“Atheists are arrogant,” says half-bright comedian
Life in Buffalo is a relentless shit-show. Unless you’re excited by awful sports teams, there’s not a lot of quality entertainment around, so on the rare occasion a comedy genius rolls through town you go. You just go. And for two hours you get to forget you live in Buffalo. Sadly, not very long into his set, Louis C.K. did a bit that left me acutely aware of where I was, how much I overpaid for my ticket, and why our species is so utterly fucked.
Atheists are often accused of arrogance. We’re used to it. And, you know, some prominent atheists deserve the charge. Richard Dawkins, for instance:
@toddkincannon Haven’t read Koran so couldn’t quote chapter & verse like I can for Bible. But often say Islam greatest force for evil today
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) March 1, 2013
Sam Harris is equally awful in the way he dismisses most criticism as too unserious to address. It may be more of a defense mechanism with Harris, rather than pure ego, because any time he engages a critic with half a brain he gets totally creamed. And the late Christopher Hitchens was notoriously full of himself (and a great deal of scotch). Basically, Dan Dennett is the only humble “Horseman,” so the “arrogant atheist” isn’t a Big Foot. They exist.
But it wasn’t C.K.’s claim that some or even most atheists are arrogant. His profoundly disappointing take was that it’s inherently arrogant to not believe in God. “You can only see for two miles!” he shouted, hopefully a metaphor for the limits of human knowledge. Fair enough. On a philosophical level, all but the most stubborn atheists will admit their agnosticism—usually in the same breath as their agnosticism regarding ghosts, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and the reptile-people who secretly live among us, nefariously controlling all geopolitical affairs.
Outside of philosophy class, however, it’s just not pragmatic to allow for the intellectual possibility of all things which, strictly speaking, can’t be disproved. Most ridiculous fantasies, for which there is absolutely no evidence, don’t inspire such deference. “My father was a time-traveling robot!” howls the schizophrenic, shit-smeared hobo. “And as his destined seed, I will devour the souls of seven nations!” Is that insane gibberish possible? Yeah, why not? But I doubt Louis C.K. considers it arrogant to discount this hypothetical delusion. But, for some reason, the equally unlikely idea of God is given special dispensation in the fantasy realm.
“God is a feeling,” C.K. added, a feeling he wished he felt. Perhaps lashing out at atheists is just part of his self-loathing schtick because that’s an atheist definition of God if I’ve ever heard one. Or maybe I’m analyzing this too much. Maybe it’s asking too much of comedians that they’re logically consistent, that they challenge weak institutional assumptions, or that they just make any kind of sense.
The crowd’s loud approval was also disappointing, but no real surprise. Buffalo is in the United States, after all, and we’re a nation of overtly religious cretins, the lapsed yet vaguely “spiritual,” and millions upon millions who—without any reason save for relatively recent tradition—hold a belief in the goodness of belief (a pretty narrow set of beliefs, anyway).
See, that’s arrogance. Calling people idiots all the time is arrogant, or perceived to be, and lots of atheists succumb to such name-calling. It’s hard not to, really, when you’re constantly confronted by people who think the Earth is 6,000 years old, and politicians who count rape among God’s divine plan. Atheists certainly aren’t alone in this. Our hyper-partisan, bias-confirming media is lousy with morons calling other dumb-fucks retards. But that’s besides the point. (Also besides the point, most atheists are too busy calling each other idiots these days to call other herps derps. Some of those imbeciles are right, but that’s a dumb topic for another asinine article.)
Oh, and it might also be arrogant to believe that there’s a magic space-man, feeling, entity, anthropomorphized thing that created the universe for us, shaped us in His own image, and gives a flying fuck about 7 billion hairless apes floating around on a cosmically inconsequential spec of dirt located at the edge of one of hundreds of billions of galaxies. Maybe, no?
Blah. Whatever. It’s just a bummer to hear a guy you respect, and thought was smart, espouse the kind of thoughtless conventional “wisdom” that could just as easily escaped Rick Santorum’s pandering hate-hole. Anyway, not that it matters, but that’s how Louis C.K. ruined Louis C.K. for me.
Everyone sucks. I hear Bill Burr’s coming to town…
SUPER-SERIOUS UPDATE: Gauging from some responses, most on Twitter, I should specify that Louis C.K. ruined Louis C.K. for me only slightly. I don’t hate the guy or anything, nor was I offended by the bit, I was just kind of disappointed by his shoddy reasoning. I might even see him again. But it is interesting to see his fans feel attacked…and I’d still call myself a fan, though slightly ruined, so now I feel attacked! Get me outta here! [frantic cartoonish running in place...PEW!]