So why do all those atheists have to be so vocal? This is a question I know a lot of people have written about, and is certainly a question I’ve been asked by my own family.
“Why does it matter to YOU what other people believe?”
But you see, I think this is phrasing it the wrong way. It’s like me accusing other people of thought crime and I will be swooping in to correct their “incorrect” thinking. That isn’t what being a vocal atheist is about at all. Rather, I’m more concerned with myself believing things that are true, and demonstrably true, versus things that simply make me feel good. This doesn’t mean that he, or she, or they have to believe the same way I do, but it does mean that I want to live in a society where we value things that are demonstrably true.
We live in a republic so we all get to cast a vote and shape social policy to some extent, so by participating in a society with me and I with others, everyone makes policy calls based on what they believe. If we think that smoking is bad, we make laws that curtail the negative effects of smoking without infringing on people’s ability to smoke as they see fit. We look at studies using science and determine which things are harmful and make policies to mitigate that harm. Now, let us move onto larger topics like justice, freedom, and the happiness of our population.
If I believe that the only way to be a good person and a functioning member of society is to believe in god, I’m going to vote that way. Setting aside Constitutional rights and things like that, at its most basic form it comes down to shaping policy in a way that is in line with my world view, which is what voting is kind of supposed to do. But what happens if that belief restricts other citizens’ freedom? What if it diminishes their happiness? Well, then we should do what we do with smoking, right? We should look at the effects of our policies and adjust course from there to ensure greater freedom, justice, and happiness for all citizens, right?
Well, just about everyone believes that is true in almost every case except a scant few-those pertaining to their religious belief. Forget legality, forget justice and happiness, forget even freedom; this is one sector of policy for most people that the testability doesn’t matter. This policy reduces the freedom of another group? Doesn’t matter, my religious beliefs are right and I need to be free to have them at the expense of others. Voting this way is unjust to a large part of our citizenry? This law must stay in place because my religious belief trumps justice. As you can see, when religion and faith are the foundation for policy and belief you inevitably run up against the edges of freedom, justice, and yes, even happiness.
So why are atheists so vocal about this? Well if anyone, even a theist person, takes time to think about their religious belief you can easily see how it will inevitably count some people “in” and some people “out”, and they have to figure out a way to make that work. However, secularists and atheists have a better alternative than trying to make these things work within a faith-based framework. Why not drop it all together and return to the consequence based reasoning we (try to) use in every other facet of our society? Why can’t we see faith and believing in things without evidence as inherently harmful and just ditch it all together so that our society can flourish for everyone?
This is really the fundamental reason atheists are so vocal about this. Setting aside the persecution, the derogatory remarks, the marginalization, and all of this, atheists are most upset about faith and religion being seen as exempt from serious consideration and somehow not responsible for their negative outcomes. As you can see, other people’s religious belief can directly impact their fellow citizens, no matter their level of faith. So yes, I’m vocal, yes I’m going to be out there, and yes, I’m going to ask people why they believe because as can be seen throughout the world, the less faith, and by proxy religion, there is, the more free people are, the more just a society, and the happier they may become. Knowing what is true is always better for everyone than just believing in what makes you feel good.