By Andrew L. Seidel
Freedom From Religion Foundation
Ever wake up in the morning to find your social media lit up by a conservative Hollywood star and his followers? Neither had I, until today.
Adam Baldwin. You might not recognize his name, but you know his face. He was in Full Metal Jacket, The Patriot, and TV shows like Chuck and Firefly. He usually plays a tough guy or military character.
I tweeted a photo of FFRF’s newest atheist T-shirt, modeled after the Ron Reagan ad we ran on the national networks that didn’t ban it:
— Andrew L. Seidel (@AndrewLSeidel) October 1, 2015
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Baldwin did not like the shirt and called me an evangelical atheist and hypocrite. He’s since removed that particular tweet (I think it read, “Your evangelical atheism is noted. #Hypocrisy”) but is still on about me being an evangelical atheist. Asking “Why are you preaching on Twitter, @AndrewLSeidel? #EvangelicalAtheism.” With my response, for the record:
Because it's more polite than knocking on people's doors, putting a book in every hotel room, or telling people they will burn @AdamBaldwin
— Andrew L. Seidel (@AndrewLSeidel) December 2, 2015
Debates about religion, god, morality, and our origins are important and worth having, but on Twitter, they tend to degenerate quickly. Though Baldwin and my conversation did not devolve too far, I did offer several times to have this debate in long form, on this blog for instance. Baldwin didn’t respond to those offers, but we did continue our discussion on Twitter. But the offer remains open should he wish to discuss the issues seriously.
I think some believers, Adam Baldwin included, are scared that atheists even exist. This is why they often try to argue with us that we’re not really atheists, but agnostics. Baldwin tried to explain to me that I wasn’t an atheist several times. He was particularly fixated on my point that it’s ok not to know, but that it is dangerous to claim to know everything on the basis of faith.
This same thing happened when I went on the Jesse Lee Peterson radio show. He tried to convince me I shouldn’t call myself an atheist. We discuss this in the first 5 minutes and 40 seconds of this clip, take a listen if you’d like to understand why I’m both an atheist and an agnostic. (Quick answer: atheism is about belief, agnosticism is about knowledge, so they’re not mutually exclusive. Atheism is my current conclusion.)
This common argument from believers is making me realize that our existence is a problem for them. It’s scary. It shows that people can be good without god. Our existence is an affront to their beliefs, so when we declare ourselves, they react defensively. When we wear a T-shirt they liken it to door-to-door evangelism instead of wearing a crucifix or tattooing a cross on one’s arm. (Simply as a matter of taste, a T-shirt with the word “atheist” is far preferable to hanging an execution device around the neck. The joke attributed to Lenny Bruce is right: “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.” It’s a morbid decoration.)
This is why it’s so important for atheists to be open about our lack of belief. Simply being an open atheist helps to curb the power religion holds over other people’s minds. So say it loud and say it proud: “I’m an atheist.”