Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why write about it?

As anybody who browses through my blog can quickly realize, I tend to write a lot about religion in general and my atheism in particular. Sure, I sometimes write about comics, beer, gay marriage, movies and other various thoughts, but that's the one that seems to come up the most. One comment that I, and other, atheists receive goes along the lines of questioning why we would take the time to write about our lack of belief. After all, if we don't believe in God, why write about it?

It's a good question, but I can easily come up with a few answers. One time when I heard this particular objection was from right-wing nutjob Dinesh D'Souza when he was debating an atheist (either Christopher Hitchens or Dan Barker, I can't remember). He was being critical of all of the atheists like Hitchens, Dawkins, etcetera who are very outspoken. He argued that he didn't believe in unicorns, but he doesn't feel the need to write a book called The Unicorn Delusion. Personally, I find this whole line of reasoning hilarious. Not only does he put religious belief in the category where it rightfully belongs - alongside the existence of unicorns, but he misses out on one critical difference: that is, the majority of the population doesn't believe in unicorns. Why write about how they don't exist? Nobody's claiming that they do!

Perhaps if I lived in a far more secular society like Sweden, I wouldn't feel the need to write about it as much as I do. The fact is though that unless you crawl into a cave, religious expression is all over the place, and I can't help but want to react to it. Sure, there are some people who just let it go, but that's not the way my brain works. Honestly, I think that if I had a blog back when I was a believer, I'd write about it just as much as I write about my lack of belief. What can I say? It's a topic that I've always found to be quite interesting - no matter what side of the argument I was on. (Those who've known me the longest might remember that much of my writing when I was in middle school and high school had a religious bent to it.)

A lot of these comments though are along the lines of how I should just have my lack of a belief and shut up about it. After all, how dare I express myself? I mean, I suppose it's fine for believers to have songs, holidays, buildings, artwork, etcetera expressing their opinion. Also, I don't think that anybody comments on a Christian's blog and says, "Hey, why can't you just believe what you believe and shut up about it?" Nobody questions why there are books like The Purpose Filled LIfe out there.

Personally, I think that the problem is that people with religious beliefs don't like them to be challenged. After all, critical thought is the enemy of magical thinking, and so many people have an emotional investment in their beliefs that they see an attack on their beliefs as a personal attack on them.

What about me though? I do tend to get a bit bent out of shape of some of the anti-atheism arguments of guys like Ray Comfort and Lee Strobel. For me though, what's troubling isn't so much that they're attacking my point of view but the fact that they can't seem to attack it without misrepresenting what my point of view even is in the first place. As far as I know, I've never once misrepresented a religious belief, and I'd hope that an informed believer would call me out on it if I did.

I think that the big difference between most atheists and most believers is that we atheists don't feel as though we have anything to lose. Honestly, if there was a good, logical reason for believing in a god, then I'd want to hear it. I'd abandon my atheism right now if I could only hear an argument that I hadn't already mulled over time and time again back when I was a believer, only to ultimately reject it. I mean, if there is a God, then I want to know about it! What could possibly be more profound, more significant to our understanding of the universe than to be able to prove the existence of such a being?

I wonder if your average believer could honestly say the same thing. Personally, I know that when I used to believe, it didn't matter what argument was thrown my way - I "knew" that I was right. I "knew" that God existed. Wherever the conversation went, that's where I'd have to come to a conclusion. It wasn't until I entertained the possibility that I might be wrong that I eventually just continued down that path.

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