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How to Be an Atheist Without Being a Jerk About It

Religion is awful in a lot of ways, yes. But that doesn't mean you have to be awful too.

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Having grown up without god in my life, I don't have doubts and I don't have resentment and I don't have guilt and I don't have anything to prove. But I'm sympathetic to those feelings. I get it. And I get the impulse to want to replace one lifelong club with another. What I'm  notsympathetic to—what I resent—is using atheism to perpetuate exactly the same negative cultural forces that make me dislike organized religion: Shaming.  White supremacyUnbridled,rabid misogyny. Yeah, no thanks.

Don't Tell People How to Handle Their Own Shit

This, to me, is the most important one, and the real reason I'm writing this piece. There are so many people in the world—marginalized people, brutalized people—whose experiences I could never understand. Unthinkable violence.  Generations of systemic oppression. If faith is what certain people need to feel okay, then who the fuck am I to tell them otherwise? As soon as that faith translates into any action that oppresses others, it's fair game for criticism. But the faith itself? Who the fuck am I? Who the fuck are you?

A few months ago I came across  an astonishingly brutal article about sex offenders and their potential for rehabilitation—or, more accurately, "relapse prevention." (If you have any sensitivity to triggers of any kind, RUN from this link.) The piece profiles one particular "model" prisoner, a man who raped two teenage sisters in their home while their mother slept downstairs. The attack was unspeakably horrific. In the months since I read the article, there's one passage I've thought about nearly every day. It's from an interview with one of the victims, the younger of the two sisters.

Mitch gave her something? Yes, Angela says, “Mitch brought me to Christ. You see, I thought I was going to die, so I had a white light with me the whole time. I was in and out. I guess it was how I survived the pain, because the pain was unbelievable.” She still can’t feel the pain, she says, and she can’t feel anything else, either, and that’s what Mitch took away, that’s what he stole. “I’m not happy; I’m not sad,” Angela says. “I don’t look forward to anything. If I’m depressed, I eat—that’s how I feel things. I get high on sugar or I get full—and then it’s, ‘Oh boy, I feel something now.’”

You're going to tell  that girl that she's an idiot for believing in god? You're going to laugh in her face and trot out one of your big logical trump cards? You're going to pat yourself on the back for being "smarter" than this person whose humanity was violently stripped from her when she was just a child? Are you also going to tell her that she's a disgusting fatass who should go on a diet because of your insurance premiums?  Who the fuck are you to tell her how to survive?

There are a lot of people in the world who have nothing. Faith in a higher power gives them  one thing. You know what we call people who try to take away other people's  one thing?

A fucking dick. Don't be one.




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