Before I get started on this blog I want to say that this is not a blanket statement against anti-theists or anti-theism. I know many good people who use this label and want it to be clear that this article is in no way an attack on them. What this article is meant to do, is provide a simple explanation as to why I no longer use the label myself. So now that this is out of the way, on with the article.
Anti-theism is the positive claim that theism causes a net harm on society. Now whether or not you believe this is true is not something I am looking at discussing at the moment, however, it tends to be made clear by most people who claim the title that it’s about the beliefs themselves and not about the people who ascribe to theism. Unfortunately this is often times not the case and for me it wasn’t, I found myself going after people simply because they had a religious belief. No matter how benign, or how unobtrusive their beliefs were I found myself lashing out in a distinctly harmful manner.
Now, lets’s be clear, I wasn’t the worst offender in terms of this. There are others on-line who are absolutely disgusting in their hatred towards religious people, yet all the while they continue pretending that they’re only attacking the beliefs and not the person. Yet it is very clear to the outside observer when the belief has been tossed aside and personal attacks begin. So here are some examples…
- Referring to religion as a mental illness.
- Commenting on the physical appearance of a certain group of people.
- Claiming that the followers of a certain faith have sex with animals
- Offering no rebuttal to a belief but simply calling the believer dumb
These types of attacks do nothing, they reflect poorly on the secular community, and they drive people away from ever considering your perspective. So if our goal is to actually be there for people, help people escape dangerous beliefs, and be a support to folks who are new to the secular community, then this is definitely not the route to take.
This is pretty much my reason for dropping the title, I’m first and foremost a humanist and I want to be there for people who are in need of support, regardless of if they are an atheist or not. I also want to confront harm regardless of if the source is a religious faith or a secular community. People tend to be blinded by the harm in their own group, or at least they overlook it, and this is something that I saw myself do several times. Sure I would justify it, figure out reasons why that person wasn’t actually being harmful, but the harm didn’t cease to exist because I refused to point it out.
In the end I’m anti-harm…which is a term that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue as well as anti-theist but it describes my stance much better than anti-theist ever did. On top of that it opened my world to a huge group of wonderful people who may or may not follow a faith. Not all faiths are created equal, and while some do a great deal of harm, others are close to, if not, completely benign. I have loved the interactions I’ve had with various theists over the last few months since I dropped the title and my world has gotten a little bit bigger.
Surprisingly enough it’s not just religious people that my world opened up to, there are actually a great deal of secular non-believers who are closed off to those who claim the anti-theist title, understandably so. As I stated, I was a bit of an asshole when I claimed the title and folks who are humanistic in nature don’t tend to enjoy hanging around assholes. lol
As I said in the very beginning, this article is not meant to be a blanket statement on anti-theism, and I really do know many anti-theists who are good people that don’t engage in the type of behavior that others including myself once did under the guise of anti-theism. One such example is Godless Cranium, very much an anti-theist by the definition presented and yet not one to attack people or cultures. If all anti-theists were of the Godless Cranium variety, then possibly it wouldn’t have the stigma attached to it, so there is something to hope for in the realm of anti-theism.
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