I was reflecting on the veracity, even the "proof", of polls (reading "atheists" constantly insisting on "proof" of God, and batting about "burden of proof" as if they knew what the phrase meant, has put my mind on odd tracks) in response to this post. That led to the thought that daily life seldom reflects the divisions and acrimony of either politics or polls (two conditions that often appear alike), nor is it all that driven by what the pollsters say is important to us.
Like the latest nonsense from Alternet (via Salon). It starts, appropriately enough, with a poll about what group Americans dislike the most. Atheists have lost their No. 1 standing, according to this poll. How you ever verify that is an interesting question, especially to people who screech "Burden of proof!" whenever you poke them; but leave that aside. What interests me are the "myths", some of which are so hoary and lame they need life support from, well, Amanda Marcotte, apparently.
Take No. 1: "There are no atheists in foxholes." I'm guessing the definition of "myth" here is not the usual rump definition of a folktale that explains natural phenomenon. I'm beginning to suspect that definition is itself mythological, an invention of the Enlightenment must as the old canard about medieval theologians debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin was invented during the Renaissance. How all those stories of Zeus impregnating fair maidens in various physical forms, from a bull to gold coins, explains anything more than the story of Oedipus explains his responsibility for a fate set before his birth, has always been a mystery to me. But the idea that there are no atheists is foxholes is about as sound a proper observation as the watch found in the field is evidence of God as Creator.
I mean, if that's your idea of myth still being used against atheists, you really need to give up on that idea that atheism is not a religion (myth no. 5), because this one sounds as fictional as the parting of the Red Sea (something no atheist ever brings up, though I learned in seminary that there is no "Red Sea" in Egypt. There's the Nile, and there's the desert. Didn't anyone ever wonder where the Red Sea went after the Israelites left?) and as important to your identity as suffering for your, well....beliefs.
There's also the "myth" that atheists are aggressive and rude. Aside from every atheist you can name as a public figure (including the late Madalyn Murray O'Hair), I can't imagine where this pernicious idea comes from. (I know I actually read some comments by professed atheists despairing of the tone set for them by Dawkins, but I can't find the link at the moment. Not all atheists posts on Salon or adhere to the standards set by the New Atheists.) Ditto myth no. 6, that atheism is dominated by angry white men. Yes, you can identify the women who wish to be prominent atheists (Ms. Marcotte does), but can anyone name them? I'm sure this is the fault of the Christian patriarchy; or perhaps President Obama.
Do atheists have a bleak, loveless, and amoral existence (myths 6-9)? I dunno. The noisiest ones certainly seem to be profoundly unhappy people; or at least, among the most cited (Maher; Dawkins; Gillette; Hitchens; Carlin) the most smug and insufferable. Then again, so are a lot of publicly religious politicians and Christians, so we'll have to call that a draw.
So the last is that atheists are engaged in a war on Christmas. Honestly, this war on Christmas thing existed (I think it officially ended last winter) on FoxNews. I never saw evidence of it beyond FoxNews in the real world that wasn't clearly driven by FoxNews.
Which returns me to my original point: there's the world we all live in; and then there's the world as represented on the intertoobs and cable television (the world represented on broadcast television is another mythology altogether). One is a very interesting place, full of people of all kinds and demeanors working hard to get on with their lives; and the other is a flaming Nazi gasbag.
Well, I wanted somehow to work that joke and Godwin's law into it, and it was the best I could do.