Is the very act of atheist activism (trying to persuade people that atheism is correct and working to change the world into one without religion) an act of attempted conformity? Are atheists trying to create a drab, gray, uniform world, where everyone else is just like them?
It’s probably pretty obvious that I think the answer is a big fat “No!” (Probably said in the Ted Stevens voice.) But it certainly is the case that many atheist activists, myself among them, are working very hard to persuade religious believers out of their beliefs. Not all atheists do this, of course; many have the more modest goals of separation of church and state and religious tolerance, including tolerance of atheists and recognition of us as equal citizens. But a good number of atheists are, in fact, trying to convince religious believers to become atheists. I’m one of them.
And since many believers see this as an intolerant attempt to enforce conformity — particularly believers of the progressive, ecumenical, “all religions perceive God in their own way and we have to respect them all” stripe — I want to take a moment to address it.
Thus begins my new blog post up at AlterNet, Atheism and Diversity: Is It Wrong For Atheists To Convert Believers? In it, I point out that religion is, above all else, a hypothesis about the world — and it’s not intolerant of diversity to try to persuade people that a hypothesis about the world is probably wrong. And I point out that our options for dealing with different religious beliefs aren’t limited to either intolerant evangelism and theocracy, or uncritical ecumenicalism. I point out that atheism is offering a third option: the option of respecting the important freedom of religious belief, while retaining the right to criticize those beliefs, and to treat them just like we’d treat any other idea we think is mistaken.
This is the third in a four-part series about atheism I’m writing for AlterNet. I’ll be reprinting all these pieces here on my own blog eventually; in the meantime, enjoy this one on AlterNet!