I was out for beers with some friends the other night and the conversation got around to religion and atheism. My friends run the gamut from believers to strong atheists (as I am). Over the course of the conversation one of my pals remarked that deriding the beliefs of religious folks is not the way to change their minds. This got me to thinking about the reasons why I blog, and whether changing the minds of believers was one of my motivations.
Ruminating on why I blog I have identified some of my motivations in sharing my thoughts on religion and atheism.
I like the subject matter – I find irrational belief systems in the 21st century morbidly fascinating. To me it is clear that god and the various creation stories are just myths, and that the knowledge about the world and the universe that have been accrued (most rapidly over the last century) has given lie to much of what has been claimed in scripture for god. Somehow, though, this scientific knowledge does not penetrate the shell of religious belief. Nowhere is this more baffling than when well-respected and accomplished scientists, trained in the scientific method, hold religious beliefs, particularly belief in a personal god. Other head-scratching examples include the reliance on faith-healing (with disastrous consequences) when we have the germ theory of disease, which our medicine has put to good use. We also have a good understanding of weather patterns and the natural causes of hurricanes/tornadoes/earthquakes/tsunamis but people still think that the occurrence of ‘natural’ disasters is god’s way of speaking to us about sin. We have clear geologic evidence of the age of the earth (~4.5 billion years) and the age of the universe (~14 billion years) but people still follow the Genesis creation narrative and conclude the earth (and universe) is only thousands of years old. We have ample evidence of evolution yet people still adhere to the notion that god created humans in their present form. So when I come across these absurdities, I have conversations with my friends about these matters, and now I am extending these conversations to the wider internet community.
I grew up in a culture that took for granted a belief in god. You weren’t really encouraged to speak out against this belief. This is captured in the old adage that you shouldn’t speak about religion or politics in polite company. But jeez, why shouldn’t you speak about the organizing principle for life and the governance of that life? No idea or philosophy should be sacrosanct in my opinion. Ideas and philosophies should be traded on the open market and those with merit will survive and profit.
I have observed the christian fundamentalists becoming politically active – I first took notice when I was in my mid-twenties when Pat Robertson formed the Christian Coalition. I have seen the creeping influence of these fundamentalists on the governance of our society. Witness the opposition to marriage equality for homosexuals, the teaching of creationism in the science classroom, and the constant erosion of abortion rights. We have to voice our opposition and get politically active to counter this fundamentalist political force.
I have also witnessed the creeping fundamentalism on a personal level. My daughter had to do an individual study project in grade 6. She wanted to do the project on evolution. Her science teacher indicated to her that she should also include the opposing side – creationism! The SCIENCE TEACHER!! My daughter has also been told she is going to hell because she does not believe in god. These incursions of religious beliefs on our personal affairs must be revealed and they must be stopped. There is a place for religious beliefs and it is in the home and in the church/synagogue/mosque.
Blogging also undoubtedly provides some measure of catharsis for me. Atheists are in the minority around the globe and in my country (Canada) only about 9% of folks declare as atheists. So it is not easy to have these types of conversations with other atheists unless I open myself up to the internet community. In this way I am helping to build the atheist community at large. We are small but mighty, and growing.
These are some of the reasons why I blog about atheism and religion. Now as to the point of conversion of others – this is not really one of my motivations. I don’t think it is possible through dialogue alone to convince others to cast aside what they have probably believed all their lives. What I do think, and we are seeing it come to pass, is that as our population becomes more educated society becomes more secular.