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Ask An Atheist: Taking belief away from others

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By Jim Downard

Atheism seems to be more about taking belief away from others more than trying to understanding that belief in God comforts some people and it does not affect your life. Instead of being a belligerent and insulting voice, why can’t atheist just live their lives?

I have never claimed that religions cannot comfort people. It would be a peculiar assertion for anyone to make, atheist or otherwise. Though it would seem that as not all religions can be simultaneously true, it would appear that the faith not being true is no impediment to such comforting.

If all religions operated as purely a matter of personal conviction, that would be one thing, but many religions are very much into attempting to manage other people’s lives, from social intimidation of non-believers (not just atheists, by this I mean non-believer in a particular religion, just ask minorities like Jehovah’s Witness or Adventists) through to statutory reinforcement of its privileges and views (how many opposing marriage equality did so based on their firm religious convictions).  And abortion remains an area where some religions do specifically seek to restrict the behavior of others, believers or not.

Religions get tax exemptions in our society also, for further example, but atheists do not, and not all religions get equal privilege even then (look at Native Americans prevented from the use of peyote in their sacred ceremonies).  As for “belligerent and insulting” rhetoric, readers of my posts here may judge for themselves whether that blob of mud deservedly falls on this doorstep or not.

About Jim Downard

Jim Downard is a Spokane native (with a sojourn in Southern California back in the early 1960s) who was raised in a secular family, so says had no personal faith to lose.

He's always been a history and science buff (getting a bachelor's in the former area at what was then Eastern Washington University in the early 1970s).

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  1. You’re not very good at this are you Jimbo.

    “never claimed that religions cannot comfort people… would seem that as not all religions can be simultaneously true”

    Your answer has nothing to do with the question!! The question was not about religion being true or not.. then you go on whining about taxation, damn son. Try again. WHY IS ATHEISM ONLY ABOUT TAKING AWAY? WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LIVE YOUR LIFE?


    • Please, show me where he has taken anything away from anyone.

      As to the rest of it, he raises fair points–the “acceptable” expressions of faith do receive many benefits not available to the public as a whole, and every single one of us winds up paying the price for that. (If nothing else, every penny the government *doesn’t* collect from a church or religious organisation still has to come from somewhere [i.e., your paycheck].) In a civil society, structures and systems that give one group of people an unfair advantage over another are legitimate targets of criticism, even when those who benefit from the inequity happen to share a popular set of religious beliefs.

      • What’s the financial number churches and religious orgs infuse this local community with in social services, programs and education? Take away they schools, daycares, feeding programs, housing and elder care, tutoring and mentoring programs, adoption services, drug & alcohol treatment programs, counseling services, youth programs, kids and family services, hospitals and health centers…on and on. This argument is empty.

        • If you’ve got real numbers to back that absurd claim, I’ll consider it–but it still doesn’t address the fundamental issue, namely that minority religions in this country don’t enjoy the same benefits and protections as mainstream ones. Our culture, and our government as an agent of that culture, has rather unabashedly picked winners and losers in the theological marketplace. The result has been a bloated and complacent Christendom (no longer deserving to be called “Christianity,” if ever it was), smothering in their infancy any approaches to faith that cannot be easily assimilated under their paradigm. As an American, that offends me. As a Christian, it disgusts me.

          Just to be clear, I do not support taxing churches for the simple reason that the ones that actually benefit their communities couldn’t survive it. If religious institutions were taxed, all that would remain after a generation or two are those hideous, soulless abominations that call themselves “MEGAchurches.” But arguing that the governmental and societal favoritism that keeps the doors of these small neighborhood churches open is appropriate requires first acknowledging that such favoritism exists, and then thoroughly examining the nature of that favoritism and arguing that it should be extended to all religions equally, not just hoarded by the “acceptable” few.

          • This tax the churches thing is such a uninformed statement it borders the ridiculous. Churches woudl simply build bigger, upgrade and SIMPLY NOT SHOW A PROFIT. Taxes for corporations are not on receipts like income taxes they are on profits and it is extremely easy to simply not show a profit. Want more taxes paid, file a 1040 EZ form and write the check for extra, they will happily take it.

        • Stop bragging about your faith! Gracious!

      • Oh please.. can you people not read honestly, origional question clearly ask “Atheism seems to be more about taking belief” then I ask again “WHY IS ATHEISM ONLY ABOUT TAKING AWAY” and clearly Jimbo is not the only atheist in atheism. How do you even tie your shoes? Every atheist seeks to remove belief in god and they replace it, even admit to it, with nothing both literally and figuratively. If you don’t understand that then do some deep introspection then ask yourself, WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LIVE YOUR LIFE?

        • I found your problem:

          “Every atheist seeks to remove belief in god and they replace it, even admit to it, with nothing both literally and figuratively. ”

          This is what we in the real world call “bullshit.” Honestly, it’s barely coherent/plausible enough even to be called false.

          Long story short: facts matter. Go find some.

          • so atheist don’t seek to replace belief in god with nothing… or what is it replaced with once they change someone’s mind? I think that’s where your BS is found.

          • Most atheists don’t want to “convert” people to atheism. You’re whining about a problem that simply doesn’t exist.

            Granted, there are those few atheists–Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher among the most notorious–who do feel the need to spread their worldview to all and sundry, but that’s not because they’re atheists. It’s because they’re insecure jackwagons who cannot bear the thought that other people understand the world differently than they do. I wonder if this is a character defect that you share, in addition to your pathological dishonesty.

          • Then what is the point of an atheist challenging a religious person on their beliefs? What is the atheist end game for that?

          • I know many atheists, and the only one who has challenged me on my beliefs is my little brother. In that case, we were both pushing one another to clarify and better understand our own positions, and that clarification and understanding is impossible without exposure to divergent viewpoints and ideas. Offhand, I can think of the following reasons why an atheist might challenge the beliefs of a theist (I’m gonna stick to Christianity, just because it’s the version I know best, but I expect these will more or less apply to any faith tradition):

            1. They believe they have an important insight that you haven’t considered.

            2. They’re an obnoxious jackass who has to be right about everything, all the time. This is far more often true of Christians than of atheists, but you’ll find douchebags in every segment of the population.

            3. They wish to clarify their own understanding either of their worldview or of yours, and believe the best way to do so is through direct comparison.

            4. They see that you are using your faith as an excuse to engage in evil and destructive behavior, and are hoping to sway you from that path.

            5. Some people just plain like to argue, and the topic is ultimately irrelevant. I’m sure you know people like that.

            There are likely other reasons as well, and speculating on what they might be, while diverting, is ultimately useless. Human motivations are as diverse and complex as the human beings that carry them. Instead of dwelling on why those mean ol’ atheists are always picking on you, I encourage you to open yourself to their arguments, to allow them to be the crucible in which your faith is purified of the human baggage that all too often gets folded into it, and the whetstone against which your own understanding of your own faith tradition is sharpened.

            Or you could cut yourself off from the rest of the world and only interact with people who reinforce your beliefs that you are the powerless victims of a worldwide atheist conspiracy. There’s comfort in that, in that it absolves you of the responsibility to act, but there’s also much danger in it.

  2. “A new analysis from Georgetown University that attempts to document the economic value of religion in U.S. society found that the faith sector is worth $1.2 trillion, more than the combined revenue of the top 10 technology companies in the country, including Apple, Amazon, and Google.”
    -Georgetown Study: https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/lauretta-brown/georgetown-study-religion-worth-12-trillion-us-economy-more-google-and

    This article and the short video lay it out simply and quickly. The numbers are clear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTw0gzn633k&feature=youtu.be

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