Everyone who comments on my YouTube channel usually leaves some kind of impression, whether it be to make me smile and maybe even remember their compliment years down the road, or to make me very angry and frustrated, or to make me laugh and want more for them in their ignorance and hatred. I get a WIDE variety of comments, as you can imagine! But as much as some of them really upset me, I have to admit that some of the most thought-provoking moments I've had were sparked by conversations (sometimes arguments) with atheists.
I am currently in a committed relationship with an atheist. A few of my closest friends are atheists, and I have some more atheist friends who are not quite AS close yet. One of my friends identifies as humanist specifically, but generally atheist. So I have a lot of atheists close to me in my personal life, and I do sometimes talk with them about religion, but they are all the "old atheist" type who don't mind what anyone believes, as long as we don't try to make them believe anything. Some of them are even curious about my path, ask questions, or participate. The actual arguments or debates come from folks online who usually fall under the description of a "new atheist"--those who don't believe and also want to convince others not to believe.
It sometimes starts with a question. "Why do you believe in this?" "Do you have any proof?" More often, though, it begins with a statement before getting into these questions. "This is bullshit." "Magick isn't real." And most of the time, the first comment includes an identification: "As an atheist..." "I'm atheist." I once had someone simply comment that my religion is fake or bullshit or I'm an idiot for believing it or something, and someone else replied to them saying that they have no right to disrespect my beliefs simply because they disagree, and to please disagree respectfully and not name-call. The initial commenter THEN responded with a group identification: "Actually I'm an atheist therefore I can say your religion is fake." As though that gives you a license to be rude, and as though you speak for all atheists. But most of the time, people identify themselves as their group label, in order to say "This is the perspective I'm coming from." I don't believe I've ever had a discussion about the validity of things like magick without someone identifying themselves by their path, whether it be Atheism, Druidry, Christianity, Pagan rather than Wiccan, or what have you.
The point being... I hear from a lot of atheists! And the past week or so I've been hearing from another one. They asked some of the same questions to begin with, identified themselves as atheist/agnostic immediately, and I answered as simply as I could. They were not uncivil, merely asked things like "What is the point of being Wiccan if you can't do anything that I can't do?" This was in response to a video I had done about what magick is and how it works (i.e. not special effects and movie magic). My response, that is isn't about having a point, made me want to do a video on the subject, which I may still do. Things like that. Arguments or comments from atheists in particular are usually challenging, not always because I don't already know the answer to them for my own path and belief, but because no one else asks the same questions they do. At least, comments I get from other religions are not quite the same. Christians usually just ask why I don't believe in God or Truth or something, and other pagans may focus on a specific way I do things. But atheist questions get at the reasoning of it. Sometimes the answer is very obvious to me, it's just that the question has never been asked of me in that way. This most recent atheist commenter seemed very different from the others, however. I responded to their questions as usual, but when they asked about whether I have experience that supports my belief or whether I base it on "mythological anecdotes like the Bible," I skipped ahead to the final comment that has graced so many debates before:
It is not my responsibility to prove anything to you.
I came to this realization during the last long conversation I had with a new atheist who wouldn't let my belief in magick go, because I couldn't prove it to them. But my beliefs on this are solid. I believe that magick works differently for each person, and that no one should have to believe in something just because they are told, but have their own experiences. So the reasons my explanations of experiences would never convince someone are two-fold. First, my experiences are MINE, and may not be able to be replicated by someone else using the exact methods I used. It has to be made personal. And second, the fact that I have had certain experiences which support my belief does not mean anyone else must believe it if they haven't experienced these things for themselves. I don't always believe people's claims if they don't match what I know to be true from experience. I don't expect anyone to believe anything simply because I say so. That would be akin to the negative parts of other religions that I don't enjoy.
But after skipping ahead to this point, I kept thinking about why on earth I hear from so many atheists. What is their goal? Many of them seem to merely want to disprove me, sufficiently enough to their mind, at least, so that they feel they are still right and I am some uneducated fanatic. I think they, similarly to Christians though I don't think they'd admit it, believe that their way is right and simply cannot tolerate that other people believe something else, and may even think they are saving us from looking like idiots by showing us the light. So many begin their own arguments with name-calling, which is never a solid strategy. But this person, this most recent person, did not appear to be on this road at all. So I wrote to them, explained my frustration with previous conversations and apologized for assuming they would end up striking at the same points as the rest, and asked their opinion on one thing:
Why do I hear from so many atheists? What are they looking for? Do they really just want to disprove me or have a bit of fun, talking to someone they believe to be irrational or stupid? Or are some of them truly looking for proof because they can't find it themselves? Because I seem to have found the answer to some mystery, and they would like to share it if only they could? From many, "Prove it, convince me" is a "Make my day" style challenge. "Bring it on, I'm prepared to refute you." But from others, might it be an actual plea? Show me what I can't seem to find?
I already know that not all atheists are alike. The atheists who leave me harsh comments are nothing like my treasured atheist friends in real life. So I'm not saying this person was a whole new kind of atheist, or anything! Just not the usual atheist that leaves me comments: not combative, but curious. Skeptical, of course, but then again I consider myself a skeptic, as well (a Skeptical Believer, I call it, someone who is skeptical until sufficiently shown that belief makes sense, or a believer who makes sure it's the real thing beyond reasonable doubt. I use this term mostly in paranormal investigation. I believe in spirits, but I will not chalk every noise and shadow up to ghost activity. I will be the first to disprove every claim, go looking for the thing that caused the sound or appearance, because I do not believe in falsehood. I believe in the real thing, and I'm not ashamed to say when you're not looking at the real thing.) I often find things in common with atheists because I think my views are more toward their end of the spectrum of belief than the other. But I'm happy to say that I really am always learning, and this new person's comments made me realize a whole other aspect to atheism. Some of them may just not believe because they haven't found that sufficient proof yet. Not because they never will, but because it's currently the best descriptor for their beliefs. My significant other does not believe and I don't think he ever will, as he never has, and that is fine. But other atheists may not be in that boat.
Magick is about energy. Energy can be felt. I had a feeling about this one, and I was right.