Empathy and Prejudiceon July 24, 2012 at 8:55 am
As an atheist I am sometimes dumbfounded by utterances that come out of the mouths of my family and religious friends. Since I spend a great deal of my time around non-believers and subscribe to many blogs promoting free thought and atheism it always surprises me when I hear something that causes my brain to freeze, such as my deeply Catholic mother saying that Scientology is clearly a cult based on a fictional idea. I have to clench my teeth not to say, “Oh yes! Because-
But I have learned that, despite their logical fallacies, I still love these people in my life and won’t start an argument about such things unless they ask me my thoughts directly. Why? Because provoking arguments with close friends and family members is like defecating where you want to eat: it does no good and makes things a lot harder to deal with as time goes on. I know not everyone has this view and that is fine. I’ve just found that I cannot convince someone who is not seeking convincing and/or an open discussion. Ask me, I’ll be honest. But say something stupid that does not actually harm anyone and is a flippant remark, I won’t go off on you. Start using those beliefs to attack other people or make political decisions, then I will be up in your face about it. Basically I try to live by:
Which is why I get so irritated when people just start attacking atheists without any or much provocation. This weekend has been a perfect example of that in the US, with the reactions to the Aurora shooting. True, some atheists made the stupid mistake to attack the use of “God” in Obama’s words for the victims and their families (a right dumb-ass time to quibble over the “correct” way to mourn and piss the religious right off) but that shouldn’t have provoked the sh*t-storm that is being whipped up in the media.
[Personally, my view is that when people are in mourning they will voice that in the way that is best and natural for them. I don't see this as a snub to non-believers so much as an unconscious disavowal that we exist and may be mourning too. It is just proof of Obama's worldview based in his personal faith, which he turns to in times like these. Is that ok to voice as an individual? Sure. But as president it can get slippery since he stands as a voice for us all. Regardless of whether it was "correct" to say or not, complaining about the speech is equal to stirring up a snakes nest when emotions across the nation are already high.]
My point is: believers can be easily swayed against atheists especially in times like these because there is already a pre-existing prejudice against us. When signs such as the one pictured below are posted in our cities for children to view it is no wonder that society has a dim view of us.
This sign may seem silly and an overblown example of the prejudices we face, but what is currently being passed all over Twitter?
Because if someone does a crazy, horrible act like that then they must not be believers. Forget all the atrocities done in the name of God!
Luckily those on Reddit are wise to this propaganda, but how many see things like this and just believe them without question? Sometimes it seems like the only thing different religious groups dislike more than each other is us:
This is too bad because it can cause atheists in turn to become just as prejudiced as the religious. I know many of the blogs I follow have regular postings on how stupid believers are and how they are all wrong about everything. I can understand feeling this way at times when you have just been lambasted for your thoughts. But do we really want to descend to their level? I mean, if some religious prick is being a right dolt and accusing you of being a heathen that will go to hell, BY ALL MEANS attack them right back. Or if they are trying to take away women’s rights due to their religious belief or they are enslaving people or attacking someone who cannot fight for themselves or…you get the idea. But if someone “has faith” and is a decent human being otherwise, then maybe we shouldn’t jump in to mock them personally. After all, it isn’t the believer who is the problem it is the belief system. When we attack someone just on the basis of being religious then we fulfill the depiction of atheists as grumpy, old goats that are mean to everyone. Attack the beliefs or the dicks of the world, but not the good people who may just need a reality check. If we present ourselves as rational, empathetic, decent human beings then over time we can change the prejudices against us. Also, people will be more likely to listen to our arguments against religion and less likely to just “write-us-off”.
I know I don’t like it when people attack me. Do you?