My best friend is an atheist. And he’s awesome at it. You know why? Because of all the times we’ve discussed religion, which is very often and on so many occasions I’ve lost track, he has never insulted a religion. He doesn’t believe in them, as is his right, but he knows it’s not right to trash them left and right and ridicule every single person who believes in those religions in which he does not believe.
The most famous slogan that gets thrown around a lot goes like this: “Religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one and it’s fine to be proud of it but it’s not fine to shove it down my throat.”
This is a saying that I not only believe in, I also believe it is of utmost necessity. I also believe the aforementioned statement should be affixed to become the following: “Your personal beliefs are like a penis. It’s fine to have one and it’s fine to be proud of it but it’s not fine to shove it down my throat.”
Some Lebanese atheists – and some atheists around the world to be fair – fall into that category by becoming exactly like the religious people they despise: people who do nothing but shove their beliefs down people’s throats. And they believe it’s okay to do so.
The white smoke erupting from the Vatican Chimney was more exciting than Christmas morning for some Lebanese atheists. Habemus Pedofilus was the first thing I saw being floated around. Digging deeper, it turned out the pun on Habemus Papam (We now have a pope) was the least “creative” of attacks against Christianity.
And it’s not only the Church that’s affected. Whenever an Islamist does anything out of the ordinary, which is much more common in these parts of the world than anything Church related, that Islamist’s entire religion and sect become fair play.
As a non-deeply religious person, I understand how difficult it is to be as such in this country and in this region. I only need suggestions to pray more in order to start having my anxiety rise. I understand that atheism in this part of the world is still considered a taboo, less so in Lebanon obviously. But ridiculing people of the opposite bank isn’t how you make them float towards you not necessarily to become atheists like you but to at least accept you as their equal counterparts in a society that doesn’t even want to acknowledge your existence.
With every offensive tweet, Facebook status, proclamation that makes some Lebanese atheists proud of themselves for all the snarkiness they exude, there are many more atheists who are done a disservice and are damaged in the process – atheists who welcomed the new Pope’s arrival with congratulating all their Catholic friends because they are truly and sincerely happy for them, regardless of how silly they think their Catholic friends are for being as such.
Those atheists, like my friend, have their image tainted by the sporadic vocal atheist here and there that feel it is their divine (or not) right and goal in life to bash every single religion and religious person who is still wasting precious oxygen.
You think religion is the root of all evil? You have every right to. You don’t want to be religious? I’ll be the first person to champion for that right. You don’t want religion shoved down your throat? Avoid it. You can ask me for tips on how to do so. You want to try and persuade someone that going atheist is the way? Be their guest.
There is an approach to how you communicate your message across and some Lebanese atheists are failing terribly at it.
Speaking of the pope they ridiculed before even knowing who he was, pope Francesco I is an Argentinian who rides the subway, doesn’t like personal help, is a good cook and has visited a hospital in 2001 where he washed and kissed the feet of 12 terminally ill people with AIDS. He lives with one lung and is 76 years old. He is obviously against same-sex marriage and abortion but did anyone really expect otherwise?
Pope Francesco makes me, and many atheists with whom I had brief discussions after his grand reveal, hopeful that things might change for the better in the Vatican. But don’t let some Lebanese atheists hear anyone say something along those lines. Their blood becomes halal. Or maybe something Darwinian.