So... I was reading the other thread on Mensa and it brought back some scenes from my childhood (it's actually an ongoing childhood, let's just says scenes from before). For purposes of this anecdote, I'll simplify my de-conversion as follows: I was a catholic until I was about 14, then an agnostic until a few years ago. I can still remember my views on atheism in general, prompted by some encounters with a handful of atheists.

I met one when I was about 11, he was some boy my age. He was quick to blaspheme and make fun of religion. Other kids saw him with awe, like the bad kid who will do mischief while the teachers not there. I just thought he was trying to show off, and that he really did believe. I now think he probably was an atheist, but he also wanted to show off. I met several other similar people, and I always thought the same of them.
By the time I got to highschool, as an agnostic, the atheists I met seemed arrogant and especially insensitive to the beliefs of others. I did not personally feel offended, but I must confess I was pushed back from entertaining thoughts on atheism simply because these people seemed like real assholes. Even now that I'm more open about my atheism, I would not think about looking for them, cause I still think they are.

So, I know it's wrong that based on a few encounters with atheists, I dismissed the idea of atheism. It was intellectually dishonest and as much as it hurts me to say it, it was one of the big bumps I had to deal with before realizing I was an atheist. And since I skipped over to the dark side, I have met lots of nice atheists. My question is this:

For de-converts: Do you remember how you saw other atheists while you believed?
For those who never got into religion: Were you one of those assholes who was all arrogant and stuff?
And for all: Even though it shouldn't, the impression we make as atheists could actually push people like me from coming to terms with their beliefs. In the end, I think I would have accepted my atheism sooner if I hadn't met any atheists. It doesn't matter if we're right, it doesn't matter if we are being arrogant. If others see us as arrogant, we could be doing Reason a disservice. Could this be same hint of a tactic?

Tags: de-converting

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I'm absolutely happy the "assholes" exist. Once you get into seeing what religion really does to people, and to society, and once you see the pervasive, offensive nature of it, assholiness is completely excusable.

I always imagine the question as a parallel to the era of slavery in the U.S., and picture fat white plantation owners sitting on the veranda sipping tea and looking out over the fields of cotton, wondering "Why are these Negroes angry all the time? I just don't get why they're so angry."

When you're squashed under the thumb of people you suspect might kill you if you came out with what you really thought, people who pose as loving but are anything but, it does affect your attitude. You have to PUSH to make your own voice heard, to express your own feelings, and that push laps over into other areas of life.

Until recently, the problem has been this: The quiet, gentle atheists stayed silent because they didn't want to push. It was only the strident ones who got heard at all.

And bear in mind, if you're just an average Joe who wants to live his life, and yet you come out as an atheist and everybody around you starts characterizing you as evil and degenerate, which they absolutely would do in prior times (and still do today), that affects how you act and react too.

How many times have I heard the question "If there's no god, what keeps you from just raping and killing whenever you want to?" It's not only a thoughtless question, indicating the person has never in his life thought about what morality is and how it works, it’s also a truly vicious insult. How would it feel if you KNEW you were a good person -- someone affectionate, generous, easy-going and even gently funny -- and yet people around you persistently identified you as some sort of nightmarish evil that was just looking for a chance to corrupt children and destroy everything beautiful?

All that being said, I’m glad there’s room to be a quiet, friendly atheist today, and to be “out” without being hated and harassed. But then again, just as it was what my Deep South ancestors would have called “uppity Negroes” who made it possible for the modern civil rights movement to advance, it was the loud obnoxious atheists, the ones demanding the right to be heard and to exist, who made it possible to be a quieter atheist in today’s society.

The quiet atheists have always existed. It’s just that they couldn’t admit who they were until the loud ones paved the way to acceptance.
I'll admit I have been, and probably still am what you're describing as an "arrogant" atheist, but I think the person who mentioned that there's arrogance, and then there's the perception of arrogance, is spot on.
I'm not an arrogant person by any means, I am however self-confident, and not afraid to call a spade a spade.
I won't apologise for saying religion is ridiculous, and I'm not going to tiptoe round someone who believes in imaginary beings in case I upset or offend them. Their beliefs are offensive to the collective mindset, and the sooner they realise it, the sooner we can move towards a world without the manipulative forces of religion. I know I'm lucky in that I live in Western Europe,and I'm middle class meaning atheism is by and large more common in my social circle than anything else. My family IS religious, but I was always allowed to make my own choice, and the idea of a god, from an early age for me, simply didn't make sense. I find it incredibly hard to sympathise or be careful with believers, I have to be honest.
I can understand the sentiments of Duncan. Having been an atheist for so long it bothers me that my fellow humans not only believe in god but do things that I find insulting and embarassing as a fellow human because of this false belief. Sometimes I cannot "suffer fools gladly" and I may find myself saying something that could be argued as arrogant. I do not mean to and it is more a response not to an individual person but to my sadness and frustration of silly beliefs.

I do try to bite my tongue as much as possible as I really do not want to appear arrogant or offensive.
I've thought about this a great deal. The simplest answer for me is, everyone can be a jackass, even me, even you. We can not control how others perceive us, if they are interested in reason nothing will deter them, if not, nothing will persuade them.
Also, 11 is just before or just starting jr. high. I think we were all a bit twerpy then.
I think in a way we're all a little arrogant when we are approached by theists. The way they just walk up to you and blantly ask if you recieved the lord, ect.. To be honest I still get very defencive, and very anal as to my responce to these people. To me it instantly pisses me off to have someone approach, or shove something religious in my face, for no reason. When I lived in Texas, this was a frequent occurence. ( I guess I'm some sort of xian magnet, but hey it was New Braunfels, ). What I mean is they are offensive, approached me first, the natural reaction is to defendsive. The assholes you speak of were young, and with age a person learns to think before speaking. ( hopefully ). As far as an alooft attitude, I like to think it has something to with being free from the guilt,not worrying about hell, heaven, a scornful skydaddy, ect. Theists will always condemn us for something, so what. If were arrogant twards them it's only turnabout, and that's fair play.
Belief and non-belief was not an issue in my teen years. People had hobbies, girls, skateboard, music, cars...
then came the neocons, tv, network news... propaganda. Money became an issue when the money laundering started with telcom/microsoft etc.. Look at it this way. The baptist church has a pastor that said he was atheist until he had 'financial' troubles. So, dunno where to go about how someone's feeling are hurt or miffed about so and so.

Oh yeah, and racism, HUGE ploy in all of this mishmash of faiths.

Enjoy the uncertainty my friend.

Last I checked the Constitution lets you say and sometimes be whomever you want to be.

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