The Atheist Priesthood
The endgame dilemma
Must the war go on forever?
I liked Jaclyn Glenn, I still do. For starters she’s attractive (that is never not an issue), outspoken and she’s an atheist. I’ve seen video’s of talks she gave, personal toughing ones and I’ve even mailed her once after I’d mentioned her in a post, expecting nor receiving reply. I like her and yet a short while ago I’ve unsubscribed from her youtube channel.
There were a couple of problems: first, I didn’t learn much from her. Entertainment is fine, feeling part of a community is also nice, but as a blogging atheist you must be in it to win it, and that means working on arguments and ideas. A lot of time you look at the stuff others left on the table which you can make into something new entirely. But, unfortunately, Jaclyn was just entertainment. Second, the sarcasm was getting a bit thick for my blood, you want to know why they call atheists arrogant? This type of commentary is not making our case against it.
None of this was really enough for me unsub’ing over, not even close. But then I read about- and accepted- the evidence indicating Jaclyn plagiarized contents from other atheist bloggers, vloggers and commenters on other channels. The fact that there were numerous examples over multiple years eliminated the ‘honest mistake’ and the self-replicating meme from the equation. In me, there was no doubt, no hesitation, just two clicks to access my youtube lists and one to remove her and done. And yet, this was not done happily or with spite and I will miss her despite all I said.
You see the problem, apart from perhaps some character flaws, is not Jaclyn at all. There is a much more endemic problem we need to address: Atheism is boring and repetitive and on any given Sunday there is really not much you can say about it! When you meet a Pentecostal-Seventh-Day-Adventist-Sunni-Muslim (they don’t exist yet, but give it five minutes) getting to the bottom of what they stand for will take you most of your life to find out (after which you blow your brains out, I personally guarantee it). Atheism however has no flavors and it can all be summarized in three words: ‘There is no God’ or just plain ‘No God!’ if you are really lazy. Which is why me and all other atheist rarely really write about atheism by and for itself. And while repetition is good and necessary, after-all gun-totin’ Bible-sellers aren’t singing constantly new tunes either(nor are they going away any time soon), it is still HARD finding good things to communicate about, finding new arguments and original points of view. And I say ‘communicate’ because blogging is ‘old school’ in a world where tweets, facebook and youtube channels get all the attention.
The world has changed so much when content can be produced so quickly and shared even faster with EVERYONE; this is even clearer when even this modest setting can make you a descent living on youtube. I am amazed an atheist, with the relative small population we are, can actually do this. Just think about the people working two blue-collar jobs to support a marginal income and tell me this is not messed-up at some level. So cuddo’s to Jaclyn and others for making it, but theirs is a hollow and, I fear, temporary victory. Because the structural problems of atheism are still there: it is boring and it has no endgame in which it survives.
The Olympics changed forever the day the rules allowed professionals to participate. Some called this a logic move, ‘how else would you ever establish a new record unless you let those that do it 24/7 got a shot at it?’ Others, like myself, feel the amateur was robbed of a chance to participate in his off-hours and the game was robbed of some innocence with all the merchandising kicking in. Because, you see, things change when the activity you are going to engage in makes or breaks your life; when you depend on it for a livelihood and a future for your kids. I once was posed for a ‘mediocre’ to ‘reasonable’ artistic music career. I chose to do something else entirely for the simple reason that being less than ‘extraordinary’ would be an immediate sentence to poverty. The same is true for professional sports careers and, in a way, for professional atheism.
Do not mistake the Dawkins, Krausses and Harrises of this world for professional atheists. They may be prominent, but they make a good living away from atheism. In fact it may have cost them more than they gained. And while they are probably ‘competing’ in the debate-circles, they have not as much incentive to cheat in this competition as the real professional atheist has. Coming back to Jaclyn the story is rather different. The competition is deadly, especially in the realm of video’s where content can be fabricated exponentially faster than in writing. Being a professional, coming up with a new topic is not simply a matter of interest or choice anymore, the professional atheist must publish or die!
I’m not too emphatic though, the video-format may be quick, it is neither subtle nor infused with much dept. A lot of it gets stuck in the here and now with more emphasis on actuality than on fundamentals. I also think that if producing atheists-content is basically the only thing you do, working it full-time like a journalist, this should produce a significantly better result than what amateurs can produce, which it hasn’t. It may be hard to find a good angle on things, but it is neither impossible nor too costly if you are well motivated and disciplined. Furthermore, there must be angles that require so much research that amateurs as myself tend to stay away from it, ripe for the professional pickings. Still circumstantial evidence shows that professional atheism is hard to upheld within the small margins it can provide and may thus lead the individual to corruption.
Another reason why professional atheism is not a good idea for me is the likeness with the priesthood. I’m normally not one to dismiss stuff based upon likeness with other things, but I make an exception here. If we behave like a cult we will be considered a cult and pretty soon we will start to think like cultists. Our agreeing with part of what Richard, Sam and dr. Carrier say while fundamentally disagreeing with the stupid opinions (whatever you think they are) they hold is not a failure of atheism, it is a feature. Just by letting someone set the tone or the agenda we are letting ourselves be guided and we let our own arguments weaken before the external critique of the theist. Also, you want to know how an atheist came to shooting three Muslim students to death? He came to think he was somehow MORE than they were. You really want some atheist priest go one prime-time and say ‘he was not a real atheist’ when he was yelling ‘ 50 million atheists are not wrong!’ only moments before, much like a Catholic priest or Muslim mullah would? Shouldn’t we hold ourselves to higher standards than that? We don’t need atheist priests telling us we are right, that we are good people or special in any kind. We are all shit-heads with an occasionally good argument. It is only in the light of the incomprehensibly stupid arguments of many theists we come out as extraordinarily rational and sane.
Finally, but not least, the reason why atheism should be reserved for those with amateur status is that we should expect to once win it. If in your heart of hearts you are not convinced that atheism is true and that all people, when properly deprogrammed and informed should come the same conclusion, you really have to tell me why we are in this for. But if I’m correct it doesn’t make sense to become an atheist priest at all. Because atheism is NOT a religion, once it prevails there is no reason to ever again talk about it again or for you to be paid to do so. Off course you may find it extremely naïve of me to think that there will one day be no more religions or cults, and in a way it is like blaming police-officers for trying to eradicate the one thing that provides them with an income, but I still maintain that for the atheist priest religion will eventually become a fundamentally necessary evil. (Like for that German general in the movie ‘The Battle Of The Bulge’ for whom the only desirable outcome was that the war would go on forever) And this is simply unacceptable.
For all I care you can become an atheist politician, you’d be ruling the country. You can be a philosophy professor or a biologist. Perhaps this is what ‘atheism+’ should really mean: you can’t be an atheist until you are something else first. Atheism can be a part of your identity, but unlike for theists, it should never be more than a part of it. But in any case, should you disagree with me as is your right and duty, you must at least be honest and above reproach. You don’t steal, you don’t lie and you don’t shoot people. Because you may be nothing but an atheist moron. But you are also an atheist, so we expect MORE of you! Now go in peace and do something else, BE something else for a while. The battle is still very long.