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.