A video has gone viral of a British atheist on a Sunday debate show on the BBC calling people who believe in heaven idiots. Here’s the video, and the atheist in question is Kate Smurthwaite, a stand-up comedian and member of the National Secular Society. It seems the debaters were discussing the various ideas about heaven, especially comparing the Muslim and Christian versions of it, and after a detour via the question if aborted babies went to heaven or not (probably a stab at the Catholic dogma of limbo), Smurthwaite said that she didn’t believe in any of it, “because I’m not an idiot”. The gasp in the audience was audible, and then the backlash from the other participants started. Don’t you believe in the faith and credit of your currency, a rather stupid counterargument, as the economy is based upon human interaction, and not on a belief of the almighty. Interesting also the condescending attitude of another participant that she found it rather sad that Smurthwaite was lacking in spirituality…
My initial reaction was positive. Personally, I would never say something like this, but someone needs to move the Overton window. But probably her wording might have been a little bit better. Humans are inherently irrational, it’s not a prerogative of religionists, though religion is something that can play a big role in a person’s irrationality. It might be better to call certain types of religion-induced behaviour idiotic, but humans aren’t religious because they’re religious. Some people on Pharyngula’s Endless Thread also stated that this kind of statements would play into the accommodationists’ hands trying to portray the gnu atheists as harmful to the cause.
I started writing this post a couple of days ago, but didn’t get on with it, so in the mean time, PZ Myers has posted his blog entry and stated his full endorsement of these statements. Well, he seems to disagree about that ;), so the internal debate continues.
What is sad and totally unacceptable, of course, is that after the video went viral, the misogynists came out on full force sending all kinds of threats and in gendered insults to Smurthwaite. But as we have seen this year in more detail than we ever wanted to see, unfortunately not only theists are capable of behaviour like that.