April 29, 2006

An Opportunity to Speak Out in the Mainstream Media

As reported at NoGodBlog.com, a Newsweek writer wants to hear from "angry atheists." The author says that he wants to understand us better and figure out why the idea of his god upsets us so much. Tired of the "angry atheist" stereotype, American Atheists has issued an action alert requesting that we respond.

You can read the full Newsweek article and respond here. Here is my response:

To understand what it is like to be an atheist in America, one should imagine being a physician who is attempting to provide medical treatment in a primitive village. The villagers reject medicine while embracing ineffective superstition. They believe that illness is caused by evil spirits and refuse to permit the physician to vaccinate their children because their holy book tells them that their rituals will protect them. Although their children experience great suffering and death, they remain hostile to the physician because they are convinced that their faith is enough.

The modern atheist is not unlike this physician. We are surrounded by a form of superstition which is both obsolete in today's world and harmful to our continued existence. The "“angry atheist" depiction may be little more than an inflammatory stereotype, but atheists do have many important reasons to be upset. Surveys indicate that we are the most hated group in America, contributing to a long history of marginalization. Those who despise us because we reject religion reveal that their true agenda is anything but religious freedom. When prominent political figures such as George H. W. Bush question whether atheists can be American citizens, we are reminded of similar statements of intolerance made during the Civil Rights or Suffrage movements.

I am personally appalled at the consequences of religious faith. Each of the mainstream religions claims to have a monopoly on truth and explicitly rejects other religions as false, planting the seeds of intolerance. Your attempt to equate religious disagreements with those over baseball or music neglects many valuable lessons from history. Religious conflict has long resulted in violence, and many of the worst atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. Even moderate faith calls on the believer to suspend rational judgment in favor of superstition, making it difficult for believers to challenge dangerous forms of religious extremism.

As for the generalization about atheists having "uncomfortable personal histories,"” you forget that we are all born atheists and only arrive at religion through indoctrination. One does not need tragedy or bad experiences with clergy to arrive at atheism. The study of Western philosophy, history, and a close reading of the Christian bible was more than enough for me to rediscover natural atheism.

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