My name is Steven. I have lived all of my life in the Midwest region of the United States. For those who don’t know, this is referred to as the Bible Belt. As such, I have been surrounded by religion, specifically Christianity.
I can confidently say that the public education system here does little to address this issue; I am sure this is by design though I don’t find it to be intelligent. At any rate, my opinion of the education system is that it is seriously lacking in valuable content. This content should have included some sort of comparative religious studies program or even comparative cultures program. Instead, I was offered shop class and home economics (this was not a financial course; this was a course teaching us how to make cookies and bake cakes—something every high school kid should know.)
We were taught only what we needed to know to exist at a socially functional level—socially functional for this region. When people do manage to leave here, they tell stories of culture shock and awe at what the ‘outside’ world is like. Once their transitional difficulties are overcome, these people never return. This ought to suggest something about the quality-of-life in this bible-thumping region when compared to other places.
Outside the public school system, much of what I have learned about the world has typically come from social cues. These social cues are deep-rooted beliefs that are shared and forwarded throughout the community from one generation to the next. These beliefs include issues concerning homophobia, racism, religious affiliation and division, nationalism and many others. The thing common among these beliefs is this ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality.
Following 9-11, President George W. Bush addressed the nation and the world by saying, “you’re either with us or against us.” George W. Bush is an evangelical Christian who believes that divine providence led him to the White House. Thanks to him for his infinitely miniscule wisdom, I now know that my hometown indoctrination is not much different than many others.
This is a Problem.
This is a problem on many levels and for many reasons. Addressing all these problems is what this blog is about, and this is the reason I am creating the Atheists in Action community. I can find absolutely no social benefit to this ‘us’ and ‘them’ ideology. There, in my thinking, can be only us. I am not so naïve to think that as individuals each of us is going to get along perfectly with every other one of us, but that is not the issue. The issue is the development of groups who are hell-bent on eliminating the competition. Groups who desire such domination do so because they believe they have the correct answers and anyone who disagrees with them must be wrong.
I have rejected the beliefs that have been provided to me during my life in exchange for a more thoughtful approach to seeking truth. In doing so, I have rejected any sort of belief in supernatural beings; I have become very concerned with the further promotion of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality in any context, and I have become interested in sharing my knowledge from experience with anyone who may find what I have to offer useful.
The critic might want to jump in at this point and say that I am promoting the exact type of mentality that I am challenging. They might say, “Steve, you are pushing an atheist agenda that is going to challenge theist organizations because you think you have the correct answers and they do not.” Actually, this is not the case. I am open to discuss with anyone any concern that he or she may have. While I will always be honest and provide the evidence and reasons for my beliefs, I have no intention of converting anyone to believe as I do.
I expect that at some point I will have to deal with people who hope to argue with me over metaphysics, and I will do so when the time comes. I am sure I will be informed of the future residence for my soul in the afterlife, and I am sure attempts will be made to convert me. I am sure of these things, because they happen all the time already.
This is just part of being an Atheist. Most religious doctrines are lined with a condition that requires attempts at conversions. In the past, conversion attempts were substantially more aggressive than they are today in the United States, but in some places in the world, forced conversion and the persecution of those who are known to lack a belief in god still occurs. For a species with such great potential, we are still cavemen in many respects. Actually, I may be disrespecting cavemen by saying that. It seems that cooperation was a survival necessity for our ancestors. More on that another time.
The thing I would most like to see happen within my lifetime is for Atheists in the United States and around the world to wear proudly and publicly some symbol of their lack of belief in religion and the associated belief in the non-existence of a god comparable to what is worn by believers. This is not meant to be an affront to theists, only they can make the presence of Atheistic insignia offensive, this is meant to display the fact that this position is completely valid and should be treated as such.
“Religion does not deserve or have any natural right to the monopoly of belief that it has enjoyed. On this shrinking planet; in every nation, state, city, and town; we must find a way to live together, because we are in this together.”