith should be challenged and think about their beliefs. Critical thinking in all areas makes the mind sharper, and your philosophy stronger.
I have heard this claim about faith becoming stronger through challenge again and again, but it still makes little sense. The application of critical thinking to faith is like the application of bleach to a stain. To argue otherwise seems to be little more than taking pride in the delusional intensity of one's beliefs.

O'Reilly then makes a few claims about how he whipped Richard Dawkins in a debate. Of course he did. He must not have realized that some of us would watch it.
But the atheists will never get it. The universe and the earth is so complex, so incredibly detailed, that to believe an accidental evolutionary occurrence could have exclusively led to the nature/mankind situation we have now, is some stretch of the imagination. I mean, call me crazy, but the sun always comes up, while man oversleeps all the time.
(Sigh). And it is we atheists who don't get it? Still, the best part has to be O'Reilly's conclusion:
So bless you, Richard Dawkins, and all the other non-believers. As long as they don't attack people of faith, I have no problem with them. As my eighth-grade teacher Sister Martin once said: "Faith is a gift."

But not everybody gets to open the box.
Of course, for O'Reilly and other Christian extremists, criticism, disagreement, and a desire to maintain separation of church and state are all attacks on "people of faith." So we will continue to stand up for our rights and ask our government to enforce certain laws which religious organizations are fond of violating, and O'Reilly will continue to yell about how he and his fellow extremists are persecuted.

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