Please clue me in here, regarding Saturday’s Reason Rally. What was the point? Seems to me, if you’re truly an atheist, wouldn’t making of show of not believing in God feel like taking pride in not believing in ghosts, vampires, leprechauns, and tax cuts creating jobs and increasing revenue?
I don’t believe in God anymore. I don’t feel smarter or wiser or more grown-up for this. I just feel robbed. So I don’t consider myself an atheist. I feel my lack of faith as a loss and I don’t think a true atheist would feel that. And I backslide. I don’t pray but I catch myself about to and have to stop me. I also catch myself thinking about Jesus of Nazareth as if he was Jesus the Christ, the miracle-working son of God.
And I don’t know.
I don’t know God or a god or some sort of god doesn’t exist.
I suppose this makes me agnostic. But the word has connotations of thoughtfulness and intellectual consistency that don’t describe my thinking, mainly because my thinking is all over the place to the point of its not being thinking at all, just a mess of conflicting emotions and mutually contradicting half-baked ideas cancelling each other out.
This is pure opinion on my part, but atheism, I think, is not simply a non-belief in a deity or a divinity. Atheists, I think, don’t care that God or a god or the gods exist and don’t care that they don’t care, and in fact, hardly even think about the fact that they don’t care. And they don’t care if you care about what they believe or don’t believe. It’d never occur to atheists, true atheists, to try to prove to you there’s no God or explain why they don’t believe or even think to tell you that they don’t believe. In fact, I’d doubt the word of any self-professed atheists who felt the need to profess their non-belief the way born-again Christians feel the need to profess their belief.
(By the way, no prizes for the first commenter who thinks they’ve caught me trying to get away with a No True Scotsman argument. I’m giving my opinion not insisting on a definition. But no true atheist…)
I’ve known only a couple of people who were what I think of as true atheists. Mostly, I’ve known people who are agnostic or who like me could be called agnostic for want of a better term for their skepticism or confusion. They’re non-believers in that they don’t believe there’s a wise, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving and personal deity who involves himself---or herself or itself or theirselves---in earthly affairs, but they don’t know. They’re open to the possibility that there’s something out there (or in here) but think that whatever or whoever it is is unknowable and so they don’t worry themselves with trying to get to know it, let alone communicate with it. Or him or she or them.
The self-professed atheists that I know of, through the internet, through their books, through their appearances in the news, through their blogs and through their tweets, strike me as too insistent for true atheists. They care too much, some to the point of militancy, even zealotry. Most though just seem to have a chip on their shoulder about it. And I wouldn’t even describe what they believe as non-belief. It’s more like recalcitrance.
As far as I can tell, they define their atheism in opposition to something, usually, it appears, to Right Wing Christian religiosity or authoritarian Catholicism. In either case, it’s typically the religion of their childhood. In their thinking there appear to be no observant Jews, no Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Unitarians, or African-American Baptists and evangelicals, no liberal Christians at all. No Hindus or Muslims. As far as they seem aware, the only believers are megachurch-going God-botherers and the only way to practice belief is to wage culture war and vote Republican, which happens to be what the megachurch-going God-botherers believe too, an unfortunate point of agreement.
These atheists also equate religion with belief and both with superstition and ignorance and so they think of believers generally as superstitious and ignorant, with the not always unspoken corollary that non-believers are more enlightened, that is, smarter, even though the intelligent position is to never assume you are more intelligent than those who don’t share your beliefs or non-beliefs.
And it looks to me as though a lot of them haven’t given up religion as simply substituted non-believing for believing.
Human beings can make a religion of anything. There are atheists among whom atheism is treated in a way that is in practice religious. For one thing, there are practices. There are approved beliefs or rather statements of non-belief, sacred texts, special observances, a pantheon of heroes that reminds this lapsed Catholic of a communion of saints. I don’t see any signs of a priesthood but there are preachers.
There’s also an all too familiar smugness. Non-believers announce their non-belief in self-congratulatory tones that assume approval on the part of listeners as if not believing in a heaven was the surest way to get there.
And there’s another familiar attitude. A sense of persecution.
These atheists complain that they’re “stigmatized.” They point at polls showing that most of their fellow citizens distrust them. They wax indignant about how no atheists can be elected to public office, although I don’t know how they know there are no atheist mayors, city councilors, county legislators, sheriffs, school board members, state assemblymen and women, town clerks, judges, highway superintendants, receivers of taxes, or dog catchers anywhere in America. Maybe there was a study I haven’t heard about.
I wouldn’t bet that there are any atheist governors and I’d need odds on U.S. Senators. But members of the House of Representative? If there aren’t any currently serving, it’s probably a fluke. Since 1789, I’m sure there have been a few.
It’s probably true that no atheist is going to get elected President any time soon, but that might be a matter of demographics as much as prejudice, and even if it is prejudice, atheists need to get in line to be discriminated against on that score. In the history of the Republic only three Catholics have ever been nominated, all three by the Democrats, which brings demographics back into it, and neither Party has nominated a Jew. At the moment, the Republicans are having a hard time bringing themselves to nominate a Mormon. And I doubt there’ll be a Hindu or a Muslim on either ticket in my lifetime. In fact, never mind religion. No women and only one non-white guy have ever headed the ticket. As far as we really know, all the men who’ve been nominated have been straight.
There are school districts in the country where no atheists need apply to be teachers. But there are other districts where atheists are principals and even the school superintendant. There are bosses who won’t hire you if they know you’re an atheist, but there are bosses who will gladly give you a corner office as long you went to the right school or play golf. And whose chances do you like better going into a job interview, the able-bodied atheist’s or the wheelchair-bound or blind or deaf Christian’s?
Atheists may not be a beloved minority but they have a long way to go to prove that they are an all that heavily oppressed one.
The fact that people disagree with you does not mean they are persecuting you, an obvious point we have a hard enough time making to Right Wing Christians.
So, what I’m getting at is I don’t see the point of the Reason Rally.
Actually, to be honest, it didn’t even look to me like a rally.
It looked like a group of people coming together to essentially pray in public and testify and to listen to sermons and shout the atheist’s equivalent of amen at the preachers. In short, it looked like…
A revival meeting.