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Sep 10 2011

It’s not my job

“Look, he only wanted to ask a question. Did you ever consider him as a potential person who wished to learn or improve himself or just wanted to know what we actually believed in? He is arguing from a different standpoint from a judeo-christian viewpoint so nothing you have written makes any sense to him. Do you have to be such a dick about it?”

Words to this effect were said to another denizen of the internet. The reason was that a Hindu asked a question, a simple one “What do we atheists believe in?” and then had the audacity to enquire about a non judaic perspective. The response? An atheist online simply trolled him, insulting India and posting pro-pakistan/anti-india links.

When called out the atheist in question didn’t give a rat’s arse that the person in this equation had genuine doubts about faith and just wanted to see if we had any answers to questions that he had doubts over. The simplest being “what do you guys think happens to us when we die?”.

And all the troll managed to do was completely alienate someone from the potential of being an atheist. The hindu in question simply became unwilling to talk because someone wanted a quick laugh and to feel superior about himself than actually make a small but poignant difference. Because it “Isn’t his Job” to try and change how people think or to represent atheism in a positive way. That he would rather be off portraying atheists as baby eating monsters than a positive force of good.

And it’s something we have as atheists discussed about. There aren’t many black atheists. How come so few non white atheists exists? Why are women so poorly represented?

Well there you go. Because people like our friend the “Troll” exist. Sure it may just be facebook drama but this attitude is more common than we think. Yes, a lot of what we do is good natured laughter at religious antics but we do know the difference between that and simply wailing on someone with a question.

Yes, I do feel a bit left out. There aren’t many ex-hindu atheists out there (It’s why I started writing) which is why I felt a soft spot for this person who was having their country and/or ethnic origin degraded. Writing “Fuck India” is the same as writing “Fuck America”. All you are doing is irritating an entire group of people for no real reason and turning a discussion from atheism to one about how awesome India/USA is or is not.

But quite frankly, I didn’t notice anyone else be willing to answer a Hindu a simple question about what Atheists Believe in. Sure he may not believe in what we say or be looking for a cheap laugh himself, but there is an equal chance that we lost someone new to the movement because someone wanted to feel a bit smug.

The next time someone has a question, try and answer. If you cannot answer admit that you cannot. There is no shame in atheism for saying “Do Not Know”. It’s magic words ensure that we stay honest. The trolling is saved for those who deserve it.

And remember, not all who seek answers come from Christianity. 

3 comments

  1. 1
    Dr Phlebas

    Thanks Avicenna,

    I'm a guilty as the next guy for wailing on a theist, but it's generally as a result of built up frustration. I would love to have an open and honest discussion with a theist, but I generally find that they are anything but open and honest. I normally assume that this is an internal defense mechanism, a mental barrier preventing them from addressing the cognitive dissonance resulting from their beliefs.

    I haven't given up hope though, I just don't think a Facebook group is the right forum for a meaningful discussion. Some of the atheist groups I frequent are the mental equivalent of a mosh pit. Ever had a meaningful discussion with someone on a mosh pit? Me either. To make a difference it has to be more personal than that.

  2. 2
    Apowen10

    Some of us are atheist for simple reasons and don't feel intellectual enough to debate things point by point. I'm not sure what your doctorate is in, but if it is, say middle eastern studies or religious theology, I would be a poor candidate to debate with. I guess some of us are embarrassed by our limitations, and maybe we become defensive when asked about something we feel on an emotional level. I have an MBA but I realize when it comes to most things I'm ignorant. If I had more time I could devote myself to many other disciplines.

  3. 3
    Ani Sharmin

    Hi, Avicenna:

    My family is from India (though I was born in and grew up in the US) and they're Muslim. I share your sentiment that the type of attitude you're discussing here may be one of the reasons why people don't feel comfortable expressing their doubts if they're from a different religion. While someone would probably still have doubts about their faith, maybe they'd feel uncomfortable participating in a conversation with atheists about religion if they expect they're going to be treated that way.

    There are some times when I think a certain harsh tone is justified (for example, if someone's just being bigoted and advocating discrimination) but to respond that way to a question is unfair. Of course, we're all human, as Dr Phlebas pointed out.

    I love your online name, by the way.

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