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Sunday
Apr202014

Atheism Needs to Find a Soul

Some of the non-believing undertones I inject into my editorials have garnered me a fair amount of jabs from the extreme religious right. I consider myself a non-believer who is equitably objective in these matters and in all fairness I would say that there is also no shortage of extremism in contemporary atheistic circles.

I avoid the term "atheist." It conjures up images of people protesting Christmas mangers and that is not my gig. I have better things to do with my time. I presume most atheists are similar to me, quiet practical folks who go about their business and try their best to be good people. Unfortunately, it is the more radical ilk of atheists who are doing much harm to such causes as reason and humanity.

I am completely for the separation of church and state as it relates to policy. I am most disturbed by fundamentalists in various positions of government who often vote on matters such as funding for medical research, women’s rights, and similar issues based upon religious convictions rather than scientific merit, justice, and practical fiscal investment. Certain fundamentalists acting upon their beliefs while serving in government deserve ground swells of criticism and need to be voted out.

That being the case, however, I feel that certain atheist groups will gain little ground by ridiculing or insulting religious fundamentalists at large. The passion behind such belief is too strong and such blatant negativity thrown their way only emboldens fundamentalists’ positions in an almost martyrdom fashion. The real shame here is that when atheist groups scattergun vitriol at all people of faith, reasonable people in the fertile middle ground adopt a negative impression of all atheists as just simply godless. Don't forget, we need these votes!

For instance, the politically correct hysteria that some atheist groups have generated about religion in schools has made teachers nervous about even mentioning Jesus Christ as a historical figure. Major religions for better or for worse have significantly affected the development of modern civilization and are in fact a substantial part of history. Middle America has a hard time understanding these politically correct restrictions in school. 

It should be noted as well that most believers do not deserve the condescension and the trampling upon of their traditions by atheist groups. Almost all of my friends maintain some sort of a religious or spiritual belief and simultaneously live hard-working and commonsense principled lifestyles. A good person is a good person and I do not care what gives them purpose. All I know is that the world needs more good people, period.

I have had more than one devout atheist give me a lecture on Twitter as to what the term "atheist" really means. Okay, I understand that “atheism” is a passive term. The “a” simply means “without.” In this case the total meaning is “without belief in regard to a deity.” I can't get that hyped about the non-existence of something but to each his own. If you are that motivated as an "atheist" to be out publically protesting religion then you are more than just a non-believer in a god. This is why the atheist creed that the public is becoming familiar with is more of an anti-theist ideology and the “religion is bad” message seems to be the only one that atheists have. 

If you doubt me on this feel free to follow the hash-tags “atheism” or “atheist” on Twitter. The Easter and Passover season of 2014 had a barrage of anti-theological Christian and Jewish tweets.

This is why I have often stated over the years that atheism needs a public relations overhaul. The status quo being what it is, literal definitions aside, when the public hears the term "atheist" it is almost always in conjunction with some atheist group complaining about religion.

A cross doesn't bother me one bit because my name isn't Dracula. It also comforts millions of people.A perfect example of this is the protests and actions against the 911 Miracle Cross from being included in the new National September 11 Memorial and Museum. An atheist group, American Atheists, has challenged plans to place steel components from the wreckage of the World Trade Center from 911 on public property because it is in the shape of a cross and thus violates the separation of church and state. The cold hard legal dynamics of this may very well favor the atheists but I do not care. To win the battle of ideas you have to win hearts and minds and this sure as hell isn’t going to do it.

The religious right is often correctly criticized of not being tolerant. Well, in a free society tolerance works both ways. Deal with the cross already. Why is this so important?

To form an atheistic quintessence as such that people can identify with, proponents of atheism need to tone down the anti-religion rhetoric. Everyone expects an atheist to make disparaging remarks about religion. Do the unexpected. Be respectful. Stop telling people of faith that what they believe in are fairy tales. There are plenty of skillful ways to logically exhibit the pitfalls of faith after a constructive dialogue is opened.

If atheists really believe in the tenants of humanity it is time to be humanistic. This does not mean just quoting Albert Schweitzer or Isaac Asimov. I quiz atheists every so often about what positive message they may wish to extol. They throw me little scraps about humanism but invariably fall back on anti-religion hyperbole. Ok I get it. The public gets it. Religion is bad. So what kind of positive dogma do you have?

For example, maybe what groups like American Atheists should do with their resources instead of challenging the 911 Miracle Cross is establish a fund for victims of terrorism all over the world. The charitable nature of such an act would speak for itself as well as highlight in a subtle style what type of damage that radical religious beliefs can cause.

From a public relations standpoint atheists need to be more visible with positive actions and rhetoric that stems from a profound and positive ideology that is all their own. Telling someone that his or her ideas are bad is not presenting alternative concepts.

Atheists who protest in America largely have become the same judgmental, self-righteous, all-knowing do-nothings that they claim to rail against.  It is time for atheism to find a soul. 

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