So, I just finished watching the CNN special entitled: “Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers” and I thought I’d share my views on it here. I’m actually in the middle of another article but wanted to jot down some thoughts while they were still fresh.
My first thought upon hearing about this documentary was, once again, surprise at just how religious the USA actually is. Until relatively recently I hadn’t understood quite how strong the hold religion has over North America actually is, sure I’d seen it on TV and I knew that it was certainly more of a thing over on the other side of the pond, but I’d never really thought too much about it, assuming that this was just the public view and that there would likely be a fairly even distribution of secularists and atheists also.
Coming from a small town in Yorkshire (England) and from a Catholic family, I attended Catholic Schools all the way from nursery to ‘graduation’ and still never saw anything like the degree of religious observance on show in this documentary. Most people I still know from School who were Christians are, as far as I am aware, now non-believers and I can’t think of more than 3 people off hand that I know who are religious. In fact, I asked this question on Facebook earlier today, so it will be interesting to see if anyone actually is. I have to be honest, the level of mistrust and vilification of atheists in the USA frightens me a little when i really think about it.
– Spoilers ahead –
Back to the documentary though, I watched via a YouTube channel which had apparently hosted a livestream of the program, so if anyone else would like to watch but has had trouble finding it, you can find the one I watched here. Fair warning though, it has some sound issues and, worse still, they put in their own adverts which are apparently sponsored by the Feminist special snowflake association or something….
We are still evolving
The documentary starts off by speaking with a small family from America’s ‘Bible Belt’. The parents are first up and discuss their life of frankly astonishingly devout and unquestioning belief in the writings of some sheep herders of a few thousand years ago, they go on to discuss how they tried to raise their poor children in the same way by indoctrinating them from birth and never really allowing them to decide for themselves which is par for the course, naturally. We are then introduced to their Son….the (dum dum duuuuuum) Atheist activist!
The first thing that struck me about this story was the irony of the whole thing because if there is anything that proves the human race are still in the process of evolving, then it’s stories like this. A Son who was literally assaulted from birth with doctrine and yet, managed to shrug off the stories and not only to decide for himself what he believes but to go so far as to become an activist for reason and secularism. It’s inspiring stuff and goes to show that scientific and technological advancement really has become a huge part of the next stage of human evolution. The evolution of the mind.
sadly, the parents of this seemingly fine and good young Man go on to discuss their belief that their Son is destined to burn in hell and that they view him as being dead, despite still living in the same house and going through the motions on a daily basis. This sort of thing really makes me sad. If there was a god and he told me that my Children were dead because they didn’t believe then I’m afraid he’d have me to deal with! But of course, “it says so in the scriptures” so this apparently takes away the responsibility of the parents to be decent human beings, allowing them to condemn their own Son through bible mandated disdain.
The rest of the show was similarly disturbing and interesting in equal measure. There was the case of the former preacher turned atheist who was, predictably, shunned and targeted for abuse by his former family and friends and the serving clergy member who has to live a secret life of secularism. These things really shouldn’t be happening in the West in the year 2015 should they? Our loved ones shunning us because we reject the idea of the supernatural or magical?
Interestingly though, the show featured not one, but two separate sets of atheist preachers who actually give ‘sermons’ to fellow non-believers in an eerily similar way to the religious type. I found myself wondering how many of these people just wanted something a bit different than the norm as they still can’t seem to move on completely from the old ways or simply hold their own views without having them reaffirmed regularly, or perhaps I’m just misunderstanding and it’s not too far removed from going along to listen to Dawkins or Hitchens speak? Either way it was slightly surreal to see.
Cutting the strings
The documentary closes out by discussing whether Christianity might ‘die out’ in the next few years and the suggestion is that it might, but not for many, many years to come. In America’s case I’d tend to agree, although the influence of the internet and the power it gives us to discover and learn about science and reason must give hope to the next generation of free-thinkers that we can at least see an end to religious dogma being ingrained into the fabric of society.