The Santa Delusion: Why “Religion Is Useful” Is a Terrible Argument For Religion

Happy_face_ball “But religion is useful. It makes people happy. It comforts people in hard times. It makes people better-behaved. And losing religious faith can be traumatic. So what difference does it make if it isn’t true? Shouldn’t we be perpetuating it anyway — or at least leaving it alone? Why do you want to persuade people out of it?”

Atheists hear this a lot. The argument from utility — the defense of religion, not because it’s true, but because it’s psychologically or socially useful — is freakishly common. If you spend any time reading debates in atheist blogs or forums, you’re bound to see it come up.

Society-without-God Now, when atheists hear this “But religion is so useful!” argument, our most common response is to say, “Is not!” We eagerly point out that countries with high rates of atheism are also countries with high rates of happiness, ethics, and social functioning. (This doesn’t prove that atheism causes high social functioning, of course — in fact, it’s probably the other way around — but it does show that high social functioning doesn’t need religion.) We’ll point out the many, many examples of religious believers who cheat, steal, murder, and generally behave very badly indeed… entirely undercutting the notion that religion provides an unshakable foundation for good moral behavior. And we’ll point to ourselves, and to other atheists we know — people who clearly don’t need religion, who are living happy, ethical lives without religion, who in some cases are even happier and better without religion — as the most obvious counter-arguments we can think of to this argument.

These are all fair points. I’ve made them myself, many times, and I will no doubt make them again. But there’s a basic problem with all these wonderful fair points.

They make the argument from utility seem valid.

And I don’t want to do that. I think the argument from utility is absurd on the face of it. I think the entire idea of deciding what we think is true based on what we want to be true is laughable. Or it would be, if it weren’t so appalling. I’ve seen this argument advanced many, many times… and it still shocks me to see otherwise intelligent, thoughtful adults making it. It is preposterous.

So today, I want to dismantle the entire premise of the argument from utility. I want to dismantle the entire premise that it’s reasonable, and even a positive good, to believe in something you have no good reason to think is true… simply because it makes you happy.

The Santa Delusion

Let’s draw an analogy. Let’s look at another dearly treasured, deeply held belief about how the world works.

Santa claus Let’s look at Santa Claus.

Millions of children are made very happy by their belief in Santa. They have fun imagining the presents he’s going to bring them. They like visiting him in the department store. They enjoy hearing stories about him, singing songs about him, drawing pictures of him. They get a thrill from putting cookies and cocoa out for him by the fireplace (or the gas heater, or whatever), and seeing them gone the next day. They get more and more excited as Christmas gets closer and the day of his visitation approaches.

What’s more, millions of children probably behave better because they believe in Santa. The desire for really great presents, the fear of getting coal in their stockings instead of presents… this has almost certainly made many children behave better. It’s probably resulted in thousands of cleaned rooms, thousands of finished homework assignments, thousands of un-punched siblings. At least during the month of December.

And millions of children get upset when they discover that Santa isn’t real. Letting go of Santa can be a distressing experience, one that people remember well into adulthood. (This isn’t universally true — I was actually excited to discover that Santa wasn’t real, since I figured it out on my own and it made me feel clever and grown-up to have outwitted the grown-ups — but it’s certainly not uncommon.)

Would you therefore argue that we ought to believe in Santa?

Giant santa claus in lights Would you argue that, because belief in Santa makes children happy and better-behaved, we therefore ought to perpetuate it? Would you argue that, because relinquishing that belief can be upsetting, we ought to go to great lengths to protect children from discovering that Santa isn’t real… not only during their childhood, but throughout their adult lives? Would you attend Churches and Temples of Santa, and leave cookies and cocoa on their red-and-white-plush altars? Would you pity people who don’t believe in Santa as being joyless and imprisoned in rationality… and would you chastise these a-Santa-ists as intolerant, bigoted proselytizers when they tried to persuade others that Santa isn’t real?

Or would you, instead, think that people ought to grow up? Would you think that letting go of the belief in Santa (for those who grew up believing) is an essential part of becoming an adult? Would you think that we need to understand reality, so we know how to behave in it? Would you think that, in order to make good decisions and function effectively in the world, we need to have the most truthful understanding of it that we can muster… and that if the best evidence suggests that Santa isn’t real, we ought to accept that conclusion? Would you look at this idea that it’s okay to decide what’s true about the world based on what we want to be true, and call it preposterous, laughable, appalling, absurd on the face of it?

And if you wouldn’t argue that belief in Santa is valid simply because it’s useful… why would you argue it about God?

Merry Old Santa Thomas Nast Now. You might say that belief in God makes more sense than belief in Santa. You might say that, while we know Santa is a fictional character, the existence of God is, at the very least, an open question… and that therefore, belief in God is more defensible than belief in Santa.

But then you’re back to arguing that God is real. Or at least plausible. You’ve abandoned the argument from utility (which you should, it’s a terrible argument), and you’ve circled back around to debating whether God really exists, and whether good evidence supports that hypothesis.

And the whole freaking point of the argument from utility is that it abandons the case for God being real. The whole point is that it doesn’t matter whether God is real… as long as belief in God makes people happy. So you don’t get to shore up that argument by saying that God might be real after all. Not unless you’re willing to make a pretty convincing case for God being real.

And if you had a convincing case for God being real… why on Earth would you be arguing that it doesn’t matter whether he’s real, as long as belief in him makes people happy? If you can make a better case for God than you can for Santa… then why aren’t you making it? Why are you falling back on this patently absurd notion that grown-ups should believe whatever makes them feel good, regardless of whether that belief has any connection with reality?

The Argument That Eats Itself

Every_girl_pulling_for_victory,_WWI_poster,_1918 Whenever I hear the argument from utility, I pretty much consider it a victory for my side. It’s an entirely self-defeating argument, an argument that admits that it’s wrong in the very stating of it. When people start arguing for the utility of their beliefs regardless of whether they’re actually true, they’ve essentially conceded. They’re essentially saying, “You’re right. The things I believe almost certainly aren’t true. I certainly can’t make a good case for why they’re true. Now will you leave me alone and let me believe them anyway?”

Well, if you want to believe things that you know almost certainly aren’t true, you’re certainly free to do that. I’m not sure what definition of the word “believe” you’re using there… but sure. If for you, “believing” in God means “telling yourself over and over that God exists in hopes that you can make yourself really think it”… then knock yourself out.

But if that’s what you think, then why are you bothering to argue with atheists? If you really just believe things because you want them to be true, why do you care what anyone else thinks about it?

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here. I’m going to assume that you’re debating atheists because you want to test your beliefs against the people who will question them the hardest. I’m going to assume that you do, in fact, care whether the things you believe are true.

Cat hanging from tree And I’m going to show the argument from utility for what it is: a last-ditch effort to hang onto a belief that you know isn’t supportable, but that you’re having a hard time letting go of. I know that religion is hard to let go of: I know that people have emotional attachments, psychological attachments, social attachments, to believing in God, and/or the soul, and/or the supernatural, and/or the afterlife. I’ve been there. I get it.

So I’m going to do you the respect of treating you like an adult. I’m going to do you the respect of assuming that you’re mature enough to face realities that, at first, are hard to face. And I’m going to do you the respect of being straight with you: If you’re making the argument from utility, if you’re arguing in favor of wishful thinking, you’re not living up to your maturity.

I will tell you here that life without religion can be really good. I’ll tell you that life without religion can be liberating, that it can give you an intense and profound sense of connection with humanity and the universe. I’ll tell you that atheists have meaning in our lives, and joy, and comfort in the face of hard times, and solace in the face of death, and a passion to do right. I’ll tell you that atheism can be a safe place to land, and that, as the atheist community grows bigger and stronger, it’s getting safer every day. I’ll tell you that most former believers I know are tickled pink to have let go of their beliefs.

I’m entirely sincere about all of that. But it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing about atheism is that it’s almost certainly true.

And if you’re defending religion because it’s useful, regardless of whether it’s true… then on some level, you know that.

Happy_face_ball Come on in. The water’s fine.

(Note: The core analogy here about Santa was swiped from Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist by Hank Fox. I’m an ethical atheist, and believe in giving credit where credit is due.)

Two Large Pieces of Greta News – Reason Rally, and Freethought Blogs!

Hi, all! I have two pieces of kind of monumental news, I’m ridiculously excited about both of them, and I wanted to let y’all know.

Reason rally Piece of News #1: Do you all know about the Reason Rally? The atheist/ secular March on Washington, set for March 24, 2012? It’s kind of a big freaking deal: they’re saying it’s going to be the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history. There’s going to be music, comedy, general fun and hanging out… and, of course, speakers.

And I’m going to be one of the speakers.

No shit. Check out the speakers list. I’m on it — along with Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Jamila Bey, Hemant Mehta, James Randi, Taslima Nasrin, David Silverman, and a list that keeps on growing.

The Reason Rally is being put together by a kind of incredible coalition of secularist organizations, joining their efforts to make it as huge and inclusive as possible. As of this writing, the march is being sponsored by (take a deep breath): American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Atheist Alliance of America, Camp Quest, Center for Inquiry, Freethought Society, Military Atheists and Freethinkers, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, Society for Humanistic Judaism, Stiefel Freethought Foundation, The Brights, The James Randi Educational Foundation, The Richard Dawkins Foundation, and United COR. Who says you can’t herd cats?

I am more excited and proud to be part of this than I can possibly say. This event should be entirely made of 100% Awesomnium, and if you possibly can make it, you should. Make your travel plans to DC now! And spread the word among your godless friends and colleagues — the more people who know about this, the more awesome it’s going to be!

Freethought blogs

Piece of News #2: Do you all know about the new Freethought Blogs network? The new network of atheist/ freethought/ godless bloggers, started by PZ Myers of Pharyngula and Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars?

I’m going to be one of the bloggers.

No shit. The network has been launched with an initial core of bloggers — PZ and Ed as mentioned above, plus Comradde PhysioProffe, Digital Cuttlefish, This Week in Christian Nationalism, and Zingularity — and they’re currently working out the usual technical glitches associated with the launch of a big new Interweb project. They’ll soon be expanding that initial core of bloggers… and I’m going to be one of them.

So be prepared. This blog will be moving. I don’t yet know the exact date; I’ll keep you all in the loop as soon as I know. I’ll keep the Typepad blog up for archival purposes, to keep old links from getting broken, etc. … but once I switch over to Freethought Blogs, this blog will essentially just be for storage, and Freethought Blogs will be my new home. So be prepared to switch your bookmarks/ blogrolls/ RSS feeds/ carrier pigeons/ Pony Express lines/ etc. to the new site.

I am tickled pink about this, and I keep jumping out of my seat to do a little happy dance whenever I think about it. Freethought Blogs is going to be a major nexus of atheist thought and conversation and community on the ‘Net, and I am proud beyond words to have been invited to be part of it. And I am grateful beyond words to every reader of this blog who decided they liked my ideas enough to follow them and spread them. I love you guys. And I love being part of this movement. Seriously.

I’ll keep you all posted about the move as soon as I know what’s what. Woo-freaking-hoo!

The Best Things About the Secular Student Alliance Conference

Ssa I typically haven’t been good about the whole “conference report” thing. It always seemed like an overwhelming task — trying to sum up the essence of an entire multi-day conference in a succinct and entertaining blog post, or even in a marginally readable. But I’ve figured out that I don’t have to report on an entire freaking conference in order to write about it. I can just report on the stuff I especially liked about it. (And, if it seems relevant, the stuff that particularly got up my nose.)

Which is good. Because the Secular Student Alliance national conference was freaking awesome, and deserves to be reported on.

I go to a lot of conferences, and they’re all different, and I find something to enjoy about all of them. But the SSA has a very special place in my heart. Skepticon rocks harder, TAM is more glam… but the SSA feels like home. I feel like I can just relax and hang out there, more than I can at any other conference. If you’re an atheist student, you should absolutely make this conference a priority. If you’re an atheist student who doesn’t belong to a student organization, come anyway — they’ll help you get one started. And if you’re not a student, you can still come, and you can still have an awesomely good time.

So here, in no particular order, is The Stuff I Liked Best About The Secular Student Alliance National Conference.

Jessica Ahlquist1: Jessica Ahlquist. Jessica, for those who aren’t familiar, is the atheist high school student who’s suing her public school for having a prayer banner in the school gym. After she spoke, I kept saying, “She’s one of the best speakers of her age that our movement has.” Then I realized: No. I have to stop saying that. She is one of the best speakers our movement has, period. She’s clear, personable, expressive, friendly and approachable but completely capable of commanding a room, with a sweet manner folded into a foundation of hardcore tough. I can’t tell you how many people at the conference told me that I was their second favorite speaker, second only to Jessica. I was not insulted in the least. I was totally honored.

2. Ed Clint’s talk on “transfaith” — the alternative he’s proposing to “interfaith” — and on whether an atheist organization can be confrontational and still work with religious organizations. His conclusion: Yes. It’s not always easy, but it can definitely be done. The thing I liked best about Ed’s talk was that he didn’t just put his opinion out there as an opinion. He backed it up with solid evidence. His own group, the Illini Secular Student Alliance, has engaged in some very confrontational atheist activism — as just one example, they were the initiators of the “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” event that so many non-confrontationalist atheists were so vehemently opposed to. And yet they’ve been very successful in forging bridges with campus religious groups… including with the campus Muslim group, who the atheist group is now on excellent terms with. So this whole idea that confrontational activism is inevitably and irrevocably divisive needs to be put to rest. (I also like the idea of “transfaith”: a lot of atheists, myself included, are entirely in favor of atheist groups building relationships with religious groups, but have a strong reaction against the word “interfaith,” since it implies that atheism is a faith. The word “transfaith” seems like a workable compromise. We just need to get the interfaith alliances to go along with it.)

Jenis-ice-cream-1 3. Jeni’s Ice Cream. Probably the best ice cream I have ever eaten. Possibly some of the best food of any kind I have ever eaten. I was in Columbus for five days, and I ate Jeni’s ice cream for three of them. For the bulk of my meals. (Seriously. I had ice cream for dinner on one night, and ice cream for lunch on two different days. Because I am five years old.) My favorite flavors: lime cardamom rhubarb, and sweet corn with black raspberries, and bourbon butter pecan made with Maker’s Mark, and peanut curry, and cherry lambic, and brown butter almond, and Riesling poached pear, and goat cheese with cherries, and… and… and… I pretty much wanted to fill a bathtub with all the flavors and roll around in it. (And yes, I know about Humphrey Slocombe in San Francisco. I love Humphrey Slocombe. Humphrey Slocombe is awesome. Humphrey Slocombe is almost as good as Jeni’s. But not quite.)

Jamila Bey 4. Jamila Bey. What can I say? Jamila rocks. She’s smart, hilarious, passionate, riveting, inspiring, and just generally a first-rate speaker. She’s also Exhibit A against the whole stupid argument that “going out of our way to get women and people of color as speakers will dilute the quality of out events.” Jamila is quickly becoming one of the most popular speakers on the atheism circuit… and she’s someone our movement might not have noticed if event organizers hadn’t been going out of their way to make events more diverse. She’s also a joy to hang out with, and is now pretty much everybody’s BFF. You should get her to speak for your group. Period.

Brothers drake 5. The Brothers Drake Meadery. I freaking love Columbus. I am entirely serious. Columbus, Ohio is one of the coolest cities I know of. If I had some terrible curse put on me and for some reason couldn’t live in San Francisco, Columbus would be high on my list of places I’d like to live. And one of the things I like best about Columbus is the food/ booze culture. And one of the things I like best about the food/ booze culture in Columbus — apart from Jeni’s, obviously — is the Brothers Drake Meadery. Apparently artisanal mead is the new booze craze, and apparently Brothers Drake is leading the charge. And I can see why. They take mead seriously, they treat it like any serious vintner would treat their wine, and it pays off. I had no idea mead could be like that. And no, it’s not all sugary sweet. In fact, most of their mead isn’t sugary sweet. They actually make dry mead. I had no idea there was any such a thing. And the proprietors are knowledgeable without being snotty. I had a delightful time chatting with them, and drank way too much mead as a result. (There was an aggressively bad band playing there the night we showed up, which was unfortunate; but Ashley assured me that it’s not usually like that.) Alas, you can’t get their mead shipped to you: they take the whole “local” thing very seriously, the only way to get it is to go to Columbus. Another reason to go to the SSA conference.

Some other quick mentions of awesome Columbus food experiences, so I don’t spend this entire conference report telling you about Columbus food culture: The biscuits and jam at the Northstar Cafe; pretty much everything I ate at the Northstar Cafe; and the iced hot chocolate at le Chocaholique, which was like a chocolate Slurpee. The salted turtles at Chocaholique were also pretty darned lickable.

Greta speaking ssa 2011 6. Debuting my new talk. I’m always a little nervous when I give a new talk. And I really wasn’t sure about how this one would go over. I feared that the topic — “Resistance Is Not Futile: Is Arguing About Religion Worth It?” — might be either too esoteric or too divisive. It seems it was neither. I had a ball delivering it, and it got a great response. The only downside was that most of the students already agreed with one of my central points — that arguing with believers about religion can be effective, and does sometimes work to persuade people out of religion. Which meant I spent a certain amount of time preaching to the choir. But the choir seemed to enjoy being preached to, and appreciated the revving-up. So it worked.

7. Hanging out with SSA folks in the coffee shop after the meadery trip, talking philosophy and politics and trying to sober up.

Jen McCreight 8. Jen McCreight. I’ll just say this about Jen: I’ve seen a lot of talks about diversity in the atheist movement. Heck, I’ve given a lot of talks about diversity in the atheist movement. I’ve even seen Jen speak about it before. And she’s still entertaining, engaging, thoughtful, funny, friendly, and able to say hard things without being hostile or alienating. I’ve seen her other talks as well, and this is not a fluke. She is one of the best voices we have in our movement. I will happily hear her speak any time she’s on stage.

9: Karaoke. This was something of a mixed bag, actually. As some of you already know, I’d pledged to pop my karaoke cherry as part of an atheist bloggers’ fundraising competition for Camp Quest, and the SSA conference was the place I’d agreed to do it. Turns out, I don’t actually like singing karaoke. I especially don’t like singing karaoke at the tail end of a conference, when I’m terminally exhausted and my voice is shot. But hanging out in the karaoke bar was a pretty darned good time (once the whole “Oh, fuck, I have to sing karaoke” thing was behind me, anyway). Dancing with a bunch of atheist wimmin to the karaoke rendition of “I Kissed a Girl” may have been one of the high points of the entire conference. Jen McCreight delivers one hell of a version of “Sin Wagon.” And I was happy to have checked karaoke off my “gotta try that one of these days” list… especially for a good cause. (More on the karaoke experience in a later post.)

Ssa conference 1 10: Hanging out and meeting folks. I had so many great conversations with so many amazing students, I can’t even begin to remember them all. The students in this movement blow me away on a regular basis. I hope with all my heart that every one of them stays in the movement when they leave school. In whatever capacity. Blogging, making YouTube videos, leading national organizations, organizing social events in their local atheist groups, writing letters to the editor, simply joining organizations… whatever they can and want to do, I passionately hope they do it. If they do — if even half of them do — then in ten years, this movement is going to rock the world. More than it already is.

Ssa conference 2 There’s way more I could talk about here. Anthony Pinn. David Silverman. PZ Myers. Waxing off a strip of JT Eberhard’s leg hair (no, really — it was part of the whole Camp Quest pledge drive thing, and when I’m tempted I bitch about the karaoke I remind myself that JT got it way worse than me). Hemant Mehta. Amanda Knief. Dan Barker. The silly ice-breaker at the beginning of the conference. Etc. Etc. Etc.

But I don’t want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and if I try to write about everything that was awesome about this conference, this post will never go up. So I’m going to leave it here. Those of you who were there — it was awesome to see you. Those of you who missed it — hope to see you next year!

Greta Speaking in Seattle and Omaha!

Seattle-postcard Just a quick reminder: I have some nifty and exciting speaking gigs coming up in Seattle and Omaha, and I hope y’all can come by and say hi!

I’m going to be speaking at the Seattle Atheists on Saturday, August 6, about “What Can the Atheist Movement Learn From the LGBT Movement?” I’ll be doing Q&A after the talk — so come with questions! — and I’ll also be on a panel following the talk.

And I’m going to be speaking at the 2011 Midwest Humanist and Freethought Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, happening August 12-14… along with Mr. Deity, JT Eberhard, Jen McCreight, Hemant Mehta, Fred Edwords, and Brother Sam Singleton, Atheist Evangelist. The cost is super-cheap, too — if you register by this Friday, August 5, it’s just $35, and a mere $20 for students. (If you wait until after the 5th to register, the cost will be $50.)

Here’s the skinny on both events. If you’re attending either one, please come find me and say Hi!

*

Seattle atheists EVENT: Seattle Atheists

DATE: Saturday, August 6

TIME: 1:30 – 4:30 pm, including my talk, Q&A, and panel discussion

LOCATION: 2100 Building, 2100 24th Ave. S., Seattle, WA

TOPIC: What Can the Atheist Movement Learn From the LGBT Movement?

SUMMARY: The atheist movement is already modeling itself on the LGBT movement in many ways — most obviously with its focus on coming out of the closet. What else can the atheist movement learn from the LGBT movement… both from its successes and its failures?

COST: Free (donations accepted)*

Midwest humanist and freethought conference EVENT: Midwest Humanist and Freethought Conference

DATES: August 12-14

DATE AND TIME OF MY PRESENTATION: Sat., Aug. 13, 2:30pm – 3:20pm

LOCATION: University of Nebraska – Omaha
Milo Bail Student Center
North 62nd Street & Dodge Street
Omaha, NE 68182

TOPIC: Why Are You Atheists So Angry?

SUMMARY: The atheist movement is often accused of being driven by anger. What are so many atheists so angry about? Is this anger legitimate? And can anger be an effective force behind a movement for social change?

COST: $35; $20 for students, if you register before August 5. $50 if you register after the 5th.

LODGING: Special conference rates are available at the Comfort Inn & Suites, (402) 343-1000. (Hurry — offer expires soon.)

Hope to see you there!

Resistance Is Not Futile: Why Arguing About Religion Is Not A Waste of Time – The Outline

SsaI gave a brand new talk at the Secular Student Alliance conference last weekend, one I’d never given before: “Resistance Is Not Futile: Why Arguing About Religion Is Not A Waste of Time.” The SSA asked me to provide an outline for the talk to include in their proceedings handbook, but it didn’t make it in (for space reasons, I’m guessing). And I’m kind of sorry to have it go to waste, since I had a fair amount of fun putting it together. So I’m posting it here. (Sorry about the dumb formatting — Typepad won’t let me do tabs or indentations, so I’m having to improvise with asterisks.) Enjoy!

Resistance Is Not Futile: Why Arguing About Religion Is Not A Waste of Time

I: Is arguing about religion a waste of time?
* A: No.

II: Commonly held idea: Arguing against religion never works. Religious beliefs are too deeply ingrained, are held for emotional reasons and not rational ones.
* A: Bullshit.
* B: It does so work. Ask any atheist writer/ blogger/ debater/ speaker. People are persuaded by our arguments. Frequently.
* C: Why do people think it never works?
* * 1: It rarely works right away, in the course of a single argument. Leaving religion is usually a process, one that takes time. You won’t persuade someone out of religion in one conversation — but you can plant the seeds of doubt.
* * 2: Many people are conflict-averse. They convince themselves that arguing against religion doesn’t work because they don’t want to do it.
* * * a: So don’t do it. Do whatever kind of atheist activism works for you. But don’t get in the way of other atheists who do want to do it.

III: How to go about it.
* A: Don’t waste your time with private debates. Have your debates in public forums: blogs, Facebook, videotape your conversations and put them on YouTube, etc.
* B: Seriously consider whether you want to debate people you’re very close to — family members, friends, etc.
* C: Don’t look for a magic bullet — there is no one perfect argument that will persuade everyone to become an atheist.
* * 1: Again, leaving religion is usually a long process, an emotional one as well as an intellectual one.
* * 2: Different arguments work with different people.
* * 3: Many people need multiple arguments to convince them.
* D: Be patient. Your ideas are old to you, but they’re new to the folks you’re talking with.

IV: Which goals of the atheist movement are helped by trying to argue people out of religion?
* A: All of them.
* B: Seriously.
* C: If you’re doing alliance or interfaith work with believers, it makes sense to table these arguments temporarily — but coalition work should never come at the cost of atheists shutting up permanently about our objections to religion.
* * 1: Arguing about religion does work to persuade people out of religion. (See above.)
* * 2: Arguing about religion strips religion of its special privileged status as the one idea that can never be questioned. And that helps all the goals we’re working towards — ending anti-atheist bigotry, separation of church and state, special legal exemptions for religious organizations, etc.
* * 3: Arguing about religion helps re-frame religion as an idea rather than an identity — which makes believers more open to listening to our ideas.
* D: So consider engaging in it.
* E: And if you choose not to — don’t get in the way of other people who do.