Should Religion Be Tolerated?

Jun 18, 2011 1 Comment by

It is the stance of new atheism, that religion should in some way be actively opposed. Different people take that statement to different degrees of how much one should criticise it.

I would go as far as saying that religion should always be challenged; it should always be rigorously scrutinised and its many flaws pointed out (using religion in a very general sense here).

Others would say that it is the purpose of new atheism to seek out religion and fight it, to find out what it is doing wrong and try to change it, rather than simply arguing about it when the subject just happens to come along. I would hesitate to use this second definition, as I can foresee the counter-arguments of “Well if you don’t believe in god, why are you so obsessed with religion?”, and I’d rather not have to deal with those flippant suggestions.

The aim of new atheism creates a difficult problem. On the one hand, if one takes an overzealous approach, one comes dangerously close to enforcing a mode of thought. Yet one of the central lessons of atheism is that one should think for oneself. It’s easy to see the irony of “Religion is trying to tell you what to think! Do not let it! Think like this instead!”.

On the other hand, new atheism asks the question: is it okay to simply allow religion to carry on with its business? We do not have the right to interfere with what others think; it’s their choice to think it. But there are many acts committed in the name of religion, as well as many religious rituals, which many a morally uncorrupt atheist might think are unacceptable. Even if those acts are to misinform people about science – acts of intellectual treason – it is still seen as unacceptable. Although of course, intellectual treason is allowed, because it comes under the rights of free speech and free thought, but perhaps new atheism does not like the way in which misinformation is used in an aggressive, warlike manner against anyone who doesn’t agree with a particular religion.

I think ultimately, many of the prominent new atheists seek to remove the firm grip that religion has on society. It’s more about challenging social perceptions. After that I don’t think new atheism cares what happens, as long as it’s point has been made and people have thought about it without ancient doctrine or common social behaviour breathing down on them.

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About the author

I am the founder of Atheism Network.

One Response to “Should Religion Be Tolerated?”

  1. Julia Metcalfe says:

    Atheism is a form of religion after Richard Dawkins approach to the subject. I consider that all traditions and beliefs must be embraced before coming to a considered solution to the problem. As human beings who naturally acquire inquisitiveness from an early age but I find it very difficult for people endowed with super intelligence can only embrace the argument from a fundamentalist perspective. Surely their basic training should have made them understand that all questions have a broad spectrum of answers that need to be evaluated against themselves and other ideas within their field. I cannot understand that they can close their minds to the possibilities of something beyond their knowledge as at their current state of knowlege.