When I wrote Atheism’s Little Idea I said atheists were small. But (and this is embarrassing to confess) I had no idea how clever.
There’s a species of ant in Papua New Guinea that is so small you need a magnifying glass to see that they’re insects and not swirling grains of sand. But drop a crumb of cheese on the ground and an army of ten zillion will appear out of nowhere, through the floor cracks where they live invisibly, and devour the cheese before you can retrieve and pop it subtly into your mouth. They are truly amazing little creatures. I think they are called siboyeki. I’m not sure there is a singular, and there doesn’t need to be, because they are never alone. They don’t believe in God either. I assume they have short memories because they don’t seem to mind eating the same sort of cheese crumbs day after day.
When the atheists had grown tired of my “endless harangues against atheism” last year they swarmed at me, Jacques Berlinerblau, and Michael Ruse all at once. We said, in different tones, that they were playing too rough, were turning people off (including fellow unbelievers) with their flatfooted tactics, and needed to behave like adults with real arguments and day jobs.
The atheist swarm may actually have eaten the other two because I haven’t heard from them in a long time.
But it was then I learned their strange language and breeding habits: Like all small things, their safety is in numbers. One atheist alone is hardly a match for his (or her) natural enemies, the Christian Nation, the low-wattage Dims and flabby franks like me who send mixed signals about what they really believe. But one thousand atheists on a single mission can take down a faitheist, an accommodationist and a Associate Reformed Presbyterian pre-Millennialist going through a divorce in about a minute. I’ll tell you this: if Osama bin Laden had ranted about atheists and not “the West” (where is that exactly?) he would have been cheese crumbs in October 2001.
Of course the real advantage atheists have over ants is language. Siboyeki can’t talk, but atheists can and some of the older ones can read, as one of them amply demonstrated to me recently by quoting a poem. This greatly unsettled me, because until this event I’d thought that Rachel Rubinowitz, my girlfriend in college, and I were the only people in the world who had ever read Philip Larkin. She said it inspired her to become a librarian.
I have come to be a huge admirer of how the atheists organize for their own protection and what they are able to accomplish on a low budget. I have wondered how this is possible ever since I was almost eaten last spring. But now I know.
Almost miraculously, about a month ago, I happened on a used copy of the Sure-Fire Atheist Rapid Response and Defense Manual and Cookbook at You’re Mama’s [sic] Bookstore in Sausalito, complete with marginal notes and exclamation points. It was selling for only a dollar and the owner said it had been brought in by a distraught undergraduate only days before. The student had said he didn’t have time for the meetings anymore and had decided to become a biblical scholar.
The manual is pretty short–less than a hundred pages of double sided photocopy paper–and has only one illustration, which is a little murky. It seems to show an atheist eating a baby between hamburger buns while a little old lady with white hair tied in a not-unseductive knot says to her husband, “I told you so.”
There are too many treasures in the Manual to describe them all, so here were my favorites:
(1) The Atheist Pledge. ”We believe there is No God. That’s it. Full stop. End of Discussion. Move on.”
(2) The enemy does not believe this. He will say things like, “But…” or “Have you considered…” or “I don’t know.” This kind of talk must be discouraged because it overthinks our position. Overthinking is dangerous. Good men and/or women have been lost because of overthinking.
After a few good recipes in Part Two (I intend to try the Skeptical Chicken tonight) The Manual moves to specifics. Naturally, I was curious about what it might say about people–I mean overthinkers–like me. I was delighted to find that complete training is provided in how to manage just the sort of situation I’d confronted them with in Atheism’s Little Idea.
(1) Never mind what the enemy has written: it has no merit.
(2) Never say it has no merit; say it has no point. Better yet, say it has no argument. Argument is a word that implies logical development. Say it has no logical development. Other words to use: baseless, yawn, load.
(3) If the enemy uses quotations or historical reference points, ask him where he got them from. Be careful, because he might have got them from somewhere. If he responds, say “Like you know everything, right?” Or, “Who agrees with you?” Remember: the point is to fluster, disorient and win.
(4) Multipurpose Global Utility (Straw-Man) Argument: If you think he and or she does have an argument but you can’t quite understand it, go to page 33: “How to Use a Straw Man.” The Straw Man defense is a sure-fire destroy-all toxin that will paralyze the enemy. Basically, it is the same as a six year old saying “You made it all up,” but sounds much better. Plus, you don’t have to explain anything about where he uses it.
(5) If you don’t understand the Straw Man Defense, resort immediately to one of the following:
(a) Call the enemy arrogant. Our enemies are all arrogant or they wouldn’t be blogging against us so this is bound to work. Words like “pompous,” “misguided,” ”pathetically out of touch,” “incredibly uninformed” and similar expressions will work just as well. Try to avoid “full of it” and if you use the word “erroneous”: remember there are two r’s. (see also spelling tips under accommodation/accomodation/akomodation).
(b) Call the enemy ignorant. This is basic because anyone who disagrees with atheism is ignorant. You can also use some of the same words: incredibly ignorant, unbelievably ignorant; I don’t know how you’re able to tie your shoes-ignorant.
(c) Call the enemy unimpressive Make any really important points look like insignificant points. There are various ways to do this: ”lol, r u serious”; “omg, I can’t believe how ridiculous when you said…,” ”When’s your next appointment with your psychiatrist” or “U BLEEV IN CEILIN CAT DOAN U?”
(d) Call the enemy boring. ”I tried to read this but I fell asleep at the first comma.” Better yet, “I would have fallen asleep at the first comma but I had to stop for a pee at the verb.”
(e) Say that the enemy hates science and reason. See p 98: “What are Science and Reason?”
(f) Say that the enemy is confused. ”I don’t know where to begin discussing this cartload of doodie and unless I knew in advance there was gold buried in it I don’t think I even want to try.” This one always works, and you can use other words besides doodie.
(6) If you find that a website is “moderated” say that it violates the fundamental right of Free Speech guaranteed to atheism in the Constitution. It is what our atheist forefathers like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and probably also Abraham Lincoln
and Shakespeare fought and died for, or would have died for if they’d had to. Not publishing our comments is a form of defamation (p. 67) and discrimination, which is forbidden by all relevant anti-discrimination laws: see p. 80, “All Relevant Anti-Discrimination Laws).
Accuse the enemy of running his blog site like a Gulag. Badger the enemy repeatedly saying “Where is my comment?” ”You don’t believe in free speech, do you, you arrogant stuffed pork pie, ” or “No wonder your pitiful little site gets so few hits; you run it like North Korea.” If he shoots back some irrelevant comment about all your examples coming from atheist states like North Korea say “That’s just what a pompous, boring, pork pie like you would say.”
(7) The art of the quibble: Throw the enemy off balance. Coordination is everything. Nothing is too small for a quibble (rhymes with nibble). And almost anything counts as a quibble: For example asking for page numbers, correcting grammar, and wondering if the enemy is jealous of Richard Dawkins’s unparalleled success as an atheist writer are good starts. But if he gets scrappy, move on to statistics, as in “You say that atheism is in decline; I’d like to know how you know this?” ”You say that religion is responsible for the preservation of learning traditions and the rise of universities; can you give me an example?” Be ready to say “I didn’t think so,” or “Gotcha” while he’s thinking.
(8) Fake Fallacy Multipurpose Argument: The Courtier’s Reply: Remember that since God does not exist, anybody can be an expert on God, which is like being an expert on nothing. Scientists can be more expert on God because a majority of scientists don’t believe in God. The more you know about God the less you know since God does not exist: don’t be afraid to say this. If someone believes in god, or knows someone who does, that gives them no right to say you don’t know what you’re talking about just because you don’t. In fact, just the opposite. The enemy will pretend to know history and all kinds of other irrelevant stuff. Remember: history is for losers, but winners write history.
The flipside is that context is nothing. We are factualists and factuals are factuals. The enemy might say, “Atheism really didn’t crop up in a big way before the eighteenth century.” This is not true, as our Big List of Famous Atheists proves. String together some quotes from our Big List of Atheist quotations (mostly made up or paraphrased, but who cares) to embarrass him. As Socrates once said, “Winning is not about research.”
Also remember, this is a cause: Since atheists are a minority it follows that we are persecuted because all minorities are persecuted. The enemy might say something arrogant such as, “Unlike religious dissent and heresy, atheism has largely been beyond the purview (pûrvym n: scope) and concern of religion, and atheists as atheists have seldom been persecuted by the religious establishment.”
Start with “This is a straw man.” Then say, “How do you know this?”, and then, “I can’t find page 76 in the book you quoted,” or “This is incredibly ignorant.” If the enemy becomes argumentative, say he is using his knowledge to discredit you and accuse him of using the Courtier’s Reply and zing him with the information that the Bible isn’t true or say something in lolcat. It never fails because we have the factuals on our side.
See also: p. 67: “Tricks the Enemy Might use to Confuse Us” and p 43: A Short Guide to History for Atheists].
P. 43 A Short Reference Guide to History for Atheists
1. 0 God doesn’t create the world, hello?
2. Big Bang, maybe 13.7 billion years ago. Awesome.
3. Later: We climb out of the slime
4. Early on: Greece and Rome. Socrates killed for being a atheist.
4. Later: Christianity invents Jesus. Bible finished.
5. Not much later: The Dark Ages. Nothing of any importance happens.
6. After that: The Renaissance: a bunch of painters paint god and Mary and Jesus. Things r rly gettin borin.
7. Not so long ago: The Enlightenment. Gud mornin.
8. Then: Darwin, beginning of the messianic age. Evrythin iz kewl nao.
9. Finally: Everything from Darwin to Us.