Man Gave Names to All the Animals: Putting Atheists in Neat Little Boxes

Man gave names to all the animals. In the beginning, a long time ago – Bob Dylan

binkleyI am not well versed in the religions of the world. My working knowledge is based on a World Religions course I took in University. I also took a course on the New Testament where we watched Star Wars. So I am by no means an expert. I was born Anglican and my family was on the low setting of practicing. After University, what little faith I had was in question. I liked the cultural heritage of being Anglican. Linked to the monarchy and all that. I did not feel Christian though. I toyed with Bahai very briefly (it seemed like a happy religion to me). I thought about Taoism as a possibility (I had read the Tao of Pooh, which equated Winnie the Pooh to a Tao master). None of it felt right to me.

Then I found Skepticism. Understanding the world through reason, critical thinking and the scientific method. Whoa nelly, it was like I was being called. At this time, I still had the belief that something had to be out there that created and governs us, however, after diving into Skepticism, that feeling quickly dwindled. I was happier knowing there was nothing. Viola, an atheist!

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Atheists, for me, are lumped into one of two categories. Angry or happy. I am a happy atheist. For me, I am just comfortable with my place in the universe as a non-believer. I am not reacting to something I disagree with. I don’t have an agenda to let everyone know how much religion sucks. I don’t even think it sucks. I think some people suck.

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that there are good people and there are bad people in the world. Bad people use religion to their advantage to justify doing bad things. Good people just use religion to be better. Most fall in the latter. The people around you are nice for the most part, right? I am going to wager most of them are religious on some level. We don’t need to hate good people.

Anyways, beyond just happy or angry, there is likely a broad spectrum of atheists. A recent study has categorized 6 different types of atheists. They interviewed 59 atheists and categorized the major themes.

Intellectual Atheist/Agnostics are very knowledgable about religion and discuss religion through the eyes of a non-beliver.

Activists pursue believers in an effort to challenge their beliefs.

Seeker Agnostics are happy to sit in the grey area of whether there is something or not.

Anti-theists are against all religion on principle.

Non-theists have no room or desire to discuss faith.

Ritual Atheists like the tradition and the cultural aspect of religion but don’t believe in god.

I guess I would put myself in the ritual atheist category. I like the organized community part of religion. Or at least I appreciate its value in society as an evolutionary device that provides protection, comfort and supports overall well being. I love ceremony and ritual as it relates to celebrating events in our life. Jeepers, we are all just cruising along in this world, experiencing great things (often similar things) and changing as people. It is so great to just stop for a second and say, “Hey. You’re doing that too? I did that. It was pretty cool. After you do that thing, lets all get together and dance and sing about it”.

There is not a lot of ceremony that is specifically atheist. Maybe atheists like it that way. I don’t know. A while ago, I came up with the fantasy/experiment of buying a building in the city somewhere. In my mind I envisioned it as a Fire Hall looking place. Big doors and wide open. I would put nothing in it. Maybe a folding chair for me to sit on. Above the big open doors, it would read in big letters “ATHIEST”. I would just sit in my folding chair with the door open and wait. What would happen? How would this place unfold? Possibly nothing would happen. Maybe it is just a stupid scenario made up by a feeble mind. Let’s suppose this was a genius idea conceived of by a genius mind. Maybe a complex world of social interactions and non-religious community experiences would take place. Maybe this would be a place for all six types of atheists to congregate.

Intellectual Atheist/Agnostics could host a Tuesday night book club and have debates to discuss current thinking around religion and atheism. Activist Atheists could use this place to organize rallies, make flyers and have press conferences. Seeker Agnostics could bring in an expert speaker every Thursday to discuss any topic at all. Anti-theists could have a ritual effigy defaming party every Sunday afternoon. Non-theists could set up a ping pong table and have tournaments on Mondays and Wednesdays. Ritual Atheists could use this area to celebrate events like the solstice and we could have a breakfast feast every Saturday just to celebrate how strange our existence is. Fridays nights we could turn the place into an old fashioned juke joint and dance and sing to jazz and blues. It all sounds too perfect.

I guess there would be a lot to manage after a while. There is potential for a lot of disorder. We may have to appoint a leader to control the atheists and make sure the atheists are not hurting each other. We would probably need a set of rules and ways to behave. We may need a hierarchical system to make sure the atheists know who is leading them. If he/she can’t control the people we may need an even higher authority. Not someone the people see mind you. They just need to know that there is someone out there watching everything they do. Like in Taxi, where Louie DePalma is the floor boss and Louie’s boss is a guy in the high office you never see. Maybe the rules could be given to the floor manager from this higher power and he can decree them upon the atheists. The rules should be written on something permanent so they don’t get destroyed. A plaque maybe. We could etch them in stone perhaps. What if one group of athiests don’t like how another group of atheists interpret and chose to follow these rules. They may leave the Fire Hall and start a new place for “their kind” of atheists to get together. They may call their place “New Atheist”. This could happen with each group. There would be slightly different atheist groups all over town. They may start recruiting their own members. They may start competing for members. I hope it doesn’t get too ugly. Hmmnnnnn. This is sounding familiar. I gotta work this out Pal.
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Well maybe we shouldn’t go down that road. I guess this raises the question, “Should Atheists be organized?” Isn’t defining atheists the same as differentiating Baptists from Lutherans? Why do we need to categorize? Is it human nature to do so? Does it even matter? It might. I was trying to categorize myself when I was finding my place in the world (Anglican, Bahai, Taoism, Non-believer). Where do I fit in? With whom do I belong? Oh, you guys? Cool.

For me, knowing my place in the universe is important, and knowing there are others who feel the same way is comforting. We can categorize until the cows come home, but the truth is still the truth. So what harm can it do? It’s not like people will fight over each others differences. Hmmnnnnnn. I gotta work this out Pal. I guess the big question is. If religion didn’t exist, would we find some other way to define each other? would we start wars and commit atrocities over these new definitions?

Not sure Pal.

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One response to “Man Gave Names to All the Animals: Putting Atheists in Neat Little Boxes

  1. I think that I would fall under the ritual atheist as well. I love the idea of a place for atheists to call their own as well. I agree that we do not need to hate on those who believe. People all have their own belief systems and if we dump on those who believe in a higher power, we are no better than those religious based folk who claim that we will burn in hell because we do not believe. Let’s be better than that. I am still unsure of what I believe. I am a hodgepodge because I like many aspects of many religions. It is more the rituals and traditions that I envy. Of all religions, I tend to relate the easiest and feel the most spiritual when listening to the beliefs of First Nations groups. Everything about their belief system makes sense to me. I am sure that I cannot simply join the First Nations culture though. Alas, I will fit myself into the atheist category, mostly because of my confusion. I hope that atheists will accept me in their culture. Thanks for this post. You will make many think about the idea of categorizing and why we find such comfort in boxing ourselves in.

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