Tolerance Issues

by Bonnie Tice | 10/19/00 5:00am

To the Editor:

I read Latasha Boyd's column several times and the only opinion I could find was that atheists are intolerant folk. I was hurt. And I couldn't stop thinking about it. Because I think it was just too easy.

It's easy to put down atheists, because they don't organize. But just because atheism does not involve organizations that have formal stances and staffs to point out slights doesn't mean it's okay to categorically judge us. It's easy to pick on people who don't fight back. And it's easier to reply "atheists are more intolerant" when asking "Are Christians intolerant?" than to actually answer the question. And it's too easy to characterize atheists as intolerant simply because we "reject all religious beliefs." Yet that is all Ms. Boyd offers as justification.

I don't believe in God. And I do reject religious beliefs. FOR MYSELF. I have given much thought to whether a God or Gods exist and have come up with a negative answer. I have, as Ms. Boyd urges, discovered this for myself. It's something I know. That's all it is. It doesn't mean that I necessarily reject others believing what they want to, nor does it define my interactions with others, even when religion comes up.

Ms. Boyd's column expresses doubt that people can have conflicting views and still respect each other's beliefs. This is both dismal and unrealistic. I, the supposedly cold and intolerant atheist, do truly respect what others believe and celebrate my friends who are devoted to their faiths. And I have found that I usually meet with the same loving respect and acceptance in return.

I am an atheist. I disagree with you. But that is not the be-all and end-all of who I am. And I feel very upset that anyone would limit me and others who don't believe in God. And I feel angry (yes, angry!) that anyone would characterize us in a derogatory way for not sharing his or her beliefs.

Please don't think that you can judge my character simply because I do not believe in your God or any God at all. Ms. Boyd's column seeks to end a stereotype of Christians. I seek to end one of atheists that Ms. Boyd's column perpetuates. We must have an open mind not just toward those of other religions but also toward those who don't have a religion. Atheists are people too.

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