Sunday, July 31, 2011

Atheism, Inclusiveness, and Reason

Or, "Why Inclusiveness is Excluding Everyone But Me"

I like stumbleupon. I like it a lot. Especially when it gives me something like this: http://www.laughinginpurgatory​.com/2011/06/we-need-atheist-m​issionaries.html

The title was thought provoking and humorous. The title of the blog "Laughing in Purgatory" made me chuckle considering I'm Catholic and believe in Purgatory. Realizing it's an atheist blog made me laugh even more, and this is all before I started reading the article. Seriously, this many layers of cleverness before you ever read what this blogger has to say? Awesome. And then I read it.

First of all, I want to point out the fact that this is a serious polemic. Polemical writing is, by definition, not the most reasonable. Here are highlights (you really can't take words like these out of context, so don't yell at me for not providing any. It's a short blog and I gave you the link if you care so much):

Christocrats (what does this even mean?)
Theocratic safe havens
Christo-fascists (really?)

Well, maybe you can take "barbarian" out of context, so here's the passage from which it hails:

"And they need to go and deconvert the barbarians and turn them into atheists or at least less toxic theists."

I agree with the sentiment that this blogger presents. Kansas and other states that require the teaching of Creation Science/Intelligent Design alongside Evolution are hideously misguided. Even though Catholicism teaches that you can believe in Evolution without contradicting your faith so long as you believe also in the "Unmoved Mover" of God, we are very careful to explicitly maintain that Evolution as a scientific theory exists in the realm of science and God's pushing it into action exists in the realm of faith. We do not conflate the two like the state of Kansas.

However, in keeping with the spirit of intellectual and well-reasoned debate, I would like to invite the author of "Laughing in Purgatory" to define his perfect world. While he does not explicitly say he wants an "inclusive" world, he does say that he wishes a "one-two punch of inclusiveness and scientific reasoning would shed light on all the theist strongholds in the US, and people would wake up".

The fact that he wishes this "wake up" would equate with everyone in America turning into an atheist overnight begs the question--is that a punch of inclusiveness? Or is it the same exclusion that people like Dawkins hawk as inclusiveness?

The basic, underlying philosophy of inclusion is one of accepting and tolerating other people and their opinions. These opinions include matters of faith and non-faith, political affiliation, skin color, sexuality, and preference for juice and bagels. The underlying philosophy of exclusion is not accepting and tolerating a certain group of people. When someone is promoting a view point that advocates the conversion of a group of people to their way of thinking, this is not inclusion. It is blatant exclusion because it refuses to accept that said group of people can be accepted or tolerated.

The fact that he refers to "theists" means that he is not excluding just Christians (no matter how ridiculously they treat their faith), but anybody who believes there is a god. Notice I used a lowercase "g". He is not excluding Christians. He is excluding Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Wiccans, anyone who holds to any set of Aboriginal or Indigenous or Folk beliefs, and anyone anywhere who so much as holds a faith in any kind of higher power above man as the microcosm. The fact that he conflates Christianity and theism throughout his post shows 1) that he cannot see past the arch-nemesis of Christianity and 2) that he is grossly ignorant of what these terms mean and how to apply them properly.

So, in closing, I am once again disappointed in people's approach to reasoned debate on inclusion, tolerance, and reason. I've given up on Christianity in general. There are many of us who are devoted Christians who have the ability to reason and debate without turning into a polemical screaming match, but Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and others rule the airwaves and more and more people buy into their filth every day. Unfortunately, the same is true for atheists. Dawkins screams the loudest, so they think that's what atheism represents.

I'm sorry to inform you all, but the same dogmatic approach to faith that you hate in Christianity is usurping the famous reasonable, intelligent inclusion of atheism. It's just a different ethos and set of morals.

And for the record, Purgatory is a place of purification. It prepares you for entry to the light of God. If you are wallowing in self-pity about these "theistic" strongholds, you're hardly being purified and you've misappropriated a religious concept about which you know nothing. Given the rest of the entry, that's hardly a surprise.

"The problem with atheists isn't that they believe in nothing, it's that they'll believe anything." --G. K. Chesterton


  1. Here, here. I've almost always seen the atheism/theism debate run completely binary with Christian or the family of Judeo-Christian faths, without consideration for the fact that there many, many other paths that people follow.

    Also, question: all of the Catholics I have known to be Catholics seem to be generally more socially liberal than their Baptist, Methodist, etc. counterparts. With old beliefs like transubstantiation and an older interpretation of the Bible, why do you think this is so? Is it simply a social demographic reason, or that Catholics actually dedicate more time to academically learning about their faith, or is it something else? Also explain Dispensations and their role to me, in another blog post if need be since I have a feeling that is all going to be a long discussion.

  2. Oh dear. I never know that comments get put on here. I have my thoughts on this, because there have actually been surveys done that show Catholics, with a far more rigidly traditional theology, are far more politically liberal in general. One is found here: and I'm currently starting a new entry about it. You have to scroll down a ways to find the breakdown showing the Catholic perspective, but it's there.

    My general thought is that, rooted in Catholic theology concerning sin is that, unlike more mainline Protestant and Evangelical groups which believe in Once Saved Always Saved, Catholicism inherently requires an active struggle against sin. Early mystics maintained that struggle can only happen when you interact with that which you struggle against. There is also in Catholic teaching a recognition that sin happens, and it is a natural part of the human condition, but it should be suppressed. This results in a very strange sociological outlook that almost necessitates the very promiscuous and "sinful" behavior of Catholic youth in their teens and twenties. We are, underneath it all, engaging what we are supposed to be fighting. We are actively participating to understand it and learn from it.

    When you talk to younger Catholics, we tend to be very liberal and accepting. As we age, because we have learned, we develop a very well-balanced approach to the nature of sin and the way of the sinner. We may not be as actively engaged in that same behavior, but we understand it a lot better. That's my view, at least. And I'm putting that all up in a full-blown blog post. Yay!