Why Do I Argue About This?
The following is an essay I wrote back in 2008. It seems a bit trite reading it again all these years later. Those who are familiar with the atheist movement will have likely heard these arguments before, but for those who aren’t, it is a good primer for why I give a damn about your religion.
Most people who know me know that I am very open about my atheism. Many, I know, are at least uncomfortable with how open I am. “People just have their beliefs, and it just makes people upset,” one person said. Why do I even talk about this stuff? Why don’t I avoid the subject? Why bother?
Because it is important. Because religious views inform all sorts of opinions and actions.
And because religion, for all its influence and importance, has been shrouded in a cloak of taboo.
Every other aspect of our lives is open to discussion: politics, education, art, entertainment, friends, and so on. Nobody is offended if I say that I hate the new Indiana Jones movie, or that I used to be a vegetarian, or that I will vote for Obama this November. But people give me a little distance when I even allude to the opinion that God is imaginary. I can politely tell my friend why I think she is wrong in thinking that cow’s milk is bad for us, and we are still fast friends. But if I tell another friend exactly why intelligent design does not qualify as a science, the conversation suddenly gets a little quiet.
It is taboo to criticize religion. This is wrong, because religion has a lot to be criticized about. It is anti-intellectual, it is divisive, and it doesn’t play by the rules. Standards of logic and common sense that apply to every other claim about reality do not apply to religion.
This taboo gives the illusion that religion is mostly good and above reproach. Therefore people who reject religion are viewed with suspicion or outright hostility. We are called amoral, selfish, unpatriotic communists, and these opinions about atheists go unchallenged because good, selfless, patriotic people who don’t believe in God are told that it’s not polite to let their beliefs be known.
This prejudice for faith also provides the perfect cover for evil. Take, for example, this blog.
Scroll down, and you see how this blogger handles people who disagree with him. I tell him why I think it is a good thing that this is a secular nation, and in return he offers to fillet me like a fish.
So what, you may ask. There are nut jobs in this world; why am I concerned about this one? Well, if this person wrote on any other subject, and he threatened people with opposing viewpoints with violence, even people who agree with him would say, “whoa, wait a minute. This isn’t what I stand for.” He would immediately and universally be dismissed as a crackpot.
But since he writes under the banner of Christianity, lots of people rally under his cause. They call him brave and thank him. They seriously read his blog to gain what they think is a reasonable insight into issues of church and state.
I know that most christians are more reasonable than this. In fact, I would like to thank all of you in Laker Life who have accepted (or at least tolerated) my presence at the bible studies. But still, the seeds for the insanity expressed by this blogger are embedded in the belief that the most important questions about the nature of the universe were answered thousands of years ago and are no longer open for debate. And the taboo of criticizing faith protects this insanity, giving it the illusion of a reasonable opinion.
I think it is time for a new birth of freedom in our speech. All ideas must go through the crucible of criticism. No longer should ideas be marginalized because they make people of faith uncomfortable. If ideas are to stand or fall, they must stand or fall on their own merits, not because people are afraid to talk or think about them. Ideas that break the taboo must
brought into the sun.