Part of the problem that atheists face is like what the gay community went through in the 1970′s and 1980s for a person to understand that gay people are just people, they have to know that they know some. Atheists, like gays and lesbians, can look like anyone.
It’s not like being a visible minority – where people know that they know One. But, if all gays and lesbians turned purple overnight, it wouldn’t mean we’d have equality, because knowing people were black by genetics didn’t eliminate racism.
To end bigotry, we need to educate people – for example, if you know that there’s less than 1% genetic difference between you and any person on the planet, it starts to seem really silly to get hung up over colours and shapes of people or body parts. It starts to seem bizarre actually to think that a person’s value is somehow related to their physical form or capabilities or membership in some social group or nationality.
Shouldn’t what kind of person or how they are living their life, the number and quality of their relationships be the measure of a person’s value? What they add to the world or just to the conversation?
After all, no one can know what’s in your mind or your feelings – we can only know by what a person does or says or behaves – and that’s what matters – how we are in the world and with each other – individually.
But, when you are a minority group member, you have to think that you might be the first one of your group that people know – so each of us is an ambassador of the group characteristics to every person we meet.
So for me – in person – I am a mid-40’s Icelandic-Ukrainian heritaged Canadian, a lesbian, a naturalist and a social justice advocate. I mention the heritage because I think that that is where I get my warrior take on the world tempered with a high degree of fatalistic acceptance of the big picture.
To some, I have been a terrifying force of nature, cause for screaming my name out loud nightmares (true story); for others, I am the quintessential Girl Friday – able to manage relationship databases, do complex analysis, and understand the relationship between spirit and letter of policy and legislation – and can organize an event or a whole office with biggest bang for the buck flexible, yet detailed, work processes. Always with an eye to cost effectiveness, green values and user friendly scalability.
I’ve worked in retail, wholesale, non-profit, not for profit and the public sector – with a diverse range of people across ethnicity and sociology-economic backgrounds, and a range of individual baggage and behaviours. Rather successfully, being the social butterfly that I normally am – until the latest round – but that’s a different post and topic.
So, being at home, I have a lot of time to think, to ponder, and to solve problems without being limited as to what kind of problems or solutions. One of the problems that I am working on is how we can all get along better with each other.
Because, let’s be honest, there’s not enough getting along going on in the world – and if we are going to survive as a species – we have to accept that we need to co-exist.
That starts with recognizing that everyone who currently exists, gets to. Since we get to exist, it makes sense that we exist with as much freedom and equality as we can muster and offer to each other.
Equality isn’t just what secular democratic governments legislate – it’s something that we have to agree to in our minds about each other – because no amount of legislation can make equality a reality if the population isn’t prepared to act as if the legislation were reality.
It’s not enough to say that we are all equal under the law – we have to actually make it so. We have to ignore the group identifiers that we all have and deal with each other as individuals – where and when encountered.
We have to approach each other understanding that we are equals – not well, the law says we are – but I don’t like your kind so you can’t shop in my store or date my teenaged or adult offspring or come around near me.
That’s not equality – equality isn’t you in your corner and me in mine – equality is both of us sharing the public space – and interacting as equals.
The only way we can be equals in the public square is that we share an understanding of what the public square means.
The public square is the natural world – the one that we actually exist in – it doesn’t matter what people think happens before life or after life – how everything started and what mechanisms are making it run so smoothly and naturally.
The world we all share is the world of humans – our collective history, our built up knowledge base, the how we came to understand what we currently do, and building a basis to be able to interact with the natural world around us – to mitigate disasters, repair what damage we can – and we can – you never hear about acid rain anymore.
The world we share is the world we can empirically quantify and is not dependent upon believe – but is grounded in so many hours of human intensive data collection, analysis, experimentation, trial and error, accidents and strokes of brilliant insight, each and every century, civilization and person – all built up, each standing on the shoulders of those that came before.
It’s okay to have faith in a religion – but what’s not okay is living as if your religion is truth that applies to everyone. The rules of a religion are only applicable to the people who willingly submit to the rules.
It’s okay to believe that everyone else is going to hell, but when you always come out and say it – let me put this very plainly:
When religious believers tell me that I am going to hell, I just feel really sad for them that they are that stupid to believe an obvious fairytale designed to inspire conformity to arbitrary and not very moral rules.
When person A says that person B is going to hell, it’s not person B who’s to be judged, but person A for their lack of understanding. inability to think critically, and their small mindset and small worldview.
It makes me sad that a person would safeguard against being conversant with human history and hamper their social experience and capacity – all while benefiting from the very science and body of knowledge that they religiously fight against.
We are facing a serious challenge in the future – humans are pumping out waste and extracting resources at alarming rates – we no longer live in a human scale world – the industrial revolution saw to the end of human scale living, even though stone age to Amish pockets of human scale existence still occur.
Most of us live in a global reality with factory mass production – mass of people, mass of industry – mass pollution.
While natural events like volcanoes spew out more pollution than humans generate – the waste products of volcanoes are natural and can be absorbed into the atmosphere, oceans and land naturally over time.
The waste that humans create isn’t natural in content or volume – it’s chemical compounds that don’t occur naturally, we combined them, we mined and refined them, we synthesized and extracted them. Then we dump them, with very little thought to treatment, containment and long term storage.
We need to deal with the shit we produce and we need to do it now – dealing with the facts on the ground about climate change, local environmental or regional disaster zones – we need to organize our industry to prevent and mitigate before disasters to prevent them or minimize their impact.
We need to not act like we have other planets in reserve or that this planet doesn’t have to last longer than the current generation – most people have children and grandchildren or they want them – how can we want to hand over a world that is ever more unsustainable?
It feels like the world is flying apart at the seems – and it is – people have to stop trying to make everyone else live under the rules that they submit to – and look at the world as a whole and decide – what kind of world do we want?
I know what kind I want – Star Trek – United Federation Planet number 1.
Heck, growing up in Canada, seeing Star Trek in syndication in the 1970’s – I rather thought I was living in a Federation reality. Canada has universal health care, guaranteed income for need (welfare), and the largest employer is the federal and provincial and municipal governments – we all work for the common good.
Well, not so much. When I came out in 1992 as a lesbian, I didn’t have any rights anymore – never mind equal ones. There’s nothing special about equal rights being applied with equal meaning.
I was legally fired twice when employers found out that I was a lesbian and a landlord was furious because they didn’t want to rent the house to perverts. It would have been legal to evict me, but the straight roommates made that tricky.
So, it was a shock to realize that Canada wasn’t the federation – but it’s closer than most other nations.
And Canada, since 1992 – one person, one court case and an organized massive social movement demanding the equality that every other citizen could take for granted – as I did until I suddenly and for unclear and no good reasons, didn’t have them anymore and had to win them back – first job and housing, then equal treatment as an employee, then marriage equality.
Marriage is about legal recognition of your family, it’s not the government’s place to say who your family can be – because who you love isn’t anyone’s business other than you and that beloved person. And its’ down to you as a couple to decide if children are or are not on the menu. So to speak, since gays and atheists don’t really eat babies.
Religion proponents understand that religion has no place in the public square, but religion holds a heavy influence on people’s behaviors – and this is why it is critical to keep church and state separate.
Our responsibilities as citizens is the public square and religion’s ideas about other people being lesser than the believers of the given religion, are not compatible with the public square in a secular and democratic nation, where equality is a legal given.
We have to deal with each others as equals in the natural world of the public square, deal with the facts on the ground as arrived at by the study of nature – science – and we have to trust in each other’s good will and honourable intentions.
But until we can really accept each other as equal people, there is no good will or honorable intentions to rely upon. There is just religious or political agendas – and that’s what’s gotten us into the mess we have now. We need another path to get us out – and that is the Individual as the social unit of consequence, having the freedom to take liberties with whatever makes you happy – and does not impose a lesser than status on any other individual or group of individuals.