Today, I thought I’d address a question from one of the folks who have commented on my blog. The question is a common one: why do you speak out against religion? Aka can’t we just all get along? J The link to the comment that sparked this blog entry is here. I will have to say I’m kind of amused since the poster, Tela, said she wasn’t interested in arguing about this topic but she does have a lot to say. Sorry, Tela, but I feel you *are* arguing against my points, and I’m taking the opportunity to demonstrate how I think you are wrong. (Some of these topics have been covered before on other posts here).
In a perfect world, I probably could remain quiet and let theists and their nonsense alone, but this is not a perfect world. Many theists do all they can to force others to accept their religion. Here in the US, we have conservative Christians doing anything they can to force everyone to worship like they do. And they want to force *everyone*, be they another type of Christian, atheists, agnostics or worshippers of other religions.
I am “hell-bent” on limiting religion and countering its baseless claims since I see that it causes harm to many people. I will not say you can’t worship some nonsensical being, but I will do my best to show how your worship is ridiculous, nothing better than the tooth fairy. There is nothing about religion that deserves respect.
I do not see that religion benefits anyone and what little benefit might be gleaned out of religion by chance can easily be found elsewhere, without the tribal strings attached. At one point, religion may have been useful, getting a group of people together to do something beneficial to all. Now, all I see are thousands of sects, most if not all claiming that anyone who believes differently than them are damned at worst and who should be converted at best.
I understand that not all theists try to shove their religion down others throats, but those that want to will not take no for an answer. Since many moderate theists and agnostics will not speak loudly against their theocratic brethren, it’s up to the atheists that are willing to defend the rights of everyone to worship whatever they want or not worship anything at all. Some of atheists are more accommodating than others. I know that some atheists simple don’t want to bother with thinking about the problem and hope it will go away. Some hope that they can work with moderate or liberal theists and those theists will not take their rights away with them. Some want absolute power to eradicate religion which requires just as much control as theocrats want. I am, obviously, not of that any of these stripes. We vary wildly in what we think.
I find that moderate theists rarely speak out against other theists since their religion is based on the same baseless claims that other religions are. They see the weakness in their own religion and do not want to expose themselves. I find that many agnostics will not speak out against theocrats because they still want the option that the divine exists for some reason; one reason I’m guessing is that like most humans, they do not like to be wrong. I would ask Tela or any agnostic, what makes you think that there is a possibility of a god and how do you define “god? Why do you not believe in the Christian one? or the Islam one or say, the Wiccan one? Why do you say “maybe” and not yes or no?
Next, I want to give a couple example of why we can’t be sent to our respective corners to shake hands and show how it’s the other side that has no desire to change when change is needed.
To effect change in a culture, it takes a lot of work. We’ve seen this in civil rights, animal rights, environmental protection, etc. There is one side that wishes a status quo that does not change. They benefit from it. Religion is notorious for this. It comes from dogma that one’s god is the only right one to worship and that its laws are unchangeable. However, others dogmas are hard to change too. For instance, we have animal rights activists who speak out against cruelty to animals. These groups range from the Humane Society, to the SPCA, to the more radical groups, like PETA. Now, I find PETA a pain in the ass, but they have rocked the boat like no others. We would still be uselessly testing shampoo on rabbits if they and people like them didn’t raise a ruckus back in the 80s. Same for Greenpeace in the 70s. We have a chance that whales will recover; at one point, we had no time to endlessly consider if we should let them or not.
The loud groups would not sit down and shut up and they would not completely obey moderates who wanted to approach the problems gradually. We have the same on the civil rights side, with a Malcolm X to counter a Martin Luther King, a Emmeline Parkhurst and a Elizabeth Cady Stanton to a Susan B. Anthony and I’m sure the folks in the gay rights movment varied in their approach too. The loud groups shook the pillars of heaven and got things done and they did make their compatriots uncomfortable. Other might have found them loud, aggressive and unrelenting but from history, we see that the short, sharp shock is how things change the quickest for the better.
Tela claims that she has adored Christians and hasn’t been the target of hate and ridicule for her lack of belief. I’m glad for that and I will have to say I love some Christians too, but that does not mean that others like them are not trying to force their sects of their religion on others and that they do not persecute others. They may think that they are doing you a favor in forcing their religion on you, and you have been taught that this is a “good” thing but that does not mean that they are doing you a favor or that this is a good thing in any sense. They are not doing anyone a “solid”; they are trying to gain external validation by increasing the herd that agrees with them. They intentionally spread lies and nonsense. Tela seems to forget that in history people were killed by these folks, there was no option for “thanks but no thanks”, and the only thing is preventing the bad old days from coming back is the secular laws of this country.
I can agree that Tela has met some atheists who were good people and some who were angry and hateful. A lot of people have been very hurt by religion and have every right in the world to be angry. When someone tells you a lie, you have the right to be angry. When someone tells you that you deserve to be eternally torturedl, you have the right to be angry. It takes a while to get over that disappointment, loss and grief when one realizes that religion is simply nonsense. It’s very easy to be angry at and hate a fictional character that you were told agreed with everything you thought and that would protect you from every horrible occurrence when that myth fails. Some people may or may not get over that part of being an atheist. Anger isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes it gets us off our asses to do something about what causes that anger.
However, not all atheists are angry. There are a lot of atheists who never were theists and there are a lot of atheists who have done their due diligence and have plenty of facts to base their conclusions of atheism on. Many non-atheists seem to feel like simply all atheists must be only angry, though. It’s a lot easier to accept that someone is emotionally distraught rather than that their conclusions are based on facts. I can imagine this even threatening to an agnostic, because it takes away even the chance of a being that cares for you and agrees with you. It’s a big scary universe out there and humans love to hope that it has some “purpose”. If there is none, then we are left up to our own devices. I still get angry, make no mistake. I get very angry when someone intentionally spreads lies because they want others to think some god agrees with their very human hates and desires.
I don’t only “feel” a need to show that religion is harmful nonsense, there *is* a need for that to be done. Religious nonsense needs to be stood against to keep everyone safe from false claims of magical healing, to make sure all our kids get a good education based on facts not myths, to keep kids safe from predators who claim that they speak for a “god”, to allow others to worship as they want or not at all. Everyone benefits from this. Tela, I’d mention your granddaughter, who is happily recovered from a medical emergency. If there were no people resisting religious dogma, do you think she’d have as much access to medical advancements as she did? If we allowed religions to force their beliefs on others, would blood transfusions be refused if Jehovah’s Witnesses were in power? We have religions now who want to give the ability to refuse insurance for something the boss doesn’t like. Would anesthesia be around if some one thought that humans “should” feel pain because of the original sin nonsense? Yes, it sounds ridiculous now, to say that religion can so influence society. However, women have only had the vote for 93 years and religions were standing against that too. Yep, some were for it. And which side had the god in its ranks? Both certainly thought so and both were wrong from every bit of evidence that can be found.
There’s a term “rough men” used in this quote: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” It’s attributed to various people, Orwell, Churchill, Kipling, etc. It makes it clear that people have to make a stand to keep their freedom, and may have to do things that aren’t “polite” to do so. To me, that’s what all of these in your face iconoclasts were when they advocated for women’s rights, animal rights and human rights. They would not take a step back. They said “”No further.”
I am one of the “rough men” who guards everyone’s ability to not believe in a religion if you don’t want to or to believe in whatever you want. I can understand that most people do not want to even think that there is a problem. It’s far from their regular lives and it’s easiest to pretend there aren’t theists who want to force a theocracy on everyone. But that is relinquishing your responsibility to those who would to the hard dirty work of driving back all theocratic attempts at extinguishing freedom. Those Christians who are pushing an “intolerant, ugly agenda ie, anti homosexual, etc” are just as much Christians are those who are tolerant, sure that homosexuals are fine, etc. Both claim that a magical being gave them a magical book and that they have the only “right’ way to interpret it. It is this thinking that some divine being is supporting them that is the most dangerous part because they feel they don’t have to explain their actions. They can just claim that their god wants it and they’ll do it without thought.
I’ll finish by using your last quote. “I would love to see you take on Westboro Baptist Church ” 🙂 . That might be the crux of the argument right there. You would like to see me do this but do not seem willing yourself (I hope I am wrong). It takes everyone to stand up to people who would take freedom away, not just a few.