There is a new meme floating around the atheist blogsphere that has to do with listing one's 30 favorite atheist blogs.
I will admit that it pleases me when I see this blog on a person's list. And in the Friendly Atheist's tally of the 30 most popular atheist blogs mine shows up as number 20.
However, it was my intention when I created this blog not to make it an atheist blog. I resolved at the start that I would not use this blog to argue whether or not a god exists, or debate the age of the Earth and the mechanisms of evolution or the literal truth of scripture.
Bus signs that tell viewers to enjoy life since no God exists, and signs that tell people to imagine no religion, do not interest me.
Signs that promote virtue and counter bigotry concern me, as do signs that promote bigotry and counter virtue. I am interested in the sign, “Somebody who does not trust in God is not one of us” interests me not because of its religious content, but its bigotry content.
In other words, instead of creating an atheist blog, I wanted to create an ethics blog – though one that happens to be written by an atheist.
I attach as the same significance to being an atheist ethicist as I do to Barack Obama being a black president. That is to say, I attach no direct significance at all. The only interest in these types of relationships comes from the fact that there is or has been a widespread bigoted hostility against accepting such a combination..
I decided at the start to put the word “atheist” in the title of this blog and to present myself as unapologetically atheist simply to send a message to those who think that “atheist ethicist” is a contradiction in terms. If you believe that, come here and look at this.
I considered using a title that did not mention the word “atheist” at all, and simply ignoring any discussion of God. I believe that if I had done that my blog would be a lot more popular. Far more people avoid this blog because it has the word “atheist” in the title than are attracted to it for that reason.
However, my goal was not to be popular; and in particular not to be popular through the practice of deception. My goal was to argue for that which I believe to be true in matters of ethics, and that includes dealing directly with the truth of anti-atheist bigotry.
One of the ideas that I wanted to confront was the idea that piety is linked to virtue. It is a foolish idea that allowed a group of people who embraced torture, killed hundreds of thousands of people in a war of aggression, engaged in extraordinary rendition, and used lies, threats, and personal attacks against others as a way of obtaining personal and political benefits, and generally abuse their positions of authority, to get into positions of power that no atheist, no matter how virtuous, would be allowed to hold.
I made one significant miscalculation. I did not figure correctly the degree to which people can simply avoid that which they do not want to see or hear.
Unlike atheist sites that deal with existence of God and the truth of evolution, I get almost no feedback from people who consider themselves religious. I get no hate mail, or threats against myself or my family. When I do get comments from religious people, they are almost universally of the form, “I am a Christian, but I agree with what you wrote about X.”
I have had a few comments over the years from people who drew a direct relationship between the desire utilitarian slogan, “Do that act that a person with good desires would perform,” and the Christian slogan, “Do that which Jesus would do.”
This actually makes sense to me. After all, with the contradictions and outright errors in scripture that have to be glossed over, people can read into the Bible whatever they want to see. If a person is impressed with desire utilitarianism, then they can read that theory into the Bible just as they can read any other theory.
After all, they fit the Divine Right of Kings into scripture for over a thousand years, until monarchies lost their popularity, Now, that very same text that once supported the divine right of kings now allegedly supports the inalienable rights of individuals.
People, as I said, will read into scripture what they see, and the comments I get from religious people tend to be from those who have decided to see desire utilitarianism in religious text.
Ultimately, I strongly suspect that most of my readers are atheists, so I write under the assumption that my words will be read by an atheist reader. I guess that makes this an atheist blog in a sense.
Yet, I still hold that promoting virtue over vice is far more important than promoting atheism over theism.
And that is what this blog is actually about.