So it’s nearly been a year since I’ve updated here and you’re probably thinking that it’ll be the Second Coming of Clive before I get around to updating Unicornalia ever again.
I could give you excuses. Oh believe you me I got plenty of them to spare. But I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m just going to say FEAR NOT for I bring you tidings of great joy: Unicornalia is indeed coming back. It may be sporadic, but dammit, it will happen still.
Check here for updates on Tuesdays (since Tuesday is the holy day for Unicorns after all) and I hope I won’t disappoint.
A week or two ago, I wrote a story about what I called the Atheists’ Football Club, as a kind of a parable about a certain atheist sub-group that’s been forming and growing.
Well, my analogy was wrong. It wasn’t completely apt (APT!); it may perhaps have been more so if I said it was a group for football fans who feel outnumbered, harassed, and otherwise unsafe in the presence of non-football fans. A group of people saying, you know what, it’s not right to treat fellow atheists this way, whether they’re football fans or not. And it would have been more apt if a prominent member of the football club had been so verbally abused and threatened that she decided to stop blogging only to have people call her an “attention whore” and spew personal insults at her and even her father– then, perhaps, it could have been a more apt comparison.
So, pardon my ignorance a week ago about what the Atheists’ Football Club was really about, and for changing my position on it now. I’ve seen, in the past week, just what hate and vitriol atheist football fans have been subjected to and it’s made me aware of how badly we need an atheists’ football club after all.
I even think I want my own jersey. I’m willing to get off the sidelines, even if I don’t know how to play; put me in, coach.
Once upon a time there was a group of atheists who happened to also like football. They got to talking about both subjects and realized that they could, nay should, band together to make a club. Doing so would help other atheists who also like football to find like-minded individuals, with whom they could discuss everything ranging from the separation of Church and State, to the Tuck Rule. “We will call ourselves the Atheists’ Football Club,” said they. “Surely the world will see that we atheists are just normal people who like football. Because really, who doesn’t like football?”
Soon, however, the Blogosphere and the Twittersphere and the every-other-kind-of-sphere exploded with response, and it wasn’t the kind of response the founders of the Club had in mind.
Some responses were rather benign: “Well, I like being an atheist, and I like football too,” said many, “But I don’t see what one has to do with the other, so I prefer to keep them separate. After all, many of my football-watching friends don’t consider themselves atheists; many of my atheist friends don’t care for football. Why limit myself?”
Other responses were far less constructive: “What do you mean you have to like football in order to be a member of the Atheists’ Football Club? YOU’RE MAKING A RELIGION OUT OF ATHEISM. Screw that noise.”
Others still were downright mean: “Oh so you got something against baseball? SCREW THE ATHEISTS’ FOOTBALL CLUB AND THE HORSE IT RODE IN ON!!” The Atheists’ Football Club was soon accused of intolerance, hypocrisy, and thinking themselves better than others, be they atheists who didn’t like football, football fans who weren’t atheists, or anyone else that didn’t fit the definition of “atheist who likes football”.
And others still were British: “THIS ISN’T EVEN FOOTBALL STOP CALLING IT THAT.”
Some Atheists’ Football Club members tried to offer a voice of reason. “We exist, simply, because we don’t believe there’s a god and we really like football. And, we like letting it be known that we atheists are just regular people, such as most football fans.”
Other people tried in vain to call for some degree of levelheadedness: “Look, if the Atheists’ Football Club isn’t your cup of tea, just don’t join. There’s no need to be throbbing stinkholes about it.”
But this being the Internet, levelheadedness was a rare thing to find indeed. Instead, people shouted things like “You’re either with the Atheists’ Football Club or you’re on the wrong side of history!” and “The Atheists’ Football Club is for people who THINK they’re football fans, but instead are just baseball-fan-hating jerkfaces!” Names and insults flew.
Meanwhile, within the Atheists’ Football Club, tensions began to run high. The Michigan fans and the Ohio State fans alone caused a brawl that should have made national news. And woe betide the one blogger who said he thought that this was an NFL-level Atheists’ Football Club, not college-level. Sure, some would again try to remind the world in general that the Atheists’ Football Club should set aside its differences, and unite against its common enemy (Tim Tebow); but such pleas would be lost in the din of anger, insults, sarcasm, and power struggles.
But where did it all go wrong? In theory, an Atheists’ Football Club isn’t a bad idea. After all, atheism is a good thing. Football is a good thing. Having common interests is a great thing. Rallying against the negative stigma people have toward atheism is a good thing.
But a crazy thing happens when a group takes too narrow a focus, even independent of atheism. I mean, just football alone…
Throw into the mix that atheists have lots of interests, causes, and passions. Many of them are dissimilar; others can be downright incompatible. When the one common factor is lack of belief in any gods, it leaves room for plenty of UNcommon factors. Was it Dawkins who once said that organizing atheists is like herding cats? It’s a pretty good analogy (except that cats believe that they are god; still, point made). And to attempt to herd a handful of cats into a narrower focus can leave a lot of the other cats… well, okay, if they were cats, they’d just lick their butts and go take a nap. People, on the other hand, don’t like feeling excluded. It tends to be human nature to really really hate that, in fact.
And as for those people who do share both the belief that there’s no such thing as any gods, and a genuine appreciation for the game of football, many just prefer to keep them separate for reasons mentioned before: I have football fan friends who aren’t atheist, and I have atheist friends who don’t like football, and see no reason to join a group and by doing so– again– exclude a handful of other people.
So ultimately, the reason behind the (I believe, imminent) collapse of the Atheists’ Football Club will be not its intention (to include people), but its inevitable result: excluding even more people.