As an outspoken humanism and atheism activist, I’m frequently asked this question. Why take all these people who believe in a God and make them out to be at best, ignorant, and at worst, grossly deceitful?
Well, first of all, I don’t treat all theists the same. It’s not like I and all other atheists single out believers as unintelligent or evil. Some atheists do this, but some atheists also believe in Bigfoot, so that doesn’t tell you much. Personally, I think the average theist I tend to come across is often more compassionate or trustworthy than the average atheist.
No, I treat theists the same way I treat anybody. Frankly, your belief in a God doesn’t tell me anything about how rational you are, considering how many influences there are around the world for people to believe in a God. In my eyes, we should judge people’s reasons for belief, not their actual beliefs themselves. In that regard, it is not the theist who I am ‘attacking’, but instead the methodology they use. People are known to go around spreading whatever they happen to be convinced of for no other reason than that they truly believe it.
Therefore I feel anybody is justified in challenging religion. I am justified in challenging science, mathematics, litterature, social norms, and so I should be allowed to do the same with religion. But people want to know why we antagonize it, not why we challenge it. I’ve heard people say that most religious people are harmless, and they don’t hold the toxic beliefs from their scripture. That we should refrain from destroying that, even if it is some kind of illusion.
I strongly disagree. The more people are convinced that their version of the afterlife is a myth, the less people will be living a lie. It’s fascinating to me – so many people today are going crazy about conspiracy theories, evildoings behind the scenes, a world of lies akin to the matrix – but faith is a conspiracy. The only difference is that the wild, absurd claims it makes are so engrained into our society that, on an intellectual level, we simply haven’t been able to catch up.
So let’s entertain for a second that God is absolutely, unequivically not real, and one day, we all wake up and realise together.
That would mean around 85% of the world’s population had been wrong about the afterlife. Almost 7 billion people who had been lied to their whole lives, pulled in different social and political directions, contributed their hard earned money to the religious organisation they belonged to. Every church and mosque and synagoge across the globe would stand as a monument to our ignorance. Hundreds of thousands… millions of articles would simply be misinformation. Books and sermons and gospel alike. So much of our world is tied into our idea of God, it’s hard to imagine a future without it.
But the truth is, there is a future where religious organisations do more good than harm to our world. It’s just that as long as they claim to know the one true God, as long as they attempt to define my sexuality, my desires and my actions, as long as religion is opressive, manipulative and a path to further ignorance, I will stand for rationality, for humanism, and for positive change in the world.