Saturday, November 3, 2007

Why do I care?

Though I seem to be intimately familiar with the contemporary skeptical and atheist movements, I never really considered myself an activist of any sort, though having an internet presence, however small, might put me in the running. I feel more like a spectator, or maybe a consumer of information. People like me probably constitute the majority of any sort of movement. I am the sort of guy who is all talk and no action. Oh, and have you heard of the "herding cats" problem? I'm part of that too!

All of this goes along with my background. I was an apathetic Catholic, and now I'm more of an apathetic atheist. I live in one of those backwards blue states, where everyone is friendly, tolerant, and open-minded. The predominant stereotype here is that atheists are much like people who are a little too interested in politics, only it's religion instead of politics. Around here, I can befriend a campus Christian group, and no one will care. I've never had any bad experiences with religious people. When asked why they care, atheists usually respond that, oh, religion is being stuffed down their throats, and they're sick of the nonsense. I have no such excuse, though of course I'm sensitive to the situations of other atheists throughout the country. So why should I care?

In a way, I don't, and I'm merely interested in the abstract reasoning put into the debate. Direct arguments against religion are unfashionable in some circles because it's preaching to the choir, convincing no one, and producing ill will. However, I think it's interesting from a pure reasoning and philosophical standpoint--it's fun to think, you know? And of course, I'm pathologically tactful about it, too.

But another reason to care is that it seems to me that atheism is one of the big trends of our time. We've all seen the polls. It's clear that the young generation--my generation--is becoming markedly less religious. The thought that I am a part of history is chilling. I don't know where it will lead, but I'd like to think that it will change things for the better. As part of this trend, I feel it is extremely important to know and understand it. Furthermore, I think it is important for everyone else, regardless of whether they think it's good or bad, to understand this movement. As a somewhat taboo topic, atheism is understood far less than it should be, resulting in a lack of sympathy from the public. The public must be informed--now that's something everyone can get behind.

So I think that is my purpose when I write. Alongside explanations of science and math, I also want to explain the movements that I am part of, what the people are like, and why I care.


Anonymous said...

I'm similar, except I was raised an apathetic atheist. Nobody's tried to get in my face about religion, so why should I worry about it?

Well, I read about such things in the news a lot, but it lacks a visceral quality. I identify with Heather Mallick who makes comments like "For I am an atheist and I am out of my depth. I watch the news about religion with a puzzled stare, unable to fathom the motives of the ultra-religious. What’s going through Mel Gibson’s tiny little brain?"

Anonymous said...

A skeptical word of caution about the poll that you link to. It ignores several other factors: (1) More non-Christian immigrants (Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.) have been coming to America in recent years than in earlier periods, and most immigrants are young. (2) The poll ignores the possibility that young people might convert to Christianity as they age. (3) The plot of age vs. religion may look like a straight line, but it may actually be only a small part of a longer plot, which might be more like a sine wave.

I might add that many "Christians" consider other "Christians" to be "un-Christian."