I have decided to write a series of letters to my local paper, the Springfield News Loser
Leader, a right-leaning publication that has followed me like a blood hound at times over the last several years (they once wrote five condemning articles in a week about my antics
), detailing the arguments against the existence of god.
I thought that for the first one it would be important to explain why we criticize religion and why we should care. I've not submitted it yet, so if you have a critique, please leave it so I can incorporate your advice if I think it makes sense.
Why we must criticize religion
It is often implied that those of us who do not believe in a god think that all religious people are evil. The irony is that it’s just the opposite. Virtually every inhabitant of this planet has good intentions behind their every action, but the problem is that good intentions are not enough. Consider that every few weeks in this country, some parents will pray their children to the grave because they believe that the healing power of prayer is greater than that of secular medicine. Clearly, these parents loved their children very much and wanted them to get well. Sadly, because they did not possess good reasons to believe as they did, their good intentions turned them into murderers.
Before we can determine what is moral to do, we must first determine what is true about the universe around us to ensure that our actions achieve the end we desire. For all of us, at least a portion of that end is to be happy. This is why Christians worry about the souls of the lost. If they are correct about the existence of their god, then proselytizing in order to save us from the fires of hell is absolutely the moral thing to do. Likewise, if allowing gay people to express their love really would lead to the unraveling of our society, then we should oppose homosexuality with all the resources we would employ against actual threats of national destruction. Also, if a god exists who really will reward the faithful eternally and preserve the happiness of our families here on Earth for slaughtering the infidels, then flying a plane into a skyscraper is a moral action. It is important to realize that the 9/11 attackers believed they were doing the best thing possible – their intentions really were golden. But their god does not exist, and because they failed in their responsibility to scrutinize their beliefs to ensure that what they believed about the nature of reality was true, they rushed in to join the ranks of some of the most loathsome men to have ever lived – even as they held the best intentions.
This is why it is important to criticize religion, and why I elect to do so. Beliefs are the gatekeepers of our actions, and if people hold beliefs that conflict with reality then they are failing a responsibility they have not only to themselves, but to every one of us who are neighbors to them here on Earth. The problem is that we’re not talking about what is true, and this makes our moral differences irreconcilable. The conversation is positively killed when religious people employ phrases such as “Well, we all just believe what we believe”, “We’ll have to agree to disagree”, or “I have my beliefs and you have your beliefs.” We need not "agree to disagree" and allow our moral discourse to remain paralyzed – we cannot afford to. It is high time to demand that religious people provide their reasons for believing as they do, and for the rest of us to hold their feet to the fire when they refuse or when those reasons fail. Thankfully, not every believer divorces themselves from reality to such an extent that they believe muttering to a man in the sky will heal an ailing child, but that they divorce themselves from reality at all is unnecessary, irresponsible, embarrassing, and dangerous, and we should stop making excuses for it.