People feel special for all sorts of reasons. For example...
Ego. "I'm especially good-looking/intelligent/talented/etc. etc."
Love of country. "I'm a citizen of the greatest nation in the world."
Luck. "I won the lottery and now I'm set for life."
Upbringing. "My parents always told me I was special."
But religions are one of the biggest purveyors of specialness. Which makes them especially dangerous. Why? Because feeling special sets us apart from all of those other non-special people who are so obviously inferior.
Of course, the weird thing is that most religions teach that their devotees have a special relationship with God or a higher power. I talked about this in "Why atheists are more 'spiritual' than religious believers."
Maybe this statement seems paradoxical to you: I feel more genuinely spiritual now that I've stopped believing in God.
But it makes good sense to me. Here's the main reason why.
I no longer feel special.
Virtually every religion and spiritual path considers that its adherents have a special relationship with God or whatever other supernatural entity they believe in.
There are so many chosen people on Earth, they vastly outnumber the unchosen, the non-special group I'm pleased to be a part of.
I understand that feeling special has its own delights.
In my case, I was a member of an India-based spiritual organization which taught that those approved for initiation by the guru had been "marked" to return to God/heaven after a karma-cleansing meditation process.
For about 35 years I embraced the enjoyable belief that, out of all the billions of people on this planet, I was one of a relative few who were the special beloveds of the supreme being.
Of course, devout Christians, Jews, and Muslims feel the same way, along with countless believers in other theological belief systems.
Eventually I started to realize that all the talk I was hearing about being "humble servants of the Lord and the guru" was, to put it bluntly, a crock of shit. Genuine humility wasn't much to be seen among devotees of my spiritual organization.
Since members of this group were told over and over that they've been singled out by a higher power to learn cosmic truths and experience realms of reality not available to other human beings, naturally a pervading sense of "tribal" pride was evident throughout the organization.
We were the cool kids in the spiritual lunch room. Other faiths were inferior, since they didn't have the direct connection to God we did.
I'm happy that this form of egotism has been discarded.
Sure, I've still got lots of other self-centered tendencies rattling around in my psyche, as we all do. But to get rid of The Big One, a belief that God had chosen me to be his best buddy for eternity, whereas my infidel wife wasn't going to get the same afterlife prize -- this increased my humility quotient by a lot.
Now I don't expect that I'm going to have any different sort of afterlife anyone else does. Namely, I strongly suspect, none at all.
If you want more motivation to discard a religiosity that is making you feel special, check out some other blog posts I've written on this subject:
Religions are wrong: in the cosmos, humans aren't special
The universe is indifferent to us. But religions believe we're special.
We humans think we're special. What makes us believe that?
The atheist Adam Lee wrote: “The atheist community has a lamentable tendency to make the same mistakes over and over...
Yet there are those who seem to believe that, just by becoming an atheist, they've proven their superior rationality and are qualified to opine on any subject. Worse, this attitude often comes with an arrogant certainty that they have no need to listen or learn from people who've actually lived through moral dilemmas that are merely abstract to them.”
The atheist activist Lee Moore said about the future of the atheist movement and its significant issues with in-fighting, "We're all kind of like self-centered and egocentrical atheists.”
One of the common and well-founded charges against atheists is their arrogance and presumptuousness.
In a 2014 New Republic article entitled The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins: His atheism is its own kind of narrow religion, the atheist philosopher John Gray wrote:
“One might wager a decent sum of money that it has never occurred to Dawkins that to many people he appears as a comic figure. His default mode is one of rational indignation—a stance of withering patrician disdain for the untutored mind of a kind one might expect in a schoolmaster in a minor public school sometime in the 1930s. He seems to have no suspicion that any of those he despises could find his stilted pose of indignant rationality merely laughable. “I am not a good observer,” he writes modestly.He is referring to his observations of animals and plants, but his weakness applies more obviously in the case of humans. Transfixed in wonderment at the workings of his own mind, Dawkins misses much that is of importance in human beings—himself and others.”
The atheist Chris Arnade wrote The Guardian article The people who challenged my atheism most were drug addicts and prostitutes
“Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: an intellectual belief most accessible to those who have done well.
I look back at my 16-year-old self and see Preacher Man and his listeners differently. I look at the fragile women praying and see a mother working a minimum wage custodial job, trying to raise three children alone. Her children's father off drunk somewhere. I look at the teenager fingering a small cross and see a young woman, abused by a father addicted to whatever, trying to find some moments of peace. I see Preacher Man himself, living in a beat up shack without electricity, desperate to stay clean, desperate to make sense of a world that has given him little.
They found hope where they could...
I also see Richard Dawkins differently. I see him as a grown up version of that 16-year-old kid, proud of being smart, unable to understand why anyone would believe or think differently from himself. I see a person so removed from humanity and so removed from the ambiguity of life that he finds himself judging those who think differently.”
I see someone doing what he claims to hate in others. Preaching from a selfish vantage point.”
The atheist Jerry Coyne said about atheist meetings:
“But to me the speakers and talks have often seemed repetitive: the same crew of jet-set skeptics giving the same talks.
...a few things bothered me, most notably the air of self-congratulation (which I excused on the grounds of enthusiastic people finding like-minded folks for the first time), the “fanboyness” directed at some of the famous atheists (they hardly let poor Richard alone, and I’m not sure he liked that!), and the lameness of quite a few of the talks. Again, how much new can you say about atheism?”
Posted by: un-special | February 05, 2019 at 01:22 PM
un-special, even granting that all of this true as well as justified, I'd say that this is still something of a non sequitur.
If you're criticizing some atheist's arrogance and/or insensitivity, then what you're criticizing is the arrogance and the insensitivity, not the atheism per se. If you went looking, I'm sure you'll find plenty of Christians (as well as Muslims, as well as Buddhists, as well as Hindus, et cetera) who are arrogant and/or insensitive and/or self-centered and/or ridiculously puffed up and/or whatever other negative trait you choose to explore.
I hope that if you realize that this isn't a criticism of atheism per se, not unless you can show that whatever criticisms you are levelling apply to a greater degree to atheists than they do to theists, right?
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | February 06, 2019 at 06:10 AM
From that link you've posted : "Atheists lack proof and evidence that God does not exist and ignore the clear and abundant proof and evidence that He does exist."
That's beyond ridiculous. How can you take seriously a piece that says things like this?
You don't prove a negative. You make the claim God exists, you are the one called on to furnish evidence of the existence of this God.
As for proving that God does not exist, while that is not called for, like I've just said, nevertheless many Gods have indeed been disproved. The Christian God, for instance, has been clearly disproved by showing up as spurious so many of the revelations within the Bible. Christians stick on to their faith in the face of such disproof only by keeping on shifting goalposts and blindly scrabbling either for a God of the gaps or by falling back on fideist anti-intellectualism. The same can be said for many other specific Gods, starting with Old Man Zeus.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | February 06, 2019 at 06:16 AM