Saturday, December 22, 2012

The War on Ignorance

The above image has generated a lot of controversy.
There's nothing like open discussion to make people contemplate the things they see, the things they think and the things they believe.
David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, has been at the heart of several of those discussions. However, whenever he appears on any of the programs on the Fox "News" Channel, he's generally assaulted with Bill O'Reilly's standard nonsense about the war on Christmas. Sean Hannity has gotten into the fray as well. David sits calmly as these guys go on and on with some of the most ridiculous notions that have ever come from a human mouth. He smiles (OK, sometimes he smirks) and stays calm and rational while listening to what can be described politely as tripe. O'Reilly even had the audacity to state plainly on live TV that Christianity is not a religion but is, instead, a philosophy. 
Uh, Bill... if there's a god figure involved at all, it's a religion. Don't kid yourself.
One might ask why Silverman and those of us who have these discussions even bother. What difference will we make?
I can't speak for David because I don't know him that well but I can tell you why I do it.
It's because I can't NOT do it. I have to speak up. Maybe it's because I'm tired of being treated as less of an American simply because I don't buy into the collective mythology. I'm the kid who noticed that the emperor has no clothes but realizes that most of these people find nudity fashionable this year.
When I speak out against the abuses and nonsense of religion, organized or not, I'm not addressing the practitioners. Nothing I say will ever convince them that they're wrong or that they should at least contemplate the notion that they might be wrong. If I'm addressing them in any way, it's to let them know that their assumptions will not go unchallenged.
I'm not addressing atheists. That's called preaching to the choir (no, the irony of that statement isn't lost on me). True, I want them to think about what they do and do not believe. Blind rejection of a notion is every bit as dangerous as blind acceptance. If I'm addressing them in any way, it's to let them know that they aren't alone in this, that there are others out there having these discussions and that they don't need to be afraid.
So who am I addressing? 
I'm talking to those who are watching from the sidelines. They might be undecided and I want to show them that there are alternatives to the standard mindset. There is more than one way to contemplate religion, gods and myths. At the very least, I want them to make an informed decision.
Unlike the religious person, I'm willing to admit that I might be wrong about this. There might be a god. There might be thousands of gods. There might be an individual god for every human on this planet. There might be several per person. But I've seen no evidence beyond the anecdotal and outdated. 
Now do I celebrate Christmas? You bet I do! Where I work closes only four days each year: Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas. If it takes a federally mandated holiday to get me a day off, who am I to argue? 
Do I keep Christ in Christmas? Only when I spell it. 
I've kept the merry but dumped the myth.