"People should be allowed to believe what they want so you should keep your atheism to yourself" Yes. Someone actually tweeted me this :)
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) November 24, 2013
Having seen a series of tweets you wrote last night I wanted to respond. 140 characters is a little restrictive for what I wanted to say so I've blogged it.
I'm glad that you tweet repeatedly about atheism.
Some people seem to forget that not everyone who follows you lives within a society which allows for freedom of expression and speech; that there are those who live within far more oppressive and restrictive societies than our own.
Others forget that whilst they may have identified and embraced their own lack of belief, some are still too nervous of the consequences to voice this due to external factors.
The ties that bind many to a faith they have been raised within, are invisible but strong. No one wants to hurt or disappoint the people we love. To step outside the accepted norms of familial expectation is daunting at times and none more so than by rejecting religion as a staple of life.
Your tweets on this subject offer an alternate viewpoint. Anyone who feels you force your views upon them is misunderstanding the basic premise of social networks. More significantly they fail to recognise that the status quo of religious doctrine, functions more comfortably for them, by maintaing a 'message monopoly' on public platforms and potentially finds itself shaken by being questioned.
On Twitter I follow and am followed by people of faith, who enjoy being challenged respectfully. They understand that the discussion and the exchange of ideas is paramount to all crucial debate and recognise that questioning of an institution, or the leadership of faith groups, is not an assault on the people who comprise its membership.
Those who seemingly become the most enraged by your tweets, are those who speak of offence, which they say you inflict on them or others they claim to speak for. If any personal belief is weakened by questions oft repeated, or a simple statement of atheism, then perhaps they need to work harder on assimilating more detailed answers than “Because we say so”.
My point is that in speaking about the things that matter to you, you allow others a chance to know that there is another choice beyond an unquestioning acceptance of doctrine. Also no individual or group should believe they are above challenge, question or concern.
There will always be many who attack, who belittle, denigrate and despise you for this, but I’m sure you know, they are not the people who count. The people who count are the ones who allow themselves a doubt, which becomes a conviction that a freedom from oppression, whether that is in terms of sexuality, or reproductive choice, gender equality, equal marriage or in terms of a quiet request for rationale in the face of rhetoric; begins with the freedom to speak your own truth.
I feel your tweets offer this.
Ultimately to me and to many others, truth is preferable because it’s the easiest thing to remember.
I doubt you would consider doing anything other than this anyway.
All best, Nik