November 15, 2015

Advocating Against Regressive Beliefs

Kaaba at night
By Medineli from Wikimedia Commons

I don't know about you, but I sometimes find it difficult to put how I am feeling into words until someone else expresses it. It is almost like I need to hear someone else say it, feel it resonate, and then I can just sort of point to them and say, "That's it! That's how I feel too." With that in mind, I'm pointing to this post from the Thinker (Atheism and the City) and saying, "Yep, me too!"

My feelings about the horrible attacks in Paris have been anything but clear or easy to express. I am aware of sadness, anger, and even an intermittent sense of hopelessness. But this post has helped me recognize what some of this is about and see a possible way forward.

Ridiculous #PrayForParis hashtag all over the place as if there was anything answering prayers or any hint of divine intervention in this world? Check. Alternative reality-based solution to prayer offered? Absolutely.
When dealing with these kinds of tragedies, rather than praying, we should resist that urge however powerful and instinctive it may feel, and instead apply a more rational and practical response. We should donate money, food, and supplies, whenever possible.
In other words, we should do something tangible that might actually help those we say we want to help. I agree that this is far preferable to superstition.

But here is where the post gets really interesting and captures my feelings so well. The Thinker suggests that those of us who are disturbed by what happened in Paris "become advocates against" the "regressive beliefs" of those who perpetrated the attacks and those who assisted them, including their ideology.
We should refute them and their ideology at every chance we get, within reasonableness. And we should become advocates for the modern, secular, progressive way of life that we live and stand for.
Yes! I know some of you will bristle at the use of the word "progressive" here, but I don't think one has to mean it in the political sense of the word as much as the idea that we are pursuing progress through reason and secularism. Obviously, not everyone who calls themselves "progressive" these days is pursuing these goals. Equally obvious is the fact that many conservative atheists are pursuing these goals.

I agree with the Thinker that bad ideology is the problem. It is a problem when it comes from Islamists. It is also a problem when it comes from conservatives in the U.S. where it often seems to take the form of bigotry and xenophobia. And yes, it is certainly a problem when it comes from liberals in the U.S. (i.e., the regressive left) where it has lately been taking the form of an assault on free speech.

Part of what freethought means to me is that those of us who are frethinkers oppose bad ideology whatever the source. We oppose it when those we perceive as working at goals counter to our own do it, but we also oppose it when those we perceive as allies do it. Advocating against regressive beliefs strikes me as a vital part of freethought.
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