I’m a godless pagan, an atheist to be more specific. It’s my cross to bear… maybe that’s a bad analogy… my burden, and it generally isn’t a problem. Some less educated believers contend atheism is a set of beliefs, or that there are degrees of atheism. And more often than not they can be pointed to the dictionary definition that explains it is “disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings” and be at least somewhat satisfied. Of course there are those that no explanation will satisfy. At some point you just end up walking away from the conversation because they aren’t compromising, and reason and logic have bound me to my (lack of) beliefs.
Recently I joined twitter, initially to see if there was any possibility of using it as an marketing tool. I found instead a thriving community of people that shared my views on (lack of) religion, libertarian and small “c” conservative politics, etc. I also found others that while of opposing viewpoints were willing, capable and engaging sparring partners with wit and humor to spare. So far so good…
Unfortunately in any “community”…if twitter can be called that… there will also be elements that are less desirable:
- people without ideology that just like to argue
- people with vile and hateful ideology
- people that oppose you that are unreasonable
- people that agree with you that are unreasonable
It is this last group I really want to address here, from two perspectives:
First, conservatism covers a lot of ground. For example, I consider any society that is unwilling to take care of those that can’t take care of themselves to be uncivilized. This is not always associated with conservatism. Then there are libertarians, social conservatives, law and order conservatives, fiscal conservatives, hard right “tea party” type conservatives, etc… The problems I have arise when my libertarian, small “c” conservatism runs up against social and law and order conservatives. To these people I am a godless commie and have no business calling myself conservative. They don’t understand that we have shared ground, and without us they can’t elect conservatives. Any criticism of the Conservative party is likely to result in a torrent of abuse and insults, followed immediately by blocking. It is their version of political conservatism as dogma. Even though I largely agree with them, the differences are where they dwell. The gut instinct seems to be immediately spew vitriol and hatred, then retreat in horror. This of course fractures and weakens the conservative movement and is why Canada is largely ruled by parties of the left.
Atheism, as mentioned earlier, is simply the absence of belief in a deity or deities. Nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing to evangelize or proselytize… except possibly, education, logic and reason. Of course this is an affront to the devoutly religious. They have a lot invested in their religiosity. They’ve been convinced it is the foundation of their morality and without it they’d revert to some wild state. This is expected. There are others who aren’t sure what they believe, but want the assurance and community that religion and church offer. The supernatural aspects don’t work for them, and may even repel them. Rational discussion to “engage and guide” them may bring them to the truth and away from indoctrination.
What took me by surprise are the number of atheists that attack these people in the worst, condescending, insulting, demeaning way. For those that are maybe on the fence about gods and religion, this is the most repellent thing you can do. It confirms the bias they already have from exposure to religious teaching: Atheists are cruel and immoral. Why would they then want to be part of that community?
But these (excuse the terminology, can’t think of anything better) militant atheists don’t stop there. They also feel the need to attack other atheists that they feel don’t measure up to their exacting standards, or have slightly different wording in their definition of “atheist”. They don’t have time to read conversations to understand context. They pounce on single words or phrases as if jabbing a stake into a vampire’s heart. And if blood is drawn, even better. They even have a guild… their own superior little club from whence they can look down upon true believers and other atheists with equal disdain.
When I first saw their ASH club and the little shield graphic, I thought it was kind of cool; atheists have their own group instead of our former isolation. But this is NOT about community, it is about exclusion. You AREN’T worthy. You AREN’T one of us. We are BETTER than YOU. And they have the unmitigated temerity to call themselves Atheist Super Heroes. Nonsense. Another blight on our reputation that we absolutely don’t need.
So where does this rant come from? The “proverbial” last straw was a twitter conversation I had with a fellow atheist. I was twitter-sideswiped by another of these hyperactive atheists that didn’t have time to read the tweets but was happy to interpret for me what I actually said, in case I didn’t understand me. I corrected her, and was twitter-jacked by one of the Guildren of ASH, some dewy-eyed little tadpole that still has his tail. He, of course, did not read the previous tweets to get context and told me I “clearly insinuated” that atheists have deities, when of course I said the EXACT opposite. (How does one “clearly insinuate”? Doesn’t “insinuate”… well… insinuate something less than clear?) So there is no need to do a line by line of what followed. I got a little hot and told him off in a way that could definitely have been worded better, and he tweeted out to #A_S_H, with the non-too-subtle implication of bullying. Fortunately I am not a maladjusted, isolated 17 year old. I am a maladjusted, belligerent 50 year old that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about a bunch of callow youth that would high tail it for the hills if anyone challenged them face to face. But the anonymity of the internet makes us all a little bigger and braver perhaps… (Of course I’m not the first to notice or experience this. See http://bit.ly/17VikRH for @atheistmel’s excellent and insightful take on the topic).
Anyway, I decided to post the whole sordid thread instead of continuing commentary. I was going to ask for permission, but there is no expectation of privacy on twitter. You put it out there, expect it to be used…
There was another tweet that accused me of unfollowing and blocking, which I didn’t do, and seems to have been deleted so I couldn’t capture it. I don’t block anyone unless it is an obvious spambot. And I don’t unfollow someone for having a bad day or one disagreement. Now if it becomes a pattern that changes things, unfollowing may be the best strategy… but not blocking. The point being I believe in free speech, including the freedom to disagree with me vigorously. Occasionally I learn something from such exchanges. And don’t we all (most? some?) want to learn?
There are a great number of other well spoken, intelligent, witty atheists out there that are more than willing to talk to anyone that may be curious, in calm, rational and soothing tones. Shout out:
…and even some of the ASH folk.
If you are genuinely curious and not just trying to shake the hornets’ nest (trust me, nobody likes that) you will find them patient and more than willing to answer your questions, or point you in the right direction.
Amen… I mean… The End
OK, not quite the end. Another tweet to add from the main defender. I was accused of being rude, by someone that attacked me apparently without reading the entire thread… again… in defense of her friend (no possibility of bias there) with fairly colorful language and the adjective “ass” applied to me. None of that qualifies as rude I guess. Just as refusing to read previous tweets… twice… and demanding yes or no answers to childish questions that are external to the conversation isn’t rude. That ASH shield is getting more tarnished by the minute.
For the record I did say above I could’ve worded my responses better. For that I’ll apologize. But as for retracting the meaning of the messages, fat chance. If you and your friends want to play these pointless games, don’t expect anyone to take it easy on you.
Well someone else came to assist the main defender…
…and my first instinct was, you know what, he is right. I am a hypocrite and I should be better than that. So even though “dewy eyed little tadpole” is pretty innocuous, I though I could change it to something equivalent like “young feller, still wet behind the ears”, but it sounded a bit too Mayberry for my liking. But then I remembered another reply…
…and decided, no, that is right. We all need to toughen up a bit. So if “dewy eyed little tadpole” seems a bit harsh, so be it. It’ll make you leathery so the next one bounces right off. But if it takes a while to toughen up, just imagine that I really meant “young feller, still wet behind the ears” to start, and pretty soon there will be no “whinging” at all.