The full quote of the above phrase is “Communist until you get rich, feminist until you get married, atheist until the airplane starts falling”.
I could probably spend blog entries of equal length debating the merits of the first two statements as well, but allow me to focus. Typically, theists just love the last part of this statement, and love to quote it whenever possible. I always imagine them posting it with a smug little smile on their faces, thinking, “Take THAT, stupid atheists!”.
You can’t really blame them. It’s quite a catchy little saying. It’s got some nice punch to it, which is why so many theists post it without thinking, and assuming they’re being terribly clever. Of course, like many of these viral quotes (think: “Atheism is a belief that nothing exploded and made nothing which turned into dinosaurs!” or “It takes more faith to be an atheist”, or my personal favourite, “Atheism is a religion too”), this one suffers from similar leaps in, or, a complete lack of, logic.
I was thinking about this while in an airplane, funny enough. A 12 hour flight gives you plenty of time to think, and I’d grown tired of imagining I was living in Pride and Prejudice (TMI?). The flight was quite turbulent. We experienced a few of those drink-spilling, shriek inducing, random 10-foot drops… which I find terribly amusing, and wish the entire flight was made up of to be honest. Of course, many people already experience a fear of flying, and several gasps of surprise and “OH MY GOD’s” were heard. I spent a few moments after that seriously considering if that plane started to go down, what I’d do. I decided quite quickly I’d try to call my mom, and if that didn’t work, I’d turn my iPod up and settle in for the ride. Never once did it occur to me that I’d pray. Hear that, theists? I am an atheist. And I know for a fact there is a 0% chance a crashing plane would lead to my re-conversion to theism. I’m finding it difficult to properly describe why this is, which should be a clue as to how utterly ridiculous the proposition is.
Let’s first consider the unintentional irony of the statement itself. “Only an atheist until the plane starts to fall!” So essentially what theists are suggesting is that logic completely fails in times of panic. Or that fear leads to completely irrational beliefs. Well spotted! I feel like theists should get a prize for this. But despite this irony, I still can’t imagine a situation in which this would potentially be true. Atheism is an informed position. It is a position of logic and reason. Being an atheist means you’ve seriously considered the claim that there is a god, and have rejected this claim. Why would a crashing plane ever make me re-think that conclusion which I’ve spent years arriving at? No amount of fear, or panic, would make me reconsider this truth I’ve come to in my life. Certainly, the fact I’m about to die in a plane crash would in no way confirm that a god exists. It might piss me off a bit, or make me wonder what idiot didn’t properly check the plane before letting us fly in it. I think the thing theists fail to realize when making statements like this is that we have truly THOUGHT about the possibilities. We aren’t atheists because someone told us to be. It isn’t some waffling position where we may or may not believe. We do not believe. No amount of tragic circumstances will change that. At least not for me.
So, next time you’re in an airplane and the turbulence gets a bit rough, do what I do- turn up your music, chuckle at the frantic believers, accept there is not a single fucking thing you can do about it, and just enjoy the ride.