Here’s a issue I have had for a long time now.
I find the dialogue about atheism difficult, mostly since it never feels like it is supposed to be a dialogue. I get the sense I am expected to nod and sympathise, that my part in the dialogue will be to validate their feelings, not say what I really believe.
It is as if only a part of me gets invited to talk: I am permitted to oppose spiritual homophobia as a queer man, although never to critique faith in other types as a queer atheist. I am not being requested to take part in a dialogue—only to tell Christians what they need to hear.
There are plenty of atheists who do not enjoy me. To them I signify ‘politically correct atheism’, a movement which includes minorities and cares about more than feeling smug.
But political correctness was never intended to be a byword for progressive aims. Being politically correct is around saying the permissible thing—the fine, diplomatic, suitable, viable, tactical, sayable matter—when provocation is not an alternative.
When Christians describe their pro-homosexual theology in my experience, I sense that what they need is not an answer but a string of platitudes.
(Not all Christians would be the Westboro Baptist Church. There are good and bad people of faiths and none. Yes, I despise Richard Dawkins also.)
Every now and again, someone within my area—frequently at Patheos, but not only there—releases a long piece about why they are not an antitheist. Most recently that is been Martin Hughes in a place at barrierbreaker.
Before it is been Neil Carter of Godless in Dixie, and farther back it is been a selection of other people. Those posts spur complex ideas in me, and I Have frequently felt the urge to reply but not had world enough or time, so I would like to share some of my misgivings here. (Stephanie Zvan has recently done the same at Nearly Diamonds.)
Carter and Hughes are both bloggers I enjoy, and also this place is not about them especially—please do not read it as a straight answer to either of theirs.
What I’d like to discuss would be the designs I see in these dialogues, how they make me feel, and the reason why this division of the lay community is one I can not join. I wish my atheism were PC: it is not.
I do not advertise myself as an antitheist, but I believe strongly that I am not not one. Describing why is tough with no a predetermined number of meta.
I see other writers claim the passing of faith will not solve all the world’s troubles, and that in a world without it, individuals who now damage others in the name of God would simply find other reasons. I hear them say deconverting believers is not their precedence, and that they no longer feel an impulse to pick fights with them.
I listen to folks say they care more about social justice than bashing faith, which there are a few terrible atheists, which they’ve more in common with a lot of progressive believers, and they’d rather work together. I see them point out that being an atheist does not make them more sensible than believers are, and that religious people do not deserve to be despised.
Not one of the statements are to do with whether faith is an excellent thing.
In the procedure for declaring they’ aren’t antitheists, some writers make concessions that seem nothing but. (Mass belief in a moralising god ‘does more damage than good’, claims Hughes. ‘Would I like to determine the human race leave all faith behind…? Absolutely, yes’ includes Carter.)
I’ve plenty of empathy with that. Like the majority of folks whose cast-off beliefs shaped their entire lives, I spent years in atheist puberty, a ball of rage, bitterness, self satisfaction and self-righteousness. It took quite a while to direct that rage correctly—first by recognizing my youth in the church was violent, subsequently by finding it in a more extensive history of maltreatment—and I understand not wanting to be that sort of atheist.
I come from a spiritual family, a number of whom I am nearer to than ever, but still associate together with the aesthetics of my former beliefs; I speak on panels where it is my job to get on with religious people, and that I spent several years included in an interfaith group; there is additionally a small, committed band of churchgoers who enjoy my work.
I am more thinking about saying what I believe.
Yes, there are terrible atheists; yes, a lot of believers are wonderful: I am intimately acquainted with both those facts, and that I do not spend my life fighting with them over beliefs.
Being spiritual is not evil on its own, and lay folks are not always better. Dumping religion would not solve all our difficulties—I doubt that dumping any one thing would, and there would be better nominees if I ’d to pick. But I do not believe any of this clashes with the thought that general, spiritual movements do more harm than good.
For me the response is way better, also it can not take me long to reach it. It is what appears accurate in my experience.
And I’d like to share things we say since they feel palatable.
I am not ok with folks believing whatever comforts them—not whose beliefs have consequences for other individuals, at any rate. (I do not mean anyone on their deathbed.)
I was raised having an individual mum who had careened through violent unions, who was homeless and penniless when she got away from my father.
Even after her magnetic stage, she was emotionally unstable, and that I spent most of my life hostage to her dispositions.
Give me a case-hardened literalist on a Christian like that any day. A fundamentalist’s thoughts are almost always valid on some degree, and anything using an internal logic may be commanded. Believers whose religion changes shape depending how they feel are the most dangerous, and frequently the ones trying to find relaxation.
I am also not completely against fundamentalism.
To begin with, that word meant something before it had been made interchangeable with extremism. (There are Muslims whose beliefs reflect one variant of protestantism. That is really not WHAT’S are.)
For another, any faith with enough followers is certainly going to own extremists: those folks really are a characteristic, not a bug. And extremist types of faith are not the only ones that damage folks.
I used to be suicidal ten years back, when my religion was an inoffensive, mainstream, conventional one—not because I believed queers went to hell, but because I believed letting folks spit on me was what Jesus would do, and because I believed prayer was a great treatment for mental illness.
Only critiquing fundamentalists might make for easier relationships with believers.
Having grown up within the church, in a town having a dozen denominations along with a family of several, I’m in fact conscious Christians differ, and that not all of these are Westboro. (Like most LGBT individuals who leave, I understood perfectly well that there were ‘affirming’ churches.)
We perish in churches where queer issues are taboo—not out of vitriol, but out of uptight middle class stress.
And I Had like to concur that without faith, individuals who do damage in its name would behave the same with other reasoning. It is only that it is bullshit. Not everything believers do could be achieved in some other circumstance—in a world without God, what does a kid exorcism look like?
We are aware that even when other variables are controlled for, spiritual change across generations prompts societal change; we understand new religious movements cause historical changes on their own; we understand that in electorates world-wide, faith is a powerful predictor of how individuals vote; we understand religious conversions change people’s lives, and that when individuals leave faith, their lifestyles change drastically.
For individuals who maintain it does the world great, faith’s entire value is predicated on its power to shift behavior. Why would not it be to blame for dangerous changes?
Once I hear people saying the reason why they are not antitheists—when I read tweets and Facebook standings and site posts and op-eds —these are the statements I am used to hearing.
Not one are useful statements. All are either inconsequential or wrong.
They are not things I am thinking about saying.
I comprehend—and, now, share—want for dialogue, but when believers determine they like me it is because I do not bullshit them. There are better approaches to create bridges than dishonest arguments.