Paul Spinrad, a guestblogger at Boing Boing, writes about the future of atheism. To begin with, he thinks the militancy of some atheists backfires and is counter-productive to their own goals.
With religion, I think atheists have the same dissonance going on. If they really think the world would be better off without religion, they shouldn’t hate religion and call believers fools. Any successful new belief system must appreciate the beauty of what it’s replacing and strive for backwards-compatibility…
I’m with him through this point. We won’t achieve success (in convincing others that there’s no reason to believe in a God) unless we can offer them alternatives to what they want from religion. If they want explanations, we must give them logical, honest answers (including “I don’t know”). If they want community, we must be prepared to provide it. If they want ritual, we must have options available to them.
Then, Spinrad loses me…
So I put it to declared atheists — the ones who fly the flag about it, not the ones who are quiet or closeted: Do you think that most of humanity is A) hopeless and doomed to kill each other because of their stupid religious beliefs, or B) capable of coming to and benefiting from your views?
False dichotomy, no? You can believe both those things or neither of them. I think religious faith puts us all in danger because we’ve seen how far some people will go to please their God. I also don’t think most of humanity is capable of living without a God in their lives. Not yet.
I think closeted atheists who participate in other religious activities are the future of atheism. They know that prayer feels good without a needing brain scientist to tell them, and they know you don’t need God to want to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and provide homes for the orphaned. What if they simply stopped reciting the words that they didn’t agree with during religious services, without calling attention to it? In many places I don’t think they would be kicked out or turned upon and beaten just for that.
They may not be kicked out, but for many atheists, the goal isn’t to simply feel good or get along with everyone. The goal is to instill rational thinking in other people, showing them how ridiculous it is to rely on superstition to guide their lives. That can’t happen if you silently idly by while others engage in their religious rituals. In fact, the notion that many atheists would do that makes me mad.
The gay rights supporters did not get to where they are today because they kept quiet.
I don’t buy the argument that the future of atheism lies with the closeted ones. The future of atheism lies with the vocal atheists who aren’t afraid to say so. They vote, they protest, and they stand in unity when they hear of discrimination against other non-believers. They don’t have to be mean about it; they just have to be willing to say they don’t believe in God without fear of retribution. There will always be a fringe group that will ridicule and despise religion. I don’t see that group being in the majority — even within atheist ranks — anytime soon.
I am optimistic that in a decade or so, it’ll be normal for everyone to know an atheist personally. It won’t be rare to hear of someone coming out. That doesn’t mean we’ll get elected as easily, or that we’ll be seen as trust-worthy, but it’ll be a start.
(via Boing Boing)