“Why am I so angry? It’s called new-atheism” – my response to Toma Part I

I generally prefer to dispense my thoughts in person or in 140 character chunks, but after having just been informed today by @MrOzAtheist of a mention in a blog posting (dated June 9, 2013), I felt compelled to respond. I even set up this fancy new domain because that’s just how I roll (do people still say that?).

The aforementioned post by @TomaHaiku can be found here. I thought for the sake of ease (mine, not the reader’s), I would dissect statements in Toma’s article and respond to some of the ones I took umbrage with. Actually, umbrage may be a poor choice of words; I’m not in the least bit offended by anything he wrote, I just feel the need to point out the numerous erroneous and fallacious statements he made. There are so many in fact, that I will have to split this into a number of parts; here’s the first installment.

There was a time that atheism simply meant you didn’t believe in God. Putting five atheists in a room together meant the only thing they were certain to have in common was their non-belief in a deity.

1] I think I’ll defer to the dictionary on this one:

disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.
late 16th century: from French athéisme, from Greek atheos, from a- ‘without’ + theos ‘god’

Your choice of words ‘there was a time’ would seem to indicate that you think this definition has changed; however the dictionary would indicate otherwise. The etymology of the word should be a clue, and you can clearly see that it translates to without god.

The second part of that statement is actually correct, though you have chosen the past simple, when you should have used the present simple (meant vs. means). If you put 5 atheists in a room, the only thing you can guarantee they will have in common is their lack of belief in any deities. It seems as though you might be creating your own meaning for ‘atheism’ and perhaps amalgamating notions of humanism and secularism…perhaps you could clarify this? I made a handy little pie chart for people who didn’t seem to be able to grasp exactly what atheism encompasses:


With the rise of new-atheists and new-atheist leaders such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late and great Christopher Hitchens,  atheism has come to take on a more universal, cult-like existence.

2] New-atheists? I’m afraid I might have to request clarification from you on this one as well Toma. If you refer back to the previous point, I explained that the definition of atheism hasn’t changed, ergo there is no such thing as ‘new-atheists’. Let me give you an example: when I was a child, I didn’t believe in vampires (I suppose that made me an avampirist). As an adult, my non-belief in vampires continues. There really is no way in which my non-belief has changed, i.e. there is no new way in which I don’t believe in vampires now. Make sense? The same is of course true for my lack of belief in gods.

I’ve been an atheist for the better part of 20 years now; it started well before I had even heard of Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchens. It was something I came to on my own, and by comparing atheism to a cult you demonstrate once again that you like to assign your own meanings to words. Allow me to refer to the dictionary once again:

a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object.

The fact that a great many people have read the works of these fine authors speaks to the quality of the works they have produced, it hardly qualifies them as ‘cult-leaders’. This is merely a case you playing fast and loose with the definition of words and molding them to suit your points. I find this particular form of intellectual dishonesty to be especially distasteful. As for an actual example of a cult leader as per the dictionary definition, perhaps you remember David Koresh? Personally, I think the only difference between a religion and a cult is tax-free status.

New-atheists today share an extreme dislike of all religion.

3] Allow me to introduce you to possibly a new word: anti-theism. You have thus far been using the word atheist or ‘new-atheist’, when anti-theist would have been more accurate. Again, it is the prefix that defines the word. One of meanings of ‘anti-‘ is against, or hostile to. Do you see how that is far more accurate than ‘a-‘ meaning without? This isn’t a petty case of arguing semantics; your use of the words is either incorrect by choice or through ignorance.

By changing your statement to the more accurate ‘anti-theists today share an extreme dislike of all religions’ I’d agree with you. Correct my assumption if necessary, but I expect that you are against religions apart from your own. How would you feel if your children were led in a prayer to Allah at the beginning of each school day? Would this foster any feelings of hostility in you Toma? I doubt I’d be wrong in assuming it would. In my interactions with various theists over the years, it has become quite apparent to me that they share no love for those who follow the ‘wrong religion and worship the wrong god(s). Perhaps you don’t fit into this category, please tell me if that is indeed the case.

It’s no longer enough to simply argue that God does not exist; it is now essential to argue that religion is evil, and that the religious are fools and hypocrites.

I’m impressed that you managed to fit so much ‘wrong’ into one well-articulated sentence. My fingers ache just thinking about how much I am going to have to type to correct it. Sigh.

If you recall the definition I have already given for atheism, it states a lack of belief in a god/gods. That is of course not the same as saying ‘gods do not exist’. The difference is subtle, but very important. As an atheist, due to a complete and total lack of credible evidence, I do not believe in any god. For me to state that god does not exist includes a claim of knowledge; making me a gnostic atheist. I am in fact, an agnostic atheist, in that I realise it is impossible to truly know whether a supernatural deity exists somewhere in the cosmos. That being said, just because I can’t categorically disprove the existence of said deity, is no reason to believe and thus, I don’t. I can only speak for myself, I would never want to be accused of speaking for all atheists (though you seem to lump us all together as one), but I personally don’t argue that god doesn’t exist. I’ll happily state my opinion or belief on the topic, but that is not the same as saying I know that your god does not exist.

As one who claims to have knowledge that a god (God as you xians so creatively call him) exists, you are a gnostic theist. It is not just that you claim to know a god exists, you claim to know which one it is; a bold claim indeed! The burden of proof is on you, the claim is yours.

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As for ‘it is now essential to argue that religion is evil’, how can anything else be essential to my not believing in a god. The only thing essential to atheism is a continued lack of belief in gods. Do you see how your misuse of the terminology adversely affects practically everything you’ve written? Let’s again attribute this statement to anti-theism. As far religion being evil, I could provide thousands of examples, but I’m being 100% honest when I say I really can’t be bothered. One could easily fill entire Ikea wall units with books detailing the evils of religion, but that sounds like a ridiculous amount of effort doesn’t it? Instead, here are 8 examples of the atrocities of religions that someone else has compiled (full article here)

1] Buddhist Burma
2] Thuggee Murders
3] Mountain Meadows Massacre
4] The Inquisition
5] The Witch Hunts
6] Roman Persecution of Christians
7] Aztec Human Sacrifice
8] Islamic Jihads

And let’s not forget the truly abhorrent, disgusting cover-up of child rape that the Catholic church has carried out over the past half-century. How truly evil it is to steal the innocence of children in such a monstrous way.

While some people (myself included) do say that theists are fools, what we should be saying is that your beliefs are foolish. That being said, it can be hard to separate the belief from the believer when one hears stories of talking animals, Noah’s Ark, saints rising from their graves, the ridiculous story of creation…I could go on and on and on. What am I to make of a person who truly believes that Noah and his family not only built a boat large enough to accommodate a breeding pair of each species of animal, but also managed to collect them all (even the marsupials in Australia….an island), keep them alive for 40 days and nights, then somehow return them each to the habitat from whence they came? How did the animals manage to eat after they left the ark? The carnivores wouldn’t have been able to eat any of the animals from the ark, lest they disappear forever, while the herbivores would have had no vegetation to eat. That’s completely ignoring the aquatic life that would have perished when the flood-waters changed the salinity levels of the oceans and bodies of freshwater. This is another topic in which I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. An adult believing this fairytale in 2014 may well be called a fool, and deservedly so.

Oh my. This was just 3 tiny paragraphs from your posting; there are still 5 more :/ Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3.

Kevin (aka @perth_atheist)