Je suis Paris

tumblr_inline_nxsmyefbhM1ttkbno_500We were roadtripping to Skepticon when I first heard about the situation in Paris. As we drove, the death count rose and the sick feeling in my stomach grew. My Facebook feed was unusually silent at first, with just a sporadic news site post about it here and there. As the evening wore on and more details came to light, the posts also increased, but they were primarily informational or expressing shock.

This morning however, social media was a completely different story. With the coming of a new day came the opportunity to use this horrific tragedy to promote an agenda. The gun fetishist contingent was quick to point out that if those concert-goers had just been carrying a gun, that they could have taken out the attackers and saved lives. The anti-gun crowd expressed that more people than that are shot on any given weekend in the US. The Christians prayed for Paris and used this as an opportunity to point out that it was people from a different religion, the wrong religion, that did this. The atheists showed their outrage against religion, and criticized those sending prayers to Paris. Racists used this as another example of how people that aren’t white are to blame for violence. The slacktivists posted the Eiffel Tower peace sign and went on with their day without giving it another thought. Everyone was quick to point out how wrong everyone else was, and that their way of showing support was the right way.

How is this helpful?

What if just once, we as fellow humans came together to make the world a better place. Instead we use any tragedy, any excuse, to tear each other apart and promote ourselves and our ideas. One of those groups I listed above touched on part of the actual issue at hand.

Religion is harmful; that is a truth that I hope everyone can admit on some level. I’m not talking about just Islam, I’m talking about religion as a whole. It’s hard to admit when something that is important to us or something we are a part of is part of the problem. Do I enjoy saying that a lot of the atheists I know are using this to push a separate agenda of how they have been personally persecuted by Christianity, or using this as a way to mock people that are praying instead of the religion that promotes the prayer? I don’t. My atheism is a big part of who I am, my atheist community is very important to me; it’s my big extended secular family. Calling ourselves out is important for the sake of integrity and being intellectually honest. I’m asking religious people to do the same; to think about how religion divides, how it works to push its ideologies on people that don’t want them and don’t believe them, how it promotes hate. Take a good look at the book that dictates your religion; look at where it passes judgement on others, where it makes claims that its religion is the only true religion, where it calls for hate, where it calls for harming others. Don’t cherry pick; take an honest objective look, a look with no excuses, no excluding parts of the book.

What if everyone denounced those books, those guiding principles that ask us to hate our fellow human for no reason other than they don’t believe in the same things as you?  What if everyone took a step away from that and instead embraced love, respect, responsibility, and acceptance? What if we said enough, we don’t need reasons to hate each other; we’re all in this together and it is just a book. People are more important that books and religious ideologies.

I’m not going to call someone out for praying or for posting that they’re praying for Paris. I know that those people just mean that like so many of us, they are heartsick and thinking about the situation but don’t know what to do. I’m not going to criticize anyone for saying that their thoughts are with the people of Paris, even though that doesn’t do anything more than praying. I’m not going to begrudge anyone for posting pictures of the Eiffel Tower or changing their profile picture. All of these things show empathy, awareness, and solidarity, however small.

What I am going to do is ask you all to do something else in conjunction with your prayers, your thoughts, and your status updates. Objectively look at your worldviews and how they promote any form of hate, harm, or discrimination. Talk about the why – why these things happen and what can be actively done to prevent them. The answers aren’t easy; it will take time to create that kind of major change. Then do one thing that works towards that change, no matter how small that one thing is.

Yes, I’m naive enough to think that I can change the world, but if enough of us tossed the cynicism and shared this often ridiculed idea, we would make an impact. Until we do, the hate will continue and the people of the world will continue to destroy themselves.

Je suis Paris.