Sunday, 8 February 2009

Intolerant Atheism

I've had this post sitting unfinished in my posts section for some time now, and I suppose I'll finally actually polish it off a bit and publish it. I was going to make a whole big essay about it, but never mind that anymore.

What bothers me about atheism as it is incarnated on the Internet is its general hypocrisy. I mean, I'd rather you weren't an atheist, but I'm not going to look down on you or like you any less if you are. What is going to make me defensive is if you start explaining why a person should be an atheist or ask me questions that presuppose an atheist framework or mock religion (any religion, actually) or suggest that religion is somehow undesirable or dangerous. What is going to make me actually angry is if you do all of this and then you suggest that religions are intolerant or closed-minded. This is a very common criticism; from what I've read on-line, it's the #2 criticism, following only "religion is irrational." The thing is, if you say any of the things I've outlines, odds are pretty good that you are acting intolerantly as well, participating in the divisiveness that you attribute to religion.

Some people take it even further, though, by publically declaring their refusal to listen. I found this quotation in the comments section of a self-described atheist blog:

"We do not need to find harmony with people who think that the world is controlled by an invisible god - we need those people to grow up."

The post advocated, or at least considered advocating, finding harmony with religious people (ie. the blog questioned the ethics of trying to suppress religious speech; as the author saw it, there is a balance between freedom of speech and protecting children from "brainwashing"). Many of the commenters thought he was being too soft.

But look at that comment. Let's say you are faced with a situation in which other people are doing something you disagree with. Do you decide that what the situation needs is for them to do something different? Do you say, "I am deciding not to do anything to remedy this situation at all in favour of expecting them to conform to my worldview"? Does that make any sense at all? Also, would you not agree that this is an exceptional arrogant, closed-minded, and discriminatory belief system?

I'm not saying this about atheism in general. I may not agree with it, but I wouldn't say atheists are always, by definition, arrogant, closed-minded, and discriminatory. It may sometimes feel that way, but it's certainly not the case. Rather, I am saying that people who express sentiments like that I quoted are being arrogant, closed-minded, etc. when they say such things. This angers me. I try not to be upset by it--unless and until they try to suppress public practices of religion--because it cannot impact my faith unless I let it. Still, though, it sucks being treated like you're subhuman, even if by anonymous strangers on the Internet.


skatej said...

I have a friend who rejected Christianity in favor of atheism. What frustrates me the most is when people from that viewpoint forget the vast variance of Christian faith and only see the most extreme of fundamentalism, which colors their views of the relevance of my faith and my beliefs and hurts the chances of them ever coming back. It is very hard when people who reject religion altogether find it so threatening that they need to lash out in anger against it...which leads me to believe it was an emotional rejection, and not a rational, logical rejection at all.

Cait said...

true that.

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