Every time certain atheist spokesmen get themselves reved up for a rant they almost immediately begin by making fun of how stupid is to believe in religious ideas.
Is this a productive approach? Doesn't this amount to shooting fish in a barrel? How does it help the 'cause' of freedom *from* religion?
Don't we still have freedom *of* religion in this country? Don't people have a legal right to be stupid or believe in stupid things? How does it hurt or affect me personally that my neighbor believes Jesus Christ performed magic tricks? Does it really matter?
I would argue it does not. It only matters if my neighbor tries to impose his religious beliefs on me personally and, quite frankly, that isn't something I have ever really experienced. Most of my friends are Catholics. They have never once wasted a single breath trying to convert me to their beliefs.
It seems to me if an atheist spokesmen's first line of attack it to ridicule and make fun of people for being stupid, it's no wonder they are perceived in a negative way. It's this line of attack that makes me want to distance myself personally very far from the organized atheist movement.
I just can't bring myself to care what my friends and neighbors believe. Everyone is entitled to their own personal beliefs about the world and, quite frankly, each of us has our own unique life experiences we draw upon.
I'll give you a concrete example. I'm pretty sure that nearly universally every single person who is self-identified as a member of the atheist movement would state that there is no such thing as ghosts and anyone who believes in ghosts is a superstitious idiot. It must be nice to be so certain about things but, guess what, I have never seen a ghost or had a ghost experience. And I certainly don't presume to judge the experiences of those who have. Some people see ghosts. Some people see UFOs. And some people have profound and deeply personal religious experiences and, well, I say, more power to them.
Their personal experiences do not comprise a threat to me, or to my world view. Their belief in ghosts, bigfoot, UFOs, or the Virgin Mary do not affect me personally in any way shape or form, other than perhaps enriching my life with interesting and entertaining stories.
I can't build up the the hate, anger, and resentment required to the point that my first desire when I discuss the religion topic is to call people fools, idiots, and liars.
Don't get me wrong. I am militantly in favor of freedom *from* religion and I will fight to make sure that no law is passed which tries to impose a particular religious belief on another as public policy. That said, I would fight just as hard to the contrary, that no law should be passed to restrict an individual from holding any particular religious belief of their own.
I really feel like the atheist movement is it's own worst enemy. Instead of trying to build bridges where the theist and non-theist alike can have a shared dialogue over what could lead, over time, to mutual respect and understanding, instead they begin the discussion by insulting, ridiculing, degrading, and attacking people of 'faith' in a way that I find personally very disturbing.
As my dear friend Rodney King once said, 'Can't we all just get along?'
As a personal example, I am a member of the fraternal organization the Freemasons. We have two core rules and those are that we will never discuss religion or politics in the lodge. The reason for that rule is that these are two topics which lead to the most disharmony and discord between men.
Instead, we focus exclusively on what we can agree on; that it is good for men to come together and support one another in brotherhood and charity for the benefit of society as a whole and to uplift the individual.
In the Freemason lodge my brothers have no idea what my personal religious beliefs are, nor do I theirs.
This policy is a pretty powerful idea that has stood the test of time and I think the atheist movement could learn a few lessons about how to build understanding instead of simply trying to piss people off with the first words that come issuing through their mouth when their kneejerk reaction is to paint the religious as ignorant and superstitious buffoons.