I like history; I find it to be the most interesting subject anyone can ever read about. I like thinking, I like movies, I like books and music and games. I like the simplicity and complexity of life. I like laughing with friends and complaining to no end about people who irk me. I like that special time towards dusk, when birds have to find themslves a home for the night and you see a flock of hundreds gather on a single tree, calling out with a multitude of voices in a strange, chaotic harmony.
And I am an atheist. And I'd sooner not call myself that.
I try my hardest not to be embarassed about my beliefs; I have a left leaning streak, I support equal rights for everyone (including the often controversial Men's Rights, another belief I am hesistant to discuss because of the normal mysogny associated with it), I eat meat, and think piracy is convienant if dumb. I do not force my beliefs on anyone, and I've yet to have someone force their beliefs on me, but I do not like to call myself an atheist.
For those of you who have come from reddit, you are probably already aware of the reason why I want to distance myself from the community. For those who are lucky enough to not know, let me try to explain.
Discussions about atheism between two atheists are difficult to have. The number of topics you can talk about are limited; you can talk about how you deal with issues normally handled by religion, talk about your journey towards an atheist lifestyle, and maybe even talk about your parents religion and whether or not that affected your decision. But there is no moral code to interpret, no central beliefs besides simply that of "We do not believe a God exists because there is insufficient evidence."
Morality, philosophy, science, any of the subjects that one would turn to are not really "atheist" discussions. They are separate from religion, and are thus separate from atheism. Philosophy, yes, can be loosely discussed, and yes morality can be touched upon, but not in the same sense that say, a Christian and a Jew would talk about them. They become discussions about religious morality, or religious philosophy, whereas an atheist cannot have that conversation. Atheismis amoral; it simply is.
So what does a large community talk about, once they have quickly exhausted their normal conversations? Simple. Other religions.
They begin to cultivate a notion that religion is out to attack science, to attack atheism, and to attack them. This is why I am embarassed to call myself an atheist, because I do not wish to be part of that culture.
Does religion lash out against those who don't share their beliefs? Yes, of course there are going to be those people. In areas that are disproportionate amountts of those people. In those areas, iti s hard to be an atheist. But to use those examples as proof that atheism is an oppressed minority, that our civil liberties are being trampled upon on a day to day basis by a monolithic monstrosity known only vaguely as "Religion" is as ridiculous as it is misguided.
To put it simply, it is like saying that white Americans are the most oppressed minority because you live in the inner city in an all black neighborhood, and someone smashed the hood of your car in with a tire iron and spray painted the side with "DIE CRACKA." But, especially for r/atheism, this is what the world is.
To be clear, I am referring mostly to r/atheism, which tends to be much more Richard Dawkins-esque.
I think atheists have every right to actively go after religion in the public sphere as long as religion is giving its mouth and money in that public sphere to deny basic human rights to others. As a group, atheists are a lot less activist than theists, even counting the militant (or anti theistic) ones. It makes sense, since atheists have no central tenant to rally behind, and we certainly don't have the biblical command to go out and convert others like our theistic counterparts. I treat people kindly in person and generally with the same amount of respect as the extend to me. I'm not a raging atheist by any means, but I'm glad there are people out there like Dawkins chipping away. Institutions that promote and enshrine the kind of widespread bigotry and immorality that the church does need to either a) change their doctrine, or b) be torn down, IMO.
Edit: As an aside, I do find r/atheism to be one of the more grimace-inducing corners of the Internet. I had to remove it from my main feed a long time ago.
The first from an author I miss:
- “About once or twice every month I engage in public debates with those whose pressing need it is to woo and to win the approval of supernatural beings. Very often, when I give my view that there is no supernatural dimension, and certainly not one that is only or especially available to the faithful, and that the natural world is wonderful enough—and even miraculous enough if you insist—I attract pitying looks and anxious questions. How, in that case, I am asked, do I find meaning and purpose in life? How does a mere and gross materialist, with no expectation of a life to come, decide what, if anything, is worth caring about?
Depending on my mood, I sometimes but not always refrain from pointing out what a breathtakingly insulting and patronizing question this is. (It is on a par with the equally subtle inquiry: Since you don't believe in our god, what stops you from stealing and lying and raping and killing to your heart's content?) Just as the answer to the latter question is: self-respect and the desire for the respect of others—while in the meantime it is precisely those who think they have divine permission who are truly capable of any atrocity—so the answer to the first question falls into two parts. A life that partakes even a little of friendship, love, irony, humor, parenthood, literature, and music, and the chance to take part in battles for the liberation of others cannot be called 'meaningless' except if the person living it is also an existentialist and elects to call it so. It could be that all existence is a pointless joke, but it is not in fact possible to live one's everyday life as if this were so. Whereas if one sought to define meaninglessness and futility, the idea that a human life should be expended in the guilty, fearful, self-obsessed propitiation of supernatural nonentities… but there, there. Enough.” ― Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22
The second from a musician I love:
- I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me -John Lennon
Like you, I don't like to call myself an atheist. Not because of the reddit atheism community, I am not familiar with them, but because to me atheists seem too certain that God does not exist. I cannot prove nor disprove the existence of a creator. I'm also not a fan of ascribing myself to any "group". For this same reason, I've never referred to myself as a Democrat or a Liberal even though my politics put me squarely in either camp. I just don't want to be labeled.
My father in law is a very Christian man and it's hard for me to be around him sometimes because I know that he desires more than anything for me to be a christian. For years I tried to accommodate this and studied the bible and even went to church weekly. I can't pretend anymore though. I find no value in religion. I find a great deal of value in the teachings of Jesus Christ but religion is just not in the cards for me. I suppose I'm an agnostic if I must be labeled. I think that Christ's message is wonderful, I just don't believe the whole "son of god" part.
But I love my father in law and I think he's a good man. I just look in his eyes sometimes and see Theoden King's glassy stare while being controlled by Saruman. -Too nerdy a reference?
Are you familiar with the Jeffersonian bible? -Thomas Jefferson was amazing.
But as for atheism vs. religion, most of it on either side has to do with wanting to "belong" to a group that can define "you". I'm a ___blank___ is an important thing for most people to have the ability to say.
Only recently have I found what I can use to fill in the ___blank___
-I now say, "I'm a hubskier".
- Like you, I don't like to call myself an atheist. Not because of the reddit atheism community, I am not familiar with them, but because to me atheists seem too certain that God does not exist.
Most that identify themselves as Atheists do not claim to be certain that a God by any meaningful definition does not exist. They instead say that it has the same probability as faeries or santa clause existing. The distinction between exceedingly improbable and impossible is inconsequential and not worth considering.
That said, I have no proof of either the santa version or otherwise. But still, I can't unabashedly claim there is no "creator".
In summary, Unless your definition of God is so loose as to be indistinguishable from chance or physics then it's likelihood approaches zero.
It's interesting for me to look back at the path my life has taken and how my perception of myself has changed. Equally interesting is what hasn't changed. The constants in my self "identity".
I'm a musician.
I've never seen a group outside of atheists openly state that their religion makes them better than you (maybe WBCers?)
Sometimes I experience something truly beautiful that leaves me breathless and in those moments I know that God is real. That does not make me an idiot.
People believe much more ridiculous things than in god, and I have no more right to criticize for said belief than someone has for mine.
I don't believe that religion ultimately determines the quality of a person. A Christian can be intelligent, tolerant, open minded, everything that we as a society view as "good." I've met people like that, very, very smart people who were also religious. The fact that they believed in a god did not change their intelligence. The fact that I do not does not change mine.
Likewise, I've met some incredibly stupid atheists. Most of r/atheism, for instance, is banal and offensive. I use to be a great deal more militant about the issue of religion until I saw r/atheism, and I simply couldn't continue towards what I saw as the end result of that style of thought. I've also seen some incredibly stupid Christians, the people who fell for the goatse photoshop of clouds awhile back, or the people who honestly take the bible as word for word accurate.
These people would be just as smart or just as stupid with or without religion. Does religion play a part in shaping how bigotry forms? Yes, of course it does, but its not the source of it and its certainly not the key role, which in all honesty is probably severely repressed sexuality.
More often than not, religion is the excuse rather than the cause. Those who honestly believe the Crusades were fought over anything but money and conquest are not really well educated about the subject.
- This is something difficult to test, and assumes quite a lot about someone. Again, it does come down to a belief.
This assumes nothing. The original legislation were pushed for and passed by the people of faith.
- I don't believe that religion ultimately determines the quality of a person.
Again, people of faith think otherwise. They think that atheist/secular people have no moral compass.
They do exist but they are no where near as loud or plentiful as the bible thumping whack jobs, unfortunately.
Religion is a method of setting values, even atheism. Do I think that a great deal of interference in people's private lives, especially their sexual freedom, is good? No, of course not. Is it a religious issue? No, and it shouldn't be made one. Its an issue of values, not of morality or spirituality. Policy makers might value a more traditional, conservative approach to sexuality, while I will value a much more liberal, open view on it. My lack of religion and their existing religion plays a roll in the decisions made, but only in the sense that it is defining values like anything else would.
The issue comes up when religion is made the central issue in politics: all religion, including atheism, defy reasonable argument. When, say, birth control comes up, and a policy maker like Rick Santorum or others says how they don't believe that God would approve, well, its not an argument you can really have either way. Do they know? Not really. Do we? Not really.
Now, we could get in to the much larger issue where politics in the United States especially has become less about representation and more about defining what the nation's values should be, rather than what they are.
- Most people tend to make decisions based entirely on their beliefs.
And those very decisions affect others who do not share in those beliefs.
- When, say, birth control comes up, and a policy maker like Rick Santorum or others says how they don't believe that God would approve, well, its not an argument you can really have either way. Do they know? Not really. Do we? Not really.
And they would push those beliefs on people who do not agree.
Additionally, many members of the New Atheist Movement are beginning to specifically identify as such or as antitheists. If you want to distant yourself from them you can by saying you're atheist but not antitheist, agnostic or a secular humanist. Then again, it may just not be important to you.
As for this,
- I have no more right to criticize for said belief than someone has for mine.
- It's not so much the paranoia that religion is out to attack atheism that bothers me as the false sense of superiority that seems to accompany being a self-proclaimed atheist these days.
Are you kidding me? How many times have you heard "America is a Christian nation. With wholesome Christian value"? Non-Christians have no values? They are the ones who come knocking at my door warning me that I am condemned to eternal torture if I don't recognized their "god" as my savior? The people of faith are the ones who ooze a false sense of superiority.
- Does religion lash out against those who don't share their beliefs? Yes, of course there are going to be those people. In areas that are disproportionate amountts of those people. In those areas, iti s hard to be an atheist. But to use those examples as proof that atheism is an oppressed minority, that our civil liberties are being trampled upon on a day to day basis by a monolithic monstrosity known only vaguely as "Religion" is as ridiculous as it is misguided.
I have yet to hear for hate crimes from atheists against religious people... I would not say the same for the inverted roles.
Most pro-social organizations have a significantly higher number of religious members. These are groups that work with immigrants, the homeless or at risk youth. The gay pro-social organizations don't seem to have all that many religious members, but there are still some.
The religious community really came out for Occupy. They weren't a strong presence day to day, at least not from what people told me, but when it became obvious that the police were going to forcibly eject protesters they came out in force. As many people were getting abandoning camp to avoid arrest ministers from many different faith backgrounds moved in. From what i heard they weren't there to push any religious agenda so much as to try to lessen the savagery of the police. Most every one I talked to who spent some time with them that night were deeply impressed by their leadership and conduct.
Maybe communities mold their faith institutions as much as faith institutions mold communities. A great deal of the evil we seen in some religions could be an outgrowth of sick controlling impulses in our societies. A city with a large proportion of atheists also attracts people who are dissatisfied with the religious practices of the place they came from go to a liberal bastion to practice their own brand of more tolerant religion.
where i live there is a saying never talk about religion and politics
there is a time and a place for everything sometimes we need to talk about things but essential there will always be organised religion no matter how much it irritates teenagers.
- all you get on reddit is atheists like barking dogs letting everyone know how suppressed they are
I've never been to that site, so I don't have a good frame of reference, but it could be that there a people who use the internet to connect with like minded individuals, because they live in a backwards or rural area where admitting to being an atheist could be a reason to be oppressed. Most of us, fortunately, don't have that problem, but I think its a real issue in some areas. Besides, teenagers often times are impelled by their parents to go to church or follow their established norms. Its good they have a place to rant. I didn't have that when I was a kid, but it would have certainly enjoyed it.
They had a "faces of atheism" awhile back, which was quite literally them posting pictures of themselves with pseudo-intellectual quotes made by themselves.
Its the same reason I'm really hesitant to admit that I like anime. The group is just painful to be associated with, and oh god the amount of circlejerking.