Atheists are lobbied with the common complaint, “If you don’t think God exists, why do you talk about Him so much? What do you care if other people believe in Him?”. And to non-believers who have never encountered this criticism before, a question like that can be challenging to answer right on the spot. Why do atheists care if someone believes or not?
Although I can’t speak for all atheists, I am an atheist because I see all organized religions as hypocritical institutions that allow its followers to both quote the scriptures and believe whatever they want without regard to the verses. There are so many blatantly contradictory verses in the Bible that require a set of elaborate and equally contradictory explanations to make sense of the world from each and every denomination and sect. At the very most, only one can be right and there is no way to falsify or even de-legitimize any one particular interpretation of any one particular religion to narrow down the faiths to see which faith is the most “faithful”.
Moderate and radical religions alike are affected by this inability to distinguish the One, True religion’s ideas from any other faith and since there is no way to determine which religions are the most True, we cannot dismiss the ideology of any religion, no matter how violent, backward, and illogical it may seem. Religion is meant to lead to greater understanding of the world, and yet the only way to gain knowledge through faith is to first uncritically accept the tenets of a certain religion as true without evidence or reason.
If one particular religion were the Truth, it should be accepted by the majority of people who understand it based off of the evidence and not the will to believe it. Knowledge obtained through the scientific method is demonstrably True because it be tested, falsified and it doesn’t not require faith in order for it to be true. Gravity works whether or not you believe in the consequences of jumping out of a window; as Richard Dawkins opines, anyone who denies reality in favor of what their faith tells them is invited to jump out a tenth floor window if they don’t trust in the reductive power of science. And if someone doesn’t realize the gravity of the situation as they fall, they’re sure to change their mind at a rate of about 9.8 meters per second per second squared.
But why care if other people believe in God? In the United States, almost every major political office is held by a theist from one of the three Abrahamic religions, with few exceptions; all 44 U.S. Presidents have been Christians, despite the objections from the Conservative Right over President Obama’s Muslim status. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Hank Johnson of Georgia became the first two Buddhists to be elected to the United States Congress. Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Representatives Walt Minnick and Pete Stark of California are the only Unitarian Universalists that served in the 111th Congress. Pete Stark is the only open atheist in the history of Congress.
Meanwhile, religious conservatives hold an inordinate amount of power in U.S. politics today. They pass laws that outlaw the teaching of evolution. They pass laws that tear down the separation of Church and State. They impose their own religious doctrines and beliefs on the public at large under the guise of a moral majority. And for atheists who haven’t drank the Kool-Aid of blind faith, this is highly objectionable behavior coming from those who have sworn to protect the laws of the United States. Those who argue on behalf of science and reason are often shouted down in the halls of Congress, completely tuned out by religious rhetoric from those who seek nothing less than One Nation, Under God. Their God, that is, and no other.
And this isn’t just in Washington D.C. Seven states have provisions in their Constitutions that ban atheists from holding office. Arguably, so few atheists make an attempt for public office in these states for fear of being denied their position even after winning an election. This is in direct conflict with the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, not to mention the No Religious Test Clause in Article 6 of the Constitution. It needs to be acceptable to be an atheist political candidate in this country. And that starts with dispelling the myths about atheists being immoral or untrustworthy. There is no reason why a belief in God should be the gold standard for morality. I talk about God (a lot) and how unnecessary it is to believe in Him to be a good person because it needs to be done to challenge the status quo. The faithless make up 19% of the U.S. according to a recent poll, but represent only a fraction of one percent in Congress. The political environment is hostile to non-believers, which is infuriating to me because the only way to make real political change in this country is to engage in the political process.
I blog about atheism because it’s important for atheists to get their voices heard in our democracy. People need to fight for the separation of church and state, and especially in parts of the country overwhelmed by religious conservatism, a lack of belief in God must be made acceptable in our communities. Our morality does not come from God, it precedes Him, and just as the notion of “Chinese algebra” is absurd, so is the notion of “Christian ethics”. Even if Christians claim to have the original source of morality in the world (They don’t. Many moral codes pre-date Christianity), morality is something universal to all. It wasn’t invented by any one civilization and it doesn’t belong to any one civilization. It was discovered and since then it belongs to all of humanity. I blog to remind people of this and to take it back from religious demogogues.