The Rise of Socio-Political Atheism
When I was younger, I was in search of faith. Some kind of faith. But, because of my upbringing, I teetered between agnosticism and atheism. For a while, I really didn’t distinguish between the two. But, after doing some research, reading some religious texts, and having many conversations I started understand the nuance between two. I was agnostic. Honestly, I didn’t know. I didn’t have a conception of a higher being. An atheist, however, chooses to not believe in God. This in itself shows a conception of a God in which to disbelieve. It is a willful choice. Mind you, I realize that this is a simplified definition of atheism and I know there are a myriad of reasons to not believe. Bear with me.
This brings me to the idea of socio-political atheism.
I was having a Facebook conversation the other day with a former peer of mine from school. I have known this person since I was in first grade. We really haven’t talked much since college. However, I post a lot on Facebook, and most of it is about society, politics, culture, and the way society is going. It seems that every time I comment, he has something to say. He says I am wrong. I am part of the problem. The things that I am saying don’t exist. In a particular exchange he said, “Police brutality exists but is rare. Racism exists but is perhaps even more rare.”
I was stunned. Police brutality exists but is rare? Racism exists but is perhaps even more rare? In what world is this person? Looking back over previous posts this was a common thread that he explored. The problems in society that we have are just fake. They are blown out of proportion. They are a figment of collective imagination.
Then it hit me. This is just willful ignorance. This is creating a narrative just to fit a worldview. This is being completely oblivious to the realities of the day. It has become a form of socio-political atheism. People are choosing to just not believe. They deny things that are obvious. It is a willful disregard for the problems this country is having because it doesn’t fit into their safe, white, usually male, cisgendered, straight worldview. Forget reality. Just make up your own. I started thinking about when this all started. I suppose it is always been true. But, I believed it is picked up steam and become a life of its own since Trump ran for office.
I cannot tell you how many times I have had conversations with people and they deny the simple realities of what is going on in society. Things like racism, homophobia, hatred of the poor, the Constitution, the dangers of guns, the danger of the president, Islamaphobia, and our education system. They hold tight onto the beliefs of the American dream. They believe that Donald Trump will make America great. They stand tall for the flag without any thought as to what I really means. They believe that Colin Kapernick is evil. They call Antifa, fascists.
I suppose that when your authority is challenged, your comfortable role as being the dominant group in society, your simplified belief system that makes the world make sense to you is being threatened you go on the defensive. The problem is that there is no defense. People will say, “Well, that just isn’t true.” That is the defense. It isn’t true.
This mentality of just denying things that you disagree with is incredibly problematic for a just society. There can be no discussion. Why? Because there is no defense. And those that willfully ignore the world around them always have their fallbacks. Obama. Hillary. Ben Ghazi. Emails. Servers.
What is frightening though is the fact that this willful ignorance of the facts extends up to the president. I have been told specifically that people don’t care about Trump’s beliefs, what he is done, his blatant disregard for respect for the office of the presidency, because he is getting things done. But he is not. At all. Feel free to argue that point. But when the real living wage is down .2%, a great portion of society is having their rights stripped away, large sectors of the manufacturing world and agricultural sector are being beaten down by tariffs, what exactly is it that you’re celebrating?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
That is because these people have become atheists. They have become socio-political atheists. They are choosing to not believe certain things because it doesn’t fit. Now, I am not saying that being a socio-political agnostic would be any better. But at least not knowing would suggest some search for reality.
With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.