Atheism and Diversity: Is It Wrong For Atheists To Convert Believers?
Continued from previous page
It is not anti-diversity for atheists to point this out, any more than it's anti-diversity to point out how any other hypothesis is unfalsifiable, or unsupported by evidence, or directly contradicted by evidence, or in any other way mistaken and flawed.
A New Model for Diversity
I know that a lot of people will still have problems with atheist activism. Even if they acknowledge that atheist activism is fair and reasonable, they still have a strong, instinctive reaction against it. A lot of people think it seems like religious intolerance to say, "Your religion is wrong, and I think you should change your mind about it."
And I think the problem comes from how we think of diversity.
Historically, we pretty much have two models of dealing with religious beliefs that are different from ours. We have (a) intolerant evangelism and theocracy -- forcing religious beliefs down other people's throats, through social pressure at best, and legal strictures and even violence at worst. And we have (b) uncritical ecumenicalism: The idea that all religions are part of a rich, beautiful spiritual tapestry and they're all at least a little bit true -- and that even if they're not, it's religious bigotry to criticize them or try to persuade people out of them. It's a model created largely in response to intolerant evangelism and theocracy... and therefore, it's a model in which any criticism of any religion automatically gets slotted into that ugly category.
Atheism is offering a third option.
We're offering 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.
The atheist movement is passionate about the right to religious freedom. (With the notable exception of a few assholes on the Internet. Name me one movement that doesn't have its share of assholes on the Internet.) We fully support people's right to believe whatever the hell they want, as long as they keep it out of government and don't shove it down other people's throats. We see the right to think what we like as a basic foundation of human ethics, one of the most fundamental rights we have -- and we have no desire whatsoever to overturn that.
Yet at the same time, we see the right to free thought and free expression as including the right to criticize other people's thoughts and forms of expression. We passionately defend people's right to believe what they want... but we defend with equal passion our right to think what we want about those beliefs, and to say so in the public square. We express our disagreement in a variety of ways -- some more polite and respectful, some more insulting and mocking -- but we damn sure think we have the right to express it.
And we see no reason to treat religion with any more deference than any other idea. We see religion as -- yes, you guessed it -- a hypothesis about the world. We see it as a hypothesis that has never once in all of human history been shown to be correct. We see it as a hypothesis that at the very least has been falsified numerous times, and at worst is unfalsifiable and should therefore be rejected on that basis alone. And we see no reason to treat it any differently from any other deeply flawed, completely unsupported hypothesis. We see no reason not to criticize it, to ask hard questions about it, to make fun of it, to point out flaws in it, to point out the good evidence contradicting it and the utter lack of good evidence supporting it... and to do our damndest to persuade people out of believing in it.