Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Hardest Part

What is the hardest part of being atheist?

Maybe it's finding that balance between being candid and being considerate. Is it OK to tell children there's no Santa Claus? Is it OK to tell someone in AA there is no "higher power?" Is it OK to tell someone who is basically a wounded bird that the perceived source from which they think they draw strength, which allows them make it through their perpetual hard times... is all in their head? Is it OK to tell fellow atheists that the spirituality or Harmony or Enlightenment they covet is a delusion? Is it OK to interrupt a wedding to point out that while "we ARE joined here" we are not "before God?" Even the most militant atheist is likely to consider the consequences of unwavering candor.

Maybe the hardest part is the difficulty of learning, understanding and explaining the natural mechanisms of nature and people (and how people are part of nature.) Conversely, if you want to learn, understand and explain how a supernatural being did something you just need three words: god did it. You don’t need to know where he came from or how he did it.

Maybe the hardest part is answering the same questions over and over ad nauseam. Maybe the hardest part is unlearning superstitious indoctrination. I envy atheists who never gave supernatural concepts serious consideration.

Maybe the hardest part is knowing that even in a secular state, my children's curriculum will be undermined by scripturalists. The people that accuse fellow citizens of hating America (or of being un-American) continue to call the US a Christian nation. They don’t know, understand or appreciate the first amendment. They accuse the founding fathers of being christian. They perpetuate misquotes. They push for less secular government and education. But they don’t recognize that islam is spreading in the US. Christian prayers in school this year makes muslim prayers in school inevitable.

Maybe the hardest part is seeing "faith" cherished when it should be reviled and recognized as a favored tool of charlatans. If that linchpin (faith) could be extracted there might be real hope for common ground. Theist arguments almost always fall back to faith. To be clear, I define ‘faith’ as a belief that doesn’t rely on objective evidence or even defies objective evidence. Faith is how you place trust where it has not been earned. Faith is the anchor. Just don’t try flying, swimming, running or any other kind of progress.

Maybe the hardest part is the misconception that the religious are the underdogs. They have the numbers. They have the money. They have the lobbies. They have the ideologies, doctrines and dogmas. They are rather short on facts and evidence but that doesn’t make them underdogs.

Maybe the hardest part is seeing science and scientists dismissed by people benefiting from computers, cell phones, satellite TV receivers, pharmaceuticals & inoculations, satnav, transportation, climate control… Today’s technology is yesterday’s science. Yet despite science’s track record and tangible benefits faith in the supernatural and the erroneous ancient texts still supplant empirical evidence among the faithful. There’s that word again.

Maybe the hardest part is knowing which way to turn to make progress but feeling obliged to answer the doubters and the deluded in hope that a few under-motivated fence sitters will turn to the light and help pull humanity out of the dark ages.

Maybe the hardest part is knowing when to stop whining about it and try doing something... anything. I don't even live in a time or place where I would be killed for my lack of belief. Derided, chastised, berated, reviled, discriminated against? Sure, but not killed. If there is an objective "hardest part" I probably haven't seen it yet.