Accommodating Religion: Why I am Against it
Cephus, the blogger at Bitchspot has a great post up today on various types of apologists that he encounters. Check it out if you regularly debate theists, it is a good read. He uses the term “accommodationist” to describe one group of theists he often encounters. He defines this term as, “These people aren’t necessarily theists, they’re people who are more concerned that everyone gets along. Truth isn’t important, people just ought to hug and sing kumbayah.” While reading that definition I couldn’t help but think of atheist accommodationists. For reasons that I want to flush out here, I find that they trouble me quite a bit.
I realized I was an atheist during my junior year of college, which was 1996. From that time until about a year ago (Dec, 2011 to be exact) I would have considered myself an accommodationist atheist. I was content to read about philosophy, theology, science, atheism, etc. but had little to no interest in discussing these topics with anyone other than close friends and family. In truth, I did not really care what anyone else believed. I was doing my thing, they could do theirs, and we would all be fine. Or as Cephus wrote, we could all sing kumbayah.
The one difference between myself and Cephus’ definition is that I was interested in the truth. I, however, did not care if you were interested in it. I am telling you this so that you understand that I get the “accommodationist atheist”. I was that guy for about 15 years. Then things changed.
Another thing about me, I hate the over-dramatization of events. I hate it. I usually find it contrived and quite fictional. Why I am telling you this? Because when things changed for me, they changed in a big way–in the sort of over-dramatized way that I generally dislike. Throughout the Presidential Primary season of 2011, the constant religious rhetoric became more than I could tolerate. Watching people like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum try to “out-god” each other was nauseating to me. It was around that time that I started becoming a bit more vocal in my daily life and started to consider writing a blog. Then, (cue the cheesiest music you can think of and hit play….now) Christopher Hitchens died. Yep. Super cheesy. I know. For some reason his death affected me. I had always enjoyed his “piss and vinegar” type of polemic. Not because it was so feisty, but because it was so intelligent and feisty at the same time. I couldn’t help but think, well shoot, who is going to step in and fill his role in the fight against religious nonsense? Who is talking about all of the injustice meted out at the hands of the religious? Who is fighting for the rights of atheists? Who is being the “check” on religious power and influence? I knew Hitch wasn’t the only “famous” atheist ( I had read Stenger, Dawkins, Harris, and others), but I had no idea what was happening in the “world of atheism”. Make no mistake about it, I never thought (or think) it would be me, I am just a chump from northern MN. But it did encourage me to look online to see what people were saying about it.
Prior to this time, I had read a few atheist blogs sporadically. Ironically, some of those blogs I no longer read. However, I was unfamiliar with the world of “internet atheism”. What I learned was that there were a ton of people taking up the fight against religious nonsense. I decided that I wanted to join this “thing”. www.reason-being.com was born.
The accommodationist atheist bothers me because I was that guy. He/She bothers me in the same way that devout Catholics bother me, because I was that guy too. I have come to the point where I can absolutely not stay silent any longer in the face of religious power, influence, injustice, and privilege. (Cue the cheesy music again) To use the cliché, “it is as if a switch has been flipped”. One does not need to be a historian to understand what societies look like when religion plays a dominant role. History is marred by the many stories of such societies. Further, we need not look back into history to see this effect. We only need to turn our eyes to certain Muslim countries to see the same story repeating itself. We need to look no further than our own borders (here in the U.S.) to witness the power and words of many groups on the Christian Right.
The time for accommodating religion has passed. I have learned that, as an atheist, choosing to do so is to turn a blind eye to the many atheists in this country who do not have that luxury. In many parts of the U.S. being atheist can mean losing much, if not all, that is dear to you. It can cost you your job and family. It can cost you friends. This is not acceptable.
Accommodating religious views implies not fighting against the various movements (in at least 7 states) to have creationism taught in schools as a viable alternative to evolution/biology. This is not acceptable.
Accommodating religious views implies that you are okay with the fact that as an atheist, you cannot run for office in seven states. This is not acceptable.
Accommodating religious views implies that you are okay with the possibility that your employer can reduce your health care coverage solely because of his/her religious views. This is not acceptable.
Accommodating religious views implies that you are okay with the anachronistic view that many Christian groups have towards women. This is not acceptable.
Accommodating religious views implies that you are okay with the continued discrimination of the LGBT community. This is not acceptable.
Accommodating religious views that are inherently UN-accommodating of your own views really does not make much sense. This is not acceptable.
This list could be endless and will vary from person to person. However, accommodating religious views has gone on for far too long. What does this mean? It means that religions and religious views are very much at the forefront of public life. Like any other idea privileged enough to be in this position, it too, must be open to criticism. We do not hesitate to criticize ideas for being too liberal, too conservative, based on false evidence, absurd, etc. that come from any other source. Why should religious ideas get a free pass? They have the potential to affect us all as much as any other idea that can be legislated. For this this reason alone, accommodating religion is not acceptable.
If you are an atheist who has zero interest in activism of any sort, fine. (I would ask that you reconsider, though). However, if you choose to stand in the way of those who are interested in such things, that bothers me. I realize that many of the accommodationist atheists do not like the Hitchens style of attacking religion. That too is fine. Not all vocal atheists are of that nature…just look to Hemant Mehta for a great example of this. There are many ways to be an activist—the only way that is sure to fail is silence. Accommodation too easily can become silence. The notion that we can all just live together peaceably does not now, nor has it ever really reflected reality. As Cephus pointed out, the truth matters. Or at least it should. It does to me. If the term “accommodationist” applies to your atheism, I am curious to know why you feel the way you do. I am curious to know why you are against speaking out against what many perceive as religious injustice and privilege.
Over the next few months I am going to be quite busy in offline “real” life. This means that I am going to have less time for blogging and commenting on other blogs. I wish that were not case, but we all know that “wish-thinking” doesn’t really get us anywhere. With that in mind, I am going to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday format for new posts. I also anticipate that most of my posts will be a bit shorter than what is usual for me. It is not that I have am lacking things to say, rather, that I am lacking the time to think and write them out in a manner/level I would find acceptable. You will still be able to catch me on Twitter fairly often in the evening (U.S. Central time).
Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments.
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