Twitter Meets the Rhetorical Wars over Religion? Are You a Clicheatheist or a Clichetheist?

Actually, I hope that you’re neither, but I would coin these terms for atheists and theists who engage in combative and absolutist rhetoric with each other, and do so unself-critically, without empathy, and with an impatience for nuance, using what psychologist Robert Lifton terms “thought terminating cliches.”

If you’re a clicheatheist you salivate to atheist websites that bluntly attack religion and cast scorn upon the Bible (like the sites supported by Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and PZ Myers)—but you can’t actually be bothered to read a book of theology or the Bible—at least not without the purpose of casting disdain upon them. Likewise, if you’re a clichetheist you stay in the comfy media circle of Fox News and conservative radio, and get your view of atheists from fundamentalist websites, but wouldn’t think of, say, taking a college level biology course or reading David Hume (let alone Voltaire).

Right now, clicheatheist and clichetheists carry the day. They are a product of our television culture, of course, where soundbites and self-satisfied smugness substitute for thought. Sites that support this habit of mind among atheists and theists, and that try to gin it up (rather than moderate it) are unleashing the human psyche’s demonizing impulses. The gestures of clicheatheism and clichetheism promote group-think among its members, give succor to fanatics, and provide a distorted and unnuanced picture of the arguments and motives of the other side.

I suppose it won’t be long before the heroes of clicheatheism and clichetheism start twittering their thoughts to their enthusiastic followers in 140 characters or less. Perhaps some of them already do.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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