- Sometimes when I’m browsing Facebook or reddit I come across an image that irks me, and recently I’ve done a little bit of collecting. So, my question to you, dear blog readers, is this: What do all of these images have in common? (click to enlarge)The obvious answer – that they are all offensive towards religious people, is definitely true, but I’m looking to hit a bit finer of a point – after all, I would by no means argue that it is always bad to be offensive. No, the way I see it is that all these images, in one way or another, are making assumptions about what religious people believe, poised in a manner to make the group in question seem silly or stupid. Or, to put it a bit more bluntly, all these are creating some sort of religious strawman to mock, disguised as an example of standard religious practice.You might think these are harmless and funny. But I ask, what’s the point? Some of these images are presenting fairly legitimate criticisms of how religion is currently practiced – for example, questioning why some Christians choose to follow some laws in the Old Testament but not others is a valid starting place for a conversation. But the image in question fails miserably to portray that inquiry in any sort of reasonable light. The title, “CHRISTIAN LOGIC,” suggests that this sort of thinking is standard among Christian individuals. It then has (only, I might add) “HATE GAYS” in the obey category. Really? If you’ve talked to just about any Christian, you won’t hear any of them say they hate gays. Personally disapprove of the homosexual lifestyle? Decent chance. Think they should stop being gay? Possibly. Some people you talk to may even think that society should forbid the LGBT community from practicing homosexual acts. But I’m willing to bet that none of them would ever say that they hate homosexuals. And that’s not because they are hiding it from you; it’s because they honestly don’t.While all these images could hypothetically start conversations (although I’d say on the wrong footing), the truth is that none of these were posted with the intention of doing so in the first place. These were all found in the r/atheism subreddit, which, as one might guess, is mostly read and commented on by those who are already nonreligious. Yes, there are religious people who read r/atheism that then begin to question their beliefs; but is it really these stupid image posts that are doing the trick? I don’t think so. And, for every one person that might be positively affected with said image, you will have dozens whose perceptions of atheists are solidified by viewing it, propagating the idea that atheists think that all religious people are idiots who haven’t put any thought into their belief system. I know that you (probably) don’t think that. But the religious people that see these images don’t know that. And that perception of us is exactly what these images portray.The atheism movement has multiple goals, which is fine, but one of the most important ones we need to focus on is improving our perception. The more you think about it, the more essential this is – after all, if society believes that atheists are largely a group of smug bastards who think they’re better than everyone else, who will want to join our cause? People most frequently join religious groups because of the community it offers. Is this the kind of community one should expect when joining ours? Why should people want to call themselves “atheists” if they know that this is how people will view them? Even Neil DeGrasse Tyson (1:30 for most relevant part) has a problem identifying himself with the term. This is a problem.To be perfectly clear, I’m not saying that you can’t post pictures like this – you are free to do whatever you want. But always keep in mind that when you’re posting on a public medium, you’re not only representing yourself. You are representing all atheists, whether you like it or not. It’s just a hazard of being a minority! So when you see these kinds of images, hold off on that upvote, and maybe take the time to mention the problems you see with the fundamental assumptions they make. Who knows, maybe a religious person will see your comment and realize that maybe not all of us are so bad after all. Perception changes gradually and with baby steps, but every bit helps, and if we want to improve, it has to be a group effort. Go atheism!
Friday, June 15, 2012
Posted by Franklin at 3:06 PM