I used to think it was ok to be religious as long as you were in support of things like social justice, good science, and church/state separation.
Anyone who’s read this site for a while knows I don’t really feel that way anymore.
I don’t “attack” people who are religious, but I don’t see a need to let that slide anymore even when they agree with me everywhere else.
PZ Myers made this point at the recent Secular Humanism’s Next 30 Years conference in LA.
Religion provides solace to millions, we are told, it makes them happy, and it’s mostly harmless.
“But is it true?”, we ask, as if it matters.
The religious are the majority, we hear over and over again, and we need to be pragmatic and diplomatic in dealing with them.
“But is what they believe true?”, we ask, and “What do we gain by compromising on reality?”
Religion isn’t the problem, they claim, it’s only the extremists and zealots and weirdos. The majority of believers are moderates and even share some values with us.
“But is a moderate superstition true?”, we repeat, and “How can a myth be made more true if its proponents are simply calmer in stating it?”
I mean, it’s nice and all that most Christians aren’t out chanting “God Hates Fags” and are a little embarrassed when some yokel whines that he didn’t come from no monkey, but they still go out and quietly vote against gay and lesbian rights, and they still sit at home while their school boards set fire to good science.
It’s all about the truth, people.
… an honest way of dealing with those lies is to confront them openly, head on, and unapologetically, and while some might rationalize accommodating unjustifiable distortions of the truth as a strategic option, there are a number of us who consider that principle to be one on which we will not compromise.
And even if the religious moderates don’t vote against gay rights and are vocal about getting rid of bad science, they’re still wrong about the god thing. That means we must keep speaking out on that issue.
We don’t have to be jerks when we do it, but we shouldn’t be silent, either.
Jen McCreight put it nicely: “Don’t be a dick, but being a liar is worse.”
When the LA Times covered the conference, they quoted Chris Mooney on the subject:
Mooney said nonbelievers need to pick their fights and to form alliances with religious people who share their views on particular subjects, such as the importance of stem cell research.
Yeah, we can do that.
And while we’re at it, we can still tell Francis Collins that he’s out of his mind when it comes to his Christianity and that it’s disappointing to see such a brilliant mind resort to such a fantasy.
Jerry Coyne also got into the mix at USA Today:
Science and faith are fundamentally incompatible, and for precisely the same reason that irrationality and rationality are incompatible. They are different forms of inquiry, with only one, science, equipped to find real truth. And while they may have a dialogue, it’s not a constructive one. Science helps religion only by disproving its claims, while religion has nothing to add to science.
Science operates by using evidence and reason. Doubt is prized, authority rejected. No finding is deemed “true” — a notion that’s always provisional — unless it’s repeated and verified by others.
… pretending that faith and science are equally valid ways of finding truth not only weakens our concept of truth, it also gives religion an undeserved authority that does the world no good. For it is faith’s certainty that it has a grasp on truth, combined with its inability to actually find it, that produces things such as the oppression of women and gays, opposition to stem cell research and euthanasia, attacks on science, denial of contraception for birth control and AIDS prevention, sexual repression, and of course all those wars, suicide bombings and religious persecutions.
It helps to have a calm, level-headed voice when you make these points. These are not “angry,” “militant” atheists making these claims. They’re gentle atheists who only want the truth.
Just to be clear, no one’s saying you can’t work with religious people or that we should force atheism upon everybody else. People can believe whatever they want. We can just help them realize they’re wrong 🙂
While a lot of people in my life know me as an atheist, the battle I used to fight involved getting the religious people to agree with me on other issues and finding common ground there.
I don’t have that problem anymore. Instead, a new problem has emerged.
Now, the battle is over when I should bring up religion with people who might agree with me on everything else. Do I fight with my friends over topics like religion? Should I argue with my parents about god’s existence? At least in my own life, no good can come from these things.
But I’m getting more vocal… I’m trying, anyway.
It seems so easy for PZ and Coyne to say these things because people already know them to be anti-accommodation.
It’s a lot harder when you’ve tried to build bridges with religious people and now risk tearing them apart.