As an introverted young person, I can quite easily spend far too much time on the Internet. (Hey, part of it’s for the sake of finding inspiration for this blog…) This being the case, it was only a matter of time before I came across the quasi-social network known as Reddit. In fact, one of the things that drew me to the site in the first place was its Christian community. Despite its occasionally lax moderation, /r/Christianity is just about everything I’d want from an online gathering of believers, and I particularly like that it represents so many different views – from both inside and outside the Church – but welcomes all of them equally.
For this reason, it’s often viewed as a more friendly alternative to Reddit’s atheism section. The general consensus seems to be that while /r/Christianity is a place where all are accepted, /r/atheism is a place where the religious are mercilessly and oftentimes unnecessarily shamed for what they believe. Thus, the stereotype of the average /r/atheist is either an edgy teenager wanting to separate themselves from the religious folks they’ve been surrounded by since birth, or a young man living in his parents’ basement who boasts dodgy standards of personal hygiene as well as delusions of intelligence the size of a small moon.
Well, I’m about to throw a spanner into the works of this ‘circlejerk’ (if you don’t know what that word means, it’s probably for the best) and suggest we may have been wrong about what the people of /r/atheism are really like. Most of the time, when I check what’s on the front page of the subreddit, the content I see doesn’t really feel like it was posted by an angsty teen or a ‘neckbeard’. A lot of it is just news about the various ways that religion is, tragically, used to perpetrate evil in the world. (Whether or not the people in these news items are ‘true’ Christians or ‘true’ Muslims is a discussion for another time.) And judging by the personal anecdotes that are often posted there too, it seems to me that a lot of these folks have been impacted by religion in negative and sometimes quite serious ways. We make a lot of noise about persecution in the Middle East and other such areas, but what about the neighbourhoods where certain character traits can actually get you kicked out of your own home? It might sound hard for some of us to believe, but there have been instances of parents disowning their children for being atheists. Or being gay. Or experimenting with New Age spiritualities…
Of course, I screw up in my own ways just like these parents, so far be it from me to cast the first stone. But it’s apparent to me that this kind of thing is not what Christ would advocate for at all. I’m thankful to have been brought up by two very loving parents who didn’t mind if I disagreed with them on most things, but sadly not everyone else of my generation can say the same. Instead of deriding them further, or mocking them for their ‘edginess’, let’s try to see things from their angle and treat them with as much understanding and compassion as we can.