… therefore … the missing heart of atheism

Here are some things I’ve never heard:\r\n\r\n”I’m an atheist … therefore … I give 5% of my income to the local food bank to support the poor”\r\n\r\n”I’m an atheist … therefore … I am serving Syrian refugees”\r\n\r\nor\r\n\r\n”I’m an atheist … therefore … I visit elderly mentally infirm patients in local homes to offer them company”.\r\n\r\nI mention this because this week for the first time an asylum seeker was granted asylum in the UK on the basis that he was an atheist.\r\n\r\nIn a prominent broadsheet newspaper the comment on this case was written by a committed atheist. It was a provocative piece which descended into nitpicking (ok, so atheists and secularists are not the same) and arrogance (maybe people of faith have ‘concocted’ their deities; maybe not). And of course religious people can be crooks, as the article says in relation to education, but surely it’s unreasonable to offer that critique and ignore the fact that atheists can be equally unscrupulous or corrupt.\r\n\r\nIt was a cynical and bitter piece of playground bullying. It occurs to not only me that if people of faith used the kind of language atheists use in public then we would be in real trouble, and just once I’d like to hear a prominent atheist promote something other than disdain for people of different belief. I’d love to hear a different kind of language, not sneering at the values and trying to undermine the beliefs of ordinary people of faith. Not continually saying what they are against, but promoting the things that atheism stands for.\r\n\r\nDon’t believe in my God? Fine. My God might not be for you.\r\n\r\nBut isn’t it disappointing if all you can say is – to quote directly from the article -\r\n\r\n”I’m an atheist … therefore …  I am raising my child to believe you {Muslim/Buddhist/Jewsish/Hindu/Christian/Sikh etc.} people are mad. Will that do?”\r\n\r\nWell, no it won’t.\r\n\r\nI’m proud that I live in a country that allows an atheist from another country to live here so they can have ‘freedom {from} religion’.\r\n\r\nAnd I hope that our new atheist citizen will offer the same courtesy to the people of faith that he finds himself living among now as that shown by the majority of ordinary people of faith in this country show to their neighbour.