Sunday, July 30, 2006

On tolerance and respect

In my diary Being an Atheist in America, there were a lot of thought-provoking responses in the comments. But with over 200 of them, I didn't try to comment back because the responses would be too buried to be able to continue a discussion. One thing that I saw a couple times, phrased in different ways, is some people saying they have no problem with Atheists, but they are not fond of the "religion is a fairy tale and we've grown beyond that" condescension that some display. I saw some of that on display yesterday, and I'm sure I visibly winced a number of times. I think people of all viewpoints, especially those who find themselves targeted, scapegoated, or dismissed by Bush administration policies, would do well to learn how to speak respectfully to and about each other. Because there are some scary, driven, and well organized people in charge these days, and they don't have any of our best interests at heart.

What you see above, is the intro to the diary I posted at Kos today. Immediately I got a comment entitled Religions are dangerous. And, as I've noted in the comments, there is this portion of the talk given by Melvin Lipman, the President of the American Humanist Association:

As Humanists, we are not immoral, and we are not intellectual snobs. We are happy people living complete lives, and doing what we can to ensure the survival of our species. We are mature enough to accept our lives. We are mature enough to accept the reality of our existence without perpetuating imaginary childhood fantasies. We are grownups who no longer believe in Tooth Fairies, or Santa Claus, or imaginary friends, or imaginary gods.

But, we will never get religion to disappear. Religions will always exist, because it's the only way some people will choose to cope with life. But the degree of radical fundamentalism that we are seeing today *will* diminish as our society changes. And radical attacks on religion in general will only polarize and create more fundamentalism. I can coexist with liberal and even moderate religionists. It's the fundamentalists that concern me. Recognizing the existence of religion does not mean accepting irrational beliefs. It does not mean that we must refrain from ever being critical of irrationalism.
It's odd--throughout much of the talk (being transcribe in sections here) he really had me--Atheist and Humanists do receive discriminatory treatment, and that's just *wrong*. And as you can see in this portion, the movers and shakers of the Religious Right definitely have gotten good at speaking with one voice about this "War on Secular Humanism". It's classic scapegoating, and definitely reminds me of the "Terror Management Theory" Al Franken wrote about in his book, The Truth, With Jokes.

And because I think this is the worst kind of dirty pool on the part of the right wing, I feel strongly about the need to oppose it. But in those digs against the "religionists" and their "fairy tale" beliefs, he's not doing the movement any favors. Some of the comments at Kos have been worse, of course.

Well, it's too hot in this room, and a good conclusion to this post just isn't coming to me. You can read more of the transcript here, and see some new bumper stickers that Demetrius has designed. Maybe the conclusion is that there is a desperate need for the center and left, of whatever religion or lack thereof, have much to gain by learning to work together respectfully toward shared goals, and much to lose if we can successfully be turned against each other.

So, now what?

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