(Note: the theories I give voice to here are not endorsed, nor particularly agreed with, by members of the atheist community. I felt I had to point that out. Do carry on.)
Still I remain, floating in limbo, featureless and annoying. Though I am closer to leaving, even as I write this, I am yet here, stuck in the grey. It is somewhat damning to be so close, and yet denied.
But in my absence, tales from the grid have reached me, growing controversy in odd concurrency with the world beyond.
I speak, of course, of rising dissension regarding atheism on the grid--or mayhap, atheism at all.
Now, I will fully grant, this news surprised me. The grid I know and love--and more than occasionally loathe--has ever been mixed. Mixed faiths. Mixed styles of worship. Mixed sexualities. Mixed species.
Why, now, is anyone choosing to battle between atheism and theism, in any of its myriad forms? Aren't there enough problems already dividing us?
Atheism as a belief system goes back a long way--to the ninth century in Asia, some say, and to the sixth in Greece and Rome. There's controversy on exactly when, and to what degree, atheism was ever fully embraced, but most scholars agree on one point: by the 1600s, in Western thought at least, atheism was beginning to be established as a practice.
There have always been minds who are comforted by faith, as well as minds which are more comforted by the stark definitions of reality. And I am very much on the theist side of the equation. I am also one of those--and I have argued this belief with atheist friends--who is sure to a certainty that atheism is a belief system. Just as theism evidences belief in a godform, or forms, atheism advocates the utter lack of any godform responsible for anything--that chemicals, hormones, physics, science, and the artifacts of the natural world are the guideposts for who we are and how we should live.
It takes a tremendous amount of will, a strong set of personal convictions, to stand up to the universe and proclaim it bound by physics alone. Even agnostics believe that there may be something, they're just not sure what, precisely, there is.
Atheists, by definition, believe differently. But they believe nonetheless. And they believe something contrary to most world cultures, and that alone is everything from inspiring to fanatic, depending on the strength of the belief, and the opposition in regards to it. I admit to admiring anyone willing to face down nearly everyone surrounding them in the pursuit of what they hold as true, and valuable, to life is discrete individuals.
I have been there, pagan to the Christians; I have been there, bisexual to the lesbians. And it is a cold and bitter, harsh and unforgiving place at times. It takes courage, will, strength, resolve; it is the definition of not easy to continue to abide by one personal doctrine when nearly everyone else is pulled to another.
That having been said, I also feel that if one is bound to bring it up, then one must accept the controversy that comes. Understand that religion, for most people, is fed along with milk and bread to the forming mind, from the earliest ages. Acknowledge that speaking against religion isn't just expressing one's opinion, but can easily be seen as actively decrying another's choice of faith.
Above all, hold the courage of those convictions. Speaking to atheism in any mixed group of people, who, by that extension and definition, will be mixed both in choice of faiths, as well as levels of devotion, is beginning a religious debate. It cannot be other, in any sense.
One must remember, above all else, that fear, anger, hurt and defensiveness, if not outright offensiveness, are bound to follow such discussions.
Trying to dismiss such conversations as being rooted in scientific debate alone, instead of discussing religion, faith, and science, then complaining that people don't understand? Just makes the one starting such conversations look deluded, at best, and an utter prattling fool, at worst.
"We need, therefore, to see what we fight and why. We need not direct our main assault against the Bible or the Koran. We need not argue endlessly about the historicity of Jesus. We should look past trinities and angels and other theological blind alleys. We must look to materialistic philosophy which alone enables men to understand reality and to know how to deal with it." (from an address given in 1962 by Margaret Murray O'Hair)