Saturday, 8 September 2007

Not Being Militant

Okay, after all the fun and games - quizzes and games of tag, it's time to get back down to some serious work.

One of the biggest dilemmas I find I face on a regular basis is how much to ally myself with the atheism movement. It's not so much a dilemma, I suppose, as a sliding scale. I know what my position is but where does it place me in the greater community? I've noticed this problem particularly since I began blogging, although it's always been there - should I join the National Secular Society , am I brave enough to wear an atheist tshirt , should I try to persuade people of my point of view?

Now, don't get me wrong. I am absolutely an atheist: the theory of evolution and the advances in our understanding of the universe , coupled with my own life experience have convinced me that the simplest and most logical explanation of life on earth does not require the intervention of a deity. But that's the point. If I hadn't done that philosophy course and learned about the theory of evolution; if I hadn't developed a passion for all things spacey and seen the Hubble pictures of all those galaxies and, crucially, if my life hadn't taken the path it did then I might not now be an atheist. Even then, it wasn't until I was in my forties that all those bits of my life came together and built the case for me.

So I find it difficult to give other people a hard time just because they haven't reached my level of enlightenment. I admire Richard Dawkins, Jonathan Miller et al but I am not comfortable always with the aggressive stance taken by some famous atheists. I understand the frustration with the increasingly strident creationists, especially in America, but I also feel that people have to find their own way in their own time.


Dorid said...

I would agree for the most part. Until education and politics became involved, I would say "live and let live" Now I feel that sometimes we have to voice our views as well, as often, and sometimes as loudly as those who would want to eliminate certain rights.

Since the US, unlike other states, has a constitution that prohibits the establisment of religion by the government, religious interference in government and laws is a great concern for many of us.

There is also the problem of shame. It's generally accepted that you belive in the Christian God. People of other faiths are seen as silly or stupid. There's a problem with that. While schools in America debate intelligent design on the basis of "a lot of people believe it" they forget other equally valid (or invalid) creation stories.

For me, I see bumperstickers, t-shirts, billboards, and so on every day touting a specific belief. I have no problem choosing to represent my point of view as well. If my friends can wear a "Jesus Loves you" T-shirt, I can wear my red "A"... The idea being that there should be a free discussion about the nature of knowledge and understanding of the world.

It's funny, because we see blogs, websites, and so on boasting crosses, but when people see that "A" in the sidebar, they get uncomfortable. WHY? Isn't the atheistic viewpoint just as valuable as that of a Christian?

Puddock said...

What a great comment dorid!

I think we have an easier time of it over here in the UK. Being an atheist in the US seems to be more difficult.

Do you ever find yourself wondering where it all went wrong? Back in the seventies the churches looked as though they were on their last legs. No-one took religion seriously (not here anyway). When did it begin sneaking back into the room?

I wrote the post because I am debating with myself how assertive to be about my own non-belief. I am absolutely upfront about being an atheist but I don't particularly want to proselytise for it. Or maybe I'm just avoiding confrontation. I've got a couple of badges on the blog and I am thinking about the big red A. And I am passionately convinced that if people were given the facts about evolution and the scale of the universe then a lot more people would give up the need for a god; I suppose that's what I'm trying to do in my blog. I just don't want to risk frightening them off before they've read my dazzling arguments.

Greg said...

I estimate it took me about 10-12 years to get the religion totally out of my system. As you may know, I don't even associate myself with the term atheist. I think that term still clings to the religions.

Religion is so ingrained in the typical person that it is extremely difficult to adjust to life without. I remember thinking about simple stuff like saying "Bless you" when someone sneezed. It was either that or gesundheit, and I didn't know what gesundheit meant. I finally accepted that some things are just conventions of time. So I say "bless you" to "outsiders" and at home we say "choozes" with the kids, our own invention. Of course I occasionally slip and say "choozes" to outsiders and get "the look," but oh well.

Most people with religion are nice. They mean well. If that rocks their boat then more power to them. Who am I to take that away from them? It's like telling a kid there's no Santa Claus.

Robert Morschel said...

I'm probably looking for trouble posting here, but since its another "Random musing" blog like my own I thought I'd say hello. I am a Christian, and came to it late in life, so perhaps its not like Santa Clause. I find the inter-atheism and religion fights and aggression very sad. I have a science degree so I'm not completely daft. I look at the stars and humanity and come to the conclusion that there is a God and the associated world view fits better. Its not without its problems and intellectual difficulties, but then what world view isnt?? I cringe at some of the things Creationists say. Anyway its nice to meet a non-hostile atheist for a change. God bless. ;-) (sorry couldn't resist)

Deborah Arobed said...

Well put, Puddock. I agree with your sentiments. Nice to see Camus on you site, too.

Puddock said...

I agree with you Greg that religion is deeply entrenched in our culture and it's forever catching me out. I've been caught by the 'Bless you' one.

More often it's the 'God knows' that catches me, as in 'God knows when the bus is going to get here'. I've tried substituting other things - the stars, EInstein, etc but I've pretty much given up the struggle. As you say, it's simpler sometimes to accept that the phrases are just conventions of the time. New ones will emerge I suppose (and hope)

Sean Smith said...

If it were me, I wouldn't try to convert anybody. I would just simply have fun talking with people, arguing... I love arguing and stating my beliefs

reasonable robinson said...

Hi Daisy P- have you read any of Ken Wilber's stuff? An interesting appraoch to reconciling the scientific with the spiritual...