Dear Atheists

There is a rising tide of atheism is conflating the lack of belief with morality, which is absolutely baffling to me. I mean, one of the biggest complaints against religion (rightfully so) is that belief automatically means you have the moral high ground, so how are so many atheists so comfortable with believing the opposite? People who think atheists don't oppress women and minorities, that atheists aren't racists, that atheists are better people by default than religious people, are very much deluding themselves.

For one thing, most religious people in the world are women, and in the US most religious people are people of color. So great job dehumanizing an already traditionally dehumanized group of people because you don't like their coping mechanisms, that's So WoKe Of YoU.

Couple that with the fact that white nationalists are increasingly defining themselves as atheists and targeting other proud atheists to steer them towards their ideology, I strongly urge you to dissect your vitriol against religious people, particularly poor religious people who are not hurting anyone and just want to go to church, embrace their community, and have a little light in their lives. 

This is not to say I don't think organized religion is a problem, it very much is and has been for thousands of years. Overall, historically, I think it's done far more harm than good in people's lives. It's been used to excuse the torture and slaughter of millions. It dehumanizes people its leaders declare unworthy. It corrupts our politics. It is a greedy cancer, a tumor of power-hungry charlatans masquerading under the guise of redemption, community, and love. Criticism of those systems should not stop. Chipping away at their political power should not stop.

Nearly every day, however, I'll see some comment from someone who's probably convinced themselves they're attacking those institutions, but what they're really doing is attacking a person, their comforts, their family, their community. And more often than that, the person attacking religious folk online is a "flaming liberal" screaming for justice (and attention and praise for screaming for justice) while attacking some of the most vulnerable populations in this country from the comfort of their hipster white privilege.

Now, I understand the impulse, flaming liberals, I do. I'll personally never understand how a black person or First Nations person can be Christian. I truly don't get it. After all the history of forced, brutal assimilation, I can never, ever understand why they would still choose Jesus as their savior. But I'll also never understand the day to day weight of the world while being a black or Native person. I'll never have to feel the genetic weight of hundreds and hundreds of years of the cruelest hardships. I'll never know the pain and anger and desperation that must come with that, and that means I have zero right to judge whatever lifestyle or spiritual safety net such people choose to keep themselves and their families afloat (so long as you're not using it as an excuse to abuse other people in which case I'm definitely still gonna judge the fuck out of you).

The human ego is terrible beast to tame. Too many atheists have convinced themselves they've overcome it while looking down their noses at their "ignorant," religious neighbors. Replacing God with yourself is not a victory over that ego and it's totally crazy how many people seem to think it is. 

Religion and science don't have to be incompatible. For the bulk of scientific history, they haven't been. The trend in most developed countries is more atheism and private spirituality. That's, generally speaking, a good thing because overwhelmingly, science-based policies protect more people and provide them with healthier, longer lives. That doesn't mean, however, that we should be bullying and shaming people who are still religious just for simply having faith in something beyond themselves and humanity. If they're denying their kids healthcare, if they're stoning women to death, if they're lynching black kids and electrocuting gay people, then yes, absolutely, shame them. Fight them. There's a big difference between fighting that kind of "religious" energy and mocking grieving people who pray or women who wear Hijabs or First Nations people praising the Creator.

Personally, I think religion is the only truly private thing in our world. We all poop, we all have mostly the same body parts, we all have to eat, most of us have sex drives, emotions, needs and desires, but we do not understand the world in the same way. If we did, religions would never need to splinter into so many different factions. And even within those factions, if two people sat down and really talked about it, there would be some disagreements, however slight.

Your religion/spirituality is a reflection of your understanding of the world, it's unique to your experiences, your values, and who you are as a person and it changes as you do. To me, institutionalizing that is blasphemy. It's a horrendous affront to one of the most sacred and complex human experiences painting over the individuality inherent in it. Organized religion manipulates some of the most meaningful experiences of people's lives for political gain and that is evil. Conflating organized religion with personal religion is such a fiercely disrespectful, dehumanizing thing to do. Lighting incense at a shrine is not the same thing as amassing wealth from the economically disadvantaged in order to suppress target populations.

Atheists, please keep this distinction in mind. We are in a volatile time and the US is in desperate need of class consciousness. That will necessarily have to include religious folk. So please, please don't take your very logical anger at organized religion out on the people who are just trying to get by, who just want their world to be a little less harsh. That's like blaming the problems of capitalism on the workers. Be better than that. We need to be better than that.

1 thought on “Dear Atheists”

  1. It s time to up our game. It s time to acknowledge Christians only really believe in the ineffable, inconceivable ground of all being, being itself, that never intervenes in history, does not literally care about them like a father but just is the source which emanates their being and never answers their prayers. And when they say they re going to heaven that s not a place with things and people from their lives and endless joy. That s being with the ground of all being . Whatever

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