By CourtneyHere's my thoughts on atheism and intolerance, posted in my brand new blog, an amalgamation about anything and everything, at http://readaboutcourtney.blogspot.com. I'm a longtime fan of ex-christian and thought I'd finally post some of my thoughts on the site.
Here's the thing: even the title will alert people that I'm going to be offensive, whether I am or not. In fact, just being an atheist is offensive to so many people in this country. Anytime an atheist asserts her views she has a unique disadvantage. Before she even begins explaining her position everyone is already on the defensive. It is seen as much more acceptable for a religious person to assert her beliefs with complete authority than for an atheist to do so. Atheists are one of the last groups it's still ok to slander.
If an atheist says, "I believe you're wrong, and here's why," she will almost certainly be met with accusations that she's condescending, thinks she knows it all, is offensive, and will go to Hell. And yet it's ok for a Christian to be condescending, think she knows it all, and be offensive by telling people that they will surely suffer in Hell for all eternity. The community is much less likely to jump to the aid of an atheist whose beliefs have been verbally attacked in this way. An atheist, no matter her character, will be accused of immorality and any manner of heinous things, even bringing on the 9/11 attacks.
I know that in the past I've come across as offensive and rude when I explain what seems so obvious to me, and I can see that now. But in the future I plan to be very careful with my words on this subject. That's just the way it has to be to be heard. As Sam Harris and others have pointed out, religion remains the only area of human discourse where you cannot be called out for believing in ridiculous things, and you will be given complete freedom to assert that you know without a doubt that which you cannot know. We have to give this unwarranted and unquestioned respect to religion, no matter how ridiculous it is. For instance, if a person or a group of people claim that they know that there is an invisible pink unicorn living under their porch, you are perfectly reasonable to say, "No, there's not." They will undoubtedly respond that you cannot prove there isn't, and maybe he cannot prove that there is, but he believes it with all his heart. You might even consider having this person checked out, but as soon as he says it's his religion, we're supposed to respect that. Just think about how no one publicly points out that Tom Cruise or any other adherents of Scientology are wasting thousands of dollars greasing the palms of con men, who are making them believe that they're infested with tiny aliens that they must purge.
Likewise, when people believe that they converse with the Creator of the Universe in their heads, we're supposed to respect that. These people can put forth their ideas in public with a complete lack of fear of a backlash. But if an atheist says that she does not believe in any of it, she can be publicly attacked for lack of morals, as I've said. Don't believe that this is common? Just remember what President George H. W. Bush said: â€œNo, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.â€ Nothing has changed. It's perfectly common for atheists to be compared with such monsters as Hitler and Stalin, even if they were in the Peace Corps working to alleviate world hunger.
Some people argue that we need religion in society to be moral and keep chaos from taking over. On that point, I wholeheartedly disagree, and my view is based on evidence. I believe that it is no coincidence that there is a direct correlation between largely atheistic populations and peaceful and successful nations. Anyone can look at the United Nations and other organizations' extensive studies. The countries with the highest atheist populations are also the most peaceful and score the highest in human health areas, having the lowest rates of crime, depression, suicide, hunger, illiteracy, etc. These heathen nations seem to be doing just fine; in fact, better than the rest of us.
That is because morality does not come from the Bible or any other holy book, as people who believe we need religion claim. Just do a simple test. Read Deuteronomy 22:28-29, where we learn that if a man rapes an unbetrothed virgin, he is to pay her father 50 shekels and then marry her. Does it make you cringe a little, or does that sound right? Some will defend the numerous atrocities in the Old Testament, saying that these fall under the "Old Law" and that when Jesus came down to Earth and died for everyone, then all those old rules didn't apply anymore (where God's personality apparently did a complete 180). Well how about some New Testament morality then - 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, just one many many verses in the New Testament that talk about how God will endlessly torture most of his beloved creations for all eternity. That means if you lived a life helping alleviate people's suffering, but you made the mistake of being Hindu or atheist, you will be suffering horrendously for eternity upon your death. How does that strike you? Now look at another one, Leviticus 19:18, where we're told to love our neighbors as ourselves. And Luke 3:14, where it says to "do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely." That seems better, doesn't it? So if you can look at different parts of the Bible and make judgments about which seem moral, it shows us that your morality is coming from somewhere outside of that book. The truth is that morality has developed as humans have developed to suit whatever ideals hold societies together and make them functional.
Look, I cannot prove that there is not an invisible pink unicorn under your porch, or that snakes and donkeys don't sometimes talk, and you grant that you can't prove their existence, but there are degrees of probability. Is it likely that there is an invisible pink unicorn under your porch? No. Is it likely that a talking snake convinced a woman to eat an apple and thus created the downfall of humanity? Not at all.
Is it likely that I will now be called rude, condescending, stupid, and be alienated from some people? Sadly, yes, it is likely.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)