a subject unworthy of debate?
Reading various blogs, I've come across an argument by another atheist, Jonathon Miller, who says he prefers to keep his atheism to himself, because he doesn't see much point in expressing his lack of belief in something so obviously false or wrong.
I understand this. Why give these people oxygen? Why not, as scientists, artists, politicians, philosophers, whatever, pursue our work, building connections, networking, exploring, developing knowledge and understanding, rendering, almost inadvertently, the religious approach irrelevant?
It raises the question of the real value of anti-religious polemics. After all, religion is the softest of targets, the easiest of options. Einstein and Darwin could've devoted their lives to examining the evidence for the existence of God or Christ, instead of developing theories which have moved us far beyond traditional religious understandings of the universe and of humanity, thereby doing far more damage to those religions than a thousand speeches by Hitchens, Grayling and the like.
And yet, and yet...
While I recognise that people like Hitchens, and myself, are making life easy for themselves by almost lazily pointing out the absurdities of religious belief, we are moved to do so by a sense of the urgency of the project. Leaving aside the horrors of Islamic submission, - which are quite overwhelmingly multifarious - Christianity still dominates the US, to the extent that nobody can hold significant public office in that country without professing Christian beliefs, and atheists are reviled and persecuted. It seems to me that everybody is focusing on the US as the battleground - in Britain, sure they've had a rabid Christian as their PM for years, but that's almost been an anomaly. What were Thatcher's religious beliefs? What are Gordon Brown's? Does anybody care that much? In Oz we're about to have a committed Christian as PM. I don't like it, but I don't think it's going to interfere much with governance. In the US, however, Christianity plays far too large a political role, - not to mention the intelligent design push - hence the urgency of the debate there.
Also, it's impossible to ignore, in our increasingly multicultural society, the predominance of other faiths. Just tonight, after teaching business English to a student from East Turkestan, I returned to her loungeroom to find her elderly mother [a thoroughly endearing and hospitable character with a sly sense of humour] bowing down on her mat to the scary-fantastical Allah. The same guy who has inspired, so it's claimed, so many murderous attacks upon Americans, Australians, Jews, Iraqis and so many more.
I’m impatient to rid the world of these fantasised friends and fiends, to build an understanding of what we truly are, to get more of a grip on our dynamic human nature.
So – confrontation or carry on regardless? The latter is most important, but where religion threatens to take over, or even to overly influence, the body politic, that must be fought tooth and nail.
Labels: the faith hope