Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why Atheists Are NOT Wasting Their Time

By Thomas Keane from  doubtingthomas

***NOTE: This article was originally published by the people at www.PathofReason.com and is reprinted here with their permission.

One of the most common criticisms Atheists are confronted with is the question of why we waste so much time discussing religion, god worship, the bible, etc.? Why do we focus so much time on something we don’t believe in? Don’t we have anything better to do with our time? The reason why these questions are always so frustrating has less to do with how often we are confronted with them and more to do with how obvious the answers should be. When your child tells you they believe there is a monster in their closet or under their bed, do you ignore them or tell them the truth? If she told you that the reason she believed there was a monster under her bed was because she had read a story that told her about these monsters, wouldn’t you be curious to read this story in order to better understand how your child came to her erroneous conclusion? Now what if your daughter is 21 and has a 3 year old daughter of her own. Her boyfriend, the father of her child, is involved with a group that believes their founder (Avalon) is the second coming of Christ and is in direct communication with God. If you discovered that your daughter had also become a follower of Avalon and was teaching/raising your 3yo granddaughter to believe in the same things, would you be wasting your time if you decided to speak up and express your belief that Avalon was a fraud and even offer proof to support your opinion?

What if your daughter refused to listen and instead ran away with her boyfriend, your granddaughter and Avalon to an isolated compound somewhere and you didn’t see them again for another fifteen years? What do you think the likelihood is, that once you are finally allowed to see your, now 18yo, granddaughter, that anything you say will convince her that what she has been raised to believe isn’t true? The odds are that your words would fall on deaf ears; however, that doesn’t make your efforts meaningless. Nor does it mean you should give up. The more you learn about this cult that swallowed up your daughter and granddaughter the greater your ability will be to address the issues you have with it. After all, even the strongest barrier of misinformation can’t withstand a constant barrage of truth.

There is a reason why the majority of god worshipers are devoted to the same god that the people who raised them worshiped. It isn’t because their god is any more legitimate than any of the other 2,000+ gods mankind has invented over the years. It is simply because once myth has been established as fact in a child’s innocent, naïve mind, it is very difficult, even as an adult, for that person to shake that belief. Faith is not a synonym for fact, it is a synonym for hope and it is the definition of foolishness to devote one’s every life decision around thehope that a thing is true.

Once upon a time, people believed that the earth was the center of the universe and everything (including the sun) revolved around it. Once upon a time people believed that tossing a virgin into a volcano or carving out their still beating hearts was the only way to appease their god(s). Once upon a time people believed Zeus’ wrath resulted in thunder and lightning and Poseidon’s resulted in tidal waves. Once upon a time people believed that you could take ‘it’ with you and as a result they built elaborate tombs and filled them with treasures and even servants so that in the afterlife they would continue to enjoy the lifestyle to which they were accustomed. Once upon a time people believed in a great many things that we now know to be erroneous.

If we discovered that there were people in the world who still believed in established myth, would we be wasting our time to confront them with evidence that reveals the fallacy of their beliefs? And when a Christian or Mormon missionary travels deep into the Amazonian jungles to tell the native people there that the gods they worship are false and that they should instead believe in this or that god, aren’t they doing the same thing that an Atheist does when they contradict Christian beliefs? The only difference here seems to be that an Atheist supports his beliefs with evidence while a believer relies only on hope, AKA – faith.

What could possibly be more admirable than knowing the truth of something and, when encountering someone who only knows the lie, taking the time to share with them what you have learned. How could this ever be considered a waste of time? How many people ‘wasted their time’ trying to talk reason with a follower of Jim Jones (900 dead, 300 of whom were children). How many people ‘wasted their time’ pleading with family and/or friends who were members of the Heaven’s Gate cult? How many of the 80+ followers of David Koresh, 21 of whom were children, who died in the Waco, Texas catastrophe might have been spared if more people had ‘wasted their time’? If an Atheist had encountered a member of any of these groups you can bet that they would have spoken up. Are we to believe that a Christian would have tucked their bible away and bit their tongue?

It is in all of our best interests that we resist the tendency to dismiss the opinion of another simply because it differs from our own. If someone is willing to take the time to challenge something you believe in, the least you can do is take the time to listen and consider. Christians like to act all mystified as to why Atheists spend so much time discussing something they don’t believe in but the fact that they never protest when an Atheist wastes his or her time playing Guitar Hero or watching an American Idol marathon reveals that what they are really expressing is anxiety, not confusion. No one likes to be confronted with the prospect that what they accept as truth could possibly be a lie. But such a revelation can only benefit us, individually and as a society.

If anything it is the religious who are wasting their time. Just consider how much further along we would be as a society, not to mention as a species, if it weren’t for religion. The endless struggle for religious supremacy has led to innumerable wars and countless lost lives. Consider the incomprehensible amount of literature that was hunted down, confiscated and/or destroyed by the church. How much knowledge have we lost because of the fears of the religious? How many of our greatest minds were persecuted and imprisoned because they dared to disagree with someone’s concept of one god or another? How many dreams, ideas and inventions were snuffed out by worshipers of gods? How many more men like Aristotle, Galileo, Voltaire and Socrates would we have if not for religion? Consider all the trials, the imprisonments, the banishments, the riots, the persecutions, the genocides, the repression, the bigotry, the sexism, the mutilation and the division, so much division. Has anything in history ever divided one man from another more than religion? But it’s the Atheist who is wasting his time? Could anything be more laughable? Just imagine where we would be now as a people if we had focused on peace, coexisting, civilization, progress and philosophy instead of saving souls and deciding whose god was better than another’s. No one has wasted more of their own time, and worse, humanity’s time than the religious.

If the human race has any hope for a bright future it certainly doesn’t rest with the religious or whatever god they may worship. Their god will not create peace on earth. Your god will not protect our children from the evils of the world. His god will not reward us with eternal life. Her god will not assure our armies of success in battle. We can only rely on ourselves and on each other. There simply is no one else. And it’s not a waste of time to say so.

Thomas Keane (DoubtingThomas)

Please visit my main page (http://doubtingthomas426.wordpress.com/) to gain a better understanding of where I am coming from. There you will find all my observations regarding religion and the bible categorized on the Right hand side of the page. Please feel free to read through them and leave a comment or two if you like.

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