Being an Atheist in a nation with the largest population of Muslims in the globe, could make one feel a little bit isolated at times. Not only do the majority of the populace believe in one deity or another, but they may also be openly hostile to the secularist ideas the likes of Agnosticism or Atheism. With the Indonesian government still coercing its citizens to fill out what their religious beliefs are on their identity cards. Unsurprisingly, there is no option for ‘Atheist’.
Thus I once imagined how pleasant it would be to be included in a gathering of Atheists of sorts, as it is incredibly difficult to find like-minded individuals in this country—I personally have only managed to find two completely Atheistic individuals, with the rest claiming to be so yet retains the idea that there are such things as fate, ghosts, and other supernatural invisible to humanity. Yet attempting to locate such a group Atheists was a far more difficult task than I imagined. Most do not cluster like religious groups and prefer to live individually, keeping their ideas regarding the absence of gods to themselves. But I kept trying anyway.
If I could not find a company of Atheists in the physical world, then I had no other choice but to delve into the digital realm. Hence I scoured the plethora of social media websites to find kindred spirits. From Facebook, to Twitter, to Reddit, and even Path or messaging clients the likes of Line were explored. And I finally found them. Not just a dozen or two circles, I discovered more than hundreds of Atheist assemblies. It was a pleasant surprise to realize that so many have similar views to mine, and that they are willing to share those perspectives online.
I immediately started to mingle with these newfound groups of people. I chatted, messaged, shared articles, discussed the role of religion in society, how Atheism could be used for the betterment of mankind, essentially whatever topics could be conversed about, I deliberated with these fellow Atheists. Unfortunately, these were the times when I began to realize that the abundance of Atheists I found did not necessarily agree with my ideas. Which should be fine, yet the things they said were in my eyes quite disturbing.
In my humble opinion, religion does not predicate violence, idiocy, and all those other negative traits of humanity. There would always be more than a singular element that influences how a being thinks, speaks, and acts. Ranging from economics, to culture, and of course personal life experiences. However, it seemed to me that the Atheist congregations I found disagreed wholeheartedly with my assessment. To them, religion is nothing more than a force which instills ignorance, violence, authoritarianism and all sorts of detrimental effects into the psyches of homo sapiens. Again, not a particularly harmful conclusion to conjure up, yet how they acted based on the hypothesis that religion is unquestionably bad should perturb any Atheist seeking to establish peaceful coexistence with the religious.
To the Atheist groups I stumbled upon—particularly the ones from Facebook, Line, and Reddit—religion is a virus that must be wiped clean off the face of the Earth. For them, this is an unquestionable truth that must never be debated and should be accepted plainly as fact. And to anyone who wishes to keep on being a member of these assemblies, they had better refrain from questioning this supposed truth. Does this type of dogmatic attitude remind the reader of something very similar? Something that should be the antithesis of Atheism? For myself, the stance adopted looked to be strikingly similar to the old church groups I was forced to join as a child.
Atheists are supposed to be open-minded people. That is to say, in this particular context, they should be capable of accepting what contradicts their viewpoints, not immediately cast mockeries and assaults on those who do not tread the same path they do. I witnessed how every single time an article concerning acts of terror were shared, not a single one doubted that religion is the root cause of the deaths of innocents and the insane actions of terrorists. Even though said terrorists could have been influenced by other factors, such as threats to themselves or their loved ones, financial incentives, mental instability, all things that have proven to be a recurring theme amongst the members of extremist organizations (do read the book Accidental Guerrilla, which explores the cloaked motivations of terrorists). Though this is not where the problem ends.
A dogmatic approach to Atheism should never have been constructed. It is a stark contradiction to one of its primary basis: That each and every Atheist must heed the call of reason above all else, see and understand the evidence presented before their eyes, and certainly not jump into random conclusions because it is simply the easiest one to reach. Declaring that religion is the root of all the world’s problems smacks logic in the face. It ignores whatever findings contradict the notion that religion breeds amorality. This is not how Atheists are supposed to think, as they should always hold on to an open mind.
Furthermore, the freethinking aspect of Atheism would be diminished as well, as the members of dogmatic groups are forced to unquestioningly absorb the “wisdom” forced into their minds. Atheists should be free to think for themselves as they are inherently disorganized; they should have no leader but fellow thinkers who are willing to accept, share, and at times debate ideas. If a congregation eliminates a person’s freedom to think for themselves then what is it but another herd of sheep led by shepherds? That, to me, means that these gathering of Atheists do not benefit its people in any way whatsoever.
Dogmas and Atheism are opposite sides of a spectrum. The former forces one to accept notions without the possibility of ever debunking them and encourages a willingness to welcome any ideas—no matter how disturbing—unquestioningly. Whilst the latter realizes that humanity’s preconceived notions regarding ourselves, the universe, our existence and all the rest of the great mysteries of the world are flawed in one way or another; hence allowing them to doubt and perhaps even refine or completely alter the answers offered to them. Yet somehow these opposing sides managed to find themselves intertwined, by the hands of Atheists surprisingly enough, and now work hand in hand within dogmatic yet Atheistic cliques. I cannot, from any perspective, endorse these peoples’ endeavors to promote subjugation among Atheists.
It would be an understatement, to say that I was severely disappointed with the Atheist congregations I found. They limit the potential of fellow Atheists to objectively analyze the state of the world, they project dogmas although they proclaim to stand against suchlike rumination whenever presented by the religious, and what is possibly their worst offense is the degrading of freethinkers into nothing more than a flock that follows one path and never dares to stray. For these reasons, I have to say that Atheists should walk their separate paths. Convene when necessary, but never allow our minds to be lulled into complacency, into a state of utter obedience; for those are not the characteristics of Atheists, rather of their counterparts.