Home > Editorials, Religion > To My Atheist Friends

To My Atheist Friends

A link to a page called “How to stop your kids from becoming Atheists” flew around a couple times this morning on my Twitter feed. I decided to ignore it, as it wasn’t aimed at me directly, but then I thought about it and decided to actually respond to it. Or rather, respond to years of such little links and comments read and heard from people I consider friends or close acquaintances. This isn’t a rant, this isn’t a retort. This is a response.

You decided you do not believe in G-d, and I decided that I believe in G-d. Your decision does not make you any smarter, insightful, wise, accepting, or educated than me. Neither does mine make me all that in relation to you. When you say general statements about believers, remember you are including those who are your friends, those whom you respect and respect you, among them. That means me, Daniel, the guy you play games with, go to school with, chat online with, joke with, even sometimes share a true memorable moment with.

I don’t mind that you’re an Atheist. I honestly don’t care because that is your choice. I respect your choice. I will even talk about our choices, how they differ, how they may even be similar in some ways, and not have a problem with it (heck, in many cases I’d welcome it). It’s your choice and I respect it, especially if you are my friend, even if I don’t believe the same way. That goes for Atheist, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, or Pastafarians. I only ask you do the same.

I am a convert to Judaism. That means I chose my belief, and I did after a really hard and intense–painful, even–struggle with myself about belief in G-d and me as an individual (and frankly, it’s a struggle I continue to be engaged in every day). But even if I wasn’t, even if I’d been born into observant Judaism (or Christianity, etc), my point remains the same. I am not an anomaly, I am simply an example, just like how you reached your decision to be an Atheist isn’t the same as that of others.

“But, Daniel,” you may ask, “what about the Westboro people, or the Jihadists, or the [Insert Religious Extremist Group Here]?” What can I tell you, there’s shitty people in all walks of life. What about Atheists that believe all believers should be killed (I’ve actually heard this, don’t laugh)? I’m sure we’re both groaning right now. Listen, these people are out there. Let’s not be like them, then.

I don’t need you to apologize for tweeting that link today if you did, or for any comment you may or may not have made in the past. I honestly don’t. I also don’t want you to police what you say to be politically correct. Just be aware of what you say, what you forward along, and understand you might be hurting someone you actually esteem.

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Categories: Editorials, Religion Tags: , ,
  1. September 1, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    Hear, hear!

  2. Sean D
    September 1, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    Well said. Thanks.

  3. September 1, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    Thanks. I found that post hateful. As an atheist, I’m ashamed to think that the author of that is on my “side.” It’s like Niven says: There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.

  4. Mick Bradley
    September 1, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    Every word a gem. Thanks, Daniel!

  5. Steph McW
    September 1, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    Thank you for that! There aren’t enough folks promoting respect, regardless of which side of the fence people are on.

  6. Scott
    September 1, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    Thanks Daniel. As a Catholic convert I’ve felt many of these same feelings and definitely would ask for civility from all. You are a gem!

  7. September 1, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    I only have two questions. Why are your points directed at Atheists? The general message seem fit for consumption by everyone.

    Certainly, you must encountered similar, or worse, attitudes among your faithful (as in those who believe in one or more gods) friends. I see similar trash broadcast by the faithful, but in much larger quantities. If so, did they ever prompt you to write a similar response?

    I only ask, because I wonder if it is Atheists/Atheism you’re concerned about, or people’s lack of consideration (which is not a trait solely owned by Atheists). And I ask because I am an Atheist and a friend (or at least not a stranger).

  8. Luniticus
    September 1, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    @Mad Brew:

    To quote the article “That goes for Atheist, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, or Pastafarians.” And “What can I tell you, there’s shitty people in all walks of life.” Clearly the sentiment is not only directed at atheists, this is just the example that most recently drove him to write about the issue.

  9. September 1, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    @Mad Brew
    The truth is that this could’ve been titled “To My [Insert Non-Jewish Belief System Here] Friends” and remained mostly the same. This isn’t an attack on Atheists, though some have responded as if it was. This was a response to something I saw today, or more accurately, a voicing of something I’ve wanted to say for a long time but hadn’t. In my personal experience, I’ve been the butt of the joke more from Atheists than from other believers, though in general I do agree that it comes from all around (I mean, you gotta love the ‘All Jews are going to Hell’ rhetoric out there).

    But note that it’s titled to my Friends. It’s why it’s a communication of my feelings. This isn’t a manifesto from the faithful to the non-believers, it’s me speaking to those who fall under the heading of “friend” (in all its permutations, so yes, you count). I am sorry some have felt attacked, which I can’t do anything about except also take as much responsibility for my words as I’m asking others to take for theirs.

  10. Rabia J.
    September 1, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    Well said, Daniel. Thank you!

  11. September 1, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    @Luniticus

    True enough, but those bits seem more of an afterthought and the article is clearly aimed at Atheists.

    @Daniel M. Perez
    Of course a believer is going to be butt of a joke from an Atheist more than from another [similarly faithed] believer. Just as I am going be ribbed by more faithful than fellow non-believers (or at least I’ll notice it more).

    The point I’m trying to make is that I feel your article actually stems from the same place that the Yahoo answer does. It makes it about believers vs. non-believers, even though both sides participate in the unwanted behavior. When you encapsulate a response like this with “To Atheists” and “I don’t mind you’re an Atheist” and “your decision to be an Atheist” then I feel you haven’t reach your goal of a response, in lieu of a retort or rant, perpetuating the cycle.

    Thus it feels like a jab at Atheists, you know, because we all must think the believers cannot spell or are uneducated. I’m sure the Yahoo answer was a communication of that dude’s feelings, because it cannot be denied that religious zealots have been guilty of most, if not all, of those things on that list. Maybe they were his parents… and thus he felt justified in posting such virulent rhetoric (it doesn’t take a leap of faith to determine the types of personalities that would have posited the original question to begin with).

    I’m not offended at this post, but feel obligated to note that your “manifesto from the faithful to the non-believers” may not have its intended impact (in the spirit of being aware of what you say). I’d not want to see the response if someone wanted to give a manifesto from non-believers to the faithful.

  12. September 2, 2011 at 12:55 AM

    @Mad Brew
    As I said above, this isn’t a manifesto and expresses only my opinions, nothing more. Maybe it feels like a jab, but I’m telling you right from the start and then here that it isn’t. I’m not sure what else I can do.

    I know not all Atheists are morons like the one who wrote the message, but even from dear friends whom I’d help bury a body I’ve heard little comments here and there that amount to the things I say above, that because I believe in G-d I am ignorant, or beholden to myths, etc. So, you know, it wears on you.

    You shouldn’t feel offended by what I wrote if you have not engaged in that kind of behavior. At least with me you never have. That’s awesome and I’d like to keep it that way. Likewise if I ever say something that amounts to “all you non-believers are ignorant heathens,” call me on it and stop me.

  13. Xatanas
    September 2, 2011 at 3:04 AM

    I just read the “answer” that inspired your post, and I have to say: WOW, that guy sounded just like one of my rants when dealing with the intrusive (and VERY rude) Jehovah’s Witnesses that come here EVERY Saturday, who think that politeness is weakness of character. That is done in anger not reason.

    Likewise the post is inflammatory, not funny and reflects a lot of anger. It is as guilty of as much hate speech as most religions have been at one time or another; thus negating whatever “intelligent” message the people promoting it thought it had.

    Faith is a very special thing to have. It requires a certain strength and most of all conviction, real conviction; something you have shown throughout the years to have in spades. So don’t let the internet jokes get to you; I know your faith is stronger than that, and I’ve always admired you for it.

    Kudos for doing what most people can’t do, express your feelings without insulting others.

    Now if you excuse me I have to go make some pretty offensive demotivators for my own amusement; because you know I am who I am and as much as I try, and it has been made clear to me by every single woman in my life, the asshole in me just doesn’t wash away. 😉

  14. September 2, 2011 at 7:46 AM

    So can I expect to see a similar message directed at your devout friends when you see them share caustic message about the non-religious?

  15. September 2, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    @Mad Brew
    Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe yes, maybe not. I wasn’t planning on this response until I knew I had to write it, so it could be the same situation. However, can I expect to see one from you when you see the same? Ultimately it would be for someone rational on the Atheist side to say to ignorant theists, “Hey, my choice doesn’t make me any less intelligent, good, moral or a worthy human being than you.” Because that’s your message to send out, not mine. Now, can you count on me calling out ignorance from those on my side? Yeah, you can count on that.

  16. September 2, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    @Daniel M. Perez

    However, can I expect to see one from you when you see the same?

    The answer to that question is no. I have not written any blog posts addressed to my theist friends concerning any messages I find alarming or offensive (the latter is practically impossible, as I don’t get offended, per se). I don’t have a public outlet that accommodates that type of content (do not take that as a condemnation for having a public outlet). Any issues I have with someone, I address directly (which may, or may not be via public channels), and it usually happens where I encountered the issue. If I did write a post like this, I would probably not have directed it at any specific side, because both sides are guilty of the behavior.

    That you honestly do not know whether or not you would admonish your religious friends, over the same problematic behavior, in the same way approached your atheist friends does give me pause. Is that saying it’s OK to be this way towards atheists, or that it doesn’t bother you in the same way? Or you just don’t have religious friends who act this way towards folks of other religious persuasion? Are atheists the only ones guilty of this sort of thing in your experience?

  17. September 6, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    @Mad Brew
    We have different ways of dealing with similar issues, so that’s fine. I did (again, after many years) opt to go to a public forum in this case, and I’m fine with that decision.

    I think you might be reading too much into my answer, based on your second paragraph above. I am not saying it’s ok for anyone to be an ass to others. My direct message to one group here should not be taken as anything else but what it is, a message to one group based on my personal experience. I am not claiming to be a champion of equality, I am not claiming I am to start a campaign of anti-asshattery, worthy as both of those goals are. I had something to say, and I said it. If something makes me have something to say in the future, I’ll say it. I really can’t be more specific than that.

    To answer your questions: I am not saying it is ok to behave that way towards Atheists, though it obviously doesn’t affect me in the same way. I do not have religious friends who act in that way, no, and I am very conscious of how lucky I am. That doesn’t mean I haven’t heard such comments come from religious people, but they haven’t been people I know I can have an effect on. In my experience, yes, the attacks I face come mostly from Atheists rather than from other religious groups, especially in the academic setting in which I find myself again as of a couple years now (even more so in the sciences). That probably makes me more sensitive, but it doesn’t invalidate the message I had to send.

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