status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage
If certain sources are to be believed; in this world there are Atheists and then there are militant Atheists – militant apparently being the term to describe those who actually verbalise their opinions and their perfectly valid reasons for holding such opinions (and presumably also those who beat up homosexuals, blow up abortion clinics, set out on murderous crusades, deliberately incinerate other people’s holy books, murder abortion doctors, detonate bombs, instigate mass suicide… ).
Essentially, anyone who is remotely vocal about their lack of belief in a deity, is often described as ‘militant’, ‘aggressive’ or ‘overly defensive’. Most often we are portrayed as the bully-boys of the party; our primary goal to pop the balloons and stomp spitefully on the cake of the nicer children; but in some parts of the developed world we are considered to be irredeemably beyond the pale in the evilness stakes, worse still than those bellicose Muslims.
Even setting aside the millennia during which the ‘faithful’ of the principal denominations have been attempting by more foul means than fair to ram their particular set of beliefs down the gullets of all and sundry, it still seems a little unjust that we Atheists are so vilified for speaking our comparatively innocuous minds.
Especially when taking into consideration that both the history of humanity and the huge leaps in scientific understanding go a long way in giving credence to our suspicions that the existence of a deity is, at the very best, unlikely; and that there are entirely rational, demonstrable and demonstrated explanations for our continued existence that render the necessity of a divine being obsolete.
Of course there are non-believers who do not feel the need to speak out, and that is fine, but those of us who do are not so much involved in a dastardly plan to convert everyone to our way of thinking, but simply a desire to free the world from the shackles of religious interference: to ensure that religious belief is a matter of personal choice that does not impinge either on public life or on the lives of those whose beliefs differ, and that it does not hold back the advances in logic, reason and freethinking.
In order to accomplish this goal, however, it is necessary to pick apart many of the corner stones of religion: holding it up to a light that shines brightly on its flaws and its inconsistencies - how else are we to explain why we wholeheartedly reject something that many people consider to be vital to their existence? How else can we create an understanding as to why the world would be a better place if religion were unwoven from the fabric of public life, and relegated to the privacy of people’s minds, their homes or their specific places of worship?
(And if there are those who, through our arguments, find the answers and clarity of ideas that they feel had previously been lacking, then that is their right.)
I doubt there are many here in the West who feel that many of the monotheistic Muslim cultures wouldn’t be improved by a spot of secularism – the quality of life (especially that of their women) and the improved stability of the world in general could well be guaranteed by such a move.
But what about us?
“This is a Christian country!” – it is also a country that once believed independent and non-conformist women should be tried as witches, that women were the chattels of their spouses and that blood-letting cured most illnesses; that doesn’t make it right.
“This country was founded on Christian values!” – the fact that the majority of human societies, Christian or otherwise, exist and have always existed within similar moral frameworks is a inarguable indication that those values are innate to the survival of the species and not divinely inspired.
“Christianity is the religion of love!” – certainly the New Testament runs along slightly more compassionate lines than the Old, but bearing in mind that it has been kicking about for nearly two thousand years now, the benevolent and loving side has taken an inordinately long time to take real precedence – delayed interpretation, or a modern need to conform to the more human expectations of the developed world?
“Faith is a virtue and deserves our respect!” – the blind belief in something for which there is absolutely no evidence is a personal choice, not a virtue. But it can be respected, always providing that blind belief does not have an impact on the lives of those who prefer to choose more tangible reasoning.
Of course for every religious fundamentalist who feels that theirs is the only truth there are hundreds of other more moderate believers who happily subscribe to a live and let live philosophy; but in this ongoing tussle against religious dominance of any sort, distinctions simply cannot be made – it doesn’t matter how ‘loving’ your religion is, it has absolutely no place in the public arena.
And as long as there are people who think that impressionable children should be schooled in religious beliefs as ‘truths’, that one religious belief should be given precedence over others, that political parties of powerful countries should be allowed to govern through religious dogma, and that the opinions of a band of mere men – set above normal people only by ’virtue’ of their teachings of blind faith in an unprovable hypothesis – should hold sway; the gradual chipping away at the religious stranglehold must continue.
It is the path to freedom for EVERYBODY.
This is Status Viatoris, holding in particular contempt the local Catholic priest who, coming across her sitting in the square minding her own business, imperiously ordered her to stand up out of respect to one of the endless Catholic processions that happened to be passing. Respect needs to be earned, little man.