Even before I begin, I feel this one will not be easy to write. There seems to be a lot at stake, and I may not want to face the conclusions I draw. The short of it is this: there is someone I am extremely close to – we see each other and speak daily – who has strong opposing views. It pains me because I honestly do care what she thinks of me; and this is aside from any desire I may have to be correct or to win an argument.
It’s not that she’s religious, she’s not. However, she takes issue with me being as vocal as I am about being atheist. Primarily, the issue is facebook, and not the blog (or twitter). This is because we have common friends and each other’s families as “friends” on facebook and she can be overly embarrassed about how others may interpret or judge what I’ve written.
The initial problem is that she truly cares what these people think of my religious stance, and I truly don’t. This is true for things other than religious perspectives, but they are less prominent (and pertinent).
We certainly come from two different upbringings. My mother does not shy from an argument. Her parents seem to have never argued (this is what I’m told – so far, it seems believable). While I was never in any debate club in high school, I would not be opposed to joining one now; if I had the time. Instead, I blog online. I prefer this because it gives me a chance to truly review my points as well as my opponents. To paraphrase what PZ Meyers once wrote (in reference to a vocal debate against some creationist) he prefers written debates because his opponents cannot ignore the points he’s made (or at least are less likely to do so).
For me, I’m just not as quick witted as I’d like to be, thus my responses are much more eloquent and consistent when written.
Recently, we spoke about some of my status updates. It wasn’t so much any one particular post as the frequency with which my views would fill up the news feeds of my friends.
The most recent post was: Chemistry was to alchemy what atheism is to religion; a wholesale exchange of bullshit for real knowledge.
She found this offensive. I can see why. Perhaps bullshit was the wrong term to use. Yet, it’s really beside the point. While alchemy was prominent for over 1000 years, it simply wasn’t true. As stated by Harris in The End of Faith, chemistry wasn’t an alternative to alchemy; it was the replacement of falsehoods with real facts. To me, atheism is the same thing. It’s not an alternative to belief; it’s the endpoint of an evidence based journey. When facts actually mean something to you; when empirical evidence matters; when you base your opinions on those same facts and evidence because what you truly seek is knowledge… you don’t end up with a belief in a deity – and you certainly don’t see the bible as anything more than fictional literature (with, by today’s standards, some very twisted authors).
Regardless of whether my post is right or wrong, I took it down. I did this because I value my relationship with this person. She may not see my views at this point, and she may never believe that it is reasonable to impose one’s views on others (slightly hypocritical since I had to obey her mild oppression, but I digress), but I can put that aside because I am happy enough knowing that I think critically.
Yes, I want the world to think critically. Yes, I want to abolish separate schools. Yes, I think it’s a waste of tax dollars (to say the least) to have to argue whether evolution be taught in schools. Yes, I think it’s appalling that donations to religious organizations can push unethical agendas, like the spreading of disinformation about condom use and HIV/AIDS. Yes, I think it’s insane that we should have to cater to those who just want to believe their dead relatives are in heaven because it makes reality easier… but I’m still ok simply knowing that I’m one of a few who think critically. In the end, all I really do is just feel bad for those who don’t. Sure, they can say things that piss me off and make me want to verbally assault them; but if I truly think about it, I just feel bad for their narrow views – for their lack of real information, or at least their lack of interest for it.
In time, I will explain to her why there is no difference between criticizing someone’s political beliefs, someone’s economic beliefs, and someone’s religious beliefs. She thinks there is – but she’s not alone. She’s a very stubborn person, but she’s not incapable of admitting when she’s wrong (although, lately… lol). Her response, instead of answering my question about why a political belief is somehow different than a religious one, was to ask me what my goals actually are. I had to stop and think. I wasn’t prepared for this question. I know what I believe. I know what I want others to believe. But, I’ve never tried to list my goals.
I must note at this point, she said something to me which I found very disheartening. She said that I would never change anyone’s mind with what I post on facebook. I realize that she probably didn’t mean that in an overly unsupportive way, but that simply posting shocking phrases on the internet isn’t going to stimulate a revolution. She was right; though at the time, I was kind of upset at her for being so anti… me.
So, what then are my goals? I still have not created a full list; and even if I begin one, I’m sure it will be fluid. As I learn and grow, my emphasis and priorities will change; as well, I will restructure and improve upon the list as required. Yet, even as a base, what am I looking for? What are YOU looking for?
To start, my ultimate goal would be as follows: I want future generations to sit and wonder how we could have simultaneously lived in a time when we had the technology to send and return an astronaut to an orbiting space station and yet belief in god was the only real criteria necessary to be president of the USA (other than also being born a US citizen). I want future generations in absolute speechless awe and embarrassing amazement as to our seemingly global inability to accept reality.
While this is a long term goal, a shorter term goal (for Canada – if not only Ontario) is true separation of church from our government. I do not want any tax dollars funding religious education. I want our entire country to join the others who demonstrate that an education based on doctrine is useless and damaging. I would like the majority to hear about those who believe and laugh – to feel bad for them, the same way we would feel bad for someone who openly believes in the tooth fairy or leprechauns (and is more than 8 years old).
This was definitely more of a blog than an thought provoking article, but I’ve been busy (very busy) lately. I’m switching jobs, moving from Montreal to Quebec City, as well as trying to train two colleagues on a software that only I know how to use (before I leave tomorrow). Also, I’m trying to get ready for the holidays. Happy winter solstice everyone!!
I will make a second follow up post (much shorter) asking what YOUR short and long term goals are. Perhaps we can make an unofficial Canadian Atheist list!
If you made it this far thanks for “listening”.