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Some Thoughts About Atheism, Atheists, And Reaching Christians With Our Message

Brother Jeff

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I posted this to Facebook a while ago, and I welcome constructive commentary on it. I wrote it to myself as much as to anyone else. There has been at least one person who left the forums recently because (at least, according to him) of the "fundamentalist atheism" around here (I believe there were other issues around their departure as well, but others have left the forums because of the hardcore atheism expressed here as well in the past), and I have to admit that even I have been rubbed the wrong way by it in the past. I've been around here since 2005, and I think our common bond, at least for the most part, is that we have left fundamentalist religion behind in favor of the real world or for other ways of seeing the world, such as other faiths (which we have a sub-forum here for). I despise fundamentalism in all of its evil forms and yes, that includes fundamentalist atheism. Atheism is not "the Truth" any more than Christianity is "the Truth". Atheism is a lack of belief in a god or gods, and that's it. As I just got through telling HenryCD in one of his threads a few minutes ago, I am currently an atheist because I see zero evidence that a god of any kind actually exists. But, I am not closed-minded about it, which means I am not fundamentalist about it. I am totally open to the possibility that a real God might exist. I am waiting for believers to present convincing evidence for the existence of God. If they ever do, I will be more than happy to enthusiastically embrace belief in God again. But, until such time, I will likely remain an atheist... Anyway, here are my thoughts that I posted to Facebook. And, for the record, I am not criticizing hardcore fundamentalist type atheists, necessarily. I just don't happen to be one and I too find them annoying sometimes. Fundamentalism in any form tends to annoy the hell out of me. But anyway, here goes...


Atheism is not an overly popular position in this very religious country, as we all know. There is a lot of misinformation out there about what atheism is (for the record, it is a lack of belief in a god or gods, and that's it), what atheists stand for (that can vary greatly), and what kind of people atheists are (that also can vary greatly, as is true of any large group of people). 


Movies such as "God is Not Dead", which I'm sure many Christians will love and recommend to their non-Christian friends, do not help matters any as far as public perception of atheists goes, since it badly misrepresents atheists as all being assholes and jerks. 


There is reason for optimism though, since people are beginning to leave organized religion behind in droves in this country, and the younger generation generally has little, if any, interest in embracing fundamentalist religion. Even in this still very religious country, religion is dying a slow but very encouraging death. My personal opinion is that religious assholes who are publicly hating on gays and saying that they should be put to death (which has happened twice recently that I know of) is quite rightly turning people off to religion. Most people who are not religious are not interested in joining a religion that promotes the hatred and judgment of entire groups of people.


I also have something to say about atheists, though, some of whom rub even me the wrong way. To some hardcore atheists, people such as Michael Newdow are heroes. But to me, he and people like him are doing the atheist cause a huge disservice by portraying us as joyless assholes who take joy in filing frivolous lawsuits about issues that do not really matter at all, such as religious slogans on our money and crosses and nativity scenes on public property. I couldn't possibly care less that our money has the slogan "In God We Trust" on it, nor do I really give a shit if Christians erect a cross or a nativity scene on public property during the holiday season (or any other time of year, for that matter). I also don't really care that our Pledge of Allegiance contains the words "under God", when prior to 1954, it did not. These issues are not important at all compared to the issues we SHOULD be focusing on, such as keeping creationism out of our science classrooms. Instead of focusing on frivolous issues that don't really matter and that give us as atheists a poor public perception, we should be focusing on educating the public on what atheism actually is and what most atheists are actually about. I personally care DEEPLY about keeping religion out of our government and out of our public schools, though, that said, I am all for the freedom of religion in schools to the extent that any student should be able to privately pray to any god they choose and read any holy book they choose -- as long as they keep it to themselves. State-sponsored prayer or other religious activities is illegal, and it SHOULD BE.


Instead of filing frivolous lawsuits concerning minor issues that do not really matter at all, we should be focusing on educating Christians and every other citizen interested in religion about the Bible and what its contents actually are, and we should be doing it in a civil and respectful manner. I'm speaking to myself here too because I tend to write passionately and I almost always let my emotions run away with me and turn into an atheist asshole, which prevents me from communicating my message effectively. Small wonder that my religious posts here on Facebook typically get ignored by my Christian friends. Yes, they usually contain good information that needs to be made public, but the way I have gone about presenting it is not effective because it's been too harsh and too emotionally charged. Most Christians have no idea what is in the collection of books that they claim to revere as the Word of God (because they have not actually read most of it), and if they did, just as is true of us atheists and ex-Christian atheists, they would find it impossible to take is seriously as such any longer. 


We atheists have some damn good reasons to be angry and emotional (Google Greta Christina and atheist anger for an example) about religion. Religion affects our entire society negatively in some way every single day, and it often causes individual believers serious psychological damage that can take years to heal. I see that every single day on sites such as ex-christian.net. But, anger is not usually an effective way to communicate an important message. Shout at people either in person or in ALL CAPS online, and their defenses automatically go up. Badmouth their God or their holy book or their religious practices in an angry or negative way, and defenses go up, and you will be labeled as an "angry atheist" and will most likely not be heard and will not have what you have to say seriously considered.


Fundamentalist religion is a HUGE problem in our society and in much of the world, in places such as Iraq. But filing frivolous lawsuits about shit that does not actually matter and shouting at religious believers in anger is not going to help make it go away. Yes, religious people can be judgmental assholes, but so can we atheists, and I am speaking of myself here too.


I think it's time to put the anger and the strong emotions aside and at least try to address religious beliefs and issues civilly. Insulting religious believers and religious beliefs has its place in some corners of the internet and it can be very therapeutic for former believers who have been severely negatively affected by religious belief. I know because I have been there. But, when addressing religious belief and religious issues publicly, I think calm rationality is the much better approach, and when presenting information about the Bible and the Christian religion that needs to be made public and that Christians need to know about their own holy book and religion, calm rationality with good intentions is the much better approach. I think it will work much better than angrily beating Christians over the head with the brutal and morally objectionable parts of what they view as holy scripture and the very Word of God.


My 2 cents, and I'm writing this to myself as much as to anyone else... comments welcomed, of course... as long as they are constructive. I have zero desire to argue about anything, including forms and degrees of atheism... Thanks, and as always, Glory!

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Personally, I'm a stickler for definitions. Fundamentalism is typically understood as a religious concept. Militant atheism or anti theism are probably better terms. I lean more in this direction the more I've thought about it, but it is more about skepticism, learning and eliminating things that are demonstrably false, than some burning passion to eradicate religion. Other kinds of pseudoscience can be just as bad too.

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