I do not think that religion is poisonous, that it infects everything that it touches. I do not believe that those whom believe in it are less intelligent than those who do not. However, I do have a strong opinion that those who are religious have absolutely no right to feel 1) superior to non believers, 2) think their lives are richer for it and 3) be sorry that we do not have a supernatural presence in our lives.
My grandmother once said to me that she felt ‘sorry’ for my brother and I because we were atheists. That somehow we were missing out on some golden aspect of life which those who go through church doors once a week somehow acquires. This perturbed me, because I have never felt pity towards my grandmother’s beliefs.
I have never looked at her and gone, ‘Oh, poor dear. She believes in a Holy Trinity.’ I have indeed endorsed them. I have gone to church with her, I have said prayers at Christmas dinner and I’ve congratulated her on being an active member of her church community. Imagine her ever doing the same for me with my beliefs!
Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that atheism is superior. What I am suggesting is that open-mindedness is. One can be Muslim, Jewish, Christian or agnostic and still be open-minded. However, let us be honest, this quality does not often find itself attached to religious doctrine. Does anyone else not find it somehow disconcerting that an ex-convict is more trusted to become President of the United States than an atheist is? Or that there still exists a Church of England is an increasingly secular state?
The U.S. Supreme Court once observed that ‘a secular state, it must be remember, is not the same as an atheistic or antireligious state. A secular state establishes neither atheism nor religion as its official creed.’ We therefore do not live in an open-minded secularised nation. Atheists still have reason to feel culturally otracised from 21st century society. This is not right.
I think the current lack of appeal which atheism finds itself mired in is largely due to its lack of open-mindedness. But this, I call to all of you fellow atheists, is our greatest asset! And yet people like Dawkins and Hitchens throw it away for petty verbal bashing of religion. This will not lead to progression of atheistic values or equality.
Some of those who veil themselves under the world of the Lord may demean our beliefs, but atheists have the opportunity to be better than this. To show the world that while religious people may cures, demonise and question our morals and character we shall accept those who do not harm, mistreat or abuse others.
Religion has both aided and hindered the progress of human society. It has brought great things and it has brought about evil doings. Many manmade things like government, sovereignty and wars have achieved the same. Religion, like these other human constructions are destined to be imperfect. History illuminates this imperfection of religion, but this is not a reason to demonise it or determine it to be void of any ‘good.’
The same can be said for atheism. It is by not means the apex of human intelligence or lifestyle choices. Atheism has many great things to offer society and if everyone would just give us the chance, they could see the light.