I noticed over the last week that several Facebook friends had shared a particular video clip of Christian comedian, Brad Stine. I then saw it popping up on other social media sites as well. So, as a lover of stand-up comedy, I decided to check the video out. Stine, who calls himself, “God’s Comic,” is a proud, Conservative Christian. I was not put off by the title, “Atheists are Irrational,” even though I am an atheist. I was interested to hear what all the hoopla was about and I clicked the link to the clip. Please watch the video yourself prior to reading the rest of my blog for proper context:
It was interesting that a video which is nearly five years old is just now “blowing up.” I presume it must have been recently shared on some key social media sites and Interweb momentum just took over from there.
Let me first say that I 100% support the 1st Amendment rights of all Americans for freedom of speech and religion, even when I disagree with them. I also value spirited discourse and debate on issues of religious ideology. I was a Christian minister for over fifteen years and I also very much “get” American Christianity. Now, as an atheist, that personal experience helps me to understand where believers are coming from.
So, as I listened to Brad Stine’s amusing (to his audience) comedic rant, I was not surprised at all with his assertions, though I was underwhelmed by his arguments. I think if his arguments would have been stronger and more concise, I could have enjoyed the comedy more. But, as it was, his weak arguments were too distracting for me to embrace the comedic elements of his performance.
I would like to frame up his primary arguments and provide some non-theistic answers to them. Being that his arguments were a bit “loose around the edges,” I have shaped them up a bit for the sake of deconstruction. That was a slight task as the arguments being made were poorly constructed, comedic elements aside.
-Argument #1: Premises- A. Atheists are upset/offended that their “little stinking ‘niche market’ isn’t being stinking represented.” (I guess he means in America in general or maybe in the Pledge of Allegiance specifically). B. Atheists want, “Under God,” taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance because God offends them. C. Atheists do not even believe God is real. Conclusion: Since Atheists don’t believe god is real, it is irrational that they should be offended by said God and His name being in the Pledge. He actually frames his conclusion in the form of a question: “DUDE! You’re an atheist! You don’t even believe God is real! How can He offend you?!”
So far at premise A. goes, that is just a subjective and anecdotal assertion that Stine is making with no evidence presented. I would not, of course, expect him to present statistical evidence for his assertion during a stand-up comedy routine. But I will say, I don’t know many atheists (actually none personally) that want the government blowing a trumpet for atheism like many believers do for Theism. If the federal government put forth a vote to see if people wanted, “There is no god,” on our legal tender, I would vote against it. It is the government’s job to guarantee freedom of, and freedom from religion, not to push a particular religious ideology. Individuals should be able to share their beliefs publicly all they want, unless dangerously disturbing the peace or maliciously infringing on the rights of another. That is not the job of government though.
Onto premise B… As an atheist, it is not the phrase, “Under God,” that offends me; it is that the government compels it to be said in the official Pledge of Allegiance. I would be very surprised if Mr. Stine actually knew at the time he wrote that “bit” that the phrase, “Under God,” was not even in the Pledge until the 1950s when American politicians felt the need to batten the hatches of our ideology against the Red Scare of Communism at that time. From 1892 to 1954, the Pledge was fine without, “Under God,” in it. Now many believers think if the phrase was removed, the Nation would fall apart. This is nonsense.
Also, for a Christian, the “God” being spoken of in that phrase always has an equal sign to Jesus, Yahweh, or the Triune Godhead depending on the denominational doctrines the individual holds to be true. They know “God” isn’t talking about Allah, Zeus, Vishnu, etc. in the Pledge. We all comprehend that because Christians are the mark majority of Americans, the “God” in the Pledge implicitly means the Christian God. I not only see that as an infringement upon my religious rights, it is also an infringement on the rights of Americans who believe in “another” god. I assert that the Pledge is perfectly complete without any proclamations about invisible, supernatural beings that may or may not exist. It isn’t a matter of needing my “niche” market asserted. It is a matter of religious liberties being protected for ALL of us.
Premise C spills directly into the concluding question; “How can He offend you?” Well, “He” doesn’t offend me. I do not make a knowledge claim that there is no god hiding somewhere in the universe. I assert that there is not currently enough evidence to persuade me that any god exists. That said, there are many things about the portrayal of the Judeo/Christian Deity that can be offensive. Still, that is not the issue at hand. The issue is the fact that the government pushes a particular ideology that supports theism specifically in the Pledge, on our currency, and in a multiplicity of other ways.
I find it ironic that Stine uses another mythological creature, the unicorn (which is mentioned in the Bible in multiple passages), to compare his god to for the sake of mocking atheists. But, Stine is missing the point by a mile. As he smirks with self-satisfaction in the video, he does not realize that the average American atheist has heard similar arguments ad nauseam. My favorite is, “Hey! You don’t believe in Santa, but I don’t see you running around talking against him!” (sigh) The thing is, atheists don’t have the majority of Americans trying to use the government’s authority to push a belief in Santa, tell us we’ll be tortured forever in an imaginary place for not believing in Santa, and try to force legislation that pushes doctrines that Santa taught. No one prevents two loving adults from marrying based on what Santa said. I also know that though Stine is mocking atheists for being “freaked out” by “God” being in the Pledge, if “Allah” was in the Pledge, he would see the situation much differently.
It isn’t a matter of whether we believe in your (or Stine’s) particular god or not. The issue is that many Christians in America expect the government, State and Federal, to trumpet their particular beliefs to the rest of us. That is unconstitutional.
To sum up that whole segment of the routine, Stine asks, “Who is more irrational… the guy that believes in a God he doesn’t see or a guy who is offended by a god he doesn’t believe in?!” Well Mr. Stine, you must not recognize that part two of that question is based on a straw man assertion. We are offended by the people ASSERTING the god we don’t believe in who have an expectation that we should shut up while they attempt to manipulate the religious dialogue in our Nation by using the government as a missionary organization. We aren’t offended in some direct way by a being that we reckon to be imaginary.
The definition of “irrational” is: “not logical or reasonable.” So, it would be irrational in my thinking to assert a definitive belief in a specific being that is invisible and for which there is not sound evidence for. It IS rational to be put off by said person’s attempts to trample my religious freedom via the government.
Argument #2: Premises- A. Christians believe life has meaning and purpose, as well as believe in the ideas of love, honor, nobility, and courage. B. None of those ideas are “in matter and molecules.” (Whatever that means… He must not realize that his body and brain are made up of matter and molecules) C. These ideas could not come from humans or have evolved since evolution “says” that “whatever happens to survive is all that matters… Right and wrong doesn’t exist. Culture just creates it as it goes.” Conclusion: “You’ve got to be kidding me. You see God in his handy work. How can you not see that?” Also, there is the implicit conclusion that the evolutionary process is not sufficient to allow the development of the aforementioned social virtues.
Well Mr. Stine, if you assume that atheists find no meaning or purpose in life, you must have never had an honest and open conversation with an atheist. I can honestly say that I find more purpose in this terrestrial life now than I did as a believer. This world actually IS my “home.” I’m not just “passing through.” Though I will surely die, it is the only home I’ll ever have. Not only that, it is the only home my progeny will have. So, I want to leave it better than I found it. Trying to make the world a better place is not just, “Polishing the brass on the Titanic,” like I have heard many preachers say. I am not looking for Jesus to come bail us out with the rapture. I don’t believe that I’m seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. I am right here. My family, my friends, and even strangers give my life immense purpose. Nature is beautiful, music is numinous, poetry is moving, philosophy is challenging, science is encouraging, and the universe is awe inspiring. Love is a mystery, joy is a cherished commodity, and a feeling kinship with, and duty to my fellow humans is tacit… no god required.
Evolution via natural selection is an established, scientific fact. If after reading that you immediately reply, “NO! Evolution is just a ‘THEORY!’ Duh!” then I suggest you study what a “theory” is in science because you don’t know what you are talking about.
Evolution DEMANDS cooperative populations. We would not even exist currently as a human species had we not developed and possessed inherent values such as fairness, altruism, compassion, etc. Even our near-kinsmen in the animal kingdom possess such qualities. If that assertion is offensive to you, I suggest that you read up on relevant studies and data.
The fact that Brad Stine has an impoverished conception of evolution and humanity sans theism merely undermines the credibility of his poor arguments and weak assertions. Yet, I fully support his right to make them. He probably is a very funny comedian in general. I just do not support his “right” to have the government of the United States of America as part of Christendom.
Skipping ahead passed Stine’s appeal to authority via an Anthony Flew anecdote, Stine concludes by telling the audience:
“You’ve got to be prepared folks…Prepared to battle for our Country’s standards of morality… But I say that there’s a whole bunch of people like us…who aren’t going away… and want our Country back… and we’ll fight for it!”
When Stine says, “our Country’s standards of morality,” what he means is HIS standards of morality via his interpretations of the Bible. Sorry Brad, it is not the government’s job to hammer free citizens with your pet standards. But, you are right; there are a whole bunch of people like you, the majority of America in fact. Yet, the numbers of non-theists are rapidly increasing. Check the Pew and Barna research data if you doubt that. You should hope that if and when we are the majority, we do not use the government to bully you like you do us now. I have no desire to and do not personally know any non-theists that do. I support your rights and always will. I just will not stand silent or idle in the shadow of a pseudo-theocratic oligarchy that is our Nation’s current government.
So far as the cry that believers “want their country back,” I must call a persecution complex like I see it. Unless one is in the closet, there is not a single atheist in Congress. There are some states that will not even allow an atheist to run for an elected position. The majority of news journalists are theists of some persuasion. When I turn the TV on, approximately 1/3 of the stations are Christian stations. Not just “theistic,” but SPECIFICALLY Christian. In most towns and cities in America, a good pitcher could stand next to any church and hit the next one with a baseball. In my own small town, Google shows about twenty-five churches within a two mile radius from my house. There is not a single free-thinker’s meet-up in the same town. Christians own it. Yet, many preachers here proclaim Christians are being persecuted in America from their pulpits, whipping their congregants into a worried frenzy. Our weekly town meetings are opened with prayers by Christian ministers. That is the case for most towns in the United States.
Christians, (I speak only to believers to which the following applies) you have had the “microphone” in our culture so long that many of you think being disagreed with is “persecution.” There is so much confirmation bias supporting your beliefs in this Nation that you feel beat up when a person tells you that they think you are wrong. When you do not always get your way, you assert that you are being bullied or persecuted. If your child always expected to get his or her way, you would rebuke them. Yet, as a Christian in America, you whine when you don’t always get yours and have to share this great Nation with all the other “kids on the playground.” Well, that is just life my friend. Most Atheists in America get more push-back than you can ever imagine in daily life, peer groups, at work, and in their families. This being the Easter season, we are inundated on social media with admonitions about Jesus, sin, repentance, and that we are going to go to hell if we reject said doctrines. We do not consider this persecution, rather just normal life and rarely even refute the assertions directly.
We develop a thick skin and know most of your arguments better than you do due to being hit with them so often. Yet, we do not want our “niche” ideology forced on you via the government. We just want equal representation along with every other American and we won’t shut up just because you want us to or threaten us. They call us “New Atheists” because of that. The only difference between the “Old Atheists” you didn’t have a problem with and us is that we will not be pushed around or silenced. You are just going to have to get used to the idea that the Christian dictatorship in America will soon be over. But, do not to worry my fellow Americans. For the most part, we non-theists are also humanists who will treat you as we would like to be treated. See, we don’t disagree with everything Jesus said…
For some related atheist humor, I suggest the video below by DarkMatter2525 on youtube: