The other week on a certain blog, another blogger had contributed a post that spoke to the growing trend secularism within the black community. This particular blogger had taken exception to the one and only Steve Harvey (although can I blame her) concerning a statement he made about black women choosing “a good black man.” And that Harvey had made the claim that black women should “walk the other way when a black man says he’s an Atheist.”
Well, that’s probably a true sentiment and I can only imagine if that was ever said in a room full of black people that he would damn near get a standing ovation. With that being said, I’m really not surprised at a statement such as that, core Christian doctrines support the understanding that Jesus is the only way to God and that to stand outside of this belief or this covenant will result in the eternal damnation of one’s soul–a damnation to a place called hell. Aside from the numerous loopholes in this belief, people still believe it and place a lot of stock in it. Wars have been fought over Christianity in the early years and still with the evidence of Catholic versus Protestant and the plethora of denominations underneath the guise of Protestantism, we see not everyone agrees on every single jot and tittle.
So, this blogger gave the break down from fundamentalism through various levels of skepticism including agnosticism and ending with atheism, the simple belief that there is no God. I was happy to see that this blogger did put it out there that the simple non-belief in God does not correlate with a non-belief in a moral structure or that of concrete social ethics, however, I did feel that this author did take the gist of W.E.B. DuBois approach toward black religion slightly out of context and that there was this underlying tone of condescension toward black Christians in general.
This is where I get off board.
Don’t respond to Christians in the manner in which you complain about when Christians respond to you. That is to say, this author took a slight tone as if to say “I’m the only enlightened one” and that those who believe otherwise are imbeciles. Now this is very much the line of reasoning that many hardcore Christian Evangelicals and fundamentalists as well. We see this in various sectarian enclaves associated with Southern Baptist and various other fundamentalist off-shoots. The same goes for off-brand holiness churches within the Pentecostal tradition as well. So for me, it wasn’t so much a push back against atheism as it was against blatant and unwarranted arrogance.
Now, I wonder do atheists run around with a chip on their shoulder daring someone to knock it off? And look to be fair, this is an issue I have with anyone. You know there’s always one person in that Intro to Philosophy or African American Studies class who speaks as though they have the answer to everything that’s wrong with the world and the air about them says “I dare you to challenge what I just said.” And usually I just chalk this up to the “I just read a book” syndrome meaning they finally read all of Plato for the first time or they just finished reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and they have a different world view that they think everyone should subscribe to. So no, this isn’t just geared at Atheists per se, but since we’re talking about them….
I came across an op-ed piece in USA Today from a few days ago and I believe that this sums up EXACTLY what may be my sentiment:
For the sake of argument, let us set aside questions about the truth of religion vs. the truth of science. Suppose there is no such thing as religious truth, as Richard Dawkins argued in The God Delusion. Allow that the “New Atheist Noise Machine,” as American University communications professor Matt Nisbet calls it, has a privileged grasp of the truth. Even with these concessions, it still appears that the New Atheists are behaving like a boorish bunch of intellectual bullies.
There is something profoundly un-American about demanding that people give up cherished, or even uncherished, beliefs just because they don’t comport with science. And the demand seems even more peculiar when it is applied so indiscriminately as to include religious believers with Nobel Prizes. What sort of atheist complains that a fellow citizen doing world-class science must abandon his or her religion to be a good scientist?
Our commitment to pluralism and individual freedom should motivate generosity in such matters and allow people “the right to be wrong,” especially when the beliefs in question do not interfere with us. Nothing is gained by loud, self-promoting and mean-spirited assaults on the beliefs of fellow citizens.
The New Atheists need to learn how to play in the sandbox.
And I would like to add to the line with regards to having a “privileged grasp of the truth” that this privilege allows for these atheists to make these vast assumptions about ALL Christians. One of the guys I got into the debate with took to quoting scriptures as if I truly believe in the book of Colossians. And then when I said that when making a faith claim, or faith argument which is really where most Christians begin the basis of such religious discussions that generally the two discourses will never meet up. My opponent proceeded to tell me that Hebrews 11:1 was for the “willfully ignorant” and full of “wishful thinking” meaning he had resorted to personal attacks, which is yet another reason to terminate such conversation.
Much the same way that atheists and anti-theists wouldn’t want me to make the generalization that because you don’t believe in the existence of a higher deity means that you have no grounding for morality nor a social ethic, don’t make the assumption with regards to me that I blindly agree and follow all of the church dogma associated with Christianity.
My gut feeling, and yes I’m jumping to a broad conclusion here is that probably many atheists, at least those who started out with a Christian faith, ran the gamut from mainline to skeptic to agnostic and finally rationalized the notion of God not existing. My personal belief is that somewhere along the way, these persons just decided to think critically and realized that there were some broad jumps that Christianity makes–therefore making it a belief system requiring faith. However, when these individuals raised those questions, they were met with the tried and true answer of “You’re not supposed to question God!” or any variation of that. What resulted was them being hurt by the church and hurt by organization and structure: religion. And as many of us know, hurt people, hurt people, and that’s what many of experience when engaging in dialogue with many atheists.
Studies have shown that whenever one’s religion is blatantly challenged, it does nothing more but retrench the individual in their faith system. That’s why Jehovah’s Witnesses are still selling Watch Tower door-to-door and why when Mormon teens move into a community and do their in-your-face proselytizing upwards of 90% of them eventually return to Utah their communities. Also the same goes for those in Amish communities after their rumspringa, where the vast majority of persons go back to what was familiar and comfortable to them. I interpret this to mean that no amount of bullying or brow beating in the name of rational and empirical thought is going to change the minds of those who have a faith system.
And since I’m here and this is my blog…
I’ll actually say that atheists need better PR, because for the most of us in this country at least, we dismiss them as sectarian and cultish. If, and yes I mean if, run of the mill atheists are the ones I recently encountered–the ones who troll Twitter picking fights–then atheists don’t have a hope in a holler. Honestly, I do think that there is something humanly wrong with individuals who refuse to even allow other individuals to place hope and acknowledge a life force that is ephemeral and very much intangible. Even if one wishes to dismiss it as mere imagination, I’d rather have an imagination than to be relegated to the confines of science and empirical rationale; its too much color-in-the-lines for me.
When we think of Atheism, our minds go back to Madelyn Murray O’Hair and her brand of craziness that was not just about getting prayer out of the school, but nearly ran the gamut of trying to institute a brand of non-theism in this country. This resulted in bad PR. No one gained a deeper knowledge of atheist philosophies and rationale. I dare say that when Atheists make a statement now, they come off as tinkling brass and sounding cymbals because they take the same approach as the current GOP party and Tea Partyers: they just say no to everything.
To this end, they’ve got to do better. But I’m sure some random Atheist is going to read this blog and write some long, eternal comment that totally proves my whole point about them being “the party of no.”
There is a philosophy associate with Atheism, I’m sure a basic Wikipedia search would do wonders for the average bro joe as far as really understanding it, but just the few blogs with Atheist writers, a good portion of their slant is not really an apologetic for Atheism, but spent ragging on the rest of us who choose to believe.
Look, I went through seminary and I still believe.
I believe in spite of all that I’ve been taught, I still choose to believe in God. Despite the influence of post-modernity, I still choose to believe in God. Despite deconstructionist theory, I still choose to believe in God. What I learned did not disprove the existence of God, that of gods in general, but rather just proved the fallibility of humanity to explain that which is intangible. Personally, I have problems with the sovereignty of God because that leaves us in a position that either God allows stuff to happen or God causes it to happen resulting in the eternal question: why do bad things happen to good people?
I don’t know, and don’t profess to try and know. I’m just trying to live the best I know how like the rest of us–and I don’t need any other Christians or Atheists with a “I’m more enlightened than you” complex telling me that I’m wrong.
Leave a comment below if you’re so inclined.
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL