Atheism and Diversity: Is It Wrong For Atheists To Convert Believers?

From Alternet:

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.

[Read more at Alternet]

11 Comments on "Atheism and Diversity: Is It Wrong For Atheists To Convert Believers?"

  1. They would likely be more successful (which is not to state a position on whether or not they should be) were so many of the atheist proselytizers not inclined to act like utter jackasses in pursuit of their goal. And, really, what great harm comes to you if the nice old woman down the street says “God bless you” when you sneeze? Yet, in their intellectual certainty, they too often feel justified in exploiting the worse tactics of their “opponents”, up to and including the dehumanization and generalization of “believers” as one offensive mass. As always, it is a problem of the most obnoxious examples of a group being those who can only feel satisfied if they are shouting slogans in the faces of others as a means to conversion. Most of the atheists (and Christians, Buddhists, Pagans, Jews, Hindus, etc.) are content to simply live their lives in the best way they can and do not need to be harassed by those who need external validation that they are right and therefore everyone else must scream “uncle”.

  2. PersonMcPerson | Dec 22, 2009 at 8:12 pm |

    The very idea Atheists are trying to convert people to their way of thinking of an extreme contradictory. Believing their way is “the way, the only way, the most logical way” is identical to “Believe in my god, in his ways, the only way, the most logical way” and thinking its not is pretty well, just stupid. If you are Atheist and happen to believe that these are two different things its just because you are so caught up in your world view that you cannot accept even the possibility you could be imposing an immoral and annoying invasion of someone's personal objectives. As soon as everyone realizes that we are all equal, despite race, religion, sexual orientation, financial class, and age we will be one step closer to acheiving world peace and a better understanding of each other.

  3. Tuna Ghost | Dec 22, 2009 at 9:46 pm |

    I'm all for curtailing religion's influence on government, but this article uses some pretty sloppy thinking.

    Firstly, science is not the pursuit to describe the world “as it is”, only as it appears to us. Modern physics is telling us that much the deeper we get. I can think of one or two physicists who have openly said as much. Metaphysics is the attempt to describe the world as it truly is, the study of “being qua being”. Most metaphysical hypotheses are unverifiable, which does not make them invalid. And many of them involve the immaterial acting upon the material, this is actually a very common idea. The idea of Universals and Particulars comes to mind, something anyone who has ever taken a metaphysics class will recognize. Does the color Red actually exist, or are there just red things in the universe? Does Dog actually exist, or are there just dogs here and there? What about the concept of change?

    Metaphysics isn't a question without an answer, metaphysics is for when you have all the answers and the picture still doesn't make any goddam sense.

    When the authror says “One of the most important things about a hypothesis is that it has to be falsifiable,” she is right on one hand and very wrong on the other. From a standpoint of the Scientific Method, and unfalisifiable hypothesis is not much use to gathering hard data and moving forward. But the idea that ANY hypothesis or statemet has to be verifiable for it to have any real meaning or use is called the Verificationist Theory, which was formalized roughly mid-twentieth century and was dismissed shortly thereafter when everyone realized that the Verificationist Theory was self-defeating. It's impossible to verify whether or not the Verificationist Theory is true, therefore, by the Verificationist Theory, it is a meaningless statement.

    Anyway. To agree with Xen, “activist atheists” would have a lot more success if they weren't so goddam smug and condescending, especially given they misunderstand the questions and answers as badly as the fundementalists.

    At any rate, describing capital-R Religion as a “hypothesis” just because a few religions make testable claims is a silly thing to do. For most folks it could much more accurately be described as a perspective. MY religion is more of a style than a perspective, if it's even that (but maybe that's just what comes from worshipping a god about whom only a handful of people have consciously given two shits for the last 1,500 years).

    • I have a different faith than almost everyone i know, I refuse to try an convert, everyone needs to find their own way, dragging them down my path wont help them at all in the long run, the journey is what makes you, not the map you follow.

  4. I think to be fair to overbearing atheists, they've had to put up with the extreme religious a–holes telling them they're going to hell if they don't accept Jesus as their personal saviour for too many years. Inevitably there will be blowback. I'm an atheist of a sort in that I certainly don't believe in the notion of what god is according to accepted religions. I'm a believer in a higher power though and while I have my strong opinions about it I've never pushed my ideas on others….unless a religious sort starts hawking their brand. Then I do get a taste of blood in my mouth and want to rip these jerks a new hole. It's not even the person in front of me so much as the annoyance of having to suffer religious deranged politicians who shape policies based on their ideas of god. It makes me want to take out my frustration on the guy in front of me. Too bad this country still hasn't figured out that the seperation of church and state is fundamental to this country.

  5. Evangelism, which is clearly practiced by Atheists, is…bottom line…the need to have someone think the same way you do to validate your own beliefs. It is the idea that your idea is also TEH TRUTH, which is silly. Anyone belief system, be it Atheism, Xianity, Islam, Scientology, Smurfology, etc…if it is valid (which removes the fourth one on my list…[I do belief in Smurfette])…it is just one facet on the big Diamond of Truth. We see glints of it, flashes of it. But there must be one truth for everybody. Atheism is founded on the idea that for many thousands of years, all the people in the past who clearly had a spiritual understanding were simply not being smart, weren't using their brains. We often do treat even those a couple generations ago like children. “Oh, if those poor waterheads only know what we know now…tsk tsk tsk.” Meanwhile, we are dealing with climate change and an economy that is so dependent on so many different factors, including the continued need to have more and more advanced technology and we are going to reach a point where development is saturated and we can't go any further, which would send the world's economy into a tailspin.

    We're having the really seriously consider that the Industrial Revolution wasn't such a good idea after all.

    The idea that “oh, now we have it all figured out” is silly and atheism comes from this need for modern man to defend the way he lives.

    We created our “civilization” in the western world because we lost our spiritual way, our link with the past. Protestantism took the “bells and smells” away from religious practice and so disconnected us from the true spiritual inheritance from our ancestors who had a more integrated life in which religion wasn't a paradox but part of their culture. And we've been trying to fill that god-shaped hole in our life ever since.

    Atheism seeks to put man in that hole by elevating him to the paragon of animals, making, with our limited frame of reference and the particular function of our senses, which are not the standard, to be the epitome of organic life, while also insisting we're really smart and mostly hairless apes.

    It's silly and is…yes…illogical and irrational.

    Happy Yule and Mithra says hi.

  6. I've never tried to convert anyone to atheism. Hell, it took me 20 years to admit it to myself. In addition, none of the other atheists I've ever met tried converting anyone to anything. I think religious people are skittish about atheism, and they imagine all kinds of sinister bullshit that isn't really happening. Just because we are open with our disbelief and don't try to hide, that's construed as being militant.

  7. PersonMcPerson | Dec 23, 2009 at 8:17 pm |

    I think we all can agree that nobody like other people's ideas being forced upon them. Wether it be about God, politics, or basketball.

  8. Anonymous | Feb 6, 2010 at 4:27 pm |

    It seems atheists are just as adamant about squashing free thought, look at the ongoing debate on whether or not “intelligent design” should be taught in schools, why not teach creation AND evolution, and let people make up their own minds? I lived within the atheist paradigm for awhile and realized that it can’t be that simple, right now, I follow a pantheist/pan-psychic belief pattern which I feel reaches beyond ideals of belief/atheism which are just false dualities when you think about it…

  9. It seems atheists are just as adamant about squashing free thought, look at the ongoing debate on whether or not “intelligent design” should be taught in schools, why not teach creation AND evolution, and let people make up their own minds? I lived within the atheist paradigm for awhile and realized that it can't be that simple, right now, I follow a pantheist/pan-psychic belief pattern which I feel reaches beyond ideals of belief/atheism which are just false dualities when you think about it…

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