Why Won’t Religion Just Leave Us Alone?
All religions seek to control our lives to determine what we do and how we think. Unfortunately for this reason, we atheists can’t sit idly by and let them pray. We can’t “leave them alone” for one simple reason — because they won’t “leave us alone.”
Often in debates about spirituality and politics, I’m asked, “why bother with religion? Why not instead just let believers pray as they do, and leave them alone?
I wish that were possible. If only things were that simple. If only there was such an option — I’d take it.
Trouble is, we don’t have that option.
We anti-theists/agnostics/atheists can’t sit idly by and “let them pray.” We can’t “leave them alone” — for one simple reason. Because they won’t “leave us alone.”
The religious faithful insist on invading every sphere of our human existence. They demand totalitarian control over what we do, and how we think. They demand absolute servitude, not only to their god but to a narrow set of twisted customs and belief systems prescribed during an ancient era when the worldwide consensus was the earth was flat and deadly diseases were caused by curses. In short, religious practitioners not only invade our space and attempt to alter our consciousness, but they also desire to be our lawgiver, our landlord, and — should we break their commandments — our executioner for eternal damnation.
We anti-theists promise to remain open-minded. We even welcome the opportunity to debate, although we’re rarely given the chance. We’re willing to let believers think and do entirely as they wish. They can worship, so long as they don’t expect us to live in the same imaginary temple.
To my religious friends: You can worship your god if you so chose. Please, go ahead. You can attend your church. Please, do so. Just don’t ask the rest of us to pay for your roads, bridges, utilities, power lines, and sewers that service your houses of superstition — and then have the audacity to demand tax exemptions.
We’ll even let you poison the minds of your own families. Personally, I think there should be a period of compulsive non-religious education, in other words, something other than church indoctrination. But I’m willing to concede to your law-given parental right to shackle your children’s minds and buckle their brains to your own religious mythology. As horrific as the prospect is of cult mythology passed from one generation to the next, I’m willing to let you incubate your offspring with the idolization of angels and the giant sky daddy — that is if you’ll simply let the other children be educated according to science and evidence.
Let’s agree to meet in the middle, shall we? I’ll grant you your rights. But your rights end where my home, my brain, and my desires begin. I won’t violate your space if you don’t violate mine.
But religion won’t go for this. Unfortunately, those of you who support religion not only violate my space. You steamroller over it.
Worse, religious beliefs aren’t merely pronounced from the pulpit. In fact, they are written into our laws. They tell us what we can and cannot do. They determine the curriculum inside classrooms. They even guide our foreign policy with the rest of the world.
Consider areas of your private life where religion has invaded your personal space and denied you the option of making a decision for yourself:
— Religion seeks to sanction who can and cannot marry.
— Religion seeks to deny women the right to control their own bodies.
— Religion seeks to restrict scientific research and inhibit potential advances in medicine.
— Religion seeks to alter the teaching of science.
— Religion seeks to censor free speech and artistic expression
— Religion seeks to control our sexual behavior — including who has sex with who to which sex acts are acceptable.
— Religion aims to prohibit the legalization of drugs.
— Religion aims to prohibit the sale or consumption of alcohol during certain hours, on some days, and in various areas.
— Religion seeks to ban and criminalize online poker and gambling. It opposes gambling in any form when it appears as an option for voters.
— Religion seeks to ban pornography and sexually explicit businesses.
— Religion seeks to deny you the right to die, even if you’re suffering unbearable pain.
— Religion hijacks foreign policy away from self-interest in order to serve what are alleged to be holy instructions.
All that said, religion isn’t necessarily against everything. Churches and religious institutions — and those who support them — are for lots of things. They overwhelmingly favor policies some might even consider hypocritical.
Here’s a shortlist of things religion (and religious people) tend to favor:
— Religion favors the death penalty.
— Religion favors guns, even the most deadly weapons of assault.
— Religion favors and enthusiastically supports wars, as long as we’re killing the right people.
— Religion favors censorship.
— Religion favors the imposition of restrictions on things most people enjoy — like drinking, gambling, and sex.
— Religion favors an economic system whereby corporations and the wealthy can enrich themselves at the cost of the rest of society.
— Religion favors the use of animals as consumable objects to be used and then discarded.
— Religion favors the exploitation of nature and the environment purely for consumption and profit.
— Religion favors methods of torture in the name of national defense.
— Religion favors colonialism, military theatrics, and preemptive aggression.
— Religion tends to vehemently oppose other (rival) religions, resulting in hate and hostility.
Most of these generalities apply to modern-day Christianity. Associated faith-based movements profess unwavering support for individual freedom. Moreover, they rally against government involvement in the lives of ordinary citizens. Yet when it comes to enforcing their moral codes, these same groups trumpeting individual freedom fall right into line with extremists in other religions. Let’s call them for what they are — Taliban-light. They want government everywhere — from our bars to our bedrooms.
Of course, this argument pales in comparison to even more troubling concerns. As abominable as religious beliefs and believers often are, they’re only a fraction of the transcontinental state of repression and terror inflicted by the Islamic religion on the often powerless citizenry within many Muslim societies. Judeo-Christian life might be considered downright blasphemous compared to these extreme theocracies where half the population are second-class citizens and terror is an instrument of conversion to the faith.
That said, it’s hardly a virtue for Christians to rightly claim in their defense — “at least we’re not as bad as them.”
Since I don’t believe in religion, what do I believe in? What do I stand for? What virtues are worth a fight? Actually, I am a believer — though not in god or the supernatural nor superstition.
My “religion” is based on the virtues of humanism. This means the following:
1. Individual enlightenment and personal fulfillment
2. True equality and opportunity — equality regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or race
3. Love for humanity, animals, and the environment
4. Freedom of speech, open exchange of ideas, and artistic expression (even if it offends me)
5. Cooperation, not competition and conflict
6. Constant curiosity and exploration, which includes open discussion and dialogue (about any subject)
7. The belief that bigger, faster, and newer does not always mean better
8. The application of logic to all questions
9. Education based on science and fact
10. The repudiation of lies, censorship, patience, faith, religion, and superstition.
Thank you for reading.