I suppose this is the part in which I come out: I’m a liberal atheist (Whew! I feel better already). I firmly believe that atheists should have a bigger voice in this world. We should not allow ourselves to remain sequestered for fear of what others (namely employers, family, friends, potential constituents, etc) will think of us if we don’t. Personally, I’m done with hiding my non-belief. I’m over just answering with a “No” when asked if I go to church. It’s time to start answering, “No, I do not because I am an Atheist” instead because I want them to inquire about it. I want people to start thinking differently about atheism and what it means. I want Americans to begin accepting openly atheist people into their government and local positions of power. We are not evil. We are not immoral. We are not devoid of meaning in our lives.
To me, religion as it stands today is a disease. It is a disease that is spreading through the weak and the weary spreading ignorance and turning us on each other. It has created a culture in which one is not allowed to be happy with themselves or with anyone else if what makes them happy is outside of their religious doctrine. Religion suppresses people. It suppresses progress and tolerance and it suppresses growth and personal responsibility.
If it were up to me, people would practice or not practice any religion they choose if it makes them happy and fulfills their life but also understand that each person is different and will have different views of what that fulfillment looks like. Unfortunately, religious people can’t seem to recognize that those outside of their religion are just like them — they have dreams and goals and families. Instead, they view someone else’s happiness in another religion as dangerous and ignorant. They kill people who are different than they are because they are viewed as a threat. Ok, death is on the extreme end of this spectrum but, you get the point.
What I want to know is this: Why can’t people just be happy for people who are happy? Why do we have to be right all the time? Why do we have to be in everyone else’s business and personal life? If people are not pursuing personal happiness at the expense of others (i.e. murder, rape, burglary, etc.) then why do so many feel so inclined to stop them? Let them be gay. Let them be nerdy. Let them be Muslim or Jewish or atheist. And you should expect the same respect in return.
There is a huge movement happening in this country to put an end to bullying. While it’s great to teach your kids not to bully others, we should consider leading by example first. Adults in this country are bullying each other every day. There are idiots at all ends of the spectrum looking down on those opposite them while belittling, hurting, offending and essentially shitting on everything they believe to be real and true. How could that not make people mad? How could they not react?
I myself am guilty of this. I make jokes about Christianity almost daily. A big part of me even enjoys doing it. I think the difference is that I would never suggest to a Christian that they need to stop being a Christian. I would only suggest that they need to stop chastising me for not being one. So, Christians (or, anyone really) bring on the jokes right back at me. We should all care about what others have to say but we should also be respectful of their thoughts when they say it. Making jokes and/or expressing yourself is one thing, hurting people intentionally is quite another. We are all different and differences make people uncomfortable, I get that. But, instead of falling victim to discomfort by never exploring others, why not engage each other and learn something. By opening our minds to the different and unusual we can become more accepting of what others say and do.
I think, for the most part, atheists get this. We all tend to agree on the premise of, ‘To Each His Own’. Unfortunately, some of us tend to lash out when others cannot accept that premise and 9 times out of 10, those unwilling or unable to accept are the religious ones. This change in human perspective has to start in the religious world. Muslims have to stop killing westerners, Christians have to become more tolerant of other beliefs/lifestyles, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have to stop knocking on my door!
The burden is on religion and those that practice it to make our world a better, more peaceful place. As an atheist, that makes me extremely uncomfortable (to be honest) however, if I have faith in anything, I have faith in people. I have faith that people are capable of great love and tolerance. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing; we just have to agree to disagree on the details.