A Fine Line

Photo by John Salzarulo (Flickr)

"Don't Ask Questions!”

A problem I consistently run into when promoting atheism and science is the inevitable backlash from friends, family, and colleagues. "Who are you to question my beliefs?" "Why can't you just leave well enough alone?" "I'm entitled to my opinion/beliefs; there's no need for you to go bashing them."

One such example was an extended conversation I had with my mother a few weeks ago. I hold the view that while everyone has the right to believe whatever they want to believe, that did not mean they automatically deserve respect and/or recognition for that belief. My mother was of the opinion that I am being intolerant of other peoples' views because to them, the beliefs they hold are true.

I tried telling her that was absurd, and that tolerance had nothing to do with it. After all, someone who believes they're Jefferson Davis or Thomas Edison is clearly wrong in some way. (In most cases delusional) We know who those men are, and we know that they died a long time ago. Saying that you are that person is clearly a violation of reality.

There is a fine line between tolerance and recognizing an untruth. I'd like to think that I am quite tolerant. I don't hold any prejudice against people of different ethnicities, cultures, or physical characteristics. I also think that people have the right to believe whatever they want. To attempt to stifle this right is to insinuate thought crime, which is the definition of totalitarianism. "We know what you're thinking, and we can punish you for it." - Christopher Hitchens.

Respect is Earned, not Given

But that does not mean that because you hold a certain view or belief means you deserve attention and merit for said view. There are mountains of evidence against the idea that any part of any Abrahamic religion that is supernatural in principle is in any way factual or supported by evidence. Study after study has demonstrated that vaccines do not cause autism. Climate change is happening right now, and we are only making it worse.

Yet there are people out there who believe all of that is rubbish and are eager to tell people so because, 'they know it in their heart.' 'We found Noah's ark! (Again) Of course Christianity is true! Of course God is real!" "Don't give your child vaccines! Study after study has proven that they cause autism!" "Global warming? This has been one of the coolest years on record! Global warming isn't real!"

Yes, I think people have the right to an opinion. But I don't think that right means you ARE right. And this is one of the biggest problems that plagues our society today. The media and government have fallen victim to this flawed line of thinking by allowing parties with opposing views to the truth equal air time with people who actually know what they're talking about. Instead of debating and deciding what we should do about real problems, we're stuck questioning the science behind the problems and talking in absurd perspectives and unsupported claims.

What If?

I have discovered that it is very difficult to be moral and good if you are lacking information or have bad information. An extreme example would be witch hunting. There are people in the world today that believe some children to be witches, and believe that they are morally obligated to kill them in order to save their souls. If those adults understood that there's no such thing as magic, would they still murder their children in order to save their souls? Or might they raise their children with love because they understand better than they did before?

An everyday example would be the treatment of atheists like myself by religious people. A great many religious people believe that atheists are destined for hell because they don't believe in their particular god. Some theists believe that atheists don't belong in their home country because they believe said country was founded on a particular religion. Yet if they understood that belief in any god is nonsensical, and belief in a god that has multiple self-refuting characteristics like the god of the bible is unsupported and unwarranted, would they still treat people with that same hostility? Or might they be more accepting and less prejudice towards us?

A Slippery Slope

If we continue to debate the science rather than what to do about what the science is telling us, any progress made in the next few years will grind to a halt, if not reverse itself outright. If we continue to believe that we were put on this planet for a divine reason rather than being born of the earth, we'll allow the biosphere to deteriorate and die from our greed and carelessness. If we continue to find facts to fit our beliefs rather than forming theories around the facts, people will continue to believe that their god is right one and will maim or kill anyone who disagrees with them. If we continue to ignore reality, we will not last.

That's why I call people on their bullshit. No, I don't like doing it to my friends and family. I love them, and I don't like hurting them or questioning their views. But at the same time, I'd rather live in reality than in a world where nobody bothered anyone.

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