13 June 2018

The crime of being different

Today we discuss minorities, and how hypocritical those in a majority position become without even being aware of it. What's acceptable for a person of popular beliefs and attitudes is chastised in a minority, and that makes us as minorities stronger as a result.

As I discussed in my previous post, white people in South Africa are attacked when expressing racist slurs or thoughts (rightfully so, I defend people's right to freedom of expression but not at the expense of others' right to respond). But black South Africans, and most notably black politicians, are free to demonise "white people" as a whole without social backlash.

It's this that makes minorities stronger, we're held to higher standards and it forces us (whether fair or not) to realise the value of sound principles as a foundation. Black people in the US are the ethical think-tanks of that country today because of being held to higher standards for so long. And while not being in the minority per se, women were minorities in management positions for a long time and are now seen all over the world as more reliable and dependable in the workplace and in leadership positions because of this reason.

As a white South African I have more in common with black Americans than I do with white people around the world because I see the same kind of social persecution coming from the "Trump supporters". I'm seen as a second class citizen because of the colour of my skin, and a guest in the country I was born and raised in, just because I'm different to the majority. Minorities just find it easier to meet high expectations due to a lifetime of having to do so, lest they slip up and get pounced on by the majority.

But the topic I'd really like to discuss today is religion. I am of course atheist and I oppose the fact that religions are given immunity against criticism. That puts me in a vast minority, particularly in South Africa. And commenting from a different belief system earns me the badge of shit stirrer or boat rocker. And I wear the provocateur badge proudly because it forces others to live up to the same standards expected of me but more importantly, to think about the principles that are actually important to them. Principles which ultimately, when reason is applied, are shared by every one of us. Yes, I honestly feel that when sufficient reason is applied we all share the same base principles.

So, many people seem to think it's acceptable to post religious content in local community Whatsapp groups. Over the years I've learned that trying to get religious people to stop posting that kind of content is entirely ineffective. I need to get them to see things from my point of view and there's a very simple and effective way to do that. I genuinely find their religious posts abhorrent and offensive and I'm entitled to be offended but not to silence others so I post the content of a religion that offends them. I'm still seen in a bad light but now my oppressors fight for my cause albeit against me and "my religion", an expense that I feel duty-bound to accept as an atheist and champion of ethics.

The Satanic Temple has a list of seven very reasonable and respectable tenets, so in response to a post about the love of Jesus I posted an image which contained that list of tenets (see below) and as expected there was an immediate backlash and calls to have my offensive post removed. In case you haven't yet read the seven tenets here's an excerpt; "One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason". So my religious stance was undoubtedly constructive and socially responsible, just as the christians in question believed theirs to be.

Naturally I found myself openly agreeing with a lot of their comments especially those of disallowing religious posts, though they weren't pleased when I pointed that out to them. I'm not a fan of being manipulative but I can't deny that there's a level of satisfaction in watching your opposition fight for your principles.