"Totally coup, yo."

How Louis C.K. ruined Louis C.K. for me




“Atheists are arrogant,” says half-bright comedian


C.K. does his impression of Rick Santorum

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!]

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  • moonuranus

    Waanh waanh, I can criticize every organized religion, waanh waanh. How dare he so much as comment on atheists, waanh waanh. Cry me a river.

    • http://twitter.com/Ian_Murphy Ian Murphy

      Dear Moonuranus,
      I regret to inform you that I could not locate this “Waanh waanh” character. I suggest you e-mail them directly with your pedestrian grievance of what you mistakenly think my article was about.

    • Landon Zohn

      Did you land here by accident and perhaps meant to post on that local forum full of tea-tards, Anus Boy?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=537293316 Dan Mac

    He’s a comedian… it is his job to make fun of things…. I’m personally an atheist, but I take an agnostic position in public debate for essentially the very reasons you outline.

    But, I also order shit from arrogantathiest dot com. It’s amazing, they sell little feet to add to other peoples jesus fish.

  • Landon Zohn

    I’m gonna guess he maybe knows Buffalo is a bit more conservative and thought it was safe to say what he did. Obviously he was correct if most of the audience cheered him on.

    ‘Course Murph, we only have your story to go on since we weren’t there– well at least I wasn’t, so maybe you did take what he said too seriously? But I gotta agree, if he really feels this way he can go fuck himself and I’m not even an atheist, I’m agnostic. To be fair though, there are plenty of arrogant atheists out there. Plenty who will say that if you believe in anything outside of complete atheism you’re an idiot, and to me that’s just as arrogant and shitty as a religious person saying an atheist is going to hell or is stupid for not believing.

    Too bad people can’t just leave each other alone, let others believe what they want, and keep their beliefs to themselves where it fuckin’ belongs– and yeah the vast majority of the offense in that regard is from religious people who just can’t keep their beliefs out of other people’s bedrooms, vaginas, anuses, classrooms, politics and everything else they wanna infiltrate in the name of their god. Fuck people like that, and not in a good way.

  • RTF916

    A lot of comedians today aspire to be Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, etc., but just puss out when they get to that wall of Christianity or American nationalism. Add Louis CK to the list. Good career move on his part, he might even get a network tv show now. But those of us thirsting for the next Carlin or Pryor, well, I think you put it best, Ian. Louis is now “ruined” for us.

    • Landon Zohn

      You might want to check his filmography. He already has his own show and his list of appearances on some mainstream shows is pretty long. Outside of that, I totally agree with you.

      • RTF916

        Fair point. But just for the record, I specified “network tv”, meaning, ABC, NBC, CBS. The big 3.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=537293316 Dan Mac

          “network tv” no longer means much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jane.tucker3 Jane Tucker

    Tim Minchin for the win.

  • FarekYu

    Hey has your momma still got, uh, worms crawlin out her pussy?

  • CromWelp

    I don’t mean to make a straw-man account of your argument, but isn’t it possible that Louis C.K is just being a comedian – doing a “contrary to popular belief” bit? Playing devils advocate? I mean, if you look at it from the opportunists point of view, you’ve got a guy trying to out-smart two parties who both think they’re in the right. It’s like, well… these guys over here are dumb, but these guys are even worse: queue bit.

    I always thought of Louis C.K as a philosopher too unintelligent to philosophize, and a sociologist too apathetic to observe. He’s the guy who finds hilarity in half-observations, weaving logic to produce the funniest results. A lot of the time, he seems to come close to the self deprecating truth, whilst in others, the apathy is really the angle. In this case, I think he was just trying to pull a cheap trick, playing devil’s advocate, and pissing on both sides because, really, what else can you do (if you want to stick to that subject). I suppose he was trying to go a different direction, but I guess it is a little trite, and too distant from his usual, deeply personal approach. It’s odd how, this time, he stood back and raised his middle fingers to everything, rather than – as he usually would – proposing a point with a delightfully truthful twist.

    Cool take.

  • commenter

    I can tell you’re pretty young. You’ll get over it.

  • http://twitter.com/satirikal satirikal

    I’m an atheist too, but you’re getting too worked up over nothing – literally. You’re reacting like people who laugh at every AIDS, religious and midget joke, but get offended the second they joke about cancer because someone in their family died from it. Just roll with it. Not everyone you like or who entertains you will ever share your view of the world. Nor should they have to.

    Ultimately, none of this matters so better to take the high road. Saying “we’re a nation of overtly religious cretins” is just as bad as anything Hitchens or religious fanatics would say.

    Seriously, you’re a smart guy. Ease up. Enjoy life, have some laughs, good food, and go get laid. And move the hell out of Buffalo. It’s no place for atheists. In a major city, the idea of religion will almost never come up. You’ll be free of it and can focus on a hundred other things.

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