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 While it never rages, a flame once in a while licks upward to touch tender parts with a burst of heat that quickly spreads without creating new embers. The argument smolders as though within a bed of coals awaiting fuel to once more ignite some passion, to warm a room while it dances, to reflect its message on a nearby wall. While someone may furnish the fuel, the dispassionate coals accept it into their bed and make it their own by taking it into themselves and consuming it with the ravaging fury of voracious edacity.

Those coals are like the atheism so many of us proclaim to be our label, or that we have allowed others to proclaim for us. That a bed of coals gets described as cold, dispassionate, dead, uncaring only tells us how the unwary may see us, who then dare to tempt us by plunging a bare hand into our midst and seeking how to taunt us with empty paper words.

We discover it is they who suffer from no feeling as we digest what they attempted to feed us. While it burns in our guts, we observe how they respond in no fashion to the festering boils rising out of their skin, but continue the actions that wrought them there and blame us for avoiding their poisons. We know they lie, for they lie about us, and do so, with arrogance, in our presence and in public.

They know nothing of us but for what they have been told, and to acknowledge the sores their acts have raised would only raise questions in their own minds about the authority they have granted to others in their lives. They cannot know that ‘atheist’ is only a label for one aspect of multi-faceted individuals who may otherwise have nothing in common, any more than would a West Virginia woodsman find much commonality with an Oxford-raised philosopher steeped in linguistics. Who would declare such individuals to be warriors? Both may successfully discuss the absence of a god, and of all other things not share many words of their common language. And yet, we are seen to share a mission, a dedication to a cause, to “banish religion from the public square”, “carry on a war against Christmas”, “to remove God from the founding of America.”

Such declarations say more about the insecurities of our accusers than they do about those who they would name as ‘atheists’ or ‘seculars’. Why is that?

All could rightly suppose there must be more to this story than what anybody has been told. All the arguments about what the labels we adopt must represent, to us and to our nemeses, mostly miss the point and only add to the obfuscation that prevails like hornets hovering over a suspected attacker of their nest.

To name oneself an atheist, or to accept that as a label provided by some other, is to put upon display what may be the least important aspect of oneself. It is akin to identifying a person’s characteristics only according to the color of his skin, his eyes, hair or shoes. Only for the most simpleminded, on either side of the issue, does that suffice.

It issues forth a declaration that “I do not believe in a hearsay god, and that is all anyone needs to know about me,” about yourself, or to put such words into the mouths of others. “I am an atheist,” equals “I am not a theist, I am a ‘?’.”

Yeah, right, would you be as well off to declare yourself an “ahairlip?” Why would anyone adopt such a partial label for themselves, that says only what you are not, and does so in a way that others of whom it is equally true can hide themselves behind the opposite? All it takes is a simple lie to say, “I am a theist” whether or not one’s belief is unquestioned, sincere and wholly without doubt, as only themselves and a god named ‘God’ might know, while themselves live in hope that a god they have named “God” may not notice.

If I doubt and give voice to that, am I truly to be deemed less trustworthy than the entire mass of those of whom the foregoing is more obviously true than they would wish? Do I feign belief and so lie to them in order to gain their trust? Or, do blinders I do not wear serve to protect them from noticing? It tells about a sorry state of our educational system that so many of us should identify ourselves and each other according to what we are not, and remain forever unaware of how to know what we are and label ourselves accordingly.

It is easier to simply declare, “I shun labels,” than to acknowledge any form of recognition that might pigeonhole us for a lifetime. On the other hand, to acknowledge a correct label would alert us as to how unimportant an elemental role atheism plays in our lives. It is nothing more than an acknowledgement of absence of one belief in our minds, the same as that absence would present in a text book about any school subject, or a set of instructions for setting up and maintaining a plethora of devices that have found their godless way into our existences.

To hold up an owner’s manual for your automobile, bicycle or DVD player and declare it “atheist” seems too ludicrous to consider. Why should our entire selves be differently considered than that? To label oneself a “Christian apostate” conveys more information, whereas “Christian apostate turned Buddhist” informs even more. It says what is your history, and the nature of your current constraints as you inherited them from history, and as you have adopted them.

Rather than argue against the word ‘constraints’, try these to get a picture, and then try to find one into which you could place yourself:

”Christian apostate turned Muslim”
“Muslim apostate turned Christian”
“Methodist apostate turned Baptist

Think of what you were, and then are now, and identify them accordingly. While doing so, decide why these do not work:

British expatriate turned American
Atheist apostate turned naturist”
“Republican apostate turned anarchist”

While making that decision, ask yourself: “Does the second necessarily negate the first, as it does with the religions?” Therein can be found the root of the problems we have with all the wild attempts there are to define atheism as something people hold in common.

While it is a term originated in religion, it is secular by its nature and can be so identified. The label “atheist turned Christian Baptist” clarifies that idea by presenting a picture of someone with no religious affiliations who had adopted one— in other words, a creedless person who had taken one up.

It would be akin to showing a text manual into which someone had drawn pictures of angels and demons, and inserted handwritten hymns and prayers. It presents an either/or condition as is the nature of religion.

As a Christian apostate turned secular, I may be more sensitive to such things, and my antennas be more attuned to the farcical nature of the many ongoing attempts people make to slice and dice atheism into something solid, into which sectarian divisions can be inserted and cultish denominations made to appear. Wielding a sword against air yields similar results with about an equal amount of import and reality.

Still: fire presents from the caloric action of quick oxidation. Not always visible, it may dance on ash-dulled coals still red with internal heat.

Such a phenomenon is not self-sustaining, as typical atheistic apathy will inform us. It is given life by what is fed it, and the nature of religion is to fuel mankind’s quest for the truth, and then stifle all attempts to discover it.

Humans have used words, coal, and dried dung as fuel for warmth for most of our generations. Feed the coals a cake of dried bullshit, and watch the flames spring forth, digest it all, and make it disappear. Whereupon, we can label truth as being the disappearance of bullshit, religion as the fuel that feeds the flame, and atheism as the covert source of heat that processes the results.

Lloyd

 

Copyright ©2009, 2013 by Lloyd H. Whitling

 

Copyright ©2009 by Lloyd H. Whitling

 

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