There has been a video floating around Facebook for a while now, popping up on my religious friends’ feeds, that has really been stuck in my craw, and I’d like to take a moment to address it right now. It’s usually posted with a sense of smug self-satisfaction, with little comments added, like, “I know, right!?” Christians seem unusually pleased with this video, completely missing the logical errors permeating it.
One popular theist tactic in the atheist/theist debate is to try to de-legitimize atheism. They use all manner of witty little tidbits of circular or fallacious logic to discredit a lack of belief in god, and infer an innate belief in the gods atheists disclaim. The most popular variation of this tactic goes something like this: “Why are you so concerned with saying there is no god? What does it matter? You are so concerned with this issue because you know he’s real. You can’t fight something that’s not real; therefore, you know, deep down, that god is real. Why don’t you stop fighting him, then?”
And then, over and over on Facebook, I’m seeing this video. Don’t worry, it’s only 40 seconds long, and it only takes Pastor Greg Locke 39 of those seconds to hit up this particular thread of “logic” and disprove atheism totally.
While I was a Christian (and if I weren’t thinking about it too hard), this video might make sense. Why, indeed? Why aren’t we taking to the streets to protest other fictitious characters, such as unicorns, trolls, and the like? Indeed, why fight something that doesn’t exist?
The interesting thing is that the people who post this video with all this “gotcha!” gusto will just as easily post a link to an article crying out against the anti-vaccine movement. If the so-called “science” behind the vaccine-autism link is bogus, why bother fighting it? Does the act of fighting against this misinformation somehow make it true… Or are you fighting a false system of beliefs that have managed to infect a respectable number of people?
Would you like to know why atheists don’t fight against a belief in unicorns? Would you like to know why atheists don’t fight against belief in leprechauns, or mermaids, or fairies, or any number of other fictitious characters?
Because there aren’t billions of people who believe in them.
I don’t fight the belief in unicorns because I don’t meet people who get mad at me for not believing in them. I don’t have people hand me books, tracts, and the like to attempt to prove their existence. I don’t hear them talked about in a factual manner on TV. No one prays to unicorns to bless their food. I have never been told that I’ll be tortured for all of eternity if I don’t believe in unicorns. No one has held Crusades or Inquisitions or flown planes into buildings or started wars in the name of a unicorn. Sure, there are a couple quacks out there who might believe in them, but this is not a widespread belief in misinformation, and it isn’t causing harm. My efforts are best focused elsewhere.
To assert that my outcry against a belief in a good is a proof-positive of that god is, logically, an assertion that your outcry against my belief that there is no god is an acknowledgment of the legitimacy of my position. In other words: If it is logical to assume that arguing against position A is an acknowledgment that position A is a valid (or even true) point of view, this point of logic must be applicable ubiquitously. If my argument for the nonexistence of god is proof positive of his existence, then your argument for the existence of god is proof positive of his nonexistence. Sorry, that’s the way logic works. It doesn’t care whose side it’s on.
You can rest assured, if there were a widespread (and potentially harmful) belief in unicorns, I would be fighting against that, as well, and that fight absolutely would not make unicorns any more or less real than they already were. I am not fighting against what a perceive as a real concept; I am fighting against misinformation, the same way most of us would fight the “anti-vaxx” movement.
Sorry, Pastor Locke… You haven’t disproven anything besides the validity of your own argument.