July 9, 2007

Your Religion Hurts Us Too

A "live and let live" attitude is very common among believers. It is probably the single most common excuse nonbelievers give for dismissing atheist activism. Many of those who do not believe in any gods have managed to convince themselves that the religion of others is simply irrelevant to them. "I'm not religious, but I understand that religion is important to many people. I have no interest in changing anyone's mind, and I'm content to leave them alone as long as they leave me alone."

You have heard variations of this argument many times, but repetition or popularity is clearly no measure of veracity. Statements like this reflect a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of religious belief and the costs of religion, costs shared by nonbelievers.

The costs of religion to believers are readily apparent, but what costs could religion have for nonbelievers? Setting aside the obvious costs (e.g., religiously-based discrimination, intolerance, violence, etc.), it has become increasingly clear that religion can have an adverse impact on the health of believers and nonbelievers alike. Maybe we can remember this the next time we encounter a nonbeliever who does not understand the importance of atheist activism.

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