Re: RedneF vs Brian 37...
After reading this thread…
I thought this might be an appropriate post today…
Should Atheists Turn The Other Cheek?
The internet is filled with hoaxes, but in addition to being false the one I received a few days ago had the added problem of being openly bigoted and hostile towards a particular group of people of which I’m a member: atheists. For those not familiar with the “Atheist Holy Day” hoax, you can read about it here:
This was not the first time a particular individual, who has known for a couple of decades that I’m an atheist, had forwarded this particular hoax to me along with all of her friends and family. When she did it a couple of years ago, I’d merely replied that it was a hoax or a bigoted joke, and that such things are not generally polite to forward around. But when she did it again, with the *exact same hoax*, I held nothing back. Unlike her hoax forward, my reply was completely original, which somehow feels “meaner” than just forwarding someone else’s work. Mean or not, it was the right thing to do.
Falling for hoaxes seems to be a recurring pattern among people who take pride in calling themselves “believers” and denying the capacities of their own minds with catch phrases like “lean not on your own understanding.” But when someone has been warned once that something is not only false but in poor taste, and then they choose to pass it around again, there’s simply no excuse.
One of the other people she copied (a Christian, but one who knew me enough to know that I wasn’t going to take this lying down) asked me what positive purpose it would serve for me to respond. And that’s where this gets interesting and relevant beyond my immediate circle of friends and family.
Christians act all persescuted whenever someone says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” or insists that the Governor’s duties do not include praying on the job. These are not persecutions.
Yet it’s considered culturally acceptable to make stuff up about atheists, call us fools, etc. and forward it around even when you *know* it’s false. Worse yet, the same culture finds it acceptable to exclude atheists from otherwise non-religious, open activities. That’s not even considered culturally acceptable against muslims – and some of them flew freakin’ planes into buildings and committed mass murder against thousands of Americans in the name of their religion! Atheists have never done anything like that in the name of atheism, yet we are targeted in a way that is culturally unacceptable to do to anyone else based on religious opinions.
I make my decisions about what to believe based on what I think is right, not what other people think or do. I’ve always been that way, and some jokes or the governor’s prayer or “atheists not welcome here” clubs aren’t going to change my mind. But I also know that there are people, most people in fact, who lack the intestinal fortitude to go against the ideas of a crowd or a culture. For that reason, it is important that our culture supports people investigating religious matters on their own, making up their own minds about them and not being pressured to reach the same conclusions as “everyone else”. The sum total of culturally acceptable religious investigation must not be limited to “pick a God…any God.” Atheism is an acceptable choice too.
You may think this cultural stuff doesn’t matter enough to upset a friend or a family member over. But it does matter, and it’s time that we all recognize it and call it out whenever and wherever we see it.
My children would really like to join the Boy Scouts. They’re the right age, they’re interested in the activities and could really benefit from them. There’s really no other group that does what the Boy Scouts does – at least locally in Tucson. But because of cultural attitudes like the one that prompted the hoax and the individual who forwarded it, my children would have to *lie* in order to be let into the Boy Scouts.
That’s right: You can be a radical Islamist who cheers 9/11 and join the Boy Scouts. You can believe all manner of things even some mainstream Christians consider weird, like scientology, mormonism, etc. and be a Boy Scout. You can be a pagan who worships Gaia and be a Boy Scout. You can worship Zeus and be a Boy Scout. But you can’t be an atheist and be a Boy Scout – at least not unless you are also willing to lie and say that you believe in at least some kind of God. And while we’ve brought our kids up with the knowledge that they’re free to believe or not believe whatever they think is right, we’ve also given them enough moral compass to know that lieing about it is not acceptable. So they’re locked out of something that kids with any other belief system can participate in. That’s a tragedy.
So when someone mentions atheism in a false, derogatory way I cannot just let it pass, or else I cede our culture to become even more of one in which everyone is presumed believe in some kind of fantastical being (except for “fools,” of course) and it’s perfectly OK to discriminate against atheists like my sons. I don’t go out of my way to upset people, but when they go out of their way to upset me, and my children, well…sparing their feelings with milquetoast or by not responding is not high on my list of concerns.
To be clear: I am not advocating government intervention with the Boy Scouts on behalf of my children and other atheists. That’d just turn them into another group of persecuted martyrs. What I am advocating instead is a cultural shift.
It should not be culturally acceptable in 21st century America to make up insulting lies about atheists and pass them around to friends and family for a hearty guffaw. It should not be culturally acceptable in 21st century America to exclude atheists from participation in clubs and activities that are not religious in nature. Atheists, and Christians with a conscience too, need to recognize and call out these things as unacceptable whenever and wherever they occur. Every time. Even if it means feeling a little “mean”.
I have appreciated RedneF’s posts (read that as I’m jealous that I am not as coherent in all my postings).
That isn’t to say that I don’t also find Brian37’s posts to be interesting, too (read that as I’m equally jealous that I am not as glib and incisive).
I hate to see either leave this site…but it’s a personal choice to be here and a personal choice to leave.
I’m back after several years absence. Others return too. Some leave. Some stay that others might rather leave.
Turning the other cheek in this instance for RedneF might be the wiser choice. Just ignore Brian37. It is no reflection on RedneF…no reflection on RRS…no reflection on Brian37 or Sapient.
RedneF is valued, IMO. It will be RSS’s loss if RedneF leaves. That doesn’t mean that someone of equal value won’t join or return.
It shouldn’t be a choice between RedneF and Brian37.
"Faith must have adequate evidence else it is mere superstition"...Alexander Hodge (1823-1886)
"A myth is a religion in which no one any longer believes"...James Feibleman (1904-1987)