Christians in the west have long complained that they are treated poorly because “we” know they couldn’t get away with violent response to art or commentary that is freely expressed and critical of religion and Christianity in particular the way that they perceive that the media and public refrain from expressing criticism of Islam for fear of causing riots or other violence.
It’s pretty disturbing, since this response is basically complaining that Christians would be violent if they felt they could socially and legally get away with violence – because at the fringes, Christians do use violence directed at abortion clinics and medical providers and intimidation tactics against art galleries and companies who advertise in a manner that Christians disapprove of – usually in gay publications or being inclusive of gay people.
Christians act like they are still being fed to the lions instead of being the operators of the Circus Maximus.
The problem is that freedom of religion isn’t balanced or tempered in secular society – while each person has the right to the religion or not of their choice, there is no legal or social requirement that says “as long as you keep it to yourself and not impose it upon other people who are free to make their own choices, without interference from other people.”
People who are religious, if not outright required by the religion to go door to door to testify, do have a compulsion to spread the word about their religion – as if by sheer numbers, can prove their religion right or earn salvation points by bringing others into the fold. Mostly, it’s believers who are convinced of being right that they feel entitled to push their views onto other people, into secular law and the public square.
I often think it’s a poor self-esteem thing, as if by being in the majority or at least a large group, there’s a sense of validation in the belief – and perhaps on some level, believers know how ridiculous, illogical and plain silly much of religion’s stories and claims are – but if everyone pretends that they are real – you don’t feel silly clapping to keep Tinkerbell alive if everyone in the theatre is clapping after all – so if everyone or at least most people will at least act as if the religion is real, then believers don’t have to be so defensive about it all the time.
The difficulty that believers have with the so called New Atheists, isn’t the non-belief that’s been there all along – but rather the new part of the current atheism is the unwillingness to coddle or be sensitive to religious sensibilities.
The complain most uttered is about the lack of tact, respect and civility of the “new” atheists, not the actual content – but the manner of the debate.
And, as new atheists, it does not serve our purpose to grant them their wish for “respect” for their views and opinions, when there’s no merit or validity to them, so a certain base of civility because of being members of a civil society yes, but no consideration or acting as if the claims of religions had merit or validity.
Given that religion in the past and in some countries today treats other and non-believers with brutality, torture and murder – that the worst that new atheism does is be disrespectful and mock them, Christians and other believers should be grateful that new atheists are far more humane and compassionate than believers have demonstrated throughout their history to those deemed heathens, pagans, heretics and witches. The humanist toolbox is logic, reason, mockery, parody and empirical evidence – not genocide, torture, murder and discrimination.
Atheists, unlike religionists, do not recruit. We encourage, we challenge, but we do not recruit – atheism is not something that can be forced or required – people have to be able to let go of religion in their own time, at their own pace if it is to be meaningful and lasting.
Atheists are not angry at deities that we do not believe exists, we aren’t not worshipping to avoid deities because we don’t believe that there’s going to be some awkward meeting, where we suddenly encounter each other and talk about the weather while not making direct eye contact.
We simply are not convinced by the subjective feelings and experiences offered by believers as compelling to them evidence, we do not expect to understand the universe right now and are not daunted by the complexity to throw our hands in the air and say, a god must have done it, we do not find the promise or threat of eternal afterlife any more compelling than behaving so that Santa will bring presents. Although I often wondered why the Easter Bunny didn’t require good behavior for chocolate, somehow, good behavior being a condition of Easter bounty makes more sense than for Christmas presents.
Many believers also seem to have an unexplainable idea that non-believers simply haven’t been properly exposed to the right religion aka theirs – just like a man who tries to convince a lesbian that their particular penis will convert her to heterosexuality. Like I don’t know what makes me wet….
It comes down to who gets to know what’s best for you.
Religion claims to know what’s best and believers subscribe to the religion of their exposure more than choice – most people remain in the religion they were raised in or something close – rarely, people convert to different faiths – but there is a correlation between education and religiousness. The higher the education, the less the religion. Because the more you learn and know, the less you need religion to provide simple explanations for the complexity of the universe and of life.
Believers who are certain – and it’s the certainty that’s the real danger more than the particular beliefs- are at risk of viewing secular society as having failed and to feel entitled, if not required by duty, to do whatever it takes to restore “order” by imposing their religious views on society. If not by the word, then by the sword – as history has demonstrated time and time again.
The certainty of the beliefs gives the believer the “burden”, the call to duty, of being a martyr to inspire others to follow and to cow the unfaithful into believing – and violence is too often the “go to” action to enforce and force their beliefs on others – especially as their standing in the mainstream community is threatened by social progress – like how they aren’t as able to discriminate against gays anymore – and since they lost the battle against black rights and women’s rights – they are getting anxious that there’s fewer people for them to get away with discriminating against.
By giving credibility and consideration to the mainstream religious sensibilities, we allow the fringe extremes an undeserved social consideration that is a launching point for their violent assaults on secular society. The controversy that we need to teach, is that while each of us has a right to our beliefs – no matter what those beliefs are – that the beliefs themselves are not owed any respect, credibility, consideration or equal footing that the beliefs do not deserve on their face or by their details.
A believer in a religion is little different than a believer in a broad conspiracy – there’s no evidence for the belief and this is claimed as evidence of the belief – it’s all part of The Plan so that only the True Believers realize and know – what evidence there is, is subjective, interpretive and rarely logical or consistent and heavily relies on convoluted details, assumptions and illogical premises – religious apologists work very hard to smooth out the contradictions between their religion and reality, much to the annoyance of the fundamentalists who find reality rather than the religion, at fault. But the fact of there being apologists speaks volumes of the inadequacy of religion to hold up under scrutiny.
The higher the demand for respect – or rather reverence – the higher the scrutiny the belief or claim should be subjected to; and, the reality is, that some sacred cows are destined to become hamburgers.