CNN had a story yesterday entitled, “Behold, the Six Types of Atheists.”
Where do I start?
I think it’s fine to have a story on atheism. It’s good, even. I do think it’s telling that, by and large, their atheist choices come predictably from Hollywood, academia, or the loud cast of militant atheism characters (with a notable exception being the Humanist chaplain who has a really wonderful book; I highly recommend it). God forbid (a little pun there) we pull from atheist business owners, politicians, world leaders, or even regular every day people.
I think that, whether intentionally done or not, touting the usual atheist bastions of Hollywood and academia just reinforces this idea of liberalism going hand-in-hand with atheism.
And it doesn’t. What about the thinking Christians out there? Or Hollywood theists? There are some, you know. And they’re not all anti-intellectual and annoying (looking at you Stephen Baldwin and the faculty of Liberty University).
And I’m not saying that we now need a “Behold, the Six Types of Believers” or anything like that, but the closest thing I found on CNN to that story was a similar story pertaining to pics of “born again” celebrities who were either a) annoying about their beliefs or b) hyper fundamentalists.
What about folks like me? I had a good long while of unbelief. I came back to the faith quietly, without a lot of fanfare. I practice my faith with, what I hope is, some humility and thought and a healthy dose of consideration.
What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that there aren’t just six types of atheism. There are probably 600,000 types. Because it’s not just enough to say you don’t believe in the reality of a God…we add all sorts of asterisks and appendices to the things we trust all the time.
Likewise, there aren’t just six types of theism or deism or any belief system you might want to name. There are 6 million types. Maybe 6 billion…as many as there are people who ascribe to faith in the world.
We don’t configure our worlds the same way. I’m not talking about relativism here, I’m talking about reality. If given a survey, I doubt we’d all come up with the same checked boxes within any camp: Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, or Zoroastrian.
And I guess I don’t like CNN trying to play as if there are six types of atheism, whether they’re just “painting with a wide brush” or actually trying to do some reporting (a first).
Because painting with such a wide brush allows authors like Hitchens and Dawkins to paint me into the canvas with people who claim to “believe” and claim the name “Christian” but look nothing like me. Wide-brush painting might help us say something, but as Richard Yates sagely points out, “Never say anything that doesn’t improve on silence.”
And perhaps our world would be better without half the words in it. My own words, included.
So, I’m a reluctant Christian; this is true. But for all my atheist readers, I would encourage you to also be a reluctant atheist in light of CNN’s stereotyping of you yesterday. After-all, do you want to be pigeonholed somewhere between Keira Knightley and Richard Branson, or would you rather land somewhere between Richard Dawkins and Kurt Vonnegut?
To be fair, I find those characters much less annoying and much more insightful than Kirk Cameron or Joel Osteen…
But I still wouldn’t feel good just being stuck on their continuum.
And as long as we keep imagining that everyone fits in a nice little box, it makes it a lot easier to just dismiss people who don’t think and behave and love and believe like us…and then we can all just make our little camps and never have meaningful interaction again.