6.18.2009

Atheism Doesn't Mean Anarchy

What do you do, when you're faced with someone who you don't know, and will likely never see again, who attacks your way of living and forces you to engage in apologetics? While fixing your kitchen sink?

I'm never one to miss a political debate. Hell, I'll usually even throw my two sense in on religion. I've never believed that it's important to keep politics and religion out of the public forum (why, on earth would you do that!). After today, however, I've been silenced.

The plumber hired to fix our kitchen sink decided after a bit of listening to my landlord and I's conversation about the state's budget and Proposition 8 to throw in his two cents about constitutional freedoms, our lying government, the misinformed public and - - wait for it -- choice.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love arguing over these things. Love it. I love it so much, in fact, that my first career goal back in high school was to be a political lawyer. I enjoy hearing other points of view on subjects that I feel strongly about, in order to evolve my opinion. I can be stubborn, but I really, really try to be open minded and allow others to enjoy their freedoms.

What I don't like? Listening to someone who has absolutely no room for another opinion. A guy who has argued, obviously, with so many people before me that he knows exactly what to say and how loud to say it. This person who created an anxious room rather than an open forum.

There's tons of political banter I do not engage in. Economics, for one - is not something I know anything about. Do I want my taxes used efficiently and for things I agree with? Yes. Do I know how to make that happen? Hell no. Does that mean I don't care? Of course not! I just simply cannot comment on things that I don't feel confident in discussing.

However, if you come in to my space to attack social, constitutional and ethical issues with a blind eye and your fists balled - I'll usually take that battle. I'll do it 'till I'm blue in the face.

Today, however, this guy caught me off guard with something I've heard others relay but never been faced with myself. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that anyone who is Atheist has no gauge for good and bad; no way to know how to treat others how they'd like to be treated. He said that because Jesus had taught to love others and turn the other cheek, an Atheist couldn't possibly subscribe to that ideology without believing. And when he said it, I dropped. I had nothing. I realized that he'd opened a whole new door for me - one I hadn't entered myself, where extremism has no ability to see the other side.

So I stopped. It was hard, but I stopped. And I thought, for the rest of the day. Why would someone believe that an Atheist doesn't believe in good and bad? Doesn't understand humanity? This guy kept going, after I stopped, once he knew that my landlord and I were both Atheists. He wasn't mean, but simply stuck. An Atheist would have no reason to try and make a marriage work before divorce. An Atheist would have no problem having an abortion or allowing one. An Atheist wouldn't see the problem with Gay marriage and the degradation of the American family.

Punch, kick, slap. Extremist 1, Nissa, 0.

In hindsight, I'm glad I shut up. This guy wasn't going to listen, even if I had something to say. Yet for the remainder of the day, I've been deep in thought over this, my first contact with an extremist. How do I react to this?

And now I understand what it is like.

Atheist doesn't mean anarchy. We believe in humanity, because we're neighbors, common citizens of this planet. We believe in the equal treatment of all - to treat others as we want to be treated.

Are those the teachings of Jesus? Yes. And if I knew you better, I'd explain that Jesus was a great man, who taught great things. However, those things were being taught long before Jesus, in civilizations that the original Christians destroyed.

We also believe that our hands move because we make them; our minds create because we learn, work, and imagine. We believe life should be lived here, on earth, to its fullest - with love and peace. Like Christianity, there are extremists - who want to deny the beliefs of others until they are unable to practice their faith - but like Christianity, those are the minority.

Undoubtedly, I'll meet "this person" again, some day in the future. Will I be better prepared to handle the discussion? Or, will this issue be something that, after this, I lay to rest? I can't - and don't want to - change the mind of even the most extreme on the other side. It makes me horribly sad to think that people would have those ideas of Atheists -but I can't explain it to them in a way they'll understand. Is that why I talk about it? I'm actually not sure. Was I trying to convince others that I was right? Or was I trying to convince myself?

Someone once said to me, "if I have to explain it, you won't understand." Right, right, not for everything.

But? Yes.

2 people's thoughts:

david June 18, 2009 at 10:27 PM  

I don't think you're trying to convince yourself, but in explaining your views to others you are reaffirming what you believe and checking the facts for yourself as well...It is only the extremist that doesn't reevaluate her opinions...doesn't necessarily change them, but keeps open to change.

C June 19, 2009 at 5:34 PM  

I think of it this way: I don't need to have a book tell me how to behave. I know right from wrong, good from bad, kind from evil, without having to subscribe to a religion that threatens me with firey hell if I don't behave, or bribes me with virgins or eternal life if I do.

In that sense, atheism is *more* authentic than religion, because you're not simply being a good person for the promise of reward or the fear of punishment, you're doing it because you want to.

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