A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, December 05, 2014

What One Atheist Wants Other Atheists to Know About Religion

from Matthew Facciani:
I'm an atheist who engages in secular activism and is active within the atheist community. I’m also doing doctoral work in the cognitive science of religion, and I’m sad to see so many atheists who have misguided and ignorant views about religion. Here are five things I wish more atheists knew.

1. Religion is not the sole cause of violence.

This view, endorsed by well-known atheists such as Sam Harris and Bill Maher, is often justified by referencing terrorist acts done in the name of Islam. But blaming religion for violence prevents us from seeing all that drives violent behavior, including social, psychological, and political factors.

2. Religion is not a mental illness.

The likes of Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins claim that religious belief is a "neurological disorder" and "hereditary mental illness." But while negative aspects of religious belief can exacerbate mental illness, that's no justification for a sweeping generalization like "religion is a mental illness." Mental disorders are by definition maladaptive, and simply believing in a higher power is not inherently maladaptive.

3. Believing in God does not make you stupid.

It’s easy to name brilliant religious people who break this myth-- Issac Newton, Soren Kierkegaard-- but it is better to see what science suggests about the matter. Google-savvy atheists may be quick to mention how the research suggests a negative relationship between religiosity and intelligence, but such studies by no means indicate that religious people are stupid.

4. Religion is not the root of bigotry.

Just as multiple factors contribute to violence, so multiple factors also contribute to bigotry. Take, for instance, sexism in the atheist community, which has been documented here, here, and here. This issue is exacerbated when atheists pretend they are championing women's rights by calling out sexism in religion, but only do so to score points against organized religion. These issues will continue so long as the atheist movement is predominantly run by older white men.

5. Religion is complex.

Some examples of religious complexity: believers don't always take their religious text literally; they disagree with their fellow believers on major points; there are various orientations of religious belief; and, some religions don’t even believe in gods (Buddhism, Taoism, Jainism, etc.). Additionally, there are many sociological, psychological, and political factors that intersect with religion and how it works in different regions and social groups.
The details of each can be found here.

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