A Rant – I Quit
I’m through with being an “activist atheist”. That’s right, I no longer want to troll Facebook and Twitter for theists and tell them why they are wrong, I no longer want to make fun of theists for their unreasonable beliefs, and I no longer want to be part of the online atheist “community”.
“What do you mean? Are you going to leave the internet?” I hear you ask.
No I’m not leaving the internet, and to be honest this will not change an awful lot in what I do online. In fact, I see this as a focusing of my attention on things that matter to me personally, while leaving the detritus of online arguing to those that do it much better, and have a vested interest in this arguing. What this means is that I will no longer be dragged into debates with theists who make a ludicrous claim, then base their evidence on the very book from which their ludicrous claim originates. There is no point in it. All this serves to do is to make us feel a sense of superiority to the person making the claims. and does nothing for them except leave them with a smugness about their assumption that “atheists are all mean.” Knowing that faith overrides knowledge and truth in any situation, as this is the nature of faith in essence, arguing with a theist is akin to banging your head against a brick wall: You will injure yourself and achieve little.
“But what does this mean?”
Well, firstly let’s look at what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean I will be leaving the social networks, or even changing the style of my tweets and Facebook posts. I’ve been moving in this direction for some time now, and I think I’ve come to a point where I am only injuring myself if I were to continue engaging on a level of theistic debating. If you like what I’m doing now, and have been doing for the past six months, never fear this is the way of the future also. But if you come to me expecting me to argue the efficacy of the Noah’s Ark story, don’t bother, I’m not interested.
These “facts” as spewed by theists are self defeating, and there are many more people on Twitter and Facebook who not only do a better job of this kind of debating, but also have a vested interest in doing so. I was never injured by religion as a child, so I have nothing to prove either to myself or others.
If however the beliefs of someone are actively harmful, i.e. promoting intolerance based on belief systems, expect me to be the first to stand up and say something. I can’t allow this kind of thinking, and if I can help it, I will move to sway the believer into rethinking their position. This will be done with reason and rational discourse, not with contradicting the finer points of the religious texts.
“Your voice is needed, don’t stop doing this!”
Well, it may be that my voice is needed, and as I said, I will not stop doing what I do. Just call it a change of focus, and a finer focus on what I do and say online.
“So you are just changing your focus”
A little bit. My focus has less to do with religion and more to do with humanity and the planet we inhabit. Religion itself, by itself, is not what is harming us. What harms us is fanaticism, and fanaticism in any form tends to be come blinkered if left to its own. My focus now is towards the equality of humanity, on whatever level it needs to come from, and against the wrongdoings of people in the name of their belief systems. If your religion tells you to be intolerant toward people f a different gender to you, it is your interpretation of the religion that is doing harm, not the religion itself. It’s the way people choose to enact their beliefs that cause us harm, and it’s the blindness to these enactments that causes the fanaticism.
The problems in the world are multifaceted, and religion only plays a small part. As I said earlier this week in a rant on Twitter, whether someone believes that Jesus is the saviour of mankind, sent to save us from a fate bestowed upon us by an other-worldly incarnation of himself, is not the issue. What is at issue here is the use of this belief system to harm others, and based on what they have been told, these believers know no better than to use their beliefs as a foundation from which to build their intolerance. It’s never as simple as “theists are dumb and atheists are smart”, because that’s simply not true. Belief is powerful, misguided or not, and those who believe have “reason” to do so, even if that reason is completely irrational.
It all comes down to a simple fact: People will be more easily swayed if you don’t attack them personally. I know you might say that an attack on religion is not a personal attack, but the the believer it is, because belief is what many base the rest of their lives upon. If you attack the believer’s beliefs, it is as though you are attacking them personally, and they will shut down the conversation right there, or even worse GO INTO ALL-CAPS MODE, as if that makes the defense of belief more substantial.
My aim is to destroy irrational beliefs if and when they impinge upon the rights of others, but I won’t do it by simply saying “You’re wrong”. I see that an argument can be much more convincing if the destruction of irrational thought can be phrased in such a way that it is contained within a larger context, and one that the believers have no option but to agree with. For instance, the historical facts around the impossibility of the Noah’s Ark story, if told correctly, can be nothing but a parable designed to make humanity feel worthless, and powerless at God’s magnificence. If told as a series of mathematical or physical impossibilities, we have much more chance of swaying the believer of this tale. If however we just say “That’s a bullshit story, and you are a moron for believing it,” we are doomed to failure. And of course, simple belief in the story of Noah’s Ark has no immediate effects apart from the continuation of the delusional belief.
Of course this all depends upon the proviso that the believer is willing to listen at all. In many cases, this doesn’t happen.
“What triggered this decision?”
I have come to realise that we, as atheists and non-believers, make up such a small part of the world’s population that we can never hope to effect change in the world by ourselves. There has to be a way that we can get the theists onside with our ideas and prospective outcomes, and yelling at them is not it. In order to effect changes in the world we need the theists on our side. Most theists in the world are not completely delusional. For most it is a simple belief in an afterlife, and all the stories about the apocalypse etc., when really discussed, will be passed off as just stories used to illustrate a point. Any rational person should see it this way, and there are many rational theists. The problem is, the people we hear most from are not the rational ones, it’s the fanatics with the largest and loudest voices.
We can not do this alone. We need to convince those around us that the world is at peril, that god will not save us (nor has god promised to save us, rather god has promised to destroy us for not living up to his grand plan), and that the problems that we face as a planet can only be solved by the cooperation of people from all beliefs and backgrounds.
And sometimes, just sometimes, I see a glimmer of hope in the world, that this may actually be achievable.
In the meantime, if you haven’t already, read my articles about “Methodological Humanism” to see where I stand on these issues, and to see a possible way forward for the world. For a primer, read “Methodological Humanism“, which outlines some of the ideas behind what it means to be methodological in this sense, where the methodology behind humanism takes precedence above personal belief systems. Then read “Feminism and Humanism” which outlines how feminism is actually just a facet of humanism, and should be a default position or standpoint for any humanist. Then read “Methodological Humanism – Beyond Belief and Disbelief“, which outlines the possibilities of agreeing on the issues that are important to all of the planet regardless of belief systems. And finally read “Humanity Beyond the ‘Isms’“, which is really the basis for this post you are reading.
I hope none of this comes as a shock to any of you. Please don’t see this as a defeatist position, because it’s not. It’s simply an acknowledgement of something that has been bugging me for some time. To those who know me, my frustration with “online atheism” has been no secret. Also, none of this is aimed at any particular people. In fact, I think we still need those who will relentlessly chase down believers for their ludicrous beliefs. The only difference is, I will not be the one doing it.