I've been around the block. Because I have an obsession with knowing things I have learned things I wish I didn't know. Human ignorance and depravity are far deeper than the average person, whose head is stuck firmly in the sand, can even fathom. For every "good thing" there are a thousand opposites. I've learned things I cannot tell any other person for fear it would fuck up their head permanently, as mine has been.
I reject the notion of a creator because of the Hubble Deep Space Survey. Yeah, right, some nice guy (occasional nice guy) with a fluffy beard made all THAT just for a tiny number of humans on a tiny planet, right? But what I know about humanity and what humans are capable of is in large part the reason I reject religion altogether, even the idea of benevolent spirits, etc. Add to that the fact that religious people never, ever, live up to the religion they claim to follow. That does it for me.
Nothing is more obvious to anyone who lives in the real world, the one that is not defined by myth, legend and fantasy, than the truth of how destructive religion is. Rules and doctrines and beliefs keep people from exploring, force them into boxes, drive them to hatred of others, and lead to the deaths of millions. Truth may set one free but it will fuck up the person who desires and seeks it above all else. And for some it opens the door to extreme frustration because when one who has compassion and love for humanity discovers truth, like the truth about how religion has been systematically oppressing the human race for many centuries, one wishes for the blind to see.
OK, so we've established the reality that religion is everywhere and it is fucking people up and we want to stop it. So now what?
A desire to bring humanity around to some kind of sensible way of thinking has been a part of my psyche for decades. I was once deluded, believing the answer was for people to turn to the "love of god," but even then my desire was for people to live a better life. Now that I see how much better we'd all be living in reality, and how much more quickly we would advance as a species unencumbered from religious bullshit, I'd like more than ever for people to wake up to truth.
That desire mentioned above has led me to stick my neck out on more occasions than I like to think about. I'm one of those people who believe that if there's something that needs to be done then by-godless-damn let's getter done! So if the world is fucked up, let's find a way to fix it: "Come on, yall, what the fuck you waiting on!"
Ahh, but that's the thing, isn't it. "Yall" are too lazy, afraid, complacent, busy, tired, etc., to get busy. Leaders won't lead and followers sit on their ass. This is especially true when to act means to take a risk.
The Internet has thrown the doors of communication wide and made limitless possibilities for meeting others. We atheistic reprobates have discovered that we're not so alone. A glance at our friends' list and the diverse locations of each person shows we certainly are rather isolated but we're out there. And it's likely there's considerably more of us who are just keeping quiet and/or are not social network savvy. I suspect there's probably many thousands more who are ripe for the pickin', too. A little bit of rational thought mixed with some common sense and stirred with clear evidence would bring a lot of them around.
Online the groups come and go, friends add friends, blog posts and conversations are many. But moving from online safety to real world risk is not so easy as it sounds. How many loud-mouth online atheists are willing to step out into the light of publicity in the real world. I have to admit, I am. Hell, I grew up the butt of jokes in school. I've been ridiculed and called names in the local newspaper (responses to letters I wrote). I can take the shit. I would be willing to wear a sandwich board and walk back and forth on the street with signs that promoted atheism, reason, common sense, whatever. But I'm not going to.
In fact, I'm not going to do anything like that. Neither am I going to spend any money (like I had any! Ha!) on any kind of effort to "win the lost" for atheism. (twists of phrase!) Why? Because I don't like getting my feet wet.
I have, as I said, stuck my head out and got it lopped off countless times. And I've discovered it is such a waste of time! People are NOT, in general, going to change. Religious people are going to cling to their "faith" and their god with everything they have. They may or may not be ugly to non-believers but on a personal level, they 'gonna stay religious. Moreover, there's not nearly enough people willing to risk whatever it takes to actually make a solid effort to encourage people to change.
I was the head of a teeny tiny nonprofit last year. Our goal, basically the two of us, was to take the message of how fucked up this country is to the people using music in public areas. It was a cool idea. But while there were plenty of people who liked the idea and agreed with our views there was nobody who had the time or inclination to help. I told my friend that if we could find, say, ten people with the same determination as he and I had we could change the world. And we could. But those ten people we did not find. People talk the talk but when it comes time to do something besides bitch and moan online or sitting around with friends and beer, forget that!
Oh, yeah, there is the "Occupy" movement. I gotta hand it to those guys, they DID get off their ass to do something. commendable. But what have they accomplished? Not a hell of a lot. Which is the third reason I ain't going to stick my neck out. Even if we managed to get network coverage for our little effort, even if the world takes a peak, we get carefully (or not so carefully) shoved over into a niche and accomplish nothing. We become quaint, irrelevant. Just a side show on the highway of life. Oh, there may be a few converts but gaining a few converts was not the goal, now, was it?
So, then, to try and "DO SOMETHING" about the appalling religious oppression directly, to fight it head on, to try and be rational with irrational people in order to bring them over to our side, is an absolute and total waste of time. That sucks, but that is the way it is. To try de-converting the country right now is just a stupid idea. And I would toss in that going beyond activism to being militant is way beyond stupid, moving into the insane.
So what the hell are we supposed to do, keep hiding? Of course not. There are three things we, at least in America, should be doing. The first thing we should be doing is getting to know each other not just online but in the real world. We should find ways to meet up, share our stories, and just talk.
The second thing we should be doing is growing our numbers, slowly and carefully. Instead of in-your-face atheist protests we should use a much more subtle approach. Groups like Recovering From Religion (which I participate with a bit) offer a doorway for people who are seeking to find a way into rational living safely. I would suggest we keep a door open for all ages but concentrate on the youth. Young folks are smarter these days. They can more easily see through the bullshit and they're not anchored to decades of belief and religious activity. It's hard to let go. I know. I did it.
Third, take a stand for our rights. It is likely to keep religious people pissed off and it runs counter to de-converting efforts, but if we don't pull together and take a legal and political stand against those who would destroy our rights altogether we are and will forever be screwed. We are already the most discriminated against minority in the country. Atheists are fucked over by employers, families, you name it, and they get away with it because the community agrees with them. We have to make a stand against this shit.
By getting together, being friends in the real world, and by growing our numbers "subversively" and one by one, we can find more strength. We use that strength to fight for the right to be who we are without recrimination or discrimination. And then we bide our time.
Sooner or later, if we continue to stand for our rights and we promote science and reason and rationality, and if we continue to reach out to the younger generation, I believe eventually a much larger slice of the population will come over to us. There will always be religious fanatics. There will always be people who cling to god or spirits or whatever. Their mentality will not allow them to float around in the not-knowing of atheism. But still, I think the number of people in power and in neighborhoods who hate us for who we are, who refuse to associate with us, and most importantly, who deny reason, rationality, truth, science and discovery their true places will eventually dwindle. Science will begin to take us to new places. Religion will decrease in importance and radical sects will slip further into the fringe and have less and less relevance.
It's all Pie In The Sky, but it sounds good on paper. Right? Who knows. We can all hope. It probably won't happen in my lifetime. That sucks. And since it's so totally unlikely, no matter what I do, I will not piss in the wind again. Instead I will continue my search for friends online. I will look for a real world friendship or two, too. I'll find or help start groups of us. And whenever possible I'll encourage college students and youth to get on the bus. And where possible and feasible I will exercise my right to stand and fight for our rights. And that's about it.
So... who's good for coffee tomorrow?