Vice came out with an article today, by Martin Robbins, titled “How To Make Atheism Less Awful in 2014.” I am pleased to say that, most of the issues presented in the article, in terms of the wave of New Atheism, are dead on. However, I think that the appeal of those “Coming Out” as Atheist is beneficial for those who feel trapped and unable to express their distaste and issues with being pinned down by religion. I have known many individuals who have come out as Atheist, and it always occurs with the first phase of having questions and desiring to seek out truth. Consequently, these New Atheists will try to lean on more ‘experienced’ Atheists, and converse with the Atheist community, only to find out that all their thoughts and feelings are similar, and that they’re not alone.
Coming out as an Atheist has been relatively compared to the experience of an LGBT individual “coming out.” The first thing someone who comes out wants to do, is own their feelings, doubts, and distaste from everyone who is opposed to their conclusions about themselves, and counter it. How better to counter those feelings and anxieties, thoughts and arguments, than to take pride in ownership of the label which will be assigned?
I understand and have seen fellow Atheists being ‘dicks’ to each other, to a variety of religious groups, and people who oppose their stance or their conclusions. However, again, this is an issue of anger and rage that is pent up and exerted from being lied to, brainwashed, and in some instances, abused – emotionally, physically or psychologically, by close relatives or the community in which they were once involved. Moreover, I know this because I was once an angry Atheist and I have many friends who have been (and some still are) angry Atheists. Furthermore, as I have learned more and more about different philosophies, engaged in debates (online and in person), talked to different and diverse individuals, I have learned that there is no point in being angry forever. The Christians that I have engaged when I was so angry, they ran and have not come back. I have lost friends and family members because of my angry-Atheist approach. Learning how to take that anger and mold it into something more constructive is the best bet. Therefore, I took all the anger and frustration and started an organization called Mid-Ohio Valley Atheists & Humanists. I did this because I wanted to have a community of Freethinkers to get together and have a support system, a community to express all that which has been pent up. It is one thing to engage in an online community and feel like people understand you; it is completely different when you are able to meet your fellow, like-minded members in your community and engage with them face-to-face, side-by-side.
In 2014, I hope that the New Atheism movement (or era) can become more of a productive and engaging movement that will find new ways of talking to all sorts of people, from all types of backgrounds (whether it be religions or non-religious), and find a way to show them what it means to be a Humanist or Secularist. What I have found over the course of 2013, is that when I approach or come across the opportunity to express my beliefs (or lack thereof), I try to find a middle ground with the person I am speaking with. The discussion is more let’s-agree-to-disagree on my personal conclusions about my views, what negative things can we agree on, in terms of religion? “What experiences did I have in the church, which you’re currently facing? Let us talk about Domestic violence (in which I am a domestic abuse survivor), and what your church should be doing or could do with all the resources available. Let us talk about our local environment and what we can do to team up and try to protect it and raise awareness about issues hurting our environment. Let’s talk about our kids.”
You would not understand how many people, Christian people, come to me because they can trust me to give them another perspective. It is not a lot of fun when you are surrounded by ‘yes-men’ and ‘yes-women’ all the time. Sometimes people seek to find a perspective or to find knowledge that they have not heard before.
I had a woman crying after our Advanced Ethics class together (and this was after my professor asked me to provide the opposing argument to the Divine Command Theory) because she had doubts and had nowhere else to go to talk about them. Her father is a pastor and she said that when she has doubts, she expresses them to members in her church and they give her information that will keep her in the church. This woman’s encounters with me, and my secular-humanist perspectives, were her first she has ever experienced. In addition, when she cried while telling me her story, I cried with her, because I knew what it felt like in her position. I knew what it was like to have so many unanswered questions. Alternatively, questions that were answered, but did not feel quite right to me.
My view of the truth, or what is supposed to be true to me, was different from that of all of my religious friends. It did not hurt to show compassion. It did not hurt to NOT be a dick (or bitch) about her being a Christian. The great thing that came out of the conversation with her, was that I referred her to read Dan Barker’s, “How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists,” because I felt that they both had a similar story. We added each other on Facebook so we could stay in touch and from that day forward when we were in class together, she would just look at me and smile, as if I had become someone who had helped her discover some sort of peace or truth – a look all too familiar. This woman wrote a children’s book that she wants to be published, and I’m telling you, it’s beautiful! It is about accepting people, no matter their differences. This woman wrote a children’s book (completely inspired by ethics and philosophy) which even Atheist parents could share with their children!
To quote Martin Robbins,
As we move toward the end of the New Atheism era, “atheism” is becoming less of an end than a means. A new generation of atheists – people like Alom Shaha, Dan Trilling, Melody Hensley, Tom Chivers and Rebecca Watson – are defined as much by their positive humanism, secularism or feminism as they are by their negative godlessness. Their focus is on building new systems and advancing new philosophies rather than tearing down old ones, and they lead through example rather than evangelism or head-bashing.
We can do this! New Atheism in 2014 can be our way in which we touch more people’s lives. We do not have to be silent; we do not have to hide or coward back into the closet. We do not have to be silent, but we do not have to act like ravenous barking dogs, either. New Atheism can show those who are not atheists, that we are not something to be feared and that all that is taught in their church or temple, we put into action without a reward. We put our money where our mouth is, and where our mouth is is that which we are proclaiming we do not need God to do good for our fellow human beings. Furthermore, we do not even need money. It if takes us being a support and a shoulder to lean on when tough times hit, we will be that. We do it because we love hard, we fight hard and we rise when asked to assist, because we are all on this journey of life together.
Sometimes, though, we do not even have to be asked to help. We will continue to volunteer wherever there is a need. We will raise money for anyone who is in need (religious or non-religious). If those people we try to assist decide not to take our help, which is fine, someone out there will be more than willing to, because they love us for being human beings, not the label assigned to us.
Atheists, let us love our fellow human beings more in 2014. I always say, “I love you, but I do not have to like you.” Moreover, I always love humanity, but there are things that keep me from liking some aspects of the human condition, but never will stop my love. We can love our fellow humans, just not like all of the actions that produce harm to others.
Let’s accentuate the positive in 2014. Peace and Love be with you always.
From your CheeryAtheist