How not to evangelise to an atheist: Secularism is Atheism part five

If you haven’t yet, read this or this post won’t make sense.

Countries that were once Christian have become secular (atheistic) in their public institutions. How has this happened? I think there are several factors:

1. The invention of a creation myth that allowed for aggressive atheism. This is cosmic evolution….

2. This materialistic creation myth took over the universities because it appealed to thee intellectual pride that thrives in such institutions…

When I read that, I am affronted. To claim the generally accepted scientific theories were invented by evil atheists with an agenda, and accepted due to intellectual pride, is to write off thousands of people who devoted their lives to a sincere, honest search for the truth, and were prepared to risk vilification, loathing, and often physical harm for it. It’s to basically defecate on the principle of approaching a question with a heartfelt effort to leave your preconceived notions and biases at the door.

The crowning glory is that this insult is dished out by people who examine the world from the platform of a foregone conclusion, who then twist everything to fit their already made up minds. I so often think, when hearing creationists’ views, that it’s so easy for them to assign some hidden agenda to atheists and scientists because they can believe something of others which is true of them. You have an agenda to preach Jesus with your pursuit of “science”. That doesn’t mean everyone else has an agenda with their pursuits, other than the end of the pursuit itself.

There is little hope that any creationist will ever realise the staggering arrogance of that quote. What I hope might be possible, though, is to bring some understanding of the thoughts which go through others’ minds when you say something like that. You’re not in a million years going to win an atheist over by making a statement which to them sounds arrogant, ignorant, and insulting.

Try something else.

4. Meanwhile secularists promoted mass immigration from countries that had no Christian ethos. Then they argued that Christian content had to be removed from public life because it might offend someone who was not a Christian. Complaints from the actual immigrants was rare…

I’m not sure I even need to say anything about that. I’m tempted to let it stand as a testament to the mindset of Creation Magazine, but in case you can’t see it…

Where do you even begin, though? The entitlement mindset, the arrogance, the staggering narrow-mindedness, the stench of racism. I suppose the first thing to point to, shaking my head, is the persistent idea that atheists are this mighty organisation with huge powers. That must be why the UK has just introduced a new bill that would bring prayer back into council meetings. That must be part of the evil atheists’ evil plot.

It can’t possibly be that atheists are simply people who want to be left alone, to quietly live their lives without interference. It can’t possibly be that people started grumbling about religion in schools because they got fed up with having their kids force fed stuff they don’t agree with. It can’t possibly be that they don’t care one way or the other what you teach your kids, as long as you don’t force that on their kids.

It can’t possibly be that scientists started realising over time that the Christian creation myth simply doesn’t hold water, and with great upheaval and sometimes enormous personal anguish had to accept the truth.

This is one of the best take-downs of a creationist I have ever heard. The caller is someone who works with evolution every single day, sees it with his own eyes, knows his stuff and calls Kent Hovind on his stupidity.

 

How not to evangelise to an atheist: Secularism is Atheism part four

If you haven’t yet, read this, or this post won’t make sense.

‘Secularism’ was coined by British atheist George Holyoake in 1851. ‘Atheism’ evoked opposition, and therefore hindered the promotion of the godless worldview, and so Holyoake coined the term ‘secularism’. Atheists later adopted ‘secular humanism’ for the same reasons; it sounds much nicer than ‘atheism’.

Actually, the word has its origins in the 1300s, meaning at the time “living in the world, not belonging to a religious order“. So Holyoake’s use of the term was not de novo. Let’s also not forget that he was persecuted, imprisoned for his views, and this was Britain, not some backwater. I find it rich that a Creationist in an article arguing that Christianity is under siege from the evil atheists glosses over this fact.

Atheists didn’t adopt ‘secular humanism’ because it sounds nicer. Believe it or not, the word atheist is like the word African or European – very wide. Within the group of people who are convinced of the non-existence of gods, you find a massive variety of views on other matters. Some of their number are convinced of the merits of humanism, but there again you have a very wide field. There are Christian humanists, and Muslim humanists, and Jewish humanists.

In fact, I can think of an example Creationists may relate to. If I refer to you as a Christian, that lumps you together in a group with Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox Christians, Mormons (I think), and so on. So you are often more specific: you’ll call yourself an evangelical Christian, or a True Christian.

To say you are a secular humanist is not being sinister, or devious, or evil. It’s being specific.

How not to evangelise to an atheist: Secularism is Atheism part three

If you haven’t yet, read this first or this post won’t make sense.

Apparently, we can’t have Christian activities anymore; state-sponsored things have to be ‘secular’. But what is ‘secular’?

Secular: “Not connected with religious or spiritual matters” (oxforddictionaries.com). So secular effectively means materialistic or ‘God-less’.

When I read the above quote, what I think is that the author is like a petulant, spoiled child whose parents realised he was bullying a younger sibling. Rules were laid down to stop it: no, you can’t have all the sweets any more, you have to share. No, we will not spend the Christmas money Grandma sent for both of you on tickets for a fairground ride you like, and your brother despises. That money will go to clothes for you both, and you can use your pocket money to pay for your own fairground tickets.

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH! THAT’S SO UNFAIR!!!!!!

What’s unfair is when money gathered from all citizens, of all beliefs, is used to pay for activities of one group’s set of beliefs. What’s unfair is when a government supposed to work for the best interests of all its citizens openly subscribes to a religion shared by only one group.

This impression informs my next conclusion: I think these people know they don’t have a leg to stand on. That’s why the whole definition of secular has to be stretched completely out of proportion until it fits their argument. ‘God-less’ here is used as synonymous to ‘anti-God’, and that is again just dishonest.

The term secular means taking a neutral stance on religious and spiritual matters. Government is supposed to be for everyone, and a state-sponsored religion is guaranteed to exclude some. That used to be okay, but we now know better. Only those who are seeing less privilege rather than less discrimination in their lives, will fight to regress.

 

How not to evangelise to an atheist: Secularism is Atheism part two

If you haven’t yet, read this first, or this post won’t make sense.

Consequently, state institutions sponsored Christian celebrations. Parliaments had daily Christian prayers. School assemblies had prayers and Christian hymns, and the readers used for teaching reading contained many Bible passages.

This has largely been lost. Apparently we can’t have Christian activities anymore; …

I abhor dishonesty, despise it, and when still a Christian this was something which shocked me to the core when I first explored Creationism. Creationists lie. They lie, and they lie.

In this case, the lie is “Apparently, we can’t have Christian activities anymore…”. This is a widespread lie. The magazine offers subscriptions in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, the UK and Europe (Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, etc. etc.). The links will show you there are hundreds of churches in those countries. I’m sure they don’t play ping pong there, they offer Christian activities.

What’s really going on is that Christians are no longer given the right to force their beliefs on others, in places where they had a free hand before. People’s free will is being increasingly respected – you know, that free will God gave them and considers so vitally important. Most Christians are okay with that, and in fact grateful for it. They’d rather people convert if they become convinced, not coerced. They’d rather not be forced to listen to and parrot Christian views which they themselves don’t subscribe to. They’d rather teach their own children about their faith, to know they are being taught the principles and views the family hold instead of being trapped in a classroom with some random teacher who may well practice a kind of Christianity the parents reject.

Creationists are not among them. They want the right to force their views on everyone, and scream persecution when others say: “No”.

This may be hard for creationists to believe, but in my experience, atheists tend to place a high value on honesty, especially if they are ex-Christians. Again, I don’t know if you can understand this, but the switch is traumatic. You have to really value being honest with yourself and others to endure the drama and often discrimination that goes with “coming out” as an atheist.

So make sure you have your facts straight. Get them from sources other than the Creationist propaganda machine, because they have such a long, and well-documented history of lies that it would make Baron Munchausen clear his throat and look embarrassed. Be honest when you witness to an atheist and do your homework, or you will lose them within the first few words.

How not to evangelise to an atheist: Secularism is Atheism part one

If you haven’t yet, read this first, or you won’t understand what this is all about.

The title of the editorial is already problematic: Secularism is Atheism. From my perspective, that’s just silly at best, unintelligent at worst. Secular means not concerned with religion. Atheism means being convinced of the non-existence of gods. The writer uses an entire article, though, to justify the statement, but I’m afraid it doesn’t get better after the title.

Not long ago, the great Western democracies were unashamedly Christian in heir politics and education. Of course, not everyone was a genuine Christian (re-born of the Holy Spirit and adopted into God’s family). In addition, not everything done by those nations was “Christian”, but the worldview of almost everyone was basically biblical.

Right there, in the opening paragraph, you’ve lost me, and this is something I wish could be more thoroughly understood by those who feel themselves moved to attack my views. The writer makes a statement which can only go down from where it starts (and does, when you read the rest of the article). Great Western democracies committed some of the worst atrocities in recorded history. Christian education gave us the Ryan Report, as well as the near endless stream of similar reports from other countries. And no, it’s not just the Catholic church.

The rest of the paragraph intrigues me, not because of the statement but because of what goes through the mind of the person making it. In short, it’s like taking out insurance on a house you know has dodgy foundations. Knowing what I pointed out above about atrocities committed by these great Western democracies, he preempts the inevitable shootdown with a no-true-Scotsman disclaimer. What I want to know is: is the writer aware? Does he know his argument is unsound, but it’s such a useful one that he suppresses that inner voice whispering: “This is bullshit”, or has he actually convinced himself that those cracks in the wall don’t exist?

So that’s what goes through my mind when I read the title and first paragraph of this article:

a. Does this person not own a dictionary?

b. Is this person delusional or dishonest?

How not to evangelise to an atheist

I wondered, as I opened our post box to find an issue of Creation Magazine waiting, how many of these copies are received by creationists, and how many are bought for non-creationists by creationists, to convince them to change their minds. In our case it’s part of an agreement: a creationist who will remain anonymous wanted Micky to receive and read this, while Micky will send this person a copy of Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker.

Reading it gives me an opportunity to try to explain how these kinds of beliefs look to me, with a genuine effort to keep animosity and exasperation out of it. Hopefully it can save someone the trouble of trying to evangelise their neighbourhood atheist with stuff like this. When your atheist friend/family member is confronted with the following, these are the thoughts that go through their mind:

Part One

Part Two

Parents are people, too

I am continually astonished at how, around me, I see people fail to identify children as fellow human beings. Teachers and parents routinely talk to and treat under-eighteens in a way they would never, in their wildest dreams, dare to treat people the same age as them or older. Adults approach young people from a position of “I should control you” rather than a position of respect for their self-determination as starting point, with interventions and interference a regrettable necessity (and I believe when children are not in their teens yet respectful control is neccessary – they must be secure in the knowledge that you’ve “got them” and ambiguity on your part is disastrous, but that’s another story). Societal rules made to try to avoid problems encountered in the past savage the rights of those under the age of eighteen. A child in this country can’t even seek advice or help without their parents being notified. How helpful is that, if your overwhelming problem is that you feel your parents control and monitor your every move? Surely even the act of asking for help is a private matter, can nobody understand the depth of violation it is to force people to share that?

I believe cases where teenagers are depressed, or do dangerous or reckless things, should always first be inspected for a sense of lack of control over their own lives.

I also believe that too many teenagers show the same staggering contempt for their parents, not viewing them as fellow human beings but instead thinking of them as something else, somehow. Some kind of other species. As much as your parents may have contributed to that view by casting themselves in such a role, here’s a piece of advice: overcoming that skewed view of your folks is called growing the fuck up.

If you want to be treated with respect, then treat your parents with respect. And with respect, I mean understanding that they are fellow human beings who are doing their best, who are living life to the best of their ability. Yes, people do exist who take pleasure from others’ misery, but chances are your parents are not among those twisted people, and in the rare case that they are, your understanding of the brokenness involved will be a foundation stone of the solution.

If you want your parents to realise and understand the pain or frustration they cause you with certain actions, then grow the fuck up and truly try to understand what your actions do to them. I am generally a very strong person, but let me tell you, my children are like a raw nerve connected straight to my heart. Nothing can either paralyse or move me like a threat to their wellbeing. Have you ever stood somewhere with all your weight on one foot, and someone came up and pushed behind your knee? That sudden collapse gives you some idea of what it feels like: you can have walked through fire in your life and think you can handle anything, then someone somehow reaches your children and you are nothing.

Especially if you are still living in your family home, you are like your parents’ hearts, walking around outside. Of course they’re nervous, anxious, because nothing can hurt them like seeing you get hurt. Imagine if you can let them know you understand that, as a starting point in a conversation about more freedom, more trust to be responsible out of their sight. Imagine how much more willing they may be to give you freedom if they know you understand what it costs them to do so.

If you want your parents to be kind to you, to do nice things for you, why don’t you start. Say one nice thing to your parent every day, and mean it. Think of one kind thing you can identify that you truly believe about them. And if you go: “I can’t think of a single nice thing to say about my parent” the problem is with you.