We’ve been battling the stupid philistines within our own communities so long that it’s easy to forget the atheist tone police — those people who like to chide atheists for being too harsh on religion, who make excuses for faith, and who recoil from confrontation with nonsense. Alex Gabriel will have none of that.
It is a form of privilege to be an atheist who’s never experienced religious abuse, as many of us have who are antagonistic.
It is privilege blindness to expect — without a clue what we’ve experienced or what it means to us — that we give up our self-expression so that you can form alliances with faith communities that deeply injured us.
It is tone-policing if when you’re not telling us to shut up about it, you’re telling us how to talk about it. How dare you tell us to be more respectful.
It is splaining if your answer when we detail histories of religious abuse is ‘Yes, but’ — or if you tell us we can’t blame religion for it since not all believers do the same. We know the details. You don’t.
Ah, excellent. I’ve never been fond of the milquetoast approach to atheism.
I’m one of the privileged people in the first line quoted. I used to think I’d been brought up religious, but I revised my opinion as I met more people who really had been abused by dogmatic religion as children — my liberal Lutheranism and secular parents with only nominal associations with religion was more of an inoculation with a dead virus than an exposure to the real disease. But it was enough to trigger a strong reaction when I did encounter religious stupidity.
Just yesterday, I got in my car to run some errands, and the radio had been left on to a local station (my wife listens to music on her commute), which on Sunday was broadcasting a sermon. It was a generous and liberal sort of sermon — the guy was going on about how we have to be open to change, and receptive to new ideas, which I thought was a nice message…until he started yammering on about why we should be that way. We need to be generous in thought because that’s how Jesus was. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus — he started spinning out this revisionist biography of Jesus that fell just shy of declaring that Jesus had been a gay democrat who campaigned to save the whales.
It annoyed me. I could change the tuner and probably find a Christian preaching a wrathful Jesus, or a law-and-tradition-abiding Jesus, or an American Jesus who wants the brown people executed. Jesus, the Stretch Armstrong of Christianity.
I didn’t experience the pain of a religious upbringing, but I did experience a science education, and I will say this: how you know something matters. If you want a mind that adapts and responds intelligently to changing evidence and circumstances, you don’t get it by telling your children to worship and obey a myth. You don’t invent imaginary heroes who were paragons of perfection and tell the kids to follow them — even if you are promoting ideals I personally find copacetic, you are committing child abuse by short-circuiting their capacity for critical and independent thinking.
So I agree with Alex, but for different reasons…and I respect those differences. Fight on, everyone. And don’t try to demand that everyone on your side must have the very same perspective on the struggle that you do.