This is a big one for me, and I imagine every atheist. Even the most polite, civil, accommodating non-believer will be accused of being offensive from time to time. It’s just part of not being religious. It’s not that irreligiosity is offensive, it’s that religion teaches people to be offended by the unreligious, because religion is so serious.
This isn’t to say that there are no offensive atheists… you’re reading words written by one right now… but many atheists are basically kind people, almost to a fault. There’s really no other way to say it: most atheists are pussies.
It’s one of the things I like about atheists as a whole, because most atheists aren’t out to force their views on others. It’s not so great when you want them to fight for something, but you take the good with the bad. It’s sort of a running theme I’ve noticed in all people: a person’s weaknesses are reflections of their strengths. It’s like how I stand up for myself, but I’m also an enormous douchebag.
But anyway… the irony is, while atheists are often accused of being offensive when they clearly are not, many atheists (especially the liberal ones) think nothing of labeling others as offensive when they disagree with them.
I don’t get offended. I thought I was offended once in 2003, but it turned out I was just bloated from eating a particularly large burrito. I just can’t feel offended for some reason. It’s not that I’m a robot; I have feelings. I even feel things quite similar to offense: anger, annoyance, irritation, outrage… though they are surprisingly fleeting emotions for me. What I primarily feel when I see someone say or read something I disagree with is compelled, even provoked.
Sure, I get mad, but I primarily have an urge to say something, sometimes even to do something. In fact, I think this compulsion is shared by people who are offended. The difference is, I tend to get angry about an idea, while people who are offended just didn’t want someone to have said something. Telling people they “shouldn’t say something” is dumb if they still think it.
I don’t expect to change the world (which isn’t to say people shouldn’t try). I don’t like telling people what to do, and I certainly won’t tell someone they can’t say something. Those are things offended people do, and I find it annoying. Everyone is free to say stupid (or mean) things, and I would always prefer someone honestly say what they mean. It’s perfectly fine, maybe even a good thing, to criticize someone who says something horrible, but there’s a way to go about doing it (and it’s not even a delicate operation).
When I feel compelled to react to something someone says or does, I don’t tell people what I think they should do or say, nor do I look for an apology. I prefer to tell people I disagree with what they are, which consequently comes out sounding like an insult (because usually, it is).
But let’s be honest here… I’m dumb, borderline insane, lazy, sheltered, privileged, and undeserving of any respect from anyone. Coming from me, what does anyone care if I say something negative about them? If I’m wrong, it should be no harm done. It’s when an insult is true that it cuts deep. It’s okay to say something that is insulting, especially if it’s true. It can remind people of a fact they may have forgotten, like how retarded they are. It’s basically a service to others to help put them in their place (so few people really seem to know themselves).
Insults often come from a place of love. It may appear otherwise, but I assure you: if I say something that appears to be an insult, it’s because I think you’re capable of more. The people I’m nice to and play along with are, in my mind, beyond help. I have too much pity for some people to criticize them. In a very real sense, being polite is how I treat someone when I’m patronizing someone. If I’ve never criticized you, I don’t think much of you.
One thing I’ll never do is wish someone hadn’t said something. Why on Earth would I ever do something so dumb? I’m stupid, but I’m not that stupid.
From what I can tell, people who are “offended” don’t want to fix anything, they want to brush it under the rug. I, on the other hand, want everyone to say all the dumb things that are on their minds. It’s safer to have everyone saying things publicly. The alternative is for anyone who has a seemingly dangerous idea to feel like they must hide it. We’re better off knowing what we’re working with than encouraging the more demented among us to fester quietly.
I believe a danger hidden is twice as dangerous, so even if an idea is a problem, it’s better for it to be out in the open. We need to encourage people to say what they believe, not telling people we disagree with to keep it to themselves. You should criticize their ideas, not the fact that they tried to engage in the discussion. Is that so hard to understand?
However, people are free to be offended. It’s not for me to say they can’t, even though they’re petty, ignorant piss-ants. You’re free to be a petty, ignorant piss-ant… just as I’m free to point out what a petty, ignorant piss-ant you are. Last I checked, this is still America, and where would we be without petty, ignorant piss-ants?
Oh right, happier…
But here’s a thought… you’re also free to not get offended about someone revealing what they have believed all along. I’m just as angry as the next person whenever… well… any conservative opens their mouth. The difference is that I’m not futilely trying to shame someone who has no shame. Instead, I’m generally attacking the ego of a self-absorbed piece of shit.
I find it’s quite effective, because my goal isn’t to make them feel bad (I can’t), I just want them to know what I think of them. That’s really all I can do in most cases, and I’m more than happy to do it. One thing I won’t say, though, is that what someone said is “offensive,” because I don’t want to sound like a bitch (a true fan of my blog would point out, “Too late, Bret”).
Don’t get offended, get angry. Don’t tell people what they said is offensive, tell them they’re wrong and possibly an enormous idiot. Telling someone, “I found what you said offensive,” says nothing about them, it only says something about you, and it says, “I can’t handle knowing I live in a world where people believe different things.”