This morning I wrote a post about the atheist tribe. In it I discussed the fact that atheists are not immune to tribal bigotry – a disposition to filter facts to support the idea that atheists can do no wrong, and theists can do no right.
One of the most annoying and pervasive examples of atheist bigotry can be found in the fact that each time a theist commits a crime, that crime gets reported and repeated across the whole spectrum of atheist blogs.
Ultimately, these reports demonstrate the very type of hate-mongering bigotry that I have spent recent posts writing against when committed by theists. I can see only one reason why atheists drool over these types of reports. They represent an opportunity on the part of the atheist to use the fallacy of overgeneralization – to apply the crimes of one theist to all theists – in order to promote hatred and fear of all theists.
To see the error in this line of reasoning, one simply has to imagine a case in which an atheist commits some crime and having a group of theists report and repeat how this demonstrates that atheists lack morality. It would be a clear case of bigotry for theists to brand all of us with the crimes of some demented atheist.
I know that I will be displeased, and I will almost certainly write about how this represents fear-mongering and anti-atheist bigotry on the part of the theists.
Here is where tribalism takes place – the idea that atheists can do no wrong and theists can do no right. The moral crimes that one would jump on in a flash when committed by a theist are ignored when they are committed by an atheist. It is a classic double standard.
Even if the world was made up entirely of atheists, some of those atheists would have mental problems that would likely cause them to commit terrible crimes. Mental illness is not limited to the religious (and only a true bigot would think otherwise). People suffering from those illnesses are going to attempt to understand them in the concepts that pervade their community at the time. If that is a religious community they are going to understand what is happening to them in religious terms. In an atheist society, they would understand them in atheistic terms.
There is only one legitimate conclusion to be drawn from the fact that a theist somewhere has committed a crime. It demonstrates that the proposition that no theists commit crimes is false. However, since nobody has ever tried to defend the proposition that no theist commits crimes, this legitimate conclusion does not contradict anything that any person has ever tried to defend. Everybody agrees that some theists commit crimes, so evidence that a particular theist has committed a crime is not particularly enlightening.
Such news might be pleasing to somebody who likes the idea of hating theists – in the same way that an atheist committing a crime might be pleasing news to the theist who wants to hate all atheists.
Seriously, this practice should stop. The fact that a theist has committed a crime is no more relevant to the merits of atheism than the fact that an atheist commits a crime would be relevant to the merits of theism. It is demagoguery at its worse.