Twice this week on Facebook a friend of mine posted the below picture. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this, but it’s the first time I’ve thought about it in depth. And you know what? It’s wrong.
This first problem I have with this is that it equates people with ideas. It equates saying that someone’s beliefs are silly or not real with hating or treating someone differently because they’re gay, or female, or a different race to you, or they have some kind of physical deformity or birth defect (red reindeer nose). This is not an equivalent. Belief in a god is a choice – even which god you choose to believe in – and being female, or gay etc is not a choice. People deserve respect, beliefs and ideas do not.
To look at this more closely, lets think about what happens if an atheist shames religion and spirituality as silly and not real. People might feel bad, or sad, or embarrassed. I may be being shortsighted, but I honestly cannot think of another outcome! And if you are religious and an atheist makes you feel bad – you can not talk to them again and walk away, or change the channel – problem over.
Now lets think about situations which happen in the world today when religion is used as an excuse for homophobia, misogynism, racism or other hateful behaviours. There are people who are unable to be married to the ones they love because of religion – in first world nations. There are people who are not allowed to attend school because of religion. For goodness sake, in some countries in the world they still kill people for being witches – in the name of religion. This is not equivalent to someones feelings being hurt! This is not a conversation you can walk away from!
Religion doesn’t just hurt people this way. When people follow blindly, without ever saying “hey, this is silly!” terrible things can happen to the people following the religions. If you think your religion is absolutely real and your think your preacher is absolutely speaking the words of your god and he says “drink the koolaid” you say YES! If you understand that he might not really be the voice of god, you say “why?”.
Now if you are reading this and you are religious, you might not agree with me. But everyone thinks that the religions which are not theirs are silly and not real. For those who are not Hindu – do you think that Ganesha is really a god with the body of a man and the head of an elephant or do you think this isn’t real? Why then should your religion be treated in a special way and exempt from others thinking it isn’t real?
Personally, I think that people should think about what and why they believe. I think that understanding ourselves, our behaviours and thoughts is important. If your belief is indefensible when someone questions it – surely that is a problem with your belief rather than the question? If people want to believe something and feel they have good reasons, I have no problem with this. But I will not stop questioning belief, and I will say things are silly if I feel they are silly and if something appears to have no basis in reality I will say it appears to not be real. And no one can tell me that me saying those things is equivalent to using any belief to justify being a homophobe, or a misogynist, or a racist or a hateful human being in general.