The Wank Delusion

Sexist image alert.

Dom Kelly brought this to my attention, with his pithier comment: “*vomits*”

Okay, let’s examine this in what some might say was far too much detail.

Reason is sexy because one conventionally ‘attractive’ woman reads books by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, et al, and throws away a Bible.  In the nude.


1.  It is assumed that this picture – i.e. the person in it – represents ‘sexiness’.  But the whole concept of what is sexy is subjective – far more so than is admitted by consumerist media culture, to which this image owes its entire idea of sexiness.  The image is catering for only one idea of what is sexually alluring: the idea of the straight, cis-het male.  He’s probably assumed to be white as well.  The image, including the person in it, is arranged for the gaze of this intensely privileged group.  This is ‘reason’?

2.  Because one sexy person is an atheist, that doesn’t make Atheism itself sexy.  Systems of thought, ideological doctrines, persuasions of belief, scientific theories and hypotheses… in short: ideas… are not open to judgement based on the perceived sexiness of the people that hold and/or espouse them.  Ideas are to be judged on their quality, consistency, persuasiveness, empirical backing etc.  Otherwise, there’s not much point separating them from purely aesthetic categories.

3.  Beliefs can be held by people of widely divergent levels of attractiveness.  China Mieville is a Marxist.  So was Diego Rivera.  Do a Google Image search if you don’t know what that means.*

4.  People’s level of attractiveness changes.  Engels was pretty dashing when he was a young man.  He became a crusty, wrinkly old fart with a straggly beard.  Was Marxism sexy when he was young and hot, but stop being sexy when he got a paunch and a big beard (assuming that you don’t think paunches and big beards are sexy – which would mean you’re not Ke$ha).

5.  What does it mean to call an idea ‘sexy’ anyway?  Even the idea ‘let’s have sex now! is only sexy when proposed at the appropriate time and place, by someone you’d like to have sex with. 

6.  It’s difficult to see how Atheism could be said to be sexy.  It might possibly be propounded and espoused by sexy people, but that still doesn’t make the ideas themselves sexy. I personally find Helen Mirren in Excalibur so sexy it almost hurts to look at the screen, but if she suddenly started reading the works of Robert Ingersoll, that wouldn’t make the works of Robert Ingersoll sexy.  At best, if the process were repeated often enough, I might develop a Pavlovian fetish for the works of Robert Ingersoll… but we have now long passed the breaking point of this analogy.

7.  God is Not Great and the other books of the ‘New Atheists’ were not, generally, written by conventionally sexy people.  Hitchens was a bloated, nicotine-stained, red-faced, bug-eyed blowhard with questionable personal hygiene.  Dawkins resembles a vicar from an Agatha Christie book, crossed with ageing bird of prey and a Gerald Scarfe caricature of Bernard Ingham. …

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