First, before some of you atheists out there damage yourselves by overextending a knee, let me define a term. For the purposes of this diary entry, I define “religion” as follows:

religion(noun): a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. (Source: Merriam-Webster, definition #4, emphasis added).

I suppose I’d better define faith as well. From the same source:

faith(noun): a strong belief or trust in something or someone.

Atheism is, quite simply, an act of faith, or a belief if you will, that God, gods, or anything supernatural or spiritual does not exist; never has, never will. When defined that way, it becomes another religion, subject to the same virtues and vices of other religions that do believe in a God or gods or something spiritual, even if the latter is deliberately left undefined, as Buddhism does.

It certainly has its virtues, one of which is the logical corollary of the act of faith described above, which is that people should damned well get educated and learn to think for themselves. It also is a strong inoculation against con artists who twist other religions in order to obtain wealth and power for themselves.  A bible-thumping preacher wouldn’t get much profit from passing a collection plate to an audience of atheists.

Unfortunately, it also has its vices, one of the most glaring of which is the vicious ardor by which it has been promoted by some of its adherents. The worst examples are Stalin and Mao, who went to genocidal extremes to eliminate all religious competitors. They’re long dead now, but there are still ardent adherents who attack anyone who professes another religious belief. Usually, the latter are considered intellectually inferior dupes who allow themselves to be manipulated by the leaders or proselytizers of other religions, while the leaders are considered hypocritical, or at least cynical, con artists who use religion to advance their own interests.

I see this sort of behavior often on the Internet, especially on “progressive” sites. Somebody even mentions another religious belief as being consistent with progressive or leftist goals, and self-proclaimed atheists bash them for being “religious,” and frequently go on rants about all the damage that organized religion has done in the past, or sometimes still does in the present. This is often done in a manner that many people, including myself, find arrogant and condescending.

Agnostics, OTOH, seldom do so, because they really don’t know whether or not any higher powers exist, and say so. As Robert A. Heinlein once said:

There is no conclusive evidence that there is life after death. On the other hand, there’s no conclusive evidence that there isn’t. You’re going to know soon enough, so why worry about it?

But I digress. I find attacks by progressive or leftist atheists on progressive or leftist people of other faiths(and yes, atheism IS a faith by definition) because of their faiths, most unfortunate. This is because such attacks do nothing but divide people who have common interests of vital importance, such as social and economic justice, against each other. It hinders them coming together to work for a common goal of, if not destroying capitalism(that’s me), at least severely restricting it so the 1% can’t continue to screw the rest of us.

I suppose I’m preaching some tolerance here. Atheists have every right to believe in what they believe, or don’t believe. They have every right to express themselves. I myself cause discord in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in a group because I refuse to say, “under God.” That phrase wasn’t in the original version, and I think it promotes a few other religions, and is therefore not truly representative of what I think America should stand for. I don’t stand up for “God Bless America” as sporting events, either. But I don’t feel like I’m attacking anyone by doing those things.

It works both ways. Because I sometimes go to the Buddhist temple or the Unitarian church down the street, does that make me an ignorant dupe? If you tell me it does, I’ll most likely feel like telling you to piss off. Catholics and the many varieties of Protestants and Muslims and Jews and Wiccans and others most likely feel the same way. Many also don’t believe in any religion being taught in public schools just as much as atheists do. Many want social and economic justice just as much as many atheists do.

So let’s please make an effort not to let our differing faiths and beliefs or non-beliefs in the possibility of higher spiritual powers divide us from what we have in common with each other. If we don’t, we just give our ruling classes another tool with which to divide us, for that serves no useful purpose.

And have a nice night.