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Why don't I just shut up?

By exPenty ~

I would think that everybody who knows me or spends at least some time with me is now aware that I'm an atheist. I've hardly been secretive about it; in fact, I've done everything but shout it from the rooftops. I used to be a sincere, committed Christian; now I'm a sincere, committed atheist.

The Time of the PreacherImage by Thomas Hawk via Flickr
I've had various responses to this change in my worldview, ranging from the positive to the condemnatory, via apathy. One interesting phenomenon that's cropped up is the way some Christians have tried to take me to task for being "too vocal" about my atheism.

"It's up to you what you believe," they say, "but why keep on about it?"

Ha. I used to be a full-on Christian, of the Pentecostal variety. And of course, Christians are well-known for keeping quiet about what they believe, aren't they? Well, no, actually. When I was a Christian, a huge emphasis was put on sharing your faith with others, on evangelism, on making disciples, or whatever else you want to call it. The whole point is that being vocal about what you believe was encouraged, and I seriously doubt that's stopped just because I've left the faith. As a case in point, just look at how widespread such things as the Alpha Course have become.

From the old man preaching on a street corner with nobody paying attention, to the teenage girl who nervously hands me a gospel tract in a city shopping street, to the Christian Facebook friend who asks why I'm not afraid of hell, they all have one thing in common: They're vocal about what they believe. They're not just open about it; they're actively proclaiming it.

They all have one thing in common: They're vocal about what they believe. They're not just open about it; they're actively proclaiming it. The question is, why should I be any different? Why should atheists be held to a different standard?

For the record, I am not actively trying to make "deconverts". I'm so over the need to claim spiritual scalps. I have no problem with Christians, Hare Krishnas or anyone else being open or even vocal about what they believe. That's what comes of the right to free speech. If a Christian friend wants to post a scripture verse, a prayer, a message of thanks to their imaginary god on Facebook, I'm fine with that. Just know that I'm going to be equally vocal about what I believe.

Everyone has the right to free speech, but nobody has the right not to be ridiculed or offended. If you take offence at something I post because of its attitude toward your cherished beliefs I'm sorry you're offended, but I'm probably not sorry for what I said. Many things Christians (or whoever) believe have the same effect on me, but I accept their right to believe it even though I personally believe it's at best a delusion and at worst a dangerous and offensive lie with the potential to cause grievous harm to the world.

Some Christians may find it offensive that I ridicule their religion, but the fact is that I go out of my way to avoid making derogatory remarks about individual Christians. I know a lot of Christians whom I consider worthy of great respect, and many more who deserve at least the basic respect afforded to any human being. Their beliefs, however, are fair game. I don't attack individual Christians but I will happily attack their beliefs, whether through reasoned and dispassionate comments or through ridicule and satire. Just as they should feel free to attack my beliefs if they so choose - I'm grown up enough not to take it to heart, as long as they're attacking my beliefs and not me personally.

So, in closing: why don't I just shut up? The answer is simple. I feel strongly about the issues. I believe religion is a dangerous delusion that is holding us back as a species. As long as I feel strongly enough about something, I will continue to speak out about it.


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