I don’t usually do this talk-about-it-before-it-comes-out thing, but AtheistTV is launching on July 29th (on Roku) and they’ve released a promotional video to get people hyped about it. And well, lets just say I have mixed feelings.
I am all for people being free to produce whatever content they want (well, within reason of course) and to promote whatever viewpoint they would like. So I am all for AtheistTV from a ‘political’ perspective. I would never censor someone simply because I disagree with them. However, I do have some concerns about AtheistTV, and these concerns were confirmed by this short promotional video.
So if you didn’t watch it yet, do that now. I’ll wait.
If you know me you’ll probably be able to guess where I’m going to go with this. I see a major problem with what has become known as the community of “Internet Atheists“.
Point of note:
I do not think all atheists are ‘internet atheists’. By ‘internet atheism’, I mean the relatively large subgroup of [totally unreasonable] atheists who are loud, obnoxious and almost entirely unable to think critically. They’re the types that retweet memes about how Jesus = Horus and all religies are biased and brainwashed. Internet atheists don’t have beliefs, they just have unbiased facts and “faith” is profanity. Science is the best thing ever and philosophy is not to be considered, because philosophy is nothing more than dead “word salad” (or #philosowank on twitter). They blame religion for every problem that has ever existed (ever), and claim that all atheists are the pure and unadulterated beacons of #reason, #science and #rationality. The internet atheist will equate studying theology with studying the dietary habits of leprechauns and hermeneutics is just another way to twist the Bible to say whatever you want it to say (you homophobic misogynistic racist bigot). If you’ve ever run into someone who claims that ‘scientist’ & ‘christian’ are contradictory and that a proper understanding of #BASICLOGIC will lead to atheism… congratulations, a wild internet atheist has appeared in your vicinity.
My primary concern with AtheistTV has been that I don’t want it to be another hub for unreasonable internet atheism, because (frankly) I’m sick of it. Unfortunately… this promo video doesn’t give me much hope for the content of AtheistTV.
I’m not going to pick on everything in the video (that could be several posts). What I am going to do is focus more on the big-picture (the meta-narrative, if you will) that those behind AtheismTV. This is largely the same meta-narrative that I’ve seen during my many conversations with atheists.
The video starts off sounding rather conspiracy-theoryish, where Madalyn Murray O’Hair says that “there has been a very definite, determined government effort to turn [the US] into a Christian nation with a civil religion”, and then explains how this effort resulted in religion getting “money, power [and] special favors”.
This seems to immediately set up the atheists as the ones fighting against this… political machine of sorts that is unstoppable. Right off the bat, the atheists are the underdogs that can see through the trees and see the whole forest.
Throughout the video, we have this same message promoted:
Atheists are the reasonable underdogs that have been subjugated by the unreasonable religious demagogues for far too long and its time for the ‘closeted atheists’ to be true to themselves, ‘come out’ and fight back!
This message is reinforced by quoting a variety of popular atheists like Richard Dawkins (evolutionary biologist & author), David Silverman (president of American Atheists), Jaclyn Glen & AronRa (vloggers), Matt Dillahunty (from the atheist experience), Hemant Mehta (blogger) and a handful of other lesser-known (or deceased) atheists.
The message is clear: Religion is not reasonable. After all, it caused the dark ages (RIGHT?) Atheism is the beacon of reason that everyone has been waiting for. Come on in, the water is… amazing.
They define atheism as “disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods”.
If you want to know some of the reasons why I don’t think its a good idea to define atheism as ‘lacktheism’, click here. But that’s not really that important because whatever.
They have fireworks encapsulating the words:
(as if these words are synonymous with atheism, perhaps?)
The end is my favorite part.
With great conviction, David Silverman proclaims, “We have the numbers! We have the momentum! Take part in our righteous fight for our reasonable future!”
Well done, American Atheists. Very well done video. As a video editor myself, I really do think they deserve props for making a quality video. In marketing, we call this type of video a call to action, I have no problem with calling people to rally around a cause. In fact, I think call to action messages can be extremely effective in enacting social change.
However, there is a fine-line between a call to action and propaganda, and I think this video is straddling that line.
A lot of this video is a promotion of science, reason, rationality, etc, and that’s awesome. I am a huge fan of those things. Other than the direct statements about religion itself, many Christians (and many other religious people) actually agree with most of this video.
– We agree with Dawkins when he says that religion does not “deserve a free pass” and that we should be critical of religious ideas.
– We agree with O’Hair when she says that we should not “accept… irrational thinking” and that we should “monitor [what] is going on in the social order.
– We agree with Dillahunty that “it is in our best interest to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible.”
– We agree with AronRa when he says “… if you’re going to tell me to believe [something], you’re going to have to substantiate it”
– We agree with Mark D. Hatcher, Greta Christina & Jamila Bey when they communicate that we should be free to express our beliefs.
– We agree with David Silverman when he says, “sometimes things need to be said and fights need to be fought even if they’re unpopular”
– We are advocates of equality, dignity, fairness, science, reason, evidence, progress, truth and reality.
If, in response to the above list, you thought (or said) “NO!!!”, then congratulations; you don’t actually understand your opponent. If you don’t understand your opponent, how can you expect to have a civil and reasonable discussion? And if you don’t want to have a civil or reasonable discussion, then you are the problem.
I suppose this is the root of my concern with the ‘new atheist’ movement as represented by this promotional video for AtheistTV. Somehow many of them have convinced themselves that they are the only ones that are in favor of free expression, science and reason and that that all religious people are against these things, almost by definition.
This is prima facie absurd, and this foolish mythology does much more harm than good. When you define your opponent into intellectual inferiority, conversation stops and closed-minded group-think is the result.
I expect much more from a group who waves the “FREETHOUGHT” flag in our face so proudly, loudly and often.
I’d love for AtheistTV to promote an attitude of civil discussion.
I’d love for the programs on AtheistTV to be reasonable and not recycle internet atheist mythology.
I’d love to not be skeptical and cynical of AtheistTV, but unfortunately… unreasonable atheism is extremely easy to market.