Sunday, July 29, 2007

If you are a Christian, imagine the following scenario

You open your door one evening and find a neatly dressed man, handing out pamphlets. He tells you that Allah is the one true God, and that you can only find fulfilment and meaning if you join Islam.

A few months later, you listen to the news, and find out that Muslims are demanding that the commands of Sharia law be placed on the wall of your local court.

Sometime later, your daughter comes home from school and informs you that Muslim parents are requesting that Muslim prayer be instituted at the school, and that the biology teacher should teach that Allah created all living things.

A Christian friend of yours suddenly finds out that his promotion at work has been blocked because he does not believe in the truth of the Quran.

As a Christian, how would you feel if this happened in your country? What would be going through your mind?

Think about this for a moment, and then read through this passage again and replace ‘Muslim’ with ‘Christian’, ‘Islam’ with ‘Christianity’, and ‘Allah’ with ‘God’. Now you have some idea of how atheists feel about the rising power of the Christian Right in the United States, the teaching of creationism in schools, and the slow erosion of separation of church and state.

Laughing Boy, while commenting on a recent blog post of mine, posed the question of why atheists are so concerned about that which they don’t believe:

I'd think a person with your obvious positive qualities (and I am most definitely not being sarcastic) would quickly get bored writing about what he considers nonsense. Do you have other blogs where you invest as much time and energy discussing other things you find equally absurd as God, e.g. trolls and fairies?

This is a good point. I can’t speak for other atheists, but I have my own reasons for writing about Christianity (see here). However, there is another, less personal reason: the protection of secular society. The power of a supernatural being is directly proportional to the number of people who believe in that being. Few people believe in trolls and fairies, and those who do lack the power to influence major political decisions with their supernatural beliefs. However, belief in the Christian God is widespread in the Western world, and this has both good and bad, but very profound, implications for society.

I agree with Laughing Boy’s sentiments elsewhere on this blog: an incredible amount of suffering has resulted in societies where religious belief, and maybe even non-belief, has been forced onto individuals. One of my aims, like many other atheists and theists out there, is to protect secular society, which ensures that each and every individual has the freedom to chose what they believe, and that each individual should be free to worship (or not to worship) according to the beliefs that they have chosen. No person should be forced or coerced – by family, society, culture, law, or government – to believe in, or subscribe to, a specific religious creed.

I’m probably overambitious, but I hope, in some small way, that my blog furthers the ideals of secular society: by keeping the debate alive and by informing individuals that no belief is perfect or free from error or abuse.

12 comments:

Ewan said...

Amen to that :-)
I keep reading your blog because of the debate (which is kept especially interesting - at least for me - by Laughing Boy who has a knack of expressing my personal views very nicely). I also think the debate needs to be alive and ongoing, and the great thing about this blog is that the entries (and some of the comments :) are not shallow and present very different views.

CyberKitten said...

Laughing Boy seems to have disapeared. I wonder if he's on holiday?

Anonymous said...

I agree that christians should not be forcing their religion on others. I do not agree that Creationism should not be taught in schools. Currently students are taught the theory of evolution as if it is a fact not a theory. What is wrong with teaching the competing theories with all the evidence on both sides of the arguements and then letting the students make their own better educated decisions?

Anonymous said...

Creationism is not an educated opinion, that's why. It is THEOLOGY, not science, and thus belongs in a class designed for religious instruction. Period.

Lui said...

"I agree that christians should not be forcing their religion on others. I do not agree that Creationism should not be taught in schools. Currently students are taught the theory of evolution as if it is a fact not a theory. What is wrong with teaching the competing theories with all the evidence on both sides of the arguements and then letting the students make their own better educated decisions?"

That's easy: because it's not a competing theory. It's propaganda, pure and simple. Evolution is a fact AND a theory (it's clear you've fallen for the lie that "theory" means the same thing in a scientific concept as it does in everyday parlance). Teaching creationism in schools is an outrageous intrusion of religion into the science classroom, and as such, it's forcing religion on others. It is not being pushed on schools in order that students can make "their own better educated decisions", it is being pushed on schools because the literalists want to sneak their theology into public education and hope no one will notice. Hence all the lies about "evolution is just a theory" (why don't we also teach witchcraft alongside anatomy and medicine so that students can get "both sides of the controversy", since the germ theory of disease is "just a theory") as well as hundreds of others. Evolution is a fact. That’s really all there is to it, and if you don’t “like” it, it’s your problem. Biblical literalists want to make it ours too.

Lui said...

Mean to say "in a scientific context".

Curtis said...

I really need to get an account so my name shows up. I posted before regarding creationism in the classroom.

I don't agree that creationism is only a theology. Yes believing that the Bible is true does lead one to also believe creationism. Can't something be both a theological point and a scientific fact at the same time? I definitly do not want people to believe something just because their parents have brought them up to believe it, each person needs to weigh the evidence and their own hearts for fact.

Also I don't believe that I am out of touch with the meaning of the word theory. I happen to be a Psychology student and read many scientific journals. The word theory really only has one meaning. "Theory" is a best guess based on the evidence provided. I would agree that all the current information does not support the creationist point of view. I would not say that all the available evidence points to the Evolutionist point of view either.

Laughing Boy said...

Now you have some idea of how atheists feel about the rising power of the Christian Right in the United States...

I'm an American and as far as I know there are no movements within the government to institute Christian prayer in public schools and no bills before any local, state, or federal legislative body to eliminate religious descrimination in the workplace, and I doubt there ever will be. There have been some noteworthy cases recently that have successfully sought removal of religious symbols from courthouses and public places in general, but few, if any, have sought to introduce them. As for teaching creationism, the courts will have none of it. Where's this so-called erosion? America is the most religiously pluralistic society in world history. So it seems that, for the foreseeable future, US secularists should be able to sleep at night knowing that, even with a born-again Christian in the White House and right-wing ideologues in many powerful positions, their government is nonetheless shielding them from many of the untoward advances of religion into public life.

I don't want to be responsible for turning this post into a discussion of American politics or the often misunderstood concept of separation of church and state, so I'll say no more.

The power of a supernatural being is directly proportional to the number of people who believe in that being.

While this might be true for an imaginary supernatural being, it would probably not hold for any actual supernatural being worth it's metaphysical salt.

One of my aims, like many other atheists and theists out there, is to protect secular society...

I wouldn't say I'm for protecting a secular society. For me, the word 'secular' does not connote religious neutrality, but something closer to religious animosity. I feel this way because many popular secularists are not content to allow people free expression of their beliefs—at least not their religious ones—anywhere beyond the confines of their own homes; perhaps not even there if they have children that could be 'victims of religious indoctrination'. Cyberkitten recently posted an article in which the author stridently asserts that religious ideas should have no place outside one's own mind! What kind of freedom is that? The prisoners of Buchenwald were free to think what they wanted to! Neither Cyberkitten nor Kevin try to squelch the expression of religious ideas at their respective blogs. Hackles get raised, emotions sometimes overtake reasoning, but everybody gets their say and everybody seems to get along just fine. Why should the larger society show less tolerance for free expression?

Obviously, religion should not be forced on a society and no defensible Christian principle prescribes it (I'm not so sure about Islam), but, just as obviously, religion-lessness should not be forced on a society either. You don't need the Bolsheviks to repel the Crusaders.

————
Ewan, thanks for your comments.
Cyberkitten, I hope to reappear at your blog soon.

CyberKitten said...

laughing boy said: Cyberkitten, I hope to reappear at your blog soon.

Cool... and thanks for your kind comments.

Lui said...

"Can't something be both a theological point and a scientific fact at the same time?"

It could, but creationism happens to be theology and not supported by a shred of evidence.

"I definitly do not want people to believe something just because their parents have brought them up to believe it, each person needs to weigh the evidence and their own hearts for fact."

Hearts? We're trying to ascertain the validity of truth claims about the universe, not to satisfy our emotional needs. If a scientific theory leaves one yearning for "more", it does not in any way invalidate the theory or lessen its ability to make sense of the world.

Jason said...

Another great post Kevin! I definately agree with your point. I tried using the same analogous approach with a Bible-thumping friend of mine to no avail. No one religion (to include atheism/agnosticism), is perfect or varifyable correct. A lot of the major problems afflicting most societies are rooted in a failure by the various groups that comprise it to try and see the world from any eyes but their own.

That's exactly why America was founded; to escape religious persecution and establish a place that promoted freedoms and personal choice. That's why we separate church and state.

Oh, and it's not necessarilly a bad thing to be overambitous. Without dreams, nothing would ever get done. Keep fighting the good fight!

Anonymous said...

If you check the surveys of people like the barna group, you'll find that the religious right is dying and that the generation of leaders beginning to assume power of the movement do not share many of the Dobson's generation of opinions.
They actually appear to be more interested in poverty, the environment, and combating aids than having a perpetual cat pissing contest with the surrounding culture.
The older generation can still be annoying but studies are showing that their days are increasingly numbered.
Ray