Sunday, October 4, 2009

When Falls the Faith!

I pride myself on having a pretty good B.S. detector. Sure, sometimes it goes off when things aren't actually B.S., but for the most part, it starts to tingle in the back of my brain like Spidey's "Spider-sense" whenever somebody says something that's a load of crap.

Well, it went off big time last night. Unfortunately, it went off due to something that I said. I was talking with some fellow nonbelievers, and I said that I wasn't interested in converting people to atheism. I could see my wife flash me a look right away, but her look wasn't necessary. As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew that I was full of hooey.

The truth is, I genuinely do want people to abandon their faith. I want to live in a world that values critical thinking over believing in things that have no evidence. Are some forms of faith more tolerable than others? Absolutely. I wouldn't put the average Christian in the same league with the Taliban, but if I could wave my hand and make both faith systems disappear, I would.

I was told last night that the things that I've said and written played a part in the de-conversion of a couple of former Christians. I'd be lying to you if I didn't say that I have a real sense of pride in that. Now, I'm not so foolish and full of myself as to believe that it was me and me alone. Still, if I helped to pave the road to atheism, then I'll chalk that up as one of my life's personal victories. I also have to wonder if there are others out there. I know that it was by reading online discussions between atheists and Christians that helped to finally push me over the fence and squarely in the atheist camp. The thing is, until the Internet, there were so many reasons for atheism that I had never even heard before, and I have to think that there are people out there who might stumble upon my blog who are learning of new ways of looking at things. (I should also point out that part of my motivation is that every soul who deconverts due to my influence will be forced to serve as my slave in Hell.)

But here's the thing - am I just as bad as a fundamentalist preacher? After all, they seek to convert people as well. Am I just the flip side of the same coin? Honestly, I don't think so, and here's why:

1. As I've mentioned before, I don't push my atheism on others. What I mean is, I don't approach people and say, "Have you thought about not believing in God?" I don't pass out pamphlets. I don't stand on street corners. Also, I don't bring it up. There are plenty of believers out there who know that I'm an atheist, but I've never once tried to talk them out of their faith. And it's not like we have to avoid the topic of religion all together. Usually these conversations involve us understanding and respecting our differences while emphasizing where we share some common ground. Now, if somebody posts something online or brings something up to try and push their belief, then I feel that it's fair game for me to further my point of view. That's a different sort of a thing though.

2. Ironically enough, it matters to me WHY people agree with me. It would be the worst thing if somebody just blindly agreed with me. I want people to come to atheism by going on their own journey and realizing that it's a superior worldview than any that's offered by religious belief. Appeals to authority are for the religious, not the free-thinker.

I once got into an argument with a lady who was pushing her Christianity on a bunch of 13-14 year old girls on a BART train. After she had left, I complimented one of the girls who kept asking questions of the preaching lady. The girl was a bit surprised with what I was saying, and I told her, "I'm not telling you to believe me. You shouldn't. I'm just saying that if things don't make sense, you should keep asking questions."

3. The ends to not justify the means to me. Related to the last point, I am not willing to distort the truth to try and convince people of my point of view. Fundamentalists are notorious for this. See my post about Kirk Cameron. Read up on how creationists constantly lie to further their religious agenda. They are not just willing, but they are eager to sacrifice the truth in the name of their God. As for me, I may have my faults, but I'm not a liar. (And if I ever do lie on this blog - about anything whether it be something trivial like comics to something important like this - CALL ME OUT ON IT.)

I think that makes me pretty different. Of course, there are plenty of believers out there who don't feel the need to blog about their faith. Also, there are a lot of them who don't seize the opportunity to defend their point of view, and they'd rather just avoid the conversation all together. I guess in that case, I'm "worse" than those people.

Why do I do what I do? It's because it matters to me. Back when I used to believe, I was the same way, only I argued for the other side. Maybe it's simply because I tend to be a bit obsessive by nature. I'm okay with that though. It's better than being apathetic.

Today's "Stan Lee Challenge" was inspired by The Amazing Spider-Man #36: "When Falls the Meteor!"


Kaboom32 said...

What you failed to mention is that I was also on that BART train. What I failed to mention is that I was that 13 year old girl.

Sarah said...

While being far from atheist, I agree with your rationale on religious proprietors in general. The fundamentalists are their own worst enemies and cause people who disagree with their faith/viewpoint to have the right to point and say,"Check out this nut-job".

I don't want to misunderstand your view point so I'll ask, do you have more of a problem with religion as a whole, or individuals who use it to benefit and glorify themselves? Also, is it mainly the westernized religions, or just religious philosophies in general?

I know I'm not educated enough in this area to really argue and battle it out with you, but I am always interested in opposing ideas.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Hey Sarah,

Good questions - I'll get back to this later today.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

do you have more of a problem with religion as a whole, or individuals who use it to benefit and glorify themselves?

I definitely have a problem with religion as a whole. I genuinely think that the whole idea of "faith" in things that defy natural laws is not a good one. That said, the individuals you speak of are the worst of the lot. I certainly wouldn't put your average faithful person in the same lot as a fundamentalist preacher. I can definitely see some nuance, but overall I do not think that religion is good for humanity.

Also, is it mainly the westernized religions, or just religious philosophies in general?

I pick on the westernized philosophies because I grew up in the Western World. I'm sure that if I knew more about Eastern philosophies, I could have plenty to say. (I suppose I'd start with the Hindu caste system - that's pretty awful.)

Sarah said...

Thanks for the clarification and very reasonable response. I like it when people back up their arguments with more than, "well, that's what I think/believe/know etc."

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Same here. You should read today's post for an example of me mocking that.