By Eddie Miles
With all the talk about atheists being the most distrusted segment of society and with the fact that many of us can’t even come out of the proverbial closet to our own friends and family, it’s easy to forget what we have going for us. In fact, what a lot of non-believers don’t realize is that we really have it made right now. We can make some claims that theists just can’t make… Well, they make the claims but they don’t have the evidence to back them up like we do.
Those claims that I’m talking about are the claims of moral and intellectual superiority. The rate of atheists in prisons is much lower than the rate within the general population. That, coupled with the fact that less religious countries have lower crime rates indicates that contrary to what theists will insist, we atheists take the win in the area of morals. Also, studies show that educated people are less likely to believe in gods or any other superstitions. Obviously then, the less educated are more likely to be religious. Everyday skeptics utilize these claims pretty often, which is why it’s so sad that they will eventually go away.
Yeah, as much as I love using these little nuggets of uplifting knowledge, they won’t be there and available forever. This is because thanks to activist groups like American Atheists, writers like Dawkins and Myers, and bloggers like… uh… well anyway, thanks to these people, atheism is becoming what we call “popular”. And why is the popularity of atheism such a bad thing? It’s not overall. In fact, I’m thrilled to see it becoming such a hot topic.
But unfortunately, being popular will cause us to be associated with people who call themselves atheists or skeptics just because of its popularity. Think about it, why don’t christians really have the right to claim moral high ground like they think they do? It’s because in the US, christianity is popular, which means that of all the rapists, killers, thiefs, and other baddies, most are going to claim christianity.
Now, a lot of atheists might make the claim that christianity is somehow responsible for this behavior and they point to the evil ways of the old testament god as evidence, and that may be a valid argument for christianity on a larger scale, but given that few christians in the US have even read the bible, I just can’t buy it in this case. It seems to me like what’s really going on is that many people, criminals included, claim to be christians even though they don’t have a damned clue what it really means. The reason they claim to be christians is because christianity is popular.
Now, let’s take a look at the current skeptic movement. We have intellectual giants, like Dennett, and witty, charismatic writers, like Hitchens who lead our movement (if “lead” is even an appropriate term for a movement based on questioning). But I fear that the mostly secular nation that we are all striving for might bring with it some baggage, namely the loss of our ability to claim superiority in morals and intellect. I mean, sure the statistics will still be there, but when the time comes at which half of all criminals just happen to be atheists, the gap will close a bit and the statistical difference will be less significant. Will those who are still in violent opposition to skepticism be able to tell the difference between correlation and causation? If they can’t do it now with Stalin, they won’t be able to do it then, when the nation’s criminals are more likely to be atheists.
I don’t mean to get all apocalyptic. I’m very happy to see the movement grow as it has. It’s just that our metaphorical arms race that we have going on here with the theists might possibly turn in their favor for a bit. We’ll be fine in the long run as long as we stick to the truth. The truth can’t be changed, no matter who believes it. But we might be forced to upgrade our tactics a little bit.
Of course, that’s not to say that I’m going to quit using these arguments just because they’re close to being obsolete. I’m going to run these bitches dry. But there’s definitely something to be said for preparation.