WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Searching for the pink unicorn llama

Every now and then, but fairly regularly, I run across an article that lambasts the “new atheists.” It’s an easy thing to do, lambast the “new atheists.” The tag is getting a little long in the tooth now, so this brand of atheist is really nothing new anymore. It’s just a good way to identify that special bunch of usually British snots who give good old down-home atheism a bad name.

(You know who you are, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens [ex post facto].)

As an atheist myself, I don’t like getting thrown in with this lot, even though I’ve read plenty of their work and agree with many if not most of their ideas. It’s just that they’re so “mean girl” about their atheism, right? You want them to like you, but if they let you in then you’re a mean girl too, and that’s not fair. Yet good old down-home atheism is a little boring – there’s no cachet to it. Good old down-home atheists don’t get talked about much.

Why is that? Because they’re content in themselves and they don’t need to confront every believer or garden-variety agnostic they come across.

In fact, good old down-home atheism is a lot more like Buddhism than anything else. All it purports to want for the individual is personal enlightenment.

Stoicism is close too. Where Buddhism concentrates on eliminating suffering, Stoicism pursues virtue. Good old down-home atheism – at least my brand of it – is about living in a way that doesn’t hurt anybody. That’s where my own personal enlightenment sits. And I really don’t care if your style of atheism pushes out all doubt (that God does not exist) or if someone else’s faith is serene and total. I just want us all to get along.

Because when you get right down to it, it doesn’t matter what any given person thinks about the mystery of human existence. We can argue through the wee hours, drunk or stone cold sober, and it won’t clear anything up. Boiled down, my atheism is strictly mine. It makes sense to me and helps me live in a way that keeps all the puzzle pieces where they belong. Maybe your faith does that for you. Maybe being agnostic does the trick, leaving room for revelation later on (suitably backed up by science, I assume). But what it has to add up to is living for three score and ten – hopefully longer – in a way that helps everyone get by as best they can.

Or am I just a cockeyed optimist? Good old down-home atheism meets Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.

But calling me a “new atheist” is like calling me a cis-man, and you know how I feel about that.

I’ll settle for “infidel,” if that makes you feel better.

[Image by Amberbunting via Wiki Commons.]

15 comments on “Searching for the pink unicorn llama

  1. Deeksha
    April 23, 2018

    I enjoyed this post. I’ve taken a screenshot of the penultimate paragraph so I can share it with due credit amongst my friends.

  2. kingmidget
    April 23, 2018

    Couldn’t agree more. Part of my atheism is simply not caring what other people believe and not wanting to a part of anybody else’s belief system. As long as those other people don’t infringe on what I believe.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 23, 2018

      It’s always that infringement part that makes things complicated, eh? Proselytizing isn’t great either, but when some beliefs are literally oppressed it gets tricky. Case in point: we won’t see an atheist president in our lifetimes.

  3. Ilona Elliott
    April 23, 2018

    The more I learn about religion, not just good old boy Christianity like we have here in our lovely country, but all religions and their superstitions, the less inclined I am to believe that religion is useful rather than harmful. I consider myself Spiritual in an animist kind of way, but like you Kevin, I just want us all to get along…I keep hoping.

  4. Sha'Tara
    April 24, 2018

    My motto: believe all things, believe in nothing. Or, as the great private eye, Harry Crumb would say, “Believe what you will but don’t believe it here.”

  5. 1WriteWay
    April 24, 2018

    “Good old down-home atheism – at least my brand of it – is about living in a way that doesn’t hurt anybody.” Same here although I’m probably more of an agnostic because, well, as far as life after death, I won’t know that until I die.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 24, 2018

      Anybody who says they know is a charlatan and a cad!

      • Sha'Tara
        April 24, 2018

        Isn’t it supposed to be “a cad, and a bounder”?  Anyway, it just so happens that I know there is life after death. I don’t know if it applies to all, or only to those who choose such a thing – some may opt out, understandably. The thing is, my “knowing” is not applicable to anyone else, so another of those “believe all things, believe in nothing” approach to the great mysteries, like why is there so much pain and suffering on a world that needs none of it… The way I see it, it makes more sense to go for life after death since one human life is so blinking short and pointless otherwise and where would past life memories come from if there wasn’t mind continuity in the cosmos? Some things can only be known by admission that they cannot be known. 

        Sent from my Galaxy Tab A (2016)

      • Kevin Brennan
        April 24, 2018

        I guess we know what we no.

        I don’t think past life memories are real. They’re dreams. But that’s just me.

      • Sha'Tara
        April 24, 2018

        Which begs the question: what are dreams?

      • 1WriteWay
        April 25, 2018

        Some will say they have faith, but that is not the same as knowing. Too often people conflate the two.

  6. Keith
    April 25, 2018

    Intelligent millenials are so much less religious than their, perhaps, older, counterparts. Good for them! They’re simply not gonna have such homophobic attitudes. They don’t think homophobia is acceptable. That’s a very, very good thing.

  7. S.K. Nicholls
    April 25, 2018

    I would say live and let live if those certain evangelicals didn’t try so hard to push themselves into every aspect of everybody else’s lives. I don’t know what I am. I used to tetter between polytheistic and agnostic. But even in polytheism, ultimately there is one supreme energy above them all. Wahe guru. unfathomable ecstasy

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This entry was posted on April 23, 2018 by in Et alia and tagged .
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