Atheist Views

While working today I’ve been listening to an Atheist Youtube channel called The Atheist Voice. The guy, Hemant Mehta who does most of the videos there has a voice that is really easy to listen to and continue working and some of the subjects are quite interesting. Unfortunately I’ve been finding that the more I listen to him the more annoyed I am with him. And the more I wish that it weren’t people like him who were the vocal ones for Atheists.

Now before I start into why he was bothering me I want to get my own views out into the public. I don’t give myself any label, I am in many ways resistant to labels. I don’t believe in a higher power, I believe that evolution and science in general isn’t something you can “believe in” science is fact as we currently understand it today, and I believe that you don’t need to be religious to be a moral and good person. I also got married in a beautiful Catholic church in a Catholic ceremony, because while I don’t have any religious views my husband does. And for him getting married in a church was very important. So if it’s important to him it’s important to me. Finally, like any good scientist I am open minded. If I was given very compelling evidence of a higher power then yeah, I would be open to changing my views.

Gravity Its The Law

So, why am I annoyed? Most of the videos on the channel perpetuate the “war” between Atheism and Christianity. They have topics like “Things you should never say to a Christian” or “Can Atheists Date Christians?” Other religions are only very rarely mentioned and when they are it is to prove a point. Like when Christians ask Atheists if they’ve read the Bible, a comeback would be to ask them, have you read any holy books from other religions? I understand that the channel is based in a heavily Christian part of the world, but there are other religions out there and how they treat Atheists is certainly worthy of mention.

But that isn’t what really got me, and in fact lost me. In several videos Hemant Mehta talks about things that Christians do and call them silly or just wrong. He says that when a Christian says that they’ll pray for you its silly. But it isn’t silly at all. Prayer is very important to many Christians, I know many others who say it doesn’t matter as well. But by telling someone that the thing they believe in is silly is really only damaging your own point of view. He also has said that when someone says they’ll pray for him that he says, or at least considers saying, “Thanks, I’ll think for you.” And that is just degrading to the Christian. If someone says to me that they’ll pray for me I just smile and thank them. Because I know that for them it is important. And I don’t feel like I need to push my views, or lack there of, on someone who does have views. The other thing he says from time to time is that religious people are just wrong. And how he wishes he could tell them they’re wrong. It’s like the entire series is all about pushing the idea that his views are valid and that everyone should accept that his views are just as valid as anyone else’s but then he turns around and goes against that idea by saying that other views that are different from his aren’t valid.

Finally, the last straw for me, because while all those things before were bad they weren’t bad enough for me to stop listening. What finally got me to stop was the video where he says that Atheists shouldn’t continue the Santa myth. That doing things because of tradition goes counter to Atheist views. And I could not disagree more with either. He says that by telling your kids that Santa is real you’re establishing the idea that your parents can’t be trusted, because they lie. And all kids figure it out eventually. While that is true, and in fact I knew by the time I was 6 that Santa wasn’t real I never felt like my parents had lied to me. In fact the only thing I really thought about it at all was that it was cool that because of Santa I got double the gifts from my parents. And I quite happily continued to pretend for my younger brothers because belief in Santa should end in your own time. He goes on to say that Santa discourages critical thinking because when kids ask questions they often get shot down by their parents. But that to me is more about parenting than about Santa. If a kid asks me if Santa is real, or how Santa does something I flip the question back around and ask them what they think the answer is. That encourages critical thinking far more than just straight up telling your kids that none of it is true. In that same video Hemant Mehta goes on to talk about the idea that doing things because they’re traditional is counter to Atheist views. Now, maybe because I don’t label myself as an Atheist I feel differently. But I feel like tradition is a very important thing. It helps keep culture alive and to me at least culture is the spice of life. I’m not saying people should blindly do things in the name of tradition, but I am saying that people should be able to keep some traditions alive without being criticized.

Oh and he thinks Agnostics are wishy-washy.

Anyway, I don’t talk about religion very often, but after all the videos I listened to today I felt like I needed to talk about it. I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. I only ask that you be respectful of views that differ from your own.

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5 thoughts on “Atheist Views

  1. Yeah, I think that what kids finally learn from the Santa myth is that their parents enjoy giving them gifts even if the kids think those gifts are coming from someone else.
    We went through the same Kabuki dance, with the kids knowing that Santa wasn’t real for a couple of years while the parents carried on the charade. When the kids finally confronted us, This was the letter they got from the jolly old elf, found, slightly charred, on a pile of dust over an uneaten cookie, beside a full glass of milk:” Dear R&K, So, you think I’m not real? Well, f*ck you!!! I am just as real as Jesus or the werewolves that live under your bed or anything else you can imagine, ’cause you can imagine airplanes and stars and other things that are real, so doesn’t that mean that imaginary things are necessarily real things? Wait, that’s a version of the Modal Fallacy, isn’t it? Damn! Well, there goes the ontological argument too. Are you happy now you little shits? You just killed me AND God!! I’ll get you yet! Wait ’til I tell the WEREWOLVES!!! Oh no, I won’t, I’m about to disappear in a flash of logical contradiction, you little shits Arrrgg…”
    No need to be too serious. Quite the opposite, in fact.

  2. Great nuanced post about the intersection of faith and unbelief. Thanks!

    I guess I would say that in this post you seem to position science against faith, as if they are incompatible. Because you affirm science and evolution, that means Christianty can’t be true. I do hear where you are coming from. There are so many Christians who struggle with evolution, but, in my experience, that isn’t the norm.

    Here is an article about a Jesuit receiving the Carl Sagan award. It warms my heart: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5588687?&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000055

    • Oh, I don’t mean to put them against each other at all. My husband studied Applied Physics in University and has no conflict with his Catholic views. But in my experience many who label themselves Christians seem to struggle with science, and especially evolution and view them as conflicting interests like you can’t be Christian and believe in evolution. Some go so far as to tell their children that the text books, and what they learn in Biology class is just wrong. I do take issue with that, because no child should ever be told their teacher/parent/mentor is wrong or a liar.

  3. Hi! This is Hemant from Atheist Voice. Thanks for your comments πŸ™‚ I wanted to reply to a few of the points you made:

    — I do focus on Christianity in the videos for the main reason you pointed out: I live in a country where that’s the dominant faith. Islam, for example, isn’t as pressing a political/social concern for me right now. But you’re absolutely right that I should try to spread the love, so to speak, to other faiths πŸ™‚ I’ll try to do that more in future videos.

    — About Christians saying they’ll pray for me: I agree that, when they say this, they do it with the best of intentions. I believe the point I was making in that video was that, despite their intentions, it really doesn’t do anything tangible if I’m struggling. If I’m really sick, for example, making me soup would be *way* more helpful than praying for me. (The response of “I’ll think for you” was just tongue-in-cheek. I don’t actually say that to anyone.)

    — As for saying Christians’ beliefs are silly… well, they are. I think part of the reason religion has such power in our society is because very few people are comfortable criticizing it out loud. I do want to persuade viewers to think more critically about their own faith. I don’t think I’m “pushing my views on them” any more than a journalist does in an op-ed column. (I mean, aren’t you “pushing your views on us” through this post?)

    I think there’s a difference between criticizing Christians and criticizing Christianity. I really try hard to focus on the latter. We shouldn’t be afraid to call out bad ideas, but we should still respect people who mean well.

    — Yep, I find agnostics wishy-washy πŸ™‚

    Anyway, I put out a lot of videos. Not all of them will appeal to everyone, but I hope some of them connect with you and other viewers. Believe me, I get criticized by people for every single video. But on the whole, I think they contribute a voice that I don’t hear elsewhere on YouTube.

    Hope that clarifies a few things. I appreciate the constructive criticism.

  4. My partner and I don’t intend to tell our children that Santa exists, but we won’t discourage the belief either. We want our children to decide on their own. We also intend to create our own traditions for our family. We think that it’ll be more fun and we’ll be able to use them to expess our own values.
    If you don’t like Hement, who is one of the most mild-mannered of the atheist representatives, have you looked into Chris Stedman? You’d probably find that his values matched your own more closely than Hemant’s do.

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