It’s been awhile coming and I’ve certainly been putting it off for awhile now but for me personally, this subject has reached a point where I think it should be addressed. Certainly this has been addressed by others. Far better writers and thinkers. However this post is not directed at theists in general, but at ourselves.
The charge has often been leveled at us that we appear to be angry. Very angry. The charge has never been leveled so completely as it was for Hitchens. This is where theists often mistook him as being angry when it was in fact their behavior that angered him. Read any of his work and you will quickly start to realize that he was anything but an angry and cantankerous badger. He spoke passionately about the things he loved and he never backed down from loving them or loving the human condition. It was one of those rare things to see someone of such unyielding passion protect us, protect our humanity from threats and dangers. He did this at the risk of his own life. Traveling many times to areas that make us wince at their very mention. He battled on every front any single human possibly could. We recognized him as one of us because he took up the fight we all wish we could, with such an extraordinary moral conviction that few of us can ever hope to rival. Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Ayaan Hirhi Ali and countless others have never gone to the front lines of this fight. They are our front lines. They embody the ideals that so few of us can ever hope to match.
Perhaps I’ve read or watched or read far too many epics or fantasies when I was younger. Perhaps I really am some kind of deluded idealist. I see a clear fault within us. We are human. As much as we strive to hold to our ideals, we sometimes fail, or even stop trying to maintain those ideals. I’ve noticed a trend lately. Or perhaps, it’s something that has always been there that I have either not noticed or has only recently come into sharper focus.
I’ve always tried to maintain composure, not just in dealing with theists but everyone in my life. This hasn’t been easy to do or maintain. But I haven’t suffered for it. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. My doubts about Christianity sent my curiosity into overdrive and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve inhaled books of every kind that were in my way and I’ve explored sciences and philosophies I never would have even known existed, had I not started down this road. The side effect of this has been in regard to my fellow humans. It’s much different now as I see them. One life to live. One shot at a peaceful and happy existence. No second chances and no heaven or hell either. This is all we have and is all we ever will have. I will never get to have this chance again and neither will anyone else. My interactions with other people have increased in a positive and dramatic way as a result of this realization.
I understand perfectly well that there are some people who are harder to deal with than others. But I do not think that we should revile them. I’ve seen the picture floating around that says you can hate the belief with hating the believer. I not only think this to be true but I feel that this should be an ideal that we all should strive to. Don’t mistake my meaning at this point. I do not say that people who revile or mistreat you should be allowed free reign to do so. I mean to say that they are humans and as such are fallible just as much as any of us are. We may eviscerate their arguments and demolish and lay waste to their particular set of dangerous beliefs, but we must not forget who we are dealing with.
I think as atheists, we must strive to adopt certain ideas into our everyday lives and push at the boundaries every day, of what people claim us to be. Not many times in the history of our species have we been granted such an unprecedented opportunity to make our world so much better, not just for ourselves, but for everyone. Not just with reference to religious superstition but in every aspect of our lives. Racism, bigotry, persecution and prejudice are not simply faults in our species but would seem to be living things we are constantly fighting. It’s a two front battle taking part not just in our public discourse, but within our own private spheres. We see the ruin of our neighbors and even civilization every day in these things as well as medical needs, in famine, in wars or pettiness.
We should strive to better ourselves every day. Not just for ourselves but for everyone around us. I don’t see any reason that we cannot be an example to those around us. A simple kindness, that others would not show us, will change minds. Not many at first, but we can all help to roll this boulder up the mountain. That is what, in my opinion, Hitchens showed us. He never offered violence to people that opposed him and he left a wake of touched lives in his path. Never lose sight of what we want. Revel in life and enjoy this precious little time we have.
And touch every one you meet.