It every human being's right to be an atheist. End of story. No discussion.

Maybe you didn't choose to be atheist. Perhaps you were never indoctrinated into a system of faith or other form of theist philosophy. Arguably, we are all born atheist. It is the only default position that allows for the existence of all the religions - which are, for the most part, taught to children from an early age (many would say imposed on.) However, those who weren't indoctrinated can still choose to have faith. There are plenty of opportunities - many will come, literally, to our doors. So, still, there remains an ongoing choice to remain atheist.

But this got me thinking: is atheism a right, choice and a privilege? Again, I aver it is a right. And I guess I just summed up that it's both a choice to deconvert and a choice to remain atheistic.

The choice to remain atheistic is understandable. Going the conversion route to theism post childhood seems like choosing repression over freedom. I suggest it takes a moment of great trepidation or weakness to take a sincere move toward theism as an adult. I can imagine an addict, starving person, or parent who survived the death of a young child being receptive to that move; especially when there are plenty of people out there who offer help laced liberally with their religious dogma and insidious propaganda.

The choice to deconvert is, nearly always, a reasoned one spurred by an initial emotional distaste for what is done, sanctioned or applauded in the name of the god of a religion or spiritual subculture. If indoctrinated before the age of five, I have to ask this question: what tools or impetus is required to throw off that shackle?

Nourished intelligence, secular/pluralistic education, recognized and supported talent, victimization by religious officers, friends from diverse theistic backgrounds, noticing an incompatible message between the religion as taught and the scriptures it claims to be based on, courage, joie-de-vivre, atheist associates, etc. How many of these or other things must be in place to allow an escape from the comfortable, cloistered world of rote and rite?

Many of the things I mentioned are far more accessible to the upper classes. It might argued that being a poor Haitian would make it harder to believe in god. It turns out, the exact opposite is true. Haiti is not only the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere; it is arguably the most superstitious as well.

So, is adult atheism a state of mind we can grant ourselves despite the conditions of our birth and upbringing? Or is adult atheism nearly as much an accident of birth as any type of adult theism? I'd like to say that both points of view hold truth; that they represent an authentic dichotomy. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced the latter is more valid than the first, on balance.

And, since it is a non-starter for real atheist evangelism to occur (since there is no sacred book of enshrined dogma to claim holds the absolute truth), we must look for every other means of poking holes in the faith-shells most of our fellow humans wear nearly everywhere they go. We must offer them a chance at mental and emotional freedom. We must defend separation of Church and State, champion pluralism, fight for a secular curricula in our schools - not just in the sciences but in the arts as well, and diligently weigh the costs of voting for politicians with religious agendas; even those who may also advance other positions we support.

We must exercise the privilege of being atheist in a way that makes it accessible to the less fortunate. Noblesse oblige ... toujours, noblesse oblige.

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Comment by Howard S. Dunn on April 19, 2010 at 11:29pm
Interesting. I honestly love the way you guys opened up on this.

Perhaps the 'privilege' is the native intelligence you guys carry around in your skulls. Or maybe it helps to have some form of ADD like me (or maybe Carter?) Despite all that I was a lousy student - I always had something more interesting going on in my head. (Though I often think that a little too much right brain activity is often mistaken for an inability to focus.

Or, maybe (I hope) I'm completely off base when it comes to the privilege aspect. Maybe there is a 'tear' in the fabric of evangelism (whatever form it takes) that actually allows some to avoid the web of theist propaganda.

Still - I do consider it a privilege to count myself among the non-believers. For example, I'm pretty sure that the people now bringing guns into hospitals are, for the most part, true believers.
Comment by Jim DePaulo on April 17, 2010 at 9:35am
I never thought I was raised poor, although, even by the economic conditions of 1940 - 43, we were poor. Before I was 6 I had lived in 7 different places in Colorado: Craig, Steamboat Springs , Grand Junction, Trinidad, Pueblo and Denver and a farm in So. Carolina. The only thing of material value my folks owned was a 1937 Pontiac Coupe.
We didn't get a new car until 1954, didn't own a house until I was 18 and I didn't own a new bike until I was in college.
My dad wouldn't buy any thing on credit (the house being the only exception and he put 50% down) so if we didn't have the cash we didn't buy. Dad was not an instant gratification type guy.
My paternal grandparents were Italian Immigrants, my grandfather was a coal miner in the Southern Colorado coal fields with 8 kids. My maternal grandparents were farmers in NW So. Carolina with 9 kids - no legacy of wealth from that ancestry was forthcoming.
Although both sets of grandparents were very religious (So. Baptist and Rural Italian Catholic), my father wasn't and my mother was vague on the subject at best (it was a social thing to her). As such my brother and I grew up largely indifferent to the sky guy thing and when we were old enough to understand we rejected the whole line of BS.
Because reading was basically free I did a lot of it – no TV. I always had 3 or 4 books checked out of the library (and 1 or 2 overdue). I also learned to use tools from my dad and spent a lot of time building stuff and taking things apart (occasionally getting them back together) .
Despite all that I was a lousy student - I always had something more interesting going on in my head.
My wife came from a similar background but both her parents and brother were religious - when she left for college she dropped Jeebus like bad date.
Comment by Sonny Mobley on April 16, 2010 at 2:15pm
I realize intellectually that atheism is likely a privilege in many ways, but I can't personally relate to that. I was raised poor in an extremely poor area (East Carrol Parish, LA) and though I took my journey through christianity I do not feel that I was more inclined to be religious because of my situation. My curiosity drove me to study religion in my childhood and my curiosity drove me beyond Judaic religions by the time I was twelve to paganism and on to occultism after that. Debunked as I went and all while being poor and going to an underfunded country school without certified teachers. When I saw people being weak and turning to fairytales without a shred of reasoning it did nothing but sicken me then and I still feel the same way. ... no wonder 'm an outsider... :whacks self: COMPASSION SONNY :whacks self more:
Comment by Black Magick Woman on April 15, 2010 at 4:28pm
As someone who grew up poor, I could see where theism comes in. Personally, I'd rather not have the thought that the only thing I'd have is to look forward to getting my 'mansion in the sky'.

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