Atheism, Secularism, and Misconceptions
Theists: We Aren’t Your Enemy
There are massive misconceptions among the religious about atheism and secularism. There is a perceived threat where none exists. Although exceptions certainly may be found, the great majority of atheists do NOT want to stop the religious from holding or practicing religious beliefs… except in the rare cases where they cross the line and infringe on the rights of others. To clarify, ‘rights’ refers to legally defined freedoms applicable to all. After all, rights don’t mean much if they don’t provide the widest possible coverage. There is no ‘right’ to force your religious views on others, nor is there any ‘right’ to protection from offense. Offense is an imaginary injury that goes away when you stop imagining it.
The simple truth is, many atheists would go further to protect your beliefs and freedom to worship than those of other religions, or even sects within the same religion. This is because we aren’t constrained by scripture or dogma, and recognize imposition of religion, or conversely, criminalizing religion, to be policing of thought. And as such, your freedom OF religion is inextricably wound with our freedom FROM religion. They are inseparable. To legislate for or against either side is to declare thought a crime.
Another misconception is that a secular society is an atheist society. This couldn’t be more wrong. It is almost the exact opposite of ‘official atheism’. A secular society is one that places all religions on equal footing, and frees worship from the constraints inevitably imposed by theocracies. Secular is NOT synonymous with atheist. Keeping religion and governance separate benefits both; government isn’t distracted from its day to day duties, and the various religions are free from the heavy hands of theocratic dictators.
We also (generally) don’t hate whatever your deity is, and don’t worship Satan. God(s) and Satan are the ‘good cop/bad cop’ two sides of the same coin. Atheism doesn’t consider the coin valid currency, so we don’t waste time worrying about either side, or whether it matters after we ‘cash in our chips’. As this life is the only one there is any reason to believe we are going to have, we concentrate on making the best of the here and now, rather than attempt to mollify an all powerful deity with an itchy trigger finger looking for any little excuse to banish us to everlasting torment with his alter ego and partner.
In addition, atheism makes no claims about evolution, abiogenesis, or the origins of the universe or cosmos. Atheism (generally) takes the position that the complete lack of evidence for god(s), and the large amount of evidence supporting other explanations leads to the conclusion there likely aren’t any gods. Some will go further and argue that there are definitely no gods, but in either case no claims are made about the origins of life or the universe, or evolution.
Lastly, unlike religion, atheism is not concerned with politics and is not a ‘worldview’. Atheism is not related to communism. Indeed, in the oft cited examples of Stalin, Mao and others, they replaced heads of religion with their own cult of personality. In effect, the communist party became the official church with them as the revered and feared ‘Dear Leader’, including claims of divinity. Their atrocities weren’t committed to further the aims of atheism. They were committed to consolidate power in the hands of a few individuals at the top of the communist party power structure. In many other examples, religion has allied itself with dictators to both aid the oppressors, and to curry favor and stay close to power. Nazi Germany signed treaties with the Vatican. Even today, Vladimir Putin, who was a KGB agent of the communist Soviet Union, is often seen with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church at his side. I could be wrong, and if I am please correct me, but I am not aware of any prominent atheists sidling up to dictators to offer legitimacy.
This is 2014, and you’ve probably heard of the current era called “The Information Age”. There are many FREE educational resources available online… dictionaries, encyclopedias, libraries, universities, Khan academy, and on and on… If there is something you aren’t sure of, research it. A small investment of your time is almost certainly worth the knowledge gained. Of course there is a lot of chaff and nonsense, but the more you know, the easier it is to recognize and filter it.
Time marches on whether we go with it or not. And the rest of the world won’t wait for you. If you choose to remain in the dark and not seek answers for yourself, someone else will almost certainly tell you what they think you need to hear, and all too often it will be to your detriment and their benefit.