Should we try to stop people being religious?

Should we be trying to stop people being religious? There seems to me to be a personal psychological payoff for people to be religious and it can help some communities come together in a positive way. So why stop religion? Why not fight for tolerance. Perhaps this is impossible and I am being naive, but I think it is equally impossible to stop a way of thinking that is so deeply ingrained that it is like a rushing river. And perhaps necessary for some people to cope. The majority of people are not intellectual and do not wish to think too hard they just want a system to live by.

Why not argue for tolerance and secular thought in politics and other communal decisions. Take power away from religions by insisting that it impossible to have world peace with opposing world views involved in the communal decision making. Aim for something - communal tolerance rather than against religion which is already serving people.

Argue that people have a right to their world view, even if they insist on believing in an orbiting teapot. That people should have access to a variety of viewpoints and have the right to select their own belief according to how it best makes them happy, or serves their psychological needs. Fight to prevent actual injustice and mistreatment that is the symptoms of religion, but never take away freedom of belief.

If you challenge a Christian (or other religious person) to ignore their religion you are asking them to break down the very fabric of their life. You are not really offering them an alternative to what their psychology needs in the midst of their complicated life. If the atheist believes that ultimately our lives don't matter then why do we care if someone chooses to live in denial if that serves to give them a focus for their lives. We only care because we are frustrated by how that belief affects the greater community or perhaps because we believe their children are being brainwashed or we are threatened by some beliefs being dangerous.

What we are really angry, frightened and frustrated about is that religion is affecting us and humanity. So perhaps we need a different tack. I would fight against anyone who tried to stop my right to believe anything I wanted or nothing, so I would fight to stop anyone preventing my neighbour from believing in teapots as long as their teapot belief does not infringe upon me. Even if they taught their kids the importance of teapots I still would not stop them as I do not want anyone to stop me teaching my children about science and skepticism.

I am an ex-Christian and as such I have empathy for the religious life, I personally feel better without it, but I know people who seem happy with it. A man who has devoted time, energy and emotion into becoming a Christian minister and whose self-esteem and livelihood rests on his belief. A man who has lost his mother and who believes he has had a spiritual contact with her. A women whose childhood is steeped in loving Christianity and has a wonderful husband, children and a happy life that revolves around shared belief and communion with a wonderful community of believers. I once belonged to that community and as part of it helped that young women to come into adulthood in a positive way and helped other young people from less caring families feel cared about and validated.

I am not particularly precious about Christianity as I also see its darker side; "Jesus camp", attitude to the Gay community, War! I could go on... But I am not sure that atheist preaching is the answer. Do not misunderstand I am not suggesting this community is guilty of it at all, I feel it is a wonderful community of thinking people and am so glad to be a part of it and I do believe it is good to share information and encourage awareness so that those who are oppressed by religion have options.

But my question to you fellow thinkers is this, is preaching atheism ie trying to make happy Chistians (or other religious people) change their minds the way to world peace or should we be pushing for world peace through tolerance by defending the right to religious belief?

Views: 157

Comment by Jin-oh Choi on April 12, 2009 at 8:32pm
I totally agree with you on this and I think others here would also agree. But what we don't agree with, is people from a religious background forcing their views on us. It would be hypocritical of us if we were to express our views on them. The only time is when they try to engage us in a debate. My aim is not to “preach” and I know the irony of that word. But to say “Each to their own”, I am always happy to debate the issue of religion with anyone.
Comment by Chelle on April 12, 2009 at 8:39pm
But I am even a little sympathetic to the preaching religious, as they often do it out of concern for us and they clearly need their religion. So I would be cautious about trying to convince even them that their religion is wrong and more debate why they think it is ok to preach to me or anyone rather than respect my un-belief or others belief in something else.
Truth be told I would delight in arguing with them about theism, but is that the right thing to do? I mean they started it right? And they are dragging people into a possibly negative lifestyle hmm, pondering...
Comment by Jin-oh Choi on April 12, 2009 at 8:51pm
I would never try and convince someone that their religion is wrong. I think you have answered your own question. "more debate why they think it is ok to preach to me or anyone rather than respect my un-belief or others belief in something else".
Comment by a7 on April 12, 2009 at 9:21pm

Its nice to hear from other scots, I hope you have listened to my auld scots song, I belong to Glasgow and joined the think atheist rangers supporters club group.

talk soon my wee bonnie scots lass

Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on April 12, 2009 at 10:57pm
I don't even know of too many atheists that want to abolish religion or even threaten it. Sure there are a few that recognize that the world is better off without it, but that doesn't mean they push to force others to lay down their Bibles.
I don't discuss religion with strangers unless they come to me. I think it is one of those topics that shouldn't be brought up in light company. If pressed, I'll speak my views and usually do it well enough that the aggressor turns tail and runs.
Religion in America is a lot like guns in America.
It is constitutionally protected, people constantly cause a ruckus when asked to have mandates that force a little common sense, those with it always think those without it want to strip them of theirs and in the end, it's as impossible to get U.S citizens to lay down their Bibles as it is their Brownings.
We've got to work within the limits of reality.
Sure, Larry and Billy Joe won't ever sell their deer hunting rifles, but we can introduce legislation using the language our forefathers REALLY meant to keep them from bringing weapons into schools, courthouses and playgrounds. Same for religion, I suppose.
Comment by CJoe on April 12, 2009 at 11:47pm
Read two books: Letter to a Christian Nation (which is a really quick read and, I think, cheap) and End of Faith. It will at least answer some of your questions about why tolerance doesn't work with some religions (like Islam). From my perspective, it's not even that I want to force someone to believe something; I want them to be educated. We don't see making kids to learn English, Math, and Science as intolerant to their preference to playing or pretending... but we expect them to grow out of their childishness; we expect them to not have imaginary friends.

If religion were completely harmless, I'd feel fine leaving it alone. The sad thing is, the worst that comes from religion is NOT pamphlets.
Comment by samuel thomas on April 13, 2009 at 4:31am
I admire your aspirations and empathize with your way of thinking (former fellow Christian). However, you said it yourself already. I'm sorry, but you might be being naive. I think that science and reason will ultimately prevail in the fight for human minds. This will take quite a long time, but once science can help bring about the slow disintegration of educational, economic, and socio-political barriers things will hasten. The problem is that Holy Writs like the Bible and the Koran have never dealt well with change, and things are changing faster now than at any other time in human history. Most religious people who subscribe to these holy books believe them to be infallible in nature and divine in inspiration. This will not change. To the one whom might argue that the somewhat recent development of the moderate take on these holy scriptures to be just that; the very same tolerant change we need to have these conflicting world views existing together peacefully. To this argument I say that moderate readings of these "divine" holy scriptures are a bastardization of the original intent of the texts themselves and do not hold up to any sort of close scrutiny. Indeed, this moderate approach only increases the transparency of the many contradictions any unbiased observer can easily make with a close reading. I think rather that increased moderate interpretations of these scriptures serves to prepare minds for the inevitable revelation that religions are all man made, and so is every god.
Comment by Chelle on April 13, 2009 at 4:33am
Thanks for your comments everyone, it is this very debate I am considering, is it possible to have tolerance in a world with fundamentalist belief? Providing information that people may choose to take on board about how tolerance is essential for a cooperative humanity seems more important to me than evidence that religion is ridiculous because in some senses, religion is not ridiculous it meets a need, true or not. Truth is not always the most important goal.
I posted this because I am not personally affected by religion in my life not to my face anyway. And I am interested in how people who are affected by religion feel about this.
Comment by Chelle on April 13, 2009 at 4:54am
Thanks CaraColeen for the book suggestions I will lookout for them.
As for should we force people to be educated I don't think we necessarily should. I home educate my kids so that they can have more choice in their education, although I do have an affect on their education as their role model and in the way that I share knowledge with them. So I kinda do allow them to play or pretend rather than strictly learn, if they chose a way of living that included an imaginary friend I would be frustrated but would not prevent it.
The fundementalist however does not allow their child freedom of thought as they push religion upon them in a way that encourages intolerance. We should help the fundamentalist understand that even within their own religion tolerance is called for. We should be intolerant as a greater community to religion dictating to others. This is the only focus we can have since even the religious cannot deny this is what their religion calls them to do. Jesus calls people to choose him, he does not force others to believe. Perhaps it is true some religions do encourage intolerance and we should argue against this aspect of any religion.
I do not mean to be simplistic this issue is far from it, I am just offering a focus for how we should seek to find cooperation since our shared desire to survive should bring us together. Even that may not be true for those focused on the next life, but we should not allow those who are just passing through this world to dictate how it is run.
Comment by samuel thomas on April 13, 2009 at 6:03am
Excellent blog topic and post btw. An easy one to give 5 stars. The more i study the topic at hand the further away the goal of peaceful coexistence with religious dogma seems. Mind you, I am by no means proposing ANY violence of any kind...ever, merely predicting the endgame result. I think it is quite simply, and unfortunately, a problem of irreconcilable world-views. Jesus himself puts it best in Luke 19:27, "But these mine enemies, that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." Jesus wants people who will not except him as their savior and king to be brought before him and executed....pretty harsh from the meek and mild Jesus most people know today. Oh, and also there is no eternal damnation and endless suffering and torture (Hell) until Jesus. You can thank him for that one too.


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