Whoa to AtheistsPosted: January 6, 2015
Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, freethinkers, brothers, and sisters. I’m leveling a charge in this new year. Too often we are accused for anger and pride. Too often those charges are level and fair. In the following I hope to clear the air and distill some truth.
First let’s define where we stand.
Atheism: the lack of belief in god(s), nothing more or less. By definition no central text, rule set, or dogma. Despite this, non-belief is always polarizing in religious culture and perceived as the antithesis of the religions it avoids. We unfortunately are defined by what each religion views as its polar opposite.
Bertrand Russell wisely said if someone cares to be a skeptic they should suspend judgment in lieu of evidence. Atheism at its core is just that, but we have found our public voice and we are trying it out. Like a new vegetarian or environmentalist we are over zealous. We speak loudly without all the facts and limited understanding. It’s only natural, but I worry if we don’t learn tact and understanding the movement will end before it even started.
This New Atheism is a natural and a useful reaction to years of repression, ostracization, and execution. To this day atheists lose jobs, community, and in many parts of the world, lives, when we come out of the closet. The worldview of the militant atheist, often justifiably, attributes the worst of the world to religion. Presidents can say atheists are unpatriotic in speeches. States leave atheophobic clauses in their constitutions. Alienation in our courts, our pledges, our money. We watch women’s rights languish, gay rights trampled, education embroiled in idiotic quagmire, human rights stuck in bronze age thinking. All this points to a slimy trail oozing behind religion.
Given the litany of crimes, why wouldn’t society rush to our embrace?
Whether its visions of hell fire or the fear of losing Christmas, culture seems to think atheism is the end of hope. It is after all, “damning”. People think atheism is a choice. The lifestyle of the contrarian. Atheists supposedly want to destroy community. They are assholes getting bent out of shape after you say bless you. Atheism is hated not because people love god but because it’s perceived to destroy society’s glue. Atheists tell believers their churches are hollow, their Christmas tree and Easter hams are pagan, their cross is a torture device, and their beliefs toxic. We speak to them as though they have poured through the Bible and found every sinister nook and cranny. We take away the Pastor at a wedding. We take away the Sunday potluck. We take away heaven. We take away mystery. We argue against theology, books, and ideas. They are arguing for their marriage, their children, they family, their way of life. In essence they hate us for repressing who they are. We have every right to be pissed off for inequality and misunderstanding. If that’s true, then why are we surprised when they react the same way?
You atheists who never believed and find yourself saying, “I don’t understand how they think…” stop after that sentence. If you haven’t believed you can’t understand. Asking questions will get you much closer to goals than berating and belittling. Those of us who lost are faith are often hurt and angry about the loss of family, community, and being lied to. While we may be justified in our pain, we are not justified in lashing out and to be fair believers thought they were doing a good thing. They had our best in mind.
The solution isn’t to show them they are wrong, foolish, and delusional. No one learns from someone they hate. No. We must show a better way. Rather than destroy their society, we need to present them a better one. One of inclusiveness, community, reason, and altruism. We need to develop systems to replace the ones we condemn. Religion supplies charity, community, and hope for so many. They will never listen until we fill the vacuum. Let us show them the rituals families bond over are available without faith. Speak to them in terms they understand. Show hope is better based in reason. Kindness for kindness sake. Forgiveness for forgiveness sake. We need to be grassroots in our communities. Atheistic hubris is toxic. We need to stop claiming to know more than is possible to know and be unflinching in what we can know. We need to show them love in community. Friends, we need to ask questions before supplying the answers.
Join a Sunday Assembly. Work with secular charities. Bring families together for beautiful secular weddings. Bring families together for infant secular dedications. Read their holy text through their eyes rather than one of contempt. Choose battles based on universal merit. Give them purpose and hope by living hopeful and purposeful lives. Be patient.
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.