Why Is It Important?

Apr 22, 2012

I love my son more than anything in the entire world. Since the day he was born I have woken up every morning happy just to know he will be a part of my day. So now that he has told me he is an atheist I am doing everything I can to understand his views better and I have a question I thought you guys might answer for me. I should state for the record I am Catholic. I CHOOSE to believe in God. I know there is no proof and I know there is even reason to doubt but I CHOOSE to believe because I have had a very tough life and I have always relied on the idea of God to get me through. I take comfort in God. I also have always believed that when any religion starts spouting that they have the absolute answer, they have stepped over the line because I don’t think any of us do. I don’t worry that my son is going to go to hell. I am not that kind of believer. I think I am telling you all of this so you understand why this question is so important to me. What I want to know is why it is important to atheists that I don’t believe. If I take comfort in believing, why does it matter to you that I “see the light?” I am not upset with my son for not believing. I am however hurt by his acting as though I am a moron for believing. I am not blindly following some religion. I have spent 40+ years thinking through my beliefs and deciding what I believe in so why is it important to him that I not believe? Again, please don’t be mean. If you want to be mean to me do it another time when I am not trying so hard to understand. – brennanannie (http://www.reddit.com/user/brennanannie)

Hi, thanks for the question.

I can’t speak for anyone else, atheism’s not a club with rules. It doesn’t make a difference to me if you believe or not. If in your heart it provides you comfort, then there’s a benefit to you.

But you might take a look at things from our perspective. As atheists, we’re the most hated minority in the US. We mostly see the bad things that people do in the name of their religion, including removal of rights and supression of equality and liberty. “But I don’t do that,” I’m sure you’ll object.

The first problem is that religious moderates who stay quiet about the bad things grant the extremists implicit support and lend weight to their arguments. If every moderate Catholic abandoned the Church, the angry reactionary types would have no standing and wouldn’t be able to push their agenda.

The other part of the problem is that we don’t feel that we can have an honest conversation about real problems that we face as a society with theists. In the USA, we’ve got poor people starving and going bankrupt because they can’t get education, can’t get jobs, can’t get health insurance, and can’t pay healthcare. Yet the religious segment of the population (at least in the media) is clamoring to cut out birth control and ban abortion, two things that will DEFINITELY have a disproportionalte negative impact on the poor.

We see science, the only intellectual methodology that can actually provide us concrete , physical benefits, being decried and ridiculed as a “secular conspiracy against religion”. Evolution is passed off as some crackpot idea designed to turn people against god, when it’s the only theory that can actually make testable predictions. It’s the whole basis of modern biology for crying out loud, yet they’re passing laws to make teaching fairytales in science class legal.

Global warming, stem cell research, even vaccinations are all being ignored and mocked by religious people. If their beliefs had no effect on the rest of the world, then we wouldn’t care.

I understand that you consider religion a choice, and maybe for you it is. But for me, at least, atheism is not a choice. I didn’t choose not to believe the stories, I just don’t. I’ve never seen evidence supporting those stories, so I don’t see them as anything beyond mythology.

I feel that most religion, and ALL Abrahamic religion, is bad for people. It takes away human dignity, responsibility, and morality. I see it as a way to avoid making real decisions and taking real responsibility for one’s actions. I see it as deliberately closing one’s eyes against unpleasant reality in favor of comfortable fiction.

Any belief system that says people are inherently bad and flawed will only lead to trouble. It creates division where none exists. It separates us into “us, the saved”, and “them, the sinners”.

I don’t think that religion is necessary to lead a good life, and I think it’s antithetical to creating a rational, prosperous future for all people.

Also, don’t forget that people in general, religious or not, are often dicks on the Internet, and you should take any story you read here with a fairly large grain of salt. Reddit skews fairly young, demographically, and kids are usually idiots with gigantic egos. Take from that what you will.

If you find that your religion brings you comfort, then I wish you joy of it. I only hope that you understand a little better where we’re coming from. – BuccaneerRex (http://www.reddit.com/user/BuccaneerRex)