Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Rallying Cry From Atheists

A Rallying Cry From Atheists

Written by my atheist friends from a local Singapore Atheist Group, Atheisthaven:

Atheism is an abject failure.

As atheists we are in a unique situation. While we are ostracized,
marginalized, persecuted, prosecuted, abused and generally deprived of
our rights by unsympathetic regimes and autocratic systems in the real
world, it is in cyberspace where we can express ourselves freely to
some substantial degree. It is in this virtual realm that we dare
challenge theists and other proponents of illogicality and come away
truly victorious.

However, these victories, impressive as they are, cannot but feel
hollow. For all the reasoning and logic which made us, dare I say it,
ubermensch, we are unable to demonstrate our superiority where it
really matters. Dawkins and Hitchens might have made the world stand
up in recognition of the fallacies of religion, but is this
proliferation of truth and rationality changing the way people really

Sadly, the answer is no. Superstition still holds sway. To many,
atheism is a passing fad. People remain attached to their cherished
beliefs. After all, knowing the truth does not equate its acceptance.
Not only do people want to believe in something, they need to feel
wanted. Religion provides a very strong support in satisfying this
emotional need, as evident by the number of support groups, cell
groups, social and community structures the religious have put
together to bind its adherents.

It must be intoxicating knowing that `Someone' will always love you.
That `Someone' will look after you in every situation and never falter
in His efforts. To have this preposterous notion `validated' by your
fellow humans who actually help you in times of difficulties while the
`Someone' never makes an appearance must seem an affirmation to the
desperate. What religion does so effectively is to make each and
everyone of its followers feel special. Logic goes out of the window
in the face of this compelling emotional assault. It is an irony,
considering that rationality is painted over by a very real human need
which in turn is satisfied by an illusion instead.

This is where atheism fails so miserably. Atheists do not help each
other just because they believe in the same creed. The theists,
however, do so because their doctrine specifically wills it. For all
our arguments and justifications we do not deign to help one another
because we take the point of `not giving a damn about God' one step
further to include ourselves. I see friends who are Christians support
each other within their own church and cell groups. What do I see when
I look upon my fellow atheists?

Theist : 1 Atheist : 0.

Our endless debates with theists achieve little. We are wasting
precious time trying to convince people who do not want to be
convinced. People would rather live a happier life believing in a lie
than accept things as they really are and being less happy as a
result. Reading about the articles atheists post on the Internet makes
me think that all these well-meaning writers want are to amass as many
hits for their sites and to comment favorably on each other's writings
in the hope that the praised party, overjoyed at being appreciated,
would return the favor. We hide behind monikers like `infidel' and
`heretic', perhaps to impart some perceived quality in our cause, but
we do not back our words with concrete action. I have more respect for
the religious folk (the non-violent ones) who preach their gospel and
live their life accordingly than for self-proclaimed atheists who
cannot even be bothered to scrap their addled brains off the computer
screen to think: I am an atheist. What does this mean? What do I do?

Atheism is on precarious ground in this respect. And it is time to
stop the rot.

We must acknowledge that we are on our own. We have no god(s), no
temples, no institutions and nothing to rely upon. Social structure
and cultural norms, influenced to some extent by religion does not
give the atheist credence. In many parts of the world, atheism is
punishable by stoning. In more civilized climates, a priest who
incites violence against non-believers is at the most given a slap on
the wrist – he might even be lauded for his sense of justice. But an
atheist who gives credible reasons for his rejection of religion, and
quotes from reliable sources – he is making `seditious' remarks and
persecuted for being `anti-religion' . It is obscene. You can say that
people are treated equally in these modern times, but you cannot deny
that some are more equal than others.

In view of the many difficulties atheists face, I propose we take care
of our own. And we can do this through support groups.

A support group need not have a club-house or a fixed physical
location where members can convene. We can host a bulletin board
(forum) in cyberspace, much like what Atheisthaven is doing. However,
instead of `ghost members' and people who pack only rhetoric and
little else, such a group must consist of dedicated individuals who
genuinely want to make a difference. While we do not restrict the
membership to atheists (the non-religious, freethinkers, agnostics,
even Buddhists - especially those leaning towards a philosophical
bent may join), members must be committed. As this commitment takes
the form of certain obligations, we want positive individuals who
truly believe in improving themselves and others. Atheism by its own
nature, promotes self-reliance and an internal locus of control. All
efforts should have an egalitarian spirit in its core, mutual aid as
its strength, and self-actualization its ultimate goal.

This is strictly an informal group. No membership fee is required. We
only ask that members make an effort to know each other and to
interact, preferably face-to-face. This fosters cohesiveness which is
very important because people tend to help their own friends than
relative strangers.

What form should this aid take? At the most basic level, information
exchange. People who have questions can post them on the group site,
and those with the answers can promptly reply. Questions can range
from anything – potential job openings, which university to choose,
even where to get the best bargains! At a deeper level, members can
work on some task together or maybe enjoy a little soiree.

While we encourage members to look after each other's interests, we do
not look kindly to people who join for ulterior motives. This is not a
MLM (multi-level- marketing) scam, nor is it a dating agency. Promoting
any political agenda is also a no-no. In a nutshell, the group is
similar to a normal theist cell group, minus the praying and speaking
in tongues. Think of it as a secular social network, where normal
people (without a faith) make friends and chill out.

We must succeed in this endeavor. If sodden theists can organize
themselves, it would be a crying shame if intelligent atheists cannot
even produce a similar response. The time has passed for talking. Let
us show people that we are capable of doing great things, even without
divine edicts… because In Humanity We Trust.

Liu Weixian and Liang Xianghong
- 14/03/2008

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