Wednesday, October 15, 2008

SEASONED WITH REASON - When Frustration Reigns

Lately, in the past month or so, I've been struggling again with anger towards the religious, particularly Christianity because that's the religion with which I'm confronted most often. The subject has come up on this blog before, probably because one of the issues of being Atheist is dealing with religious folks who refuse to respect our philosophies, even while they demand we respect and even adopt their beliefs.

On days when I'm not feeling as enlightened as I like to feel, it infuriates me.

My husband and I have seen Religulous, Bill Maher's documentary about the dangers of religion, twice. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Maher addresses the three most popular organized religions, mostly, and challenges each in turn. He makes really good points. He also challenges those of us who are not religious to be more vocal, more public about it, which give me a lot to think about.

I strongly believe that most religion is dangerous. Why do I say "most"? Because there are a few religions that don't interfere with a person's reasoning capabilities. Wicca and other Nature religions are good examples. I was Wiccan for awhile, and most of the Wiccans and other Pagans I met saw "god" and "goddess" as metaphorical. Their religion is based on a reverence for Nature, and scientific inquiry doesn't threaten their religious beliefs. Wiccans don't have an ancient book that they consult to determine how to live. Their "doctrine" is simple: harm none. They are led by their conscience.

When religion demands that we circumvent our ability to reason and think, then it is dangerous. What remains a continuous dilemma for me is how to cope with how I feel about, say, Christianity when people I love and interact with regularly are devout Christians. I've always considered myself a reasonable person, open to new ideas, respectful of people and their right to believe and think whatever they want.

However, I'm getting weary of Christianity being shoved down my throat everywhere I turn, even here on this blog, where Christians are filling our comment section with anti-Atheist drivel. The difference between me and the average Christian, including the ones that I love and respect, is that whatever I believe, I neither expect, nor demand, that everyone I encounter bow down and worship my lack of belief in god.

I spent a couple of months hanging out online at the Atheism boards on Beliefnet. What was the discussion about most of the time? Christianity. Not Atheism. Rarely did any issues regarding Atheism or Secular Humanism come up. Why? Because there was a constant barrage of Christians with delusions of grandeur preaching their gospel as if we'd never heard it before, as if we'd be inspired by their retelling of stories we've heard and debunked a thousand times, and miraculously turn to Jesus. Even the board moderator supported the idea that there is evidence of god's existence while continuing to assert that he is an Atheist.

And here I am, feeling the need to talk about Christianity. I am weary of defending my lack of belief in what, to my mind, is the same as the Cinderella story. I don't want to discuss the existence of Jesus anymore than I want to delineate the reasons why a pumpkin could theoretically be used as a vehicle. At the same time, I don't want to be the kind of person that steps on the toes of others, and I'm still trying to figure out how to stand for my own beliefs without doing what Christians do to me on a regular basis. I don't want to be, as my five-year-old niece might say, "ugly" to people, especially the people I love who are deeply religious.

But I also don't want to back down and let the Christians win by default. They have a right to believe what they wish; they don't have a right to demand and insist we all believe like they do and run our country, our society, our world into the ground with their religious fervor. I am trying to find a way to be vocal, to be public, to be a voice of reason without letting anger and frustration propel me in a direction I don't want to go.

It's a discussion I'd like to see explored more here so we can learn from each other. We all have to live in this world, and we will always be faced with Christianity and its persistent adherents. Most of us want to be liked; most of us want to be accepted. We want to play nice and get along. But we don't need to back down and play quite so nice with people, whatever religion they are, who are hell bent on stepping on the rights of others.


Makarios said...

Good - good post. From your vantage point it may seem hard to believe, but I think most everyone shares your struggle.

While I’ve known and hung out with atheists all my life, gone to school with them, worked with them went to sporting events with them, still do actually, I never once had any beef with individual atheists until I went to google blogs one day and typed in "atheist." In fact, until then I'd never given atheism a second thought. I was on my walk through life and they were on theirs and we just did other stuff together.

Anyhow, I went to atheist blogs and atheists would write things like, “If you tell me why you don’t believe in Zeus or Thor, then you’ll understand why I don’t believe in your god.”

I’d read that and blink in amazement that an atheist, a person who thought of h/himself as an especially intelligent person would see that as a valid argument. I mean, did they really and truly think that Jesus was as mythological as Zeus? Did they really think that? Or were they just mocking?

Atheist author Richard Dawkins would write - [The Christian God is] “Arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Atheist author Chris Hitchens said, “All religions and all churches are equally demented in their belief in the existence of the divine.”

Richard Dawkins wrote, “Faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.”

Sam Harris said, “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.”

When I read those things something just lite up in me. I became obsessed with, as you put it, not allowing the other side to win by default.

I see now that the reason that my atheist friends and I get along is that we leave our thoughts about belief / non belief out of the conversation.

My closest friends of course are “like thinkers” because that’s how people are made. I want to enjoy the things that are most important to me, not justify why I enjoy them.

I think that even you and I could get along just fine until you tell me, or more importantly tell other people that I’m a dangerous individual because of what I believe. And it’s no different if I was to describe you as dangerous because your beliefs are different than mine.

While I have dozens of flaws, one of my greatest is the angry knee jerk lashing out when confronted. I’m light years from where I used to be on this issue but I’ve got light years to go.

Good luck on your journey.

Melissa LaFavers said...

Makarios, do you understand the purpose of this blog?

While I could take each of your points, one by one, and do a fair job of arguing against every one of them, my main interest is discussing how Atheists can cope with people who push their Christian agenda, even in the comment section of an ATHEIST blog.

I don't have any interest in discussing the dogma of Christianity and why it is on par with Norse or Greek mythology.

Drew said...

I think by and large it comes from a couple of main elements.

First is the feeling of being under attack. I am not sure what makarios intended in that comment, but it pretty much spells out the feeling of being threatened.

The other, and the most egregious, is evangelism. The need to spread the good news. Except it is all Weekly World news.

But mostly I think they are surfing the net, stumble upon a blog post, and get caught up in it. Anger, fear, whatever, they go on the attack...

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Great post! I too am weary in the same way. Now, Ive got to go fire up the pumpkin chariot so I can get to work.