Atheism and Diversity: Is It Wrong For Atheists To Convert Believers?
Do atheists hate diversity?
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.
The Intolerant Bigotry of the Germ Theory
If there's one single idea I'd most like to get across to religious believers, it would not be, "There is no God." Or even, "There is probably no God." I want believers to reach that conclusion on their own. Preferably upon being awestruck by my brilliant arguments, of course, but ultimately on their own, after thinking it through, after looking at the reasons for belief and the reasons for atheism, and concluding that atheism makes more sense and is more consistent with what we know about the world. I don't want people to stop believing in God just because I say so.
If there's one single idea I'd most like to get across to religious believers, it would be this:
Religion is a hypothesis.
Religion is a hypothesis about how the world works, and why it is the way it is. Religion is the hypothesis that the world is the way it is, at least in part, because of immaterial beings or forces that act on the material world.
Religion is many other things, of course. It's communities, cultural traditions, political ideologies and philosophies. But those things aren't what make religion unique. What makes religion unique, among all other communities/philosophies, etc., is this hypothesis of an immaterial world acting on the material one. It's thousands of different hypotheses, really, positing thousands of immaterial beings and/or forces, with thousands upon thousands of different qualities and temperaments. But all these diverse beliefs have this one hypothesis in common: The hypothesis that there is a supernatural world, and that the natural world is the way it is because of the supernatural one.
Religion is not a subjective opinion, an ethical axiom or a personal perspective. (These things can be connected with religion, of course, but they're not what make its unique core.) Opinions, axioms and personal perspectives can be debated, but ultimately, they're up to each person to decide for themselves. Religion is none of these things. Religion is a hypothesis. It says, "Things are the way they are because of the effects of the immaterial world on the material one." Things are the way they are because God made them that way. Because the Devil is making them that way. Because the World-Soul is evolving that way. Because we have spiritual energy animating our consciousness. Because guardian angels are watching us. Because witches are casting spells. Because we are the reincarnated souls of dead people. Whatever.