Keeping an "Open Mind" - The Brain Finally Packs Its Bags
Atheists have often been accused of many things: From innocuous charges of being insensitive to religious, pious sentiments, to the impending moral destruction of the fabric of society, us atheists have it worst when it comes to good PR.
In many countries, atheists are a mistrusted lot, and much of it has to do with the social norms and the social perception of religion in everyday life: Religion has become so entrenched in our consciousness, that the very thought of being a Godless human being seems to smack of sheer arrogance, and according to some Christians, constituting a form of "closed-mindedness" on the part of the atheist.
A Closed-Minded Charge?
From a personal perspective, I am what you would call a rational person: I tend not to rush towards hasty judgment, and I always believe (or hold the opinion, if you will) that any ideas or ideals, however absurd it is on a fundamental aspect, should be given a chance to state its case.
Because of this, my thoughts have often run contrary to populist ideas. I am not a fan of interfaith dialogs, however attractive politicians and religious people may make it out to be, and I am of the opinion that the idea of father-figure deities runs smack against many aspects of the laws of Mother Nature. Because of this natural skepticism, I am often branded a "close-minded" person, one who is not open to new frontiers of knowledge, so to speak.
I am sure many atheists face similar accusations, and more often than not, such accusations are based on inept arguments that really runs against the grain of common sense and logic.
Belief Without Evidence: A Fool's Errand
The problem that I, or any other rational-thinking person face, is that as human beings, we are faced with a constant barrage of information: From traditional mediums of information such as newspapers and TV broadcasts, to the savvier internet technology, we receive our information through a myriad of ways, and not all information can be, or will be assimilated as factual.
Our minds tend to work in tandem with the realities of our existence. Any argument which does not have the stamp of evidence or reason tend to be discarded pretty quickly. For example, the news of the day could be that Osama bin Laden has been killed in his erstwhile cave, somewhere in the Afghanistan/Pakistani border, while he was humping his camel. Even if such news were to arrive from reputable sources, such as the CNN or even the Fox News (Bill O'Reilly......Yucks!), we tend to downplay such reports, until we have perhaps more concrete evidence, such as pictures of his bullet-ridden body being showcased proudly by the US army (like they did with Uday and Kusay. UN Conventions are not standard protocol in the US armed forces.....).
Allegories of the sort that require a huge leap of faith, however, does not incite fervent belief in the rational mind. Christians who speak to me often speak of such allegories, of invisible deity/deities (depending on which branch of the Christian theology you subscribe to: Unitarian or Trinitarian) with an almost voyeuristic interest in our mundane activities. Because of our "failure" to believe in something that demands blind, unwavering belief, we are people who have closed our minds, metaphorically speaking, to new ideas of a new age.
It is in deference to such fanatical, baseless charges that I speak against: Millions of people are conned into "Miracle Crusades" of Peter Popoff and his prosperity theology; conmen touting their "New Age" fengshui and other forms of Eastern/Western religious scams pander their wares shamelessly under the guise of legitimate businesses. These hucksters and cheats have built their blatantly shameless rackets because of the existence of the gullible masses who choose to ride on the crests of credulous, faith based emotions than logical thinking.
In the interest of sanity and the pursuit of truth, I'd rather approach the world with a more rational, evidence-based approach towards issues that tantamount to my free-thinking, Godless world view, than believe in things based on complete, unquestioning faith. And if that means I and my atheist colleagues are branded as "close-minded", then so be it.
After all, an intact mind is a better alternative to a leaky one.