posted today at DailyKos
Hypocrisy sucks, and one must be ever vigilant against this scourge. As much as I believe that there is no single consciousness known as Max Wyvern but rather he is comprised of a swarming assemblage of consciousnesses and therefor inconsistency of message is inevitable, I have a wish for certain core principles to remain steady enough that I'm not a complete blithering schizophrenic shredding any and all personal credibility. The other night I lay awake pondering my momentary minor fame of an unprecedented 217 comments from a single diary, my admission of a new understanding that I don't believe in the big guy in the sky, and it occurred to be that certain aspects of that essay may have run counter to an earlier, much less famous diary which decried the whole idea of fighting against those whom we disagree with in favor of fighting for that which we believe; the folly of Us. vs. them. The splendid proclamation that I am an atheist devolved predictably into the enemy camps of rationalists vs. spiritualists. Us against Them in all its glory.
To say this was not my intention is only half true. One of my motivations, as expressed in the diary was the memory of a diary here a few weeks ago entitled "Atheists, Get out of my face." I recall thinking that the title alone called for vigorous response by those of us who feel entitled to our lack of belief in the supernatural. I was also, however, genuinely hopeful of not antagonizing certain people whom I deeply respect and who do feel that their spiritual beliefs are very important to them. One such friend I've known since high school. He's a brilliant engineer, a fine musician, a reader of deep works on history and thought and a lover of futuristic sci-fi, and he believes in God. In discussions we've had at my blog New Worlds, I've learned that my often casual pronouncements of the way I feel on this subject have unintentionally wounded him to an unexpected degree. As much as I've wanted to have the blogosphere draw us back together after years of fate separating us physically and culturally, the opposite seems to happen more often than desired. We get on opposite sides of the Us vs. Them divide.
This is one of the main reasons I strove to not offend the religious in that essay. I think there are other good reasons however. None of us are born with particular spiritual beliefs, though we may have devout parents and communities in which we are immersed. An argument can be made that we are born atheists until convinced otherwise. Richard Dawkins argues that it goes further than this. No child is a Christian child or a Jewish child or a Moslem child. We can't be said to really have a religion until our brains have matured enough to decide these matters for ourselves. This matches well with my own experience where I threw off the whole Christianity pose at about age fifteen in favor of atheism/agnosticism. Many if not most of us, though, remain spiritual to some degree in the model of our upbringing. My friend calls this "providing a religious foundation" for his child. It could be said that it is potentially a cage that it is building, but in his view it is on the balance a good thing and the greatest gift a parent can provide, if not a solemn duty.
It is because of this foundation/cage/gift/trap whatever it may be, that I don't think it's appropriate to consider the spiritual majority to be deluded fools to be mocked and ridiculed and placed in an enemy camp. Like the political argument I made against the Us vs. Them view, I see the best way to engage these people in fruitful discussion is to argue for what we consider right and just rather than to attempt to defeat Them. We're all in favor of truth, it's just that the model of their base view of reality is that some aspects of truth are already settled, where for we rationalists this is not the case with regard to the issue of a cosmic entity who rules us. That said, we must stand up for ourselves, and when we feel that our rights to hold whatever views we wish in these matters are threatened by discrimination against the common rights of citizenship we must respond and respond forcefully, not yielding our rights to any commonly accepted taboo.