I just got 200 comments and counting on my local atheist group when I posted this:
"On a matter of self reflection as a group I would like to discuss the idea of us calling anyone inferior or superior based on religion, race, gender, sexual orientation - as there all share the same medal of racism.
I realise that XXX may see this as the promotion of political correctness. I don't support political correctness as a means to an end. I do support freedom of speech. And I like the idea that we are free here to discuss opening about our attitudes.
What concerns me is that in the atheist community (on the many forums and you tubes that I've seen) I have observed what looked to me like, arrogance, prejudice, superiority and dismissive attitudes.
I realise that we all have our own nature - but I do support the idea that we can all try to act on science and reason - and not perpetrate racism or other harmful attitudes based on false beliefs about superiority. And think it important that we become more self aware of these issues and come up with effective methods that deal with it.
Preferably compassionate - based on the principles of Naturalism, rather than regressive aggression against it."
Is this a very contentious issue?
Madhukar - there are two ways I can think of going with this - one is the moral high ground, one is an eye for an eye.
1. Maintain your own integrity. Do not be swayed with others weakness. Remember your own values maintain their strength. If you wish to express honestly use Non-violent communication method - this is powerful, honest and validates your feelings, needs and requests in any given situation.
The second way - is the mirror, match or mimic the other. If they are being rude - you be rude - if they insult - you insult - if they are saying you are being unreasonable - tell them they are unreasonable - match them word for word - turn their blame around and get them to be self reflective.
This is eye for an eye - and has less moral integrity attached to it - but it can work to highlight the effects of what someone says to me, when they persist in harmful behaviour and will not listen to our needs for them to desist. If you wish to try this method, only do it to make a point, and then withdraw. If they are being too harmful - then withdraw rather than match them. Do you really want to spend time with others who value harming others?
Madhukar, the first thing you have to do is decide if it is worth the stress. I left Facebook because someone read my articles, called me at my home and repeated things I had written and what he would do to me and my family. I closed down my account and came over to atheist sites. Almost every thing I was writing then was anti-theist so it seemed to be a good place for me.
The second step is develop a tough skin! I am of an age where I have nothing to lose but time and I don't want to waste one minute of it. I returned to Facebook and continue to write about whatever needs attention.
Third, stay honest to your message. Because your life experiences differ from mine, you need to confront me or anyone else when you have a different point of view. There is something magic that happens when people read our work, they become aware of our positions, yours as well as mine. You should not stop because of my position, I shall not stop because of your position. We need each other.
Fourth, pay attention to people like Ruth and Alice. They have wisdom that moderates the intensity of our different messages while not weakening what we have to say.
Fifth, write what you believe and think! Don't try to be ironic or sarcastic or whatever, time is too precious and we can't fool around with playing word games. Other people may like to play such games, but I do not at all.
Sixth, Life is serious but does not have to be grim. As Molly Ivins said,
"The Fun's in the Fight
"Even when you can't kick the bad guys where it hurts, you can still have a real gas trying."
Ivins, Molly. "The Fun's in the Fight." Mother Jones, May/June 1993.
May you find fulfillment in your efforts as you remain true to your own style. ... well, with less irony, sarcasm, whatever. Madhukar, a tip of my hat to you.
"Joan, what do you do when you get abusive phone calls? How do you reply?"
People who call with threats have no interest in discussing issues or expressing a different point of view. They use fear as an intimidation tool and that is their purpose. I respond very simply:
"Thank you for your input. Good bye." and hang up.
The first few times I felt fear. Now, I know their intent and I also recognize their strategy to frighten me into shutting up. If I shut up, they win. If I stay on message, I hope someone will read and perhaps consider and take seriously the current problems of violence in the family.
Last week I met a young emergency technician who rides along on fire department calls. He said his worst cases are injuries from family violence. He is a big, tough, strong man with a compassionate heart. He knows the facts and has had to deal with them. Just because family violence has always been part of our history doesn't mean it will always be ... My dream, and I am sure yours as well, is a world that does not ignore symptoms and takes healthy, positive actions.
Maybe I don't belong in this group. I don't feel any form of superiority to those that want to believe in a higher power. If someone feels it gives their life meaning, that's up to them. There are some very intelligent people that believe in god. People believe in god(s) because they were brought up that way. I myself was dragged to church on holidays; I went to Sunday school, had confirmation, and even did a stint as an alter girl. I could very well be one of those people today that believe in god, but I'm not. That doesn't make me any better than someone that does. It certainly does not give me the right to be rude or condescending to those that do. It also doesn't give them the right to be rude or condescending to me either.
Political correctness aside, I see nothing wrong with being polite, and showing respect for others. There are far too few people in this world that has any respect for anyone but themselves.
Whatever the issue; be it religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation shouldn't matter. I try to show respect to everyone regardless. Another person's views have no bearing on my life whatsoever. I am who I am, and if someone doesn't like it, that's too damn bad. I don't intend to change; especially for someone I don't even know. All I can do is be content to be the person I am. I'm not too worried about everyone else, or what they think or believe. It's just not important to me, or for how I live my life.
Andromeda, in my opinion you belong in this group as much as any of us. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you wrote.
HOWEVER, when people who believe there is a god, that god has rules that must be observed, that religious know what is good for me or you or anyone else, or when they attempt to pass laws that are not in the political realm, i.e. abortion, limiting abortion when that is a medical matter as well as a personal matter, or when religion is a criteria for running for public office, or when religious want to put intelligent design in our public schools in our science departments, I will stand strong and loud in opposition to them.
So come on board! your opinions matter and I take them seriously. If I lived in a perfect world I could take the same stand as you. Because I live in a world that uses make-believe to influence laws under which I must reside, I set the boundary that makes sense to me.
I do not deny the right of a religious woman to choose not to have an abortion; it is my right to decide for myself, in my self interest ... as if I could have an abortion any more ... it is the principle on which I stand.
Joan - I agree that we need to work together to create strong human rights that transcend religious indoctrination and dogma.
I agree with that also. I don't think anyone has the right to push their views on others. I think it still boils down to respect for individuals. No one has the right to tell others what they should think, feel or believe. Unfortunately, there are those that feel it's necessary to tell someone else how to live their life. I won't change who I am, nor do I expect someone else to change who they are. It makes no difference if someone is just your average person, or a politician, they have no right to dictate someone else's personal life. Sadly, not everyone sees it that way. My post was mainly regarding the right every person has to believe, or not believe whatever they want. My family, and many of my friends believe in god. I have respect enough for them not to tell them they are wrong, and they have respect enough to not tell me I am wrong....with the exception of my brother who tells me all the time I am going to hell, lol. I respect him enough to laugh about it later. :)
It is a different place to have family and friends of faith - and we all must come to our own way of dealing with our individual situations. Some of us have more to loose than others, and so working collaboratively is useful.
My family has fallen apart in many ways - parents divorced, no siblings and I've married a man with similar broken family - so I have no family strength or unity to gain from supporting religious belief - only stamping it out.
Andromeda, may I be so bold as to caution you about "pinches". A pinch is a tiny little put down that one brushes off and says, "Oh well!" Another wee pinch occurs and another response of "Oh well!" This continues over time, sometimes getting more vulgar, or insulting until a really BIG pinch comes along and it knocks you off your foundation. This process is called "Pinch Theory" or little insults, discounts, trivializations, or demonizations that eat away at self esteem. A little trivialization once or twice from the same person reflects more about the other person doing the pinching. Be cautious to not be caught into its trap.
Joan - also have you read any Non-violent communication?
I have added quite a few discussion early on in this group with more information about expressing your self in a powerful honest way that aims to illicit a compassionate response.
In the language of NVC your comment above might sounds more like this:
"XXX when I hear you say XXX, I feel hurt, because I value friends who encourage my self esteem. Would you be willing to be more sensitive to my need for support in future?"
What do you reckon?
I reckon it is well worth a try.
Have a read of the discussion in the group for the basics of NVC when you have the time - I would be interested to hear your thoughts :)