I read a story this weekend on CNN called Holy Trollers: How to Argue About Religion Online. Of course, many of the commenters missed the point of the article. It made me appreciative of the people who comment here, who speak not to offend but to understand and inform. (So, first, a big thanks to you guys.)
For the rest of the country, it sure would be nice if we could get to the point where there was no arguing, where there was just acceptance and understanding on both sides. But I guess that will only come when we all realize that belief in god is a choice and a preference, and not a commandment and requirement.
You might wonder why I bother blogging. I wonder this, too. What’s the point? None of this matters. The debates over god and religion go around and around and around, with name-calling and personal attacks from both sides. There seems to be no linear movement, just one dizzying dispute after another, like a dog chasing its tail.
When I was blogging in the early 2000’s, I was trying to connect to other parents. There wasn’t much talk about being agnostic or atheist, especially as a woman and a mom. I was frustrated at facing so much negativity and misunderstanding around nonbelievers where I live, and I was growing irritated with the assumption that we all are or should be believers in God and Jesus.
A few years later, I wrote an article for the local paper about being an agnostic and wanting religion handled fairly in school. I received a lot of feedback, people “calling me home,” but none of it nasty. Then new atheism came along like a steamroller, and the four horsemen proposed beating back religion with a stick. You and I understand where they are coming from. We’re tired of the assumptions, of being forced to bend to the will of those who believe their religion should be our law and our life. We don’t like being told that we’re the reason for the world’s evils and that religion makes a person better.
But it seems like this new movement has hurt our humanity. Abraham Lincoln, in closing his first inaugural address, reminded the country that we are not enemies, but friends: “Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” We’ve all become defensive and self-righteous that we don’t see our friends and neighbors on the other side. We shoot to maim or kill. Just check out the comments in the CNN piece above or the iReport I wrote earlier in the year. One wonders how fellow humans can be so cruel.
I realize that one reason this hostility prevails is because people can comment anonymously, and they feel that they can be as nasty as they want. But, really, is that who they–who we–want to be? Wouldn’t we be ashamed to hear our mothers or our children speaking that way?
I also realize that part of this nastiness grows out of the sensationalist culture and the fact that sites like CNN do not discourage people from vomiting their vile thoughts all over the page. These big news organizations–CNN, Fox and the like–are feeding the frenzy. I imagine them dropping stories like bits of flesh into a school of piranhas and watching the attack, laughing at how base we all are. Now who’s playing god?
What I’m trying to say is, can we make changes without losing our humanity? Can we respectfully encourage the religious to move over, to keep their religion in church and out of our schools and government? We don’t mind if someone says bless you; we understand that’s their way. We just don’t want god forced on us or our children. And we don’t want god to represent, oversee or guide our nation; we elect humans for that.
I’m guilty, too. I’ve helped spread discontent with the words I use and the things I write about. I refer to god as imaginary, no doubt offending readers who do believe. What I should say is that god is not real for me. I have no faith, but I should not try to tear down other’s faith in the process.
So I will try to be more aware of my language because, after reading Holy Trollers, the last thing I want to be is one of those folks spreading hate. I don’t want to shame my friends or make family members feel stupid for believing.
In the meantime, how can our nation make progress on this issue without losing our humanity?