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Charlotte Allen vs. Atheists: An Extraordinarily Boring Conflict

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There aren’t 1,200+ words to describe anything I find so boring I’d rather take a nap than find a way to make it exciting. Charlotte Allen feels no such reserve about atheists, even as she describes them as "crashing bores" and "excruciating snoozes" in her 1,200+ word article, "Why I Can’t Stand Atheists." Whether you agree with her or not, her article makes an excellent "do not do this" example for any forensic, debate, and speech class.

The generalizations are so glaring they’re worth mentioning only for the worth they’d have in “Lesson One: Just because all fire trucks are red trucks doesn’t mean all red trucks are fire trucks.” Extremists populate every opinion that can and could be had. Using the fringe to define the whole — and treating the whole accordingly — is about as effective as throwing out all foodstuffs because one found a worm in an apple, and then outlawing food.

Equally pertinent for the advanced debate student would be Ms. Allen’s conjecture, myopic definition of terms, and woefully transparent attempt to write her own rules of engagement.

From "…few of them are interested in making serious metaphysical or epistemological arguments against God's existence, or in taking on the serious arguments that theologians have made attempting to reconcile, say, God's omniscience with free will or God's goodness with human suffering" to "What primarily seems to motivate atheists isn't rationalism but anger…", this diatribe is, at its worst, self-serving; at best it is elementary (although I am loath to compare Ms. Allen’s self-suffocation to a small child who, rightly so, still believes s/he can sing, draw, and dance).

Unfortunately, vocal atheists offer up as much conjecture and make as many attempts to lure the other side into their own playing field. Both are surprised when the other insists, "No, you come over here."

The vocal atheist who would assert other atheists are in fear of expressing their beliefs (that this is it and there ain’t no more) speak on behalf of a population smaller than their own. This is, awkwardly enough, where the vocal atheist errs — and where religionists pounce. Both end up falling all over each other because there is nothing of substance between them.

The quiet atheist has nothing to say, not a fear of saying it. Both vocal atheists and those in agreement with Ms. Allen waste their time speculating about the quiet atheist because no one can rally apathetic troops, nor can anyone exploit sympathy where there is only indifference.

Ms. Allen’s thoughts can be summed up with the last line "So, atheists, how about losing the tired sarcasm and boring self-pity and engaging believers seriously?" To be accurate, however, the word "some" would have to follow the word "So," since most atheists give a rat’s ass about either side of this argument. Too, her parting shot can be applied to any sarcastic, self-pitying opponent — to include religionists. In this, both Ms. Allen and the vocal atheist lack the one thing they need to be taken seriously: a point.

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.
  • Diana,
    I believe in God, yet my belief is personal and I don’t believe that we are separating church and state any longer. This is the fundamental difference between us in the world today and we need to get back to what Christ taught whether, we believe or not, tolerate one another. One of my favorite atheists is Bill Maher, I love Bill Maher! 🙂

  • Irene Wagner

    (Soon to be deleted Heads up) — this is a powerful disinsentive – your link to Charolotte’s article caused my network to time out.

  • Ruvy


    I’m glad your article was as short as it was. Really – who cares about this tripe? People who have serious religious beliefs (whatever they are) are not swayed at all by articles on the internet.

  • LL

    Granted the term should have been “some atheists”. But it’s oh so true of the specific people Ms Allen mentioned – Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris et al. It also describes far too many of the bloggers I’ve seen. SO many of them come across as either self-infatuated undergrads, or bad-tempered and woefully unoriginal teenagers (how many more times must the “I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy either” line be trotted out?). Yes, there’s good reason to be angry with what organised religion has done and still does. Yes, if you read the Bible literally you’d be looking at a God who’s more demon than deity. But this is NOT the only alternative to atheism and it does NOT mean people who believe in more than the physical universe are less intelligent than those who don’t. Saying, in effect, “We’re smarter than you,” over and over again is where Dawkins et al fall down – and so do their fanboys on the net. Do they represent all, or even a majority, of atheists? I’ll bet they don’t. But they’re the ones making all the fuss.

  • DD

    Charlotte attacks the whole philosophy of atheism, not just atheists. There are very few claims in atheism that is worth anybody’s time. Most atheists who are quite vocal make mockeries more than logical arguments, and that is a fact.
    Now, Diana wrote “The quiet atheist has nothing to say, not a fear of saying it,” and “since most atheists give a rat’s ass about either side of this argument.”

    Is she not making general assumptions, violating the same high school debate rules that she tried to uphold in the first place?

  • DD, there is only one claim in atheism: There is no such thing as a god.

  • It isn’t really even a claim; it’s a default position.

    In the same way, the default position of the theist is that God(s) exist. All theological claims build on one or other of these positions.

  • How is “there is no god” a default position? That’s like calling it a default position when someone says “there are no unicorns.”

    Atheism existed before any proclamation of there being a god. It wasn’t called atheism. It was called, “What a nice day. Let’s go kill something for dinner.”

  • Well, it is a default position. There’s no physical evidence that unicorns exist. No-one’s ever captured one or seen one. Therefore, one starts from the assumption that there are no unicorns. That’s as far as most people’s thinking proceeds on the matter.

    Conversely, you have no real evidence that I exist. You assume that I do, because I am writing this. It makes sense that there’s a thinking person at the other end of this cable.

    To the atheist, it makes sense that there is no God. To the theist, it makes sense that there is. Nobody has claimed anything yet.

    Now, “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son…”; or “Joseph Smith was given golden plates by the angel Moroni…”: those are claims.

  • BTW, for clarification, I’m not the ‘DD’ of comment #6.