Sometimes those of us who no longer believe, who are the Heretics of Our Age, who ask the hard questions of faith and pointedly challenge the Bible-believers and God-Experts. . .sometimes we can get a bit edgy, even sarcastic and a little angry and mean. I do it too and I’m not always proud of that.
Yet, however, but. . .there are reasons sometimes to Tell it Like it Is and Speak the Truth in the face of furious, fearful and fact-challenged faithful who think they Own “the Truth” and Truth is Their God (remember “I am the Truth”?).
This is why I particularly appreciate these lines from former slave (and former believer in American Religion) Frederick Douglass. He knew, he bore the scars of, the literal whip of the piously powerful and their scriptures of slavery. And, he knew both the great joy and great responsibility of liberation. Douglass became a loud and fearless voice in the world AGAINST the Religion-fueled slavery he had endured and FOR freedom and true equality for all.
He’s a great model, a fine example, for Freethinkers who speak out freely for freedom.
The following is from his July 5th, 1852 speech in New York. I hear echoes of this is MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963). And it resounds in some of what we hear in the Voices long surpressed by Religion’s Loud and Intolerant Voice.
“At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh, had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”
Yes, Douglass was a man of faith. He still believed. But his God was not the same American God worshipped by the masses of those who celebrated the Fourth of July and the Declaration of Independence with no feeling, no conscience, no propriety but great hypocrisy. He lit the fire of freedom to not only show the way forward. . .but to illuminate that hypocrisy and those “crimes” against any God worth believing in and any Humanity worth believing in.
Douglass reminds us that there is a time for scorching irony, ridicule, reproach, sarcasm and stern rebuke. We need a storm, an earthquake, to wake people up sometimes. And only those of us who have been harmed by supernatural faith can speak with confidence, to “shake the foundations” with our stories. We were once slaves (called disciples, children, servants or ministers) and we found a way to drop our chains. Maybe not so dramatic, but for many of us, this act of liberation was not unlike a breaking of the bondage of belief. We tell our stories and encourage others to tell theirs. Together we join all those who have survived oppression of body and mind and stand free and determined, unashamed of our scars and proud of our renewed secularism, our “new citizenship” in a Freethinking Land.
So, especially on behalf of millions who have never been given the chance to leave faith, who have never been offered a viable, healing alternative to faith, we must speak up and speak out. It’s not enough to be released from prisons of mind. We have to help in any way we can those who remain inside but dream of something better.
I hope I use many other ways of communicating and conversing about these sensitive issues that do not have to include sarcasm and such. But the feeling and conscience of many must be “quickened and roused” for change to come. Flashing a flashlight isn’t enough. Sometimes a fire needs to be kindled and fanned.
Thank Good for Frederick Douglass.