To assist me in writing a far more poignant piece than this one (to be posted at a later date), I asked my "friends" on Facebook to play a little word association. Simple: when I say Atheist, what comes to mind? Now, it is not my intention to judge those who responded because I truly do appreciate them helping me out on this. Plus, as anyone who has played word association knows, the first word that comes to mind is not necessarily your actual definition or belief regarding the subject with completely unrelated jibberish a frequent result - hence the fun of the game over a few beer. Nonetheless, here are some of the responses and my thoughts on them. Like I said, this post is not the ultimate product of this little experiement but rather some Friday fun.
Love this one because it is ironically true. Those who would rather have fairy tales proven before believing them are considered socially deviant in our current society. Happy to be part of this group of misfits.
Aside from the obvious, my favourite aspect of this response was the follow up: ("which I suppose isn't so common"). Amen.
Modern, moderate, rational
Nice to think we are thought of as modern. I suspect this is because Atheism is "trending" in social circles right now. While, superficially I will take this as a compliment for the movement, I certainly hope we become more than just today's leg warmers. I love hearing "moderate" and "rational" (even though I know this person thinks I am anything but). These are two descriptors that are welcoming and will, over time, allow closeted sceptics to comfortably walk through the doors of logic sans fear.
This one bugs me even though I recognize the point and admit my aggravation is one of silly semantics. While I understand that anyone can subscribe to anything for which they have strong passion for as a religion (i.e. hockey in Canada; public breast feeding in Ottawa) I pettily default to Merriam Webster's first definition of the word and hate being associated with a faith in the supernatural. But c'est la vie.
Lost Little Boy
This is either a classic response with absolutely no relevance to the subject or someone who needs to spend some time with me or another male atheist in their locale. We aren't lost nor are we dwarfs.
As humans, yes we are, at times, snarky. Not sure what we would call the god of the old testmament then.
Nice reponse especially when we think about what Atheists really are. Simply people who choose to believe based on their logic and reason. Quite a benign and mundane lot really.
Sceptical but not without compassion
Love this one. Hits on exactly what my greater purpose is for this project. Will leave it at that and ask you to come back when I finally finish it.
I suspect this is what came to mind when this person thought of me, and if the case, an accurate first impression. However, she may also think of Atheists this way in a general sense. We have to be argumentative when we have women covering their bodies in the name of religion; school boards discriminating against gay students; governments listening to Christian lobbyists in an effort to thwart equality; and mythology being taught in science class.
While I love this person very much and will always defend people's right to religion as much as I fight for my protection from religion, this is definately my favourite. Two general, but not inaccrate comments:
Atheists: people who choose to believe only what has been objectively proven to date or that which has strong probability based on scientific trends, with the willingess to be proven wrong by future discoveries - including the true proof of the supernatural.
Theists: people who believe in something with no objective proof, generally unwilling to admit they could be wrong and that their belief is based on blind faith alone. Fought to have the phrase "There probably is no god. Be good for goodness sake" removed from a bus.
You don't believe everything you are told
Can't think of a better compliment
Lost, radical, and sad
A real trend towards being lost...interesting and worth a post on its own. Atheists get lost like anyone else. Oh, and sad too. But it's not our sense of logic's fault.
Radical: One guy believes in a ghost. The other doesn't. Let's play "Who's radical?" In all seriousness, this is one concept I genuinely find fascinating and illusrates the incredible marketing job religion has done over the centuries. I can accept someone chosing faith over atheism. But to call atheism the radical of the two choices makes absolutely no sense to me. Call me, ah, radical I guess.
Whitty response. Biting my tongue.
I can understand if a person that has a perceived relationship with a god equivalent to a real person, depending on him for clarity, purpose, and guidance views an atheist as lonely. Speaking for myself, I have a great wife, hilarious daughter, a solid family, and top notch friends. All is good with me. I am sure there are lonely atheists.....the ones with none of these things.
Interesting and in many ways true. This response speaks to the general intolerance of society. To think that you have to be brave to state that you only believe in proven things in the year 2011 is a sad commentary on society. This is why I write this blog and drive people nuts on Facebook!
As more responses come in I will add them and eventually make this a seperate page link, as I think they are at the heart of the misunderstanding of Atheism. Like I said, I will also be using this information to discuss a more pragmatic topic: the need for Atheist charity and community-building.
Considering the centuries of social persecution of Atheists at the hands of organized religion, misconceptions are logical. To those of you reading this who contributed, I genuinely appreciate your time and respect your opinions and beliefs.
Enjoy your days!