Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Wilderness of Mirrors

I'm almost 50 years old. When I was growing up, an atheist, it was a different environment, one with a domineering (even if not quite so dominant) ideology demanding compliance with its orthodoxy requirements - on pain of excommunication/shunning. Sadly, a necessary, practical part of being an atheist was defying this regime of social control in the name of ideology. One had to be independently-minded. We learned to be determined; we learned to be critical; we learned the dangers of ideological orthodoxy mindsets - how, in their quest for control over all discourse, they hobble conversation and stifle inquiry. And we knew first hand the kinds of tactics, rhetorical and otherwise, that were employed. There were real consequences to being atheists then. Some of those consequences even still exist even today.

Well, here we are again. It is a property of ideology (any ideology) that they seek to control discourse and stifle inquiry. And exclusion is always used as an enforcement tactic. It doesn't matter whether you agree with the tenets of the ideology or not, ideology itself remains the same. This is why Atheism+ is receiving such a vigorously unhappy response. The control-minded persons at its foul heart are not just advocating their views; they are seeking to restrict other views from being expressed, and see any method as appropriate in the name of "the cause."

Now, Matt Dillahunty (of Atheist Experience "fame") is having an apology demanded of him because some are butt-hurt that he would have the temerity to dare not comply with absolute precision to their requirements, and in the name of being personally offended, are seeking a very specific indication that he is "one of them." I can't say I have much sympathy for Dillahunty - he brought it on himself, and tried to bring it on the rest of us, too, but he should realize that his illustrious self has no special copyright on exposing flaws in thinking.

Welcome to the world of ideological orthodoxy requirements and secular shunning, Dillahunty. You deserve it for endorsing it. Revel in it. Welcome to what it was like living in a social order dominated by the religious and their demands, because that's also what Atheism+ is.

Welcome to the atheists' experience, Dillahunty.

As a young atheist, I stood firm against theism and its ideological orthodoxy requirements. I dared to inquire; I dared to critique. It was what was needed at the time. I was an atheist despite that it wasn't trendy, edgy, popular, or profitable - quite the opposite in fact. I advocated for free and open critical inquiry, despite that the dogmatic theists really hated that. I was told I was less than human by preachers, that I was just being defiant for its own sake, that I was a moral monster, that I was just angry, that there was something wrong with me. These arguments were leveled against all atheists. We now recognize these arguments for what they were...sordid rhetorical ploys.

...or we did, until Atheism+ reared its dogmatic head.

Defending free and open inquiry is perhaps one of the most thankless stances one can adopt, because many are all for free expression when it is their ideas being expressed - not so much when it is someone else's opposed ideas. To focus on the conversation itself rather than the particular content is difficult, perhaps too difficult for many.

But here I am, keeping a vigil, just a voice in the crowd, in the perhaps vain hope that the free and open inquiries are never silenced - not by anyone...