I am about to embark on a great new chapter of my life. In May, I finished my doctorate in physics, and as amazing of a milestone that was, tomorrow I pass another one, as I begin my first day as an actual professor at a local community college.
However, as an avid reader of Dailykos, but also someone interested enough to start a group here for Progressive Atheists, even though I have a lot of other things on my mind, I felt compelled to add a bit of my own thoughts on the recent debate that was ignited on these pages over Atheists.
First of all, for anyone who has not been able to attain all the facts, on an earlier diary, there was a comment posted by a prominent Dailykos diarist, which has since been hide-rated, which said the following:
If ive ever met any person who sees littleThis comment was posted to a diary about the historicity of Jesus.
value in universal ethics, its an atheist. Their utter contempt for humanity is never far from the surface, as they typically have no concept of what it means to be fully human.
ive often thought it wouldnt be surprising if god were an atheist because theyre the only ones who actually lack the humanity to do the job.
Now, despite the implication made by the blockquote, Atheists in general do not argue that Jesus not existing is a basic tenet of Atheism. I mean, it's not like there's some unwritten rule that to be an Atheist, you have to agree and advocate that Jesus never existed. Being an Atheist and allowing that Jesus was an actual person are not contradictory. The issue, at least in regards to academically speaking, is purely one for historians and theologians.
And if you go back and read the source material of the diary, the criticisms of the historicity of Jesus do not seem to stem from Atheism at all. While some of the notable sources of the article are identified as Atheists, there is no indication that their criticisms stem from their nonreligion. Rather, it is mostly based on historical evidence, and investigating discrepancies in the documented history, a rather basic scientific approach, though one could then argue that their Atheist views color how they interpret that evidence. This would indeed be a valid criticism, though the above commenter doesn't seem intent on remaining within the realm of validity.
Next, it is worth mentioning that while I myself have many criticisms of the blockquote myself, others have already written some good diaries already that I think make a lot of the salient points.
While Atheists seem to make up a decent chunk of the readership here at Dailykos, I have noticed that when diaries are written explicitly on the subject, they rarely get on the Rec list, but counter-intuitively, they get hundreds of comments. So this makes today quite a rare occurrence, one that the Atheists community here should not pass up. Which I will get to in a minute.
The final point I want to make about the blockquote specifically, is that any point the commenter thinks they are making, they completely undermine with the last part.
After broadly attacking atheists for being inhumane, the commenter then uses that as their reason for likening them to God him or herself. Which is odd, given the focus of attacking Atheists implies that the commenter is a believer. One is left thinking that while the commenter does have a belief in God, they see him as so utterly in contempt of humanity that one wonders what value there is for humans to believe in him or her in the first place. Whether the point of the comment was to attack Atheists or defend believers, it seems to leave off doing neither.
The largest lesson I take away from this recent episode is that, unlike other culturally maligned groups in American politics, Atheists are still at the point where the majority of the attacks, both overt and subversive, are driven predominantly by a lack of understanding and exposure. After all, while recent polls show that as many as a quarter of all Americans identify as non-religious, Atheists still only make up about 3%.
We are still at the stage in our collective endeavors where Atheists first and foremost need to become more vocal in our experiences. If we want to see less outwardly divisive rhetoric and views towards Atheists and nonreligious - especially coming from people on our side of the aisle ostensibly most understanding of the discrimination and negative stereotypes we face - we are still at the stage where we need to enlighten people on what we experience because of our Atheism.
When diaries are written about changing the narrative on Obamacare and raising the public's positive outlook on the law, a lot of emphasis is placed on publicizing anecdotes of regular people helped by the law. Much like Obamacare, Atheism faces a lot of the same misconceptions and negative rhetoric; having specific anecdotes for Atheists to share to humanize and build empathy would go a long way.
Some of my favorite diaries here are when Atheists simply share some of the things they have experienced in their lives. Either what led to their Atheism, or what they have experienced since embracing Atheism.
So, to all Atheists, Secularists, and Humanists out there, I ask you to do one thing: write a diary telling of your own experiences as a nonreligious person. What happened to make you lose your faith, or have you always been nonreligious, or how has being non-religious affected your relationships with your religious family and friends?
While I doubt the original commenter is one to change their views that easily, my hope is that for the rest of the Dailykos/Progressive community, they will be reminded that Atheists are a significant, likeminded contingent of their loyal supporters. At the very least, we would humbly prefer that you avoid characterizing us all as anything less than human.
And if you are religious, but have had negative experiences that have led you to hold a view of Atheists similar to what is shared in the first blockquote: write a diary telling us why. What have Atheists done to you that has colored your perceptions of all who identify as Atheists? How do you know it stemmed from their Atheism or from your religion? Have those negative experiences caused you to view all Atheists in general as inhuman or immoral, and how do you feel that compares to how people stereotype all Muslims with fundamentalist extremists, or all Christians with fundamentalists?
Perhaps this would help elucidate the sources of some of these misgivings we have for each other. While many of us know how hard it is to dispel any negative stereotype, having specific instances of injustice to rectify would help both sides mend some of our broken relationships.
In the end, if it is the humanity of us Atheists that is under attack, what better way is there to combat this misconception than to attempt to empathize, and to share the experiences that show how human we truly are?
“There is not enough love and goodness in the world to permit giving any of it away to imaginary beings.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human