after the jump, kezzi has a little rant about how some religious people tend to express themselves to atheists or other religions. definitely avoiding study right now, haha!
Disclaimer: In no way am I tarring all religious people with the same brush here; most probably don’t do the things I’m about to mention. But plenty do, and it’s only those types I’m referring to; if this doesn’t sound like you, then that is fab. This is a very general observation based on what I’ve seen and experienced, but I know there are many exceptions on both sides.
Religious beliefs are a point of very outward pride for a lot of people; statuses, forum signatures, car stickers and personal descriptions which state “I’m (this religion) and proud!”, sometimes even challenging people to have a problem with it, are numerous. Just from my observations, it’s nearly always the Christian religions that display this trait, and it gives off a very particular impression: either defensiveness, or the seeming need to put their beliefs above others. It feels like they’re assuming someone’s going to have an issue with it before anyone even does; a pre-emptive strike to tell everyone “I believe this, don’t you dare challenge me.” And most people won’t bother to challenge it, because they know it’ll be taken offensively and ensuing argument will be fruitless.
But if I were to post “Atheist and proud!” in my forum signatures, I know for a fact I’d get swooped upon by at least a few religious people rebuffing me in an insulting way. “You’re going to Hell”, “You’re as bad as Satan” and “You don’t deserve this life you’ve been given” are all comments I’ve actually received, either in real life or online, and only for admitting it in conversation. These are very personal attacks, sadly in frequent use by those who apparently follow the chilled-out, all-loving teachings of Jesus. I never use my Atheism as an introduction, as if it defines what sort of person I am; good, bad, “right” or “wrong”. Bragging about one’s beliefs is inviting attacks from people who are self-righteous about what they believe - by all means, have pride, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be proven to others. I’ve even seen those of other religions, such as Islam, slammed by Christians for following “the wrong God”; which is also apparently deserving of “Hell”.
The double standard is inherent in “Christian countries”. If an Atheist were to stand in the street stating that there is no God, explaining the various theories of evolution and origin of the universe, they’d come under heavy complaint from religious people taking it very offensively. This has happened. But a religious preacher can stand in the street and bang on about their Holy scripture all they like, and the Atheists’ reaction is very different. We find it inwardly annoying, but (aside from perhaps a rare few) do not take it offensively or complain. We understand that various belief systems exist, have been subject to pretty much all the stories and ideas before, but have chosen a different way of thinking. So we walk on by and just choose not to tune in. I won’t even go into the Jehovah’s Witness issue, but just imagine if Atheists went knocking on their doors, rudely invading their privacy to tell them all about the absence of God and discuss evolution. Shit would kick off. Religious people shouldn’t assume they can just take the liberty of actively going around trying to convert people; it is so rude. Atheists are not known for doing that.
Christian-Atheist confrontations are usually pointless, because neither side will renounce what they believe - whether one is more rational or not, you can’t make a blind person see. Each side will view the other as the “blind” one, but there is usually a very biased nature to these arguments. Since most religious ideas are extremely old, the vast majority of Atheists have already been subjected to it all. We’ve heard all the stories and ideas, many of us even read the Bible or other scripture, but have seen better sense in more modern scientific advances and what they have told us about our existence. But discussions often hit a brick wall because many Christians don’t even want to acknowledge the other side of the coin. Arguing for one side without properly considering the other isn’t real arguing; it comes across as plain ignorance to those who have fully weighed up both sides, and it’s a frustration when trying to get points across if your opponent is just putting up a mental wall to everything you say. Christians who have opened their minds, educated themselves on other theories and still believe in the Bible - absolutely fine and fab. If your faith is still intact afterwards, then it’s very strong, and that’s a good thing.
Even aside from that, in reality it’s just completely ridiculous to pitch science against religion. The ideas in the Bible are not theories; there is a very specific definition of “theory”, which modern science fits but religious scripture does not. A theory is “a set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.” The theories I believe in - evolution, the “Big Bang”, deep geological time - all fit this bill. The story of creation does not. I’d never shove my beliefs down anyone’s throat as “facts”, but what is a fact is that my beliefs are more supportable by evidence, more reliable, and therefore more likely to be true. That’s not really debatable, and I do think Christians know this (but still choose faith, which is perfectly fine).
This is all probably less of an issue in the UK (Christianity’s a bit more of a “hobby” thing over here, as Eddie Izzard once put it), but I’ve seen an American news feature on a debate over whether evolution should be taught in schools or not (which of course it should - Atheists have always had to put up with Religious Studies, haven’t we?). The priest arguing for the “hell no, let’s remain ignorant” side thought evolution was about monkeys falling from space after the Big Bang and evolving into humans - I know, I face-desked too. But my point is, too many Christians try to pretend modern, very supported, tried and tested science doesn’t exist, or make very little effort to educate themselves just because it goes against what their Holy text says. It’s a defensive denial, because they know they have nothing more solid to use in retaliation than the Bible’s word - and Atheists know this, too. That’s why we don’t generally bother challenging Christians, because we feel very comfortable in what we believe; although conversely, many of them are all too happy to criticise us with scripture in order to feel like they’ve still got the upper hand.
Basic principle: if you have to be offensive about something to defend it, deep down you know there are holes in it.
Anyway, just to make my personal stance clear: even if you believe that the universe was created by a giant, multi-penised, leek-wielding platypus, as long as you’re a nice person who can respect me and my beliefs, as I will you and yours, I will like you and coexist very happily with you (albeit inwardly thinking you might be a bit mad). Personal beliefs are exactly that - personal - and if you can keep them that way by recognising they constitute only one viewpoint, and respecting the others, everything’s gravy. But too many religious people don’t, and Atheists do find it so tiresome. Don’t get me wrong, many Atheists too may be rude about other views or righteous about having the “facts”; but it’s pretty hard for us to be ignorant of religion since it’s been shoved down most of our throats since we were young, and we’ve usually weighed the evidence up more fairly. The way Christians react to criticism of their beliefs is also generally a bit more extreme on the offensive front; some seem to take great pleasure in plainly stating to perfectly good people that they’re “going to Hell” because not believing is a “sin”. I don’t see how that could ever be the defining line between being a “good” or “bad” person - it isn’t.
I hope I’ve not offended any Christians by saying all this; I know most probably feel like the individuals who do act in the above ways are an embarrassment to the religion, and I definitely understand that. Whether or not somebody’s a Christian doesn’t affect whether or not I’ll get on with them; it’s just when they use their faith to condemn others, assume ignorance or act superior that it becomes an issue. Atheists also shouldn’t take it upon themselves to tell religious people they’re “crazy” or “wrong”, because that isn’t right either.
So if you know you’re sometimes offensive with your beliefs, have battered someone with scripture they make clear they don’t believe in, tell others they should live by Biblical word or are deliberately ignorant of other theories - maybe you could try to change that. Mutual respect of others’ rights to believe what they see as correct, as long as they don’t use those beliefs to negatively affect others who may not believe the same, or hinder positive progress, is the key to a happy coexistence between us and is something we should all bear in mind. Being righteous sucks, falling out over differences sucks, dismissing ideas out of ignorance sucks. Do unto others as you would have them do to you.. who said that again?