Recently, a Christian man from Brazil reached out to me to apologize for the actions of some of his “brothers” that I’d been interacting with on Twitter. It’s a stark reminder that there are probably millions of theists out there that you could almost categorize at “humanist” – no matter their religious beliefs, they do love and respect their fellow man, and value the diversity in people’s backgrounds and beliefs.
It’s easy to get caught up in the conflict and the perceived ignorance, and forget that those theists you’re arguing with online are more than just theists: they are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, students and social workers, sports fans and .. well, you get the idea.
What I explained to my new Brazilian friend is that, on a human level, atheists generally don’t have a problem with believers – I’m friends with many christians, and I even dated one for a couple of years! What angers us is not the people in the church, but their behaviour when representing the church.
Prosthelytizing, door knocking, and preaching on street corners – such behaviour assumes that the theist is coming from a more moral position, or has access to some truth that atheists aren’t aware of. The fact of the matter is that atheists probably know more the theist’s beliefs than they do, because we’ve actually looked into it – we haven’t just accepted what’s been preached from the pulpit.
I know Christians think they are out their saving people’s immortal souls, but they really don’t understand that it comes off as arrogance on their part – they think that they have something to offer that we don’t know about. If a Muslim knocked on a Christian’s door early on a Saturday morning, asking if they know the truth about Islam, would the Christian react any different to an atheist confronted with a Christian?
But that’s not the real issue – in modern society, we’re all confronted with unsavoury elements on a regular basis.
The real issue is religion’s influence on society in general. For example, the rejection of evolution in favour of creation – it is incomprehensible that this idea that the world was created in six days has taken hold with so many people. Here’s the thing – you don’t have to understand evolution, you just have to understand how science works!
In science, something is observed, then once it’s observed enough times, a hypothesis is formed. Once a hypothesis is accepted – after many different people try to disprove it – it becomes a theory. So the fact is, any scientific theory is based on many observations and only survives after many people try to disprove it. Creation just does not stack up compared to evolution, no matter what your preacher tells you.
But it’s the rights of women, the rights gay, lesbian and transgender people, the rights of atheists and even minority religions, that are all held back by religion. This is why atheists are finally standing up and saying “This isn’t right!”
Atheists haven’t just turned up – there have always been atheists – but in the past, it wasn’t safe for them to speak out. It still isn’t safe in some corners of the world, but we have reached a turning point. We are now speaking out, and I really don’t think religion will survive against it.
The point I left my new friend with is one made my Penn Jillette:
“If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly the same way again. There might be some other nonsense in it’s place, but not the exact same nonsense. If all science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”
And that’s how you know what the truth is…