Home > Atheism, Religion > Why So Hostile Towards Religion?

Why So Hostile Towards Religion?

I’ve been asked why I’m so vocal in my disdain for religion, why I don’t just ignore it and let people believe what they want to believe, and why I’m so hostile towards something that doesn’t affect me at all. Here I’ll try to answer those questions.

I used to believe that your (non-)religious choice was your own business, and that I had no right to judge or tell you what you should or shouldn’t believe. In fact, I was almost anti-militant, in that I so hated the constant in-your-face attitude of Christians that I vowed never to be like that, to push my beliefs in peoples’ faces. It just seemed like a shitty way to get your point across, and just really annoyed the piss out of me.

After a while, my view extended beyond my personal bubble. Instead of just questioning the value of religion in my own life, I began questioning its value on a much larger scale. Rather, I wasn’t just asking “how does religion affect me?”, but instead asked “how does religion affect others, and how in turn do they affect me?” So yeah, it’s still a selfish question. Shut up.

It was in stepping back and looking at the world and the roles different religions have in that world that I began to see that this wasn’t just a personal issue. Being a non-believer wasn’t enough. I had to start educating myself. I had to speak up when I took issue with a religious issue. I had to stop believing (ha!) that religion was taboo, and that a person’s beliefs warrant respect and are not to be questioned or ridiculed. Because let me tell you, religion affects all of us. Not just the fanatics, or the fundies, or the moderates – it affects everyone. And if you don’t believe that, it might be time to open your eyes and look at the world we’re living in.

And so, the reasons why I refuse to stay quiet are as follows:

1. Like it or not, religious people run our world.

I think most of us can agree that in the United States today, a man or woman who declares themselves an atheist would not be elected into the office of the President. In contrast, we regularly elect into public office people who believe that the universe came into being 6,000 years ago, that Noah fit pairs of every form of life onto his ark, and that a rapture will occur in their own lifetimes. In this way, religion affects me, personally in very real and profound ways. People that believe that some obscure passages in the Bible – through questionable and dubious translation and interpretation – dictates that homosexuality is a sin, are passing laws that infringe on the basic human rights of these individuals and continues to promote homophobia. The same people sit in courtrooms passing judgement not only based on the word of law, but on the word of an antiquated belief system that has no place in our modern society. These people make decisions every day that affect my life and the lives of the people I love. Wouldn’t you speak up if you felt the stakes were that high?

2. You believing in something doesn’t mean I have to respect it.

The old taboo that religion is something you don’t talk about is bullshit. If you’re going to make unfounded claims and then tell me that your beliefs should dictate how I live my life, you had better be prepared to be called out on it. I can respect and love you, but I don’t have to respect what you believe just because it falls under the umbrella of “faith”. It isn’t my intent to offend, but I know full well that offense will be taken, and I’m sorry for that. I don’t however make any apologies for how I feel or how I express myself.

3. Religion stifles scientific progress and free thinking.

By its very nature, religion is opposed to the advancement and evolution of man as a species. Christianity insists that god created man in his image, that the world was created in 6 days, and that a small cluster of cells present after conception is human and contains an eternal soul. These statements cannot be reconciled with the scientific evidence that is readily available, almost to the point of common knowledge, yet it insists upon making these unproven claims. Further, the very notion of “faith” implies that important questions don’t need to be asked, and that we know all there is to know about the world and our own existence.

Recent efforts to back-peddle into some kind of notion that science and the bible are compatible are only a result of the church’s recognition that they can’t continue teaching these absurdities without some type of science attached to them, so you hear terms like “intelligent designer” being bandied about like they mean anything at all. Many of today’s well-known scientific principles exist today despite religion’s tampering and attempts at silencing them. Science presents us with a world explained through tested and proven theories backed by evidence; religion presents one governed by untestable and unprovable claims, superstition, fear and guilt.

4. Religion denies rational discourse with the “faith” argument.

How many times have I heard a person of faith utter the words “nothing you say will change my mind about my belief in god”. This is a part of what makes religion dangerous. The idea that no matter what anyone says, you are right. I can’t have a rational debate with any of my Christian friends because it will always end with me being told that “you just don’t have faith”. That’s the trump card used to basically end the conversation. After that point there isn’t any point on continuing. And it often (but not always) comes about because the person I’m talking with has run out of rational or logical responses to my questions.

5. Children are indoctrinated without permission or being taught other options.

The idea of being baptized into a religion without a choice, being born into it without a means to decide if it represents the world view you want to embrace just bothers me. This is a delicate point, one I debated even including here, but I felt it warranted being said. I’m hesitant because I can’t say that I’ve fully explored the idea of forcing faith onto children when we already do the same with morality, social norms, etc. I don’t think there is harm in raising a child with the morals and ethics that are common across many religions, I just don’t believe they should be told the reason to do so comes down from a higher power. A big brother in the sky is not required for us to be good, and I believe we do our kids a disservice by telling them that goodness can’t come from within. Again, my opinion here tends to shift, so consider it a “soft” bullet point.

6. People die every day because of religion – in more ways than we realize.

People who may otherwise peacefully co-exist are brutally killing each other over what they believe. More frightening are those that kill because they believe it is the mandate of their faith to do so, that their god commands it. This is the world we live in today. When we talk about faith we don’t think about how it can give cause and excuse to the most vile kinds of violence; there is no better motive for committing atrocities than the belief that you’re called to commit them by a higher power.

The fun doesn’t end there. The church itself is responsible for thousands of africans who die every day from AIDS, because it teaches them that putting a piece of rubber on your dick is immoral and will lead you to hell. Instead of saving lives and providing these people with a means to do so, they instead impose this idiotic belief onto people who don’t know any better, and as a result they die every day. Resistance to stem-cell research is also costing lives that are more difficult to quantify but are no less real.

7. Hiding pedophiles and allowing them to continue to work around children is despicable.

I don’t need to go into the whole scandal here, but I can’t deny that this pisses me off in a huge way, as I’m sure it does most people. How does a Christian come to terms with the fact that the same people who dictate how they should live their lives are the same ones covering up and protecting these boy-touching fucks? I mean, if they don’t have these poor victim’s best interest at heart (and don’t even try to tell me with a straight face that they do), what makes you think they give a shit about you?

8. I was raised Catholic. There, I said it.

For full disclosure, part of the reason I’m so vocal is that it annoys me to no end that I ever wasted a single second considering the fairy tales I was told as a kid, or that I ever worried that if I didn’t abide by some random church directive that I would burn in hell. The range of emotion here goes from embarrassment to shame to anger, and I can’t help but be put off by the thought of all the mental and emotional energy I spent digging myself out of that hole.

I’m not saying that any of the above are fact or truth, or that my opinions on any of them will not change over time; I’m only listing the reasons that motivate me to be more active than reactive when it comes to my own atheism. I’m happy to argue any of my points in the comments below, or through private communication. I’m always open to learning, and I will not shy away from being proven wrong.

I remember how I gained hope and strength in the writings of others who had similarly questioned their faith, and the feeling that I wasn’t alone gave me the will to finally shed the last of my silly beliefs. My hope here is that someone, somewhere gets even a small sense of hope from reading this and takes another step towards rational thought and freedom from being governed by the make-believe.

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Categories: Atheism, Religion
  1. March 20, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks for the post – I really enjoyed it. You did a great job hitting the main points on the head.

  2. March 24, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Thanks, Brian!

  3. March 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    You make a lot of good points. As a former Protestant Christian who opted into the Catholic Church as an adult (that’s a big, tangential tale), I do agree with a lot of what you’ve said. Jesus told his followers to let their light shine like a city on a hill. But a lot of Christians interpret that to mean “shine your light in people’s face like you’re a cop.” As you have so vehemently articulated, this is offensive, and is an ineffective way to evangelize.

    For what it’s worth, not all Christians think or act this way, and I’m sorry your experience has been with the ones who give us all a bad name.

    You’re also right in many of your comments about the Catholic Church, as much as it pains me to admit that. I hope it goes without saying that I don’t condone the abuse scandals or the cover-ups that went along with them. The whole thing sickens me. I would only ask that you recognize that you can’t judge a medicine by those who don’t take it. The Church itself condemns these sins, and those of us who adhere to Catholic teaching don’t get announced to the world for our piety. All the press coverage goes to the bad guys.

    I have found that being Catholic has given me a lot more freedom than I had as a Protestant to believe that the world is older than 6000 years (and etc). So many people completely misunderstand the nature and intent of the Bible when it describes how the world came into being! They should be considered amateur Christians and their views shouldn’t be given that much consideration (just like you wouldn’t trust an amateur biologist).

    My main critique of your post is that it takes for truth far too many misconceptions about Christianity. You also didn’t mention any other faiths.

    I’m a big fan of looking at opposing perspectives, though, if for no other reason than to test the foundations of my own beliefs. I’ll make you a deal: I’ll read a book you suggest to me, if you’ll read a book I suggest to you. Let me know.

  4. March 24, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I appreciate your comments, Doogie. A little short on time but I will certainly get back to you here.

    *Edit: Understand first though that this is not a comprehensive list of why I’m an atheist, only a list of reasons why I’m more vocal about it than not.

  1. March 23, 2011 at 10:32 pm

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