I grew up in an environment that was generally hostile toward atheists, gay people, and any religion other than Protestant Christianity. If not openly hostile, at least passive-aggressive. I never liked it, though for a while I lacked the understanding and knowledge to realize what was wrong. As a result, I mostly went along with it, and even bought into some of the attitude because that’s just what was expected of me.
My personality type is strongly averse to conflict. Whenever tension rises, I start looking for ways to find common ground and resolve the dispute. Unfortunately, there are many people who aren’t interested in common ground. Some of them are set in their ways, holding to ideas they grew up with and having no interest in exploring new ones. Neil Carter quotes Phil Vischer on the subject, talking about the “incurious” people who make reasonable discussion difficult.
Some of these people are not just incurious, but they entirely disregard the character, reasoning, and intellect of anyone they consider an opponent. They aren’t just disinterested in hearing new ideas; they shut down the opposition by saying things like, “You haven’t experienced what I believe in, so you cannot have an opinion on it.” There is no room for discussion, because to them, literally nothing matters except that you believe the same things they believe.
That is what I was told. Nothing in my life matters at all. The love I can offer, my intelligence, my skills, none of it matters. My well-being, my friends, all of the art I create, all of the hard work I do for other people, none of it matters. Every single thing that makes this life worth living, it’s all overshadowed by their need to see me merely think as they do. It doesn’t even matter if I live exactly the sort of life they want me to, with the exact same morals.
That’s a frightening prospect, because what might someone do if they believe it? With that sort of mindset, they could justify cutting off all communication with you, because your relationship with them doesn’t matter. They could try to deprive you of things you need, because your well-being doesn’t matter. They could throw sermon after sermon at you, because your opinions don’t matter. And all of this, they will claim, is done in “love”.
Speaking of Neil Carter, who I greatly admire, my use of his articles prompted a comment about how “atheism and deism are very different”, as if referencing an atheist’s writing to expand my points is like a “house divided against itself”.
That would be true if I saw atheists as an enemy. But as I said in Claiming Deism, rather than creating a division between people, deism “allows us to see every person foremost as a fellow member of a humanity created by god, and traveling the same path of life alongside us…”
Who would want to reference only the writing of people who share their specific type of belief? Perhaps those who have no interest in hearing and discussing new ideas. Atheism is not inherently in opposition to deism; they’re just two different ideas. It’s the people who create divisions and oppose other people. I admire Neil Carter for his intelligence and his desire to maintain good communication and relationship between Christians and non-Christians. That’s exactly what I want, and I’ve alluded to it in many of my posts, all the way back to the very first one I wrote for this blog.
In fact, the greatest division I’ve faced with people, and the strongest attacks on my beliefs, came from other Christians. If you want to see a house divided against itself, look no further than Christianity. With so many denominations, and a very widespread sentiment that one’s own denomination is the only one that is truly Christian, there’s no way to argue that Christians are unified. Jesus’s prayer in John 17:20-23, unfortunately, never came true.
As for me, I care more about getting over our differences and working together for the benefit of the whole world. Inspired religion has got to be one of the most divisive things humans ever invented. However, I like to say that it’s the people, not the beliefs. It’s true that the ideas can easily lead people down twisted paths of self-importance and callous disregard for others, but it’s the person’s choice to continue in that direction. There are plenty of religious people who are kind, intelligent, and open to reasonable discussion. They are not the ones who make it clear that my opinions mean nothing to them.
I want to find common ground and start building bridges, and that is why I will reference intelligent and reasonable people from any religion or mindset. It’s the people, not the beliefs.