Sailing in a Sea of Negativity

There are times when I feel that there are elements of the atheist and sceptic community who are only happy when they are knocking someone else down, or more specifically, mocking and laughing at someone else’s irrational beliefs because they consider them stupid and idiotic. Its not just the atheists and sceptics of course, there is this type of person everywhere, however lately I’ve begun to wonder if there are those who take their position of being non-religious to such an extreme that their sole purpose seems to be to tell everyone about how bad and awful religion is.

It came to a head for me when I listened to several episodes of an atheist podcast and in the guise of proclaiming how wonderful it was to have a purpose without religion it majored on the delusion of the believer. Proclaiming the wonders of having a life of purpose without religion is not the same as telling the (un)converted how misguided the religious are. I actually got very annoyed with hearing the same anti-religious rhetoric rather than good quality reasoned argument.

I’m not going to name and shame here, it would distract from my point and the list of offenders would be too long to be practical. Some generally decent blogs and podcasts have also fallen for the same ‘lets bitch about religious because its trendy’ bandwagon; plus I should also get it out there now, yes I’m guilty of those same accusations in this blog as well. I hope that I’m fair and balanced in my posts, but I do have to acknowledge that in telling my story there are some things I have said (and maybe will say) that are not especially nice about religion. There is also much good religion has done in my life and I hope I am balanced and fair, giving credit and blame where each is deserved.

Choosing sources

In my reading on science and religion there have been a variety of podcasts and blogs I have perused. Some I still subscribe to and some I have chosen to leave alone or avoid. Finding some which appear to exist for the sole purpose of telling the world how bad and wicked religion is disappoints me; not because I think religion needs me to defend it, but because I consider an overtly negative and derisive tone unhealthy. How can you spend so much time focussing on the negatives of something you disagree with and not be affected by it? I can’t think of a better way to foster extremism than to focus so much energy of the negative aspects of a specific subject!

Even in the blogs and podcasts that I have chosen to stay subscribed to, for reasons of my own scientific education and learning, I find posts and episodes which are so negative I end up moving on and waiting for the next instalment.

Language should be appropriate

I’m not saying that religion is blame free; far from it. More specifically, there are some religious people who have done some horrid things and there are some people who have done some horrid things in the name of religion. Those acts and the perpetrators deserve scorn that’s appropriate to their actions.

What I find much more bothersome is the attitude which is basically the religious are stupid and that fact alone makes them deserving of ridicule and scorn. As someone who was brought up to have respect for others, regardless of creed, I find this conflicting attitude contemptible and hard to stomach. I’m not for a second implying its all one way, its not, and that’s not my point anyway. What I am finding is that there are so many un-called for digs in the direction of religion or the religious that normally mild mannered me is getting sick of it.

Get excited about life not about others lives

There is so much pleasure in being curious about science and living life to its fullest and enjoying the best of what nature and man has to offer. When I read a science blog or listen to a sceptic podcast I want to learn about science and understand the specifics of why certain ideas are false. Inappropriate attacks on others just because of what they believe bugs me silly and I really don’t want any part of it. One specific laughable example is the person who gets all hot and bothered about those who they consider are guilty of pushing religion onto others and then go and do exactly the same with their own anti-religious beliefs!

No, I don’t like the negativity that floats about the fringes of religion and I don’t buy the argument that its all religions fault. As the adage goes, it takes two to tango and those who spout their overtly anti-religious rhetoric are guilty of spreading negativity and I do get concerned about where that could lead.

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11 thoughts on “Sailing in a Sea of Negativity

  1. Mmmm…. Belief in an intelligent designer, aka, is not irrational but actually more rational that atheism on several counts. Observation tells us that all things come form somewhere and nothing creates itself, math tells us the chances of so many physiological reactions just happening are astronomically staggering, and an ultimate source of goodness, beauty and etc. point somewhere. Then there is the persistent search of human intelligence and the heart that keep returning to the idea that something beyond existence that we know is out there. Atheism, on the other hand is far less rational. We here just because we are here is not very satisfying even to a scientist. So, I would like to cajole you into using a more appropriate word than irrational when referring to rational beliefs whether right or wrong.

    • Hi Kevin,

      I fear you have missed the context of my opening paragraph and as a result also missed the entire thrust of my post. Your reply addresses a point I wasn’t making.

      That said, I shall answer you anyway as it something I used to believe.

      For someone like myself, reproducible evidence is important. For concepts such as an intelligent designer its not so much what I choose to believe but accepting what the evidence suggests. If the evidence for something is not conclusive then that something is not accepted. So it is with your designer.

  2. …, however lately I’ve begun to wonder if there are those who take their position of being non-religious to such an extreme that their sole purpose seems to be to tell everyone about how bad and awful religion is.

    I don’t think I have come across anyone quite that extreme. However, like you, I am bothered by the amount of negativity. Some atheists seem obsessed with religion, and insist on seeing everything related to religion in the worst possible light.

    I guess my own attitude is that what people do in their private lives is their private concern. When theists try to impose their religion on others, then it makes sense to object. But trying to impose my lack of religion on others would be just as problematic.

  3. I know that I have been guilty of being negative about religion, but I hope I haven’t gone to any extreme. I’ve shared honest feelings on my blog about the negative impact Christianity has had on me, and from time to time, point out what wouldn’t have been so obvious to me as a believer, but seems so blatantly obvious from the outside.

    I do agree with you, though, that “preaching” non-belief can lead to some pretty scary places. I’ve seen some atheists going to the extreme that they lobby of outlawing religion all together. It isn’t my place to tell someone they can’t believe or practice their faith. How horribly disrespectful!

  4. Neil / D’Ma

    Objecting to the preaching of religion while at the same time preaching non-religion does seem to be an incredible hypocrisy, and one that the guilt appear blind to.

    I find the attitude of religion = bad a horrid generalisation, one which also exists the other way with the atheists = bad attitude of some religious folks. So I guess one is a reaction to the other. Yet neither is good or helpful.

    I guess I’m promoting a form of accomodationism, which I also note is firmly objected to by some atheists.

    • It seems from the outside looking in that Brits tend to have a more “live and let live” attitude toward each other. Religion seems to be a personal thing between an individual and their God, or lack thereof. On that side of the pond you do seem to have a general respect for the opinions and beliefs of others.

      Am I wrong about that? I can say that here in America evangelicalism is very “in your face”. There are many evangelical types who have no respect for the boundaries of others. I don’t know if the negativity you speak of is predominately American in nature, but if it is, that may be the reason. Not that that makes it okay, but it may be a-symptomatic.

      Not only that, but speaking for myself, when I first began to have doubts and questions the solutions offered by my evangelical friends was “just don’t think so much”, “stop looking at sources outside the Bible for answers”, “the Bible is all you need”, “stop running from God”, “get right with God, “you just want to sin” were just the tip of the iceberg of responses I got . This made me sort of angry and I was a bit militant. The further removed from this type of dogma I get, the more I study and learn and the more grounded in reality I become the more mellow I am about the whole thing.

      Religion isn’t necessarily bad, but the way some people practice it is. Atheism isn’t bad, but the way some practice it is. There is a distinction to be made.

      • Hi DMa,

        I definitely agree with your final paragraph.

        Re your queries about UK vs usa. You are partially right. Certainly we are less polarized over here. There are some in your face Christians but they are very few. You are far more likely to meet an in your face atheist. I know a few who have spent time in America and they say religion over there is far too much and made them very uncomfortable.

        As for what I am referring to. Yes its mostly US based but that’s because that’s where most of the comment comes from. There is UK stuff as well though.

  5. “As someone who was brought up to have respect for others, regardless of creed, I find this conflicting attitude contemptible and hard to stomach.”

    I agree…using inflammatory language usually alienates the very people you hope to influence. Not that I think people can’t have spirited debates or call another person out…they can.

    I have noticed, that some of the more outspoken atheists were former preachers in very strict sects of Christianity. I wonder if this contributes to the degree of regret and anger they feel towards their former faith?

  6. christianagnostic: “I have noticed, that some of the more outspoken atheists were former preachers in very strict sects of Christianity. I wonder if this contributes to the degree of regret and anger they feel towards their former faith?”

    I have witnessed this myself as a moderator in a freethinking forum. The atheist forum was created by a former preacher turned atheist. One day I took issue with him and it led to me being treated no differently than the church I use to attend. Very abusive. I’ve since avoided the term “freethining” believing it probably doesn’t exist. 🙂

    Personally, as I reflect I cannot understand how one, whether a former pastor, missionary or any other Christian leadership position can come out of that and not be filled with regret and anger. I think it is to be expected actually when one considers for many, the psychological toll it can take. Personalities don’t just change on a dime and when I look at it from that angle, I can see how easily it is to leave a very black and white ministry and slip into a very black and white atheism. I don’t think it’s intentional. Again, how does one just stop “being” who they’ve been for years and years? People who were manipulative and controlling as Christians aren’t likely to drop those ingrained traits and habits just because they left the faith . . . know what I mean? And for those who do, it takes time to happen.

    I remember when I left the faith I believed myself atheist and quickly dropped the term to agnostic because I was meeting a lot of atheists with the same characteristics as our former spiritually abusive religion. I also got the feeling I was suppose to follow the pied piper and the chances of me following any structured group again was zero. But I kept sensing a pull to join the atheist tribe.

    I’m starting to write my own post. :mrgreen:

    • “I can see how easily it is to leave a very black and white ministry and slip into a very black and white atheism.”

      That’s a good point…while I don’t want to disallow someone to be angry about their former faith (I still have anger at times), I just don’t think it helps in getting people to see their point of view.

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