June 14, 2016

Thoughts on the Reason Rally and reactions to it

I was really hoping to be able to make the Reason Rally this year, because it's my first since my deconversion. But alas, it was not to be. I did check in on a handful of live streams and have watched videos since the Rally ended, so that will have to do for now.

I know that some atheists are total assholes, because some people are total assholes. It's a fact of life. But there's something about theists insulting us for gathering that is really galling. After all, so many theists claim a superior morality and satisfaction with life that it seems infinitely hypocritical when they attack us for merely existing.

Here's a few comments on a story I was reading about the Reason Rally, and my thoughts on each.

Okay, but why? Are we really lower than murderers, rapists, child molesters, genocidal dictators...? I don't understand.

When someone tells me they are a Christian, or a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Shinto, or a Pagan, or anything, really, I know that gives me some rough details about what they may believe. I also know that it doesn't give me the details of who they are. I can't tell from that statement whether they are kind, compassionate, intelligent, etc. All I have is a (very, very rough) sketch of what their beliefs in the supernatural may possibly be. That's it.

In my state, the constitution still says that I can't hold office. Article 17, Section 4 specifically reads:

No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.

My state is one of six that have these types of provisions today, in the year 2016. Although they are considered unenforceable because of the Supreme Court's 1961 decision in Torcaso v. Watkins,  but it still exists, it's still on the books, and it's still a possibility that it could complicate my life if I were to try to step into public service. Indeed, in 2009, there was a case in North Carolina where folks tried to use a similar provision to overturn the election of Cecil Bothwell.

I say this to make a point: The Reason Rally isn't about showing off. It's about coming together to remind our politicians that we exist and that our rights matter. Our votes matter.

Really, how would folks react if I was running around publishing that Christians are terrorist sympathizers? I mean, there are many pro-life Christians who have said while they don't condone violence against doctors or clinics that provide abortion care, they also understand what could drive a person to it. That's a terrorist sympathizer, right?

No, it's not. It would be ridiculous for me to insinuate it, and that's why I don't. Even within the pro-life community there's a wide array of beliefs.

What exactly is hypocritical about visiting a city named after a saint? I mean, my state capital is named Columbia after Christopher Columbus. Personally, I find Columbus a detestable figure because of his actions against indigenous Americans. That doesn't mean that I'm a hypocrite for visiting the city. This point is entirely spurious.

These comments aren't exceptions. They're fairly common. I'm not sure what the right way to deal with them is, but I try to remember when I am engaging in theist spaces how much these kinds of comments suck just to reinforce my commitment to avoid using similar ones against theists myself.

I know it's a pie-in-the-sky type of dream, but I'd love to see discourse moving less towards yelling past each other and more towards engaging with each other. I was recently listening to a conversation between Sam Harris and Neil deGrasse Tyson where Tyson mentioned a situation where he felt Harris was talking past the person he was engaging with, and he made a good point. The person communicating the message is responsible for going most of the way to meet their audience and make sure that the message is received as accurately as possible.

Will we get there? Probably not. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try.

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