Saturday, December 10, 2011

I trust you...unless you're an atheist?

A recent article appeared in the Washington Post recently about anti-athiesm. Here's the article:

Basically, the data indicated that we--and I say "we" meaning the 770 American adults and Canadian college students who participated in this survey--trust rapists to do the right thing more than atheists.

Granted, this is an extremely small sampling of North Americans. But read that last sentence again, please, and let it sink in. Now let's look at the definition of "atheist" from "One who believes there is no deity."

So if we put two and two together, we get "Those who believe there is no higher power are untrustworthy." Seriously...are you kidding me?

Part of it is likely that when people hear "athiest", they think that because a person doesn't believe in a higher power, and, therefore, has no moral code to speak of. Atheists are not AMORAL; they do have a code, but it is one of their own making, and may or may not be based on a particular spiritual or religious belief. Just because it does not come from a "spiritual" place doesn't make it any less valid than our own.

Also, keep in mind that many atheists were once practitioners of a religion, likely one that they were raised with, and that background along with their life experiences has led them to choose atheism.

As a spiritual person, I choose what spiritual path I follow and how much that path influences my own choices. For example, when I was a practicing Catholic, the moral code of that religion is pro-life in all circumstances. I have been pro-choice since I knew about the issue, so that particular precept of Catholicism didn't sway me simply because that was the path I was on. Many Wiccans believe that being vegetarian or vegan is the way to go, but I don't choose to live my life that way. So like atheists, our code is our own individually. If you've heard the term "cafeteria Catholic", for example, you know what I'm talking about. It may sound like a derogatory term, but it's not to me; it showcases what all of us do on an individual spiritual level, in my humble opinion.

Just like we choose what will and will not affect our beliefs, atheists CHOOSE to not believe in any higher power. Again, that doesn't mean that they don't know right from wrong, or that they are inherently untrustworthy because they choose not to believe in a higher power.  I love spiritual people, but I don't love or trust people any less who choose atheism. I have one atheist in my life and if it came down to it, I'd trust him with my life. He's one of the most trustworthy people I know and always has been. The idea that he or any other atheist is less than trustworthy or somehow immoral is patently ridiculous.

And don't even get me started on the incredibly awful, immoral, unconscionable choices made over the years by people who believe in a higher power. Let me throw out the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials, thousands of wars, and centuries of religious discrimination as just a few examples. Being "spiritual" or "religious" doesn't necessarily mean "trustworthy" either, folks.

Spirituality is a choice. Not being spiritual is a choice. Being someplace in the middle is a choice. And they are all valid choices for each person. The moment that we start to discriminate based on lack of belief is the moment we put ourselves in the same category as bigots. Tolerance is not just for those who believe.

What this all comes down to is ego. Take away the words, what it says is, "I'm better than you are because I believe in [INSERT DEITY OR SPIRITUAL PATH HERE], and you believe in nothing. So obviously you are somehow defective." Bullshit!

With the holiday season coming, respect everyone's choices and check your ego. If you won't bash another religion but you somehow find yourself looking down on atheists, then know that you've become part of the intolerance that makes life difficult for both believers and atheists alike.

If you'd rather trust a rapist, that's up to you. But I'll take anyone--atheist or no--over violent sexual offender any day of the week.

1 comment:

  1. I believe the real issue here is one of ignorance. I'm sure many of those people who were polled, would change their opinion if they truly understood atheism. You made two great points, the first is whether or not one believes in higher being, most people do understand right versus wrong. The second is that the more personal an issue is to a person, the less two dimensional an issue becomes. In both points, the mitigating factor is awareness. When an intelligent learned individual with a modicum of common sense is provided with accurate information they will make a more sensible decision. If those that were polled were provided with detailed information of what Atheism is and they actually had some form of connection with one, I am sure that they would have given a different response to that question. As always, there will be exceptions, those who are fanatics, but I believe the overall numbers of those 770 respondents would have been lower. Either that or I have too much faith in the human race.