So, on the New Humanist website I took a quiz to figure out what kind of humanist I am (technically not one, that may be the problem here). The options are Happy, Hedonist, Hounded, or Hardline. From the options for some of the questions, you can tell which questions would result in you getting a result of "hardline": ridiculous overreactions to anything the slightest bit religious in nature. The article is tagged "comedy" so I probably shouldn't read too much into any of it, but in the text for my results (hedonist, bitches!) something peculiar stuck out to me.
You are one of life’s enjoyers, determined to get the most you can out of your brief spell on this glorious planet. What first attracted you to atheism was the prospect of liberation from the Ten Commandments, few of which are compatible with a life of pleasure. You play hard and work quite hard, have a strong sense of loyalty and a relaxed but consistent approach to your philosophy. You can’t see the point of abstract principles and probably wouldn’t lay down your life for a concept, though you might for a friend. Something of a champagne humanist, you admire George Bernard Shaw for his cheerful agnosticism and pursuit of sensual rewards, and your Hollywood hero is Marlon Brando, who was beautiful (for a while), irascible and aimed for goodness in his own tortured way. You adored the humanist London bus slogan (“There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life”) and are delighted that wild young comedians like Stewart Lee, Christina Martin and Ricky Gervais share your full-blooded rejection of religion. Sometimes you might be tempted to allow your own pleasures to take precedence over your ethics. But everyone is striving for that elusive balance between the good and the happy life. You’d probably better open another bottle and agree that for you there’s no contest.Did you see the bolded statement? I should hope so, otherwise all my hard work changing its font was for naught. The rest of the statement makes sense but the bolded statement feeds into a peculiar argument that atheists are often faced with: that they became atheists for the sake of freeing themselves from strict moral codes. It is also shows a certain amount of reverence for Ten Commandments that is slightly strange even within the context of Christianity but even moreso when this statement is offered on an atheist site.
First off, the Ten Commandments (as they are commonly rendered) aren't that restrictive. Especially if you are an atheist, thus making the first four of the commandments moot. Don't kill/murder, don't steal/kidnap, respect your parents, don't bear false witness, don't covet, and don't commit adultery. Only if you assume "bear false witness" to include any form of lying (rather than a false accusation) are they particularly strict. Don't get me wrong, I think that "thou shalt not covet" may in fact be impossible to keep, depending on what one means by "covet". Is it "I would like me some of that" kind of desire, or does it have to involve actively plotting and obsessing over how you could obtain the coveted object/person for yourself for a significant period of time? Aside from those potential issues, and the fact that the "honor thy father and mother" commandment does not provide for the possibility that the father and mother and undeserving of even faint, mumbled "thanks," I find it really hard to see how a hedonist, as described in the text and as conceived in our culture at large, breaks those commandments. A hedonist is someone tries to satisfy their urges, true, but if they did so by stealing, killing, or getting some jollies by accusing their neighbor of being a witch, "hedonist" is an insufficient label. The label "sociopath" would be more appropriate at that point. Granted, coveting and adultery do fall firmly within the hedonism tent. Yet so does sleeping around when unmarried, masturbating, drinking and eating to satiation and beyond, sleeping in 'til noon, and slacking off during the rest of the day when there is work to be done. And yet there is nothing in those commandments rebuking such behavior. Sure, it runs afoul of the seven deadly sins, but that's something else entirely. The fact is that the ten commandments are either ridiculous nuisance rules that everyone violates, rules against the most profound and obvious infractions, or other rules pertaining to worship (that believers may or may not accidentally violate). Breaking all of them would make you a monster, breaking a few of them makes you human, and yet you could still be a horrible human being without violating one, since it is hardly a comprehensive moral code.
On the topic of atheists becoming atheists for the freedom to do as they please, let me once again state that is most assuredly not the reason that I became an atheist personally, that I know absolutely who claims that this was their reason for becoming an atheist, and that the prospect does not actually make sense. No theist is told that they chose their particular brand of religion due to trying to avoid certain restrictions placed on behavior by other possible choices for a religion to adhere to. And no person should be foolish enough to both believe that another religion may be correct but to refuse to believe in it just so that they can act in a way that that religion would forbid and that is predicted to be punished by the particular supernatural arrangement that you partially believe in. Not believing that the religion is correct in the first place needs to precede the decision to not follow that religion's behavioral requirements for anyone who isn't seriously deranged.
So, having said all this, I am now left to simply ponder why such a sentiment, rife with misconceptions about atheists in general, ex-Christians in particular, would be used on a humanist website. I am hoping that it is just some aspect of a "comedy" I don't quite understand. Wouldn't be the first time.
[Edit: I suppose I should note that aside from the bolded phrase being crazy, and the fact that I do not being labeled a "hedonist" due to negative connotations of the word, that the description is pretty accurate for me. I do like the slogan "There is probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life," though I refuse to obey the latter part of the sentence. And I do like the fact that there are a several openly anti-religion voices in the media, especially comedy. They got me on those points. Do share your own opinions on such matters to see whether the description in the results is more or less a glorified horoscope.]