Some thoughts about those of us of no belief…

Yes, us, we. I don’t always like to use the term atheist as so many people of no belief find the term a little uncomfortable so humanist, bright, apatheist, secularist, Darwinist, heathen… whichever floats your boat. So, I wondered why is it that the term atheist can have such a potentially negative connotation. Of course, the various religions will always wield it as such in order to convince the faithful that the faithless are in some way in league with their dark lords; that the very absence of faith must leave you open in some way to all kinds of spooks, demons and spiritual reavers. Utter nonsense it is, but this is a point of view that I can at least expect from that side.
So why is it that some of us who are loosely united by this lack of belief in religion, why is it that some of us do not feel comfortable with the term? I find myself almost being a little uncomfortable with it too on times. Why you may ask? I am, after all, fiercely proud of my antipathy toward all religious dogma and I have often been called upon to defend my stance under hostile conditions especially since I came here to the US. Yet…. I do fear that we, if I can bunch our varied selves together for a minute, are in danger of becoming very like the forces we strive to reason with.
There has been a trend emerging these past few months on twitter and elsewhere, where some of our numbers have been involving themselves in what can only be called “theistic baiting”. Yes, I know that there are those out there of the religious right who actively seek out people of our viewpoint and attack them without provocation. I see this too. Surely though, this should be expected? I get the odd persona who wants to do the same but to be honest I block them. It is not worth my time to engage them. It never has been. If strong religious belief is a form of self delusion then we should perhaps leave them with their delusions and move on. I occasionally see confrontations of this nature among the atheist twitter crowd, and almost without fail they degrade into name calling, intellectual stagnation and tit for tat quotes from a book which to me has no value of any sort whatsoever.
Should we not be above such things by now for are we not in danger of becoming proselytizers ourselves? Is that how it must be? Perhaps some of us do deserve the ‘arrogant’ title I hear thrown about by the Xtians. I have been guilty of much of the same myself in the past.
I once made it my mission to strip a certain individual of their ‘faith problem” as I saw it. I was successful but it left that person totally lost and miserable. In my arrogance I failed to see the one universal truth. Some people need faith in a religion. Without it they cannot function properly in this world. I would not do such a terrible thing again to anyone. I may argue and reason and debate my point of view but at the end of the day I do not think we, nor should anyone else strive to rid the world of such things.
To take away a man’s faith, his hopes and dreams, no matter how sad we think them is very wrong. In so many ways, this is a war, a war of concepts and perceptions but I think there are different ways to fight one’s corner. I don’t suggest going timidly into the night shaking your head nor do I suggest being overtly respectful to some of the plainly crazy notions that some believers hold; no, – but, perhaps, somewhere in between? I don’t want to see all religion banned or churches burned to the ground.
I am a great fan of religious architecture and over the past few hundred years there have been some staggeringly beautiful works art created in the name of faith. These things all have their place and no matter how much I disagree with the edicts behind the idolatry or of the curious nature of the imagery therein, I think our world would be much sadder were they to be removed.
I have no truck with the faithful going about their business, being in their little clubs, feeling like they belong to something greater… that’s all fine. Some people NEED that in their lives and then there are those of us who do not. My ire only raises when those clubs interfere with my life and the things I hold true and precious. As long as never the twain shall meet, then perhaps we can all be better people for it?
We are all so much more than the sum of our parts so if ‘we’ are going to try to enlighten or engage let us all try to do it using all the intellect and wisdom that I know we possess.. in fact to take a leaf from the oft quoted Xtian doctrine by leading by example – the irony is delicious and yet so satisfying.

Views: 46

Comment by uroborosmessiah on November 10, 2009 at 8:35am
Totally agree, with what you have said, as someone raised without belief I spend a lot of time explaining to my friends the difference between what I see as atheism being without belief and anti-theism being against belief.

This I think comes down to so called 'new-atheists' that are just angry at the realisation that they have been lied to for so long. When all they have to do is accept that this is the case and be content in their new understanding of the universe.

There will always be people on the extremes, militantism appears in every belief system and atheism is no different. This will over time, with understanding become diluted but to many at the moment this is so fresh and raw that they feel the need to 'fight their corner' and defend themselves even when they are not being challenged.
Comment by Danielle on November 10, 2009 at 7:25pm
@uroborosmessiah "There will always be people on the extremes, militantism appears in every belief system and atheism is no different. This will over time, with understanding become diluted but to many at the moment this is so fresh and raw that they feel the need to 'fight their corner' and defend themselves even when they are not being challenged."

I don't think militant atheism really exists - I mean yes there some how are blatantly anti-theist, a lot are content to settle on their non-belief quietly, and most fall somewhere in the middle, and attack harmful religious practices, or when religion is affecting them negatively (and/or unlawfully), but don't call for an end to private religious practices. But even the extreme anti-theists I don't think can be called "militant", just because they are more extreme than the rest of that group of people doesn't mean they should be labeled with the same word as militant muslims or christians. Yes, technically the definition of the word "militant" includes just being very aggressive, in which case these atheists ARE militant, but the way the word is used to describe other groups of people. I don't see as many (or any?) atheists killing religious folk for their religion as Christians or Muslims have - and it just rubs me the wrong way to classify the extreme side of atheism with the same word. Again, I realize it technically falls under the second definition of militant, but it just doesn't fit in with the usual terms "militant [insert religion here]". It sends the wrong message.

Although, I also think it's best to leave theists alone unless provoked by them questioning you about atheism, or by them trying to interfere with the government/some sort of institution/etc.
Comment by Stacy B on November 12, 2009 at 3:31pm
"To take away a man’s faith, his hopes and dreams, no matter how sad we think them is very wrong."

Why would you look at it that way instead of as giving that man more stable hopes and dreams? Atheism isn't the antithesis of hope. Dreams adapt. If someone has trouble adapting their dreams to a new reality that isn't due to anything related to the new reality or the old reality, but to other characteristics of the person.

No one needs religion. I'll say it again - no one needs religion. There are plenty of other sources for hopes and dreams and all that. Reality is full of them. We certainly should advocate finding the beauty in reality instead of covering it with a subpar delusion just because it's easier. I guarantee that if someone can't find hope and happiness in reality then they couldn't truly find it in religion, either.

And it's a bit silly to say things like "shouldn't we be above that?" You can't fix stupid whether it's a stupid atheist or a stupid theist. There will be stupid on all sides. Yeah, it would be great to "be above that," but some individuals, regardless of beliefs or lack thereof, just aren't on that level.
Comment by Rich Meredith on November 17, 2009 at 12:27pm
Some interesting points raised there.. I agree with you all for the most part. I was of course using the second definition of miltant and not tarnishing us with the same extremism as the ultra conservatives. I was raised without any religion at all so sometimes I can see things that others cannot as to me its all a bit of a mystery why anyone would need it but that said, there are those that do. I have met many people who are unable to function without the strange hopes communicated by religion - for those who need that crutch, then leave them have it as long as it doesn't interfere with the what the rest of us are doing. Indeed atheism is not the antithesis of hope.. that wasn't what I was saying but to many it probably represents just that.. it's all a matter of perspective and education at the end of the day. There will always be those who crave the insubstantial and metaphysical. All we can do as a group is to watch and listen and interject where appropriate and defned when attacked without cause or reason. If we can successfully replace a man/womans faith in the mystic realms with reality then that's all well and good.. but it isn't an easy task.
yes, there will be "stupid" on all sides but yes, we should strive to be above much of the nonsense otherwise we may fall on our own swords without need. A bit of self monitoring is sometimes the key. As ever reason and rationality are our best assets. For some of you who have grown up in the US where the culture is SO different to my own, then I can perhaps understand the more vituperative emotions involved in confronting so prevalent a religious culture as exists here.. I had no wish to offend any of you.. but those were my thoughts.
Thanks for the comments
Comment by Corey Lord on November 17, 2009 at 1:09pm
I agree with you totally Rich! Thank you for such a brilliant post. Hopefully more atheists can see it this way and make our cause more meaningful.


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