Friday, August 7, 2009

ATheism - the next big civil rights battle

I’ve been having a discussion today about atheism, and at least one of the discussants really doesn’t like my position. It seems he, and many of the others at Stephanie’s place, have been really abused by their fellow Americans because they do not believe in the Christian God – or any other God for that matter. Because of that intensely personal experience, they are on fire, and have taken me to task as a Moderate Christian, who I think they view as only marginally more useful then a door stop.

It is tough to be called out so forthrightly, and I have to say I am not at all pleased by it. Folks who want to have an equal seat at the table are charging hard at me and telling me I’m art of the problem simply because of one of the many labels I use to describe myself, even though I have not, to my knowledge ever met them in person (much less treated them in a way that would provoke that response). Of course, I am also melancholy about how they’ve been treated, because I see no point in the approach of a fundamentalist in attacking them that way - just as I see no point in racism, sexism, or intolerance to various gender identity and sexuality monakers.

So, rolling all this around, what should I do? I’ve stayed in the fight thus far, in part because I do believe that America as a nation can benefit from a lot more discussion, and a lot less internal warfare. I am also of the belief, based on what I was taught in church, that my response as a Christian needs to be acceptance of everyone, and the extension of as much understanding, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance as I can to those who do not share my beliefs. And, if they are being discriminated against, in any way, I have to stand with them against that discrimination.

So over the next few weeks (but perhaps not regularly) I’ll be returning to the topic of discrimination in America. I hope to focus on it in all forms, racial, gender, religious, marital, housing – you name it. I won’t spend a lot of time looking exhaustively at history, but I want to go deeper into the question and see both what the state of play is on the ground, and what my response is to that.

And to Lou FCD – I am serious about writing that letter.


Thomas Joseph said...

In the house I grew up in, faith was pretty much always a private affair. I remember wearing a "Roman Catholic" t-shirt once (more as a retaliation to the ultra-fundie state I was living in) and my grandfather pulled me aside and told me to be careful about wearing that shirt because people wouldn't have nice things to say and may target me in some form. As a child of Italian immigrants, he knew what he was talking about. I kind of laughed it off, only to have my own PhD adviser jokingly (I hope) call me a child abuser a couple of weeks later.

I understand the atheist point of view when having to deal with the vocal minority. I do honestly believe they're in the minority, but I also believe they're very vocal as well. I will surely oppose any attempt to infringe on their rights (it was a Catholic who first got the courts to remove Bible curriculum from public schools). However, a certain degree of thickskin is needed for the idiots on the internet.

Thomas Joseph said...

So, rolling all this around, what should I do?

After reading the comments lower down in the comments section, I'm convinced that it doesn't matter what you do. You're (we're) the enemy. Full stop. If you're not actively denying them their freedoms, you're somehow empowering those who do. You are delusional, and a threat to society, because you indulge people who are lunatics, who are also delusional, and threats to society. I believe that if a few of them had their way, your religion would be illegal (talk about infringing on rights).

carlsonjok said...

Do what ever you would have done even if they hadn't subjected you to their ire. I, like you, think it is counterproductive to their ends to cover in derision folks who are trying to offer support. But, it is probably wrong to also deny working for equal rights just because someone is a rude asshole.

Thomas Joseph said...

carlsonjok: But, it is probably wrong to also deny working for equal rights just because someone is a rude asshole.

Of course you're right, but I think it's reasonable to surmise that it's going to turn some people away from having a sympathetic ear. If you agree with them in principle, but they keep telling you you're really the worst part of the problem, you shouldn't be surprised if they eventually accept what you have to say about them and they just leave the issue alone and leave you to fend for yourself. It's damn common sense.

Stephanie Zvan said...

You should perhaps consider getting as thick a skin as the people whose rights you'd like to fight for have to have on a daily basis.

Thomas Joseph said...

Stephanie: You should perhaps consider getting as thick a skin as the people whose rights you'd like to fight for have to have on a daily basis.

Are you talking to me? I assume so because you've leveled this tripe at me on two blogs now. Doesn't matter if you are or not because everyone involved in the conversation before you showed up with your "Blah, blah, blah thick skin, blah, blah, blah" crap didn't seem to be offended in the slightest. Your constant telling me to get a thicker skin is getting old. You don't know me from Adam, you've overstated my case several times (*gasp* I used the word "assumption" once ... oh noes!), and now you're telling me what I'm feeling. Instead of wasting my time (I mean if you really want to engage in useful discussion), how about you stop acting so condescending, and lets get to the heart of the matter.

I came to your website out of general interest, and all I've gotten from you is petty crap. Is that all you have to offer?

Anonymous said...

You need to understand, that whether you like it or not, you are part of an oppressive majority. Even if you are not personally oppressing anyone. Even if you if you go out of your way to fight against the oppression. If you get splashed a little when arguments are thrown in the direction of the group you're a part of, you really should expect that.

Telling people that we should go back to the methods which history had taught us simply do not work makes you part of the problem, no matter how earnestly you believe you're right. Pointing out that we should befriend our oppressors in the hopes that they'll like us enough to stop oppressing so much (until they decide they don't like us anymore), makes you a part of the problem, no matter how honestly you believe freedom by anothers goodwill and in their time should be good enough for us.

Mostly, though, telling us we should stick to the Oppressor-Approved™ tactics you suggest, just really pisses people off.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Phil: "So, rolling all this around, what should I do?"

Tripe, Thomas? I have told you to stop working so hard to believe atheists are talking about you. That still seems to be valid advice.

Philip H. said...

I have a thick skin, otherwise I wouldn't have stayed in the fight in so many places. I still believe that you, PZ, Lou FCD and I can disagree about tactics, and yet work toward the same end. If you don't that's fine. You're still welcome here, and I hope you will continue to be a part of the conversation.

I wasn't aware that there were approved tactics. I just that that, if your aim is to change how you are viewed, and to claim your rights in such a way that no one violates them for any reason, then there are tactics that will succeed, and tactics that won't. I'm perfectly willing to learn from your experiences, but do you, honestly, think you can succeed by telling me to go sit quitely in the corner and suck my thumb? If the statistics are correct - and I think they probably underreport - then there are around 10% of Americans who self-identify as atheists. that's a sizable minority, and there is no logical reaosn I can think of why you shoul dbe discriminated against.

That said, praising tactics that get you dismissed by the mainstream public, in the same way we dismiss the fundies, will not win the enforcement you need (or the new laws ina few cases) that will help protect you rights in this country. That's not a Christian - Athesist thing, its a political statistics thing.

If that makes me an insensative clod, so be it. it als makes me a realist.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, you're not suggesting tactics that work. You're suggesting tactics that have constantly failed to work for pretty much all of history. The tactics that haven't gotten us the protections of our right that we demand for hundreds of years won't be doing so now, either.