Good morning everyone. Here’s an update on the book selections. Because it’s Christmas season, I’ve shuffled the schedule a little bit to keep it light. I know most everyone will be busy until after Jan 1.
A short and inexpensive book that is subtitled “Musings on Why God is Good and Faith Isn’t Evil.” Please don’t judge the book by it’s subtitle. Although I don’t agree with everything in it, I think it’s a great book to read this time of year and maybe to spur some friendly discussion with friends and family. God knows we can use more friendly discussion and less family feuding at this time of year. Really, in the spirit of Christmas, and in response to the friendly tone of this book, please try to not write the book off without reading it and don’t be obnoxious about it in the comments. I don’t want to be embarrassed that I invited this author to have a discussion with us.
I’m sorry I feel like I have to say stuff like that, but I’ve been struggling with my feelings about skeptic and atheist blogs since summer and I’m really, really, really tired of theÂ constant bickering, arguing, belittling everyone who believes in anything, and refusing to even try to befriend anyone who is different that I see so often. There is a better way.
Recently I got in touch with a few of my old friends from my fundy days. And you know what? I still like these people. They are nice and generous and happy. Yes, one friend said “I was disappointed and appalled to see that you have become and atheist,” but after we talked a little more she said, “well, our friendship was cemented a long time ago and it’s OK that we’ve gone in different directions.” (And, before you get your panties in a wad because of her reaction, I will admit that I initially felt “disappointed and appalled” when I found out that she was still a Christian.)
I think it’s time that we all start overcoming the initial fear of “otherness” that is so easy to fall into, and try to actually communicate with people who are different than we are. Yes, that means that sometimes we have to listen to them tell us about something we think is bunk and we are not interested in. I have a friend who tells me about homeopathy every time I get sick, even though I have repeatedly told her that I am not interested. But I value her friendship for other reasons, so I just shrug it off. We don’t have to convince anyone of anything and we don’t have to let them convince us of anything. But we can still communicate.
Unbelievers complain a lot that we are looked down on so much by religious people. But we so often do not come out of the closet or, if we do, we come out with a vengeance and try to debate everyone and immediately convince them that they are wrong. It’s no wonder that we leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. This is no different than evangelicals asking us if we’ve “accepted Jesus as our personal savior” every time they see us. If we really want people to think better of us, we need to get out there and be friends with people who hold different beliefs — without the agenda of trying to convince them at every turn that we are right and they are delusional.
Most people fear what they do not know. I would wager that many of the people who voted for Prop 8 in California do not know any gays or lesbians. I believe that most people who think atheists are evil or amoral and to be feared do not know any atheists. Many of us who fear evangelicals and fundamentalists don’t know any, at least not well. Granted, there are some religious idiots who could never befriend an unbeliever without the agenda of converting them. And there some atheist and skeptic idiots who canâ€™t respect anyone who believes in anything. I think itâ€™s pretty even. But most of us can be more flexible than that.
So, if you are worried about fundamentalism, become friends with some fundamentalists. If you are worried about atheism, become friends with some atheists. If you are worried about socialism, become friends with some socialists. If you are worried about homosexuality, become friends with some gays and lesbians. No doubt you will disagree on many things, but you will probably agree on many things as well. And, in the end, both sides will see that the people they were afraid of are not really so scary after all. I believe this is the only way to spread tolerance and understanding.
Back to the topic of books. Here are the titles we’ll kick off 2009 with. Let me know if you have any suggestions for other books to look at.
January:Â The Age of American UnreasonÂ by Susan Jacoby
February:Â Christian No More: On Leaving Christianity, Debunking Christianity, and Embracing Atheism and FreethinkingÂ by Jeffrey MarkÂ
P.S. I mentioned Christmas exclusively above because I want to see if we can get Skepchick on Focus on the Family’s “nice” list by doing so. (That’s sarcasm for those who so frequently miss my attempts at humor. Besides I completely love Christmas and I even have a Baby Jesus ornament to hang on my tree.)