When I was in high school my friends used to joke that being raised Southern Baptist either made you a true believer or an atheist.
I want to talk about my atheism and growing up in the church. It's important to me but also remains a very sore and touchy subject. Nothing angries up my blood faster than fundamentalist Christians. It makes me more angry and faster than fat stigma. Than anything really.
When the New Atheist stuff started happening, I was excited to see people talking about atheism. Because I grew up in the almost total theocracy of the American South, in Alabama, where being religious-- and religious the right way-- is pretty much mandatory and completely in your face. People have no problems asking intrusive and insulting questions about your perceived religiousness and especially about your lack of it.
It may not be legal in the US for religion to invade into workplaces and schools, but if no one is enforcing the law- then it really isn't the law. And the South historically doesn't seem to give a good goddamn about following laws they don't care for.
So being a non-believer, a scary spooky atheist- it's been important to me. Especially after what I've been through to be able to lay claim to even openly say that I'm not religious-- it matters.
But that's a story for another time.
I really do believe there is a way to discuss belief and non-belief without pissing everyone off. Some people will be pissed off regardless. Some because I dared to talk about atheism at all. Some because they really like confronting and pissing people off with their atheism.
I think I might have been an atheist before I even knew what it meant. In the Southern Baptist church and in other evangelical Protestantism, there is a lot of emphasis on feelings. Your feelings are how you know that God is speaking to you. There is a lot of the language of feelings-- of being "convicted in the heart".
And I just... never felt it. Everyone around me seemed to be having an experience that I just wasn't having. Every so often, I would feel a wisp of what I assumed people where talking about. I would have a stray strong feeling, but I could never really duplicate the process on anything like a regular basis.
Later, when I got into music, I would have experiences like those described in my church. I would be convicted in my heart by a song that I felt like was speaking only to me. I would feel such amazing, strong emotions of love and joy and sadness- all through music. I would rapturously listen to one song over and over, trying to fully get at it's meaning, to code it into my cells as memory so I could call it up at will and feel happy or sad as I chose.
I knew how to open up my heart and soul to this intensity, possibly because of the training I received in church. But I never felt like this during service. Mostly all I felt was bored. I tried to imitate what I assumed I was meant to be doing, but SB church can be very long. And there were times when we went multiple times a week.
This is what I think the basic problem or difference is between people who believe and people who don't- however they choose to label themselves. Some people are having an internal, emotional experience, and some people aren't.
When I strip away the rage I feel towards the way I was treated in the church, that's what I'm left with. That's the non-sarcastic, not angry, not trying to get a rise out of them reason-- I can't feel their feelings like they do. Just like they couldn't feel mine.
And maybe across that gap, we can write about what we feel and see if it makes sense to the other group. But it may not. Frankly, I'm ok with that.
As long as people don't bother me with their religion, I don't give a fuck what they believe or do. I don't care about much that people do privately that doesn't involve me. Why should I? I have a full and busy life, and I can't be getting het up over every damn little thing someone else is doing.
But where it does matter is when people want to use their religions to tell other people how to live and then try to write that into law. All the NOPE on that. That shit has got to be slapped back as hard as possible, until people learn to leave well enough alone.
The problem with Christian fundamentalists is that they will never ever learn that lesson. And that's why they have to be fought back at every turn. Because if you give them an inch, they'll take ALL your rights away and replace them with the 10 Commandments. These people are not fucking joking around.
The more I see dudebro atheists on the internet, the less excited I am by this new surge in publicity around atheism. Mostly because I'm not a fucking asshole. I don't think you can argue anyone out of religious belief anymore than you can argue someone into one.
I believe we need people to be fierce opponents in the face of fundamentalist theocratic creep, in the erasing of our church state separation, in the re-writing of American history to be that of an explicitly Christian country.
Man, that pisses me off. The establishment of our federal government in an explicitly non-religious way, the founding of our country as the first secular nation on the planet-- these are things we should be proud of. (And look, not for nothing, but we've done a lot of fucked up shit as a country. So we should really be hanging onto the good stuff.)
I do think there should be fierce and vocal opposition to religious encroachment into public life, and I do occasionally enjoy listening to atheists debate religious apologists. I enjoy those debates because both sides agreed to them and the discussion hasn't be thrust unwillingly onto one party or another.
So what's my problem with the current crop of atheists? It's that the very white and male and otherwise privileged atheists you see on the internet seem to want to tear down the oppressive structure of organized religion without challenging any other form of oppression. They want to remove religion while still making sure that white males are still in charge. And I'm not down with that.
I am not down with the misogyny and racism I see in current atheism. I am not down with targeting Muslims in any way.
Why are these guys targeting Muslims for special hatred when the clear problem, especially in the US, is fundamentalist Christians? Muslims do not have political power in this country, so it's time for these dudes to stop fantasizing about how they would personally stop 9/11 and focus on the ACTUAL PEOPLE who are winning the court battles to take away people's rights in THIS COUNTRY!
Maybe they don't care, since so far most of the rights taken away have been reproductive rights, and these dudes sure seem to hate women.
This is not the vigorous opposition I was hoping for.