Breaking the Cycle of Terror

May 6, 2009 at 9:18 am 36 comments

I am an atheist and recently spent a wonderful weekend with some old evangelical Christian friends. We had a great time, we talked about everything — including politics and religion — without fighting or calling each other names. It just makes me wonder why other people have such a hard time talking to and understanding “them”… but yet I see it happening all around me all the time. It’s so sad and I really want to find a way to break down these barriers.

I went to church with my friends, and heard a guest speaker say in so many words that Christians had to fear for their lives now that the Democrats are in power in the US. And this week I read an atheist blogger saying the same things in reverse — how Christians are stockpiling guns and are out to “get us” liberals.

Someone has to break the cycle of terror. I don’t mean fear of terrorists, either. I mean fear of the “other” in our own country. The liberals (including most atheists) are terrorized by the idea that the religious right is going to make our country a theocracy and take all of our rights away the conservatives (including many Christians) are afraid the progressives are out to destroy morality, eliminate religious freedom, and take all of our rights away. Both positions are ridiculous in the extreme.

The scary part is that if we keep going in this cycle, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Someone has to tone down the rhetoric first. I want to be part of the group that spreads reason and hope instead of buying into fear mongering. I hope it’s not too late and I hope some of you will join me in trying to break out of the destructive cycle we’ve locked ourselves into.

- Donna

Entry filed under: writerdd. Tags: , , , .

De-Christianizing After De-Conversion? Lord Of The Rings’ Heretics

36 Comments Add your own

  • 1. blueollie  |  May 6, 2009 at 9:27 am

    This isn’t a symmetric position.

    How many atheists (open atheists anyway) are members of Congress? (aside from Stark, D-CA). How many are governors?

  • 2. writerdd  |  May 6, 2009 at 9:30 am

    blueollie, You’ve completely missed the point of my post.

  • 3. Frreal  |  May 6, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    I want to be part of the group that values individualism and doesn’t label people with projections of their own perspectives and belief systems.

  • 4. Not a Church Goer anymore  |  May 6, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Unfortunately, that’s the way both extremes are, and its difficult to find that medium. I’m agnostic and do not accept the Christian Faith as represented today, but I also do not press my beliefs on others as some athiest or agnostics may do and not just that sect, but the Christian faith as well try to force thier beliefs on others. Forcing your belief on others, whether Christian or not, from the lowest level to the highest level continues the terror you discussed in your post and until we stop forcing our personal beliefs on society and let society truly be free, then we’ll always have this problem. But I will add this…This is the year 2009, its all about freedom of choice; religion or otherwise, but when you have sects hell bent on converting societies to thier belief, then there’s no choice but to have terror. We have a long way to go, look at the issues in the middle east and you’ll understand.

  • 5. blueollie  |  May 6, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    No, I didn’t miss the point of your post. I am rejecting it.

    I am saying that the two sides are not symmetric.

  • 6. LeoPardus  |  May 6, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Fact is that such polarized idiocy is normal, has been going on since caveman days, and isn’t about to stop. I’m all for being into reason and putting down mongering of all sorts, but there will always be a vocal minority (or in some cases a majority) who just gotta pigeonhole everything so they know what to hate/love.

    Reminds me of the lyrics for “National Brotherhood Week”

    The only really good news in this is that for the most part extreme factions tend to cancel each other out.

  • 7. Quester  |  May 6, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Blueollie,

    I am saying that the two sides are not symmetric.

    What does this have to do with anything?

  • 8. Quester  |  May 6, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    LP

    The only really good news in this is that for the most part extreme factions tend to cancel each other out.

    The bad news is that some like to use weapons to do so, and aren’t all that worried about collateral damage.

  • 9. Quester  |  May 6, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Sadly, we tend to define ourselves by the other, DD. How is the fear mongering on either side different from your prediction that both sides will develop into a self-fulfilling prophecy? From here it looks like you have chosen extremists on both sides as your other, and are raising the fearful image of what they could become to underscore the importance of your words. Instead of breaking the cycle of terror, this is just changing the aim.

  • 10. writerdd  |  May 6, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Quester, that’s not how I meant it to sound but I do admit that I never take the time to adequately edit blog posts. I just throw things out there and see what happens.

    Leo, I know this kind of thing has been going on forever, but it seems much more prevalent in the media to me lately, maybe for almost a decade. It’s like it’s being promoted.

    Is it spinning out of control? No, I don’t think so. But that could easily happen and I think we need to do what we can to diffuse the situation rather than making it worse.

  • 11. LeoPardus  |  May 6, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    It may seem like it is worse or more prevalent, but that’s only “seeming”. Probably you’re just noticing it more. Every once in a while I look at newspapers or magazines from long ago. They read just like today’s rags except for some changes in style.

    If there’s one Bible verse I always agreed with it’s in Ecclesiastes. “There is nothing new under the sun.”

  • 12. writerdd  |  May 6, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    “There is nothing new under the sun.”

    Yeh, could be the truest verse in the Bible. But I suspect these things come and go in waves, and this is the biggest wave I remember. I was born in the 60s, so too young to really notice the social unrest of that decade.

  • 13. orDover  |  May 6, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    The liberals (including most atheists) are terrorized by the idea that the religious right is going to make our country a theocracy and take all of our rights away…

    While spreading fear and panic about the projection of religion into politics is hyperbolic and negative, I still think we must be vigilant. I just watched a video today put on by NCSE that shows the Texas Board of Education voting on whether or not their textbooks should give the scientific consensus for the age of the earth in their textbooks or if alternative dates should also be listed. That is a serious problem. Love and compassion won’t take care of it. We have to be aware, and sometimes we have to be outraged.

    To stand on a street corner and shriek, “The Christians are trying to take away all of our freedom and liberty and force us all to convert!” would make us no better than the nutjobs who make websites explaining how Obama is the antichrist. However, I don’t think we can sit idly by and tell ourselves that religious people won’t really do any harm and so we don’t need to worry about their actions. We have to be aware of the real threats to science, reason, and personal liberty and we have to be ready to stand up and fight against them. On some issues, we can’t all get along. It just isn’t that simple.

  • 14. Luke  |  May 7, 2009 at 1:36 am

    i love this! great article! dialogue is of utmost importance and we must keep our ability to dehumanize (i.e. US RIGHT people in here versus THOSE WRONG people out there) which is prevelent in both believer and nonbeliever circles. great stuff.

    as orDover points out “On some issues, we can’t all get along. It just isn’t that simple.”

    that’s true with any group. we just had an interesting discussion about the word “picnic” and it’s meaning. White people think this word is some 17th century french word for “bring’n food with ya” and now means “eating outside”. African American mindset recalls how these same white people used to eat at the lynchings of black people so “picnic” is like “pick a *black person* to lynch”. which interp is right? well… both! it just isn’t that simple, these two groups can’t see eye to eye on this simple term… but that doesn’t mean all ties should be cut and all attempts at dialogue should be abandoned.

    go into the discomfort. that’s where we tend to learn the most.

  • 15. ArchangelChuck  |  May 7, 2009 at 8:58 am

    The cure for fear is empathy, but empathy is difficult when the other side disparages or even hates you because you don’t agree with them. Impossible, no, but I’m hardly driven to empathize with bigots and hypocrites; it takes a lot of work to get past that.

  • 16. writerdd  |  May 7, 2009 at 9:27 am

    I’m hardly driven to empathize with bigots and hypocrites; it takes a lot of work to get past that.

    Not really if you realize that we are all human beings, we’re all afraid, we all love our families, we are all acting from the same core human emotions. Sure there are some ultimate extremists (on both sides) who are impossible to communicate with. But they are not so prevalent as often assumed.

    Someone has to take the first step and how ironic if it is unbelievers, not Christians. I just love the idea of reaching out to help people who think they know how to save the world.

  • 17. ArchangelChuck  |  May 7, 2009 at 10:47 am

    @writerdd: I couldn’t disagree more. Empathy doesn’t “just happen” after some sort of epiphany, it requires effort.

  • 18. writerdd  |  May 7, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Chuck, I couldn’t disagree more.

    I had an epiphany last summer that completely turned me around from fearing and ridiculing conservative Christians to seeing them as human beings, just like myself. It was a complete 180-deg turn in attitude and it came unbidden and it was not something I was working on intentionally.

    I used to BE a born-again Christian, so I’m not really sure how I forgot that Christians are people too, but somehow I did (probably reading too many atheist and liberal political blogs).

  • 19. LeoPardus  |  May 7, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I used to BE a born-again Christian, so I’m not really sure how I forgot that Christians are people too, but somehow I did (probably reading too many atheist and liberal political blogs).

    THAT is a much needed insight. TOO many former Christians turn into what I call antitheists. It’s too easy to become a bitter, angry, exChristian.

  • 20. Luke  |  May 7, 2009 at 11:23 am

    LeoP, i really needed to hear that… that’s extremely true.

    AAChuck and Writerdd: have either of you heard of Rene Girard and Mimetic Theory?

  • 21. Quester  |  May 7, 2009 at 11:29 am

    I’m not antitheist, I just play one on the Internet.

    More seriously, a year ago today, I was still living in a church rectory. I had just realized I was atheist a few months before, and was still dealing with the shock. Heck, I’m still dealing with the shock today! I didn’t suddenly get smarter, saner, or better looking. I just took a hard, critical look at the evidence for my faith- taking several years to do so- and realized I couldn’t find any. My wife’s a Christian, as are most of my friends. We’re just careful while talking religion, and rarely do so. Most of them realize they don’t have much of a rational reason for what they believe, and so don’t proselytize. The lack of reason doesn’t really bother them, though, and I see no point in trying to change this, or them. I have less patience than I ever did with people who feel they need to change me so that I will either believe or at least act like I did, and that may especially come out in online conversations like I have on these forums, but I don’t see Christians as my enemies, opponents, or even as something other than myself.

    But perhaps this “cycle of terror” is more an American phenomenon.

  • 22. ArchangelChuck  |  May 7, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    @Luke: No I haven’t. From what I’ve looked up about him, he has some fascinating ideas. Perhaps you can summarize? How does it relate?

  • 23. Lucian  |  May 7, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    It’s true, You Americans ares stupid. :-| You fight with each-other over words and beliefs, and are easily lured into weird thoughts (all niggers or Jews are bad; conspiracies; etc) that have nothing to do with the world we live in or with the surrounding reality. Romanians are stupid unschooled peasants: which is good because they at least have a touch with reality and don’t jump at eachother’s throats because somebody has a different opinion, as if being different makes You an enemy. They are also less prone to believe some philosophical non-sense about inferior or superior races, conspiracies, etc. Less sophisticated people are less inclined to believing all sorts of absurdities. And we also don’t care about anyone else’s religion: we’ve seen many. We only become curious in someone’s religion or philosophy when we see him live a special life (i.e., when he puts his money where his mouth is). Otherwise, we couldn’t care less. No one here cares about anyone else’s skin-color, ethnicity, religion, or whatever. Our God-forsaken economically-retarded little country has become a (quote/unquote) “paradise” for people from war or conflict-ridden arias: whether the Balkans or the Middle-East or even Africa. We’re just as poor as they are, but we don ‘t go around killing eachother. There’s a reason why there are no Romanian terrorists, or why our minorities didn’t engage into any Serbia-style conflicts. I guess what I’m trying to say is that in every bad there’s a good, and in every good there’s a bad: Yin and Yang. Peace! (Religios and/or political nominalism, lack of any work-related seriousness, and general carelessness are well-known defects of our national identity or character [that's why we're so retarded culturally and economically while the West is not]… but there’s seemingly a good part in all that… sometimes you just got to lighten up, I guess…)

  • 24. writerdd  |  May 7, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    No one here cares about anyone else’s skin-color, ethnicity, religion, or whatever.

    HahahhahIOHOOHOHhahahahahha LMAO

    Yeah, right! I’ve been to Eastern Europe. There is plenty of prejudice there, and it’s more out in the open than it is in America. And Europeans have been killing each other for lots of stupid reasons — especially over religion — for millennia.

    Damn, I can’t stop laughing over that one.

    (Don’t get me wrong, I love Eastern Europe, but it’s not some kind of utopia.)

  • 25. Lucian  |  May 7, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    I wasn’t talking about “Eastern Europe”, I was talking about Romania. The Serbs, just south of us, had civil unrest for decades. (And it’s still not over).

  • 26. John  |  May 7, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    I respect theists right to freedom OF religion, but generally speaking, I rarely see theists defending my right to freedom FROM religion.

  • 27. writerdd  |  May 7, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Lucian, last time I checked Romania was part of Eastern Europe. I’m sure it’s a very nice country. I’ve never been there but I have a couple of friends who live in Romania and I’d love to visit some day. And you’ve basically just said “We Romanians are not like those nasty Serbs” which does not exactly back up your suggestion that Romanians are not nationalistic and don’t care about ethnicity.

    I actually do think the topic I’ve written about in this post is a particular American problem these days, but American problems tend to spread so…

  • 28. LeoPardus  |  May 7, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    If anyone ever figures out some way in which Lucian is useful for ANYTHING, let me know.

  • 29. Lucian  |  May 7, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    If anyone ever figures out some way in which Lucian is useful for ANYTHING, let me know.

    Spoken like a true utilitarian! 8) — That’s the American spirit! :D

    DD,

    my idea was that it is not the sleep of reason that births monsters, but the wake of reason in the absence of other equally-important parts of our humanity. :-| (Hitler’s speeches were very well articulated, You know…)

  • 30. Luke  |  May 7, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    @ AAChuck: Girard states that the “truth that was laid before the foundation of the earth” is that humanity is all about retributive violence.

    what this means is that we humans somehow get to thinking that “if we only get rid of the Christians/Atheists/Agnostics/LeoParisues our world would be perfect!” this is done through the scapegoat mechanism, namely the slaying of the innocent for the good of the whole. only the whole will end up adopting the ideal the innocent was living for.. think Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr, and other prophets of change.

    that’s Girard in a nutshell… but i’d recommend Violence and the Sacred.. it’s a great read.

  • 31. Luke  |  May 7, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    oh.. and that’s what you and writerdd are both talking about.. ending the fear without dehumanizing the “opposition.”

  • 32. neece  |  May 12, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    LeoPardus, I agree with you. While the vocal extremists “seem” more vocal and more extreme than ever, my casual study of history shows that it’s really always been this way. There are a lot of moderates out there. Hopefully the extremes will cancel themselves out, like you said.
    Those of us who are in the middle can do our best to be rational.

  • 33. Geyser of PishPosh  |  May 14, 2009 at 4:59 am

    hearking right on back upthread to Quester, what does he/she think about how proselytied we might be if in fact we were convinced our motivation was ‘rational’? At what precise historical point do you reckon that believers of any stripe stood back and thought ‘ dang, gang, we gonna just have to hand them reigns of proselytization right on over to them rational boys there, who plainly have a much better idea of what to do’ .. anyone conversant in mimetic theory, indeed, had best believe that this is a point like no other before in human time, when we stand mutually accused of the very thing that founds/grounds our assumed traction-and-claim to be personarly present at the event of Reason! (just a start y’all)

  • 34. Geyser of PishPosh  |  May 14, 2009 at 5:12 am

    that should have read of course ‘the *originary” event of Reason

  • 35. Geyser of PishPosh  |  May 14, 2009 at 5:13 am

    ^AT* the originary EvEnT of reason…

  • 36. Stancje  |  May 15, 2009 at 4:24 am

    It works both ways. Many atheist can’t accept that people can belive in things they don’t belive in. Many christians have a hard time accepting people might not belive what they do. It’s a vicious circle.

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