Saturday, April 24, 2010

I Think We Need A Break

In March, I ended my leadership position in Minnesota Atheists. While I couldn't take the politics, I still wanted to be involved with the community because I met people I care about and I still wanted to make some kind of difference. I care deeply about separation of church and state, teaching science in the schools, and equal rights. The problem is, I didn't see anyone actually doing something about the problem. There are some valiant attempts made by the local atheist groups. The Day of Reason is a fantastic event and I've seen some great charitable events (which sadly more people than I'd like were against even doing). The rest of the time I've just been hearing complaining. Almost every event I go to there is someone bitching about the evils of religion. What is even more disturbing to me is the growing amount of people I've heard ridiculing religion and religious people. It is just something I can't stand by.

I realize that religion has done some great harm. At the present we are still things happening that I obviously have issues with. The problem with the Catholic priests is appalling. There is no reason why gay marriage should not be legal. There are serious breaches in our children's education and women's rights that I obvious don't agree with. However I don't think ridicule is the day to deal with it. I don't think I will ever be convinced otherwise. I believe to make a blanketed statement about religion is bigoted and hateful. It makes us no better than our opponents. A religious person's mind isn't going to be changed because you called them stupid. All ridicule does is satisfy egos. It fuels a circle jerk that will never end.

I've suffered from depression and have pretty much felt like I've conquered it. However, it isn't uncommon for it to come back and lately I've been feeling familiar symptoms that I'm afraid will lead to a relapse. I know I can handle it, but I will need a positive community. Sadly I don't think I can find it in any of the local atheist groups. It isn't good for me to hear my friends and family being ridiculed for what they believe. So for the time being I think I'm going to back away. I'm still a proud atheist and I still love the friends that I've met in Minnesota Atheists, even though we hold such differing views. Though I feel pretty much alone in my views, I hope my friends don't turn their backs away from me because of some disagreements. One of my best friends in the world is a Libertarian that loves guns and Palin. We are polar opposites but I love her to death. I can only hope to have the same relationship with my MNA friends.

I'm not going completely away. I'll still attend a select number of events. I plan on immersing myself in some more positive projects. Currently Camp Quest is my heart and "soul". I think this is a valuable program and it has given my live meaning in a way Minnesota Atheists never has. In a year or so I plan on becoming a Humanist Celebrant. I would love to be able to be a part of someone's important life events, whether it be a wedding or a funeral. Who knows where I will be in the future. I'm not breaking up with organized atheism. We are just taking a little break.


John Morales said...

Good job.

After reading this, I'm pretty sure you've done atheists a big favour.

Gord Cummings RSW said...

Wow, that's a powerful statement. I find this tone coming through in my thoughts as well and hear the rhetoric of others as being simply blind when they are making sweeping statements of a whole culture. It's ind of this balance that needs to be struck, but fortunately reason speaks louder than the loudest bigotry. I wish you the best of luck on your path to becoming a celebrant (A path that I am hoping to take as well)!

Jet said...

@ John-I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not.

John Morales said...

No sarcasm.

Ridiculing ridiculous ideas and attitudes has its place, and it's the firebrands who shift the Overton window.

Someone who does not grasp this shouldn't be in a "leadership position".

Bjorn said...

@John, I think it depends on the type of organization and the goals of that organization. I think for some people, ridicule can change someone's mind, but for others, it causes them to be more defensive and to stop listening.

For a group like atheists, gaining support from religious groups for causes like science education and supporting the separation of church and state is important, but if the focus of the group is to ridicule the religious, it could be hard to gain that support, but a group who finds value in ridicule would likely not seek support from religious groups anyway. What I have found most, is that the ridicule isn't done with the intention of changing the mind of the religious, but for the benefit of atheists. It's a fun thing to do together.

John Morales said...

Thanks for the response, Bjorn.

I note that the nuance expressed in it is not evident in your original post; specifically, your original contention that
All ridicule does is satisfy egos. It fuels a circle jerk that will never end reeks of frustration.

I confess I too was somewhat hyperbolic in my comment; we're both frustrated.

As expressed elsewhere, the atheist movement needs both warriors and diplomats.

Bjorn said...

@John, this is Jeannette's comment, she's my wife, and we are both frustrated. Extreme points of view elicit comments and many times people write out of frustration. In the Twin Cities alone, there is a diverse community for freethinkers. There are the humanists, who have an anti-atheist bent among some of their members. There is Atheists for Human Rights who split from Minnesota Atheists. AFHR make a point of ridiculing religion as their focus and making it clear that they hold the moral high ground by funding abortions and funding a scholarship for a gay college student each year. That is something Minnesota Atheists hasn't done. Their focus is Positive Atheism, which tries to be friendly in order to break down negative stereotypes of atheists. Lately, leadership has focused on ridiculing Christianity, hoping that by using the Bible, individuals can convert their family and friends to atheism. There are two skeptics groups, which have religious members as well as non religious members. I should mention that I've run into atheists in other groups who are anti vax, use acupuncture and believe that aliens have visited the Space Shuttle.

I did start Twin Cities Atheists as just a social group and my experience has been positive among the people who have participated in happy hours and other social events.

SplendidMonkey said...

Just a FYI - when your post shows up on Buzz (google), it looks like it's written by Bjorn. Maybe buzz doesn't know how to handle a blog with multiple authors.

Good luck to you and take care.

p.s. It was fun to see Bjorn at Surly Gives a Damn.

Parabola said...

Every time I hear about this organization it's from the view of an unhappy former member. That sucks.

But on the subject of ridicule, I think that clearly stupid ideas deserve to be treated as... clearly stupid ideas.

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions..."

-Thomas Jefferson

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