Addendum to the Ishtar = Easter meme: The Zealotry of Anti-Theism

Trigger warning: description of a rape analogy; discussion of mental illness stigmatization

Yesterday I talked about the anti-Semitism in erasing the Jewish history of Christian holidays. (It is anti-Semitism; I know some folks think that I’m being hyperbolic here, but I’m not. When you erase an entire people’s culture, history, and religion from the equation, you are being anti-them, whether you mean to be or not. Racism doesn’t require intent to exist.)

Today I want to talk a bit more about that meme, and another subset of folks I’ve seen sharing it online (who, indeed, may have started the sharing of it online, but I cannot actually confirm that — however, it would not surprise me).

Anti-theists.

All anti-theists are atheists, but not all atheists are anti-theists, so it should be obvious at this point that I’m not talking about all atheists. Just the ones who are anti-theism.

What’s the difference between an atheist and an anti-theist? Atheist just means “away from theism”. That’s all. It doesn’t even signify any strong belief or disbelief; it just means that you’re not a theist. You don’t have gods.

My mom is an atheist Buddhist. Ogre is an atheist who is very strong in his critiques of religion. A lot of my close friends are atheists. I would be an atheist too, most likely, if I hadn’t had personal experiences that led me to know of the existence of gods. (I don’t say believe, because it’s not a belief for me. I interact with the postie, so I know they exist; I interact with the Morrigan, so I know Zie exists.)

An anti-theist is someone who is vehemently against the very existence of theism. It’s not unusual for these folks to have come from a bad experience with religious upbringing. I’ve seen and heard anti-theists call me delusional, stupid, idiotic, and a host of other things simply for saying “I’m religious.” They don’t even need to know what religion I follow, or whether it involves gods. To the anti-theist, all religions are theistic, because they refuse to do their research.

Perhaps there are anti-theists out there who do their research, who aren’t arrogant assholes to religious folks, who don’t go around calling people delusional or stupid for having faith. I haven’t yet met one.

I once saw an anti-theist compare all religious people to rapists. Yes. He posted an image that said “Saying that religion sometimes does good in the world is like a rapist saying that he sometimes uses a condom.” Because that’s a totally okay analogy to make and a totally okay thing to say, right? (Wrong. If you think it’s okay, check yourself before your wreck yourself.)

Anti-theists aren’t people who are all about rational critiques of Christianity or other religions. I’m all for critiquing religion, especially the dominant ones in our society. Critique is a good thing. But if anti-theists were just folks who critique religion, they’d research the facts. They’d inform themselves. And as I’ve already demonstrated, that meme they’ve been sharing is full of misinformation, revisionist history, and basically zero facts.

The anti-theist’s goal is not to debate or critique respectfully. It’s to shut down religious people from speaking; to silence us; to end religion, because they think the world would be better off without it. (Because I’m sure a non-religious person has never ever done anything bad ever, right?)

The Ishtar = Easter meme was shared by a noted anti-theist, Richard Dawkins — or at least his Facebook page for his Foundation for Reason and Science (HAH). I obviously can’t tell if he did it personally or not, but judging by some of the stuff I’ve seen come from him it would not surprise me in the least. Anti-theists who’ve liked his page then crowded around to laugh and jeer at how foolish religious people are, thinking their traditions were their own!

“Christians are so stupid they ignore the pagan roots of their religion!”

LOL, hilarious. I mean, nothing is funnier than someone not knowing history, right?

So I guess that means I get to laugh hardcore at a bunch of anti-theists, doesn’t it?

For a group that holds themselves to be “smart” and “sane” and continually puts down religious people of any stripe as “stupid” or “insane” (thanks for continuing to stigmatize mental illness, guys! Not), they have an awful fucking habit of conflating Christianity with all religions, and assuming that all religions are exactly the same.

Seriously, have you ever tried to talk to an anti-theist? If you’re theist of any stripe I suggest not bothering. Hell, if you’re religious or spiritual without being a theist, don’t bother. They won’t bother to learn the difference. They will tell you you’re stupid for believing in a host of Christian-specific things, even after you make it clear that you’re not Christian and your faith has nothing to do with that religion. “Well it’s all the same, so my point stands.”

No, it doesn’t, Anti-theist Joe. (Apologies to anyone named Joe who isn’t an anti-theist.)

If you’re going to hold yourself up as a crusader against delusion and the darkness of religion, maybe you should, I don’t know, actually learn something about what you’re crusading against. If you can’t see the anti-Semitism in that meme, or if you can’t figure out THROUGH FIVE SECONDS ON THE GOOGLE MACHINE that it’s incorrect in so many ways, you have no right to that pedestal you’re crouching on, because you have just proven you are no less ignorant than the people you claim to be better than.

Education isn’t a privilege reserved for people who have renounced religion or religious belief. It’s available to anyone with a computer and internet access* — which, if you’ve shared this meme and jeered at religious people for being sooooo stupid, you fucking have.

But maybe I shouldn’t be at all surprised at the lack of self-education going on with anti-theists. They’ve found a belief system to cling to in blind faith: the belief that religious people are all stupid and insane, and thus they don’t need to know anything else — especially not the history of religions! Who needs facts, when you have belief?

The zealotry of anti-theists has long made me think they’ve abandoned a religion with deity for a religion without: the religion of “We’re better than you because we have ~!~SCIENCE~!~ which is infallible and always right, so we don’t need to study your history or even listen to your point of view.”

And one of the tenets of this religion, obviously, is share and re-share any meme that makes fun of religious people, however indirectly, no matter how badly researched and full of misinformation it is.

Anti-theists don’t like religious people. No matter what religion you follow, no matter they don’t know the first damn thing about it — if you admit to being religious to an anti-theist, you are scratched of the list of “reasonable people” to them. (Because that’s reasonable.) They claim to be skeptics, but what they’ve done is adopt disbelief as a default mode of awareness — which isn’t skepticism. A skeptic neither believes nor disbelieves — they are neutral.

I am a skeptic. When encountering something new, I neither believe nor disbelieve. I research.

Anti-theists, like fundamentalists of any stripe, adopt an extreme point of view. Religion is evil, gods don’t exist, and whatever Dawkins says must be true, even if it is misogynistic or encouraging of eugenics or racist as all hell. (No, I don’t like Dawkins; no, you won’t convince me otherwise.)

So, no, it is no surprise that such folks would share this meme without thinking twice about it. It makes fun of religion, which is all that matters to them. In the face of their goal — discrediting religion and religious people by any means necessary — they won’t let facts get in their way.

Zealotry at its finest.

-Morag

*Which, yes, makes it a privilege — a fact of which I am not unaware. However, I’m talking in this article specifically about the Ishtar = Easter meme and its widespread sharing by anti-theists — so addressing the lack of computer and net access of some anti-theists is a derail, because this article has nothing to do with them. Without a computer or internet they can’t share the meme.

PS: I feel I should probably mention this again, seeing as there will likely be kneejerk reactions to this post: I am not talking about all atheists. I am only talking about anti-theists. If you are an atheist, but not an anti-theist, you don’t need to get offended — this post isn’t about you. If you are an anti-theist, it is about you, and I don’t care about your feelings.

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