Religious liberals and conservative moderates often recoil in the face of hard atheism. To them, atheism represents a sort callous disdain for an inoffensive source of succor and support. Why, they wonder, are people subjected to such rancorous ridicule for believing in something that brings them comfort?
Doubtless this reaction springs from a place of authenticity. There are plenty of atheists who scorn religion wholesale and excoriate its practitioners as frail imbeciles. And there are plenty of others who take no real offense at private religiosity but opportunistically assail believers with similar barbs. Why not? It’s good fun at the expense of an easy target. A bit of lazy recreation can go a long way. It’s shooting tin cans in the desert.
Because of this confusion, it’s worth making efforts to advance a more nuanced position. Naturally, I can’t speak for the entire population of atheists. The atheist community is diverse. Some, like me, disavow religious belief because it is contrary to a worldview built around reason and evidence. Faith is a childish epistemology. It can’t be reconciled with science and careful reasoning. Others disdain religion for emotional reasons.
I recently wrote a couple of brief op-ed for the website Atheist Republic, an online community for folks inclined toward secular thinking.
I figured I would link to them below. Follow the links for the full text.
Religious Belief is Hard Work
Religious belief stands in belligerent indifference to information about what the world is like. It persists in spite of nature, not because of it. The scales started to fall from eyes as I developed a deeper and more expansive understanding of science. In a panicked state of youthful naivety, I tried to justify my religious beliefs despite the fact that they were contradicted by many of the more elegant and substantive truths derived from science. It was an exhausting struggle.
…an embrace of reason need not stop at recognition of and resistance to the harms of superstitious belief. It can also inform our sense of what we want for ourselves and our fellow humans. Reason leads us to reject religion, but it also leads us to recognize our shared humanity. It leads to the eradication of disease and the recognition of individual human rights. Embracing reason is the groundwork for unleashing human potential and building a world increasingly amenable to the business of human thriving.
Stephen Fry was asked what he would say to god, as a humanistic atheist, if he were to meet him/her/it. His answer was stupendous and I couldn’t agree more. It is probably worth clarifying that he is not giving reasons for not believing in a deity. Rather, he is giving reasons for believing that any agent that created the world is not the benevolent architect some religions chose to paint him/her/it as. By any ethical standard, that being is culpable for a staggering amount of brutality and suffering. It is a malevolent and petty despot: nothing more and nothing less. Arguments to the contrary are naive, disingenuous, and altogether nonsensical. That doesn’t mean god doesn’t exist – the reasons for doubt relate more to the stubborn lack of corroborating evidence and the ultimate superfluity of the concept as an explanatory mechanism. What it does mean is this: if the universe has a creator, said being is a massive dick.
Anyway, watch the clip. It’s fantastic.