5 Things Atheists Have Wrong About Religion
Continued from previous page
Religion is like a knife which can be used by a surgeon to save lives or as a dagger to kill someone.
2. Atheists are Anti-Religious
This false belief stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what atheism and religion are. Atheism is not in any way shape or form related to an opinion about religion. It is simply the assertion that god does not exist, nothing more and nothing less. Religion is a broad category that encompasses traditions which include supernatural belief and those that do not. And, as I’ve already stated there are many atheists who are already religious practitioners.
Despite atheism being quite a straightforward concept, many continually misrepresent what it means. A prominent example comes from the atheist writer Greta Christina. She recently stated, “Atheists, by definition, don’t think any religion has any reasonable likelihood of being true.” Wrong. Atheists by definition assert that god does not exist. Besides, what does it mean for a religion to be true or not true when a religion doesn’t require any supernatural belief? Again, being an atheist has nothing to do with ones position on religion. A fellow atheist seminarian friend of mine at Starr King School for the Ministry clearly demonstrates this point:
First, I think there is a difference between being an atheist and being anti-religious. They are orthogonal. There is also a difference between being anti-religious and being opposed to the effects of particular religious traditions. These terms should not be conflated. Since when did not believing in God mean that you are opposed to other people believing in God and or practicing religion regardless of whether they believe? I am an atheist. Just to be clear, by that I mean I don’t believe that there is a god, a higher consciousness, or a spirit. I am also opposed to the effects of certain religious traditions. But I am not by any means anti-religious. I don’t deny the value that religion or religious practice, (whether actual belief in god and the afterlife, or simply liking the pretty candles at mass and multiple opportunities for community) brings to people including myself. Religion has a lot to offer and to deny that is to deny the complexity of the human condition.
The concept of an atheist who practices religion is hard to swallow for many. Yet, the simple facts reveal millions of people who practice religion and are simultaneously atheists.
Elsewhere there are examples of atheists and agnostics who support and work in relation to religion. Bruce Sheiman, author of “An Atheist Defends Religion,” has done great work on the subject. Chris Stedman of NonProphet Status is an atheist who has worked with Eboo Patel’s Interfaith Youth Core and is now working for the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard as the Interfaith and Community Service Fellow. In fact, the silent majority of atheists are not militant, but because of popular anti-religious voices like Christopher Hitchens atheism becomes associated with the most stridently militant.
1. All Religions are the Same and are “Equally Crazy”
Many atheists often claim that they are wrongly accused of not understanding the differences between religions. “Of course we do!” I’ve heard them say. But yet this is meaningless unless they are willing to treat these differences differently. Case and point is the latest article from Greta Christina where she asks, “Are All Religions Equally Crazy?” and answers a resounding, Yes. She describes a number of strange Mormon beliefs and practices, but then realizes that other religions aren’t any better. If her point was to illustrate that some religions have strange beliefs, she succeeded. She concludes,