Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hostility to Religion

Something I have never understood is the reaction that many religious people seem to have when someone argues for a non-religious belief system. Atheists or secularists or realists or whatever you want to call us or we want to call ourselves know exactly what to expect when we simply state what we believe.

We're "intolerant of faith," "hostile to religious people," "bigoted," "hate filled." Now, I really don't understand this. I don't make the counterclaim. When people profess their faith I don't accuse them of hating me, or being intolerant of my beliefs -- although they often are, obviously. But they have to say or do something specifically to show that before I'll make the complaint. Just saying what you believe doesn't offend me, unless you happen to believe something offensive. For example, I find racism offensive, so if your religion is the World Church of the Creator, I admit to being intolerant of it. But I'm not intolerant of Lutheranism or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

I do, however, disagree with them. As they disagree with each other. If you are a Lutheran, then you disagree with Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Parsis as well as atheists. In fact, if you are a Christian, you believe that God is going to torture everybody who isn't a Christian, for all eternity. Now that is hostile. So why do you single me out as hostile and intolerant? I have the same right to my opinion as everybody else, and I don't even go door to door or hand out tracts at the bus station to try to convince you.

I have tried by various means to encourage dialog about belief, between religious and non-religious people, but it seems very difficult to make it happen, because people of faith take it as some sort of insult when other people don't have faith. I don't get that.

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