The other day my friend accused me of "drinking the atheist Kool-Aid." It made me a bit angry. I don't consider myself following the prescriptions of someone else without questioning or doubting the things being prescribed. I don't think being an atheist will lead to my own lemming-esque suicide in the hope of moving on to a better place.

I became a little blustery, but caught myself and tried to explain why "drinking Kool-Aid" would make me angry. I have a lot of negative associations of the phrase, as illustrated above, all of which are contrary to what I actually believe. I believe in questioning authority, I don't think we should do what we're told simply for the hope of ultimate bliss.

My friend backed up a bit and said that we have different understandings of the "Kool-Aid" phrase. My friend's definition is closer to "actively participating in an interest despite its faults, but with no horrid outcome." My friend admitted to drinking "poetry Kool-Aid," actively being a poet, and ignoring the lack of real-world application of the art.

The difference in definition is subtle, but invoked a powerful and, admittedly, angry response from me. Ultimately, the interaction colored the way our discussions have been going sense. We're communicating much better now. Aces.

Views: 26

Comment by Wendy on June 15, 2009 at 4:52pm
I would have had the same reaction that you did. I see drinking the kool-aid as blindly following someone and not questioning WHY. Completely sacrificing your self-identity to be part of a bigger community.

When I had my son in December, I was afraid of drinking the "Mommy kool-aid", which I defined as completely losing my identity as an independent thinker, as a crass & cynical adult, and becoming someone who could only think about how cool it is that my kid pooped twice today!

So yeah, I can't think of many contexts where drinking the kool-aid has a positive or even neutral connotation.
Comment by noisician on June 15, 2009 at 5:18pm
The "drinking the kool-aid" used by your friend has worked its way into corporate-speak where I am. It refers to somebody "buying into the hype" about something. Or maybe another way to say it is they take something on faith and ignore evidence to the contrary? :) Anyway, it's always a negative connotation, but doesn't have to be as bad as the Jim Jones thing.

However, that said, you should have pressed your friend about what SPECIFICALLY he meant by it. What "atheist" belief does he think you've blindly bought into? It might do to point out for starters that there are no atheist beliefs (not necessarily even the belief that there are no gods), there is only the lack of a belief in gods.

The beliefs you do hold will be based on other facets of your world view -- skepticism, humanism, raelianism, etc.

Let us know why he thinks you "drank the kool-aid"! Now I am curious if he's really though this through or not.
Comment by Roger Tholen on June 15, 2009 at 5:47pm
I had a slightly different reaction to "drinking the kool aid. I belonged to jim jones's church when he was up in ukiah, ca. I had just attended a couple services out of curiosity, when I got busted for pot. Jim J hired a lawyer that got me, for the most part out of the scrape. After getting out, Jim wanted me to supervise the building of a swimming pool. I didn't want to get involved as I could see where he was by then. On the other hand, My wife thought he was the second christ. We nearly got a divorce over it. But, it would appear I did the right thing as things turned out. The weird thing is that he was doing some good things at first. An example being paying for my lawyer. He was very charming, and good looking and good at the con. People really believed him and what he said. I was not one of them.
Comment by CJoe on June 15, 2009 at 9:54pm
All I have to say is this... the fact that this person has such an inaccurate perception of the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" shows how little value they place on being informed. I dunno, I don't want to be rude because it's possible you really care about this person, so forgive me if I am. I get frustrated with people who just parrot everything they hear and regurgitate jargon, all the while having no clue what they're really saying.

For example, my mom will use phrases like "Big Brother is watching" or "that's group-think", but she has no idea where those phrases come from. Maybe you know, they come out of the book 1984 by George Orwell (one she's never read). It's so ironic to me when I hear people coin those phrases who are they very brainwashed-people Orwell was alluding to in his book.
Comment by Reggie on June 15, 2009 at 10:45pm
When I am involved in friendly debates, half the debate is nailing down definitions of terms and words we are using. Language is ambiguous and very inefficient when it comes down to brass tax. Our assumptions to the meanings of words can muddy the waters of a conversation. I have tried hard not to make those assumptions to the point that I get surprised looks from people who misunderstand my questions as ignorance. I am merely trying not to assume what they mean and I try to be very precise when I speak. The flip side is people love to run with whatever I say and marry my words with their own words and assumption. Absolutely drives me up a wall.
Comment by Dave G on June 16, 2009 at 1:46pm
I'd have gotten irked myself as, like yourself, I correlate 'drinking the Kool-Aid' with blind, unquestioning faith in something or someone without allowing little things like facts or evidence to get in the way of that belief.
Comment by Johnny on June 19, 2009 at 1:50pm
I think everyone else has chimed in that your friends understanding of the term in inaccurate... But in case you need some back-up... A quick search nets one, two, three, four sites that all disagree with his understanding of the phrase.
Comment by baddy on July 1, 2009 at 1:38pm
Wow, that was rather uncalled for. You're totally justified in taking that the wrong way, considering "drinking the Kool-Aid" is usually used as as analogy for the Jonestown Massacre and being brainwashed. From the sound of it, it seems like you handled the situation and managed to control yourself even though you were upset. That can be hard to do. I would have gone off.


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