A month or so ago, one of my Facebook friends posed a question in a status update. If memory serves, he went through a few examples of both Christian and Islamic bigotry and persecution (towards others), ending the post by asking “What have you done today to help eradicate religious extremism?”. That was not the exact wording, but it was something similar.
In truth, I would have to say, nothing. Both in the context of that day itself, and generally. In fact, the last I even pondered the topic of religious matters in any depth was when I answered some questions for atheists I found on Twitter back in early July.
Part of it was boredom. When you have been beating on a given topic that never really changes for YEARS, one can’t be faulted for losing interest.
A major recent factor was being fed up with explaining or justifying myself to people (mainly atheists). I do not have to call myself ANYTHING (an atheist), nor does anyone else. If that knaws at your craw, look up the word religion in the dictionary. Such behavior can be interpreted as indicative of a religious group.
Anothet factor that drove me to leave the debate, was the realization that not only was I (and others engaging in irreligious arguments) not making any headway, but I may also be doing more harm than good.
Years ago (when in the middle of my fray into the atheist debate) there were people that recognized the futility of my actions. They told me that I was not changing anyone’s mind. But I (like many others) just cast them aside. Figured that they didn’t know what they were talking about. I am an atheist on a crusade to change the world for the better!
6 or 7 years later, I would find myself in agreement. Though I don’t know how they came to that conclusion the time, I had arrived there on my own. And not because I figured out that it was wrong to ask such questions, or because I decided that people should be left alone in their beliefs either.
It all boils down to logic. I don’t mean reason VS irrational belief either. It’s more, the concept of logic has become largely useless, since anyone can slap the label on some mental conclusion that they have reached. Whether it’s involving a deity, paranormal phenomena, chem trails, homeopathy or anything else. Anyone can claim them as logical conclusions. Wrongly, yes. But besides the fact that most people in online debate do not grasp the word in full (me included!), if your tact is based around a concept that is in itself misunderstood, it’s already lost. You can’t focus on the topic (whatever it be) without further entrenching the person, because it’s as logical to them as secularism or atheism to an atheist. Upon further delving, you will likely also find a flawed understanding of concepts like evidence, proof and others.
If any pattern that can be developed in the mind can be labeled with intellectual buzzwords (Logical, reasonable, rational, nuanced etc), than the words are are not all that helpful.
In recent months, I have realized that all of those various busswords do not really be a part of the conversation anyway. You do not need to label yourself as locical, rational, nuanced etc. Nor do you need to describe your argument as such. Because an argument (or a person!) that is truly logical, rational, nuanced, free thinking . . . will be obvious. The views and arguments will speak for themselves.
In fact, I would go as far as saying that these unessesary labels of intellectual superiority only serve to limit ones intellectual potential. Like how religous dogma often prevents people from giving any other argument credance, intellectual buzzwords can do the same. If you already consider yourself a logical, rational, nuanced freethinker. . . why would any other argument matter to you?
Not to mention that your dealing with an individual that has likley known nothing else, and has not been exposed to anything else (depending on their external environment). Though one may plant a seed of doubt, chances are better that you will only further empower them in their delusions. Particularly with the religious, since they are told by the great book of fairytales (whatever volume of their chosing) to expect resistance.
Just go to any debate on YouTube between an atheist (or any secularist) and a theist and read the comments. Chances are that (aside from trolls and fanboys) you will notice a couple of patterns. Those on the side of reason will (obviously) be in line with person of reason, often unquestioningly. And the people of faith will also often only be more emboldened and empowered in their position. If your lucky, you may also see a philosopher pointing out flaws in both sides . Often times only to be torn down by ignorant but persistent fanboys.
That is just a sample of all that is out there in terms of debates (Matt Dillahunty alone has hundreds just associated with his show\podcast The Atheist Experience !). I used to listen to debates fairly regularly. Not so much anymore, but I will listen once in a while (depending on who the participants are).
It’s hard to listen to debates, when you don’t really believe in the concept anymore. Debates do not change minds. They just cater to a like minded crowd. Some that are on the fence may be pushed over. But they are by no means the rule. And truth be told, I am unsure if the small number of doubt seeds planted and minds changed by a debate is worth the vastly bigger number that only become further entrenched by it.
This is not to say that I would attempt to stifle such debates (I would not). Its just something to take into consideration.
The past couple years has seen a lot of change for me. My search for something to call myself has largly been unsucessful. And in truth, always leading back to the same answer.
Which brings me back to the title. The reluctant atheist.
Many stumbling into this may have thought they were about to read a (heartwarming?) coming to reason story. To those people . . . sorry 🙂 . You came for a story, and instead found your whole way of thinking be dissected.
Just kidding . . . im not sorry. As is the common irreligious montra, no ideas are sacred. To to an atheistic hangout and discuss how I dont get atheism.
Anyway, my search for something to call myself (even if just for the purpose of conversation) brought me all over the place. From agnostic, to apatheist, to nothing for awhile. And not it seems, it bas brought me right back where I came from. Albeit with a bit of a twist.
If I were asked a question about my beliefs, I would likley say that they are atheistic. Because really . . . that is the closest parallel, if I had to pick one.
Why not just call yourself an atheist?
To be an atheist as they are commonly known, is to be associated with shit like this:
Though I do not like to toot my own horn, I will lay it out straight. The amount of thought I have put into this area clearly dwarfs that of many others, including some of the intellectuals within the secular community. As such, its to my benefit not to be associated with the likes of David Silverman, or other ideologically driven individuals. They do not promote unity, or represent freedom of thought. Their intolerant views introduce resistance into a much needed cohort of american (and really, any other) society. Causing a waste of energy in facusing on what secularists don’t choose to all themselves. As opposed to extending an olive branch and encouraging the whole community to unite for the common good.
As such, my religous views are atheistic. But I do not explicitly call myself an atheist. I feel no need. Atheistic tells you all you need to know. I do not drop to mu knees for any deity or entity.
To return to a question posed at the start of this piece (What have you done today to help eradicate religous extremism?), I have to change my answer.
I have not directly done anything, really. One can criticize for that.
What I do focus on however, is arguably much more important. I shine a light on intolerance in my own house, the secular community. We have much more power to bring about positive change as a unified collective, than as a split faction. The secular community VS the religiously tainted world is much more powerful than the current state of affairs, Atheist Vs the world/secular non atheists.