Slice of life: Believe it… or not

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Atheism. It’s not a dirty word. But in many parts of the globe you wouldn’t want to admit to being a nonbeliever. One of the godless. In fact, in some countries you could fear imprisonment, torture or even death for proclaiming that the whole notion of the existence of God just doesn’t add up. It’s the 21st century and there’s still the death penalty out there for people who are proud to call themselves an atheist…

Hong Kong, thankfully, isn’t one of those places. Our city, in fact, is pretty progressive when it comes to allowing freedom of thought when it comes to religion. Maybe it’s something to do with China’s oft-unbelieving past, Britain’s increasingly secular nature or just the fact that this city is such a hotbed of culture and belief, people seem to go unjudged for their faith – or lack of (remember: atheism means no belief, but is not a belief system itself per se).

So, at some of the atheist thinkers’ meetings that I’ve attended over the years, I’ve always expected pretty wide-ranging views on how to uphold atheist values and an underlying current of ‘how does the atheist go about persuading those who believe in God that they’re wrong?’ Hong Kong has seen an undeniable rise in evangelical Christianity of late and I usually expect, in these mixed-race, mixed-age meetings, discussions on how to be a good atheist and how to effectively deconstruct religion through intelligent debate and reason.

But I’m so often disappointed. It seems that the atheist, on the whole, is still trying to dissect the details rather than look at the bigger picture of how humanity goes forward with religion still so ingrained into our being. Maybe I’m being harsh on all the thinkers who go the ‘micro’ way and just want to pick holes in tiny little sections of religious texts but is this really the right way to go? I just expect something a little juicier in the 21st century.

And the notion of ‘out-atheisting’ each other disturbs me somewhat. Often, in non-believer meetings, there are clearly educated guys and gals who use the forum to display some sort of one-upmanship through the power of debate. You see atheists, anti-theists and people who just want to stir up some shit bid to appear as the most intelligent person in the room when it comes to debunking religious myths. This, for me, achieves nothing. This game is why so many of the godless who want to inspire progressive debate get labelled as ‘arrogant’.

I checked into a Hong Kong Atheist Society meeting a few weeks back. It was an interesting discussion but, again, there was little ‘macro’ debate going down. Maybe I missed that meeting. But, on the whole, I do see any discussions into the essence of whether religion is good or evil, and whether there’s a God, as inherently a good thing, no matter how you go about it. In a world where there’s a (ridiculous) Christian theme park in Florida and we have our own (equally ridiculous) Noah’s Ark here in Hong Kong, the atheists need to stop trying to out-arrogant each other and work as a team. Maybe build Atheist World, in fact, where the rollercoaster starts at the big bang, whizzes past the dinosaurs and ends in a future where religion is a wonderful part of history…

I’m passionate about allowing our children to decide whether they want to believe in God or not, and choose what religion – or no religion at all – they want to follow, when they’ve been given all the facts. Not just what a parent says you must believe. And when atheists put their heads together constructively, they could inspire this change in mentality. But then that’s just this atheist’s high hopes for a better world. God strike me down if I’m wrong. Matt Fleming

To find out more about the HK Atheist Society, visit the Hong Kong Atheists Facebook page.

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