Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How to recursively divide atheists

A satirical introduction to atheist divisions

We start with the divide between atheism and religion. Atheists think there is no god. People with religion disagree. Simple enough, right?

Well, things are really not so simple. See, there are two types of atheists. Most people like to divide atheists into "good" atheists and "bad" atheists. The problem with this is that people disagree on which is which! Nevertheless, it is clear that there is a real divide. To describe it objectively, one kind of atheist prioritizes being friendly, while the other side prioritizes being outspoken. The latter group is variously described as the "new atheists", the "militant atheists", the "atheist fundamentalists", the "angry atheists", the "outspoken atheists", or the "uppity atheists". The former group is mostly referred to as either the "friendly atheists" or the "appeaser atheists". Is it obvious who uses which labels?

The difference between these two groups has little to do with their opinion of god, and everything to do with their opinion of those who believe in god. How should we behave towards religious people? Should we slap them around the face and tell them they're delusional? Or should we hold hands, and sing? You must choose one, or so I'm told.

So now we have not two, but three sides in the debate. We could also split religious people in the same way, resulting in no less than four sides.

But wait, there's more! We can pick any of these sides, and further split it into two. For example, take the "friendly atheists". They agree on god, and they agree on how to behave towards religious people, but do they all agree on how to behave towards the "militant atheists"? There are those who rebuke the militant atheists, and those who accept them as partners in activism. Are those militant atheists popularizing the cause, or is their shrill tone alienating everyone?

As a second example, take the "outspoken atheists". They agree on god, and they agree on how to behave towards religious people, but do they all agree on how to behave towards the "appeaser atheists"? Are they putting friendly faces on the cause, or are they just appeasing the religious, much like Neville Chamberlain did with Hitler?

And so, there are not two, but four kinds of atheists.

But this is, so far, an oversimplification of the reality. We can further divide each of these kinds of atheists into two more, each of which can be further divided. For example, take the friendly atheists who rebuke the outspoken atheists. Do they also rebuke the friendly atheists who accept the outspoken atheists? Do they go on to rebuke those who accept those who accept the outspoken atheists? Do the friendly atheists who accept the outspoken atheists choose to accept those who reject the the outspoken atheists? Do they also accept those who reject those who reject the outspoken atheists? All of these questions are of utmost importance!

So as you can see, we can easily generate an infinite number of positions to choose from. You must choose one, or so I'm told. How can you not be satisfied by the infinite? It has every nuance that you could possibly want.

5 comments:

C. L. Hanson said...

LOL!!! You've captured the nuance, but you almost seem to be describing it as a bad thing.

I guess I should be classified as a friendly/appeaser atheist who accepts the "no compromises with the superstitious" crowd as partners in activism, but likes to jokingly rebuke them just for the hell of it. Because they're fun to play with. And really this whole debate is the spice of the atheosphere... ;^)

miller said...

Thanks!

As I describe it, the problem isn't nuance, but that it's the wrong kind of nuance.

intrinsicallyknotted said...

Now hold it. Merely having infinitely many nuances does not guarantee having my particular nuance! "Infinite" does not mean "everything"!

miller said...

Tell that to the folks who say the "God is infinite" definition disproves polytheism!

intrinsicallyknotted said...

Touché!