We challenge religion pretty regularly around here. This blog started out with a somewhat different agenda and a more varied mission, but very quickly evolved into the atheist/antitheist blog we are now. Or, more accurately, a blog written by atheists/antitheists evolved into an atheist/antitheist blog. Shocking! We write what we are interested in, our opinions, and sometimes mock the Hell of out some really crazy religious stuff. It just kind of happened and I’m OK with that. I like it. There is plenty to rail against. Also, I like to debate. I am an argument slut. I’m easy. Any subject that I am interested can become a looong conversation.
One thing we talked about at Left Hemispheres early on was that it was OK to be funny, sarcastic, even a little mean as long as the overall point was sound and the belief sufficiently ludicrous. To many people, even discussing religion in a non-sacred manner is disrespectful. Obviously, we don’t buy that. For too long religion has had a free pass to do and say whatever it wants with no real criticism. The open, global social media world we live in has eroded this wall a great deal. Thankfully. There is a lot to be critical of in religion, and you know what? There is justified criticism of some atheists out there.
This may be a real surprise to people, but it isn’t like I am surrounded by atheists in my “real life.” What I mean by that is the majority of people I know and love are...well...theist. Almost all of my very close friends are atheist or agnostic, but that could be the result of me keeping a small pool of people I consider “close.” It isn’t like we sought each other out, but it just kind of worked out that way. I think it is a combination of a) people automatically and unconsciously gravitate towards their type of person, b) I am in a profession that is predominately atheist/agnostic, and c) anecdotal evidence in my life suggests higher education at least somewhat equates to a higher preponderance of non-belief. Due to all this it is also highly likely that I have been exposed to more non-believers than the average American. The point being that even though I know more non-believers than the average person, the majority of people around me are still believers; if not religious (there is a difference).
“Avoiding offense means that we don't accept each other as equals.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali
It sounds like the setup of a straw man, but the following questions are actually asked quite frequently. Even by other atheists (which makes me grind my teeth but that is another discussion). I actually understand why they seem like valid questions. Because they are! If you never knew any atheists or hadn't really talked to any atheists on equal footing then these are the questions you would ask.
“Why do atheists talk about religion so much?”
“Why do atheists care?”
“Don’t atheists have anything better to do?”
The reason I talk about it so much is because I care what is going on in the world around me. The religious, in case you haven't noticed, are everywhere. They are not only the majority; they can be an oppressive majority. I sometimes include the moderate/progressive ones as “oppressive” since they rarely speak up in defense of secular people and ideals or, maybe even more importantly, they don’t speak up against the fundamentalists who are downright dangerous. Obviously, that is not always the case. It would be unfair to ignore the contributions that moderate/progressive religious people have played in history. I just think the fundamentalists could be quickly marginalized if the larger population of non-fundies stood up and said “Enough!”
"Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice." Ayaan Hirsi Ali
I have defended religious people from some of the hateful, anti-religious fervor out there. As much as I disagree with theism and religion (which is completely) they have the right to believe what they believe. In the United States we have the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I adhere to that document. People have every right to be religious and practice freely as I have every right to not be religious and not have it forced upon me. Freedom of religion and freedom from religion. It’s the only way this works without anyone getting hurt or worse. It is the genius and ideal of a secular government.
Secular — adj (World English Dictionary)
1. of or relating to worldly as opposed to sacred things; temporal
2. not concerned with or related to religion
3. not within the control of the Church
4. of an education, etc
a. having no particular religious affinities
b. not including compulsory religious studies or services
Many religious leaders sneer at the term, but they either misuse it or misunderstand it. In a pluralist society, secularism is simply the line where the public sphere and the private sphere, as they pertain to religion, are kept separate. From a governmental standpoint it is about the separation of church and state. This is beneficial for both sides. It is not advocating for an Atheistic state. I would no more want an Atheistic state than a Christian, Muslim or any other religious state. Sure at first glance it seems like it would be a good idea for each person to have a government that reflects their personal beliefs, but not only do I believe it to be dangerous and illegal for the government to instill religious (or anti-religious) beliefs, but there is no way it wouldn't get corrupted by the government. Simply put: the government surely would fuck it up.
In some cases I think this blog (mainly my posts) is borderline “dickish”, but I don’t think we are here to “de-convert” the religious. It was never the intent. This place is for atheists and antitheists. I would like to think that religious people could come here and read where we are coming from. We have a standing rule that we should be as calm, rational and respectful as possible with any commentator. That rule was only broken once (by me, of course) and that was against another atheist. We post some funny spoofs, videos and whatnot, but we try and post some essays that could—on our best days—be classified as somewhat intelligent discourse and idea sharing. For me personally, writing is just a way to organize my thoughts. We also post personal stories from time to time about our former beliefs and how we got where we are at the moment. I say at the moment because I try to never be static. Ideas, philosophies and beliefs need to evolve or they run the risk of becoming stagnant, self-serving dogmas. The way I think has changed dramatically since this blog started. That is largely due to the simple act of writing.
I don’t want to go off on too much of a self-indulgent discussion about “being a blogger,” but I never really wrote out personal ideas and beliefs before this. I only bring this up because it is weird to have many of my thoughts laid out in writing on the Internet for all to see. I can look back at what I was thinking a year ago and that thought is there, unchanged. Internal self-reflection doesn't work that way. We remember our own thoughts differently over time. This is commonplace. You may idealize a person or place from the past and then you visit or run into that person again you realize the difference. Seeing my thoughts and writing style from year ago—when I had no clue what I wanted to do here—is odd. It's almost like watching myself on a home video, but more intimate. I won't go in to a big spiel about how my views have changed or solidified over the past year. It’s in my posts.