This post is going to be a bit different from my usual feeble wonderings, observations, and (let’s face it) whining. My husband brought something to mind the other day that I’ve been noticing a lot lately as well. He spends a lot of time on Reddit, a wondrous magical place filled with serious news, silly gifs, and the occasional crude reference. Okay, it’s filled with crude references. Anyway, he noticed that posts from the Atheism section were reaching the main page quite often, posts glorifying atheism as the logical path, the unprejudiced path, the only intelligent path.
This post is not an attack on atheism. I know a fair few atheists who I think are wonderful people, and I think freedom from dogmas can lead to freedom from prejudices and clearer, kinder thinking. That being said, I feel that as the atheistic community grows and ages, it’s forming its own “religion” of sorts. A religion complete with prejudices and pride.
I feel that atheism or agnosticism is just as valid of a choice in belief as any other established religion. However, one of the downsides to this (and again, other established religions) is that within a community of similar beliefs, we grow prideful. Surrounding ourselves with sameness, we grow complacent in our belief that we have chosen the Right Path, that everyone else is, indeed, an idiot for believing what they choose to believe. A number of my friends in college were either atheists or agnostics, and I sat through many a conversation about how ridiculous, dumb, and narrow-minded religious people are, with the occasional “I mean, not all of them, obviously, but come on…” thrown in, perhaps for my sake. But mostly the comments were similar to: “Look how dumb and ignorant these religious people are being. They can’t see the merits in any belief other than their own. Good thing we don’t belong to a religion that has these prejudices.”
The most positive thing about atheism, I thought, was that it could free you from the preached scorn for and fear of other religious beliefs. However, the more I listen to atheists speak, the more often I hear this scorn, and even this fear.
Living in Scandinavia right now (Sweden at the moment, where apparently the rate of atheism is about 85%), I’ve been feeling a bit meek about my own religiousness. Andreas has mentioned that he’s a bit nervous to bring it up at job interviews, not that he normally would, but the conversation goes something like this:
B (for boss): So why are you living in Malmo?
A (for Andreas): My wife and I moved here because Denmark has stricter immigration rules and she can’t live there with me
B: Oh, where is your wife from?
A: The US.
B: How did you meet her?
A: We were volunteering together at Louhelen Baha’i School
B: What’s Louhelen Baha’i School?
Anyway, as a member of the Baha’i Faith, I feel it’s a bit unfair. The Baha’i Faith promotes independent investigation, which means we’re supposed to look into the writings (of the Baha’i leaders as well as the holy books of other religions), and think deeply about what we truly believe. The Faith also asserts the coexistence of science and religion. While this may seem impossible to most, and is difficult to sort out, I think the basis for this teaching is to be open-minded. To find balance between the spiritual world (religion) and the physical world (science). I think what has attracted me the most to the Baha’i Faith is how heavily it demands thought. I realize that this is what we are supposed to do, in theory, as perfect Baha’is, and because we’re individuals, not theoretically perfect spiritual beings, we fail (probably quite often). But this teaching has always comforted me, knowing it’s fine to have doubts, ask questions, and look deeply into issues instead of just accepting everything we’ve been taught since we were children.
I feel sometimes that atheists and agnostics believe that religion is a school of dogma, where our beliefs are ingrained in us at an early age and we are taught to stop considering, and stop thinking. I know that sometimes it can be, but I just feel that that judgment is more than a little unfair. By discounting all religions on this ground, I feel that they are being just as narrow-minded as they often accuse other groups of being.
I don’t hope that they turn back to the religions they abandoned in the first place. I’m not saying “Look, my religion doesn’t do that. Come, join MY religion, it’s the best!” I guess I just hope that the free thought and open-mindedness that helped them choose atheism or agnosticism as their path sticks with them. I just hope that they don’t become a solid, compacted group with just as little vision and thoughtfulness as the groups they can so easily criticize.