Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Choleric Atheist

"A man is but the product of his thoughts.  What he thinks, he becomes."  --Mahatma Gandhi

There are religious people who believe I am atheist only because I am angry and bitter toward God.  In the part of the country I live in, this seems to be the prevailing attitude.  I am not angry.  What do I have to be angry about?  I am not bitter because I was raised in an overly religious home.  I certainly have had horrendously rough periods in my life, but I don't have anything to blame for those except nature, poor choices, bad genetics, and chemical warfare.  There are certainly things that do anger me about religion, but that anger has nothing to do with any and everything to do with the way people choose to interpret their god's supposed message.  I can't be angry with a deity because I feel like that would make as much sense as being angry with Santa Claus just because someone else thinks he is real instead of a fictional character or being angry with a newspaper that reports about a crime instead directing the anger toward the person who committed the crime.

Mostly, though, I am not angry because I choose not to be.  Anger is a counterproductive emotion.  It drains us of our energy and transforms us into writhing little packets of hate.  Anger cannot coexist with happiness.  I used to be a lot more passionate about my negative beliefs, but it was detrimental to everything in my life.  Now I try to take things as they come and respond to them in a more appropriate manner.  If you lash out at someone because of their beliefs, they automatically build a defensive wall and no reasonable dialogue is possible.  I hate all manner of attack ads, whether it be by religious or non-religious groups or political candidates.  They really turn me off the idea of being associated with that group at all and makes me wonder about the motivations of the people who are.  Friendly discourse and communication is far more effective.  Tell people what you stand for without attacking the other sides.  If people agree with you, they will come to you.  I see too many attacks from groups I have no idea of the ideals of because all they do is attack and never explain their motivation.

My calm is nowhere near perfect, but I try to direct my fury appropriately when the need arises.  If your religion or belief system advocates the submission of women, discrimination or violence against gays, nonconsentual body modification, forcing your laws upon others, coerced conversion, theocratic governments, halting scientific progress, hurting children, waging wars in the name of a god, or threatening those who do not believe the same as you -- yes, you will be an object of my wrath as those things have absolutely no place in a peaceful and advanced civilization.  If you aren't doing any of those things, than whatever.  I don't care what you believe in and you shouldn't expect any flack from me as long as you don't expect anyone else to believe the same as you.  Beliefs are highly personal ideas and are meaningless if they are expected to be universal.  People should be allowed to come to conclusions on their own without the threat of fire, brimstone, and violence. 

I'm not of the "bomb first, talk later" mindset.  I know a lot of people who are, and it applies to every aspect of their lives.  How can we call ourselves intelligent beings if we are not open to diplomacy ?  I know as well as everyone else that the world is not all sunlight and rainbows, but an attack should be the last resort and not the first.  I don't even think automatic retaliation is appropriate.  There is no reason to counter hate with more hate or death with more death.  It just cycles on and on and on and spirals further and further away from any hope at a meaningful peace.  We can keep going and self destruct both on a personal and whole-world scale, or we can grab the rope and pick and climb ways out of the ravine.  Yes, it is uncomfortable and difficult and slow, and it will probably leave us sore, but when we reach the top of that canyon, we will finally be able to look around and see the whole landscape, see that there is so much more to the universe than what we saw when we were stuck down in that angry hole.

I've been accused of being an idealist and a pacifist like those are dirty words which should only be spoken in whispers behind closed doors.  Whenever I am labelled by one of those terms, I just smile and say "thank you." It is a compliment after all.  It means I think before I act and I have the problem solving skills to explore the solutions beyond the obvious.  I would love for more people to be of the same mindset, but I am not going to invade their lives with a forceful attitude, threats, or attacks on their beliefs.  I am trying to influence by example and bring a little peace to my corner of the world, a world that still equates anger with passion and war with peace.

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