Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Why do atheists care about religion?

It’s an often asked question, a particular favourite of the more sophisticated apologists in my experience. It usually surfaces as "why do you atheists care about something you don't believe in", which (as usual) misses the point almost entirely.

So, speaking as an atheist let me spell out why I care about religion.

Firstly, it's not about God, angels, rituals or devils and it’s not about scripture, no, those things are far too nebulous to care about. The question has a far more simple answer than that, it’s about truth, and more importantly it’s about the thought path that leads from a belief in things without evidence to dogma, arrogance, lies, hate and bigotry.

To me, religion epitomises the belief in things without evidence, this is what I understand "faith" to mean, this is religions specialist subject, it’s tour du force. I would be delighted to ignore religion completely and spend my brain cycles on more productive things (like reality), if only religion would ignore me, unfortunately it seems that religion can't do that.

Religion impinges on everyday life all over the place, for example, in schools where children are taught Bible stories (or Koran stories) as "fact" in blatant acts of indoctrination and brain washing involving the most vulnerable members of society. Religious leaders hold unelected privileged positions in our Governments; religion has special privilege in our institutions, our media and our societies, for example it would be unthinkable for a US president to be an atheist. Religions lie to people, for example by instructing people to believe that the earth is only 6000 years old, or that wearing a condom is worse than catching aids. Religions hold us back as a species, in areas of ethics for example abortion and areas of scientific research and advancement, for example stem cell research. Many apologists would jump in at this point and exclaim “but, look at all the “good” things that religions do”, well yes, no one would deny that, however the suggestion cannot seriously be that people (regardless of which bronze age book they believe in) would simply cease to be altruistic without threat of eternal damnation or promise of rewards in heaven, would it?

And then there is the simple insult of inhumanity; any week you can find dozens of stories from around the world where stupidity and ignorance inspired and informed by religion leads people to do utterly thoughtless or even barbaric things to each other, here are just a few recent examples I have seen…

13 year old stoned to death
Homophobic doctor banned
Growing up in Americas most hated family
Teaching hate in UK schools

Why do atheists care about religion, because its our world too and we cannot afford not to.

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