“It is important to understand that there’s a difference between a person of faith and a religionist” – Al Stefanelli
There is a very fine line between being outspoken and being a complete asshole. Yeah, I’ve crossed that line a time or two, as many of us have for a variety of very acceptable reasons. I suspect I will cross that line again, many times, as will many of you. Yes, I have personal issues with the church that involve attacks directed at my family, instead of myself (You can read about it on this blog, or pick up a copy of my book if you want the details), but almost all of us who consider ourselves activists have a plethora of common issues that we all routinely address in our various venues.
But whichever form of activism we choose, and especially when we find ourselves needing to be particularly strident and not mince our words or pull our punches, there needs to be a specific declaration as to the differential between extremist fundamentalists and the mainstream. I am probably one of the most acerbic and outspoken atheist writers in the current crop of activists, but I am always very careful when writing in a negative way to make that differential very predominately placed in my writing.
Some Do, Most Don’t…
There are those who are offended at our mere existence. They make it a habit of condemning us to hell, publicly disparaging us and misrepresenting our world view and personal philosophies in a variety of ways, including the irritating and most incorrect assumption that atheism is a religion. As those of you who have been reading my words for any length of time, those are the ones I target with my words and actions.
Although it is my reasoning that all believers are being misled into believing in what I consider to be fairy-tales, myths and legends, I do not reason that all – or even most – believers wish ill for us. I can tell you with great certainty that not all Christians interpret the bible literally, cherry pick from it’s contents, support the inclusion of church and state, are completely pro-life, deny evolution or believe in a literal hell.
The point I always try to make is that there are a comparative few who are making the mainstream look horribly bad. Given the propensity of our press and media to concentrate on the bad, one of my most common rants is for those in the mainstream faith who are also horrified at the behavior of the fundamentalists and extremists of the world to speak up, speak loud and voice their disapproval of the few who are making the whole look like shit.
My goal as an activist is, and has always been, to coexist with our neighbors. I have never advocated for the elimination of an individual’s right to believe. Contrary to many of my detractors, my goal is not now – nor has ever been – to deconvert anyone. My goal has always been to educate anyone willing to listen about the atrocities that are committed by the religionists, the advances that science has made which debunks the various myths that are related to the physical world, and primarily the fight for government neutrality and the eradication of discrimination of all human beings.
This is why I also write and comment in support of the LGBT community, the African American comminuty, the Latino community, etc. Make no mistake, I am not softening up with respect to those who wish harm (in any form) against us and other minority groups, including but not limited to our LGBT friends. These people will always be on my radar screen and will always be targeted by my words.
The wonderful thing about being a freethinker and following the scientific method of reasoning is that we embrace change – much unlike the fundamentalist extremists who are so abhorrent to change that they still remain biblical literalists.
Being a freethinker gives us the freedom to grow, to learn and to adjust our actions in accordance with those changes. There are many freethinkers within Christianity who have also adopted these characteristics with respect to science and philosophy and have already altered their conceptions of divisive doctrines such as eternal hell and homosexuality. We should embrace these folks and publicly credit them for being forward thinkers, even though they might still believe in their God.
Being a freethinker is the best thing that has ever happened to me, cognitively, and I’ll be damned if I am going to disparage another freethinker who happens to still hold a belief in a higher power, whether they be Christian, Jew, Muslim, Wiccan or whatever. The only believers I have issue with are those who are trying to infiltrate our government and classroom with their special brand of hatred, bigotry and discrimination.
Nobody Owns Earth…
We all share the same planet, and when a believer extends the olive branch of reason, we would do well to accept it, open a dialog and find common ground. Does it work? Well, it has for my wife and I, as I had written about last week, and many times before. In spite of a bump here and there, we’ve managed to find a way to peacefully coexist and even enjoy each others company.
If we cannot find a way to accomplish this on a larger scale, and to find more effective ways of exposing the utter ridiculousness and stupidity of biblical literalism and religious fundamentalism, then we are all doomed.
Just my thoughts….