Sunday, May 19, 2013

Theology in the Style of Gilbert and Sullivan

There are two groups of people, diametrically opposed, who are remarkably similar to one another in a number of ways, including their capacity to annoy me. These groups are theists who claim moral superiority solely on the basis of their belief, and atheists who claim intellectual superiority solely on the basis of their non-belief.

Society has done a pretty good job of beating down the first group, to the point where their most visible representatives are 40 idiots in Kansas. There is no end to the publicity that these people receive, even though they are so few in number that two short buses could carry all of them at once.

On the other hand, we have the evangelical atheists. Since you're reading this online and the Internet is their natural habitat, I'm sure you've come across at least a few of these people. They're the ones who declare, full of faith in their own superiority, that religious people are stupid. They'll post updates on the latest antics of the aforementioned 40 idiots in Kansas, trying to smear all theists with the actions of just a few. They'll compare the Spanish Inquisition to the Holocaust, even though the Spanish Inquisition killed maybe 5,000 people over the course of 260 years (meaning they executed fewer people on average than the Texas criminal justice system has over the past few decades) while the Nazis killed around ten million in six years if you count Soviet prisoners of war. They'll claim that all wars are caused by religion, conveniently omitting both world wars and the handful of Chinese dynastic civil wars that get basically no attention in the English speaking world but several of which had death tolls above ten million. None of those matter, because to them, all warfare stems from religious belief, and if you believe in God then you are both stupid and culpable for whatever evil they feel like attributing to religion today. It is not enough for them not to believe; you shouldn't believe either, and they proselytize aggressively.

Inspired by the faithful missionaries from the church of non-belief, I wrote some lyrics for the Major-General's Song from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance:

He is the very model of a modern cyber atheist
Who claims he's packing logic but is just another dogmatist
Claiming that something's missing from the infinite expanse of space
Requires understanding that we simply don't have of the place
He's making claims while lacking any scientific evidence
Just like the fundamentalist who claims all things are providence
Now if you're an agnostic I would say that's justifiable
Consistent with just making claims from evidence available

Now I would count myself among those logical agnostic guys
If I had not had some experience showing contrariwise
If I ignored that evidence I'd be a crappy scientist
Just like the very model of a modern cyber atheist


  1. Good post.

    "If I had not had some experience showing contrariwise"- how mysterious. Latent religious convictions got you feeling ambivalent?

  2. Ambivalence really doesn't factor into it. Personal experience has led me to believe in God. If not for that, then I would be an agnostic, which I think is the most philosophically defensible position, and the most appropriate for anyone who has not had some sort of experience that changed their mind. One man's firsthand experience is another man's hearsay, so I think the best position for a person to take is going to vary depending on their own personal experience.

    Atheism, on the other hand, does not allow for that sort of thing, because you can't experience in some way the entirety of the universe and conclude that there is no God there. I respect theists and agnostics, but atheism is an attempt to prove a negative in an infinite universe.

    This isn't to say that because the atheists are making absurd claims that some particular group of theists must be right; merely that I don't respect atheism as a philosophical position.