We're Neither Martyrs Nor Victims

In the forums of our local paper, somebody was griping about the FFRF’s answer to government-endorsed nativity scenes: a banner that reads,  “At the season of the Winter Solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”  The problem, the commenter said, was the last line.  The commenter cited it in a rant about how atheists hate religion.

My father responded.  (bold is mine)

It sounds like what you are claiming is that if we disrespect the hypothesis of religion, if we say we don’t think it works and is counterproductive, and that it does bad things to people, then we are going to hate religious people. That “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds” leads inevitably to hating religious people.

I don’t think it works that way.

You use “they want people to hate religion” as a euphemism for a number of things. They want the religious to realize supernatural causes do not exist. They want the religious to stop their war against modernity. They want to keep religion separate from government. They want an equal voice in the public square and equal standing under the law. They want to end “my god can beat up your god” wars. And so on.

I don’t think they want people to “hate religion”; they DO want people to realize religion is a worldview that doesn’t work.

I don’t think they “hate religion” so much as they hate the results of religion. Find a way to eliminate the evil that results from religion, and I don’think the atheists will care about religion much. To the best of my knowledge, atheists NEVER, EVER question the right of theists to worship, or their right to citizenship, or their right to equal treatment under the law, or their right to hold office, or their right to question atheism itself–or to “hate it” (which they do), or to say mean things about it (which they do).

We’re neither martyrs nor victims. We can defend our beliefs–or lack thereof–with evidence and reason. If you say atheism “hardens hearts and enslaves minds”, we shouldn’t blame you for saying it, we should blame ourselves if we can’t refute it.


About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Beaux

    John, you sir, kick ass!

  • http://twitter.com/#!/VeritasKnight VeritasKnight

    Writing runs in this family. Beautiful, and I’m going to steal that for my quotes list.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/VeritasKnight VeritasKnight

      this family = the Eberhard family.

  • http://donaldmorton.wordpress.com juju

    Exactly right. Theists take criticism personally, and they really shouldn’t. Just because we criticize religion doesn’t mean we think the people that compose it are evil.

    They’re just so used to avoiding criticism that they don’t know the difference between an attack on their beliefs and an attack on themselves.

    Maybe I’m an asshole, but in my view, keeping the criticism up is the only way to stop this.

  • bodie425

    I am moved by this profound and intellectual reply. I must save this for future reference. So often, those of us less eloquent simply can’t answer quickly and convincingly enough to defend our positions. Reading Freethought blogs has helped me immensely. Thanks to you all.

  • Rory

    Nicely done, sir. And far more polite than I’d have been.