Give Atheists a Chance

1

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 ┬ánor 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.

1 COMMENT

  1. Dear Editorial Staff,
    This article by Mr. Higginbottom is considerably lacking in proof-reading – particularly in regards to ‘consistency-of-argument’. (If he chose a pseudonym less proper-English sounding, readers would be more lenient towards his poor-grasp of said language.) Is it that the merit of your publication has sunk considerably, or merely that I’ve clearly spent more time crafting this response, than that spent writing this piece? In any case, I am sorry for your loss of quality, and in the garish light of your other articles this past week, I have little hope in seeing any improvement. “The Sinner” (as it is now known) is meant for satire, but I see you too are quite good at it, your publication granting us many laughs at the expense of (attempts at) “student journalism”.
    Yours Sincerely,
    _#Higgbottom_

    Mr. “Higgbottom”, your goal is to justify atheism as a legitimate life-choice, to combat the unfair bias it receives. You propose the solution as ‘open-mindedness’ (basically, not expressing judgement or pity upon someone, for cause of what they believe) … but then you proceed to write:

    “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.”

    To which doctrine of which faith do you refer? Presumably only these three, as there are few other faiths of which “the world of the Lord” is an adequate description (because few faiths outside those ‘of the book’, have any concept of one singular “Lord”). Using the singular form “doctrine” clearly shows how you lump all religious doctrine together, which I’d presume in your measure of ‘open-mindedness’, is asymptotically close to “ignorance”.

    Of the few faiths you list, I’d argue that ‘bashing others’ isn’t a necessary result of the faith per-se, but rather an unchecked minority of inconsiderate arses. You’ve omitted ‘atheism’ from your list – which you shouldn’t have, since the most vocal proponents of atheism are in fact anything but polite, civil, and slow to voice their judgements and pity of others. Forgive me, “it must be remember [sic]” that you contextualize this inconsistency to Dr. Dawkins and Mr. Htichens alone, which I feel is disingenuous, seeing as an overwhelming majority of the public faces of atheism fail this constrained test of ‘open-mindedness’.

    Fun fact: I’m atheist, but it is the values of Christianity, that laid the groundwork for Western culture to grow permissive enough for our (sadly) shared atheism to become culturally tolerable. I’d argue that ‘forcing other people to agree with you’ is anti-Christian – tolerating alternate views is a necessary part of their deal. In fact what is unfair, is for people to say “[you have] no right to [express those views]”.

    “I do have a strong opinion that those who are religious have absolutely no right to feel … c) be [sic] sorry that we do not have a supernatural presence in our lives.” or in your words “felt pity towards [someone’s] beliefs”.
    No right = not justified = illegitimate or wrong. Certainly it’s not nice for people to repeatedly state their pity of you (its belittling and demeaning), but they have every right to hold that opinion.

    People have the right to make decisions about what they believe in. If they didn’t, we’d live in a dictatorship of ideologies. But this same value that enshrines your and my right to chose what you and I believe, also ensures the right of other people to chose alternate worldviews which directly contradict ours.

    You do not have a monopoly on how people feel towards you (nor how they treat you, outwith certain legal boundaries). Forcing them to agree with, condone, and congratulate, every single one of your life-choices, stifles diversity and THEIR freedom of expression. There’s a name for a society like that … (out of pity I’ll give you a hint) tyranny of the majority.

    Tolerance is not “you must agree with, condone, and never critique question or disagree with any of my choices or beliefs, else you’re a bigot”.

    Tolerance is “I disagree with you, but (by the same virtue that I’m free to hold my opinions, you are free to hold your own, so) I will fight for your right to express your opinions even when they conflict with mine, and I won’t be hurtful in the way I refer to you or your opinions”. It’s a two-way street.

    Is there certain behavior that is not tolerable? Yes, but that’s determined by _the law of the land_ (which is hopefully a reflection of public opinion), NOT by _political correctness_.

    “To show the world that while religious people may cures [sic], demonise and question our morals and character[,] we shall accept [them, provided they] do not harm, mistreat or abuse others.”

    But you are arguing that, in some sense, you do feel _emotionally abused_ by your family member, for her not having verbally condoned your beliefs (which is likely the source of your lingering sense of resentment, culminating in the premise for this lovely the article).

    Therefore according to your argument, their behavior (and thus, they themselves) are undeserving of acceptance. Yet presumably you do accept them; in fact, you state you engage in their faith activities alongside them. (And, _verbal abuse_ is common from the lips of Dr. Dawkins.)

    So which one is it? If ‘being insensitive/harmful in how you express your pity of others’ = verbal/emotional abuse, then according to you, people like this shall not be accepted. And yet your behavior contradicts your own tenements – you yourself accept those who ‘abuse’. [Editorial Staff: this sort of issue is what I’m referring to when I complain about ‘consistency-of-argument’]

    “Religion, like these other human constructions [ (government, sovereignty and wars) ] are destined to be imperfect.” Technically according to your wording (“like _these_ other …”), these are ‘the big 4’ things that, by virtue of being human constructions, are destined to being imperfect.

    Would it be taking too many liberties to assume you mean to say “If things are human constructions, then they are destined to be imperfect” ? Which would be quite fun, because apply that the atheism, then you’d be forced to concede that it too is destined to be imperfect – so why encourage it in the first place?

    Instead I’d argue that people’s moral behavior is destined to be imperfect (as evidenced by the two individuals you reference – your family member, and Dr. Dawkins). But that doesn’t mean their moral systems are necessarily flawed. Simply because no-one has ever passed a particularly difficult exam with 100%, doesn’t argue that it’s impossible to do so (morality isn’t an exam btw). Simply because ho human has ever been a perfect adherent, doesn’t argue that their worldview is untenable.

    I guess the best way to end is on that last point: simply because you’ve done a poor job of presenting and arguing for atheism, doesn’t actually make atheism invalid. Thankfully. ‘God-help-us.’

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