As a freshman in college, I came out as an atheist. I was very vocal about it. I'm still an atheist, but if you think I am as scathing and critical towards religion today as I was five years ago, you haven't been listening to me.
And that's fair. Maybe we've lost touch. Maybe Facebook only shows you the few articles and statuses I post that pertain to religion. Maybe you're inclined to accuse me as having some sort of clearly stated anti-religious agenda, based on minimal evidence, because rash conclusions are part and parcel with your worldview.
It's okay, we've all been there.
I have two thoughts I wish to express.
Foremost is that while I make no bones about being an atheist, I'd like to invite all of us to calm down. I'm not nearly as much of an asshole about it as I was before. But of course, religion is a sensitive topic. That's part of the problem.
I don't claim to speak for all atheists, but I do believe I know very well why I was so very, very angry those first few years. I felt I had been betrayed, plain and simple. I know I've expressed as much, because I've read my own words from that time.
Compulsory belief in anything is a cheap way of winning over anyone. Sure, you have numbers. But "quality over quantity" is a cliche for a reason. Some Christians view challenges to faith as a kind of "test." I suppose that's a much more positive spin on it, but it's still presumptuous and can be kind of condescending.
So basically I felt like I was being scared into a certain set of beliefs. But I found ample reason to not accept the core ideology. Pardon me for feeling frustrated and let down when the best response you had to offer was "oh, well, we weren't really trying to SCARE you."
Sorry. Too little, too late.
But the other idea I've been bandying about, which is only tangentially related to anything written above, regards abortion.
"Whoa there. Slow down, cowboy."
Long story short, it seems compulsory for certain groups of Christians to be against abortion. It also seems such an absolute view of that matter may run contrary to other beliefs Christians have regarding helping others, caring for the already living, etc.
But maybe it's not so contradictory. The absolution has its place, as the brands of American Christianity I've had the most experience with do not lend much credence to the realm of ambiguity (perhaps they should, but that's another topic for another day).
Suffering is essential to Christianity. Remember, Jesus died on the cross. You don't even need Mel Gibson to paint the picture for you. Jesus was up there for a while, and all popular accounts of the event make it sound pretty awful. If not for the fact that Jesus suffered as a man, his sacrifice (as God killing himself/his only son) would ring rather hollow.
One of the biggest arguments in favor of a woman's right to choose to have an abortion is that the child may suffer so many more times over in life than they would if they were never born at all. It's about quality of life over quantity. The same goes for the mother.
If suffering is not necessary (regardless of how realistically unavoidable it is, because remember, we're comparing a non-absolute worldview (pro-choice) to an absolute worldview (anti-abortion)) then maybe man did not fall so hard when he ate that damned apple.
Man could not have fallen because he had nowhere to fall from. He is mortal, and that's the big bummer that Christianity seeks to address. Man is and always was an animal. When Republican politicians compare homosexuality to bestiality, we giggle because they (have established a certain precedent for) sound(ing) like closeted goat fuckers. And while that's probably true in some instances, I think it largely has more to do with homosexuality (being completely natural, and all) reminding these good, Christian men of their own mortality.
If two people can love each other outside and beyond the purpose of creating new life, then we might as well be animals. We are. And if suffering can be prevented, then perhaps nature is more awesome and complex than we are willing to comfortably give it (and ourselves) credit for.
So while I may not be willing to call it a "tenet" or an absolute, I will have to say that by and large, I really do prefer quality over quantity.
Unless I'm boozing. Then it depends on my mood.