Thanks for the Insult. Now go look in the mirror.

I want to begin by saying that this is not a critique against atheism per se, but a critique of a very specific stance taken up by a specific fundamentalist form of atheism. Atheism, like any other belief system, exists in a spectrum, and on one end you have atheists who participate religion, and then the colors of this spectrum pass through atheists who are separate but respectful of religion, atheists who just don’t care one way or another etc. And then there are the atheists who approach religion with the zealotous hatred you see in your extreme fundie church. I am stating this to put into context the rest of this post. I am critiqueing a stance held by some, and not by all. If your beliefs do not hold this vitriol, then please understand I am not intending to stereotype you, for this was not directed at you.

About 2 weeks ago, I posted the following link:

http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/daniel-darling/why-christians-shouldnt-be-jerks.html

A friend who is an atheist, who is separate but somewhat respectful, reposted it for the same reason I made the initial post: we both admit there are problems but are presenting solutions by widening the dialogue. The problem is when I posted “see we’re not all jerks” I received the following response by an individual on his friend’s list:

“No but you all believe in magic, and you all support an ideology which allows a world view to be garnered through the interpretation of ancient scripts, which perpetuates the right wing capacity for using those interpretations for political gain and to oppress others.”

Thanks for the insult, now go look in the mirror, because this fundamentalist view that your belief system makes you automatically superior to anyone with a different belief is not a argument against the crimes you pretend to oppose, it’s just a repetition.

As someone with a religious belief, I have been facing this prejudice more and more. And before anyone laughs about that idea, I need to point out that I am nothing like the bigoted stereotype thrown at me. I spent 2 years working in an impoverished African Muslim nation with the US Peace Corps, and organization that seeks to feed the hungry, promote development in the 3rd world, and forbids proselytizing. After that, I worked in inner city Paterson with Americorps, and provided psychological therapy for and acted as an advocate for disenfranchised youth with the Edison Job Corps. On my internship, I worked in a State Mental Hospital, a place where the most mentally ill people are sent, and spent most of my time fighting constantly to give them respect and dignity while fighting against a system that thought to strip those things away. What do all these things have in common?

1) I was not allowed to preach, proselytize, or in any way push a religious view

2) I was working to help the poor, shunned,and  ignored

3) When I faced challenges that would cause others to back down, I drew from my faith and belief to keep me going and helping others.

When you stereotype religion, you insult me and insult that. When you claim religion is all bad you call me bad, and call that work bad. When you look down your nose condescendingly at religion,  you look down your nose condescendingly at me and the work I have done. I didn’t do that in spite of my religion, but because of it. I do not help and work for the good of society and others because of some character trait outside or my belief, I did it because of a character trait that was trained and created by my belief. I would talk to more about my views on respecting the divinity with in us all, and duty for duty’s sake, but that would take things off topic.

I am also not alone in my beliefs. I am not some aberration, or token “good believer” (and historically, considering someone such is just as insulting as stereotyping). Because of the work I have done, I have found a community of people who live their faith without pushing their belief. I have found networks that seek to correct problems by creating reasoned arguments instead of ham fisted dismissive mockery. We celebrate diversity of culture, sexuality, and belief.

But when you stereotype and mock religion, you insult us. Even worse, you dismiss us. Because as you stereotype us, you are choosing which religious voices you want to legitimize. As you dismiss us, you silence the part of the dialogue that calls for peace, love, acceptance and change. As you mock us, you perpetuate the problem by attacking the people providing the solution.

So once again, thanks for the insult. Now go look in the mirror. Because when it comes to close minded bigotry and oppression, I’m not the problem, you are.

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