No True Scotsman


I’m an atheist.  

No … no no, please come back.  Stay with me to the end.  I have a point here, I promise.

Being an atheist wasn’t exactly a choice I made; it was more like a realization I came to, eventually.  I realized I didn’t believe, and despite exploration and thought on the matter, couldn’t believe.  So I accepted it as part of who I am.  I understood it wasn’t a majority view, and while it could make me sad and angry (and sometimes still does), I accept I live in a world with creeds other than my own.  I try to find my place in all that.

Unfortunately, there are so very, very, very, VERY many asshole atheist online.  So many.  Turtles all the way down, you might say.  They engage in bad behavior.  They pick fights.  They’ve contributed to the death of the trilby and the vilification of the fedora.  They insult people of faith, women, other ethnicities, you name it.  They’re about a goosestep away from proclaiming themselves the master race, and it drives me nuts.

They don’t represent me or my beliefs, but they claim membership in my “tribe,” as it were.  They make me look bad.  I have to apologize a lot.  Any step toward acceptance atheists have in society gets pushed backward every time they open their mouths.  And there’s not a damned thing I can do about it, except own up to it, be embarrassed, and try to be a better example.

I don’t deny that they’re atheists.  I don’t tell people that’s not how “real” atheists would behave, because every group has huge chunks that make them all look like mouth-breathing savages.  I don’t try to disassociate myself to make myself feel better, because that would be denying that yes … this is a problem in my sub-sect of humanity.  This is my house, and like it or not, the kids have covered the walls with poop.  Calling it “wallpaper” doesn’t make it stink any less.

So … I have to own it.  I’m very, truly sorry for the bad behavior.  I would like to express there’s more to atheists than what you’ve been lead to believe, but I truly understand if your experiences with us have left you with a bad opinion that you can’t shake.  All I can do is be responsible for myself, and try to be better.  I’m sorry that’s the limit of my ability, and I sincerely hope it helps.

Now, here’s my point: when your group has bad actors, own it.  Don’t deny it, don’t try to sub-group the sub-group.  The People’s Judean Front is still the People’s Front of Judea, kids.  Don’t defend them.  Don’t ignore them.  Don’t pretend like they don’t exist, or deflect the criticism, because I’ll tell you: no matter how righteous the cause or truly wronged the party, you have assholes.  Worse, you have assholes that have every right to your label, who speak from that label, and use that label to justify some horrific bullshit.

This is not pointed at one of you.  This is pointed at aaaaallll of you.  If you keep pretending that asshole in your clan isn’t REALLY in your clan, not only are you excusing their actions but you’re hurting your cause just as much.  You’re permitting it, because at the end of the day it’s embarrassing, and frustrating, and the best solution to make yourself feel better is to create a new category that is perfect, pure, and asshole-free.

My friend, there ain’t no such thing.

Step up.  Beyond acknowledging the bad behavior, acknowledge it’s happening in your house.  When someone shits on your rug, you don’t pretend like it never happened.  You clean it up.

We each, ALL OF US, have housecleaning to do.  The next time you see someone in your group being an asshole, speak up.  You might get called a traitor in so many words.  I have.  But I’d rather speak and make clear what I’m about than pretend like it’s okay.

It ain’t okay.