Welcome to the new ChristGoldman.com! I’m back in the blogging arena and ready to go (check out the About page listed above for the full history), and Kirk Cameron, former Growing Pains child actor, has given me a doozy to start with.
In this video, Kirk shills his religious views to promote and make money off of his new “theatrical event,” almost as if his views weren’t real and were simply an easy tool to suck money out of a desperate viewership of aging Evangelical consumers… but that’s just cynical.
Kirk begins, “Not many people know this, but I am a recovering atheist.”
Whoa. Hold on. Stop it right there. How long have you been a Christian, Kirk?
Here’s the Kirk Cameron conversion story I grew up with: In December 1989, when I was seven months old, my mother produced the Original Living Christmas Tree at First Baptist Church, Van Nuys, California. Kirk Cameron and some of his friends, reeking of weed and alcohol (or as my mother puts it, “just stinky”), stumbled into the performance as it was beginning. My mother stood up and let them have her pew in the front row, reserved for music staff, where he either dedicated or “re-dedicated” his life to Christianity. Cameron’s Wikipedia page claims this conversion happened in 1987, but my mother insists Christians don’t show up to church pageants smelling like booze, weed, and body odor and I’m inclined to agree. Kirk Cameron was either saved or re-saved at Christmas in 1989, and my dear sweet mother is partly to blame for the Christian Hot Mess that came of the result. She seems remorseful, but won’t go so far as to say that exactly.
Either way, if you haven’t smoked crack in 24 years, you’re not a recovering crack head. You’re just sober. If you’ve been an Evangelical Christian for 24 to 26 years, you’re not a recovering atheist. And I very much doubt that Kirk, who was either 17 or 19 at the time of his conversion, was an atheist in the sense of a person who has examined the evidence for traditional religion and rejected it. Like most teenaged atheists in Southern California, he was probably an atheist only in that he was never told he had to be anything else. Whether or not that assumption is accurate, he’s been a particularly virulent Christian (They prefer “born-again.” I prefer viral.) for over half his life. There’s nothing “recovering” about it.
Kirk continues: “I wanna share a secret with you. There are two things that you must cling to by faith to be a good atheist. One: There is no God, and Two: I hate Him.” (Take notice of his “acting” while delivering this line. This, and not his religion, is why Kirk Cameron is no longer in movies.)
Let’s examine this claim before we proceed. “I wanna share a secret…” The definition of atheism is not a secret. In fact, every dictionary I’ve checked includes it. The fact that Kirk Cameron is inventing his own definition of atheism—and chucking out the thousands of years of theology and philosophy stretching all the way back to classical antiquity that went into defining the word atheism—doesn’t make it any more of a secret either. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, atheism is:
Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a God
This definition comprises “weak” atheism (“I don’t believe in a god”) which is usually paired with agnosticism (“I can’t/don’t know if there is or isn’t a god”), and “strong” atheism (“I believe there is no god”) which is usually paired with gnosticism (“I know there is no god”). Only the second, “strong” definition fits the first part of Kirk’s definition, and it’s the definition that describes a minority of atheists (myself included).
The second part of Kirk’s personal definition (“I hate [God]”) is utter nonsense. If a person doesn’t believe in something, there’s nothing for that person to hate. I don’t hate gods like Yahweh, Vishnu, and Osiris any more than I hate unicorns, Skeletor, or sentient musical cucumbers. I can’t hate these things because they don’t exist. There’s nothing to hate. There are some things related to the concept of god that I hate though: I hate religious bigotry, indoctrination, child abuse, anti-science, political dominionism, proselytization, unskeptical predisposition to any belief, etc. I hate the majority of what Christianity teaches and stands for. I don’t hate gods. I just hate the people who pretend to speak for gods and know that they’re actually just speaking for themselves.
The 42-year-old manbaby continues: “Have you ever noticed how many people are so angry as someone they say is not even there? I mean, why do people hate God anyway?”
As I just finished saying, no atheist hates gods. No aunicornist hates unicorns. No asantaist hates Santa. I don’t believe that Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Professor James Moriarty exists. I do think, that as a fictional character, Moriarty is quite annoying, psychopathic, and misguided… but I won’t waste my energy hating him. He isn’t real. If people who believed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a prophet gathered every week to worship James Moriarty and sought to use their overwhelming political influence to write what they perceive to be the will of James Moriarty into law, I would probably hate those people… but I wouldn’t hate the fictional character.
More pseudo-theological jism pours from the former child actor’s oral cavity: “I mean, why do they want to shut you up from talking about God or your faith in public? Why do they want to take down your videos from Facebook and YouTube?”
I don’t mind people talking about their faith in public. I talk about other people’s faith in public too. In December I went to Colonial Williamsburg with my family to enjoy the Christmas celebrations and attend a music service at the historic Bruton Parish Church. That day, on the Duke of Gloucester Street, a Catholic street preacher was giving a megaphone-homily on the Nativity and I sat to listen, cringing only slightly when he made biblically inaccurate statements. (‘Tis the season not to be a pedant.) When he finished fumbling through the traditional story everything took a sharp turn at, “And the conception of Jesus, like all conceptions, was the biggest miracle there was.” This rapidly unraveled into an anti-abortion screed, amplified through a megaphone in the middle of a crowded historical street on Christmas Eve. Most people got up and left. I stood up and used my best operatic projection to be heard over the old man’s battered, squealing megaphone. (Hey… if the corner is open to anyone with a loud voice to express their freedom of speech, I’m not about to let woman-shaming hold an audible monopoly.) After about fifteen minutes of back-and-forth, his original crowd was back and they brought friends. (We each received a portion of the applause that each of us will exaggerate in our own favor.) Free speech is free speech, whether or not it’s religious, political, or (ugh) about sports. Please, by all means, talk about your faith in public. And, like the Williamsburg crackpot did, if your speech turns into a conversation, embrace it. No one should shut anyone up in public, but the presentation of dissent is not silencing… it’s turning a monologue into a conversation. Don’t confuse the two.
And as for Kirk’s whining about Facebook—as if anyone whining about Facebook should be taken seriously—it’s not the directed attack Kirk wants you to think. There weren’t hordes of angry atheists reporting Kirk’s video to silence it. (Although, like every other video about everything from religion to science, from make-up to Bieber, a few grumpy frumps will report every video they ever see.) The reality of Kirk’s Facebook woes comes from his own poor choice of a domain name. Like the old Gaytheists.org address I used to own, Kirk’s URL (which I won’t promote here) was formerly and recently a spam site. The video was taken down automatically due to its accidental relation to spammers and immediately reinstated when the mistake was reported.
Contrast that to people like Ken Ham or hundreds of YouTube creationists who, in organized efforts, file hundreds of daily, false DMCA reports against videos they disagree with in hopes of having them pulled down and silenced from YouTube. No such organized efforts exist in the atheist community online. Whining about an accidental take-down while your own flock is responsible for a crusade of false allegations against independent video producers makes you look like a fool. Whining about anything on Facebook makes you look like a fool. (Before you say anything, I already know I’m a fool.) But even if Facebook and YouTube maliciously pulled these videos because they “hate God” (they didn’t, and they don’t) that’s their right as private organizations. Sorry, dude. No public money means no public input on how the company is run. Don’t like it, become a shareholder.
Kirk continues to spoonfeed his audience his warm diarrhea: “Well, I’d like to suggest two reasons. One: They hate His moral standard. And Two: They hate the way he is transforming the world, even in the midst of tragedy and suffering.”
Ask any Christian how the genocide of the Amalekites was a moral decree: “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Any theologically trained Christian will respond that the action of total genocide was moral because God commanded it. This, aside from being a textbook example of circular reasoning, completely negates any workable definition of morality. Ask how it is moral for God to destroy every man, woman, child, and animal on the planet with a flood; ask how it is moral for God to tar humanity with original sin and then torture his avatar on Earth (in the guise of a son) to atone for the sin he stuck them with in the first place; or ask how it is moral for God to give instructions on how to keep, punish, and sell slaves; or how it is moral for God to offer guidelines on when to sell your daughters into sexual servitude to strange men. “It’s moral because God directly commanded it, and God is morality.” Circular motherfucking reasoning isn’t motherfucking reasoning, motherfucker.
If Yahweh is allowed to do anything at all and have that action—be it justification of slavery, condoning of rape, or commanding of genocide—be considered moral by default, that isn’t a standard. It’s arbitrary. A standard is a list of rules. God, in Christian mythology, has no rules for himself. He does not apply a standard to his own actions. Every arbitrary action he takes is moral for the simple reason that he is performing that action. Some moral standard…
Kirk, your god isn’t transforming the world. His followers aren’t even transforming the world. They used to; and thank godlessness that they are no longer capable of long-lasting societal transformation. (They’re too busy hemorrhaging members and lowering their once-passable intellectual standards to appeal to teenagers and TV watchers.) Think about the major transformations in human society over the past two centuries: Which of these are the work of a god? Science is producing crops loaded with nutrients that can grow in the harshest climates of Africa. Science is alleviating the famine Christians have been ineffectual at helping (if not mostly ambivalent towards). Science produced vaccines to eradicate the greatest diseases known to man, and every day is another day closer to a vaccine for cancer. Christian hospitals require secular medical science to perform any medical work of any value. The most storied Christian “healer” in recent years was Mother(fucker) Theresa, whose Homes for the Dying were worse and less sanitary than the actual hospitals in Calcutta at the time (See: The Missionary Position, C. Hitchens). The technical revolution that united the world in instantaneous communication and made popular uprisings as easy as typing 140 characters and clicking send had nothing to do with god—except, in some cases, where a god’s (mostly Allah’s) role was essentially a mascot for a secular political and popular movement. The 19th- and 20th-century social revolutions that ensured worker safety, fair pay, and humane treatment of employees had nothing to do with god. God’s followers—and, by extension, their god, if he exists—have been silent, ambivalent, or actively antagonistic to the greatest of global transformations. And when they have served a positive role, as in the works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that role was one of a mascot or a source of literary analogy. Face it, Kirk, your religion isn’t relevant anymore… and you’re not a “recovering atheist”.