Sunday, December 08, 2013

My opinion on questions that divide atheists

My favorite blogger, Jack Vance of Atheist Revolution, is putting together a list of the big questions that divide the atheist movement. I thought I would attempt to answer them one at a time.

Here is the first question:

Should atheists work toward the total eradication of religious belief, or is it sufficient to stop those who would impose their religiously-based morality on the rest of us? Some anti-theistic atheists argue that we should stop at nothing short of ending religion and that it is a mistake to seek religious allies who may share our goal of secularism; other atheists believe that secularism should be our primary goal and are perfectly content to work alongside religious secularists when it may be beneficial to do so.

Part one: Should atheist work toward the total eradication of religious belief. To put it simply, my answer is no. The goal is unattainable, which makes it a fool’s quest, and I am no fool. Plus, what people believe is not the issue. How they act on those beliefs is the issue. I know plenty of good people who happen to be Christians and I know plenty of people who use religion as justification for horrible actions. We must fight those who act against us and whose ideas are in conflict with our rights. We must offer an alternative to religious morality that can compete for the hearts and minds of the public and we must offer ideas that can win. We must offer a viable alternative to religion and not crush religious belief. By offering an alternative, we dilute religion’s influence and we win. Life is about choices. Let’s offer good alternatives.

Part two: Is it sufficient to stop those who would impose their religiously-based morality on the rest of us? Yes. We must fight every instance of injustice. We must fight any attempt to legislate morality. We must carry to fight to the public via blogs, demonstrations, books, podcasts, lectures and any vector that works… even through simple conversations at the company water cooler. Our mission should be intelligent opposition to Iron Age ideas. 

Part three: Do we work alongside religious secularists or exclude them? Yes! We should work with those who share our values and those who could share our value, but more importantly, liberal Christians are a huge untapped resource. If we work with those Christians who oppose the oppressive morality of the conservative movement, we win. A few years ago I worked with a local pastor on his position towards marriage equity. He eventually abandoned his opposition to the issue and started preaching a message of support to his large flock. This is a win. It took a few beers and a lot my time, but the pastor and his church are now aligned behind a secular moral position. They continue to win others over to the cause. People who I would never be able to reach because I do not speak the language of the believer. If I had focused on the irrationality of his belief in God, our conversation would have lasted five minutes. I focus on moral issues and not on what diety people believein. It is more productive.

A message to Jack Vance - I’ll think about the list of questions. I’m hope to be able to contribute soon. 

More to follow…