On Just Making it Home

Tags

, ,

“Just do what the officer tells you to do so you can make it home alive.”

“You need to be respectful so you can live to fight another day.”

…but you didn’t fight this day. How can one do another day that which she was afraid to do before?

With the story of Sandra Bland’s arrest and death in Texas unfolding (not to mention Kindra Chapman and other black women who died in police custody over the past couple of weeks,) a familiar chorus is springing up. The chorus of those who analyze the actions of victims, while allowing for the systemic racism and state sanctioned violence against black bodies to continue unabated.

Yes, state sanctioned violence. Yes, I’m talking about America, “land of the free.” For if the state does not punish violence against its citizens, as the U.S. has repeatedly failed to do, then the state sanctions the violence against its citizens.

That aside, we need to discuss respectability politics again. As I, and many others, have said repeatedly, respectability politics is just another form of victim blaming. I reject ALL forms of victim blaming, especially the form that says a woman’s actions contributed to her being killed in police custody when she should never have been in police custody to begin with.  

Sandra Bland’s only crime was knowing her rights and demanding they be respected. How dare she be “arrogant” as one CNN commentator described her? How dare she not bestow this obvious bully of a cop with a slew of “yes sirs” and “no sirs” so she could get out of there as quickly as possible? How dare she not follow the rules of engagement that have been passed down to little black boys and girls since well before Jim Crow? How dare she not stay in her place?

She dared not because enough is enough. Sandra knew black lives matter. She knew her life mattered. I’m sure she knew this obviously power drunk cop would be a nuisance or worse to the college students at her alma mater.

How dare the older generation continue to try to teach us to submit to unlawful, out of control authority? How dare they tell us to continue to lower our heads and give up all want for dignity in this, our supposed home? How dare they be so selfish to only want us to make it home? How dare they?

Continued police violence against black bodies is assured when everyone is simply “trying to make it home.” When we all live in fear, we do anything we can to minimize that fear. We don’t ask questions. We don’t assert our legal rights. We don’t speak out. We cease to live. We simply try to survive. All the while, this state of oppression strengthens our oppressors and those who would harm us.  

If this state/nation/world isn’t better for my children than it is for me, then I am a failure. I refuse to teach them to only seek self preservation when all around them others suffer indignity and violence. I refuse to teach them to lower their eyes for any man, let alone a power hungry tyrant. 

Sandy lived. She spoke up. She did her part to make things better for all of us. The worst thing we can do is turn her death into an example of why we should comply or die. We have to keep fighting to dismantle the power structure that killed her in the first place. It’s never been good enough to just make it home when my brothers and sisters didn’t.

On July 4th

“At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, 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.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”

~Frederick Douglass, July 5, 1852

Full text here.

On Legacies

Tags

, , , , ,

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with legendary Houston activist Ray Hill. Though I thought of many questions for him that went unasked, an interesting thread wove through his story as told in the short film about his activism, “The Trouble With Ray,” and directly by the man himself. Ray spoke about being born into a family of “labor goons” who were relieved when he came out as gay and not as a Republican. His activism helped stop lesbian bar raids in Houston in the 1960s, as well as Anita Bryant’s homophobic march across the country less than a decade later. While still attending to the gay community, he also speaks out on prison reform and advocates for prisoners to this day.

Ray talked fondly about his family, especially his mother and her influence on his life and activism. Frankie, as she was called, raised her children to be fighters. She told them the picket line was long and stretched all the way from before civil rights to after immigration reform and we should each take a spot on that line to fight for our fellow man. This was the statement that struck a nerve for me. This mother, this family, created an amazing legacy of activism that has helped thousands, if not millions of people be able to live their lives on their own terms.

Also this week, I have watched in horror the act and aftermath of nine African-American church goers being gunned down by a self-described white supremacist who wanted to “take his country back.” The victims’ families have not been allowed to grieve, instead they have been trotted out as examples of good Christians for forgiving the murderer even without his asking. These families, as many others in such tragic cases, have been counseled and expected to forgive someone with no remorse for his actions, no penance paid, in the name of being the better person. It begs the question, what legacy are we leaving for our children?

What will our children say years from now when they realize we didn’t fight for them, instead choosing to appeal to a figment of our imagination who never rescues us when we need to be rescued even though our every action is ostensibly to please him? When nothing has changed and history is still being written by the victor, will they realize we turned the other cheek until there were none left? Will they figure out the existential idea of waiting for god is just that, an idea whose time has been up since inception?

Or will we leave a legacy of more of the same? Will our children grow up to be people so steeped in fear there is no fight left in anyone? Will they be so pious as to allow the continual suffering of others hoping and waiting on a heaven to escape to, while simultaneously being afraid to die and go there? Will my children be just as frustrated as I am by what I see today, or will my voice and the voices of others like me be enough to change things?

These are questions we have to ask ourselves as a community in order to move forward and enact real change. What good is forgiveness and a lack of retribution when it just continues the cycle of violence against our community? What good is a legacy of peacefulness when it only assures peace for those who harm us? What good is a “he was a good man” epitaph when that man is dead and his children have to understand they are no more protected than he or his forebears?

I want to leave a legacy of critical thought and activism. If my children have to fight, let them fight new issues, not these same battles again and again. Let them also understand forgiveness is not required, nor is it profitable to be given away freely to those who don’t deserve it.

On #McKinney (and the Absence of a Black Childhood)

Tags

, ,

Another day, another video surfacing of black children being mistreated by white cops. Another chorus of “we don’t really know what happened,” “let’s reserve judgement,” “well if she hadn’t…” Another afternoon I sit trying to figure out how to say this differently: STOP HURTING US!

In a video released online, we see cops trying to corral a group of teens in the suburb of McKinney, Texas, just north of Dallas. One presumably white teen is allowed to walk around videotaping while black and brown children are yelled at, cursed and manhandled by police. A 15-year-old girl in a bikini is wrestled to the ground and sat on by a cop obviously much stronger than her. Friends try to help her, only to have a gun pulled on them by the same out of control cop.

I can’t imagine what threat this child posed, even as she was repeatedly berated and told to be quiet. This child had been audibly begging for her mother to be called before being pinned. I can only imagine being summoned to this scene and seeing my daughter on the ground, face down, with a grown male sitting on top of her. This is a parent’s worst nightmare. The very people you raise your child to look to for help, the “community helpers” they are taught about in school, are the very same people who hurt them with impunity. These cops acted as if the black and brown children were the cause of the problem before even defining the problem. These are the very people who will cut them down in an instant, then lie and say it was their fault. As many have asked, “who do you call for help when the helpers hurt you?”

The kicker in this particular story? Some witnesses say the whole ordeal started with a rude, cursing, belligerent and violent white woman. Go figure.

Many studies show how black children’s childhoods are routinely taken away from them well before they reach adulthood. I cringe when someone tells me my son looks mature, because I know that could be a potential problem for him. We know that black children are punished more harshly in the school systems and they are forgiven far less easily than their white peers. When little Johnny accidentally trips Susie, he’s simply told to apologize. When little Tyrone does the same, he may get sent to the principal. When Johnny gets older and curses in class, the teacher tells him to watch his mouth. When Tyrone curses in school, he is given a ticket to appear in court. In many ways, Black children are never allowed to be children. There is no such thing as “harmless fun” for them. They can’t afford to just be silly little kids navigating the world and making mistakes in a safe space. There are no safe spaces.

On Raising Better Slaves, Part 2

Tags

, , , , ,

wpid-enslaved-mind-lou-beach.jpg.jpego

Lately, I’ve written on the subjects of religion in the black community, respectability politics, and the futility of forgiveness and prayer. It wasn’t until my open letter to Toya Graham, though, that a pattern began to emerge. The common thread in these particular subjects is the fact that they are all used to keep black Americans docile, to make better slaves.

I’m sure I’m not the first to make this connection, but it has become so clear to me personally in the last nine months. Black people are continually told what to do, how to act, how to react to pain and what to aspire to in an effort to keep us so focused on the illusion of success, we don’t realize the damage that’s being done to us individually and collectively. Some of us engage in a competition to be “one of the good ones” who can say we “made” it. We go to the best schools, get the most lucrative jobs, wear the finest clothes and drive the fanciest cars to differentiate ourselves, but to what avail? Do we honestly believe we are incapable of experiencing racism after we’ve accomplished so much? A short search will yield many stories of successful and famous black people being treated unfairly when they aren’t immediately recognized as one of the “special” ones.

When those deemed special realize the problem; however, they are so enmeshed in the system of white supremacy they risk losing everything by speaking out. Now they have to think about the cost of exposing racism, the cost of being labeled “radical,” the cost of truth. Should I hold on to my illusion of success or fight for my very life and the life of my people? What a horrible position to be in, yet many of us find ourselves in that very position every time another tragedy occurs.

How did we get here? Let’s examine a few of the most effective ways to make better slaves, shall we?

Religion

This one is obvious, yet overlooked by so many. Black people have been taught to love white Jesus and emulate his loving persona ever since being forcibly brought to the Americas. While some apologists will argue there was some form of Christianity in Africa that predates the slave trade, one cannot argue the role Christianity played in the life of the American slave. The white landowners felt at ease holding slaves in the first place because their bible told them it was not an evil practice. Passages in many books, including Leviticus (Old Testament) and Ephesians (New Testament) not only permit slavery, but instruct slave owners in how to get slaves, beat slaves and rape slaves.

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5) This passage was no doubt invoked repeatedly to make the slaves believe they were doing the right thing by resisting the urge to revolt. They were not serving these men who owned them, but Christ himself, which was honorable indeed.

Other passages telling of the riches of heaven and how beautiful it would be gave hope to the hopeless. The tradition of “storing up your blessings in heaven” started here, with slaves believing that as bad as this life was, they would be rewarded as “good and faithful servants” if they just did their best and kept believing.

Sound familiar? To this day, many black people realize this nation is not built for us, yet they shrug it off with a sigh and a will to just get through it. Many new age Christian and prosperity gospel evangelists speak about not being from this world. Some go as far as to say we have to toil on this planet in all its tragic glory as we wait for The Lord to take us back home to heaven. The poor are reminded of this every Sunday while getting a temporary shot of false euphoria, then sent back to the realities of their lives.

Better slaves don’t expect more, demand more, or think they deserve more. They just wait, following the carrot on the stick until they can follow it no more.

Respectability Politics

“Pull up your pants! Stop acting like a thug. He wouldn’t have been shot if he didn’t act like that.”

Respectability politics is an illusion. It says we will be treated better if we act better (read: more like white folks.) Our youth is in trouble not because the police are out of control, but because they didn’t acquiesce well enough. They didn’t say “yes sir” or “no sir” in the proper tone. They didn’t respond quickly enough to a question that was never asked. They are fatherless, they need mentors, they need to take education more seriously.

When a black person is killed, there is always a character assassination attempt shortly thereafter. What was he or she wearing? Where were they? Did the unfortunate person have a troubled past? Surely if they would’ve just…

This is the height of victim blaming. As I’ve said before, instead of telling racists to stop killing black men and women, we keep asking what they did to deserve to die. This is the same logic rape apologists use. Instead of telling men to stop raping women, these people immediately ask how short was her skirt. Both instances are wrong. Simply being black is not reason enough to evoke deadly suspicion just as simply being a woman is not reason enough to constantly fear being raped.

What’s worse is when your own people are the loudest to condemn you based on stereotypes and fear. Better slaves think they’ve made it, and look down on others who they feel didn’t try hard enough.

Futility of Forgiveness and Prayer (The Cycle of Abuse)

Invariably, after one of these tragedies occurs, people get angry. There are protests and uprisings called “riots” by those who don’t understand the frustration of feeling as though you and yours are targets who can be killed with impunity. White people see this frustration and begin to wax poetic about the “proper” kind of protest. Adherents to respectability politics say things like “why are they tearing up their own community?” Nevermind the majority of protests are peaceful, we are shown the most exciting behavior in an effort to self pacify. Black leaders are called on to calm the people down so justice can be served. Church leaders preach forgiveness and prayer for the families.

National leaders begin to call for a swift inquiry that’s usually as slow as a speeding turtle. Very few charges are ever filed against murderous cops, rarer still are any convictions. We wait. Some of us forget with the next news cycle. Some of us watch with baited breath as lawyers promise things will be different this time. We hope it’s true, but we are eventually disappointed. The preachers tell us their god will have vengeance on the perpetrators and many families speak of forgiving them.

These false salves are then wiped away as soon as the next man or woman is gunned down. This, my friends, is the American cycle of abuse.

Better slaves hold on to hope when action should be taken. They listen to their masters and black overseers when told to simmer down, believing everything will be all right when it obviously will not.

I, for one, am tired of this deadly cycle. As I’ve said previously, ENOUGH! Now is the time to come together to not only demand change, but to enact it ourselves. Don’t let anyone take our voices away. Don’t let anyone tell us to calm down. Don’t listen to those who would coddle us and assassinate our characters as soon as their masters demand it. Teach the young people to think critically, to fight, and to never let anyone stifle their revolutionary fire.

Don’t be a slave, much less a good one.

On Raising Better Slaves, Part 1 (An Open Letter to Toya Graham)

Tags

, , ,

Ms. Graham,

I get it. You want to protect your son. You don’t want to be the crying mother on TV who lost him to senseless violence. I get it. I have a son and some of the same fears as a Black mother. This, though? Beating him at all, much less publicly, isn’t going to stop that. You’re being exploited by the very people who would call your son Michael a thug and throw him away with other Black men and women just as quickly as they see him walking down the street. Here’s how:

“He was embarrassing himself by…”

No, he wasn’t. He was standing up for what he believes in. Have you listened to his words?

“My friends were down there, my friends have been beaten by police, killed by police, so I felt I needed to go down there and show my respect.”

These are not the words of a tempestuous teen hellbent on doing something for the sheer joy of it. These are the words of a young man who understands the disgusting way he and people who look like him are treated by the police force not just in Baltimore, but nationwide. He understands how wrong it is that he is seen as a problem simply for daring to exist. He has compassion for his friends who have been wronged and wants to stand in solidarity with them. How is this embarrassing to him? I suspect what you meant to say was “he’s embarrassing me,” which is a sad sentiment. How are you not proud of having a son who isn’t afraid to stand up, not only for himself, but his people?

“I was so angry with him that he had made a decision to do some harm to police officers.”

Are you just as angry about the police doing harm to those who look like your son? If not, I question where your loyalties lie. Please don’t think because you are being praised this week, you aren’t looked at as just another single mother bringing more problematic, fatherless children into the world. The same people who are giving you accolades now, are the same people who would’ve called Child Protective Services on you a month ago for the same exact behavior. They are also the same people who look down on you and others like you daily. The difference this week is your usefulness to their ultimate aim: emasculate Black men and take their fight away. You are being trotted out as the mother of the year because White people are happy to see a Black mother controlling her Black son, rendering him useless to the movement for justice and hoping his story will keep others from standing up.

“As long as I have breath in my body I will always try to do right by Michael and show him what’s going on out in society doesn’t have to be you.”

Do you realize how impossible that is for you to ensure? Your son is a Black man. There is no amount of protection you can give him to overcome this fact. He can go to college, get five degrees and a wonderful job, but still be pulled over by the wrong cop while doing nothing wrong. He knows this, and I suspect you do, as well. Being prepared and fighting for change is more profitable than burying your head in the sand.

“She didn’t want me to be like another Freddie Gray.”

I hate to break it to you Ms. Graham, but Michael is already another Freddie Gray. We are all Freddie Gray. We, as Black people in America, are all one step away from a fateful ride in a paddy wagon. I’m proud of your son for saying ENOUGH, and I wish you could be, too.

*Quotes taken from Toya Graham and her son Michael Singleton’s interview with CNN April 29, 2015. (http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/29/us/baltimore-mother-slapping-son/)

On the Futility of Forgiveness

Tags

, , , , ,

“Negroes – Sweet and docile, Meek, humble and kind: Beware the day – They change their mind.” ~ Langston Hughes

My heart is heavy. Once again, I’m writing in the aftermath of another killing of a black man at the hands of a white cop. Another black man gunned down over something incredibly minor. Another black man painted as a superhuman, fear inducing monster who gave the officer no choice except to put him down like a wild dog in the streets.

Sure, this time is a bit different. This time someone videotaped a completely different reality which was taken seriously. One that shows this cop gunning down 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back from at least 10-15 feet away. One that possibly, though more than likely, shows a taser being planted next to his lifeless body in order to corroborate the tried and true “I feared for my life” defense used by rogue cops nationwide these days. One that instigated an actual investigation, firing, and charges for the cop involved. Time will tell if the murderer is convicted, but as distasteful as it feels to say, at least this one was arrested.

A common response permeates, however. Not a week after the video came out showing their son and brother being murdered, the family of Mr. Scott was put on television to profess their trust in The Lord and forgiveness extended to the killer cop. Not one week was given to this family to process before they were showing their meek and mild spirit and letting America know they were devastated, but strong in their faith. As such, it was their duty to allow God to get justice for them while they put on a brave face and let go of any desire for vengeance.

Forgiveness. That which proves we are better than our oppressors. That which makes us feel as though we aren’t on their level. We are better humans because we can forgive the person while loathing their actions. We know where our help comes from, so we don’t have to be vengeful. We don’t have to cry out in anger at those who have wronged us. We can rest assured that our secret cries are heard and one day, they will have to give account to their higher power and be punished for their sins.

Right? Wrong.

Just as Christianity was beaten into our ancestors, the ideas of being docile, meek and mild were as well. These were strategic mental placements to make sure the slaves did not revolt, or hold on to anger towards the abusive masters. Generation after generation, we were taught to “cast our cares on The Lord” and he would take care of it eventually. I’m convinced this is an integral reason for the lack of organized revolution on the part of slaves, who outnumbered the ruling class many times over. Even after slavery ended, these ideas were so ingrained and the oppression so suffocating, the posture of most African-Americans remained the same. Do the best you can, and hope like hell the afterlife is better.

This posturing has done little to nothing to stop the violence against our people. Constantly turning the other cheek is an impotent stance while more members of our community are being killed with no punishment for the killers. Trayvon Martin’s killer roams free to commit more crimes (which he has an uncanny ability to walk away from.) Mike Brown’s killer roams free with a hefty sum of money raised to start over wherever he wants. Aiyana Stanley-Jones’s killer is walking freely while the 7-year-old’s family undoubtedly feels her loss daily. Eric Garner’s killer continues to live his life after choking the father to death on a New York street, while the man who shot the cell phone video showing the killing is afraid to eat in prison because of threats against his life. Not to mention the countless other brown faces whose murders were never reported locally or nationally, and whose murderers continue to patrol areas with commendations and honor bestowed upon them in the line of their racism-saturated duty. Where is this vengeance that the victims speak of when quoting “Vengeance is mine, saith The Lord?” I have not seen any evidence of its existence either.

To this I say, enough! Enough of taking the proverbial “high road” while our sons, daughters, mothers and fathers are gunned down in the streets with no repercussions for their murders. Enough of our young people’s lives being snatched away with impunity, their killers immune from suffering any consequences for their actions. Enough of trying to be the face of strength and grace for a nation that doesn’t even concede our humanity, much less our high moral ground. Enough of giving these cops, not just rogue cops, but all cops who either murder or sit silently by while their colleagues murder, the go ahead to kill black men and women on sight since they have a good chance of beating any possible punishment for doing so. Enough of appealing for calm in a situation where our very lives are at stake. Enough.

Invisibly Visible (A Poem)

wpid-received_410930439079599.jpegBlack

“Why do you always have to bring up race?”
“If we all stopped watching the news, we could focus on love.”

Meanwhile..

“Your kind isn’t wanted here.”
“I don’t mind black people, I just don’t understand why you guys do that.”

Woman

“I love women, my mother is one.”
“Why do women bitch and complain all the time?”

Meanwhile..

“Don’t wear that. It may attract the wrong attention.”
“You don’t make as much because Bill has a family to support and takes less time off.”

Atheist

“Live and let live, I can’t judge you. That’s between you and God.”
“Why do you have to tell everyone you don’t believe?”

Meanwhile..

“You’ll know god is real when you have hard times.”
“Let’s legislate based on this book of fairy tales because WE believe it’s real.”

Mother

“Aww, your children are so cute.”
“I don’t know how you do it, being single and all.”

Meanwhile..

“Are the fathers involved in their lives?”
“I understand you have kids, but don’t expect any special treatment.”

Professional

“You can be anything you want to be if you work hard.”
“You’re so articulate.”

Meanwhile..

“Well, of course you have to be better than everyone else to get to the same level.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize you actually had *this* position. How? Nevermind.”

We exist.
We are here.
We are your family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues.
We exist.
We exist.
We exist.
Deal with it.

On Wasted Breath

Tags

, , ,

“It matters not how much truth you speak. If the listener is not ready or capable at that time to apply it, truth is irrelevant. A person has to be able to comprehend said truth in order for it to become evident to them.” ~Stena

Imagine if you will: You’ve been studying a new subject for 3 years. You find many primary sources of information during your research that dispels most of the “common knowledge” surrounding your topic of choice. You consult experts on this topic as you seriously examine all possible explanations before finally coming to a conclusion. After you reach your conclusion, you begin to share it with close associates, then the community at large. Surprisingly, you find some who flippantly dismiss your new findings, saying they cannot be correct no matter how many man-hours of work you put into finding non-biased information. There are some who go so far as to insult your intelligence in their repudiation of your assertions.

This is a major challenge for new nonbelievers. We have come into this awakening to the realities of life and many times find those around us unwilling to even discuss the possibilities, let alone step into the light with us. We, especially those of us who are black nonbelievers, desperately want to help our brothers and sisters break the chains that Christianity has used to bound and weigh us down since chattel slavery, but this feat turns out to be much more difficult than we had ever imagined. Our family and friends simply reject our newfound ideas outright, and then insult us for having the gall to believe it ourselves.

The reasons for this are many, ranging from simple indoctrination to cognitive dissonance once reason and logic have been introduced and rejected. I can no longer count the number of times I’ve asked the simplest of questions, such as “Do you really believe there was a talking snake in a garden? Do you honestly believe that?” just to be given a non-answer or an honest answer with the caveat of “but that doesn’t mean it’s all crazy talk.”

Yes, actually, it does. But I digress.

As quoted above, people cannot and will not be able to digest new information until they are ready. It has been said, especially by preachers who focus on Proverbs as opposed to Job, that you cannot give infants meat because it won’t be digested properly.  The same concept is at work here.  If a person is heavily indoctrinated, there is nothing you can tell them to make them doubt the god they have created in their minds. This god may have little resemblance to the god of the bible (think prosperity gospel church members) but to them, he is as real as their hands in front of their faces.

Similarly, those who experience cognitive dissonance will react in the same manner. Cognitive dissonance is simply when one’s beliefs and realities don’t match, so the person adjusts one or the other in an attempt to restore emotional harmony and balance. A person can be skilled in math, science, logic and reason, but fiercely believe in a god. They have only known belief. Not believing doesn’t make sense to them; therefore, they are not able to comprehend not believing.  To further illustrate, I once had to “connect” the bible’s assertion that earth was flat and my science teacher’s proof that earth is round. I did this by imagining God as a master scientist who slowly allowed mankind to figure out the truth.  So in order to assimilate the knowledge of the world being round with believing in an infallible god/bible, I had to create a connection where there was none.

This is one of the main reasons I typically do not debate theists. I prefer to ask what I call “good” questions, such as “How can an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent god honestly give people free will?” Of course, asking clear, non-combative questions will not deconvert anyone immediately; we can only hope it will get them to think. This is the first step towards opening one’s mind enough to accept new information. Having an honest, non-threatening conversation will go a long way towards creating mutual trust and respect, as well. If someone thinks you’re just a mean, old atheist despite evidence to the contrary, you may as well just leave the conversation where it stands.

To be clear, just leaving is always an option, as well. For most, changing anyone’s mind is just not something that’s high on the to-do list. I personally wouldn’t mind religion if it weren’t used to harm or used to legislate harm. Since it is used in both of those ways, my primary focus is to speak out against the harm itself, while gently asking believers to really think about the beliefs they hold.  I refuse to waste my breath unnecessarily.

As a wise person once said, “If the listener is not ready or capable at that time to apply it, truth is irrelevant.”

~Deanna