The American Atheists Billboard: A Public Menace and a Failure to Understand Myth!
Here we have yet another uncouth atheist gesture, this one went down in Jersey. Surely you have heard about the American Atheists (AA) billboard placed on the NJ side of the Lincoln tunnel that read "You know it's a myth... this season celebrate reason".
The atheists will get no argument here about the mythology of the incarnation and birth of Christ story. I agree with AA until the point where they go over the top and become a social klutz. This billboard posting illustrates the difference between recognizing a myth and understanding what Joseph Campbell would describe as the power and function of myths and how they serve society! Skeptics that properly understand the function of myths wouldn't be posting billboards like this!
This subject may be too deep for shallow minded skeptics, but I want to implore freethinkers to dig deeper by analyzing this billboard and consider the function and desirability of myth! In my opinion, a healthy, balanced skepticism allows for the free flowing perpetuity of myth with a watchful eye. Myth that turns into fundamentalism should be our focus!
Analyzing the situation
This is how I see the path that the American Atheists have taken.
Problem = Christians enjoying/celebrating what to them is significant
Reaction = Belligerently crashing a traditional Christian celebration
Solution = I'll call it "atheist transubstantiation" belligerence magically transforming itself into Christian appeal for atheism. It's like the jerk walking away with the pretty girl... i.e. a ghetto fantasy.
What AA stated as the threefold purpose of the billboard:
1) To address those atheists who "go along to get along", and to encourage them to come out of their closets
2) To attack the myth that Christianity owns the solstice season
3) To raise awareness of the organization and the movement.
Ex-Minister's Translation of AA's Point #1: "To address those atheists who "go along to get along", and to encourage them to come out of their closets"
It appears to me that AA President, David Silverman isn't satisfied with well-adjusted atheists getting along with the rest of society. So lets incite (Silverman uses the word encourage) the troops towards Christmas crashing and peer pressure those not yet angry into an endorsement of AA psychosis. Isn't this crowd psychology tactic provocation towards which is commonly understood as the madness of crowds?
Is getting along such an undesirable atheist trait? Should one be required to be socially toxic to prove courage?
There is a thick headedness amongst some skeptics that equates a relationship to be ideological compromise. This is a fundamentalist trait.
Ex-Minister gets along with Christianity without going along. This site is tough on the Bible and treats the Christian's revelation as a literature book. I challenge you to prove otherwise!
Skeptics need to abandon perpetual warfare and stop sabotaging our opportunities to communicate with knuckle headed items such as this billboard. Saints are people that often evaluate emotionally before permission is granted to allow an outsider to get rational with them. We can't dance when we are so far apart!
You know, I can usually talk about most anything with my wife because she knows that I love her. If one of us happens to be angry with the other, the willingness to listen seems to get impaired. Emotional evaluations usually take precedence and need a passing grade before we get the ear of others.
Ex-Minister's Translation of AA's Point #2: "To attack the myth that Christianity owns the solstice season"
This point is hilariously funny! Show those Christians your fundamentalist vigor by wresting away a pagan association... AA is showing it's alpha male logic on the battlefield. Surely this display of atheistic reasoning will persuade and win over the Christians to atheist supremacy (sarcasm). I suppose the AA scored some worthless solstice credit in point #2... woo hoo!
Ex-Minister's Translation of AA's Point #3: "To raise the awareness of the organization and the movement "
Raise awareness of the organization and movement? Beware is more like it! The billboard addresses Christians... AA states in point #1 that they are addressing atheists. AA missed its target here! Atheists already know it is a myth, many Christians don't. Question, is the AA lying, stupid or just being a menace? Once again we have another case of atheists provoking because it is evident that they cannot talk with Christians.
THE FUNCTION OF MYTH
I challenge skeptics to get deeper than mere debunking activities. People of faith are all around us and we should adapt to our environment and embrace humanity for what it is. Many folk turn to irrational belief to derive a benefit to fill an unmet need. We should love, understand and try to help them if we feel nurturing tendencies.
I wished that we could conceivably get all parties involved to sit down together in a roundtable discussion about the functions of myth, literature and religion. Especially skeptics! Why? Because skeptical society doesn't really understand or esteem non-evidential capital the way it should.
As a student at Tennessee Temple University, I had an aversion to literature and mythology while preparing for the ministry. My thinking back then was, "Why should a minister of the life changing gospel of Christ be bothered with myth, fiction and other worldly entertainment? I thought two semesters of literature classes were irrelevant to a minister. Jane Austen and mythology never saved anyone... but Jesus could! I was so wrong and yes... ignorant about the matter.
Turns out that those classes eventually expanded my thinking. But it took a departure from faith and my being immersed into a post-communist and largely non-religious society to recognize the importance of the lesson that the religious myth provided.
Question, "Was Robin Hood was a good or bad guy?" Ask a poor Latvian kid with little religious exposure and they will usually respond with the evolutionary survival mindset that he was a hero. Who teaches the difference between right and wrong in an atheistic or non-religious society and how effective are their results? I clearly witnessed the absence of religion and associate it with a lesser desirable society that lacks moral organization.
Specifically in regards to myth, myths serve to help organize society. Mircea Eliade argued that one of the foremost functions of myth is to establish models for behavior.
Eleven years after leaving Christianity and the ministry, I still believe that mankind's greatest problems are of a spiritual nature. Deep within man are factors that influence a man towards actions that others can judge to be either good or bad. Don't get spooked by my usage of spiritual (the emotional state or mood in which the interpreter and manager of sensory information processes and acts upon the input in time)... I just can't find a better word to describe the direction of thoughts and perception that influence behavior.
Take the case of Tiger Woods. The man had most everything going for him: elite skills in a popular sport, a loving family, a beautiful wife, fame and influence with more than enough money for a lifetime. The common man has a hard time understanding why he couldn't keep it "between the lines" in what many would picture as a blessed life.
Evidentially Tiger lacked contentment and appreciation for what he had and got greedy wanting something more than the original agreement he had with his wife. The "other women" had spiritual problems as well. Tiger's problem wasn't religious but it was spiritual because he broke that agreement with his wife which in turn wrecked his family.
Religion employs mythological creations to teach values and encourage mankind to do what is right and proper. It teaches mythological lessons that should inspire us to avoid learning the lessons of life through experience and the school of hard knocks! We should understand the myth that religion employs and allow it to fulfill it's intended teaching and inspiring function that serves to better mankind. So what if many religious followers fail to comprehend the myth as long as they are influenced to do what is right and proper? Skeptics should wink and nod in approval while saving their wrath for fundamentalism.
The literalism of fundamentalism misses the point of the religious schoolmaster which is to nurture the decision making process in a positive non-punitive manner. The goal shouldn't be to avoid a mythological hell or get into a fictitious heaven. Religion and myth are tools that shape society in order to keep it from becoming too disorderly and to curb lawlessness. Fundamentalists (religious and atheist) don't understand the nuances of life!
Brian Worley Ex-Minister.org December 9, 2010 All rights reserved