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Monday, 15 February 2016

Getting Along

I tend to dislike people who are adamant that their opinion is the right one. It doesn't matter what the opinion is, whether it's as small as which train to catch across town, or as big and obvious as gender equality. In this case, it's religion that has caught my attention.

I'm starting to notice something which makes me quite happy. There are very prominent atheist leaders in the world, as of course there are leaders in every religion. And what I've noticed is that they all seem to be quite respectful of each other.

On Friday, prominent intellectual atheist and author of The God Delusion Richard Dawkins suffered a stroke. It was luckily only a minor one and he's expected to make a full recovery. But naturally, the moment the Independent in England tweeted of the stoke, comments underneath erupted into a fiery shouting match over whether God exists.

Then, later that day, the Church of England tweeted that they were praying for Dawkins, and that's when SHIT WENT DOWN. It was retweeted almost 2000 times, with people calling it sarcastic, insensitive, a display of being holier-than-thou or sometimes just "trolling". The church defended its actions, saying that it was a "genuine tweet offering prayer for a public person who was unwell."

I admit that I saw some potential smugness in it. The church must have known what would happen if they publicised their concern for him. But then I saw a news article - one from late last year - in which Dawkins himself defended the Church of England's right to air religious-themed ads before movies at the cinema. The big-three cinema chains in England all banned the ad under its policy of not airing anything relating to religious or political beliefs. They worry that doing so might offend the public. But upon seeing the ad for himself, Dawkins tweeted "If anyone is offended by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended."

Dawkins later removed the tweet when he was convinced that it was more a matter of commercial judgment than a quashing of beliefs, but the fact remains that he didn't let his own personal beliefs get in the way of what he saw as right or wrong. He showed respect to the people that I imagine he sees as misguided rather than evil. And that convinced me that it was the exact same thing that the Church was doing back for him. A man was sick. A man who had done a lot of damage to them, but nevertheless a human being. The church genuinely cared for his well-being. The people at the top of a belief system will generally do that.

It's the people at the bottom of the system you have to watch out for. They're the ones that will start shouting matches and hurl vitriol. They're the ones that don't give any respect for another's point of view. They generally shout these points of view in very unhelpful and uneducated ways. Let me demonstrate.

I consider both of these people to be very small-minded and I hope they can take lessons from the people they hold as the champions of their belief. Dawkins knows just as well as the Pope, the Dalai Lama and Chief Arvol Longhorse that the only reason they hold their beliefs to be true is due to their individual circumstances in life. They know that disrespecting the other makes them even worse. The only way to move forward is to get along.

I'll leave with this conversation because I got a real thrill from seeing someone actually intelligent take down a shouter. Enjoy!


  1. It's like the old Kurt Vonnegut joke!

    Vonnegut was an atheist (he consistently used the term "humanist," but he was an atheist), and was once asked to speak at the funeral of a prominent atheist friend of his.

    He opened with "Well, he's in a better place now..."

    He said everybody laughed.

    1. Yeah, I think that's funny. A lighthearted poke at their own beliefs.

  2. This kerfuffle proves yet again that too many people have too much time on their hands, LOL!

    1. It's amazing the effort some people put into saving face.

  3. I have found, if you're seriously sure of your beliefs, you don't have to get other people to approve of them. Perhaps both sides are feeling a bit insecure?

    1. That's an interesting theory, I like it :)

  4. It hurts no one to be kind. So many people seem to be missing that personality characteristic. Simple kindness would prevent all the ridiculous debates on social media.

    1. I actually just this morning had a respectful debate on Australian politics with some people on Facebook. It made me feel really good to have an actual intelligent exchange of ideas.


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