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An Emerging Trend?

Published December 30th, 2010 by Bobby Henderson

I have noticed in the last few months an increase in upset emails from self identified atheists/nonbelievers and I’ve been thinking about what this means for the Church of FSM.  Seems like I’ve annoyed some people.  Maybe I can clear things up, and/or possibly further anger people.   

First of course, I am talking for myself, not the church as a whole – let me make that clear.

I have a lot of respect for atheists and freethinkers and related organizations, and for rational causes in general.  But there are times when I see atheist individuals and groups as combative and petty, leaving outsiders with a negative perception, hurting worthy causes in the process.  I said the atheist movement needed a PR team some time ago.  And then in an interview in WordyMofo I said atheists sometimes come off as "a bunch of assholes" to outsiders.  Last week I said they’re not making any friends with the Nativity showdown.

I’ve said a lot of things but mainly I am talking about the *way* things are done; that is, the context of things; not ideas or goals or substantive parts of any of these organizations.  I’m in favor of atheist/freethinker/rational causes.  I just think when those guys get together they very occasionally act like dicks, leaving outsiders with the perception that nonreligious people are bitter and angry.  And that is shame, because I don’t think it’s true.

What I worry most about, though, are the emails from young people who see in the Church of FSM an opportunity to bash religion in general and more specifically to bash people for being religious.  Tolerance is more of a nuanced view and I believe they will come to it eventually if they stick around but it’s really very concerning that so many kids think this way when they first come to a place of free thinking.

I am not a huge fan of organized religion, and it’s impossible to ignore the abuses and corruption that have grown onto so many religions over the years, but at the same time, it’s impossible to deny that so many people get something meaningful out of their beliefs and that they have every right to continue to believe whatever they like *even if it’s irrational*, as long as it does no one else any harm.  Just as we have the right to believe in the FSM. Just as nonbelievers have the right to be free from it.  And we are all richer and more complete people for interacting with people who challenge and disagree with us. 

The question is, can you confront the abuses and injustices that come along with religion in a way that doesn’t betray that tolerance for the beliefs of others?  I don’t know, but shouldn’t that be the ideal? 

What do you think?

*Update*

Wow, good responses. I will note that what I receive in email varies quite a bit from the comments here.  I like that most people took the message in the spirit it was intended. 

I think there is an idea that I’m defending religion, but it’s not really that … it was meant more as a defense of people and their *personal* religious beliefs.  FSM knows there are awful religious people, of course there are – there are awful people anywhere you look, but there are also good people anywhere you look and that includes inside of religion.

There are several occurrences where a curious Christian ventured here and engaged us for a while only to be stomped on en masse for their thoughts.  I hate that.  There is this idea, I think, that being correct is enough, that if we rip apart all their arguments thoroughly enough they will see the error of their ways and then … I don’t know, renounce their foolish beliefs and join up?   Except I don’t think it works that way.  There is that quote … "You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into."  I think there is a bigger picture and if we truly want to help someone along a path of Reason, it starts with an uncommon level of respect. 

Thank you, everyone, for your responses. Keep them coming.  I feel like we’re onto something.

*update 2*

I just found this and thought it deserved some attention:

"Do we want Christians to join us? Since when is this not about keeping religion out of science?"

That’s a valid point.  I think its worth talking about larger goals of the Church of the FSM but for now I think it’s safe to say there is a wish amongst non-religious that the religious acted more rational – particularly in areas where their actions intersect with the rest of the world. 

I’ve seen plenty of disagreements between religious and non-religious played out publicly and I’ve yet to see a person of faith swayed by articulate impassioned reasoning. 

And I doubt very much that people of strong faith are concerned whether their beliefs are strictly True or not.   Whether that’s a conscious realization or not I don’t know, but we have all known people with entrenched beliefs that are too irrational to believe (earth is 5000 years old, anyone?) except they do believe these things – they believe these things with a force to be reckoned with.

Well what is at the root of that force?  Clearly it has little to do with objective reasoning.  I suggest it’s due mainly to the attachment to the very real, very meaningful community that churches provide for so many people.   Cognitive dissonance — they can’t be reasoned with because betraying those beliefs puts in danger their relationship to the community they value so highly, therefore the thing is True.   That’s the force, the block that can’t be argued against.

Atheists, nonbelievers, freethinkers — we can say we build communities as well, and there are some examples but we’re not great at it.   Say what you will about Christians, they kick our asses at building communities.  There is something about Drinking The Kool-Aid that lets people do with genuine (sometimes very creepy) intention what seems very hard to do for a group with broader more objective views.  I’m not just talking about religion.  Squabbling academic groups, anyone? There is something about getting together in groups that is very hard to do positively.  How do you do it without being cynical?  We need to figure it out.

Will Christians walk from one community to another? Surely some will.  I have heard the same story from countless ex-Christians who have become Atheists and it’s always a lonely road, because it’s never just a matter of questioning ones beliefs, is it? It’s also a matter of losing that support system and community that came along with those beliefs.  

And maybe just having that option, knowing that questioning beliefs doesn’t have to mean such a loss, will make it easier. 



168 Responses to “An Emerging Trend?”

  1. Ilene Spasiano says:

    You write very detailed,Pay tribute to you. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Gedulous says:

    My takeaway from your post is “Faith is okay, but critical thinking is okay too. Let’s all hug, drink beer and talk like pirates! R’amen.” A salutory goal, if that’s what you meant!

  3. Glenn says:

    What a wast of words.

    It is never OK to be delusional.

    • Glenn says:

      obviously “waste” of words.

      • Glenn says:

        Please disregard my words.

        I was drunk and confused.

  4. wiccanbaptist says:

    You know… I was told once long ago that religion is a tool for those who do not have the emotional or mental maturity to attempt to understand the unknown. I was also told that religious texts are simple stories for simple minds. That is not to say that they have no value, because they do. Unfortunately, not every person out there is capable of deep thought or philosophical arguing. For those people, a book with parables, life lessons and a few basic rules (that all boil down to treat other people the way you want to be treated) is a necessary part of life. Getting mad at them for being, well, simple, is like getting mad at water for being wet. Some people just can’t help it.
    That being said, I appreciate the call for a more civil tone in arguing with people who are not atheist. I personally was raised baptist and feel that the lessons I learned in that church carry me through to this day. No, I don’t mean the silly stuff about being saved, the punishment for sins and all that hoopla. What I mean is that I learned to value every day as a gift. That every day I should try to make the world a slightly better place than it was the day before. That I should feed the hungry, clothe the shivering and provide a warm place for someone to sleep. I should hug a person who needs a hug, smile at the person who is frowning and try to live up to the example of a man who did all of these things, even if he was only a fairy tale. I don’t care if you believe in G*d or Allah or FSM. What I care is that we try to stop the culture of sarcasm and biting wit, and work to create a more caring world.
    For me, that is what a church community is for… well, that and potluck dinners.

  5. nimbostratus says:

    I just stumbled onto this site today (I’ve known about the FSM for a long time, just never thought to look for the Church of) and did some poking around. I have to say that I really appreciate one of your main messages the is showcased in this article, and it seems on this site as a whole:sometimes being tolerant is more important than being right.

    As an atheist and someone who has a B.S. in a scientific field, sometimes it is easy to fall into the trap of not being tolerant of religious beliefs. Let me back up a little bit. Both my parents are very religious, but I never really have believed any of it ever since I was old enough to reason for myself. When I was younger, I used to think that religion, though false, was more of a source of good that evil. As I get older and older, I find it impossible to to not believe that way more evil comes out of religion than good. Yes, granny down the block finds more inner peace because of her Mormon beliefs (that’s like +0.00001 good), but that is far outweighed by the Mormons funneling millions of tax exempt dollars to the Prop 8 campaign in order to deny the right to marry gays and lesbians (that’s like -897,000,000 bad). Another tale of pure evil in religion that I witnessed was when I reluctantly attended a mega-church with my ex-girlfriend and got up to leave when the pastor said that gays deserve to be struck dead by god, and that miracles will happen (I regret to this day not standing up and yelling out just how against everything they propose to believe that is). So when you see these things over and over again, it becomes hard not to sort of hate religion.

    Thank you for reminding me that they act badly and do evil BECAUSE they believe just as strongly as we do that they are right (even if it based on irrationality) and that the key thing is to NOT act LIKE them. Be tolerant, do no evil.

    A new explorer in the CotFSM.

  6. Uncommoner says:

    because being skeptical requires a slight tendency to be militant, so someone who doesn’t KNOW how to be militant, even a little, whether their Christian or atheist or pastafarians, is unable to question themselves, as well as others. If you argue simply to argue, then you don’t need to locate these values. But if you are of the more genuine, answer-seeking type, then step one is to figure out if you are asking the right PERSON, and THEN the right question.

  7. TheCakeIsALie says:

    Let me start off by saying that I am a Christian.

    If you made it to this second sentence, I thank you for being tolerant enough for five more seconds, so please, hear me out. I agree 100% with the message of tolerance portrayed in this article. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been felt cornered by aethists/agnostics/freethinkers/wiccens/bhuddists/et cetera (many of which are some of my good friends) because of my beliefs. I have lost all faith for the Catholic church and the way they go about things, and some in organized religion in general. Some people veiw Christianity strictly as a religion that says, “Give us your money, we’ll tell you what to do, have a nice day.” rather than a religion that tries to follow a Divine example that EVERYONE knows is impossible. I hope I don’t have to relate the Easter story on here, I cannot stand quoting the Bible to people who obviously don’t believe in it. I don’t want to be called the “Barnum-bunkum, Bible beating bastard.” (Inherit the Wind, gotta love it) on here, because my message isn’t to say, “Hey, come over to the darkside, we got cookies.” but more like, “There are some of us who are willing to reach across the aisle and live in harmony with each other, without abandoning our own beliefs.”

    It’s going to be a give-and-take discussion for as long as humans exist, so those of you who become angry with me because I have had the audacity to put my opinion on here, I have a simple solution. Let’s agree to respectfully disagree. I have respect for any religion (or lack there of).

    I feel like I’ve rambled long enough, so I will sum it up by saying that I thank the author of this article, and *gasp* a Christian agrees. If it sounds I’m uneducated, I am indeed, I’m only in 10th grade. A young, naive, brain-washed Christian, yes. But a tolerant one, unlike the loud-mouthed “fire and brimstone” preachers everyone only ever seems to hear.

    • Danimal says:

      Dear Cake,
      I enjoy the irony of the name you selected.
      Danimal

      • TheCakeIsALie says:

        Danimal,

        Although I do see where you are coming from, I chose the name because of it being a popular phrase from “Portal” a popular video game and one of my favorites, but, we digress.

    • tekhedd says:

      “I thank you for being tolerant enough for five more seconds”

      You sound like a nice person, but with such low expectations!

      You sound quite defensive. Have you been told that you’re being persecuted? Because we don’t do that persecution thing around here; it’s so last-millennia. Acceptance is practically dogma in ours. If we had dogma. Which we don’t.

      (At least that’s what people keep telling me. I believe that with creative interpretation, a bit of forgery, and stubborn refusal to acknowledge evidence to the contrary, the bible of the FSM advocates ruthless slaughter of all nonbelievers. But, for some reason, I’m not getting much support on that. If only I had a radio talk show!)

    • JustSomeGuy says:

      As the great FSM told us in his eight “I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts”

      1. I’d really rather you didn’t act like a sanctimonious holier-than-thou *** when describing my noodly goodness. If some people don’t believe in me, that’s okay. Really, I’m not that vain. Besides, this isn’t about them so don’t change the subject.

      2. I’d really rather you didn’t use my existence as a means to oppress, subjugate, punish, eviscerate, and/or, you know, be mean to others. I don’t require sacrifices, and purity is for drinking water, not people.

      The CotFSM that I joined is all about the tolerance, and you are welcome here. Admittedly, there are some who fail to take to heart the teachings of the FSM and attack the unbelievers, but we all know they are getting the warm beer and diseased strippers anyway.

      I repeat, you are welcome here, come to FSM with tolerance and respect and I believe you will find we have much in common.

  8. TheCakeIsALie says:

    Although I did just laugh at that, I was thinking of this video when I posted the name. It’s from the credits from “Portal” a favorite video game of mine. (Copyright stuff…. yada yada…. this isn’t my stuff, I don’t own it, it is someone else’s intelectual property.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdrs3gr_GAs

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