How can Atheism become Anti-Theism?

Because my conviction that religion and the belief in a god predispose people to do bad things, I now think that I should take my atheism into an "evangelical" role. I have become an Anti-theist and I'm here to convert you to my non-belief.

I have begun challenging people who proffer religion as an 'liniment' to mans' woes. I may ask what god has done for them and then explain why god seems to me, so evil. I will cite examples like the Boxing Day Tsunami or the anthrax virus or cancer and ask the religious follower why they choose to follow a god that would wantonly kill or allow the death of innocent people (yes innocent, since many people who died from these natural occurrences were/are children).

Usually people will cherry-pick their responses, and select the good incidents in their life and ignore any bad that has happened to them or in the world. Additionally, I hear two very common responses: "god is punishing us for bad behavior " or “god works in mysterious ways.” I usually ask why would you believe in something so evil that he (since most gods are male) would punish you for my bad behavior? Why would god kill so many tens of thousands of people because America tolerates homosexuality?.

Then of course, I always have the omniscient v. omnipotent v, omnipresent argument that goes something like: If god is "all-knowing" then why didn't he warn someone, especially a government, of the impending flood, earthquake, tsunami, tornado or send scientists the cure for Downs Syndrome? If god is "all powerful" then why didn't he stop the cancer, small-pox, volcano? If god is everywhere, then he is also in these natural disasters too, right? How can a good god create or allow such nasty events and why? Therefore he is not all knowing, or all-powerful or everywhere. If a god could be omniscient/omnipotent/omnipresent and chose NOT to act to help or indeed created the disaster or affliction, isn't that the definition of evil?

If their response is "god works in mysterious ways", I usually respond stating that there is no mystery to hurricanes, earthquakes, botulism, dysentery. These are natural events that wreak havoc on humankind and we understand them very well, thanks to scientific endeavors. So, again, why would god do such evil?

I will then parry my religious friends' argument, if they're still talking to me, with:

Religion sets us humans up to accept what would otherwise be unacceptable. Why would surrendering common sense and thwarting in-depth questions be a good thing? Religion does just that. Religion teaches people to follow without question; to falsely believe that their particular religion is the one and only, or more commonly, that we are all children of the same god, regardless to what branch of belief we belong. Religion allows complacence. In extreme cases of fundamentalism, religious leaders reward believers, and sometimes families, for abhorrent behavior. I suppose it could be argued that the person is crazy, but religious teaching enables, even accepts, recruitment and creates an environment that fosters radicalism. Complacency among the 'flock' then sublimely encourages this type of extremism. And, it is proliferating. Religion creates weak minds, and weak minds with weapons is a very dangerous combination. Why encourage and support such a bad institution, such misguided acceptance and tolerance??

At some point in our conversation my religious opponent usually realizes that I have lost all my marbles and finds some reason to disengage from our conversation. Occasionally I disengage first because the conversation becomes a never ending circular argument and I realize this person cannot hear my words or analyze my ideas. I may try debating them again in the future.

I am beginning to create a 'soul saved' count. So far I haven't converted any religious person to my completely obvious understanding about how dangerous it is to believe in a god or follow a religion, but I will keep trying, keep planting seeds of doubt. I realize no single discussion or argument/debate will change anyone's mind. Hopefully over time, my conversation, along with others may convert those people in whom the seed is implanted and encourage the tree of knowledge to grow within them.

If you have taken atheism to the level of anti-theism, then share with me your experience.

Tags: anti-god, anti-religion, antitheism, antitheist, atheism, atheist, complacency, religious, tolerance

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I agree too Steph!

It's true that I'm making a poor representation of Mr. Harris's point in his book.  Let me clarify. 


Our goal of being Moderate in this country, being tolerant of ANY and ALL religious beliefs, makes it impossible to say anything about anyone.  Which in turn allows the fundamentalist to run rampant. Which in turn allows extremist to exist and proliferate. That in itself is PERFECTLY FINE, religious freedom is fine.  ...except now they have the power to kill a whooole lot of people.  


There is no better time than THIS SECOND to push back, to say "you're crazy, you're not thinking, and your going to hurt someone". I don't think we need another 20 or so clinics blown up, or a city for that matter before we pull back on the reigns and say Whooooa!

An Extremist IS a Fundamentalist (with a plan).

I agree with religious freedom.  The book makes the argument pretty plain. The audio book version is pretty nice too. 

James, Thank you for posting! I agree with your assessment of mankind (godkind?). For some evolutionary reason, we humans are indeed wired to believe. Dr. Dawkins explained that very well I think. I agree also that man is god.

As an interesting side story I was reading "God is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens on my deck last summer and our little neighbor girl, who is Muslim, came over and noticed my book, probably due to the bright yellow cover. She asked what I was reading. I looked at her and her 7 year old angelic face realizing that what I was about to say would not be taken well by her parents. I said it was a story about how man created god. I clarified by saying that some people believe that we humans made god and not the other way around. She looked at me very puzzled and laughed and said "how silly."

Shortly thereafter, her parents and family stopped talking to us. For years the neighbor children would play in our yard, come into our home and eat goodies. I even taught the youngest (of 6) to ride a bicycle. The parents brought wonderful food occasionally and we had a generally good relationship. But, shortly after my brief conversation with our cute little neighbor girl, that all stopped. Now we barely wave hello, and they blatantly ignore us.

This points out the strength of belief in shaping opinions about how good/bad someone is and not by the real efforts of neighborly communion. The brainwashing of our children by religious parents should be considered a form of child abuse, IMO. What a better world we would have if these prejudices would not be indoctrinated so early in life.
John, Absolutely! I recently finished Sam Harris' book The End of Faith and found it very enlightening. I am currently in the middle of "The Moral Landscape" which states that we should not abdicate our understanding of morals to the religious realm.

I agree that tolerance leads to complacency and allows fundamentalism to thrive, almost unchecked. I find it appalling that fundies can create child-care institutions which are not regulated as long as they are considered faith-based. I also think that parents who allow their children to die because of their rejection of modern life-saving therapies should be sent to prison for murder or man-slaughter. Fundies encroach on our everyday lives by enacting or attempting to enact legislation that influences physician-patient decisions, education of our young people, or governmental activities.

Have no doubt, we non-believers, agnostics,atheists are under attack. I am doing my little part by standing up to these issues and challenging them whenever or where ever I can.

Thank you for your reply.

I don't think that a militant attitude toward religion is the right strategy. Attacking someones beliefs rarely wins you any points, and it definitely won't convince somebody to your point. In fact it probably strengthens their religious outlook, and they become convinced that it was some cosmic spiritual test.  And honestly it's kind of offensive to attack a persons privately held beliefs with your privately held beliefs. It's kind of similar to the type of oppression that religious extremists try to force on the US. I support religious freedom because it places value on an ideal common to all people; the right not to believe the crazy shit that other people believe. When you attack someone's beliefs you are also attacking that ideal. If you don't stand for tolerance, what's to stop an extremist from arguing for a state religion, and being right? Reason? Knowledge? Nope.

The question shouldn't be how can I convince others to unbelieve the existence of a supreme being? That's a waste of time. Why even bother with the struggle of denying God? Our society works based on the rights we grant others in exchange for the rights granted to us. Human law. and if we neglect our system of rule to destroy a religion, then we are inviting tyranny to run amok. But if we grant freedom of religion on the condition that it can't interfere with established law, then we have a nice little position to call out religion when it overreaches.

I think that these extremists are shooting themselves in the foot by trying to advocate a national religion. Just like the demographics in the US are changing, so too might the religious make up. And the national religion they advocated for might not be the one they had in mind. 

So, the point I'm making is that attacking religion is tyrannous at a certain point, it serves no purpose but to impose a set of beliefs on others, and to oppress them. But defending against religious tyranny is a virtue.  

    

Steph,

Seeds of Freethought must be sown with congeniality and kindness. Unless you can't. Or, unless you're the target of an attack on YOUR beliefs (or non-belief).

I endorse polite conversation and debate over the goodness/evils of religion and have enjoyed many such arguments. I provide reasoned examples of why a belief in god is not good. I have yet to hear an example of why believing is better than a natural, real alternative.

Being firm in my belief in a natural world and giving examples does not mean I'm being impolite or rude. The way something is said is just as important, and sometimes more so, as the message itself.

In interacting with people from many parts of the world, I have discovered that open, impassioned, and even heated conversation is quite normal. I think our American culture looks at this type of discourse as rude or impolite, while a large portion of the world speaks with one another this way and finds no offense at all.

I am sensitive to the reactions people have when talking about something so sacred to them and do not purposefully insult. I will however, point out the same when religious arrogance is accepted as the norm from the person insulting me, even if unintentionally.
Hey there Eric! You sound like you are doing just fine in relating to others. Good job!
Ruth,

I agree that generalizations do not make good policy. I absolutely hate religion. However I LOVE many religious people. I'm careful to judge the institution and not the person. I understand that they may not know another way to believe.

However, I can't help but notice the feeling of pity for those who are indeed trapped by their beliefs in magic. Isn't that a bit arrogant though? I'm fully aware of my prejudices and recognize when they overtake my rationality. It is then that I can no longer have a reasoned discussion. I will excuse myself from this conversation, since it will lead nowhere.
Michael,

I don't think standing up for our constitutional rights to keep religion out of our lives is militant.

Being tolerant of religious influence has gotten us challenges to Roe v. Wade, creationism being taught in school science classes, so called "Heartbeat Bills" in various state legislatures, no regulatory over-sight in religious-run child daycare centers, christian-centric prayers in schools and government activities, our tax dollars being spent on religiously run schools, tax exemption for churches that promote political positions, etc. etc. etc.

Standing firm is not being militant. Tolerance of religion is acceptable, tolerance of religious arrogance is not.

I awoke this morning with a clearer head about the subject.

In the military we all learn the same phrase by heart: "I can not confirm or deny the blah blah blah" -it's a set statement that shuts people up -because it's the end of the story from the person saying it.

So when asked, "My official stance is, I choose NOT follow ANY FAIRY-TALES... And I'm perfectly fine with others conducting themselves that way -As long as they're not passing any laws based on them or hurting people (period)."

Now I have to practice it, and wait for someone to ask me :). 

Steph, thank you! I'm glad you're joining this discussion.

What kind of interactions have you had regarding atheism or anti-theism?

I don't see why we should be gentle and mild, esp. on the religious lunatics that think they have the right to use their fairy stories to control the lives of other people. It's not as if religion has become something private in society. Even today, in most parts of the world, religious organisations have deep political control and influence and the religious cause and promote high levels of violence and other inhumanity. I think that if we really want religion to finally go away and society to start to get better we need to stop being passive and mild and intellectual. We ought to be doing everything (non-violent of course) we can to combat religion. I think culture jamming is very effective at this and protest, for a start.

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