Now, considering our mildly confrontational Facebook exchanges in the past, I felt chided and I admit I got a bit defensive in the conversation that unfolded.
I won't bore you with the whole exchange, but here is the key point she made:
Rachel: ..."It basically says that changing the beliefs of others and judging the Life Path of others is not your duty or responsibility, just as it is no one's duty or responsibility to change YOUR beliefs or judge YOUR Life Path. When one makes a mission out of converting others to their way of thinking, they become a missionary... an extremist. And no one likes an extremist. Live and let live!"
Now, I certainly felt she was accusing me of being a missionary for atheism, and therefore an extremist. Which of course, is faulty logic. (I believe that's the slippery slope) In other words, she's saying if I talk about my atheism to try to change another's beliefs, I am an atheist missionary which means I am automatically an extremist. It's excluding the middle and saying if you do it at all, you go to the Extreme! (you have to shout the word extreme like you are in a commercial for the WWE)
I'm glad she posted this picture and said that to me because it helped me to clarify how I go about interacting with people. First, I do not go onto the walls of other people on Facebook and foist my worldview onto them. I do not engage with people unless they come to me first and start the conversation.
(I do blog, but I've made it clear that HDC is for skeptics, atheists, agnostics and critical thinkers, not for True Believers. Of course everyone is welcome to read it, but I am not directing my focus on the religious or any other type of dogmatist)
I agree that you should live and let live, to a point. Here is an example. Children have died because their parents insisted on denying them proper medical attention and instead "treated" them with homeopathy or prayer. Should good people do nothing and let these people kill their children through gross negligence?
Or what about gay marriage? If you vote to deny the right of loving couples to marry, your only reason is religion. You are trampling the rights of others, to force your dogmatic thinking on everyone, and that is wrong. Why do you get to live your life but others are not allowed to live? It's the epitome of hypocrisy.
Sometimes people are harmful to others, and when that happens, then good, decent citizens should not sit idly by and do nothing.
Need I mention the rape of children by priests? How many parents and upper echelon priests and bishops have turned a blind eye? Doing nothing has permanently scarred those children for their whole lives, and may filter down through generations of abuse.
This woman is accusing me of proselytizing. And you know what? I am. But not for atheism. I don't give a damn if you are an atheist. All that matters to me is that you Think Critically. Be Skeptical! Practice critical thinking in your life and teach it to your children. Spread the Good Word of freethought. We are all better for it.
When someone comes to me and says something that flies in the face of physics, for example, I feel it is compassionate to explain to them the flaws in their reasoning. (Note, I do not seek people out to disabuse them of their delusions. But if they come to me, I feel I have to be honest).
Here is what I try to do when someone tells me about how awesome homeopathy is, or tries to tell me about their personal relationship with the Lord. (Can I get a RAmen?!)
- Here is what we know on the given issue. This is the consensus of scientific opinion, etc.
- Here are the flaws in your thinking, reasoning or logic. Here are the logical fallacies you are committing. These are the laws of physics that would be broken if what you said were true, etc.
- Here are some Critical Thinking tools you can use.
You don't have to come to the same conclusions as I have. In fact, I don't want you to take my word for it. Do your own research. Investigate for yourself. Be skeptical (but don't go overboard into denialism). Look at the issue from all sides.
So yes, call me an evangelist for Critical Thinking. I am proud to be guilty as charged.