Today we stand on the edge of a world that seems to have gone mad with Brexit and Trump winning the US presidential race. How could the liberal establishment get it so wrong. How can the modern world want to revert back to the primitive, stupid, racist, xenophobic, and irrational world that we worked so hard to escape from? Well, that is the narrative the dominant media was telling us. We saw the signs but dismissed the Brexit and Trump supporters as racists and bigots. The uneducated, the uninformed.
So how could this have happened? How could there be so many of them? How did the educated liberals get it wrong?
The liberals ignored the signs. They saw Bernie Sanders almost defeat Hillary in the primaries. Trump defeating the Republican intellectual establishment. That Britain was already five years in austerity. That the American dream was dead. They missed the rise of social media and the decline of the established news channels. They missed it all.
But they also missed the pain the middle and working class was in. They voted for Brexit & Trump because they hurt. They felt marginalised, excluded and poor. The rich just get richer but if they made a mistake they got bailed out with public money and soon they were back drinking champagne with their fat bonuses in their pockets. The growing gap between rich and poor. The stagnation of social mobility.
All of this was missed by the well educated. The pollsters, the journalists, the commentator. Why? Maybe because they are part of the privileged. They do live the dream. They can leverage the resources around them to achieve their goals. They do have an accessible future.
This is where I see the similarities between the liberal establishment and militant atheist. As militant atheist we see ourselves as the educated, the enlightened. Our feet firmly plant in facts & logic. We can quote all the rebuttals for the religious arguments by hart.
Are we not making the same mistake the liberal establishment made in both Britain and the US? Dismiss the populous and their fears as racists and bigots. Are we not ignoring the frustrations of the poor around us. Do we not mock their belief in an invisible friend? Do we not also miss that they run to that invisible friend because they have no-one in their corner. The ANC have sold them out for self-enrichment. Their dream is also dead. They cannot obtain the dream that was sold to them at the end of apartheid and reinforces by soapies and celebrities. Maybe that is why we have have the cry for #FeesMustFall and decolonise everything.
Don’t get me wrong. I do believe we need militant atheist. People that can lay the truth out bare eloquently, but we do not need armies of militant atheist. No, just a few will do.
For me the rest of us atheists must rather lead by example. Show what real compassion is, what real morals are. Use love, kindness and sympathy to convince believers that there are other ways to build a better more inclusive society. Show them how a good constitution can steer a country and deliver to a better more equal life for all.
Maybe that is why I am a secularist. No particular belief should have a privileged position or privileged access to the institutions of government. We should all be treated equally before the law.
I am not against religion. I don’t just dismiss it as the refuge of the uneducated but rather see it as an opportunity to engage with my fellow South African citizen. I feel we need to see the pain around us and have compassion for why some react the way they do.
We all need to find ways to reach out with a caring hand to those in need. We should also not underestimate the power of small gestures of compassion and care. Simple authentic acts of kindness can have such a powerful affect on people around us.
That is why I am not a militant atheist. As an atheist I believe there are also other ways to reach people around us.