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We all know of examples where a representative of a person or group embarrassed the very people they were trying to defend. Just in the past couple days, we’ve seen Congresswoman Michele Bachmann say she wanted newspapers to “find out if [certain members of Congress] are pro-America or anti-America.” John McCain’s campaign has had to play damage control ever since. And, of course, just about everything out of Sarah Palin‘s mouth shows her own ignorance and hurts McCain in the process.

I’m not putting atheists in the same league as those Republicans, but I’ve been in plenty of situations where I was ashamed of being around or associating with with certain atheists. I felt like I had to defend myself against their actions.

Why did this happen?

  • They were always mad about something.
  • They were constantly negative, always wanting to argue about religion instead of actually doing something about it. In fact, they hardly did anything but sit and argue. (Can’t we do anything else fun and interesting? When was the last time you played a pickup game of soccer with your atheist friends?)
  • They couldn’t say anything positive about religious people.
  • They were looking to pick (verbal) fights with anyone and everyone.
  • They mocked the religious person rather than the religious person’s beliefs.

For whatever reasons, it all made it hard for me to want to hang out with them.

I suspect there are atheists who don’t belong to secular organizations or local groups for these reasons or others. I think the behavior of a lot of non-religious men affects why many atheist women don’t participate in local get-togethers (though this could be said of many other, non-atheist groups as well).

Gavin Orland didn’t feel proud to be an atheist when he attended an event where a Young Earth Creationist was speaking. Yet, it wasn’t the YEC that got Gavin riled up. It was the other atheists who got his attention.

… What really concerned me (as has repeatedly been the case, sadly) was the conduct of my “fellow” atheists at this event.

I expected this to happen. Many who spoke at the event were rude, abrasive, jeering and unpleasant. It was possible to detect the likelihood of this from their countenances alone before they even spoke, but when they opened their mouths it was unfortunately confirmed. Even the crowd here felt that some individual members occasionally overstepped the mark, and they booed and hissed at their rudeness. But other times they laughed along and encouraged vulgarity.

It is possible to make points without being arrogant, conceited and rude, as many of the people were. All points should have been made politely, especially considering how easy the man was to refute, and how outnumbered he was. Some did make points respectably, but they were in a minority.

What also strikes me about these meetings is how many out-right weirdos they tend to attract. There are clearly some “regulars”: uncouth middle-aged men, devoid of any style or social finesse, and yet apparently with very high opinions of themselves. These are always the ones who want the mic, and who proceed to ask long meandering questions that are just plain weird — never succinct or well considered, and never courteously or humbly posed.

These are the types of supposed rationalist who gather at such meetings — not all are like this, but a worrying number are. (I use the term “rationalist” here not in its strict philosophical sense but informally as one who appreciates both reason and the use of empirical evidence.) They are the kind of atheist who must embarrass the likes of Pat Condell and Richard Dawkins too. Freaks, oddballs, social inadequates who flock to the meetings in just the same way as religious people club together, and who are in a sense just as bigoted and dismissive (one suspects some are more cynics than skeptics and would never believe in anything). Such people bring shame to the name of rationalism. One of them even said through the mic, and not ironically enough, that being an atheist he would teach any lie as if it were truth for financial reward. We don’t need these types.

I’m all for atheists going public with their non-belief, but when the more embarrassing among us get (unwanted) attention, it’s incredibly annoying.

What bothers you about atheist gatherings or the culture we’ve spawned?