I stumbled across the blog Debunking Atheists recently, and though I’ve just started to read it, I think it will be a faily interesting site to interact with. One of the first posts I came across was Atheists are Satanists!
One of the reasons Dan’s blog is fascinating is that he holds the same certainty about his faith that many skeptics and atheists hold of theirs. Though I’ve stated this before, a skeptic does not, ideally, dismiss any viewpoint a priori. Obviously, I have a conclusion of my own, but I would argue, or at least hope, that my conclusion stays the same — if indeed it does so — because logic and evidence continue to support it, not because I attempt to contort logic and evidence to fit my preconceived notions. I would hope that Dan believes in a similar methodology, except that his conclusion is opposite to mine.
Anyway, to this post specifically. Read it; it’s not long. In summary, Dan describes an interaction he had with a poster on a different blog in which the commenter suggested that a theist might compare an atheist to a satanist, and, as a response, Dan did exactly that. Here’s an excerpt from Dan’s end of the conversation.
Now, don’t get all mad at us because we point out the fact that both atheists and satanists (LaVeyan Satanism) worship the same god, “self”. LaVeyan Satanists consider themselves “their own god.” (They are atheistic.)
The essence of Satanism is more of living by your own standards. Satanism promotes indulgence, free thinking, and skepticism. It shuns stupidity and conformity. Sound familiar?
For the most part no one can tell the difference if you two are in a room describing your beliefs. Sad.”
Boy, it’s tough to even know where to begin with this. In the first paragraph, he directly contradicts himself by saying that someone can worship a god (even if that god is their own self) and be an atheist. Second, the suggestions that atheists worship themselves or consider themselves as “gods” if absurd on its face. I’m a secular humanist which means, among other things, that I hold hope in humanity’s ability to make itself better. I don’t think that we need a god to improve us — we only need to work harder and towards a more common goal. That is absolutely as close as I and, I think, moth atheists would come to “self-worship.” And it is hardly that.
The second paragraph implies that atheists are further like satanists because we support a list of similar qualities. I would argue that atheists don’t inherently promote indulgence — certainly, we would say that decisions like whether or not to masturbate or to have pre-marital sex or to use profanity are personal decisions based on your personal feelings on and the best evidence for the harmful or beneficial results of those actions. We do not reject them because a religious organization tells us we ought to, and will be condemned if we do not. But that is certainly not encouraging indulgence.
As to the rest of the ideas listed in paragraph two, they to relate, I think, to most atheists, at least not the violently a priori atheists. I don’t know much about satanism, but I would guess that most forms of it don’t promote skepticism — they have little scientific data to support their belief in Satan, and so it would seem that they are certainly not skeptical of their own beliefs. I would also note that I do not promote nonconformity for the sake of being nonconformist. I certainly recommend a healthy refusal to conform to crap beliefs. The word conform connotates with mindless acceptance, which I certainly reject, but I see no problem with “conforming” or accepting beliefs that are supported by logic and evidence and that you yourself have critically examined. As such, I wouldn’t recommend “disconforming” to the theory of gravity simply because most people accept it.
The final paragraph is so patently absurd that it hardly deserves comment. But, my comment, still, is this: really? No one could tell the difference between the beliefs of an atheist and a satanist if they were each describing their own beliefs? I have a few questions I might ask these two if I sat them down: Do you believe in Satan? Do you believe in supernatural occurrences based solely on personal and anecdotal evidence? Do you believe in an afterlife? Do you worship a non-physical being? And that’s just a start. A simple logical test completely destroys that assertion. I would say it’s almost silly, except that it is plainly silly.
To pull one more quote from Dan’s post.
So, if you think about it real hard, the first being to reject God, the first atheist, was Satan himself.
First, this statement is a historical claim based entirely on one ancient document and personal faith. Even assuming it’s accurate, Dan’s statement that Satan was an atheist is either a willful attempt to assert the logical fallacy of guilt by association, or an ignorant misunderstanding of what it means to be an atheist. To restate myself, generally, the position of an atheist is that no convincing argument of the existence of a god has ever been put forward. (Perhaps there are militant atheists who would reject a god in the face of overwhelming evidence, but for me, and I think most atheists, our conclusion that there is no god is a provisional one that persists in the absence of good evidence.) Satan may have been the first being to hate or reject God to his face, but I do neither of those things: I am not angry at God, and I do not reject him to his face because I have never been given a plausible image of it.
In summary, to equate the Christian idea of Satan to an average atheist is at best sadly ignorant and, at worst, deliberately deceptive with the intent of winning one’s own argument through blatant logical fallacy.