I’ve really become convinced that the “atheist community” is no better than the religious community. Let’s face it, with all the idiotic drama that we see, the “atheist bigwigs” are really no different than priests and ministers. They’re preaching to their individual choirs. They have their own individual agendas and their own individual playbooks and they expect their adherents to follow their teachings to the letter. If they don’t, they get excommunicated.
Now I’m not picking specifically on PZ, although I think he’s the worst of the bunch at the moment, nor am I saying that most of the high priesthood of atheism is using their positions and influence for ill. Certainly, most of the big names on the atheism circuit, from Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris to Matt Dillahunty and Michael Shermer, they all have their group of followers, who hang on their every word. Certainly, Christopher Hitchens had a massive following before his death. I’m not saying that it’s bad that these people are popular or that people shouldn’t find what they have to say interesting and valuable, but when it starts being about the people and not about the message, there’s a problem.
And there’s a problem.
No, the problem isn’t necessarily that people get popular, it’s that people start to believe their own press. They start basking in the glow of adulation and after a while, they crave the attention. Worse, they start thinking they can do no wrong because their mindless groupies are telling them exactly that. Every word that comes out of their mouths is gold. Every concept that crosses their keyboards is perfect. However, in reality, these people are the Ron Paul of the skeptical world. They have a very few highly fanatical followers who, in the scheme of things, really don’t mean anything. They stand up before, at best, a couple of thousand atheists at these conferences and deliver talks and get standing ovations and they think that makes them leaders.
In fact, isn’t that exactly what priests and ministers do every Sunday? Deliver their sermon before the flock? They stand in front of a group of people who believe what they’re saying because they’re seen as authority figures, then because people like and respect them, they think they’re qualified to make policy and tell people how to live their lives.
They’re wrong. A priest doesn’t necessarily know how to counsel someone on their finances or love life, any more than an atheist speaker necessarily knows how to lead people in political matters. But because, hey, they seem to know what they’re doing in one area, people follow them blindly in another. If you want my opinion, we ought to question everything that everyone says, no matter who says it. Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist. I’ll probably trust what he says with regards to his field of expertise, although, to be honest, I’d expect his peers to review his work and turn up anything that he says that is bogus. However, I wouldn’t turn to Richard Dawkins for advice on electronics or child rearing or anything else because I don’t think that he’s an expert in any of those fields. That doesn’t mean that I dislike Dawkins, I happen to greatly admire him, but I’m a skeptic, something every single one of us is supposed to be, and I treat anything he says, outside of his specialty, with a grain of salt. The same goes for Daniel Dennett and Vic Stenger and Eugenie Scott and everyone else.
Let’s stop blindly following people just because they put on a good show on stage, or just because they agree with your views on one particular position. Question everything and every one. Doubt all claims until sufficient evidence is provided. Stop being a groupie. Stop bowing before the altar. Be an actual skeptic!
Otherwise, you’re no better than the mindless drones that fill the pews on Sunday morning.