Brother Ali and Jeremy Messersmith on Religion and Atheism

16 09 2012

On Twitter this morning, two of Minnesota’s most famous musicians shared some of their views on religion and atheism, and increased my respect for both of them. Muslim Brother Ali made some criticisms of “anti-theist” atheists, and atheist Jeremy Messersmith responded. I love the compassion that Messersmith brings to this subject. I hope that I live up to his example when I talk about my atheism. There’s a lot more I could say on this topic, but here I mostly just want to capture the conversation before it becomes too difficult to find on Twitter. First are brother Ali’s tweets, then Messersmith’s. Each paragraph is a link to the original tweet.

Brother Ali

To my anti theist friends, I’ve read Hitchens and Dawkins. Have you read I Don’t Believe in Atheists by Chris Hedges? Not skimmed, read?

I’m not talking about the old school Atheists /Agnostics who’ve made peace with not believing in a higher power…

I’m talking about the anti theists who’ve decided that all spiritual expression is a”dangerous ” and ought to be fought.

Understand that when a first class citizen of a first world empire calls something “dangerous” they’re implying a declaration of war.

I don’t need you to believe what I believe, but be careful not to become the atheist yin to the Christian fundamentalist yang.

What I do every day by picking up a mic is troublesome is Muslim fundamentalists. My community challenges and critiques them every day.

Any blanket condemnation is gonna put you in a place where you’re dissing people who haven’t earned your critique.

Spirituality and Religion are complex nuanced subjects. You can’t assume you understand them all based on a bad experience.

Don’t get me wrong. There are sick evil people who hide behind religious masks for protection. They should not be protected.

Deception gives wings to evil. Evil is almost never straight up in your face. It hides behind something good so you won’t reject it.

How many evil acts have been committed in the name of love, freedom, patriotism, family, loyalty etc?

most anti religious ppl come from extreme religious backgrounds. They were told their religion was the only one.

When they leave that religion they take that idea along with them and project their experiences on all other faith traditions.

Why should Gandhi, Dr. King, Sufis and Native American Spirituality be condemned cause your church sucked?

There are no easy answers to hard problems. Oversimplifying religion denying the spiritual impulse won’t solve the world’s problems

Jeremy Messersmith

Woke up to @BrotherAli talking about probably the only thing we disagree about.

In some ways he’s right I guess- yeah, I came from an extreme religious background and now I’m an atheist. Nailed it.

The reason I sometimes talk about atheism is from (I hope) a point of compassion. Simply don’t want anyone else to grow up the same way.

As far as all spiritual expression being dangerous? Of course not- Richard Dawkins and I both share a love of Christmas songs.

But is some religious expression dangerous? Absolutely. Hard to convince people to be reasonable when reason is secondary to literalism.

It seems like every other week on reddit I read about a scared gay kid who’s been disowned by fundamentalist parents.

It’s hard to be kind when you’re at the receiving end of bigotry, religious or otherwise, but that’s what we’ve got to do.

I’m not sure the religious impulse is going away as some people predict, but I do know the faith of one age is the mythology of the next.

I’m paraphrasing Ralph Waldo Emerson with that last statement.

Not sure what I’m really trying to say, just processing via twitter. Still love you @BrotherAli.