The Raving Atheist � Archives � May 2005 � God Squad Review CXXVII (Atheist Persecution of Christians)
The Raving Atheist has an outstanding analysis of the Christian persecution complex. I'd like to add some thoughts on this topic.
Pretend for a minute that a friend disclosed his belief that a tree in his backyard had been communicating with him and instructing him to buy certain stocks. After initially thinking he is joking, you discover that he is serious. My hunch is that respecting his nonsensical belief system would not be very high on your list of responses. You might suggest psychiatric help, you might laugh, or you might run and hide. Does the fact that this friend is able to win some converts change the craziness of his beliefs? (We will assume that he can produce no evidence to support these beliefs and that there is overwhelming evidence that he is wrong).
Should a belief system that lacks supportive evidence, is shredded by evidence from reputable sources, and causes significant harm (e.g., brutal violence, genocide, etc.) be respected? Is such a belief system worthy of respect? How should believers in such a system be treated? Is it really even disrespectful to question such a belief system?
I'd argue (and have argued repeatedly in this blog) that intelligent, rational people must speak out against such a belief system. How many times have the German people been criticized for not rising up against the Nazis prior to WWII? Would any sane person really argue that the world should have respected the beliefs of the Nazis?
Too harsh? Maybe, but the claim that Christians are not trying to force their beliefs on the rest of us is blatantly false. Christian extremists now control American politics and are seeking to redefine our culture on their terms. Non-Christian politicians cannot get elected, and morality (and even the law) is being defined according to Christian terms. Worse yet, these extremists are placing any topic that highlights their flaws off-limits to public discourse. Their entire plan is about forcing their beliefs on others!
How should we respond? Clearly, it is a mistake to respect anyone's religious beliefs simply because they are religious beliefs. Some belief systems are more deserving of respect than others. How do we decide which are worthy? We examine the degree to which a given belief system corresponds to the world. You see, all religious belief systems make claims about the natural world. Claims which science shows to be false. Expecting anyone to respect these belief systems is pure lunacy.
How are we to treat believers? I'll come back to this question in a later post.