Friday, February 7, 2014

To help or not to help

I'm a member of a handful of atheism, debate and podcast forums. I admit I was never really a forum regular because most of the time the topics are mundane (or so tangential you can never remember the original topic), many people are argumentative or trolls and basically I just didn't care.

Lately, I have been spending more time on The Thinking Atheist, mostly because it's fun to debate theists and reinforce my knowledge. However, I'm an atheist for quite a few reasons, and one of those reasons is because I just couldn't stand proselytizing nutbags. So much so that they were the reason I set out on my journey to discover the truth. I figured if these jacknuts are so happy being mindless I may as well find out what all the hubbub was about and why it was so damn important to force it down my throat. I discovered the truth through rational critical thinking and haven't looked back at all.

But, something came up on TTA's forum that gave me pause. There was a young man on there asking for advice (this essentially happens weekly). He was 16, and an atheist. His father, who is a devout Christian, couldn't answer this boy's questions adequately so he enlisted a pastor to have a meeting with the boy. This boy asked the forum members what to do.

The TTA members stepped up in droves to tell him what to say, what to read, how to act, how to prepare, etc. Some were sarcastic, some were genuine. I was tempted to respond, to help out this young man, but as I started to read the comments from the others, I began to feel like it was almost like proselytizing for atheism. These comments and proposed actions were not unlike what religious people would do when faced with doubters/non-believers.

I admit I have chimed in once or twice when young people were facing a crisis with their theistic families, but now I'm not as comfortable doing it as I used to be. Granted, in most cases these kids are already atheists and just looking for guidance since they can't get it from their parents, and I'm fine with that. But lately I haven't been comfortable with giving advice to impressionable youngsters, regardless of their religious beliefs or stance. It just feels hypocritical. Sure, if they have questions, I'm not going to deny them knowledge, but to coach them on how to stand up to their parents and religious leaders just feels wrong now.

Do I think less religion would make this world a better place? Absolutely, and I will tell anyone who will listen. And, yes, I think young people should know what we know so they can make an informed decision, but I just don't like telling children what to do, even if their parents are irrational indoctrinated followers.

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