Distinguishing Between Fiction and Reality

Today I stumbled upon an article published in The Telegram of Worcester, Mass. It is titled “When atheists turn to God,” and it is completely bizarre. I encourage you to read it.

Anyway, I couldn’t let such a strange piece go unchallenged, and the comments section didn’t seem the forum for a rebuttal, so I decided to write a letter to the editor in order to voice my thoughts. The full text of my letter is below:

Dear Mr. Sinacola,

At the outset of Dr. Gary Welton’s recent As I See It article, “When atheists turn to God,” it appears that Dr. Welton is preparing to present a rebuttal to the American Humanist Association’s latest lawsuit to have “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. He had the opportunity to guide readers to reasons he believes this lawsuit misguided, which could have generated genuinely interesting conversation about the implications of the phrase and the impact of the lawsuit.

Instead he elected to deliver a strange lesson in literature.

After briefly introducing us to the AHA case, Dr. Welton sets forth a barrage of quotes related to the initial subject in varying degrees. Why Dr. Welton chose to use fiction as the backbone for his article concerning real issues is beyond me. It’s one thing to utilize an excerpt from literature to bolster one’s argument; it’s another thing entirely to build a whole article out of quotes. In total, Dr. Welton’s article consists of 12 paragraphs of literary quotes and only six paragraphs of original material.

However, what is more concerning than Dr. Welton’s uninventive writing style is his conformity to the notion that, when faced with strife, atheists also turn to a higher power. If Dr. Welton had taken the time to talk to nonbelievers to discover how they cope with trying situations – rather than regurgitate quotes – he might have found that atheists have established a number of ways to deal with tragedy and hard times in a purely secular way. Greta Christina, a prominent atheist blogger, has written extensively on the topic.

Atheists have a hard enough time in this deeply religious country without people like Dr. Welton spreading lies about our behavior. I’d like to invite Dr. Welton to join me in a conversation about what life as an atheist is really like. I’ve found that one of the best ways to increase understanding of atheists is for believers to actually meet them, and I’m not sure that Dr. Welton ever has.

Though atheist characters in popular fiction might display a tendency to drift back to the supernatural, nonbelievers in real life have a much different story to tell.

Timothy Pate 

Washington, D.C.

I genuinely hope to hear back from The Telegram, and I hope that this letter will lead to conversations with Dr. Welton. I will post any developments on this site.


Filed under Atheism/Religion

5 responses to “Distinguishing Between Fiction and Reality

  1. I don’t think your anecdotal evidence really holds sway, given the number of people I’ve seen convert from nonbelief to belief. I keep seeing completely secular people stand up to speak at funerals, and they always say things like, “He’s in a better place.” Fundamentally, this is because we’re hardwired for belief in God, and some of our most basic daily assumptions continually push us in the direction of theism.

    • No, it’s not, it’s simply because that’s what centuries of religious indoctrination have made a cultural standard to say on such occasions.And as the religions keep loosing members and the number of openly atheistic people go up, the amount of people you have “seen” to convert is quite unimportant, as the real-world numbers prove you wrong.

      Anyway, the original text seems to be complete bullshit, because citing novels doesn’t make sense. It’s quoting FICTIONAL characters. It’s like going around and quoting Harry Potter as an authority.

    • People usually say ‘He’s in a better place’ because people who die usually go through suffering before death. Humanism allows for compassion.

    • NewDreamsOldEarth

      What anecdotal evidence? The only claim I make is that atheists have developed ways of coping with problems that don’t invoke a god. My evidence is Greta Christina’s article, which cites concrete examples of this being true.

      Moreover, if you’re going to try to criticize me for using “anecdotal evidence,” it might be a good idea to avoid referencing your own anecdotal evidence as proof. Just because you’ve heard secular people say, “S/he is in a better place” does not mean that atheists tend to grasp for supernatural comfort or that these people have returned to theism.

      You go on to make a claim that we are “hardwired for belief in God” (presumably a plug for your own blog), but provide no evidence whatsoever for such an extraordinary claim.

      If we’re going to have a serious discussion, then I’d like to first request that you provide solid evidence for the existence of a supernatural being.

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