‘Intolerance’ with atheists
I am writing in response to the commentary “Why target ‘Bible believers?” (Jan. 16). In the article, the author says that Webster’s definition of dogma is “something considered as an established opinion” so he logically concludes that atheism, being an established opinion, is also dogmatic.
The author clearly didn’t bother to read the full definition, or maybe chose not to include the full definition because it doesn’t support his agenda. The actual definition continues to say that said beliefs are “without being questioned or doubted” or “put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds.”
I have yet to meet a fellow atheist who is opposed to their beliefs being questioned or doubted, or insists they are authoritative. In fact, I don’t quite know if that’s possible. Atheism is, by definition (unlike the article, I will actually provide the full context) “a disbelief in the existence of deity” or “the doctrine that there is no deity.”
I’d argue that lack of belief, or belief that something does not exist, cannot be dogmatic. To any logical human being, disbelief in something which cannot or has not been proven is not “without adequate grounds” because there is no burden of proof. To use the infamous Russell’s celestial teapot – if you claim a teapot orbits the sun somewhere in space between Earth and Mars, I will not believe you. I think it would be a far stretch to say my disbelief is “authoritative without adequate grounds.”
The author then continues on to say he respects the rights of Atheists, and expects the same in return. He then says Atheists might be afraid that there is a God, have a big problem, and are going to hell. He also reminds us that it doesn’t matter how good of a person you are – if you don’t share his beliefs, then you’re still going to an eternal realm of fire, evil, and suffering.
It makes no difference that his opinion came from the Bible. It’s his choice to believe it, it’s his choice to accept it, and it’s his choice to spread it. This belief is pure intolerance, and the fact that it comes from the Bible does nothing to justify it or make it any less intolerant.
The author insists he wouldn’t make fun of someone that is atheist, and expects the same in return. He then oversimplifies the big bang theory with a rhetorical question that I would say borders on making fun of the theory, with a gibe about how belief in that requires even more faith.
Unlike the author, I have no problem with people who do not share my beliefs (or lack of), or even making fun of them, as he does. My beliefs are open for debate any time.
I’m not insulted when someone shares their opposing views or even belittles them if that’s what makes them happy. The validity of my beliefs doesn’t come from confirmation by those around me. My beliefs are my own, held for my own reasons. I don’t need or expect anyone to accept them if they choose not to.
In fact, I don’t even care how anyone chooses to label my beliefs. They have been called dogmatic, religious, and illogical – it’s all fine with me. I see no reason to truly be offended over such pedantry. I may disagree or debate a label if I believe it’s being applied based on a misunderstanding of my beliefs, but ultimately it makes no difference.
I do have one issue with the author. In supporting the notion that non-believers go to hell, he is clearly intolerant of those that do not share his beliefs. One cannot support intolerance yet claim to be tolerant. That’s fine, I don’t need or want his tolerance. The problem is that he pretends to be tolerant of others, expects that in return, and is offended when they mock him.
I have no respect for that sort of self-righteousness. Don’t be intolerant toward others, pretend you’re tolerant, and get offended when they don’t respect your beliefs. Go ahead and support the notion that people who disagree will end up in the lake of fire – but don’t be taken back when they mock you, and don’t expect anything different in return. Reap what you sow.
Matthew Metzger is formerly of Silver Creek and now resides in Buffalo.