Friday, January 4, 2008

Am I Militant?

So, as I stated in an earlier post, I was born and raised as a Roman Catholic. I was, in fact, very devout to the point of being accepted to a pre-seminarian program my senior year in college. Luckily reason, as it should do more often, prevailed. Save my brother, my family does not know about my atheism. Very few people do, actually. My best friend and roommate knows. One of my colleagues has known for awhile as he has seen my blog. Just yesterday, I finally told another person I work with. We had been having religious discussions for a while and I was tired of couching my atheism in terms like, "So, I have an atheist friend..." That gets really old after a while. But, I do work in a very religious company. I err on the side of caution. My brother knows as well.

He is the only family member of mine who is on to me. We are pretty amicable about it. I love talking about religion and so does my theist roommate. My brother does not. He's still nominally a Catholic and believes in Christ and salvation, heaven and hell. We had an interesting confrontation the other day about this. I have many of the "New Atheist" books (I really hate that term). Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris. I don't talk religion with my brother but, since he also is a roommate, he does see me reading these books in the front room of my house. The other night I was reading Dawkins' book, and he gave me a funny look. I called him on it and said I never bring this stuff up with him. He doesn't like being challenged, and while I don't respect people who won't face challenges to their beliefs, I love my brother and respect him enough to not be in your face with him. He responds to me by saying my being in that room with that book was confrontational.

Now, he was joking, or half-joking, when he said this, but I think it reveals something about the peculiar American Theistic mindset. It sees anyone who is other as a challenge, regardless of whether or not a challenge was actually proffered. I don't get this. I've read several versions of the Bible, many other holy books and writings, Kierkegaard, Aquinas, Augustine. I've read the catechism of the catholic church. I've read them all and found them lacking. Why are they so sensitive? Are they afraid of the paucity of their arguments or their lack of rhetorical skill?

I don't think it is just our ideas. It is us! The fact that we exist is an affront. They see living around us as living with and around agents of the debyll, even if we are the nicest most well-adjusted demons he has. Why is this? Why am I a "militant" atheist if I speak up? I don't go door to door telling people believe me or else. I don't condemn people to hell. Hell, I don't even care if they believe what they believe so long as they leave me alone.

Maybe they are afraid they'll be infected by skepticism? Who knows. The thing that really convinced me about atheism was actually reading the Bible. Maybe they think God will rain down wrath upon this country because of us? Maybe we're the challenge God puts in their path for them to overcome? Maybe they just plain hate us. I don't run around my town waving "The End of Faith" in people's faces. I don't stand on a street corner with a bullhorn telling people they are not condemned to hell. I don't blog to convince others about what I believe. I blog because I like to write, I like to think out what I believe and I like debate and conversation. But, I don't confront people with their logical fallacies and specious arguments.

Is this a common thing, the assumption of militancy in atheists by their mere being? It's really irritating. If your reading this and you've experience people calling you militant or confrontational simply because you're an atheist and dared to vocalize that, I'd love to hear from you. Hell, if you're a theist or Christian reading this, could you tell me why people assume all atheists are militants out to destroy you when we are simply stating who we are?


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